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Keeping the Unity of the Spirit – Sermon Notes

The following was part 1 of a 3-week series on fervent prayer. This sermon is intended to help your church recognize the need for unity, how God desires and creates unity, and to become inspired to pray around that topic.

Sermon Outline:

  1. The Holy Spirit creates unity.
  2. Unity is the end goal. It is perfection and completion.
  3. Unity can and should be proactively pursued outside of/before conflict resolution.

The Holy Spirit Creates Unity.

The Holy Spirit operates from and within unity. He is the unique factor that unites all believers. Paul writes that we are saved by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Tit 3:5). The Holy Spirit is the evidence that we are all in the same family:

[Rom 8:14-17 KJV] 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

The Spirit leads us as children of God (14), causes us to cry out to our Father (15), assures our own spirits that we are now children of God (16) and joint-heirs with Christ (17). Furthermore, Paul states that we are actually all part of the same body through the Holy Spirit:

[1Co 12:13 KJV] 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

As further expounded upon in 1 Cor 12, a body cannot function without cohesion between its members. A body part will never be functioning at its optimal level unless it is both giving and receiving from the member connected to it. God designed his body (the church) to only be strong when unified. Discord and disharmony are the kryptonite of a healthy church.

Because God has already orchestrated unity as a defining characteristic of his body, scripture states the unity of the Spirit is to be kept, not attained by any work of our own. We plug into the unity the Holy Spirit creates:

[Eph 4:1-3 KJV] 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

This is a bit of a silly example, but it might be an effective one if you’re a geek like me. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the premise is that there exists a magical ring of unspeakable power. It’s innate evil desire is to get back to its master (the dark lord and enemy of all free people) so it can accomplish the master’s evil will of casting the world into darkness. The ring is bound to the dark lord. It is incapable of good; it could only produce evil by design. Gandalf says: “Always remember, Frodo, the Ring is trying to get back to its [evil] master. It wants to be found.”

In a similar way, The Holy Spirit is always seeking to glorify Christ and his body through the outpouring of love which produces unity (Rom 5:5). The Holy Spirit is incapable of producing evil or any of what scripture calls “the works of the flesh”. It will not produce pride, strife, vainglory, jealousy, or anything that causes division. Its goal is to glorify our Lord Jesus and his body—the church. Therefore, when we listen to the Holy Spirit, it will always put reconciliation and the bonds of peace above even church work. Whoever has the Holy Spirit will have a new nature that strives towards unity.

Unity among the body is the will of the Holy Spirit; we know this.

Unity is the Mark of Perfectness and Christ-Likeness

Unity is the process, but it is also the end goal! If we continue in Ephesians 4, the fullness of unity is one of our greatest rewards.

[Eph 4:11-16 KJV] 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Coming to the unity of the faith is put on par with a perfect man who measures up to the stature of the fulness of Christ. Pastors and teachers were gifts given by Jesus to perfect (equip) the saints for the work of the ministry. As a pastor, how do I know what a healthy saint looks like? What should the goal be? Paul states it clearly. On that day:

  • We will be perfectly unified in faith
  • Perfect in the knowledge of the Son of God
  • We measure up to the stature of the fullness of Christ (measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ (NLT)).

A healthy disciple will be growing in the knowledge of Jesus, their lives and actions will reflect the standards of Christ, and, they will be growing in unity with others in the faith. Let us remember that the more unified we become, the more perfect (complete) we become.

Unity Must often be Sought Out and Pursued

If we find ourselves praying for direction for a certain ministry activity—say an outreach event to the community—the Holy Spirit may first direct us to a relational issue in the body that needs addressing. The mission of the church is important to God, but not so important he will allow the love that unites his body to be grieved in the name of growing the church.

Years ago, during my personal study time this scripture jumped out at me:

[2Ti 1:16-17 KJV] 16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: 17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.

This scripture is simply talking about Onesiphorus making a great effort to find Paul in Rome in order to minister to him. As far as we know, Onesiphorus and Paul were in good terms even before this. What’s notable about this passage is the effort put forth by Onesiphorus to track a fellow believer down.

When I read this scripture during my prayer time it motivated me to seek someone out, not to ask for forgiveness or give them forgiveness, but to simply remind them that I love them. Just because I can’t think of a specific offense does not mean it doesn’t exist. The Holy Spirit will endeavor to keep the unity and peace even if there’s just a potential for misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Perhaps communicating with that person put something in proper perspective from their viewpoint that would have grown into an offense down the road—I don’t know. What I do know is that keeping the unity often involves proactively creating it.

It will not always be a “Phillip the Evangelist” moment where the Holy Spirit transports us to the desert in order to speak to someone. If someone is on our heart, we may have to diligently seek them out like Onesiphorus did to Paul. In another letter, Paul sounds hurt that certain others seemed to abandon him while in prison (2 Tim 4:9-11). Perhaps Onesiphorus’ visit prevented Paul from experience those hurtful feelings. Maybe it even gave him the strength to endure further trials.

Don’t underestimate the importance of investing in good relations when God puts someone on your heart. If you choose to invest in unity, you are choosing to align with God’s will.

We could go on to a wonderful study on what scripture says about reconciliation and conflict resolution, but for this message, we are focused on keeping the unity.

However, one issue must be addressed for our church in the season we find ourselves in. For some of us, unity will never be fully attained unless we confront some hard relational and emotional issues between ourselves and other members. After a message like this, it’s tempting to try and push hurts and conflicts under the rug in the name of moving forward in unity. This is admirable, but it will not last.

[Show Picture of Church Sign on Overhead: “We Repeat what we Don’t Repair”]

We read that the Holy Spirit promotes unity. This does not mean the Holy Spirit will have us avoid confronting issues of hurt and disagreement amongst each other in the name of “unity”. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit desires unity so much that he’ll continue to let people or issues burn on our hearts and minds until we approach them for resolution.

Striving for this type of unity is uncomfortable to our carnal nature. We may even convince ourselves that we’d appear “negative” or accusatory if we brought up issues so they should be pushed down for the sake of keeping peace (blessed are the peacemakers, right?”). And while it’s true that not all issues are worth mentioning, I believe some of us would do well to confront some of our offenses that are causing disunity. I’m convinced that even though it may be tough at first, the freedom and healing that comes from it will outweigh any initial anxiety.

Remember, the Holy Spirit operates in and out of love and unity. If you see an opportunity to pursue unity, there is little need to pray about if it’s the right step to take. God is building us up to a perfect man who measures up to the stature of Christ, and a church that is perfectly unified in the faith. In the process, we can align with the will of God by proactively pursuing unity.

Easter Responsive Readings for Personal & Church Use

Please feel free to use these responsive readings I arranged for my church. The KJV is used here, but you may replace with a different translation as desired. I think you may find that the vocal pacing works well using the KJV or NKJV, even if that’s not the version your church typically uses.

If printing or distributing digitally, a reference back to this site or author is appreciated. 🙂

Bold – Leader

Regular – Congregation

Easter Responsive Reading #1

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD:

we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,

As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;

and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;

And with his stripes we are healed.

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

And he was buried, and he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

This Jesus, God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:

because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day which the LORD hath made;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

Easter Responsive Reading #2

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,

As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;

And with his stripes we are healed.

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand,

I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:

My flesh also shall rest in hope.

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;

Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

This Jesus God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:

It was not possible that he should be holden of it

And if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

What shall we then say to these things?

If God be for us, who can be against us?

He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!

Arranged by Jonathan Santiago

Doers of the Word – James 1:22-25 Sermon Notes

“Be doers of the word.” If the theme of James had to be condensed to one line, this very well may be it.

[Jas 1:22-25 KJV] 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Deception

A unique and important revelation: constantly hearing the word and consistently choosing not to do it goes beyond just being lazy or rebellious, it actually leads to deception. Any time we read a warning not to be deceived we should take extra care to understand and take heed to that warning. Deception is difficult because it often occurs a little bit at a time. The person doesn’t realize they are deceived until the deception has yielded sin, which yields death.

This is not to say that every time we fail to do what we hear we are deceived. Paul spoke of his constant desire to do what was right and his consistent failure to do so perfectly. This was accompanied by conviction, repentance, and a desire to draw closer to God—responding correctly to our sin is actually “doing the word” in and of itself.

Yet for those of us who frequently hear the word (they don’t just hear, but are hearers), don’t live the word, then go about our business as if everything were normal, James warns that we are deceiving ourselves. Hearing the preaching and teaching of the word will lead to one of three things: 1) A Spirit-lead desire to do what God says 2) A distaste for the truth and a rejection of God 3) A desire for the rewards of God (including appearing Godly or religious) without doing the things God says.

The second category is easy to spot. Their case is simple—they have rejected the word of God for now. When it comes to being “hot” or “cold”, they are cold. They are the ground that the seed fell on and did not take root.

The third category seems to be those James is referencing and is not as easy to identify. The word of God looks good, the Christian faith looks good, heaven looks good, religion often looks good, but the requirements of doing the key things the word of Gods says—faith, repentance, loving others—are too costly. Therefore, rather than suffer conviction by acknowledging their works don’t reflect what they profess to believe, they enter into a state of believing they are something they are not.

Jesus did not want hearers of the word, but disciples. A disciple would follow the teacher and attempt to do what he said. Once again James highlights points from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

[Mat 7:24-27 NKJV] 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

I imagine these two houses looked quite similar. A house with a faulty foundation will not fail right away. But during the final shaking, the final judgement, one house will stand gloriously while the other will suffer a total collapse. What was the defining characteristic between the two houses? Both heard the word, both built fully-standing houses of works, but only one did the true word (will) of God while the other did not.

Doing the word of God is evidence of 1)Being in the family of God, and 2) Jesus being Lord of our lives:

[Luk 8:21 KJV] 21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.

[Luk 6:46 KJV] 46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

While Jesus certainly does not need us to declare him “Lord” to be Lord, when we confess him as Lord we are professing ourselves as slaves/servants to his will—his disciples. To address God as “Father” or Jesus as “Lord” with no intention of doing what God says makes both confessions invalid.

Looking into a Mirror

James uses the examples of a mirror. The mirror reveals what a person looks like. When we look into a mirror and go away we generally remember who we are, what we look like that day, we’re reminded of our age, if we got enough sleep the night before, etc. I don’t look in the mirror and see myself, then go away and think I’m an elderly South African woman and walk and talk as such. If I did that, most people would suggest that I need a physic evaluation. And this is how James points out the absurdity of the person who regularly hears the word, acknowledges that it is the word, then leads a lifestyle that doesn’t follow the word. Something is just not right about that.

In the same way a phycological doctor may evaluate someone who forgets who they were unless they were looking into a mirror, there needs to be a serious spiritual check-up for those who hear the word but immediately forget it when the sermon is over. The word of God serves as a perfect spiritual mirror by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

James Moffat writes:

“A teacher or preacher may give an eloquent address on the gospel, or explain ably some O.T. prophecy about Christ, but when the sermon is done, it is not done; something remains to be done by the hearers in life, and if they content themselves with sentimental admiration or with enjoying the emotional or mental treat, they need not imagine that this is religion.”

The word used in this verse for “hear” was used in Greek literature for those who attended lectures but never joined the groups.[1] What’s sobering is that this group includes those who’ve heard the word more than a few times. It’s possible, and unfortunately, probable, that some referred to here are students of the word; they exegete, examine, memorize, and even teach with more diligence than many of us. The inspect the word with as fine an eye as one would if they were gazing at their own face. Yet when removed from the exercise of observing they are found to be frauds, vessels not useful for the Master. Students of the word? Maybe. Disciples of the Master? Hardly.

“A healthy person looks in the mirror to do something, not just to admire the image. Even so, a healthy Christian looks into God’s Word to do something about it, not just to store up facts that he will not put to use by being a doer of the word.” – David Guzik

Looking into the Law of Liberty

One might expect verse 25 to say “but he who looks into the word/scripture/bible and continueth therein…”, but it does not. James instead exhorts us to look into the “perfect law of liberty”, and continue in that.

25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

The word for “look” here literally means to “stoop down” (it was used when John stooped down to examine Jesus’ empty tomb), metaphorically here it means “to look carefully into, inspect curiously, of one who would become acquainted with something.”[2] These people are doing more than just hearing, they are intentionally evaluating.

What is the perfect “law of liberty”?

Liberty, or freedom, is what the believer has been saved in to. Here are some other uses of the same Greek word:

[Rom 8:21 KJV] 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty[G1657] of the children of God.

[2Co 3:17 KJV] 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.[G1657]

[Gal 5:1 KJV] 1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty[G1657] wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

[1Pe 2:16 KJV] 16 As free, and not using your liberty[G1657] for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

The law that sets us free is the law of Christ. Christ’s law is the only “perfect” law. Sin, while falsely being painted as “freedom” by the world, is the purest form of bondage. The “law” of Christ is the only form of true freedom. Paul also speaks of “the law of faith”(Rom 3:27). Christ’s law can be summed up by the two great commandments 1) Love God with everything, 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

James again references this when he says “the royal law” in chapter 2:

[Jas 2:8 KJV] 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Through Christ we keep the righteous requirements of the law, hence are made free from the law of sin.

[Rom 8:2-4 KJV] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Because Christ has made us free (who the Son sets free… Jhn 8:36) from the law, in him we are held to the highest standard; Jesus’ new commandment to us was:

[Jhn 13:34 KJV] 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

“…as I have loved you”. We are now called to base our lives around loving others the same way that Jesus did, a much higher standard indeed!

Why did James decide to use this particular phrase here?

One thing I’ve received from this most recent study of James is the importance of “doing” the word of God with the intent of fulfilling the royal law. In other words, whatever I set my mind to do, especially when it comes to religious works, let me first “look into” (examine, see) loving God and loving others in the same sacrificial way that Jesus did. For one can hear the word and go through the actions of doing what appears like the word, but if the works are not done under the law of Christ, they are dead works.

Take heed of the examples of those who did works in God’s name but found out on judgement day that those works were outside of God’s will! Hearing the word and not doing it doesn’t mean one hears the word than just sits around. Sometimes, one will hear the word and immediately go about doing many religious works. But they have not truly “looked into” the law of Christ. God, what are you saying to me relationally in this word? How do you want me to love you and others according to this word?

[1Ti 1:5 KJV] 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

When beginning this study on what James calls “doers of the word”, I expected it to be more action oriented. Perhaps you’ve heard preaching that sounds something like this, “Ya’ll confess Jesus on Sundays, but where you put your time and money throughout the week says otherwise.” Then there may be an exhortation to get more involved with church activities. And this can be the case, and that type of preaching isn’t wrong, but James says something far more important that has little to do with how many hours a day are devoted to external religious activities.

In order for us to not be forgetful hearers, to not be houses built on faulty foundation, to not be deceived, we are called to zealously examine the law of Christ—love God and love others—and continue therein.

Note again how James words this:

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

To look intently into Christ’s perfect law that sets us free, then continuing in that is what makes us doers of the word. The works will follow. And they will be true works because the foundation is sure.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, just before the story of the two houses, Jesus gives a startling truth:

[Mat 7:21-23 KJV] 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Let us take heed. We can do many works without doing the will of God. And the end is damnation.

Don’t just hear the word—hear, receive with meekness (1:21), all while looking into the perfect law of liberty and continuing therein. If you do this, your life will be blessed; your works in the present will be blessed, and your eternity will be blessed.

[1] Robert James Dr. Utley, Jesus’ Half-Brothers Speak: James and Jude, vol. Volume 11, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), 24.

[2] Thayer’s Lexicon

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness – Sermon Notes

Intro:

There are two important ways believers should view righteousness. The first is the positional righteousness imputed to us resulting in our salvation, the second is a righteous lifestyle by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the former that empowers us to do the latter, and both are beautifully connected.

Perhaps you’ve felt anger or been grieved in your soul when seeing or experiencing the injustices and transgressions of the world—things that you feel are “not right” and come short of what you know the revealed will of God is. How are we as believers supposed to make sense of this internal tension? What of righteous anger? How should a Christian feel when hearing about the recent tragedies surrounding the racial tension in Charlottesville? What is the correct outlet for these feelings?

Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to just tune out and find a comfortable space in life where nothing bothers us internally and we don’t have to deal with anybody else. Have you ever tried “not caring”, i.e. “Forget about justice and right living, I’ll just let things go the way they are and focus on my own comfort?” How long does that last before some internal yearning draws you back to a state of concern?

A true believer should have a desire, a hunger even, for everything to be in right standing according to God’s revealed will. Hunger and thirst means that even if we try to tune it out, run from it, or deny it, the body’s craving for sustenance will prevail. If one does not eat or drink, she dies. If this is the case, what scripture says we hunger and thirst after is essential to our nature.

Kingdom citizens (what I like to call believers in Matthew’s gospel in particular—whose thesis is “Jesus is King of the Jews”) not only desire to be made righteous, they crave it like food and drink. Righteousness in the context of this beatitude is speaking of kingdom ethics, of kingdom qualities. This is evident by the way “righteousness” is used throughout the rest of the sermon as well as by the grouping with the other seven beatitudes.

Will those who hunger after true righteousness be justified/declared righteous in terms of their salvation by Jesus Christ? Absolutely, and that is part of the promise; but this passage is promising us that we who have an inescapable, consuming desire for God’s justice and right-standing in our lives and for everyone around us are blessed, fortunate, or “deeply happy”!

This is a promise from holy scripture, but when a promise is forgotten or misunderstood, frustration and doubt can take its place. What am I to do with this righteous hunger? Is it of God or myself? It is my prayer that this examination of Jesus’ sermon will put what it means for us to “hunger and thirst” for righteousness into perspective, and in doing so we will receive the promise that we are truly blessed/happy.

3 Questions to Answer

  1. What does righteousness mean in the Sermon on the Mount?
  2. How does my righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees?
  3. What am I to do with my righteous hunger in the face of world problems?

1. What does Righteousness mean in the Sermon on the Mount?

Breaking Down the Text

Blessed are Those…

Blessed or “Happy”[4]. That this word means a deep happiness should not be overlooked by religious talk of only a future “blessing”. Jesus is telling those poor and hungry that they will be happy now and should take joy because these qualities are finding their fulfillment in the Kingdom of Heaven. “Believers’ God-given happiness is not based on physical circumstances but inner joy.”[5] Remembering this helps us from seeing the second part of the Beatitudes as only for the end times. I stress that for this verse in particular as we tackle what to do with our internal urges for justice and righteousness. Happy are those who hunger and thirst now… Let’s believe this promise as we learn more about God’s righteousness

…Who Hunger and Thirst…

“Hunger and thirst” in the Greek is a present active participle and describes an ongoing hunger and thirst.[6] E.g. Blessed are those who are hungering and thirsting…”

Jesus is fulfilling prophecy:

[Isa 55:1 NKJV] 1 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.

This is the one beatitude where the quality could be replaced with Jesus himself. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after me, for they shall be filled.”

John records Jesus saying something similar on multiple occasions. Jesus himself is referred to as the one who satisfies spiritual hunger as the bread of life (Jhn 6:35), living bread from heaven (Jhn 6:51), and the giver of living water that will quench forever those who thirst (Jhn 4:14).

…After Righteousness…

dikaiosýn, dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay; from G1342; equity (of character or act); specially (Christian) justification”[1]

“Equity = justice according to natural law or right; specifically :  freedom from bias or favoritism”[2]

  • of whatever is right or just in itself, whatever conforms to the revealed will of God, Mat 5:6, 10, 20; Jhn 16:8, 10;
  • whatever has been appointed by God to be acknowledged and obeyed by man. Mat 3:15; 21:32;
  • the sum total of the requirements of God, Mat 6:33;
  • religious duties, Mat 6:1 (distinguished as almsgiving, man’s duty to his neighbor, Mat 6:2-4, prayer, his duty to God, Mat 6:5-15, fasting, the duty of self-control, Mat 6:16-18).[3]

Based on its definitions and usage, I believe an accurate definition of the word righteousness in the sermon on the mount is: What is right and just according to the revealed will of God.

…For they Shall Be Filled…

Shall be filled: “satisfied” Literally “gorged,” this term was used of fattening cattle ?for market.[7]

2. How Shall my Righteousness Exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees?

Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is quite purposeful regarding how he arranges his gospel. The book could be divided into five major teachings or sayings of Jesus, each ending with “And when Jesus had finished these things… (7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1). So let’s attempt to examine “righteousness” within Jesus’ first sermon and see how Matthew answers is own question.

[Mat 5:20 NKJV] 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

After the Beatitudes the word righteousness pops up rather quickly in this startling statement in Jesus’ opening. Let’s assess:

Is this passage talking about doing more of what the Scribes and Pharisees do in terms of quantity?

If we were to equate righteousness to time spent doing charitable deeds and religious activities this would be a tall order indeed. If this were the case, it seems strange of Jesus to leave out the exact requirements to help our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees. For instance, if the average Pharisee prays 6 hours a day, we’d need to know that so we can pray 7. If they give offerings of 30% of their income, we’d need to know so that we can do at least 31% and our lives will have enough good deeds to tip the scale in our favor.

This is (thankfully) not what the passage is saying if we follow the above train of thought to logical conclusion. Matthew will give us a fuller answer as we proceed through the sermon. There is a reason he puts this sobering saying (remember that Matthew is writing to Jewish audience) towards the beginning of the sermon. As listeners we are thinking, how can this be, I’d better pay attention to the rest of Pastor Jesus’ sermon…

Jesus enters a series of “you have heard that it was said, but I say unto you…” statements. These are the righteous acts we should be doing:

  • The law (soon to be fulfilled in Christ – 5:17) towards our fellow man—do not murder, commit adultery or lie, and love you enemy—is inward in the hidden places of the heart where only God sees (5:18:48).
  • Our charitable deeds (KJV alms) are done in secret to the glory the Father (6:1-4)
  • Our prayer is done in the secret place to the glory of the Father (6:5-6)
  • Our fasting is done in secret to the glory of the Father (6:16-18)

This is still a tall order for righteous living… thankfully this list leads us to a comforting scripture which rests in the middle of the sermon:

[Mat 6:33 NKJV] 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

His righteousness. Matthew is implying that there is another type of righteousness that could be sought other than God’s. This confirms our definition of righteousness being what is right/just according to God’s revealed will.

This central passage also helps the reader process and understand the bold saying of 5:20: unless our righteousness exceeds the Pharisees we won’t make it into the Kingdom of heaven. Here Jesus says we are to seek the Kingdom of God and his (God’s) righteousness. How will our righteousness exceed that of the most pious people of the day? It will be God’s righteousness that he has given us working through us for his glory.

Paul sums up this operation beautifully in this concise gospel presentation:

[2Co 5:21 NKJV] 21 For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We have been made the righteousness of God in Christ and are being made more Christ-like day by day (this is the will of God, your sanctification 1 Thes 4:3a). Those with the capacity to receive this righteousness and continue on in righteous works are those who possess the beatitudes. Those who do not possess the beatitudes will also do religious works, but not according to God’s righteousness. Jesus ends his sermon by comparing the two.

Two houses stand, both seemingly sound on the outside, but one has been built up fraudulently because of a bad foundation (cf. Matt 23:28), the other’s foundation was right (poor in spirit, meek, etc.), so the house was in right-standing as well. The final judgement will reveal the foundation. Both will be shaken, one will remain. My prayer is that those who don’t see the seeds of these 8 beatitudes in their lives will be shaken now instead of later, and examine their faith.

3. What am I to do with my righteous hunger in the face of world problems?

Blessed/Happy/Fortunate are those who hunger after God’s righteousness.

Hopeless/Angry/Deceived are those who seek after righteousness apart from God.

Jesus died for all people, all genders, all social status’, all ethnicities. Everyone was created in God’s image and likeness, and all are now deficient due to sin. Hence there is a natural and often unconscious desire to somehow will the void, to one again become whole or “perfect”. Those without the acknowledgement of their need for our savior and king Jesus will continue in vain to passionately do what is right or just in their own eyes. This often manifests itself in idolatry, boasting, racism, wrath, bigotry, hatred, speaking evil of dignitaries, sexism, and slavery; but what truly drives these things are a strong delusional form of self-righteousness in the name of progressive good apart from the revealed will of God. Or to phrase it another way, everyone is doing what they think is right, but righteousness apart from God’s will is enmity against God (Rom 8:7).

Our frustration that things aren’t “right” or “just” according to God’s revealed will should provoke us to lead those who are unrighteous to the source of all that is right: Jesus the Christ. He is the living water; he is the drink offering “poured out” for the sins of the world. This is why “the second mile” and “love your enemies” are included in Jesus’ sermon. What better time to let our light shine and salt season than in the midst of the present distress?

When we do our righteous deeds in secret we are doing it to glorify God. When God is glorified, his salvation is glorified and visible. When we do our righteous deeds to be seen of men or go about to establish our own practices of what is right and just apart from God’s revealed will, we cover the light of salvation, or as Matthew says, we in a sense “put our lamp under a bushel”. The same way the Son sought to glorify the Father in everything he did, the light in us will seek to glorify Christ in everything we do. This is a test of our righteous living and deeds: Do they glorify Christ?

If it does, we are to be happy! Yes, this is a life of putting Christ and others first, but Jesus’ point is that this type of lifestyle is the only kind that will bring satisfaction.

The coming of the King involves a delay in judgement of the wicked (Matt 13:36-42, 47-50), and this can lead to frustration as we groan with all of creation (Rom 8:22-23) for redemption. It’s understandable to be grieved and frustrated. At the center of the Sermon on the Mount is the topic of secret prayer and the Lord’s prayer.

It will be nearly impossible to keep a soft heart and a clear mind without the habitual practice of secret prayer during this season of trials. Open answers are the results of secret prayer; this is scripture. Furthermore, Paul urges Timothy to instruct the church that we are to pray for our government leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2), to those who God has given to bear the sword (Rom 13:4). As a church, let us continue praying that the righteousness of God would continue to be revealed in us and in our nation. Happy and blessed are we, but should we neglect our secret prayer time, it’s possible to lose perspective and our hunger and thirst will result in frustration instead of fulfillment. Let us now enter into a time of prayer:

[1] Strong’s

[2] Merriam Webster

[3] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

[4] ????????, in Greek originally a term reserved for the gods, in Koine can hardly be distinguished any longer from ???????? and means “happy” in the fullest sense of the word. But the translation “happy” sounds somewhat banal, and it obscures the eschatological character of the promises in the second clauses. The traditional interpretation as “blessed” is not only a “religious” term that is hardly in use any longer; it also evokes in a much too unilinear way associations with the beyond: in German “the blessed” is a common designation of the dead. However, these beatitudes are not designed to give comfort by making promises about the next life; they are an authoritative language act that pronounces people happy in the here and now.54 In short, there is no ideal translation in German [or English]. – Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1–7: A Commentary on Matthew 1–7, ed. Helmut Koester, Rev. ed., Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007), 191.

[5] Robert James Utley, The First Christian Primer: Matthew, vol. Volume 9, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), 36.

[6] Ibid, 37.

[7] Ibid.

Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs – Colossians 3:16

 

[This sermon was part of a 10 week series on the book of Colossians]

“The younger Pliny, as the Roman governor to Bithynia, was ordered by the emperor Trajan to stamp out the Christians there. In a letter (written A.D. 112) he reported that they were in the habit of assembling on an appointed day (Sunday) before sunrise and singing responsively “a song to Christ as to God.” Writing in North Africa around A.D. 200, Turtullian described the Christian love feast as a time when “‘each is invited to sing to God in the presence of others from what he knows of the holy scripture or from his own heart.'”[1]

Singing and making melodies—whether internally or externally—is humankind’s nature. When one becomes complete in Christ, the natural inclination to praise finally finds its fulfillment and perfection as we sing to the Head of all things by the words and Spirit of the same.

Yes, in you God is and has perfected praise. If Beyoncé, The Beetles, and Beethoven collaborated on a #1 hit, it would still be no comparison to the exclusive New Testament praise produced by Christ and the Holy Spirit through his church (body) and accumulating in the Throne Room. This praise is a natural byproduct of salvation, and will aid us in our daily walk—whether high school, ministry, marriage, missions, or our professional jobs.

Colossians 3:16 Teaching Points

  1. Being in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit produces a New Covenant worship.
  2. Christ is the substance of scripture and centerpiece of worship, hence old psalms come alive under the revelation of Jesus Christ.
  3. My relationship with Christ (the head) is lacking if I’m not part of a body singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Setting Up Context: [Col 3:12-15 NKJV] 12 Therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also [must do]. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

12: Therefore—in light of the fact that you are a “new man (new humanity)”, chosen, set apart and loved by God the Father of Christ, replace the afore mentioned deeds (last week) with this list of virtues.

13: And forgive! What could qualify as the centerpiece of Christ’s story more than his forgiveness? Are we in Christ? We will be driven to forgive like he did; to do less would grieve the Holy Spirit.

14: And more importantly than all the virtues just listed, put on the agape love, which will bind Christ’s body (vs 15) (the church) and all the other virtues together in perfectness.

15: Allow (don’t resist) the peace of God (supernatural, not your own), for such is the state of a body: peace. As in a human body, all parts must rely on one another for the whole body to survive. A disruption in one area can have catastrophic effects on the whole body.

[Col 3:16 NKJV] 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

We are exhorted to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly with wisdom. How is this done? We help one another by teaching and admonishing through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs directed towards the Lord. The parallels passage in Ephesians says to “be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”

Colossians: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you…”

Ephesians: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit…”

We sing then, filled with the word of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is New Covenant worship! We have the word (knowledge) of Christ, taught and brought to our remembrance by the Holy Spirit. Singing in Christ while filled with the Holy Spirit is a special privilege we have as Christ’s body, as the “new man/humanity”. This special worship that glorifies the head while teaching and admonishing the body (the church). Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is our duty as peacemakers towards one another.

It’s important to note that at the time of this writing they would sing the scripture, both the OT scriptures and new hymns that professed the gospel. We have a tendency to separate the scripture from singing because we all have complete bibles, but there were no New Testament bibles when Paul wrote this, and the oral traditions held as much weight to them as Christians today put on our physical bibles. To sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs was to not only worship, but to memorize and share the stories of the God of the bible and of Jesus Christ. This is probably why “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” is connected to singing.

“In the OT, songs were means through which God’s people remembered his mighty deeds, and through such deeds God made himself known. For Paul, believers also need to be educated through such confessions of God’s might act through his Son.”[2]

There is not the clearest of distinctions between psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. A hymn could be a psalm, but in this case there is a good chance hymns are referring more to songs that evolved after Christ’s ascension which glorify him as Lord. Some possible hymns that would have been memorized and sung included Phil 2:5-11, Col 1:15-20, 1Tim 3:16, Heb 1:1-3, and 1Pet 2:21-25. The psalms probably referred to the OT psalms, and spiritual songs could imply more informal singing as the Holy Spirit gave utterance (or be modifying psalms and hymns). There is overlap between all three.

Here is some of the uses of hymn and psalms I found: 

Hymns hymne?

Paul and Silaas sang praises/hymns (hymne?) while imprisoned, during which an angel delivered them. (Acts 16:25)

Jesus sang hymns! After they celebrated what would become the Lord’s supper, they sang a hymn (Mark 14:26), probably one of the Psalms typically sung at Passover (Psalm 113-118). It’s awesome to think of Jesus singing these psalms at the last real Passover meal as he takes the focus off the temporary animal sacrificial lamb and onto his own body: the Lamb of God.

Jesus fulfilled a prophetic psalm referenced in Hebrews by being one who would sing praise (hymne?) in the midst of the church (assembly).

[Heb 2:12 ESV] 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Other possible hymns/poems are listed below. Note 1 Timothy 3:16’s somewhat awkward placement in the context of church order and discipline. It was probably a hymn or creed that was conveniently placed there to remind the reader what the “mystery” referred to in 1 Tim 3:9 is referring to.

Phil 2:5-11, Col 1:15-20, 1 Tim 3:16, Heb 1:1-3, 1 Pet 2:21-25

Psalms: Music & Song

The singing of songs/psalms with spiritual gifts and teaching was the normative in the assembly. In context, Paul is affirming that all these things should be done in an orderly fashion for the edification of the body. What has the Holy Spirit blessed you with to edify the assembly?

[1Co 14:26 NKJV] 26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

Are you merry/cheerful? There is a psalm for that.

[Jas 5:13 NKJV] 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

It’s wonderful to read, pray, and teach from the book of Psalms today, but most, if not all of the psalms were meant to be sung. This shows the dedication for singing and its importance in the OT that carried over to the new.

Over 50 psalms have the title “for the director of music”. “There is general consensus that it indicates that the psalms were entrusted to the care of the person in charge of worship at the sanctuary.”[3] In 1 Chronicles 16:17, David delivers a song to Asaph, the head Levitical musician.

Psalms: Timeless

The Psalms are unapologetically human in their approach—expressing a wide range of human emotions and experiences from joy, fear, despair, anger, happiness, confusion, hope and love—while still being inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Psalms were written in such a way where the message is timeless. Take for example, Psalm 51. It is ascribed to David or inspired by David and involves his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. The content of the psalm is one of repentance, but does not go into specifics on the details of David’s sin. This way, the psalmist captures the heart of David’s prayer but writes in such a way where the prayer can be prayed and sung by many generations to come. No one has to be an adulterer to sing this song, but this song may have prevented many from going down that path. It may have also provided an outlet of prayer for those who have fallen so hard they don’t know what to pray or what to do next.

Hannah (1 Sam 2:1-11) and Mary (Luke 1:46-56) used portions of Psalm 113 as a part of their praise to God regarding their supernatural pregnancies.

What’s your life’s lament, psalm, or hymn? What is your song to God born out of trial?

The majority of Psalms fall into three main categories.

  • Hymns – Songs of Praise
  • Laments – Petitions to God, the largest overall category. “Psalms make it possible to say things that are otherwise unsayable.”[4]
  • Thanksgiving – Similar to a hymn, but recounts a trial, then goes on to praise God for deliverance.

Other categories some choose to use:

  • Wisdom/Instructional – Often compare the righteous and the wicked. Psalm 1 is a good example of a psalm of wisdom
  • Confidence (Psalm 23)
  • Liturgies – Psalms spoken by priests, festival psalms, psalms for entering the temple, etc
  • Remembrance
  • Royal – Psalm 2 is a good example. These poems were composed for events in the king’s life, prayers on behalf of the king or prayers for the king to pray himself. “These psalms were retained in the canon following the end of Israel’s and Judah’s monarchies, and they became part of the seedbed of messianic hope — Israel’s hope that one day the Lord would send the ideal Davidic king, the Messiah.”[5]
  • Prophetic (not really a category, as any of the above genres can be prophetic) – While many psalms had prophetic meaning fulfilled in the New Testament (thou are my Son; this day have I begotten thee, thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither will thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption, they pierced my hands and feet. Etc.), it’s important to note that they initially had meaning for the current situation. For example, when Psalms 2 says “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying…”, “his anointed” means the king of Judah at that time, and anointed has the double meaning of Messiah, which applied to Jesus much later. This is an example of the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus in the law, prophets, and psalms, which will be discussed later.

Many of these categories overlap and not every psalm will fit neatly into one. The prophetic category refers to Psalms clearly foreshadowing to the work of the Messiah—particularly the ones referenced by the New Testament writers—but finding Jesus in the psalms must not stop there. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy (Rev 19:10). Our study of Colossians tells us that the OT feasts, Sabbaths, and dietary laws are a shadow of things to come but the body/substance is found in Christ. Furthermore, all things consist in Christ.

Christ declared that the law, prophets, and psalms all spoke of him. He then opened up the apostles understanding so they might see Christ and the gospel in the OT scriptures.

[Luk 24:44-47 NKJV] 44 Then He said to them, “These [are] the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and [the] Prophets and [the] Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

We should see Christ in the Psalms then! Those instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven are like a householder who bring forth from his treasure both new and old (Matt 13:52).

We admonish one another with all the Psalms—even the laments—looking for Jesus in all things. We are commanded to read and sing in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him—this includes reading the psalms and thanking God that everything foreshadows Jesus, as he is the substance/body (Col 2:17).

One author suggests these three points when reading the Psalms.

  1. Read the psalm as a prayer to Christ. The author of Hebrews did this. He quoted a Psalm that would have been sung to God in the Old Testament, now being sung specifically about Jesus. Also, many of the psalms uplift the Davidic King, of whom Jesus is the final and everlasting King of Judah.
  1. Sing the psalm as a prayer of Christ (sing/pray the same words Jesus did). “The laments, as we will see, often articulate the suffering of Jesus, while the hymns celebrate his glorification.”[6] “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?…”
  1. The imagery of God in the Psalm many times find their ultimate expression in Jesus. Jesus is King, Shepherd, Warrior, Suffering Servant, etc.

I’m not saying to dismiss the context or form of the psalm. Understanding the author, historical background, genre, and even its place in the five books that make up the Psalter is important to correctly interpreting the psalm. But take Colossians by faith and look for Christ in the psalms. I believe you will not be disappointed.

Conclusion

As a church, particularly in our small groups or more intimate fellowship settings (if you don’t have one outside of Sunday/Wednesday gatherings, you should create that opportunity), singing praises to God and rehearsing the story of Jesus is important to your personal spiritual health and those around you. We sing to God through Christ. We see Jesus in scripture as Lord, King, God, Shepherd, High Priest and Lamb through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. And we sing to him in order to allow the words of Christ to dwell in us richly and to admonish one another as a body.

  1. Being in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit produces a New Covenant worship.
  2. Christ is the substance of scripture and centerpiece of worship, hence old psalms come alive under the revelation of Jesus Christ.
  3. My relationship with Christ (the head) is lacking if I’m not part of a body singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
[1] John Rea, Charisma's Bible Handbook on the Holy Spirit (Orlando, FL: Creation House, 1998), 262.

[2] David W. Pao, Colossians and Philemon: Zondervan exegetical commentary series on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 249.

[3] Longman III, Tremper (2014-11-07). Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary: 15-16 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) (p. 30). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[4] John Goldingay, Psalms 1– 41 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), p. 22.

[5] Nancy L. DeClaisse?-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), Kindle, 21.

[6] Longman, 50.

Hope: An Anchor of the Soul – Hebrews 10:23 – Sermon Notes

 

Introduction

This sermon is focused on the hope mentioned in the second “let us” statement of Hebrews 10. This “let us” statement is an important response to the first ten chapters of the book. Hope is a key theme in Hebrews that cannot be overshadowed by faith. One could even argue that what the Hebrews needed more than faith was proper hope in the work and person of Jesus so that their faith would be steadfast. Hope and faith are inseparable, yet distinct. This sermon will look at how the author of Hebrews builds up hope in Christ alone, and then brings hope and faith together in the famous Hebrews 11 faith chapter. Understanding the significance of hope in the life of a believer is essential, as it is one of the three things that abide: faith, hope and love.

Key points from this sermon:

  • Believer’s hope is unique to Christians. It cannot be learned or received outside of being reborn into the house of Christ.
  • Hope is for us, from God, and towards God. God wants us to have hope. Hope must not be seen as a weak trait.
  • Our hope in the promise maker sustains our faith in the promises.
  • Faith – God’s word is true and I will act on it 
    Hope – God is faithful to his word so I can be bold, encouraged, steadfast and comforted.

[Heb 10:19-25 KJV] 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And [having] an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The author of Hebrews spends the first 10½ chapters describing the superiority of and totality of sustenance found in Jesus.

God created the world through the Son. The Son is better than angels. To the Son the Father says, “Your throne oh God, is forever and ever, a scepter of righteousness”. Jesus is superior to angels, to Moses, to Aaron, to Joshua, the Levitical Priesthood, to the O.T sacrifices. This Son became the mediator of a new and better covenant through his living sacrifice that allows sinners’ access to God. Basically, who Jesus is, what he said, and what he did is superior in every way and to everyone mentioned in the Old Testament.

In chapter 10 the text then turns to the reader’s desired application put into the form of three “let us” statements. Because we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and because we have a faithful high priest of a better covenant that has vanquished the penalty of sin once and for all, let us draw near with a true heart and faithful assurance, let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering, and let us consider one another so we can provoke each other to love and good works.

We see faith (vs 22), hope (vs 23), and love (vs 24) as the duty to those who are in Christ. This should remind one of 1 Corinthians 13 (now abides faith, hope and love…)

[Heb 10:23 KJV] 23 Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith (hope) without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;)

The word translated here as “faith” means “hope” in the Greek. It is translated as “hope” 53 times in the KJV, and as “faith” only once, in this passage.

????? (elpis), ???? (idos), ? (h?): n.fem.; 1. LN 25.59 hope, a looking forward to in confident expectation (Ac 23:6); 2. LN 25.61 what is hoped for (Ro 8:24; Col 1:5); 3. LN 25.62 basis for hope, that which is the cause or reason for hoping (1Th 2:19)[1]

????? ?lpis, el-pece´; from a prim. ???? ?lp? (to anticipate, usually with pleasure); expectation (abstr. or concr.) or confidence:[2]

Most of us know the wonderful scriptures that speak of being saved by faith, and how our faith is pleasing to God, and through faith (in the work and person of Christ) we can overcome anything in this life. Hope is inseparable from faith, but distinct. As previously stated, it is part of the triune abiding traits of believers.

[1Co 13:12-13 KJV] 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.

Faith and love are often magnified for their importance (and they should be). Faith and love—while both internal and generated from a renewed heart and mind—manifest themselves in word and deed. They are in a sense, the “what” of the Christian walk in that they are seen. They are signs of true believers (James 2:18, John 13:35). Hope is unseen. Hope is the “why” of the Christian walk. Embracing Biblical hope will make it easier to love and easier to have faith, particularly when things get difficult. The above scripture mentions that we currently can’t even see properly (note the use of “now” in both verse 12 and 13). We don’t see the full picture as God sees it, but this is not a handicap nor excuse not to follow after Christ, for faith, hope and love now abide. And when one can’t see, what is more important than hope, whose Biblical definition implies earnestly expecting what we can’t see?

Rom 8:24b …hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

Have you ever had head knowledge of the necessity of hope, but felt the hope that actually moves and comforts you seems elusive? Perhaps you can think of a recent season where the hope in Christ was so thick in your life that your confidence and steadfastness were sky-high. Maybe you’d like to be back in that place but it doesn’t seem to be as easy as flipping a switch.

We can try to imagine ourselves in the Hebrews’ place. There is doubt in the church, there is immaturity (taking the form of not moving on from milk to meat), and there is probably even fear or despair in leaving the Law for Christ. While the first 10 chapters of Hebrews may just seem like an intellectual argument to prove the person and work of Christ, the writer is doing so much more. What the letter does is systematically present the glorious hope found only and completely in Jesus Christ. If the Hebrews truly understood the better salvation offering found in Christ, they would not be tempted to turn back to justification by the works of the law. Hebrews is not only a head appeal, it is a heart appeal.

The writer presents hope as on ongoing theme. A special message resides in Hebrews for all believers, Jewish and non. There is a supernatural hope found in Christ that should be aroused when the believer begins to doubt, becomes complacent, or fall back upon her own efforts.

Hebrews 3:5-6 – Hope & Rejoicing

[Heb 3:5-6 KJV] 5 And Moses verily [was] faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Hope indeed, but also the “rejoicing”(!) of the hope. Here the Christian hope is shown as one the believer rejoices in. SLIDE Believer’s hope is unique to Christians. It cannot be learned or received outside of being reborn into the house of Christ. Therefore a spirit of rejoicing can be aroused within us at anytime to give us strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength –Neh 8:10. Joy is a special characteristic of the Kingdom of God – Rom 14:17.

Hebrews 6:17-19 – An Anchor of the Soul

[Heb 6:17-19 KJV] 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed [it] by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

God’s word is unquestionable. It is always right, it is always holy, and it is always trustworthy; his word is more than enough. Yet here we see God not only making a promise, but also taking an oath (two immutable things)! This God who cannot lie has no need to vow or promise anything to prove his character, especially to us. Why would the God of the universe God make a promise and take an oath towards humankind? Because he desired to show us the immutability of his counsel that we might have strong consolation and lay hold of the hope set before us! In other words, God wanted us to have assurance that we would never change his mind in order that we may lay hold of the blessed hope and keep it without wavering. This hope is “sure” and “steadfast”. This hope drives us into what lies within the veil, the Holy of Holies, into Christ himself.

This scripture passage is wonderfully encouraging and each word worth studying. Here is a simplified version I believe accurately represents the intent of the author and might make it a little easier to understand the broader concepts.

[Heb 6:17-19 NLT] 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

We’re not even covering all the references to “hope” in Hebrews, but its significance can already be seen. Read the above scripture again. God wants us to have hope! Yes God allows us to be tested, chastised and persecuted, but these are all meant to occur within the blessed hope that is unique to Christians.

[SLIDE] This hope is for us, from God, and towards God.

[Heb 7:19 KJV] 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [did]; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

This hope is a perfect hope. By this hope “we draw nigh to God”, boldly and confidently entering into the veil (as referenced in Hebrews 6). Note again that hope is bringing us closer to God himself. What happens when what God says is not what we see? What if, like Abraham, the land and multiplication we have been promised are not yet in our possession? This is where hope comes in. Our hope in the promise maker stirs up our faith in the promises.

Hebrews 10:23 2nd “Let Us”

[Heb 10:23 KJV] 23 Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith (hope) without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;)

Hope is important in the new and better covenant. But notice we are to hold fast the profession of our hope because “he is faithful” that promised. The promise is good, but the reason for us to remain hopefully steadfast is due to the person who made the promise. We can hope because we know that God’s nature itself is one that never lies, one of justice, righteousness and love.

Hope is sustaining. Hope causes us to look in the right direction. Hope causes us to be vigilant. It causes us to see and notice things happening we would not have noticed were we not consumed with hop. Hope causes us to prioritize. Hope gives us courage to give up certain things – here, mainly the law, temple. Etc. For us, treasures on earth, comfortable attraction-model church etc.

The phrase ‘confession of hope’ is remarkable. The Apostle substitutes for the more general word ‘faith,’ that word which gives distinctness to special objects of faith to be realized in the future. Hope gives a definite shape to the absolute confidence of Faith. Faith reposes completely in the love of God: Hope vividly anticipates that God will fulfill His promises in a particular way.[3]

Hope is noticeable. Hope is contagious. Peter exhorts the churches to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask about the “hope” that lies in them (1 Pet 3:15).

Christians must always look outwards as well as upwards, and with equal boldness. Here, too, there is need for sincerity. ‘The hope we profess’ (v. 23) not only bolsters the confidence of the believer, it also affects our witness in the world. In a society often characterized by hopelessness and despair, as reflected in popular songs and slogans, this witness is powerful. It all links with the faithfulness of God in keeping his promises, a strength to the believer and an offer to the seeker.[4]

Hebrews 11:1 Faith & Hope

[Heb 11:1 KJV] 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Now the author of Hebrews wonderfully brings faith and hope together, showing that while they are inseparable, they are also distinct. To have a strong faith we must have a sustaining hope.

The substance of faith is our hope in the unseen, and the evidence (proof) of the unseen is manifest because of this hope. The author goes on to talk about the great deeds done by men and women of faith because they were looking ahead and hoping in something that was yet unseen. Of them the author writes: [Heb 11:13 KJV] 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

We still look forward to a better Kingdom, but how much great should our hope be!

On the difference between faith and hope, Luther says:

They differ as touching their object, that is, the special matter whereunto they look. Faith has for her object the truth, teaching us to cleave surely thereto, and looking upon the word and promise of the thing that is promised; hope has for her object the goodness of God, and looks upon the thing which is promised in the word, that is, upon such matters as faith teaches us to hope for.

They differ by the diversity of working. Faith is a teacher and a judge, fighting against errors and heresies, judging spirits and doctrines; hope is, as it were, the general or captain of the field, fighting against tribulation, the cross, impatience, heaviness of spirit, weakness, desperation, and blasphemy, and it waits for good things even in the midst of all evils.

I would suggest that faith rests upon God’s promises, truths, and directives; hope rests in God himself. For example, by faith Noah began physical construction on an arc as commanded, having never seen rain. By hope he endured the years of waiting and persecution with a heart to preach righteousness to those about to perish because he had hope in God’s justice and mercy.

SLIDE

Faith – God’s word is true and I will act on it

Hope – God is faithful to his word so I can be bold, encouraged and steadfast.

Let us not neglect or minimize the simplicity and power of our hope in Christ. This hope is unique to God’s children. It is not mean to be separated from faith and love. Our hope in God, specifically, our hope in Jesus Christ—our Lord, Savor, High Priest, Salvation and Mediator— is what gives us the strength to endure, to love, to step out in faith.

To increase our hope we should not only spend time meditating on the promises of God, but on the character and work of Jesus Christ. Look at God your Father, look at Jesus Christ, look at recognize the indwelling of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to stir up a fresh hope.

It is the anchor of our soul.

 

[1] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[2] James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 27.a

[3] Brooke Foss Westcott, ed., The Epistle to the Hebrews the Greek Text with Notes and Essays, 3d ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan, 1903), 325–326.

[4] Philip H Hacking, Opening up Hebrews, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 65.

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Mercy & Justice: Balancing Evangelism and Compassion for the Poor

The verbal proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to work in tandem with compassion for the poor and the marginalized. Compassion for the poor is insufficient unless it includes both mercy and justice. When done in this way, the dividing line between evangelism and compassion for the poor is reduced as the holistic effects of evangelism are realized.

When justice is added to mercy, the evangelist works to not only to meet the recipient’s urgent physical needs, but also to liberate them from the oppressive system of sin that is causing those needs, whether internal or external. And this in turn cannot be properly done without exposing them to the liberating power of the gospel; this is how evangelism and compassion for the poor work hand in hand. The church can benefit by prayerfully and proactively pursing this holistic evangelism. Continue reading “Mercy & Justice: Balancing Evangelism and Compassion for the Poor” »

The Gift of Singleness & The Gift of Marriage

Two texts will be used to show that both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. The latter is a unique spiritual gift, the former is a universal blessing. The first text will be in Matthew 19:3-12, which actually comes from a question about divorce. The second is 1 Corinthians 7. Continue reading “The Gift of Singleness & The Gift of Marriage” »

I Am the Bread of Life – John 26 – 40 – Sermon Notes

Jesus’ discourse can seemingly be split up into two audiences, the general crowd that followed him (6:26-40), and some select religious Jews who were either a segment of the crowd or joined later (6:41-58), in other words, casual hearers and the more dedicated religious crowd. Neither received the life-giving bread. The first group was too full of self-sufficiency (they didn’t recognize their need for a spiritual savior), the latter group was too full of self-righteousness or religion. Neither had room for Jesus. To truly believe in Christ and come to Christ (as we will see), one must recognize his own spiritual poverty and hunger and thirst after Godly righteousness. Continue reading “I Am the Bread of Life – John 26 – 40 – Sermon Notes” »

The Gadarene Demoniac- Mark 5:1-20 | The Greater the Transformation, the Greater the testimony

There is so much to be said about Mark 5:1-20. This short study examines the motif of how the testimony of a changed life can be more impactful than signs and miracles.

Introduction

Mark’s theme of “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (1:15) is highlighted in Mark 5. The invasion of the kingdom against the forces of darkness collides with the kingdom’s redemptive power in the narrative of the exorcism of the Gadarene Demoniac. A primary motif of the story is that while the miraculous power of Jesus over Legion is impressive, it is the restored man’s visible testimony of redemption that is more effective in pointing others to Christ. Continue reading “The Gadarene Demoniac- Mark 5:1-20 | The Greater the Transformation, the Greater the testimony” »

Our Citizenship is in Heaven. Phil. 3:20 – Sermon Notes

  1. What does it mean to be a citizen of Heaven?
  2. Freedom in Christ in a Carnal Kingdom.
  3. The Holy Spirit in a Carnal Kingdom.
  4. Groaning in a Carnal Kingdom.
  5. The Seal of the Holy Spirit of Promise in a Carnal Kingdom.

Continue reading “Our Citizenship is in Heaven. Phil. 3:20 – Sermon Notes” »