Hebrew’s Study 3
It is not hospitable to give in-town guests an air mattress that leaks. Nor is it admirable to have a deflated and doubtful belief and feeling for Jesus Christ. Does your faith look like a leaky air mattress?
The letter to the Hebrews seeks to patch some leaks in this congregation. The second temple Jews had pins. They were poking holes.
In the first sermon, the Holy Spirit patched the leak by showing the absolute greatness of the new prophet Jesus. In and of Himself, Jesus is most excellent.
In the second sermon, the Holy Spirit patched the leak by showing us the relative greatness of Jesus. Compared even to angels, Jesus is greater.
The point is for the Church to give themselves over to Jesus above every other authority. Yet, we are often uncertain about Jesus. What are the certainties that the author of Hebrews gives?
THE EAR OF AN APOSTLE
“how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” (Hebrews 2:3)
The author reassures them that the message they heard was from reliable eyewitnesses–the Apostles.
In the 1st century Jewish culture, a truth was established by the testimony of two or three reputable witnesses. Verse 3 emphasizes the ear-witness testimony of the Apostles as confirmation or verification of all that Jesus said and did. In other words, a group of men (the Apostles) and many others, in fact, saw all that Jesus said and did and they testified that Jesus was the Christ.
In our 21st century non-Jewish culture, we are not convinced. Take Charles for example:
“I see much of the Bible’s teaching as historically inaccurate,” said Charles, an investment banker. “We can’t be sure the Bible’s account of events is what really happened.”
How would you answer him? Tim Keller, like other New Testament scholars cited three largely agreed upon truths:
- The timing is far too early for the gospels to be legends. In other words, the apostles wrote the gospels during the lifetime of people who could discredit their accounts. Many witnesses are mentioned by name in the gospels. Anyone could literarally go down the street and confirm what was written.
- The content is far too counterproductive for the gospels to be legends. In other words, the gospels celebrate the role of women and Gentiles. This would have been counterproductive with their audience. If they were making this stuff up, then why not leave out information that hurts the cause?
- The literary form of the gospels is too detailed to be legend. C.S. Lewis develops well in his essay, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?”
“God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:4)
As seen in verse 4, God the Father gives further certainty. Signs, Wonders, Miracles, and Gifts of the Spirit are synonyms. It is easy to read a gospels and see the many signs, wonders and miracles of Jesus. Remember the twelve year girl?
“Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement.” (Mark 5:35–42)
It is just as easy to read the book of Acts and see the signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Spirit which established the Apostolic testimony. Remember Paul’s long sermon?
“And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.” (Acts 20:9)
However, Paul, “…went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.”
God the Father gave these supernatural signs to establish the credibility of the message. They,”…went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.” (Mark 16:20)
Once again, our culture hardly gains certainty from these examples of supernatural attestation. The reason is that the supernatural is implausible in our secular context.
However, the secular mind when considered in relation to Africa, Asia, and Latin America is a minority. Most of the world relies on the supernatural to make sense of their lives. Perhaps secularists are too culturally narrow–not a compliment.
DILIGENCE, DRIFTING, AND LEAKY BUCKETS
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” (Hebrews 2:1–3)
If the message from Moses and the angels was certain, how much more certain of the message from the ‘Lord’ of heaven and earth as confirmed by the apostles and assured by God the Father granting extraordinary signs and wonders.
However, the main purpose of the author goes one step further than that. Since the message of the gospel is certain, then do not neglect it, rather diligently give heed, diligently attend, pay attention, embrace, give your soul, body and emotions over to it. Christian you must give diligent and everyday attention to the Words of Scripture. Why?
Don’t think of a boat drifting away. Think of a tree drifting away. Imagine heavy rains that raise the streams above their banks, undermining trees and carrying them down-stream. The point is that meditation on the Word strengthens the roots so that you cannot be uprooted.
For the Hebrews, the waters of 2nd. Temple Judaism threatened to carry them away. So, the author develops Scriptural arguments and warnings to establish them.
What are the waters that threaten to carry you away?
Let me put this another way. The image here could also be flowing away. The idea could be that God rains down his truth upon you and you collect it like a bucket. Then, the world comes along and tries to poke holes in your bucket, so that all His truths leak out of you. You, consequentially, become not just doubtful, but unproductive and unfruitful.
The question is have you sprung a leak?
The answer, of course is that you have. How do we plug up our leaks? Meditating on the Word of God!
Meditation teaches us God’s will. Shows us God’s enemies. Gives us motivation to keep going. Warms our hearts for Him and makes us hate sin.
How do you meditate?
- The best way is by an open Bible.
- And a sermon
- Which at-least includes a sermon from your pastor.
Your pastor has been chosen by the Holy Spirit to minister to you in particular. He is your servant. Use the sermon to discover and put on the meaning and significance of the passage.
Your responsibility with every sermon is detailed in the Larger Catechism: “It is required of those that hear the word preached, that:”
- they attend upon it with diligence,
- preparation, and prayer;
- examine what they hear by the scriptures;
- receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God;
- meditate, and have conversation about it;
- hide it in their hearts,
- and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.
- If you had to give a lecture to scientist about the supernatural, would you feel ashamed? Why or why not?
- Why do you trust or distrust Apostolic testimony? Tim Keller in “The Reason for God” discusses this matter beginning on page 100.
- Imagine you are filled with the truths of Christianity, just as a bucket is filled with water. What causes you to spring leaks and which truths leak out? Look for Bible characters that spring leaks. What caused the leaks? What leaked out? Consider the life of Peter: the storm; the denial; the separation from the Gentiles as recorded in Galatians.