Agonizomai: Heb 12 - 15-17 - Christ - To Be Obeyed Through Faith

Friday, May 14, 2010

Heb 12 - 15-17 - Christ - To Be Obeyed Through Faith

Heb 12 - 15-17 - Christ - To Be Obeyed Through Faith

Heb 12:15-17 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

It is not within our power to ensure that God’s grace is obtained by everybody. That is not the meaning here. It is not that we can effect the result, but that we are responsible for pressing into the desired result. We are to apply the means by which grace can be manifested. Note that this is the responsibility of all the hearers - not just the pastors. The church family consists of individuals who are all responsible for the corporate welfare. All are their brother’s keepers.

Nevertheless, this section is much more than simply an exhortation to individual saints. To see it as solely a personal call to holiness would be to misunderstand badly. Roots of bitterness are ultimately an individual responsibility, but are the fruit of disharmony or offense between two parties. The church’s responsibility as a corpus is to seek the peaceable, charitable settlement of all disputes. Individual peacemakers are blessed in this, but the church body as a whole (through its elders) is enjoined and commanded to guide, rebuke, exhort and reprove the flock.

Sexual immorality is no less a wound upon the whole body when it is perpetrated, and especially if it is tolerated. Unrepentant persons are ultimately to be disfellowshipped (and then evangelized) so that they might learn repentance or have the body destroyed.

These exhortations are to the flock to watch the backs of their fellow saints. Not as busybodies, but out of genuine love for their souls. While it is true that none can fall away who truly belong to Christ, it is also true that Christ has appointed the means by which they will be kept. And these means involve the right and proper use of the sacraments of preaching, the Lord’s Supper and church discipline, as well as genuine, wise, Biblical and loving support between individual saints.

It may well have been that Esau was never elect of God and was always a vessel destined for destruction, but that was for God to know. The Esaus in our lives and congregations do not have sign upon their foreheads declaring them persona non grata. They are souls who are perishing, or who are in danger of wandering away. They are often indistinguishable from the Jacobs. In many ways they may appear to be better people. And some who are true Jacobs (true Israel) may stumble and falter to the very brink of perdition and seem for all the world to be beyond the pale and without hope of restoration. This is why we must let God be God. We are servants and not masters. We have the means to employ to rescue some - but they are means that are to be applied to all. God decides who will be both saved and kept - and He alone knows the end from the beginning.

Lastly, there is the individual’s personal responsibility to not be found in wilful disobedience or in gross sin. It is dangerous to wander at all, but to wander to the point where conscience is knowingly suppressed and the Spirit is grieved is to enter an area where the assurance of salvation is lost or, as stated previously, where salvation is demonstrated not to have been received. Though it can be a good thing for clarity to be brought to bear, the problem here is that it is a clarity that is apparent to observers, but not to the individual who is embracing the sin. We must never tempt God because, if we do, we can never truly know if our own perversity is not the very means that God uses to give us over to the perdition that we were always reserved for. Sin is deceitful. Better to flee.

A word on Esau. The Bible states that whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. If men would but turn from their evil ways the Lord would hear them. So why is Esau not heard when he repents? It is because he does not truly repent. From the viewpoint of God’s eternal decrees, Esau was not granted repentance. From his own human perspective, he never expressed it. The text says that he sought it, not that he did it. It is all a question of motivation. Esau rued the loss of his inheritance and blessing. Now, he did quite well in life and was blessed by God in tangible ways with worldly goods, power and prestige. But he did not have the primary blessing of the firstborn son and he knew it, having despised it due to the uncontrolled passions of his flesh.

And that is the point of the illustration here. A moment’s uncontrolled passion might ruin a life. There is no guarantee that if we abandon ourselves to sin we shall ever find repentance and restoration. Our human responsibility is to strive for holiness. To strive, not to attain. When we are found striving, we will know that our ultimate attaining was guaranteed beforehand by the eternal purposes of God. Do you see the disconnect here? Do you see that justification or even sanctification by works is excluded? When we strive we enter into an already existent assurance that was prepared for us from eternity. Our striving is the means by which God realizes what He has already decreed.

But this striving itself finds its birth and impetus in God. Unless He decreed it we would not do it. Faith is the scarlet thread that connects these things in a chain. Faith apprehends, seizes and applies. Faith understands, assents and obeys. Everything can be faked. In all things deceit, especially self-deceit is possible. The Esaus of this world, and those within the visible church, have many of the outward appearances of religion but ultimately they lack that faith which is the gift of God. Their motivation may look genuine but inwardly it is self-directed and not God derived. God derived faith seeks not self, but the glory of God. It leads to humility, self-denial and holiness.


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