JohnSWilson3 Blog


“And God permitting, we will do so.”
July 25, 2011, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

In Acts we see the grand narrative of the life of Christ growing and spreading through His people to the known world. As brothers and sisters heard and believed on Christ Jesus as Lord from those with an apostolic functioning they formed an ekklesia, a gathering of believers and the apostles helped them to live by the indwelling Spirit who was their life, in order to grow in the fullness of Christ. As Christ’s life became more fully expressed through the life of His people to family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc the world saw a people “full of grace and truth,” who loved one another deeply from the heart. In this way Christ’s life was manifested, grew if you will, and spread. This is “to be carried on to completion,” this is to “go on to maturity.”

The author to the Hebrews in chapters 5 and 6, while mentioning that they have become dull in hearing the Lord, still acting like children, needing to experience the Logos of Righteousness, who is their life, is not content to let them stay that way. One with apostolic functioning has only one goal and that is the eternal purpose of God. Paul describes some of what this means in his letter to Ephesians that he wrote perhaps just a couple years earlier:

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the ekklesia, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
“His intent was that now, through the ekklesia, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The author points out in Hebrews what appear to be some key areas that those with apostolic functioning would share to help lay the foundation of Christ within His people. It even has a sense of the gospel message. This foundation in Hebrews is described as: “of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings (baptisms), and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (NASB) My thought is that these are areas that relate to Christ and lays a foundation of Christ for a gathering of brothers and sisters, knowing who they are in Christ as His body in order to live by His life. These are all actually found in Judaism (1), with each pointing to its reality in Christ. As Paul would say later in the letter, they were “a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.”

The foundation of the body of Christ is Christ Himself. We are called to put off the flesh and to put on Christ, it is to repent, to change our mind, to change our purpose (2) and “no longer live” for ourselves, which is “dead works,” but rather live “for him who died for” us “and was raised again.” Before Christ we were “dead in” our “transgressions and sins, in which” we “used to live.” In Acts 20:21 Paul told the older people of the church in Ephesus that “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” By believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, we “are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” and have been made alive with Christ, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.”

Instruction about baptisms involves knowing what Christ has done and who we are in Christ as a result. Baptism means to dip fully in or under. (3) Some baptisms described in the New Testament are: after “having believed” the Holy Spirit, God Himself is given to us as guarantee of our inheritance in Christ. Baptism then means to be fully in Christ “by one Spirit into one body.” In baptism we also at the same time with our brothers and sisters are made one, no longer are their any physical distinctions, our life together is now Christ’s, His one body. Baptism also refers to the death of Christ Jesus in His death. When we received the Holy Spirit, put completely in Christ, we were also “baptized into his death,” we were “buried with him through baptism into death,” meaning “our flesh was crucified” and “sin” was “done away with” and as a result we have been “freed from sin.” Baptisms speak of death, a complete death done only by Christ Himself. And because of these baptisms and being so completely identified with Christ in His death, we also are completely identified with Him in His resurrection. We are now to count ourselves “dead to sin” and “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Because “Christ was raised from the dead…we too (can) live a new life.” Resurrection speaks of new life found only in Christ and that life only produces good fruit by “the new way of the Spirit.” (4)

Regarding “eternal judgment” Paul speaking to the men of Athens said: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31) “Laying on of hands” is mentioned a few times in the New Testament and in each case it is recognition of authority and headship of Christ, often as a result of seeing the life of Christ demonstrated greatly in a person(s) life. They live only by His life as their only source, that is why when the laying on of hands is done, the hands are laid on the head of the person. It is not to be done lightly only by the command of the Spirit, generally these are those who have an apostolic functioning, who have lived organically by the life of Christ with other brothers and sisters, and will face the hardships and burden that result in that functioning. Only in James letter does it seem to acknowledge Christ’s authority and headship and source in a particular matter. The body of Christ must see that its only life is Christ and we live by Him together as a new family, each person sharing His life freely with one another, without condemnation, and in love. Christ must be head of His body, hearing Him, believing Him, and following Him, if the body is to go forward to maturity, to express the fullness of Christ.

Each area of this “foundation” has its root firmly in the life of Christ in the body and God’s eternal purpose of manifesting His Son through His Body. Only from this can we truly begin to experience the life of Christ in the body. How important it is for those with an apostolic functioning to lay a proper foundation of Christ! Paul said: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” While the author apparently had laid a proper foundation of Christ, those in the body were not careful on how they built on this foundation. They had not learned to move forward in experiencing their indwelling Lord and as a result had drifted from and had forgotten their foundation. Sadly I wonder how many of God’s people have had a proper foundation that even comes close to that even mentioned here? Even to include myself and I have had to reevaluate what it means to live by Christ versus the traditions of men.

After the author points out these specific areas related to understanding their “foundation” that they had been forgetting, he is led by the Spirit of Christ in him to stop. The author desires to see the brothers and sisters go forward in Christ but he recognizes that growing in the life of Christ is a process, it is of the Spirit, this process is only organic within the body, it is of the life of Christ, and recognizing this says “And God permitting, we will do so.” Perhaps the author was thinking about continuing with this “foundation,” but prompted by the Spirit decides not “to go on insisting on these things, therefore would not really help them; it would be better to press on to those teachings which belonged to spiritual maturity.” (5) So now the author, with God’s permission, begins to help this body of Christ to move forward to maturity.

(1) F.F. Bruce states “how little in the list is distinctively of Christianity, for practically every item could have its place in a fairly orthodox Jewish community.” F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Revised), The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1990, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 139.
(2) Repentance means “to change one’s mind or purpose.” W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 525.
(3) Baptism means. Ibid, 50.
(4) Following passages from the New Testament were used as an example of many that describe these areas of foundation in Christ necessary for a body of believers given by an apostle: 2 Cor. 5:15; Eph 1: 13-14, 2:1-8; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:2-8, 11, 7:4. Each letter seems to describe these same basic foundations as reminder by the apostle to not forget their foundation and to press on to fullness of Christ.
(5) F.F. Bruce, 143-144.

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