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Hebrews 10:19-31

  

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

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, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (ESV)

 

 

Bound to Christ's Grace

Monday of Pentecost 4

22 June 2015

God is always working backwards. He has in no way limited our ability to reject Him, cut ourselves off from His love and care, and to live depraved, undisciplined lives at His expense. We are quite free to blaspheme His name, reject His gifts, and condemn His passionate love for us. On the other hand, we are not free to accept, by our own will, the suffering and death of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the certainty of eternal life and salvation. Our wills are bound by our sin and depravity to be ever ungrateful and stubborn as the dying preacher, St. Stephen said, "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51). Our wills are bound in spiritual matters to our detriment.

 

If I were God, I certainly would not have let things remain this way. It seems to me much better for God, if He would have given us the freedom to accept His grace by our own will and bound us so that we could not dishonor or blaspheme His name. It seems to me that this would have been much better for God; never to be dishonored and always to be praised. Wouldn't we want this for ourselves; always to be adored and never to be dishonored? God planned things backwards against our presuppositions and human wisdom. He overturns our expectations: in death there is life, in suffering there is peace, in the cross there is freedom, and in grief there is joy. All of this is oriented by God to take our focus away from ourselves and onto Him as our true joy and salvation. It also makes certain what needs to be made certain: our depravity and our entire dependence on Him for our salvation. The Apostle to the Gentiles summarized this by saying, "God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all" (Rm 11:32). God's mercy and our bound will are corollaries of each other. Everyone is disobedient. Therefore, if anyone is to be saved, it must be by God's mercy to them. All boasting is ruled out by this. What's to boast about? Everything is a gift.

 

All this leaves God open and vulnerable to the most horrible mistreatment. He is literally subject to being wounded by us (this is what vulnerable means). He suffered the wounds of hands, feet, and side, to which He became subject through crucifixion. The subjects have laid filthy hands upon the person of the King in rebellion against Him. He refused to punish them, but permits Himself to bear their punishment by suffering their death. Who would desert such a King as this? Who would rebel against His overwhelming kindness? Who would fail to return the sacrifice of thanksgiving? Of what would such an ingrate be worthy? It would be hard to put that into words, but perhaps this is what the writer to the Hebrews is thinking when he says, "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" (Heb 10:26-29)? Such a fearful threat ought to lead us all the more to treasure the benefits of Christ's suffering and death. Once we have been saved, we are bound to Christ's grace.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"Let us give thanks that we belong to those who are being saved, and who are not saving ourselves by works, but are saved by the gift of God. But when we give thanks, let us not do this in words only, but in works and actions. For this is the genuine thanksgiving, that we do those things by which God is surely glorified, and flee from those from which we have been set free.

 

"For if, after insulting the King, instead of being punished we have been honored, would we then go and insult Him anew? If we were detected in the utmost ingratitude, we should with justice have to suffer the utmost punishment, one far greater than the former. For the former insolence did not show us as ungrateful as the one committed after honor and much attention was shown us. Let us then flee those things from which we have been set free, and not give thanks with our mouths only, so that it may not be said of us, 'This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me' (Is 29:13).  What else could it be but unseemly when 'the heavens declare the glory of God' (Ps 19:1), that you, for whom the heavens were made, which glorify Him, do such things that through you the God who made you is blasphemed?"

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 18
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, King of the church, You have offered Yourself for Your subjects, that we might be free from every plague. Send Your Spirit to us that we might continue to shelter under the shadow of Your holy cross. Keep us from ingratitude and unbelief. Empower us to make the sacrifices of thanksgiving worthy of our great salvation. Amen.

 

For Susan Narr, that the Lord Jesus would be with her as she goes through therapy and recovers fully from surgery

 

For those who grieve the loss of loved ones, that they would be strengthened in their faith and comforted by the Word of Christ

 

For those seeking work, that the Lord God would grant them labor in keeping with their calling
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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