JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…so that we may serve the living God.”
November 6, 2011, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

As I read this letter to the Hebrews and specifically look at words from the original language I am struck by the use of words for “serve.” The words generally focus on the first covenant service to God in the tabernacle and the new covenant service to God through the serving of one another.

There are a three main Greek words for “serve” in the New Testament. One word is “diakoneo” which is the basic word to “serve” and used in describes how we love one another. Another word is “douleuo” which is to serve as a slave. The other is “latreuo” which is “to work for hire” and where we get the word “liturgy” and most often refers to service to God. These words are often translated incorrectly and give a different sense to the passage, in some instances an institutional bias. For example, the words “deacon” and “minister” are used to often convey a special position or office in the “church.” I am not so inclined. Christ’s body is made of many members and each serve one another by the life of the One Head as they assemble together. To create a special position or office in the Christ’s ekklesia is to deny the headship of Jesus Christ, who alone is the Leader and Authority who lives through His people, and moves His body from an organically lived body to an institutional organization run by men.

The author in the Letter to Hebrews uses primarily the different forms of the word “latreuo” to describe the importance of how Christ has “set aside” “the former regulation” of “the law of Moses.” “The first covenant had regulations for ‘latreias’ and also an earthly sanctuary” (9:1) and “the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ‘latreias.’ Additionally, “both the tabernacle and ‘vessels’ used in its ‘leitourgias’ ” were “sprinkled with the blood.” (9:21) But these priests “ ‘latreuousin’ at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” (8:5) And because the priests only acted out a parable of what Jesus would do later, “the gifts and sacrifices” that were “being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the ‘one latreuonta.’” (9:9) “Day after day every priest stands and performs his ‘leitourgon’ duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (10:11) This service to God in the first covenant was never meant to do anything but cause the people of God to depend on, to trust in the Lord waiting for the Promise to come, the Promise in whom the priests acted out as a parable.

But in Christ, the Son of God, who came as “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” “without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life…remains a priest forever.” (7:3) Christ Jesus Himself entered “the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…who went before us, has entered on our behalf…has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (6:19-20) It is Christ alone who has brought us peace with God and made us righteousness to God in whom alone is the King of peace and the King of righteousness! Christ Jesus, because He alone was “in the order of Melchizedek” and perfectly fulfilled the law of Moses, has changed “the priesthood” and therefore changed “the law” “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” (7:11,12,16) In Christ Jesus alone “a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (7:19) “Jesus lives forever” and “has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (7:24-25) Because of the work Christ Jesus did alone, “we do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who ‘leitourgos’ in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (8:1-2) So “the ‘leitourgias’ Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.” (8:6) Christ Jesus Himself by His own blood, “entered the Most Holy Place once for all” and has “obtained eternal redemption.” (9:12) And only “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may ‘latreuein’ the living God!” (9:14)

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (10:19-25)

It has been said that in Christ every believer has been given a priesthood, some calling it the priesthood of the believer. I would suggest that that is too individualistic a view. It is Christ Himself who is the great high priest, He alone is the priest to God. One member can only touch some part of Christ and not the whole. In Christ, we “ ‘latreuein’ the living God” as we “ ‘diakonesantes’ to the saints” (6:10). It is the ekklesia, the body of Christ assembling together serving one another in love by which God is served, by which the full expression of the Son is expressed. It is the ekklesia, living organically by the life of Christ together who serve God. It could be better said that it is really the priesthood of the ekklesia, not the believer, who serve the living God! How we do disservice to God by not serving one another in love organically by the life of Christ, who alone is the priest to God!

W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 410-411, 563.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”
November 5, 2011, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

After the author describes the incredible reality of life together with brothers and sisters in Christ, peering into Christ together, because of the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord, the author goes directly into a disturbing thought: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.”

This relates back to his original thought from chapter 10 verse 18. The author noted that “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.”

In Christ we have been “made perfect forever,” our “sins and lawless acts” He “will remember no more,” because we “have been forgiven!” This reality is only understood in the context of a shared life with other brothers and sisters, as a family, a shared life where each are living organically by the life of Christ, His life of love lived by faith. To do otherwise is to “miss the mark,” (1) to miss the full intent of our Lord, which is the meaning of “sin.” To deliberately fall back to institutionalism, to live by the flesh, “after we have received” this “full knowledge of the truth,” of our life in Christ we have deliberately “trampled the Son of God under foot,” “treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified” us, and have “insulted the Spirit of grace.” How the author must write this in tears as he reflects on all of the finished work of Jesus Christ, everything that He has done for us and what that means, and to have brothers and sisters fall back to the flesh of religion instead of living by the Spirit. Christ was crucified once, His sacrifice was done once. All sin was taken away once by Christ Jesus on the cross. So in God’s mind, as mentioned earlier on the section in chapter 6, God no longer sees sin, it was dealt with on the cross, therefore there is no longer any sacrifice needed. If we are in Christ and we miss the mark by falling back to religion, we miss the reality of living by the life of Christ, which is the only life God sees. May we have spiritual sight to see our life in Christ and to live by Him.

For chapters 7 though the first part of chapter 10 the author has given an wonderful picture, a sweeping look at what Christ has done on our behalf. This perhaps as a remedy, or antidote, for not living by the Spirit, for his concern that he had mentioned earlier in chapter 6, a concern that he is bringing back up again. The brothers and sisters, in order to move forward in Christ we must live by the Spirit together, the life who indwells us, the Logos of Righteousness, the Word of God. The Law, the previous “oracles of God,” was only meant to lead us to Christ. It is now by Christ we live, because Jesus fulfilled the Law and is a mediator of a new covenant that has its basis in living by His life in us. To fall back to the Law, to religion, to institutionalism, to legalism, to the flesh, is to deliberately miss the mark. When Christ died for us, He died once for all, all our sins were forgiven at that moment in time. If we fall back to living by the flesh we essentially are “crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”

If we fall back what does that say about Christ and our life together? How our Lord must also shed tears when we no longer look to Him, through His life, by the Spirit, in one another. If we live by religion, institutionalism, legalism, the flesh, we can only expect the consequences of such, a loss of confidence in our Lord. This is living contrary (2) to Christ, it is missing the mark. If our confidence is no longer in Christ then we will no longer be relying on the perfect Love that casts out fear. We will be fearful, our conscience will judge us, and we will no longer have the rest of Christ. We will be a malady (3), a peril, to ourselves and to others. Will we not be punished as an indolent child is punished by their parents? While we may think that “life is against us” is it not really our Lord wooing us back to Himself, to living by His Spirit with His brothers and sisters? “For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

How do we keep this from happening? As the author says “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

In Christ, living by His life together, we can be “confident of better things!” Remember those earlier days when you saw, heard, touched, tasted, smelled the life of Christ in and to and through one another! Just because life gets hard doesn’t mean you give up, it just means Christ is preparing you for more of Himself! Brothers and sisters our faith will be tried and it will be tested, but this is the way of Christ. The Father loves us and is jealous for us, for the expression of His Son.

The NIV says in conclusion “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” The literal translation is “But we are not of withdrawal to ruin, but of faith to possession of soul.” (4) When we fall back from living organically by Christ with other brothers and sisters it will be too our consequence, our ruin, that is the way of the flesh, but if we trust Christ, to live by His life alone, we will persevere, we will endure, and the result is that Christ Himself will possess more of us, that is the way of the Spirit. This is Christ’s will, His desire, that His soul, will become one with our soul! As the Son prayed to the Father on the night He was betrayed. Keeping our confidence in Christ during the difficult times will lead to a greater apprehension of Christ! When we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us as we are tried and tested we will enter God’s rest, we will receive His promise, we will apprehend more of Christ! Christ is our rich reward! Moving forward in Christ then is learning to apprehend more of Christ, to see our life as His life day by day. Christ is indeed walking this earth again, but only as we live by Him in us!

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 577.
(2) In verse 27 the original language uses the word “adversaries” which means “contrary or opposed.” The thought is that anything that is not of Christ is contrary to Christ. The NIV translates this word as “the enemies of God” which doesn’t seem to describe the context of the passage of those who fall back to the flesh. As a brother or sister we are each learning to live by Christ, we are each learning to put off the flesh which is contrary to Christ, and to put on Christ, to live by His life together. Religion, institutionalism, legalism, and the flesh are all contrary to Christ, contrary to His will, it misses the mark. These will always bring “a fearful expectation of judgment” that will seem to consume us with “fire.” We will know it when we live by the flesh, it is Christ in us attempting to help us see the flesh as a dead thing and to live by Him. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 15.
(3) In the first part of verse 29 the NIV translates “…how much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished…” In context these words follow the example of “the law of Moses,” because to live contrary to Christ is to warrant the death penalty. So someone who falls back to following “the law of Moses” should therefore follow it’s consequences when we can’t follow it. But in Christ we have been “made perfect forever,” and our “sins have been forgiven.” This passage literally is translated: “…by how much think you of worse will be thought worthy punishment the one…” The word “worse” actually means “indolent” or to suffer from a “malady.” To have lived by the Spirit and then to fall back to the Law is to be “indolent.” It is to be a “malady” to themselves and others. How this person needs the help of his brothers and sisters. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 686.
(4) This literal translation by Alfred Marshall is close to that which is translated by NASB. Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 661.