David Westerfield

Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Tag: Hebrews

A Permanent Alien Righteousness

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” โ€“ Hebrews 10:1

“When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second.ย And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” โ€“ Hebrews 10:8-10

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If We Go on Sinning Deliberately

Excerpt taken from http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue65b.htm

Recognizing allusions may also prove helpful in casting light on passages that are often considered “difficult.” This turns out to be the case with the warning found in Hebrews chapter 10:

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29)

While there are several issues evident within this complex passage, I wish to focus on the term “sinning willfully” in verse 26. Many have struggled with what exactly the author of Hebrews is trying to convey with this term. The confusion proceeds from the fact that every “sin” is indeed done “willfully” in the sense that all who “sin” do the act of their own volition, thus “willfully” in one sense of the word. Furthermore, the Apostle John makes it quite clear: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Thus, if we are to maintain that the Scriptures are consistent in its unified message, “sinning willfully” must have some other meaning than that noted above. The question then is: “What does the author of Hebrews have in mind when he writes the term: “sinning willfully”?

Light is cast on this difficult passage when we realize that the author of Hebrews is most probably alluding to a distinct yet similar warning found in the Old Testament. In Numbers 15 we find that those “under the law of Moses” were given instruction and warning regarding “sinning unintentionally” and “sinning willfully.” Note the following:

Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering. The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him (Numbers 15:27-31).

Therefore, since the author of Hebrews clearly notes that he is making an analogy to the punishment of those who “set aside the law” (vs. 28-29), we get a somewhat clearer picture of what he means by “sinning willfully.” Since there was a distinction in the Old Testament regarding those who had received the revelation of the Lord through Moses of “sinning unintentionally” and “sinning defiantly,” the author of Hebrews makes the following point analogous to the Old Testament instructions and warning: If those who defiantly spurned the Law after receiving the knowledge of its truth were put to death, how much greater will be the punishment of those who defiantly spurn the Gospel of Jesus Christ after receiving the knowledge of its truth.

After carefully examining the passage and the roots that the author of Hebrews is relating it to, it becomes evident the definition of “sinning willfully” carries with it the meaning of one who defiantly blasphemes the Gospel after accepting the concept that it is indeed true. When this is done, only a fearful expectation of the eternal judgment of God remains for that individual.

Together for the Gospel – Day Three

The third day of the conference ended on a very challenging and encouraging note. As usual, Piper (as one college student in the guys’ bathroom put it), “dropped a bomb on everyone,” (to which there were then subsequent chuckles from the older generation in the bathroom hearing a younger guy put it in such a way).John Piper was the first of two speakers to take the stage that day (which ended at noon). His message was entitled (not terribly surprising ๐Ÿ™‚ ), The Supremacy of Christ and Radical Christian Sacrifice. The primary text he used for his sermon was Hebrews 13:13 (though of course he walked us through several passages in Hebrews to bring us up to that point). The main thrust of his message was centered upon how the whole point of the book of Hebrews is to this end: giving ourselves away for the glory of God and the proclamation of the Gospel, and specifically how suffering fits into this, which has a great reward: Christ. The question posed that Piper sought to answer from Scripture was, how does the Gospel create radical Christian sacrifice?

The short answer from Hebrews (shown to be abundantly clear) is fixing your gaze, everyday, upon the final Great Reward that, for example, Moses sought after. As Hebrews 11:26 says, “[Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” What is this Great Reward? It is the blessing R.C. Sproul spoke of so eloquently in the fifth session, laid out in Scripture in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” It is the enjoyment of the person and work of Christ forever, as laid out so plainly in Revelation in many places. That enjoyment does not start then. We enjoy it now and then it is perfected and never-ending when we go to be with Him. And it is the only way to be joyfully willing to radically give up our comforts for the sake of others’ souls and the glory of Christ.

In the panel discussion, the question was asked what that may look like for various people. Piper’s answer was that it could be in the form of “going outside the camp to bear the reproach of Christ” in loving on and witnessing to neighbors, giving up some things to invest in your wife’s and your children’s joy in Christ, investing more in studying the Scriptures and theology, or getting out of the study more to pursue people with self-sacrificial love. So the question is, what is outside the camp for you? Convicting, because I can make a laundry list of things. Piper made clear that Christ isn’t sitting there in the camp telling you to go out and bear His reproach while He sits there and gives you no strength, direction, or wisdom, hoping that by some miracle of your own doing, you can just bear it. Rather, He Himself is outside the camp bearing reproach saying, “Come to me, I’m out here bearing reproach in the inner city, in your neighborhood, in your workplace, in your church even! And I will give you what you need for joyful acceptance in suffering itself.”

To sum up, the essence of his message was that the way to go about becoming a person who radically sacrifices for the sake of Christ is to consider His reproach that you bear (your discomfort, whatever that looks like for you) greater wealth than the treasures of the American dream, or success, or even the mere accumulation of knowledge, because our reward surpasses all understanding and is in heaven. And that reward is the unending joy of Christ Himself. May we constantly be looking to that reward for the sake of His name, His kingdom, and laboring to bring people into it.

The final and most encouraging message of all (and yet at the same time convicting, driving you to the cross for mercy and joy) was from C.J. Mahaney, entitled, Sustaining a Pastors Soul. And while I’m merely a volunteer in student ministries at Christ Chapel, the things said apply equally to me as a lay minister. And even more than that, these truth-principles apply to all those who are not serving in teaching as well. C.J. spoke from Philippians 1:3-8 on the joy Paul displays and how that joy is not just something he worked up in himself, but how that joy is inseparably connected to theological understanding of Christ and His work to reconcile us to God. If you lack joy, it is because your understanding of the Gospel is either lacking in some way or it has not moved from your head to your heart as they way it should. C.J. shows this in how Paul unfolds the affectionate opening of his letter.

Paul makes his prayer with joy (verse 4) because of the Philippians partnership in the Gospel with him. And then after this statement, Paul makes clear that he is so joyful because he is, “sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” His joy in their partnership and knowing theologically how God worked in their salvation is absolutely inseparable. They are interdependent. You cannot have one without the other. There will be no joy without spiritual knowledge. And knowledge itself, if it does not move to your heart in love for Christ and others is a knowledge that merely puffs up. The more you know of God personally in communion with Him and also how He works in your salvation theologically, the more you will be certain that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Your confidence in Christ will rest in His sure promises.

One of the greatest convicting things for me in particular was the point on how grumbling, bitterness, anger, and an overall disposition of complaint is a lack of joy and an active opposition to the sovereign hand of God moving upon you to mold and shape you in His image of humility and eternal joy in God. To highlight this point, he gave an example that struck at my own personal issues in this area, which I’ll get to in a minute. My own struggle is not so much in the larger trials that happen. It seems the Lord has blessed me supernaturally in that area to deal with difficult, large, personal calamities when they come. Praise Him for His work and may He always continue to move in me when those things happen (and they will)!

My struggle though with sinning in this area comes in the little trials. I wake up and the small things eat away at my joy throughout the day. They then start to add up and take their toll, leaving me dry and unfulfilled. It is a constant battle and struggle for me to rely through faith upon the finished work of Christ to bring me joy in Himself instead of my circumstances. And this is where C.J.’s example struck me. He illustrated by talking about his journey from the hotel lobby to his room. He walked to the door, inserted the card, and, “red light”. He did it again, “red light”. Another time. He finally sat there and thought to himself (paraphrase), “God, I see no reason for this … this makes no sense. Why are doing this to me? I mean I’m in Your service doing Your work, have a lot of work to get done, and this? Really? I see no point to this.” In essence, “I know more than You, God, I am wiser than you, God. Therefore, this should not be happening. Explain this to me if You would.” Arrogance and pride flowing from our mouths that should in turn be justly, eternally struck for the way we talk back to Him. May the Lord have mercy on me for my error and its frequency.

And I began thinking about what he was saying with all of this because it sounded familiar and I quickly realized these are things I read in John Owen’s three classic treatments entitled, Overcoming Sin and Temptation. C.J. just brought those truths to bear on my own heart in a personal way and I realized how many times during my day, I’m a bitter, joyless person who is not pursuing Christ in what I’m doing. I’ve been here before, but the Holy Spirit awakened it afresh in my soul. My heart is so quick to slide away from the glory of the grace of Christ into self-pity and frustration at what I think God should be doing for me instead of what He knows is best for me. I say I believe in sovereignty intellectually, but if it really moved to my heart, Christ-humility would ensue.

Do we believe that He knows better? If so, why do we complain? Because we disregard His sovereignty and His love toward us in that sovereignty. Does his sovereignty not include all of the small little things that are really just minor inconveniences? We sin greatly in setting ourselves up as the final authority over against God. How desperately wicked and sick is our condition. My condition is not uncommon though it seems. Many guys I know (in particular) struggle with this very thing. God demands that we be joyful in the Scriptures. It is imperative that we find joy. But finding joy either in what we think we can provide ourselves (religiosity) or what the world provides (paganism) instead of Christ alone is slandering and dishonoring to the name of Christ and His work on our behalf to do exactly that for us: bring us joy beyond imagination by the experience of Himself. May we fall on our faces for our infinite affront against God.

This message really made me see the need (in a starker way) to consistently and frequently be pursuing joy in light of the work of the Gospel to bring me to Himself, considering all of the ways and manners and actions God undertook to make it so. From His eternal election, to His justification of His people at the cross, to bringing about our regeneration through that work, to conforming us more into the image of the Savior, to our final glorification at death or His return at the end of the age, it is these truths that we must massage into our hearts that our joy in Christ may be our souls’ final feast (as David Phillips used to say). Run after Him to experience His love, and thus joy, in prayer and communion resulting from what we now know about Him.

Mahaney’s message was a great bookend to the whole conference, in that it moved us toward the goal of studying and practicing correct theology in our lives: enjoying (and thus in that, glorifying) God forever, the primary aim for which God created us.

A Purified Conscience from Dead Works through the Blood of Christ

“For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Hebrews 9:13-14

Naturally, each one of us has been created with a sense of justice, a sense of what is right and wrong. Over time, our sinning can erode or sear our consciences so that we don’t feel the effect or guilt of that sin anymore, thus becoming more and more enslaved to unrighteousness, serving the desires of our sinful souls, and as a result, we turn away increasingly from the living God. For the believer in Christ though, through His precious and infinitely valuable blood, our relationship to God has been restored in order that we may be drawn closer to Him and “glorify Him by enjoying Him forever.” (Piper)

What I want to focus us on in particular is how our consciences are purified from dead works so that we can give glory and honor to God. Because each of us has a natural sense of right and wrong, when we see the areas of our lives where we fall short, we naturally feel unworthy to approach God of ourselves, and really we are unworthy. The payment we need to be able to approach God is infinitely high, beyond the price we are able to pay. All of our striving and working will account for nothing because we cannot make an infinite payment for the wrong we have committed against the Lord God. His glory is infinite, and in harming His glory with our sin, we have thus committed an infinite offense, worthy of infinite punishment. Therefore our consciences are weighed down by guilt. And eventually, when we see we can’t make payment, we give up trying to pursue a right relationship with God and continue sinning, thus becoming more enslaved to sin than we were.

But in Christ, our consciences can be freed from our dead works that lead us to eternal damnation in order that we may be reconciled to God. How? In our natural state, as I said before, we cannot approach God, unless something or someone makes payment on our behalf, because we are not able to. And this is exactly what Christ has done for anyone who believes in Him and His sacrifice on the cross to bring about redemption. Because Christ is God who became man and lived a sinless life, He was qualified as the perfect sacrifice for sinners. He was qualified to make the infinite payment none of us could ever make to turn away the wrath of God. And this is exactly what He did on the cross. He died, rose again, and now sits at the right hand of God where He intercedes on behalf of those who trust Him for their salvation.

How does this purify the conscience of the believer from dead works to serve the living God? When we commit sin, our consciences constantly accuse us and point out that which is contrary to the standards God has set forth. We are weighed down with sin. It consumes us. But once you believe that Christ is the perfect sacrifice who intercedes on your behalf before God, and is in fact your very representative before the Father, this means that all of the wrong you have commited (with its due penalty, namely God’s wrath) has been removed. If Christ has canceled the debt we owe God for our sin through the work performed in His life, death, and resurrection, then we are freed in our consciences to live lives without the burden of guilt! This is radically transforming when we can live without divine guilt weighing us down. And this is the Gospel, the very thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions, namely salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Christ already bore the load for anyone who would believe in Him for salvation. We have nothing more we can add to His perfect, finished work. How freeing it is to have Christ take on the punishment and guilt we have stored up for our sins, and then to gain His perfect obedience and righteousness before the Father in return! What a gift.

Because of Christ taking the guilt off our shoulders through faith in His blood, freeing our consciences from the weight of guilt, we are then (and only then) able to approach God in confidence, because what could be a better payment for us than the sacrifice of God’s own Son on the cross? What amazing grace …

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