Agonizomai: Heb 12 - 25-29 - Christ - A Consuming Fire

Friday, May 21, 2010

Heb 12 - 25-29 - Christ - A Consuming Fire

Heb 12 - 25-29 - Christ - A Consuming Fire

Heb 12:25-29 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

This is a repetition in a different form of the admonition not to fail to obtain the grace of God. By refusing God’s ultimate self-revelation, which is Christ, the Hebrews would be failing to obtain or to abide in God’s grace. It is true that God’s grace toward us both elects and preserves by granting both faith and repentance - but it is also true that this grace is manifested in the very faith and repentance we are to exercise. Our failure to hear and to receive Christ at any point ought to sound a warning bell in the soul. A flag should go up. Have I in fact received the grace of God, or am I fooling myself? Have I been fooling myself all along?

God spoke to Israel as a nation at Horeb and they trembled, asking that Moses be the intermediary. But they nevertheless did not listen and perished in the wilderness. God has now spoken a more perfect Word because he has spoken in His Son. The manner of speaking is full, complete, mature, and perfect. It is the ultimate revelation of God that fallen earth-dwellers can receive. It is the Word made flesh, dwelling among us, full of grace and truth. It is God as a man. It is all that fallen men will ever be given because no more can be added to Christ.

This Christ comes from heaven, speaks with the authority of heaven, communicates heaven and represents heaven. I mean "heaven" as the presence of God, not merely a place with feathery-winged angels and a lot of nice people.

The Hebrews, in their vacillation, in their temptation to lose heart, to give up, to stumble at the end, needed to heed the example that God plainly wrote for them in their own history. Ignoring the imperfect, partial, pre-figurative revelation at Horeb brought the weighty judgement of God. How much more a severe judgement would come upon those who rejected the complete, full-orbed, glorious and final revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

God is no less a consuming fire in this gospel age than he was at Sinai. In fact he is more so on account of the fact the fuller revelation of his nature has been made in the Incarnation. Judgement is no less a certainty under this dispensation than it was in the wilderness of the exodus. In fact, it is both more certain and more severe because the dividing line between good and evil has been more clearly marked. Good is to be found in Christ and all else is from evil. {Mr 10:18} George Whitefield understood this and it greatly exercised him. He was reluctant to preach at all because of the certain knowledge that, by bringing the light, he would be adding to the condemnation of all those upon whom his words fell, yet who did not heed the call and the warnings.

The two kingdoms are once more illustrated in this admonishment. The earthly kingdom of outward rules and conformity - justly and rightly imposed - was but a picture of the heavenly, unseen kingdom that is in Christ and through Christ. The prior kingdom was temporary, shakeable, finite, perishable and made for destruction. The new kingdom is imperishable, and unshakable - established forever because it is founded upon the rock of the righteousness of God. In the end, this is all that will remain. Only God’s righteousness - only that which was wrought in it and by it and through it will endure the consuming fire of his holy judgement and the destructive force of his wrath. That includes what we do, but it also includes what we are, because what we do necessarily springs from what we are.

If we are in Christ we are a new creation and we produce, by nature, the fruit of the righteousness of God, which dwells in us as the Son, by the Spirit. This everlasting fruit is the righteousness of God in us, as a gift of his grace, received through faith in the means (Christ) by which it is delivered to us. This is so stupendous and incredible a gift that we rightly are exhorted to worship, reverence and awe. God excites this in us and leads us into it as our freely given response to his freely given grace.


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