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 18, 2015
The Importance of the Word - October 18, 2015 - Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24) - Text: Hebrews 4:1-16
This week we continue our trek through the epistle to the Hebrews. This letter was written to warn Jewish Christians against falling into the false teachings of Judaism, that is that they must follow the Old Testament Laws in order to be saved. This letter also challenges these Christians to embrace world missions and to announce, to mainly Gentile Christians, the absolute character of Christianity, that is that Jesus accomplished the salvation spoken of in the promises of the Old Testament.
In our Old Testament lesson for this morning the preacher reminds us of the futility of earning money in this world. He reminds us that we are born with nothing and that we will leave this world with nothing. Thus, he warns or perhaps we should say he encourages us that unless we enjoy the fruit of our labor in this world we will only pass it on to those who will enjoy it.
In the Gospel lesson for this morning Jesus also addresses the issue of money. He reminds us of the difficulty of the rich in entering the kingdom of God. Jesus warning is that we must never trust in our own money or wherewithal for salvation.
In our text, the epistle reading, we are encouraged to trust, not in the things of this world, but in our Lord who does all and gives all. In particular, the epistle writer begins by telling us that God gives rest. Because of the length of this first section, verses one through ten, I am not going to read the whole section instead I will simply summarize it as we go.
The epistle writer begins by giving us an indication of the rest about which he is speaking as he suggests that we have the promise of entering “His” rest, that is of entering the rest of Jesus, in other words, we have the promise of eternal life in heaven. So, he suggests that while the promise of eternal life in heaven remains, we should fear the Lord, that is believe in Him, lest any of us should seem to fail to reach heaven. A nice tie in to the Old Testament and the Gospel readings in that we are not to be confident in our own resources, finance, monies, good works and so forth to gain eternal life, rather we are to rest our confidence in Christ Jesus alone for our salvation.
Moving on, the epistle writer reminds us that in six days God created the world and He rested on the seven day. In resting on the seventh day God consecrating that day as the Sabbath, that is as the day of rest. In so consecrating that day as the day of rest, our Lord continues to give us a day of rest, still today. This does not necessarily mean that we stay in bed, or that we do nothing at all. Instead, that the Lord gives us a Sabbath day, a day of rest means that we are to certainly rest from our normal physical, even manual labor and instead we are to use this day for the purpose of preparing ourselves for our eternal rest. Let me say that again, in case we missed it and this is what we said the epistle writer was indicating in the very first verse of this text. We are to use the day of rest, the Sabbath day, to prepare ourselves for our eternal rest. In other words, we are to use the Sabbath day as a day of reading, hearing and responding to the Word of God. We are to use the Sabbath day as an opportunity to be in divine service and in Bible Class. We are to use the Sabbath day as an opportunity to prepare ourselves, to be strengthen our faith, to be made ready for our eternal rest in heaven.
As you listen to the words of the epistle writer he makes a strong connection of the Sabbath as a type of the rest to come, even eternal life in heaven. Think about it this way, when we pass on from this world, when we die, we will no longer be concerned about the cares, worries, anxieties, toils, labors and tribulations of this world. Thus, we might well see the importance of being prepared for our eternal rest.
Again, as we listen to the words of the epistle writer, the rest which is to come after we pass on from this world is an eternal rest and is only for believers. Those who are not believers, those who are not prepared, those who do not have faith in Jesus alone for salvation will not be given eternal rest, instead they will be given eternal condemnation. Thus, we see the need for our continuing to make use of the Sabbath rest, to prepare ourselves, to strengthen our faith so that we might enter into the eternal Sabbath rest.
How do we make use of this Sabbath rest? The epistle writer reminds us of the Power of the Word and the importance of making use of that Word, that is of the hearing, believing and doing, again and doing, of that word. We pick up at verse eleven, “11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (v. 11-13).
The epistle writer reminds us that the Word of God is living. We know that the Word of God is living and we have seen its living even living in Jesus the Word made flesh. Not only is the Word of God alive, not only is Jesus alive, but He is also active. He is active in our lives, guiding, guarding and protecting us, watch over us, ruling over us and interceding for us.
Jesus it the Word of God made flesh. He is the Word that is sharper than any two-edged sword. He rightly divides right from wrong, sin from righteousness. He gives us the law and the gospel.
The power of the Word of God is that it shows us our sin. It shows that sin is sin, and ultimately, on Judgement day the Word of God will expose and judge all sin. These words of the epistle writer should indeed bring fear and trembling, because these words expose our sinfulness. To read the Word of God, to view the life of Jesus, we stand condemned. Not only do we sin against one commandment, but daily we sin against two, three, even all the commandments. Remember, we sin, not simply when we do something, but we sin when we fail to do something. We sin when we hurt or harm another person. We even sin when we think bad thoughts, that is to say we sin in thought, word and deed. And this Word of God is a word with power to show us our sin and how we cannot save ourselves.
Thanks be to God that the epistle writer is not finished writing, but instead he continues on to tell us of the power of Jesus. We pick up at verse fourteen, “14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 14-16).
As we have said, Jesus is the Word made flesh who came down from heaven. Jesus was true God, in heaven, enjoying all the glory and honor that was His. He was in heaven using His divine attributes to their fullest, yet He gave that up in order to take on human flesh and blood, that is to become one of us, one like us, one with us, except without sin. Jesus had to be God in order to be perfect and holy, in order to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus had to be truly human in order to be our substitute.
Jesus gave up the glory that was His, took on human flesh and blood, becoming one of us. As a man, Jesus lived perfectly for us, in our place, doing what we could and cannot do. He perfectly obeyed all God’s commands. He perfectly fulfilled all God’s promises. He was tempted beyond what we might think or imagine, beyond what we may ever be tempted and yet, He never sinned. He was perfect and holy. Jesus overcame all that we might suffer and more and so, as the epistle writer says, He can sympathize with us.
After living a perfect life, after fulfilling all God’s promises completely, Jesus then took all our sins upon Himself, our sins of thought, word, and deed, our sins of omission and commission, that as we confess, “We have sinned against [God] in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.” And He paid the price for our sins. The price of death, even eternal spiritual death. Jesus suffered hell for us. As the epistle writer states it, He was our high priest who is able to sympathize with us and even did sympathize by making Himself sin for us. As our high priest He allowed Himself to be sacrificed for us, in our place. And yet, He did not stay dead, as death and the grave had no power over Him. No, He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and He is seated at the right hand of the Father. By faith in Jesus, faith given to us through the means of grace, we can draw near the throne of grace and we are given mercy and find grace in time of need.
What Does This Mean? This morning we are reminded once again of the importance of the Word: the Word made flesh; that is Jesus, the living Word who lived, suffered and died for us. The Word that did not stay dead, but rose from the dead.
We are reminded of the importance of the Word, that is the Word of God especially the Word of God as a means of grace. The Word that is a means through which we are given, strengthened and kept in faith. The Word which is a two-edged sword, rightly dividing sin and righteousness. The Word which is more important than other matters of this world, including, as we were reminded in the Old Testament and the Gospel, any amount of monies we might think or imagine.
This morning we are reminded once again of the importance of the Word which has been given to us and through which we are given rest; rest in this world and even greater rest, eternal rest in heaven.
This morning we are reminded once more of the importance of Sunday morning divine service. Sunday is not simply an evolutionary anomaly that remains unexplained. Sunday morning is a gift given to us by our great God. Certainly it is a day of rest in that we may not have to work at our normal job, but even more it is a day of rest in which we are given spiritual rest. It is a day of rest in which we are given, strengthened and kept in faith. It is a day of rest in which we are continually prepared for our eternal day of rest. Yes, it is that important of a day and gift from our Lord. May the Lord, through His Word, continue to give to you and strengthen you in your desire to be given the gifts He has to give through His Sabbath rest. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.