Jesus “Our Apostle” and the Family of God (Brown)

Hebrews 3:1 calls Jesus “our Apostle”. The whole verse goes like this: Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest (NIV). That’s something we might not think about as we contemplate who Jesus is for us. But it is good to remember this verse and truth! I appreciate how Raymond Brown commented on this reality, that Jesus is our apostle:

They are to consider Christ as apostle. He is God’s envoy, messenger, or ambassador, sent by the Father. In first-century thought and practice the specially appointed envoy possessed the full powers and was regarded as the personal representative of the one sending him. Jesus has been sent to fulfil a definite mission for God. He was sent not only to proclaim the truth but also to manifest it (1:2–3). Moreover, in this passage we may also discern a further aspect of his work as God’s apostle. He is also sent to form or establish a house, or household, a redeemed community (3:6). The preceding chapters of the letter have already hinted at the writer’s doctrine of the church; in Christ we are sons, brothers, children and partners. But here we begin to realize the importance of the Christian family in the thinking of the author. Christ came not only to save fallen individuals but to gather a vast company of his followers, the redeemed people of God. This epistle has little time for the spiritual individualist. Believers are to recognize the immensely important ministry that they can exercise towards other Christians and to take such responsibility seriously: ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.’ The regular meeting for worship and fellowship must not be neglected and Christian people must give all the encouragement they can to other believers. Christians are here described as those who belong to God’s house, and Christ was sent into the world to save them and bring them into this enriching, secure and eternal company.

 Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: Christ above All, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 76–77.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Jesus as Just an Example? (Keller)

Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions by [Timothy Keller]

It is a biblical concept for Christians to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Thes. 1:6, etc.). Of course we can’t imitate Jesus perfectly, but one aspect of living the Christian life is seeking to being like Christ. When we – with the help of the Spirit – imitate Christ, it brings glory to God and is a blessing to other people. However, we do have to understand that Jesus didn’t come to be just an example. He didn’t only come to show us how to live. Here’s how Tim Keller said it as he reflected on the story where Jesus visited a wedding in Cana (John 2):

“Many people say, ‘I don’t like the church and I don’t accept Christian doctrine. I don’t believe in hell and God’s wrath and blood atonement and all of that. But I really like Jesus. If people just imitated Jesus and followed his teaching, the world would be a better place.’ The problems with that view, as common as it is, are many and profound. If Jesus was thinking about his death at a wedding feast, that meant he was nearly always thinking about his death. He did not come primarily to be a good example. And I’m glad he didn’t. Do you know why? He’s too good! He’s so perfect that as an example he just crushes you into the ground. Anyone who really, seriously, seeks to make him a life model, who pays attention to the details of his character and practice, will despair. He is infinitely beyond us, and comparing yourself to him will only grind your genuine aspirations to moral excellence into hopelessness.

But we see here that he did not come to tell us how to save ourselves but to save us himself. He came to die, to shed his blood, to take the cup of curse and punishment os we can raise the cup of blessing and love. The centrality of Jesus’ death is a most important insight for understanding the Gospels…

Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, p. 76-77.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Easter and the Fear of Hell (Boston)

Works of Thomas Boston, 12 volume hard cover set (Boston) Although many people mock the truth of hell’s existence, some people struggle with the fear of hell.  Some people are afraid of spending eternity facing a punishment in a place where there is forever weeping and gnashing of teeth.  It’s hard to think about suffering God’s eternal wrath against sin.  On this topic,  Thomas Boston does a great job explaining how the resurrection of Christ can drive away the fear of hell and give a great and joyful hope of heaven:

Hell is a fountain of fears. Sometimes the godly are above, sometimes under the fears of hell. It is terrible, the thought of being excluded forever the presence of God! “Who can abide with everlasting burnings?” When we look down to the pit, it seems hard to escape it; when we look up to heaven, our souls faint, lest we never get there.

But fear not: for Christ died; and if so, he suffered the torments you should have suffered in hell, as to the essentials of them. He was under the punishment of loss; God forsook him, Psalm 22:1. He endured the punishment of sense, even to drops of blood, and the wrath of God poured into his soul. Then God will not require two payments for one debt. Christ lives, he rose, and entered heaven as a public person; and therefore, believer, you shall as surely go to heaven as if you were there already, yea, the apostle says we are there already. Eph. 2:6, “We are raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” as our Head. Jesus lives forevermore; and therefore you shall be forever with the Lord.

“He has the keys of hell and death.” Suppose your father or best friend on earth had these keys, would you be afraid? But we may have more confidence in Jesus than in ten thousand fathers or even the mothers that gave birth to us. They may forsake us, and a mother may be found that will not have compassion on the son of her womb; but, O believer, Jesus has said, “I will not forget you,” Isa. 49:15, 16, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have carved you upon the palms of my hand, you walls are continually before me.” Though Satan be the jailor of hell, yet he keeps not the keys; they hang, believer, at the belt of your best friend.

 Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Sixty-Six Sermons, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 9 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1851), 22–23.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

They Shall Come To Me (Bunyan)

In John 6:37 Jesus said, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (NIV). These words of Jesus convey a precious relatity and a comforting promise. They are well worth memorizing! Here’s how John Bunyan commented on these words in Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ. I’ve updated the language slightly for ease of reading:

[I conclude] that coming to Jesus Christ rightly is an effect of their being, by God, given to Christ beforehand. Note: They shall come. Who? Those that are given. They come, then, because they were given, “They were Yours, and You gave them Me.”

Now, this is indeed a singular comfort to those that are coming in truth to Christ, to think that the reason why they come is because they were given by the Father beforehand to him. Thus, then, may the coming soul reason with himself as he comes: “Am I coming, indeed, to Jesus Christ? This coming of mine is not to be attributed to me or my goodness, but to the grace and gift of God to Christ. God gave first me to him, and, therefore, has now given me a heart to come.”

John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, p. 254 (Works, Volume 1).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

A Captive Still[?!] (Newton)

 I’ve been studying a couple of the stories in the Gospels where Jesus powerfully casts out demons with a mighty word.  Since I was a little boy I’ve loved these stories since I know that the realm of darkness is real and it’s terrifying.  I’m so thankful that Jesus is a million times stronger than Satan and all the demons put together.  Here’s part of a hymn John Newton wrote based on Mark 5:18-19 (the story of “Legion”).  Although Newton wrote it from the perspective of the man with the “Legion”, I can’t help but think this hymn is also somewhat autobiographical.  (Note: “staid” means stood still or waited.)  Go ahead and read it out loud:

“Legion was my name by nature,
Satan raged within my breast;
Never misery was greater,
Never sinner more possessed:
Mischievous to all around me,
To myself the greatest foe;
Thus I was when Jesus found me,
Filled with madness, sin, and woe.

Yet in this forlorn condition
When he came to set me free,
I replied to my Physician,
‘What have I to do with Thee?’
But he would not be prevented,
Rescued me against my will;
Had he staid till I consented,
I would be a captive still.”

Later in the hymn, Newton does mention how Jesus changed the man’s heart to obey him, tell others about him, and live for his glory.  It is true that while we were sinners and enemies of God, he loved us, gave his Son for us, and changed our hearts to make us willing and ready from now on to live for him.  God be praised: sovereign grace can change the hearts of those who are enemies and haters of God and make them into loved and loving friends of God!

John Newton, Works, vol. 3, p. 408.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015