Agonizomai: Heb 11 - 01-02 - Christ - In History, Always Received by Faith

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Heb 11 - 01-02 - Christ - In History, Always Received by Faith

Heb 11 - 01-02 - Christ - In History, Always Received by Faith

Heb 1:1-2 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.

The whole point of this so-called "faith chapter" is to support the idea of perseverance in the faith, by faith, from the Hebrews’ own history. Those at risk of recidivism - of going back to the Old Covenant religion, or at least some amalgam of it and Christianity (although there could be no such thing) - have been repeatedly shown how the old was a shadow of the new. They have been re-told and reminded that Jesus is the true high priest of redeemed humanity and that He is to be received through faith. His sacrifice has once for all made perfect those who draw near to God in Him. They are justified forever - and must live in the light of this by faith.

We, of course cannot see the secret decrees of God, or watch history unfold before it happens. We cannot determine the end from the beginning as He does. We are not the Alpha and the Omega. We are time-limited, finite and dependent creatures who discover reality in history on the basis of our interaction with whatever God’s providence immerses us into. Thus we must live by faith and we are preserved through our perseverance in faith.

The writer to the Hebrews now makes his point from the Hebrews’ hall of the faithful from history. They did not shrink back unto destruction and preserved their souls on account of it. They persevered in trusting what God had promised to do. And so must people under the new covenant. He has promised to complete in us that good work that He started, and our perseverance is the means by which we shall be preserved. We shall soon enough discover, if we persevere, that it is not something we can attribute to our own reliability but something that is solely attributable to the grace of God, Who gave us faith, and Who placed us in His Son.

Only a few people, relatively speaking, met the incarnate Christ. Yes, up to 500 at one time saw Him post-resurrection - but by the time this sermon was written, most Christians received Christ completely by faith without having had any sight whatsoever. And it has been so throughout the ages since He returned to heaven. It is intrinsic to the nature of faith that it trusts without seeing. This does not mean "without evidence," but without actual sight. Faith trusts in God, and is designed for that purpose. The life of faith commits all things into His hands and accepts that whatever happens is from His hand, for our good, because His love for us is nailed to the wall of history and guaranteed by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

There is a lot more to it. But I hope that one of the main points is not missed and that is that the events of our lives and of the history of the world are only a means themselves to the attainment of heaven. They are a sojourn on a journey to the presence of God forever. We must be here, but we long to be there. We stay at His pleasure, all the while desiring to be where He is. The kingdom is here after a fashion - it is within and/or among believers - and we can and do enjoy fellowship with our Redeemer here and now. But this is a shadow compared to the fullness of His presence when the kingdom will be fully come upon His return.

The old covenant saints lived in exactly the same way. They were assured by God through the faith that they were given of the hope of heaven. This assurance, through faith manifested in that conviction about things not yet seen, was the root of their perseverance. And the idea was that God was trustworthy to do all that he had promised to do, especially regarding the salvation of their souls.


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