Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Contrasting two kinds of Believers
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ and again, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised ‘For, yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:26-39). Throughout Scripture, God’s truth is clearly communicated. Occasionally, a biblical writer will use a particular turn of phrase or style of expression to emphasize a specific truth. One such approach is the use of contrast: placing two scenes, reactions, or people side by side to highlight how different they are. The text we are about to consider places two contrasting groups of people alongside each other for the purpose of emphasis. The first group is featured in vv. 26-31, while the opposite group is set forth in vv. 32-38. V. 39 form a fitting summary, and again use a contrast for clarification: those who shrink back as opposed to those who have faith. These are Christians in contrast to one another. Can you find yourself on this page of God’s Word? First, let’s do a needed review. All true prophets had at least two things in common: they were faithful to comfort the afflicted, and they were faithful to afflict the comfortable. Let’s put this statement in a nutshell. The stern, tough, prophetic warning is this “enter…but come clean.” This place is found within each believer’s spirit, where the Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, permanently resides. Note the structure of the passage. Hebrews 10: 26-39 breaks down into an outline. A serious warning aimed at the hearer (vv. 26-31). “For if….” An Appeal (vv. 32-38). “But remember…therefore. A Summary of what has been taught (v. 39). : We are not…but….” Second, a contrast that is note worthy to consider (10:26-39). “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….” There is the question of identity (vv. 26-27). Who are the “we” spoken of here? This applies to believers who are fleshly or backslidden. Note the characteristics (v. 29). The analogy moves from lesser to greater. First, those who shrink, trample under foot the Son of God. Second they profane the blood of the covenant. Third, they insult the Spirit of grace. What do these individuals need (v. 26)? They need repentance, and they need to stop their wrong behavior before they go any deeper into the carnal life-style. Those who stand are commended (vv. 32-38). There are a number of Christians who dance on the borderline of defection. To these the writer says, “Pay attention!” The beautiful part of this chapter is that the author doesn’t stop with the somber scene he’s just portrayed: he switches his focus from those who shrink to those who stand. Let’s take a look at this second group. 1. Identity (vv. 32-35). These are Christians who suffer mistreatment and, although they may get shaky, still stand in the faith. 2. Characteristics. First, these people are familiar with hardship and pain (vv. 32-33). Second, they have concern for others in need, (v. 34). Third, they are free from materialism (v. 34). And fourth, they are confident in God (vv. 34-35). When writing to this group the writer comforts the afflicted. 3. The need (v. 36). In contrast to the former group consisting of people who had a need of repentance, this group needs endurance. This term means “to abide under.” It is so easy for us to lose the “abide under” determination when the going gets tough. A summary of this material is in order (v.39). This chapter ends on a strong, positive note: “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” Third, let’s ask a few necessary questions. One can’t read this tenth chapter of Hebrews without asking some tough personal questions. A. Where am I going in my spiritual life? Am I shrinking or standing? B. What if I don’t alter my course? C. When would be a better time than now for either repentance or endurance? Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.