Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Give Heed For Salvation - October 4, 2015 - Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) - Text: Hebrews 2:1-18
Our Old Testament lesson for this morning is the account of the creation of the woman from the rib of the man to be bone of bone and flesh of flesh. It is also the account of God giving the gift of marriage, of one man and one woman. In the Gospel reading we have the account of the question of the Pharisees concerning divorce and Jesus’ answer that Moses allowed for divorce because of the sin and hardness of the human heart. In the Gospel we also have the account of Jesus’ exhortation to believe as little children, to have the faith of a child.
Sandwiched between these two lesson for today we have the Epistle reading from the letter to the Hebrews. The epistle lesson, which is our text, begins by helping us to understand the nature of our state of being. We begin at verse one, “1Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (v. 1-4).
The writer of this epistle urges us to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” He knows well our nature, that is that we tend to forget what we hear and that we tend to drift away from our faith. Research in the secular world suggests that while it takes at least three weeks to develop a good habit, it only takes three days to unlearn that same good habit. Quite a warning to us concerning our own Christian faith and life and our own making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. More specifically this morning, the writer of this epistle warns us that we would do well to take heed of the law which shows our sins and the result or the punishment of our sin.
The law was given, first written on our hearts, not to save us, but to show us our sin and the seriousness of our sins. The Gospel was given to show us our Savior and to bring us salvation. And we know the Gospel as the writer instructs us that God gave witness of Jesus as the Messiah through the signs and wonders, that is through the miracles Jesus performed showing Himself to be the Messiah, even God in human flesh.
Adding to our understanding of the Gospel and who Jesus is, the writer continues at verse five, “5Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6It has been testified somewhere, ‘What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8putting everything in subjection under his feet.’ Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (v. 5-9).
When God created the world, He crowned His creation with the creation of man, humans. And as expressed in this quote from a Psalm of David, man was created above angels. Remember, angels are not human and humans do not become angels. Angels do not have a body and were created to be messengers of the Lord. Thus, we see that man is the crown of God’s creation and is above angels. As for Jesus, He is true God and true man. And although He was created above the angels, yet for a while, while He was here on this earth, He made Himself nothing for our sakes.
Before His incarnation, that is before Jesus took on human flesh, He was in heaven enjoying all the glory that was His and using His divine attributes to their fullest, yet He gave that up; He gave up all the honor and glory that were His in heaven. He subjected Himself to taking on human flesh and blood. He subjected Himself to all His own laws. And, again, as the epistle writers says, “for a little while [He] was made lower than the angels.” Only while He was here on this earth did He subject Himself to be made lower than the angels.
In subjecting Himself, He conquered even death itself as well as the devil. It was only as a human being, it was only as one of us, His creatures that He could save us. As God in flesh, as a human being, He fulfilled all the law and all the prophecies, all the promises concerning the Messiah. In so doing He proved Himself to be the Messiah and He accomplished what we could not so that He could become our substitute.
But the epistle writer is not through. There is more to know of who Jesus is. We pick up at verse ten, “10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12saying, ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.’ 13And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.’” (v. 10-13)
The epistle writer reminds us that Jesus is God. He is creator with the Father and the Spirit or as he puts it, “from whom and by whom all things exist.” Jesus was there with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the creation of the world. He was there at the creation of the man and the woman.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God immediately stepped in and promised to send a Savior. God did not fulfill this promise immediately, but in time, Jesus was born. Jesus is true God, born in human flesh. As true God He is perfect and holy fulfilling God’s command that we be perfect even as He is perfect. As a true man He is indeed our brother and He is able to be our substitute.
Jesus is true God and He is true man and He is our Savior. We continue at verse fourteen, “14Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (v. 14-18).
Jesus is true God who took on human flesh and blood. We say that He became incarnate, that is He became in carnal or in flesh. He had to be born as human in order to be one of us in order to be our substitute or to use the language of our text, in order to be our propitiation. Certainly we all understand the concept of substituting like things for like things and the idea that one does not confuse “apples and oranges.” And so Jesus became incarnate, He took on human flesh in order to be a like substitute even our substitute.
As our substitute, Jesus lived under the law and yet never sinned. As our substitute Jesus suffered every temptation we might suffer and even greater temptation and yet He never sinned. As our substitute, Jesus fulfilled all of God’s laws perfectly, never disobeying even one. And as our substitute Jesus took all our sins upon Himself. He delivered us from death that is from eternal spiritual death by suffering death for us.
And so, He delivers us from the bondage of sin. The bondage of sin is eternal spiritual death. By faith in Jesus, faith given by the Holy Spirit; faith given through the means of grace; by faith in Jesus we have forgiveness of sins which means a release from the bondage of sin.
And yet, Jesus work is not over. He never ceases to care for us and watch over us. After His death and resurrection, He ascended to the right hand of the Father where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. Because He has suffered everything and even greater suffering than we might ever suffer or think or imagine, we know that He is able to help us in times of temptation as well. And most certainly, as our brother, He is always there to guide, guard and protect us.
What does this mean? This morning we are reminded once again of what a great God we have. We have a God who created us. We have a God who loves us, His creatures. We have a God who shows His great love for us in the fact that He took on human flesh and blood in the person of Jesus who is God who became man in order to be our substitute.
This morning we are reminded that by faith in Jesus, faith which is a means or an instrument, faith which is given to us, by faith in Jesus, His perfection is our perfection. Everything that Jesus did is accounted to us. So, when God looks at us He does not see our imperfections and sin, instead He sees Jesus perfection and declares us righteous and holy.
This morning we are once again pointed back to Jesus. We are pointed back to the cross and to focus our attention on the cross. Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil and He gives us eternal life where we will share in His honor and glory in heaven. What a great God we have.
Finally, I want to conclude with the most profound words of Jesus from the Gospel lesson for this mornings, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Jesus does all and gives all and He even knows the heart of humanity. He knows and understands the difficulties of this life and how we so often grow up as adults and we become cynical, skeptical, and doubting. We have such a great tendency to try to explain things, to distrust what we do not understand, and even to doubt what we see with our own eyes. At the same time, He understands the heart and mind of a child. Children have not yet learned to disbelieve. Children have not yet learned to distrust. And so, when it comes to matters of faith, Jesus encourages us to be as children. We are to believe Jesus, because He says so. We are to trust in Jesus because He has shown how we can trust in Him. We are to cling to Him because He is the one who has created us, redeemed us and He is the One who continues to watch over us, rule over us and intercede for us. Again, we might boldly proclaim, what a great God, what a loving God, what an almighty God we have. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.