Agonizomai: Heb 13 - 09-12 - Christ - Pierced for Our Iniquities

Monday, May 31, 2010

Heb 13 - 09-12 - Christ - Pierced for Our Iniquities

Heb 13 - 09-12 - Christ - Pierced for Our Iniquities

Heb 13:9-12 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 we have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.

Strange and diverse teachings are those which differ from what was delivered in and by that Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever. And there is absolutely no shortage of such perverse teachings. They sprang up in the Apostles’ time and they continue to spring up to this day. They are all variations upon a theme. New heads for the hydra - lop off a couple and they grow back, but they’re all still the same snakes. Judaisitic legalism and Gnosticism got the ball rolling in the 1st century, but Marcionism, Arianism and Pelagianism soon followed, with others not far behind.

In the present day elements of Montanism live on in the fringes of the charismatic movement, Arianism in the oneness religions like JW’s, and practical Pelagianism in some sectors of "evangelical" community that have progressed beyond mere Arminianism. These are the same heresies that were dealt with in times past by the great councils of the church and by early church fathers like Augustine, Tertullian and Iranaeus.

But the strange teachings spoken of here are those of a nascent asceticism akin to the old Jewish legalism. It was being bandied about by some that certain dietary regulations would improve a person’s spirituality, if followed. This is, of course, just another form of enslavement. There is only one food by which the Christian is truly sustained, and that is the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ made known to us through the Word by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christ is the bread of life. And the written word is God’s ordained means of breaking Him unto us that we may be nourished and grow.

We must meditate upon the work of Christ from the creation, through the redemption and on to the eventual consummation of all things. And as we learn and marvel at how all things not only hold together in Him, but are from Him and through Him and to Him and for Him - how all things, including life and death, heaven and hell, saved and lost are for His glory. They are to the praise of the glory of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, or to the praise of the glory of His judgments. The wonders of Christ may start at the cross for we time-bound mortals, but they extend into eternity in all directions, from eternity past to eternity future. And God has drawn back the curtain on some of these things enough, in the here and now, for us to by awed, and strengthened and encouraged by them.

The writer once more draws his audience back to the contrast that exists between the old ways to which some of them are being redrawn, and the entirely new Way, which is Christ. Thus he states quite categorically and (for today’s tastes) rather insensitively, that those who follow the old rituals have no right to partake of the new sacrifice. There is finality here. Closure. Exclusion. Exclusivity. They can’t have it both ways. {Ga 5:2} The old has been done away with and the new has replaced it completely. If you follow the one, then you cannot partake of the other. No fallen human contribution can be mixed with the grace that justifies the believer. None.

It is this exclusivity of Christ that is so often the cause of hatred and retribution by unbelievers. In past days, those worshiping idols were sometimes quite disposed to any religion, so long as it would admit that it was no better a way than all the others. The Romans were not opposed to almost all of the religions of the countries they conquered. They had a sort of pantheon exchange with them. And the Athenians, as we have seen in Acts, were quite disposed to allowing every imaginable god in their philosophy, including the unknown god, just as long as its adherents would get along with all the others. But let once the cry of "Christ is the only way" go forth, and every weapon in the arsenal of hell will be brought to bear through the agency of unbelieving people to ridicule, ostracize and - eventually - to crush and eradicate those holding true to that faith.

Was it not so with Christ Himself? He Who declared "I am the way," and not "I am a way" was hated and despised and cast outside the camp. He was sacrificed outside the holy city of Zion where the old religion held sway. He was rejected by His Own - He came to them and they received Him not. Yet the amazing plan of God used even this rejection, this desire not to pollute the holy city with this "usurper’s" blood, as the very fulfillment of the prefiguration of the act itself in the foreshadowing Levitical sacrifice. O, the wisdom of God! The means of His rejection was the instrument of the salvation of many.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t just skip over this. It is profound. It is Christ, the power and the wisdom of God manifested and hung out there for all to see - utterly cast aside and debased by the foulest and most cruel means mankind had been able to invent until that time. Persian impaling brought to perfection by Roman cruelty. And this was all that mankind could do to Him, though it was not all that was done.

Had he been just a man then it would have been cruel and tragic but nothing particularly exceptional. Hundreds of thousands have died on crosses or by impaling - and millions more by other sadistic cruelties. “So - another one bites the dust. In the end, it’s sad, but - oh well, I’ve got my own stuff to worry about!” “O, but he was a really nice man, loving and harmless and he died unjustly.” I’ve got news for you. In purely human terms people die unjustly every day, many of them children. Many a good person has been wrongfully accused, persecuted for no good reason and died for a noble cause. So what’s one more?

Well, you get the point. It’s not how Christians think, but it is how the world thinks - and it is even sometimes how we ourselves portray Christ. The movie "The Passion of the Christ" was to many Christians a moving reminder of the physical torments of their Saviour. But touting it as a means of evangelizing the lost was a bit like talking Swahili to a cockney, or Newfanese to an Ontarian and expecting them to understand. The lost see a man suffering. The saved see the Son of God. The lost see the outward cruelties, the saved see the most wrenching cut of all - separation from His Father. And in that separation, the Divine wrath poured out upon His very soul for the endless indignities perpetrated upon the infinite and eternal God through the rejection of His creatures. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, where His love for His people satisfied His wrath at their culpable wickedness.

These are spiritual things, unknowable to the natural man because he cannot receive them. He can look at a representation of Christ on a cross and be moved to tears, can cover his eyes and be sickened by the carnage - he can even have an emotional response that attaches to this "Jesus" person for a season - until the shocking imagery wears off and the cares of the world once more consume his being. But the missing component is the Spiritual birth that implants the godly seed by which that person is made alive and kept alive in Christ forever.

But let once a human soul see Christ, the Eternal Son of God, holding Himself upon that cross with the nails He made, and on the wood He grew, found in the agony of soul that He sustained, keeping Omnipotence utterly helpless at the centerpiece of existence and history - eternal God surrounded by eternity and casting into eternity the just wrath He rightly bore towards those He came to save. The only Help in the universe, holding Himself helpless. The only truly eternally holy Being (that is from and to eternity) becoming sin for us. How could it be? How can holiness and sin be reconciled in God? If we think we know we are fools. We know, but we don’t really know. Our knowledge is found in the gift of faith in what God has said happened there. But the depth and dimensions of what truly happened is something for our eternal contemplation.

Now, knowing this, though it is known but in part and poorly, how could any professor of Christ go back to mere sheep and bulls and ceremony? As the writer to the Hebrews would say, "Give me a break!"


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