I realize this is not New Testament related, but I love the opportunity to share about my family. My son Jack is 14 years old today. He is my older son, Nick is the younger one. Jack has interests in math, social studies, and sports; specifically soccer (see picture below). I am proud of the young man Jack is becoming and the spiritual growth that God and his word continues to foster. May God bless you son. I love you buddy.
When the clock strikes midnight to usher in a new year, typically celebrations and excitement abound. Many of us, might seize the moment and seriously consider a new beginning and make a New Year’s resolution. The most common New Year’s resolutions involve getting healthier, making better financial decisions, and striving to make better use of our time. But do we think about our relationships? Specifically, our relationship with God. In all the excitement of making our resolutions, do we consider our relationship with God?
The author of Hebrews admonishes his readers to consider their relationship with Christ. I want to take a brief moment to do the same. Admonition by the author is not an uncommon occurrence in Hebrews, for the author desires to encourage and strengthen the weak believers of a small community (13:22) so that they might stand fast in their faith during times of affliction (4:14; 10:23). The author writes to a congregation in crisis (10:32-33) pointing them to the superior and great high priesthood of Jesus Christ (5-10).
He introduces Jesus as the superior mode of revelation (1:2) and the superior means of redemption (1:3). Because of our personal relationship with Him, Jesus calls us brethren (2:11), makes reconciliation possible between us and God (2:15-18), extends grace and mercy at the appropriate time (4:14-16), continually intercedes on our behalf (7:25-28), offers a one-time sacrifice that qualifies us to worship Him (10:10-14), and He is the author and finisher of our faith (12:2).
As the author concludes his letter, he focuses on endurance in chapter 12. He is urging patient and trusting perseverance even in spite of hardship. He admonishes this endurance through an athletic metaphor; running a race (12:1). We all have a race to run, that race is life. Experiences in life are not only full of friendly interaction and joy, but also include opposition and suffering, for all are providentially designed and serve as a fruitful role in the maturing of our relationship with God.
The author states how we should run the race. He urges us to “fix our eyes on Jesus,” or ‘have a concentrated attention on Jesus’ that turns away from all other distractions and focuses on Him (12:2). Jesus Christ, the one to whom we focus, is the “author and finisher of our faith.” In other words, He is the champion of our salvation; the example of supremacy in bringing faith to complete realization and the perfect example of trust in God. He perfectly finished the race.
So why look to Jesus? The author of Hebrews continues his admonition by providing the basis for the believer to endure; that is, consider Him (12:3a). He is emphatically stating, “by all means consider Him,” or ‘seriously think about His endurance’ and do so in such a way that we evaluate and assess our own life with the utmost care. In other words, for Jesus “to endure the cross and despise the shame, the opinions and values of the world were not worthy for Him to take into consideration when it was a question of his obedience to the will of God.” We are to consider Him because he is the epitome of faithful obedience.
The author then concludes with the purpose for considering Jesus; “that we will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3b). By considering Jesus, we will not grow fatigued and discouraged; rather we will press on in the Christian life. As you consider the New Year, what will grab your attention? What comforts of this world will keep you from the appointed course? Will you consider Jesus this year?
Jesus Enables Us to Worship, . . . but How?
“by the blood of Jesus” Hebrews 10
The Son as the Superior Sacrifice (10:5-25)
- 10:5-10 – These verses demonstrate the superior sacrifice of Christ. It is Jesus’ body that was prepared by the sovereign plan of God in order that sins may be decisively taken away & believers sanctified (having a relationship to God). The writer of Hebrews puts the words of Psalm 40 on the lips of Jesus (“but a body you have prepared for me” & “behold, I have come to do your will”).
10:11-14 – These verses demonstrate the contrast between the earthly priests and the superior priest, who is Christ. – It is this superior priest who is enthroned in heaven, not standing because there is more to offer; rather he is sitting because his sacrifice is finished. The key to this verse (futility – v. 11) is the cumulative effect of the futility that characterizes the Levitical priestly ministry. There is no decisive effect on those to be sanctified. (‘day by day;’ ‘the same sacrifices;’ ‘which can never take away sins.’). The key to these verses (finality – vv. 12-14) is that Jesus is seated in the presence of God, no priest of the line of Aaron, and as a matter of fact no angel (cf. 1:13), has ever sat down in the presence of God. Remember: sitting next to God indicates equality!
The contrasts are incredible = Jesus “offered” as opposed to the priests “offering;” Jesus’ one sacrifice as opposed to the priests multiple sacrifices; and finally Jesus sat down as opposed to the priests who stand daily. Lane comments, “Jesus sits because his sacrifice requires no repetition. His heavenly session attests that the benefits of his sacrificial death endure perpetually. The sacrificial phase of his priestly ministry is completed” (WBC, 267). Jesus has perfected believers forever, as opposed to the priests and their role that never takes away sins. We are wholly adequate for a relationship with God!
- 10:15-18 – These verses demonstrate the results of Christ’s definitive crosswork; that is, the New Covenant (NC) analogously benefits the believers’ redemption. Believers are now definitively & decisively forgiven, thus resulting in a personal relationship with God. The author of Hebrews concludes his argument with this section (vv. 15-18). His argument that began with 10:1 dealt with a problem; that is, the limited ability of the law to deal with sins. The answer to the problem came in the person of Christ by fulfilling God’s will submissively and obediently, Christ makes his people holy. Christ has perfected for all time those in the process of being made holy & transforms God’s people through a decisive forgiveness of sins.
“The sins of God’s people have been decisively put away; a sin offering is no longer necessary. The basis for speaking about a decisive putting away of sins is the efficacy of the sacrifice offered by Christ on the cross” (WBC, 269). Sins no longer provide an obstacle to a relationship with God; it is enduring and unending. Believers now enjoy unhindered access to God in worship. Now what is the believer to do? Jesus Christ makes a relationship with God possible; in fact, it makes worship to God not only possible, but necessary!
The task of the believer is to act upon these truths in obedience (vv. 22-25).
The author is using this section of exhortation (10:19-25) to address his readers. He is drawing upon the lengthy exposition section (5:1-10:18) of Christ’s high priestly office & sacrifice to motivate an urgency of loyalty to Jesus [connecting the truths concerning Christ & the implications of those truths for the Christian life]. Given the magnitude of Christ’s accomplishment, it is only logical that his readers are motivated to do the “let us,” (vv. 22-25) commands; basically the author is saying, “put their Christian profession into action!”
What is Christ’s accomplishment? What truths can we meditate on?
(1) 7:14-16 – Jesus Christ experienced death, His life was not destroyed and can never be destroyed; therefore 7:25 (we can be saved)
(2) 9:11-12b – Jesus Christ went ‘through’ heaven, into the presence of God ‘by the means of his own blood;’ therefore 9:12c & 9:24c (we can be in the presence of God & have eternal redemption)
(3) 9:26 – Jesus Christ put away sin; therefore 10:10 (we can be sanctified forever)
(4) 10:12-13 – Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice & he sat down; therefore 10:14 (we can be qualified to worship continually)
The Basis for the exhortations (10:19-21):
The address –
The initial phrase “therefore, brethren” = This is an intimate and pastoral admonition to validate one’s faith by acting upon it.
The phrase “having . . .” in verses 19 & 21 are both causal participles and ought to be translated as “since we have.”
Now, what is it that we have? There are two objects – “confidence [authorization]” & “a great priest [in charge of God’s household]”
The object #1 – ‘since we have . . .’
“confidence [authority, or boldness] to enter [have free access] the holy place [the heavenly sanctuary]” = It is possible to approach God in worship at the present time because the heavenly high priest has secured free access to the heavenly sanctuary. Christ’s definitive sacrifice (v. 12) provides the grounds for our entrance to God; that is, the emphasis in 4:14, 6:20, & 9:11 is Christ’s entering; but by contrast, the emphasis in 10:19-20 is our entrance!
The worshiper is emboldened by the work of Christ; that is, Jesus has won us confident entrance to the Divine Presence!
How do we have this ‘boldness’? – “by the blood of Jesus,” = ‘by the means of,’ this is the decisive factor in the authorization of Christians to approach God (cf. 9:12, 24).
What is the ‘new access’?
“by a new and living way” = It is ‘new’ because it replaces the ‘old sacrificial system’ (cf. 10:11-14). – Jesus has opened a path for us, a path unknown & inaccessible to people before the completion of his high priestly work. – It is ‘living’ because it leads to life (cf. 10:15-18).
How do we have this ‘access’? – “through the veil, his flesh” = ‘by the means of,’ This is Christ’s sacrificial death & his ‘going into God’s presence’ on our behalf, making possible our entrance to God’s presence.
The object #2 – ‘since we have . . .’
“an high priest over the house of God” = Christ rules over the household of God (his ministry was over the household of God, his enthronement, acclamation, and worship by angels places him as one who presides over its administration.); thus exercising administration over his own people. This informs us that we are in a sphere of Christ’s activity and he sustains his people (v. 14 & 7:25). It is these two objects that point to authorization and access. They summarize the benefits you and I have as a result of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.
The author assumes, therefore, that this basis or foundation is enough to then encourage us toward three exhortations:
Let us draw near (10:22):
The enactment of the New Covenant enables the believer to ‘continually,’ or ‘constantly’ approach God. This is a closeness to God that is unhindered (a significant expression of the new relationship between God and man, the NC). This ‘drawing near to God’ transcends time & space; for it is not just limited to a church worship service. Rather it is a cultivated daily practice of knowing him intimately (cf. prayer & reading of His word).
How do we ‘draw near’? – manner
(1) Sincerely – “with a sincere [real, genuine, loyal] heart” = Christ’s definitive sacrifice (v. 12) makes this possible. In other words, a direct result of Christ’s sacrifice enables us and stirs up in us the relationship of heart-obedience toward God; bringing a heart that is genuinely committed to him.
(2) Faithfully – “in full assurance of faith” = It describes, if you will, the certainty & stability that are created in Christians as a result of the work of Christ; thus making it possible to remain loyal and have a relationship to God. It suggests a firm trust placed in God, who has shown himself faithful in his dealings with his people.
How is our heart prepared? – means
“having our hearts sprinkled [clean]” & “our bodies washed” – These are figurative symbols that point to the greater & more perfect cleansing due to Christ’s sacrifice (cf. 9:13-14). We are clean.
Let us hold fast (10:23):
The author’s use of the present tense here demonstrates that the exhortation to ‘hold on’ is an ongoing call.
The phrase “hold fast,” means to ‘keep a tight grip on,’ ‘keep it from slipping away’ (cf. 2 Thess 2:15); “hold fast the confession of our hope,” means to maintain a firm confidence in the objective gift of salvation God has extended to us on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice (cf. 9:28 – Though Christ died once and dealt with the sins of the people, he will bring complete salvation at his second coming. This is our hope! There is no judgment, rather life with Christ!).
How do we ‘hold fast’? – manner
Unswervingly – “without wavering,” means swerving neither to one side or the other, fixed, stable, steadfast, that which does not bend. It calls believers to remain stable and to affirm its privileged status as the people who have been granted access to God through Christ. It calls believers “to hold onto the Christian hope, which is grounded in the person & work of Christ, without being moved by changing circumstances” (NIVappl, 344).
Let us consider one another (10:24-25):
This indicates a summons for believers to continue caring for one another, ‘pay close attention to,’ or ‘look closely at.’
This is fleshed-out through the stimulation of love, motivation of good works, and the mutual encouragement that the church expresses to one another wherever you are.
“to stimulate one another [εις indicating goal] love and good works,” means exhibiting a practical concern for one another.
The idea of stimulate here is ‘aggressively stirring up the flock to encourage one to good works.’ (it is the opposite of Acts 15:39). We must have a caring response toward others. Active support and concern for the welfare of one another are matters of critical urgency in the life of the Church, especially when exposed to testing and disappointment.
How do we ‘consider one another’? – manner
Not forsaking . . . but encouragement –
“not forsaking our own assembling together” – This means that the discontinuance of common fellowship & worship could be fatal for godliness lived out. The principle of the author here is *not related to church attendance every time the doors are open,* rather a consistent involvement in the life of the church (this is the people!). So the question is, “are you meaningfully engaged in the life of the body on a weekly basis?”
“but encouraging one another” – to ‘come alongside;’ It is important that the entire church body assumes responsibility to watch that no one grows weary! Encouragement & admonition on a daily basis.
Why do we ‘consider one another’? – reason/basis “and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” The author does not use ‘day’ in an eschatological setting (except for his use with the quoting of the NC from Jeremiah). The ‘day’ may simply be referring to the climax of the historical events confronting these believers; that is, the day they fear that they will stand before Nero and be asked to either affirm or renounce their profession. This understanding of ‘day’ probably more closely fits immediate context & context of book as a whole.
Here are some implications for all of us to consider:
(1) For what do I yearn? – Things ‘crowd-out’ God’s Word & love for him, especially this time of year. We yearn for the wrong things in life; so Do I ask myself daily, ‘for what am I yearning today?’ ‘To what are my energies & efforts being drawn?’ Am I like Moses, drawing near to God in a ‘face-to-face’ intimacy crying out to Him, “teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you!” Do I ask myself, ‘how does God fit into my day planner today?’ If we are not careful, such a lifestyle leaves little place for intimacy, for communication, for listening to God. – “We are called to draw near to God on the basis of the completed work of Christ!”
(2) To what am I committed? – When life throws obstacles, opinions, and storms at you, what is your anchor? To what do you tightly grip your hand, your emotions, or your heart? At the moment of temptation, at the moment of frustration, or at the moment of complete & utter loss; Do I find myself resting in God’s goodness, resolve, and faithfulness? Why you ask? For he has promised an inheritance to his children.
(3) With whom will I walk? – “Our associations in life can make a tremendous difference, for good or for ill, in our outlook & our endeavors. . . . Peers can wield heavy influence on our actions, our goals. Thus, for the believer who wishes to hold to the Christian hope, the community of the saints is vital, offering the needed mix of accountability and encouragement. . . . We need others spurring us on toward love and good deeds in a world so bent on self-centeredness and self-gratification” (NIVappl, 352).
Do I ask myself these questions:
To whom in the body of Christ am I giving encouragement this day, or this week by my presence, my actions, or my words? Am I remaining faithful to my association with the body of Christ?
I trust that these four lessons from the book of Hebrews have blessed you as the readers. It is a wonderful thing to meditate upon Jesus Christ; especially during the Christmas holiday. Merry Christmas to all.
Jesus is the superior high priest, . . . but How?
“the power of an indestructible life” Hebrews 7
The Son as Superior High Priest (7:1-28)
“Insufficiency of the Levitical Priesthood” (7:11-19)
The next two paragraphs (7:11-19 & 20-28) demonstrate the insufficiency of the Levitical priesthood & the superiority of the new priesthood. It is through Ps 110:4 that the author establishes Christ as the ‘one eternal priest’ who surpasses the Levitical priesthood. The difference in the two major sections of chapter seven is the shift from ‘proving’ the superiority (7:1-10) to the ‘demonstrating of’ the superiority of the Melchizedian priesthood (7:11-28) to that of the Levitical priesthood.
The author establishes this difference on three bases:
(1) Jesus’ appointment to high priest (Ps 110:4; “you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”) – This appointment ushered out the old regulations of worship (old covenant priests), that resulted in a ‘better hope’ that was brought in.
(2) Jesus’ establishment to his priesthood by an oath (Ps 110:4; “the Lord has sworn”) – This establishment demonstrates superiority to the old covenant and results in a ‘better covenant.’
(3) Jesus’ eternal enthronement – His enthronement demonstrates an office that is perpetual by nature (Ps 110:4; “you are a priest forever”) that results in ‘eternal help’ for those who draw near to God.
The explanation: A change in priesthood (v. 12):
A change of priesthood (from Aaronic to Melchizedekian) mandates (“of necessity”) a change of law. Just as the Aaronic priesthood is totally replaced by the Melchizedekian priesthood, so the Law that authorized the Aaronic priesthood is totally replaced by something new. You cannot change the priesthood without changing the Law. This change in Law is twofold:
(1) How are people now related to God? (sacrificially) – It is not through the sacrifices offered by the priests, rather now through the finished work of Christ on the cross.
(2) How are people now related to God? (genealogically) – It is not through the descent of Aaron, rather it is now through Christ of the tribe of Judah.
The differences in Jesus’ priesthood (vv. 13-17):
(1) He is not ‘like Aaron’ (vv. 13-14)
- This new priest lacks the legal qualification necessary to be a priest (“belongs to another tribe”) and (“our Lord descended from Judah”); His place of origin.
- Also, he was not attached to the service of the priesthood; that is, He never officiated with reference to the burnt offering (“from which no one has officiated at the altar”) and Moses’ Law said nothing concerning priests in relation to this tribe. Judah was not appointed to priestly service (“Moses spoke nothing concerning priests”). These statements make it perfectly clear (“For it is evident”) that there is historical verification for Christ as this ‘new priest.’
- The statements to come also verify that this one ‘new priest’ is Christ (“and this is clearer still” or ‘still more obvious’). In other words, the author takes this opportunity to intensify or emphasize the meaning of ‘the change in priesthood & law.’ He is “making clear that the whole Levitical system of approach to God is ineffective and that the law that regulated its priesthood has been superseded. In [the two preceding verses, 13-14] the writer points out the negative implication of the promised priest being ‘like Melchizedek’: he does not possess Levitical qualification. Then in vv. 15-17 he explains the positive significance of the new priest being ‘like Melchizedek’: he possesses a unique quality of life” (WBC, 183).
(2) He is ‘like Melchizedek’ (vv. 15-17)
- “another priest arises” – But how is He after the order of Melchizedek? In other words, what is it that makes this priest supersede the old system and the Law that served for so many years? He is not of a legal ordinance concerning his physical descent (“not after the law”). cf. v. 11 – which is ‘not after the order of Aaron.’
- But he is by the virtue of the power of an indestructible life (“but according to the power of an indestructible life”). cf. v. 11 – which is ‘after the order of Melchizedek.’ This “endless life” though Jesus’ human life had been exposed to death/destruction through the crucifixion, his life was not destroyed – and this is proven through his resurrection. This “endless life” is not only confirmed through the resurrection, but it also confirms that his priesthood is NOT limited by the temporal, transitory character of the old priesthood based on physical descent, for Christ overcame mortality & corruption.
- He possesses a life that can never be destroyed. He is (“a priest” & a priest “forever”).
The results of Jesus’ priesthood (vv. 18-19):
The Levitical priesthood and the Law [vv. 11-12] have been superseded by the new and ‘better hope’ based on the superior quality of the new priest [vv. 13-17].
- “For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment” – This was so because the Law proved to be ineffective in achieving its purpose, for it was “weakness and uselessness.” The ‘weakness’ was not in the purpose of the law, rather in the people (the priests) upon whom it depends for its accomplishment. AND
- “for the Law made nothing perfect” – The Law failed to bring people into a right relationship with God through the cleansing of the conscience or heart. Because the Law was ineffective, there came something to replace it; that is, “and on the other hand, there is a the bringing in of a better hope” – Jesus’ appointment as priest achieves God’s desired aim for relationship with his people. We have an assurance of a ‘quality of access to’ and ‘a relationship with’ God.
- “through which we draw near to God” – The better hope then is the ‘means by which’ we draw close to God. This is indispensable for receiving help in the time of stress or crisis (cf. 4:16). We have the certainty that we can draw close to God because of the effectiveness of the priesthood of Christ. Christians can now enjoy access to God without the constant necessity of removing the barrier of fleshly accumulated sin; AMEN. Jesus’ birth provided this; definitely something to be grateful for this coming Christmas season.
“Superiority of the New Priesthood” (7:20-28)
It was in the last section (7:11-19) that the author established the fact that the Levitical priesthood was insufficient for this reason; that is, it did not offer ‘perfection.’ – It did not make men acceptable before God; it only ‘covered sin’ but did not ‘cleanse sin.’
Due to this insufficiency, the Law was also insufficient for this reason; that is, the Law was ‘weakness & uselessness,’ – the people (the priests) upon whom it depends for its accomplishment was the issue. It is in this section (7:20-28) that the author demonstrates that Christ replaces the old Levitical system and is the ‘superior’ high priest. He is the ‘superior’ high priest as it is explained below.
The author further contrasts the priest ‘like Melchizedek’ with the old priesthood in a couple of aspects (7:20-25). After doing this, the author concludes his argument with aspects about Christ; therefore further providing the benefits we receive as a result of Christ’s position as superior priest (7:26-28).
The author begins with the basis for the first benefit (v. 20):
He makes the statement “not without an oath, he was made priest” – The author is using this negative answer to an implied question; that is, how was this new order of priesthood established? This is similar to the beginning of the preceding paragraph (‘why was there a need for a Melchizedekian priest?’ There was a need because the Levitical priesthood was insufficient & here he implies ‘how was this new order of priesthood established?’ It was established hrough God’s oath, not the Law). In other words, the author is continuing the contrast given earlier; that is, that Christ is the new high priest because of God’s oath, not the law that put Levitical priests in their place as priest (“for they indeed became priests without an oath”).
“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind” – The oath is guaranteed by the reliability that God ‘will not change his mind,’ (cf. 6:13-18). Because God’s oath stands behind the appointment of Christ as priest, Jesus can guarantee that the goals announced in the New Covenant (NC) will be achieved. God’s oath stands behind the ‘guarantee,’ he supports his mission. He is the ‘guarantee’ of the arrangement God has established for those who approach him.
The benefits through the superior priest (vv. 21-25):
Assurance for effectiveness
“Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” – It is ‘better’ because it is effective & the approach to God is guaranteed (& we’ll learn later that it is ‘forever’ guaranteed). The ‘guarantee,’ or as the KJV states, ‘guarantor’ is a weightier responsibility than mediator. “The mediator steps into the gap between two parties, but the ‘guarantor’ stakes his person and his life on his word. Through his death, exaltation, and installation as heavenly priest, Jesus provides security that the new and better covenant will not be annulled” (WBC, 188). Our hope rests on secure terms! This hope was born of Mary, miraculously by the Holy Spirit.
Eternal & ultimate salvation
Eternal salvation: This is demonstrated by a contrast between the temporality of the one & the finality of the other. “The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing” – Many priests held this office (approx 83 between inception and cessation of temple worship in A.D. 70). The reason for so many priests is because they were prevented from continuing in office by the simple fact of death. BUT “Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently” – He is qualified to exercise this ministry because of his eternal nature. He will hold the office of ‘priest’ forever!
Ultimate salvation: This is demonstrated by the completeness & the finality of the one. “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him” – This is an implication of his priesthood; that is, He absolutely saves. He does so perfectly. He has a sustained interest in the welfare of his people. He does this “since He always lives to make intercession for them” – Jesus ‘continually lives’ effectively acting on behalf of his people; that is, it is unlimited. He is able to meet every need of the Christian. Jesus ‘continually intercedes’ approaching on their behalf; that is, praying for believers struggling with temptation. [think about context for book]
The exposition of the superior priest (vv. 26-28): This is where the author sums up his argument that really began back in 5:1.
Jesus’ character (v. 26)
“For it was fitting for us” – ‘was precisely appropriate to us.’ The description of the kind of high priest, who fits the circumstances of Christians & is able to meet their needs, is the one who proceeds from the cradle and then the cross!
“who is holy” – ‘devout,’ obedient relationship to the Father & it is demonstrated in his actions.
“innocent” – ‘pure,’ he was not touched by evil.
“undefiled” – pure
These qualities represent the Son even though he was completely involved in the life of common humanity (cf. 2:9-10). He was qualified by spiritual and moral perfection. He was “separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” – The state of being separated; Jesus’ life among sinners ceased with his ascension. He has left the sphere characterized by testing, hostility, and suffering and has been exalted to the sphere of God. Jesus, therefore “enjoys direct, unhindered access to God, which enables him to fulfill his high priestly ministry on behalf of his people. Although Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of God removes him in a spatial sense from his Church, it by no means implies a remoteness from his brothers and sisters or a lack of involvement in their struggles” (WBC, 193).] Remember, unlike the priests who offered sacrifices for themselves & the people; here Christ offered the sacrifice of himself on behalf of people!
Jesus’ achievement (v. 27)
“who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices” – This unique priest put an end to the whole system of Levitical sacrifices. He was the sinless priest! Jesus Christ “did it once for all when he offered up himself” – Definitiveness & uniqueness & completeness; his offering was unblemished. The Levitical priests however were incomplete & ineffective (5:2, ‘beset with weakness’).
Jesus’ status as high priest (v. 28)
Three contrasting elements conclude the author’s argument and demonstrate Jesus as high priest. (1) “For the law appoints . . . the word of the oath” – The law was ineffective in establishing a priesthood that could attain God’s intended goal; that is, an acceptable relationship with God; (2) “men . . . the Son” – Priests were men who were prevented by death from remaining in office; Jesus’ priesthood however emphasizes the permanency. He is a priest forever! and (3) “who are weak . . . made perfect forever” – The priests were subject to sin & imperfection; Jesus was sinless. He is the guarantor of a relationship to God because of the quality of his life through obedience, the swearing of an oath, and the unblemished sacrifice.
“The ‘perfecting’ of his life refers to the whole process by which Jesus was personally prepared & vocationally qualified for his continuing ministry in the presence of God” (WBC, 196). Jesus is not just the baby in a manger; rather He is YOUR help in the time of need for He continually lives to make intercession on your behalf.
Jesus is man, . . . but Why?
“He had to be made like His brethren in all things” Hebrews 2
The Solidarity of the Son, part one (2:10-13)
The author of Hebrews now makes the connection between ‘the’ Son of God (v. 9) & the sons of God who are being led to their heritage (vv. 10-13). There is a unity between the Son and sons. This is illustrated in vv. 11-13.
The Illustration of the Unity (Jesus and Believers) –
V.10 – “For It was fitting for Him” (He creates & preserves all things [“for whom are all things, and by whom are all things], he is therefore able to act in such a way that his design for humankind will be achieved)
“for,” – γάρ and serves as an explanatory link from v. 9 to the present paragraph. What seemed ‘inappropriate’ in v. 9 (‘that he [Christ] by God’s gracious plan experienced death for all’) the author makes it clear that it is ‘appropriate/fitting/proper to God.’ = “for it is fitting for Him”
“It affirms that what has taken place in the experience of Jesus was consistent with God’s known character & purpose . . . and rescue humanity through his own humiliation and death. The sufferings of Jesus were appropriate to the goal to be attained and were experienced in accordance with God’s fixed purpose” (WBC, 55).
V. 10 – Goal/Purpose of God
This fixed purpose of God was “in bringing many sons unto glory” – ‘to lead them to glory;’ that is, the heritage reserved for the redeemed. The ‘many sons’ here refers back to the ‘every man’ of v. 9. The future glorification of the ‘many sons’ is made possible because of the present glorification of Jesus with his exaltation.
V. 10 – Proper for God, cont.
In order to ‘bring many sons to glory’ God fulfilled this plan through Jesus:
“to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” – in this context the idea of ‘make perfect’ is that he was fully equipped for his office; that is, His priestly office. God perfected him as a priest of His people through the means of His suffering. “The word ‘perfect’ here connotes fulfillment of God’s will. In accomplishing salvation on the cross, Jesus fulfills the purpose of God.”
Jesus is the author of salvation, or “captain [originator, one who initiates & carries through] of their salvation” – or ‘champion,’ He is a divine hero; & although this is true, He accepts a human nature in order to serve humanity, experience testing, and ultimately suffer death. His exaltation to the right hand of God (1:13) was won by a life of service and the suffering of death.
These next verses (vv. 11-13) illustrate the connection that Jesus (“He who sanctifies”) has with the children (“those who are sanctified”).
V. 11 – We Are One – Jesus’ sufferings make it possible for our ‘brotherly connection’ with him.
We share a common relationship that is rooted in God’s gracious plan; that is, both completing their destiny (Christ – exaltation & believers – redemption).
V. 11 – We Are Brothers – Jesus “is not ashamed” or ‘does not hesitate’ to call us brothers. The author is providing the encouragement to his readers that the Son identifies himself w/the family “to call them brethren”. He is able to provide that perfect sanctification for us to God because he himself embodies this!
V. 12-13 We Are Confident – Jesus’ suffering and thus exaltation assures the family will have vindication also.
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers” – here Jesus proclaims God’s name to the redeemed.
“I will sing praise to God” – this is an expression of joyful thanksgiving (cf. Ps 22); where lament is exchanged for joy.
“[and furthermore] I [myself] will put my trust in him” – Jesus identifies himself with the believers with his absolute trust & dependence on God. For now they too can also trust God in difficult circumstances.
“I [myself] and the children of God” – Jesus is now the representative head of the new family that is being led to glory (God’s ultimate purpose, cf. v. 10). This family imagery suggests an intimacy of relationship and tenderness.
The Solidarity of the Son, part two (2:14-18)
The implications of the solidarity affirmed in the preceding verses are expounded here (vv. 14-18). There are several ‘connectives’ throughout this paragraph (vv. 14-15, ‘since therefore’ [ἐπεὶ οὖν]; v. 16, ‘for of course’ [γὰρ δήπου]; v. 17, ‘for this reason’ [ὅθεν]; and v. 18, ‘because’ [γάρ]).
The ‘Resulting’ Implications of the Unity (Jesus and Believers) –
V. 14 – Jesus’ humanity:
“Since then” – Since the children previously mentioned have a common nature (e.g. flesh & blood), then the one who identifies with them must also have flesh & blood – he too must assume full humanity.
“he himself likewise also partook of the same” – total likeness, experienced human conditions common to man; that is, suffering (cf. v. 17, ‘made like his brethren in every respect’).
Purpose for his humanity:
Vv. 14b-15 – “that he might render powerless . . . and deliver” – The primary goal of the incarnation was the Son’s participation in death, thru which he nullified the devil’s ability to enslave the children of God through the fear of death. Jesus’ death was the logical consequence of his determination to identify himself so completely with his brothers & sisters that there would be no aspect of human experience which he did not share. He is ‘champion,’ who crushed the devil, who possessed the power of death!
The hearers now have a liberated status; that is, they are not longer to be fearful of death.
Identification of Jesus’ humanity:
V. 16 – “for he took a hold of . . .” – Because death takes a hold of Abraham’s descendants & not angels, Jesus “of course” takes hold of/identifies himself with death. He does so to deliver them from bondage to the fear of death. Jesus does this to draw Abraham’s descendants into fellowship. This ‘taking a hold of’ to safety corresponds to the situation of the hearers, those who are oppressed.
V. 17 – Summary statement:
“Therefore . . . [for this reason it was essential to be made . . .]” – The writer provides a short summary of verses 10-16; especially with the use of ‘in all things’ & ‘brethren.’ The stress is on the phrase ‘in all things [in every respect]’ – referring both to his humanity and his suffering; total identification of the Son with humanity and their situation.
V. 17b – Purpose of his humanity – high priest:
“so that he might become a merciful & faithful high priest” – He can only do this because He stands in solidarity with his people, he is qualified to be their high priest. He is the ‘high priest’ because he is faithful (‘suffering to death’ – he fulfilled God’s plan of redemption for the people) & he is compassionate (‘made perfect thru suffering’ – he can relate to the sufferings of people). Jesus is “merciful” and “faithful” because he was faithful to the will of God that took him to the cross and the mercy displayed to sinners by his death on that cross.
V. 17c – Purpose of his high priest – propitiation (wrath-bearing sacrifice): “to make propitiation . . .” – The natural extension/activity of the Son. The primary concern for the priest was reconciliation of the people to God [to bring man & God together], this implies a sacrifice. Jesus was this sacrifice (cf. 2:9).
V. 18 – Reason for his high priest – to help:
“he is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” – The fact that Jesus became man exposed him to the sufferings and tensions of human life; the climax of which is his death. Because he was faithful to death and did not divorce himself from the tensions/sufferings of this life, he is able to help those who also suffer.
3 Things to think about this Christmas season. Recall, it was necessary for Jesus to be born that He might die:
(1) Jesus Christ became one with his people in order to die for them, thus resulting in the believer’s relationship with God.
(2) Jesus Christ opened the way for mankind to participate in the glory of God. There is hopeful confidence and assurance in God.
(3) Jesus Christ suffered all the way to death, thus you and I can be confident that he too identifies with our sufferings and testings in this hostile world.
During this Christmas season I want to meditate on Jesus Christ, God’s Son, as He is written about throughout the Epistle to the Hebrews. For the next four weeks I will highlight Jesus as the Son of God, and how and why this is important. God provided the greatest gift of all in and through His dear Son.
Jesus is God’s Son, . . . but Why?
“radiance of his glory & the exact representation of His nature” Hebrews 1
The Author’s Prologue (1:1-4)
This opening section of Hebrews (1:1-4) introduces the letter’s theme: The Superiority of God’s Son. The author introduces this theme under two conditions:
(1) Jesus is superior to all other previous modes (prophets) of revelation
(2) Jesus is superior to all other modes of redemptive accomplishment; thus He (Jesus) is exalted.
This prologue explicates the two stages of divine revelation corresponding to the OT & NT (1:1-2a). The author begins with a temporal statement (temporal participle, λαλήσας, “after he spoke . . .”) regarding divine revelation. God’s revelation is thus progressive; that is, from the promise of a Messiah to the coming of the Messiah. But how did God speak? First, He spoke through the prophets during the ancient days of the Old Testament. God’s revelation was in the context of Israel and the OT. But God continued His revelation, for the revelation of God was incomplete until the coming of the Son. Therefore, God chose to speak also to us through his Son (ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ). Who is the ‘Son?’ How can the reader be sure that the Son spoken of in this prologue is indeed God’s Son? The author continues by describing the Son (1:2b-3); therefore demonstrating the deity of the Son, . . . Jesus Christ.
Who Is Jesus? (1:2b-4) – 8 strong assertions of the deity of Christ
(1) He is Heir “heir of all things” – Jesus is the universal heir of all creation; this is not limited to the earth. It embraces the universe & the world to come – Jesus is recognized and acknowledged as Lord. Jesus is installed as heir of everything. This is an allusion to Ps 2:8 where the royal Son is assured that in response to his petition the sovereign Lord will give him the nations as his inheritance; everything will belong to Him in the fullest sense.
(2) He is Creator “through whom also he made the world” – God brought this universe into being by the agency of his Son (cf. Jn 1:3; Col 1:16); thus the Son is not to be ranked with the creation as a created being.
(3) He is the Glory of God “being the radiance of his glory” – Jesus is nothing less than the brilliant revelation of the glory of God (cf. Jn 1:14). The brightness of God’s glory is seen in the Son; that is, to see Jesus is to see the glory of God.
(4) He is the representation of the essence of God “and the exact representation of His nature” – Jesus bears the very stamp of God’s nature; He exactly represents God’s essence.
The idea . . . is that of the die and the image it stamps on a coin. As the stamped image on the coin exactly represents the image engraved on the die, so the Son is ‘the exact representation’ of the Father.” = It is not the physical image in view; rather God’s essence.
(5) He is the Sustainer of the worlds “and upholds all things by the word of his power” – He is the sustaining utterance of creation; that is, Christ is the one who carries all things forward on their appointed course, and He does so by His powerful word!
Statements 1-5 identify Jesus uniquely with God
“The Son is put with God at the beginning and the end of time, as instrumental in creation and as the eventual heir of everything at the end of the age. He also functions in a divine capacity throughout all interim time as the one who through an overruling providence makes possible all ongoing existence. Jesus radiates the glory of God and perfectly exhibits the imprint of the divine being. That the human Jesus, the son of a carpenter in Nazareth, who so recently taught, healed, and was executed as a common criminal, could be described in this striking language is astonishing” (Lane, WBC).
Statements 6-7 uniquely identify Jesus with us
(6) He is the Sacrifice “when he had made purification of sins” – The same wisdom that creates & maintains the world through His powerful word also provides the remedy for the defilement of sin. He does this by freely offering up His life to God; for He has accomplished something incapable of achievement by anyone else. = By this one action, the defilement of sins was removed forever.
To celebrate this season = the main purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was to make an offering for sin, but to do so by offering himself.
(7) He is the Exalted one “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” – An allusion to Ps 110:1, for it speaks to the Son’s enthronement beside God. This is an expression of the Son’s royal power & unparalleled glory! The ‘the right hand’ does not denote a specific location, but it does denote exaltation & supremacy of Christ. Jesus shares God’s sovereign authority.
Statement 8 identifies Jesus with the angels
(8) He has a name superior to the angels “having become as much better than the angels” – Jesus’ exaltation marks Him as superior, for He has the title ‘Son,’ not angel. His name is more excellent than theirs, which he obtained through an inheritance. He obtained it through an inheritance by the Father’s eternal appointment.
The author’s comparison to Angels (1:5-14)
The author’s continued communication in chapter one makes it clear that Jesus is superior to the angels.
V. 5 speaks to the reason (γάρ, “for”) why Jesus has a more excellent name than the angels; that is, He is the Son. More specifically, God’s Son “you are my Son.” This verse also provides the result of divine decree and favor. The writer states that Jesus is God’s Son (Ps 2:7) and God will be his Father (2 Sam 7:14). Jesus enjoys the status of ‘Son’ (Ps 2:7) and He also enjoys the unique relationship with God & will be ‘heir’ to the promised eternal kingdom (2 Sam 7:12-14).
V. 6 speaks to the title of the Son; that is, He is the “first born into the world [inhabited earth]” – This expresses priority in rank. The idea of ‘first-born’ continues the motif of ‘Son’ and ‘heir;’ His supremacy over the angels. The role of the angels is to worship Jesus. His surpassing superiority as the Son; His status and character as God’s Son, is the reason the angels are commanded to worship Him. In v. 7, on the other hand, receive from God their respective form, rank, & task; for they are of the created order (cf. Ex 20:11). Therefore, the angels are subject to God’s creative activity and may be transformed into the elemental forces such as “ministers . . . a flame of fire.”
Vv. 8-9 address the Son as God. But the author doesn’t stop there, for the emphasis is on the Son’s eternal dominion (“your throne is forever and ever.”) His kingdom is characterized by righteousness and justice (‘righteousness & justice are the foundation of God’s throne,’ Ps 89:14). God’s throne is Jesus’ throne – a commitment to righteousness (Ps 45:6-7). His rule has been “anointed with gladness,” or ‘crowned with joy’ – a vindication of divine justice. His rule is “above [‘more than,’ ‘beyond’] your companions” – referring to angels.
Vv. 10-12 speak to the Son’s relationship to His creation. These verses refer to the Son’s character as one that stands above the change & decay of the created order (Ps 102:25-27). Verse 10 speaks directly to the fact that Jesus is the agent through whom God worked to create. Verses 11-12 speak to the contrast of the eternality of the Son and the perishability of the world; that is, “creation will perish but Jesus remains;” Jesus ‘continues to exist, lives on’ and “[creation] will grow old” – like clothing it will wear out; “[creation] will be folded up” – like a garment, Jesus will fold it up; and “[creation] will be changed but you [Jesus] are the same and your years will never grow old.” This represents the unchangeable nature of the Son (cf. Heb 13:8).
V. 13 concludes the preceding argument. The author cites (Ps 110:1) as a review of what has already been stated; that is, angels are inferior to the exalted Son. They can never share His position or glory “sit on my right hand . . .” This verse explains that Jesus’ enthronement was accomplished at the invitation of God.
V. 14 concludes the paragraph with a rhetorical question. The angels are but servants of God, they “will be” ministering to “the heirs of salvation.” This ministering is yet to come, yet to be inherited. The angels are not to be compared to the Son, for they do not have a role comparable to Him.
So, as you begin the month of December preparing for the holiday season, take time to mediate upon Jesus Christ. He is God’s Son and was sent to redeem us and provide the way to a right relationship with God. Therefore, He is worthy of our attention, our celebration. My challenge to you is to read through Hebrews as it masterfully captures the essence of the Christmas season, for He is the Reason for the Season.
Thanksgiving Day is quickly approaching. It is too often skipped because of the Christmas holiday shopping season. The majority of consumers therefore, see Thanksgiving as the day before shopping really begins, black Friday. In order for us to consider our own time of thanksgiving, I wonder if we could just pause for a moment or two and see how Paul uses the term for ‘thanksgiving.’ To whom and/or what are you thankful? Does God make the list as one you direct your thanksgiving?
I have chosen to consider Paul’s writings because of the number of uses of the Greek word εὐχαριστέω. Paul uses this word in almost all of his letters; especially to “express appreciation for benefits or blessings, give thanks, express thanks, render/return thanks” (BDAG, 415).
The typical structure of Paul’s letters includes an element known as the thanksgiving (Roetzel, The Letters of Paul, 72). It is this formal element, found in all of Paul’s letters except for Galatians, which ends the opening salutation and signals the basic intent of the letter. One could say that the thanksgiving section serves as a ‘mini table of contents’ for the letter.
There is no doubt that each of Paul’s letters is different, touching various issues depending on its original recipients within a given historical context. His letters are occasional, and thus intended for specific situations. Although each letter possesses a unique and different purpose, and therefore is structured to fit the context to which he is writing, Paul still maintains consistency in most of his letters by including the thanksgiving element.
So why does Paul give thanks? And how does this affect me, the reader? Paul typically gives thanks for two reasons. First, Paul’s prayers are God-oriented. He often renders thanks to God; that is, God is the object (τῷ θεῷ μου) of the thanksgiving and/or praise, gratitude (cf. Phil 1:3; Col 1:3; Phlm 4). Paul states in the text that he offers thanks to my God, which is represented by the personal pronoun μου, to demonstrate his personal relationship with God. Hansen states, “The personal pronoun communicates the transforming impact of God’s gracious salvation in Christ Jesus on his own life. God’s grace so transformed him that even in prison his gratitude to God guided his prayers, attitudes, and thoughts” (The Letter to the Philippians, PNT, p. 45).
For Paul, God is uppermost in his mind, especially for God’s work in and through Paul’s recipients of his letters. God and His grace is the source of salvation (1 Thess 1:4; 1 Tim 1:12-16). God and His power removes spiritual hindrances and directs, guides the believer’s path (1 Thess 3:11). God and His gospel empowers fellowship with one another for unity and evangelism (Phil 1:3-5). And God and His love provides hope with the promise of growth through His Spirit to glorification in Christ (2 Thess 2:13-14). Due to God’s work in the believer’s life, Paul expresses gratitude to God.
Second, Paul’s prayers are others-oriented. He renders thanks for, or for the benefit of (περί) his recipients; or for the sake of someone, some entity’s interest (ὑπέρ, BDAG, 1030). Paul not only directs his prayers to God but also for others. Over and over throughout Paul’s letters, he is consistently and persistently bearing in mind those to whom he is writing. His prayers are not self-interested; rather the interest of others takes first place. The reasons for his diligent labor of prayer on behalf of others is the recipients’ faith in God (Rom 1:8-9; 1 Thess 1:3; 2 Thess 1:3); love for others (1 Thess 1:3; 2 Thess 1:3; Phlm 4); hope of Christ’s coming (1 Cor 1:7-8; 1 Thess 1:3, 9-10) and the continued growth in their walk with Jesus Christ (Eph 1:16-19; Col 1:9-11; 1 Thess 3:11-13). Due to Paul’s pastoral and mutual care for the congregations found within his letters, he labors constantly in prayer on their behalf. His joy is found in the growth of others (Phil 1:4-5; 1 Thess 3:6-9; 2 Thess 1:4; Phlm 7) and the love that his recipients share toward for others. This is evidenced through his boasting in God’s accomplishments (2 Thess 1:4).
Paul gives you and I as the reader of his letters reasons to express our gratitude to God for His gracious work in and through us. God continues to show Himself faithful to us, regardless of the circumstances we endure. Are you thanking God for your salvation? For your eternal hope? For your unity with other believers?
He also gives us reasons to offer prayers, selflessly for/on behalf of others. Are your prayers consumed with the list of issues ‘you’ are going through? Or are your prayers also concerned with the growth, mutual care, and love for others? What will God hear from you this Thanksgiving season?
I went through a series on 1 Peter in Sunday school a few years back and came to a passage that is familiar to many Christians (1 Peter 2:1-3). As I worked through the text and read through a few commentaries, I came away asking, “What is Peter admonishing his readers to do?” Are they to “crave, long for” the word of God (τον λογον του θεου)? The question I wrestled with was, “what was Peter’s intention with this command (επιποθησατε)?” In other words, what “is” Peter admonishing believers to “crave, long for?” Is it really the word (λογον) of God?
To most, and this includes several commentaries; the phrase “crave the pure spiritual milk of the word” refers to the word of God previously discussed in 1:22-25 (1:22, λογου ζωντος θεου; and 1:25, ρημα κυριου). But are the words (“word of God,” τον λογον του θεου) in the text? In order to determine what exactly Peter is discussing; the context must be considered; which many commentaries do. They go back to 1:22-25. But what about the ‘immediate context (vv. 1-3 of chapter 2)?’ I think the immediate context (2:1-3) can help provide with a possible understanding as to what Peter is admonishing his readers to “crave, long for.”
Three things within the context point to Peter’s admonition to crave, and it may not be the word of God. Rather, could Peter be admonishing his readers to crave the Lord God who is the believer’s spiritual nourishment? This is especially true in times of suffering and distress, which is the contextual background of the book of 1 Peter).
- 2:1 – both imperatives deal with attitudes. The participle in 2:1, (αποθεμενοι “put off, lay aside”) takes on an imperatival force of the main verb (επιποθησατε “crave”) in 2:2. Peter is exhorting his readers to do something that is behavioral, or attitudinally related. Their character is the issue. The issue for Peter’s readers may just be that they ought to crave the Lord God, who graciously saved them, by adopting attitudes & behaviors that will help them endure the new life they have begun in Christ. It is clear that these readers will suffer (1 Pet 3:13-17), so Peter is equipping them to reflect the hope that lies within them (1:2). This seems to be consistent with Ps 34:8, of which Peter quotes in the next verse (2:3). Quite possibly verse 8 captures the theme of the whole Psalm (see Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 1, p. 743ff); that is, the psalmist urges his audience to experience the protection and provision of the Lord themselves.
- 2:3 – use of the Old Testament. Psalm 34 is a Psalm ‘of David’ when he was before Abimelech and was released. It is a psalm of thanksgiving for David’s deliverance from affliction. This is similar to Peter’s context in that he too is instructing his readers, who are enduring affliction, ‘to bear up’ through suffering by being faithful to the Lord, who will deliver them. Jobes states, “David was delivered from the afflictions he experienced while he was a resident alien among the Philistines, sojourning away from ‘home’ and outside his place of safety” (BEC, 138). David hoped in the Lord and was delivered. As described above, David’s situation is much like that of Peter’s readers, for they too experienced afflictions outside of a safe environment. They were strangers in a foreign land with nowhere to turn for help or hope.
- Peter uses Psalm 34:8 and changes the quote from “you taste,” the imperative form to “you have tasted,” the indicative form. He does so to imply that his readers, through their new identity (1:2-3), have already tasted that the Lord is good/gracious. His quote from the LXX begins with the particle ει and introduces a first-class conditional clause; typically relating a condition when reality is assumed (“[since] you have tasted that the Lord is good”). Therefore this OT quote provides a relationship between the tasting of the Lord’s goodness with placing hope in Him. In the context of Ps 34, it is hope for deliverance from shame, affliction, and want. It is these very things that Peter’s readers were experiencing because of their profession in Christ. Peter admonishes them to put their hope in God, or “crave/long for” Him.
- 2:2 – the word λογικον. This word (λογικον) is in the text and is “not” the same as λογον (“word”). λογικον is used only 2 times in the New Testament, here and Rom 12:1 (“which is your reasonable [λογικον] service”). What is “reasonable,” or “rational – true to ultimate reality,” is that Peter’s readers are reborn into the family of God. Or stated in conjunction with Peter’s use of Ps 34, your reasonable service is to hope [crave, long for] the Lord.
The Logic of verses 2 and 3, then, is “since [first class cond clause] you have tasted that the Lord is good,” = “crave.” Basically Peter is exhorting/admonishing his readers to “crave, long for” a reasonable life, or attitude that reflects a life or identity that has been graciously given to them. Although it is possible that Peter is admonishing his readers to crave/long for the word of God from the context of 1:22-25, I think in light of the context of 2:1-3 and Peter’s use of the OT he is stating that God in Christ alone both conceives and sustains the life of the new birth. They are to crave the Lord God for nourishment, for He alone is their hope.
According to Solomon, “there is a time and season for every purpose under heaven.” Sometimes God moves in a direction or through a situation that causes you to pause, . . . reflect . . . and realize your dependence is solely on Him. I am in this position right now.
This new beginning is one that I do not take for granted, and as a matter of fact, consider it a privilege and honor. It centers on my new administration and faculty responsibilities at Baptist Bible Seminary, Summit University. God has graciously provided me with an opportunity to continue to affect change in the lives of students while teaching them Greek. But to me, it is more than that. I’m following in the footsteps of one of my mentors, Dr. Rodney Decker.
Dr. Decker’s passion was to teach men the Word of God in order that they may also teach others. This too is my desire, to teach men to love Greek and know the God of the Bible more intimately in the process. Part of this not only includes teaching courses at the Seminary, but also the writings on this blog. It is my goal to continue the legacy of Dr. Decker by providing information that relates to the New Testament, Greek, and pastoral ministry. I want the blog to be informative and practical; that is, touching both the academy and the local church.
You will see posts on this blog that strive to teach and encourage others. Although the goal will be to write posts on a regular basis (e.g., weekly), this may not happen. And it is at these times I ask for your patience, . . . more than likely the administrative responsibilities at the seminary have occupied my time. None-the-less I will, as Dr. Decker would often sign his emails to us as PhD students, “press on.”
I want to thank Linda Decker for patiently assisting me through the transition of this blog’s care from her husband to me. I know it was not easy, but I’m thankful for God’s grace that enables both of us in our new roles to move on.
This is a new season for me, one that includes teaching, writing, developing, and growing for God’s honor and glory. I look forward to the days ahead with great anticipation that what God has purposed for me during this ‘new beginning,’ He will supply the necessary grace to accomplish it. But I will also look back each day with humble reflection that what I indeed accomplished was helping others interact, engage, and impact their global society with the gospel, love & service to others, while growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It has been almost six months since I last added a post. It is time for an update as there are a couple things I would like to share. First, I would like to update how we are doing as we complete our first year and secondly, update on the status of this blog.
A year ago today I stood at an intersection on life’s road which left me traveling the road alone. At least that is the way it appeared then and the way it appears to many who find themselves alone after the death of a mate. However, upon the completion of this year, I want to share how different I found the journey. Perhaps I do not fit the norm (I’ve been like that most of my life) but found the journey much easier than I anticipated. I realized as I stood at the intersection that although Rod was no longer traveling life’s road with me, I was not traveling it alone. God’s presence has been evident each day. Finding the strength to face each day comes from God. His Word promises He will never leave us so when moments come that I miss Rod, I realize I switched focus to “poor me” rather than on God’s bigger plan for me. We lost much when Rod died but there’s so much more to life than looking at our losses.
God has blessed me and the family in so many ways this year. Some of the blessings I’ve shared in past posts and space does not allow for me to share them all. His faithfulness has been GREAT. He has provided above all I need. He’s blessed me with great children & grandchildren who make living so special; with a great church family and friends who have encouraged me with their support, prayers and love. A friend of Rod’s sent an email this past week saying he can hardly believe a year has passed and it expressed my sentiments. The out pouring of concern and love, especially during the “firsts” (first anniversary, birthday, holidays, etc.) one faces during the first year was so encouraging and yet there were times when the “firsts” slipped up on me unnoticed until someone reminded me of their concern and support through it. These were a reminder that God was indeed walking with me to help me cope with the changes.
God alone receives the credit for the growth through this year of “firsts” in my life, as well as with the children. I feel we’ve grown closer as a family and appreciate times together even more than in the past just because we know life is short and we never know what the future holds. One thing that has amazed me is the fact that people continue to pray for us. We are so thankful for all the prayers and this update might help in a small way to say thanks and let you know God is answering.
As we start year two, I praise God for all he has done and look forward to another year of growth with him and service for him. There has been much change in the past year and I see new changes coming. One of those I want to share with you relates to this blog. Rod did not know what to do with it during the last days of his life. He had talked with a friend about it but no decision was made. As you have seen over the past year, I do not have the things to offer his readers on the level he wrote. His heart was to give men material that would challenge them to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word and the languages. Unfortunately, I can not maintain that. In the coming months (not sure exactly when) I will be transferring this site to a man who desires to continue Rod’s legacy. In saying that, please know that all Rod’s previous material will remain available.
I would like to introduce him to you now. Dr. Wayne Slusser will be arriving in Clarks Summit in June to become Rod’s replacement at BBS. I hesitate using that word (replacement) as it tends to make one think they have to fit the shoes of the one before. Rod had small feet so there’s no way Wayne (or anyone) would “fit his shoes” and he would never intend for someone to do that. His desire would be for the person to teach the Word and get men excited about teaching the Word to others. Wayne comes to BBS from a Bible College in MO. We first met Wayne & his wife, Missy, when Wayne applied to BBS for the doctoral program in New Testament. Wayne was one of the first PhD grads and is a fine man. It gives me great joy to know he will be filling the hole left by Rod’s death. Wayne has a desire to carry on Rod’s vision. He will be busy settling in to the area and preparing to teach here so please be patient and pray for him as he begins this new chapter in his life. He’s a bit overwhelmed with the thought of being Rod’s replacement, but I know God has put him here–not as Rod’s replacement, but as His servant to teach men to love Greek and to know the Word of God.
This might be my last post on NTResources but not sure how the dynamics will work in the next month or so. Thank you all for letting me share God’s working in our lives over the past year. Most of all, thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement.
To God be the glory, great things he has done!
Many men have paid tribute to Rod over the past 6 months. The family appreciates the kind words given on behalf of Rod and his ministry. We are thankful that God can continue to use his work in years to come–but much of that has been said in previous posts.
Those who knew Rod, knew he was a family man and enjoyed his children and his grandchildren. Tonight I would like to share a couple tributes that God has given our family as a remembrance of Rod. On May 29, just a few hours after we had placed Rod’s body in the grave, our youngest daughter-in-law gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. What a precious ending to the day! They named her Autumn Joy and she has been a joy to our family but especially to Grandma. God in his wisdom and grace allowed Sherry to wait through the last few weeks of Rod’s life to give us joy upon his departure. One would think God had a sense of humor.
Then on Dec. 4 at 1:30 in the morning, our oldest son called and informed me they were leaving for the hospital in preparation for the delivery of our 13th grandchild. Later in the day, Sarah Mae was born. Here again it could have been a hard day as Dec. 4 would have been Rod’s 62d birthday, but God’s humor gave a special gift in tribute to Rod. I will never forget these two birthdates. So the family has lost one life but gained two. Our prayer is that these two young ladies will grow up to love the God their grandfather served even though they never knew him.
On another note, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two volumes from Baylor of Rod’s Handbook on Mark. My apologies to Baylor for the slowness in giving honor to them; serving has kept me very busy! The folks from Baylor were so gracious at the end when Rod no longer had the strength to proof the final copies. Marty Culy did a great job with editing as well as Wells Turner, Mark Mills, and others who stepped in to assist. Word of the impact Rod’s books generated at the annual ETS meeting was passed on to me. How exciting to hear that these two books, as well as his Koine Reader from Baker, were so well accepted. To God alone goes the praise and glory for this.
At times, it has been so overwhelming to see God’s work over the past six months; not just in the books and work Rod had done, but how God’s been working in my own heart and life. When a couple works together as a team for almost 40 years, it seems like any service was done by both. Having grown up on a farm, my father always had a team of horses to do some of the field work. I can remember how important it was to him to have a team that was matched and worked well together. That picture of teamwork so impressed me that I thought 1/2 a team wasn’t a team at all. But it’s not that way with God as he uses a couple as a team but can also use the one left behind. I praise God for being able to find work for this 1/2 of the team so I can serve him still. It remains to be seen what he will do with me, but I’m excited to be a useful servant even though not a team any longer. I praise him too for helping me keep things in focus and to think on Him rather than him (Rod). Many people say that the firsts are the hardest after a death of a loved one and that holidays are hard. I can agree with that, but am also coming to realize that it can become a crutch and cause one to focus on what’s been lost rather than moving on and allowing God to lead and direct as well as fill the void.
Soli Deo Gloria
It gives me great honor and joy to be able to share the news that Rod’s long awaited for textbook is now in hand. Reading Koine Greek from Baker Publishing Group is now in my hands. Unfortunately, the public will have to wait a few weeks before it is available. When it arrived, I sat down and quickly skimmed through it and knew Rod would have been very pleased with it. It was a bittersweet moment as the excitement and joy of having it in hand was hard to contain, but knowing Rod would never have the opportunity to see or use it brought tears so I had to set the book aside so as not to ruin it.
The joy of seeing the product of many years (about 25) of work of formulating his style and teaching as he broadened his understanding of Greek over those years through expanding the material as well as techniques of teaching, allowing it to grow into this volume. Then thinking of the past few years of actually getting it into a publishable format, proof reading it ourselves over and over, checking grammar, and on and on, and to see it finally in print was a bit overwhelming.
Baker has done an excellent job in the actual printing and overall presentation of the book. I was surprised at the size of it, but shouldn’t have been after the many times of working through it in the proofing stages. The illustrations (although Rod’s) have been displayed in such a way that it adds to the overall look of the book. My hat’s off to the editors at Baker who so graciously worked with us (yes, I feel I had a part in this too) and kept us informed and have continued to keep me posted even after Rod’s home going. They shared with me that when the book made it to their hands, work literally stopped as the editors stood around in the hallway, paging through it. They too struggled with that bittersweet moment of seeing the final product, but knowing Rod would not share in the joy of seeing it himself.
Oh, that God would take a farm boy growing up in a pastor’s home and use him to help others learn the language of the Bible is a definite proof of God’s mercy and grace to mankind. Rod would never have thought himself worthy of God’s grace and never thought highly of himself in the things he did. Our prayer as a family is that God would take this piece of work that he burdened Rod to write and use it for generations to come so that others might understand the Word of God, but even more that those in our colleges and seminaries would understand the importance of knowing the biblical languages so they may better teach it in our churches. That was Rod goal in life and in writing–to challenge men to be prepared to preach the Word in such a way that God would receive the glory and people would understand what the Word said.
I hope in sharing this that I’ve not come across as bragging about this new book as that would totally be against what Rod and I would desire. My purpose in this post is to share the excitement and the purpose of Rod’s writing. As he would always sign his work, Soli Deo Gloria.
A person’s outlook on life is often a matter of perspective. Over the past four months as our family and close friends deal with our loss of Rod, I’ve noticed that perspective plays a big roll in how we deal with Rod’s promotion/death. I prefer to use promotion as that is what has happened to Rod. Death tends to be a negative concept and perhaps gives a sense of finality when working through losing a spouse, a child, or anyone close to you. As a believer, one’s death is not final for the Bible tells us that our loved one (if a believer in Jesus Christ) has been promoted to heaven where we will one day be, not only with our loved one, but with our great God and our Savior Jesus Christ which will be far better.
In his book, Reflections of a Grieving Spouse, H. Norman Wright often referred to living without/life without his spouse who died of cancer. A big change comes with the loss of a spouse especially if the children are grown and on their own. There are the times without someone to talk over the days events; times when you cannot ask him a question; times when you find you are the sole decision maker; times when you wonder “how would Rod have responded?”; times when you have to keep going to places alone; times when the house seems like it’s missing a vital part–all due to life without that special person. It’s a new way of life and not one we would have chosen. True, it’s inevitable, but most of us think we will live forever together. Learning to live without is real and a big part of working through the grieving process, but this is where perspective comes to play. It’s all a matter of what we focus on as we deal with loss. If I choose to dwell on my life without, my focus is on me and all I’ve lost. That path leads to self pity, thinking only of me (and what I’ve lost) and tends to cause feelings of doubt, loneliness, defeat and many tears. These are definitely a part of the process but lately I’ve come to realize that my relationship with my husband, which was a great one, was only a temporary earthly pleasure that God blessed me abundantly to have with Rod. Our marriage isn’t eternal, but life is. So looking at our loss from a different perspective really changes the whole outlook on life. Rather than looking at life without I’m seeing that life with is far better. Yes, I miss Rod’s presence and will for a long time, but I’m beginning a new walk of “life with” God as my husband because Scripture tells us that God is a husband to the widow. I’m finding that a life of serving in our local church can give as much fulfillment as the presence of a mate. I’m finding life does go on and my perspective of that life determines how I cope with each day. Rod isn’t here when the car has a flat tire so I have to see that it gets fixed. My children have been great in supporting me and helping me with things, but I need to step up to the plate and do things I can do also. Rod was such a picture of God in our married life that now I’m able to see that God is the one that I depend on–not Rod because I’m living without him. But God never leaves so I have life with Him until He calls me home too.
Perspective is a matter of choice. I’m not forgetting about Rod or living as if he never was a part of my life. He exemplified God too much over the years for me to just put the memories away. I have no intention of packing those memories into a box to be stored in the basement to be forgotten but neither do I plan to dwell on how much I’ve lost when God took him home. I choose rather to dwell on life and all that God plans to do with me. I don’t even know what that might be but I know I can trust Him to use my feeble attempts at serving Him because I choose to go forward in a life with Him.
Life is a matter of perspective.
Over the past three months, since Rod’s promotion to glory, much has been happening at the Decker home. I’m afraid I’ve not been keeping communication open here on the blog. For some, my academic and theological input wouldn’t be as challenging as Rod’s was so I’ve not attempted to keep that area up to date. However, many of you that read his blog on a regular basis have been gracious to send words of comfort and continue in prayer on behalf of the family and myself. I’ve been remiss in sending a thank you for remembering us in such a way. So please know that we are grateful to each of you for your kindness and prayers. God is answering and giving strength to keep pressing on.
This past week we completed the sorting and cleaning out of Rod’s home study and have gotten his office at the seminary close to being finished. The books are ready to be boxed and passed on so others may use his library & his office space. The process was tough emotionally at times but here is where God answered your prayers and helped give strength to sort out all the material as well as cleaning off his computer. I’m amazed how many backups and paper copies Rod had of his soon-to-be published books. But the thought of losing it to a power outage or other mishap probably encouraged his diligence in making sure he had copies to fall back upon should something happen.
I never cease to be in awe of his thoroughness in everything he did. Many of you know that side of him in the academic realm but he carried it over into the home as well. Knowing death was inevitable over the last year of his life, he was so helpful in leaving behind a paper entitled “End of Life Wishes” (probably his only paper without footnotes!) which also included details for me and the family as to things that needed to be done and how to do it. He was a faithful husband and father and we praise God for the almost 40 years we shared with him.
I don’t understand what God’s purpose was in taking him (other than that his work on earth was completed) any more than some of you, but I do know that God has more in store than I can imagine at this time. He is stretching me to learn things (doing things on the computer I’ve never done before–like this blog), and helping me realize that even though the team has been cut in half, there’s still much to do for God. Rod is missed at church, the seminary and by friends and family, but life does go on and that is what Rod would have desired.
I’m realizing that God can still use me. It had been 4 years that I had been unable to attend church, teach Sunday School or Bible studies or even attend Bible studies on a regular basis due to caring for Rod’s father’s and Rod. Now I’m so excited to be back on a regular basis and involved in our local church. I missed that the most but wouldn’t have traded church attendance for the care of either one of them. I was able to witness two men age and deal with death in such a graceful and godly manner that I felt blessed to have had a part in their care.
May God bless each of you as you strive to serve our great and faithful God. After going through the loss over the past three months, I can’t imagine how people who don’t know the Lord personally deal with their grief. God is our strength and refuge, an ever present help in time of trouble. Great is the Lord! Our hearts are filled with gratitude for each of you.
Now that Rod has been promoted to glory, this blog will be somewhat in limbo. Many of you have gained much from Rod’s blog and he hated to see it come to an end. Perhaps in the future there will be some additions but that is a work in progress and might be a few months before it comes to fruition. Rod’s desire would have been for his readers to continue stretching themselves in their studies and use God’s word to bring honor and glory to God rather than man. May each of you carry on Rod’s legacy by being faithful to our great God who led Rod each day and each step. Nothing would please him more (both God and Rod!).