Heb. 8:1-7

God Has Spoken By His Son, #17

He is Seated At God’s Right Hand

Hebrews 8:1-7

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent[a] that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ[b] has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Heb. 8:1 reads like a conclusion. It is based on the argumentation that is previous. Jesus is our High Priest. He is seated at the right hand of God, there to provide our access to God. What Moses did, following God’s instructions about the tabernacle, was a foreshadowing of “the heavenly things,” not the final arrangement.

The main point of this, not only here in chapter eight, but in the previous texts is – CHRIST HAS OBTAINED A MINISTRY THAT IS AS MUCH MORE EXCELLENT THAN THE OLD, AS THE COVENANT HE MEDIATES IS BETTER, SINCE IT IS ENACTED ON BETTER PROMISES.

If you have obeyed Jesus Christ in repentance and baptism and you are serving Him now – it is in your compliance with the New Covenant, the New Testament. Please note in this passage – clear reference to the first and second covenants. It is the second, the New Testament, that speaks to us about our access to God through Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God. The priests of the Old Testament stood at the altar, temporarily and in succession. Christ is seated, permanently, at the right hand of God for us.

Epaphras

The prayer of Epaphras:

What We Need To Learn

Philemon 23,24; Col. 4:12,13; Col. 1:7,8

 

Warren E. Berkley

Three brief passages in the New Testament mention this man, Epaphras.

“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.” Philemon 1:23,24.

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.” Col. 4:12,13.

“…as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.” Col. 1:7,8.

Assuming these passages refer to the same man, our first impression of this individual is favorable. This Christian was willing to be a “fellow prisoner” because of his relationship with Christ and he wasn’t ashamed to be associated with people known for their allegiance to Christ. He considered himself a “bondservant of Christ,” labored fervently for brethren in his prayers, entertained great zeal for God’s people and worked as “a faithful minister of Christ.”

This is an example of the kind of people we ought to be. Have you ever wondered, what would Paul have written about me? If Paul lived and wrote epistles today and knew you, what would he say? We all understand, what matters most is that we please the Lord. But when we read what Paul wrote about individual people like Epaphras, it may be profitable for us to consider how he might evaluate us. Would I be described as someone like Epaphras?

Epaphras was a man who prayed without ceasing. And in Colossians chapter four Paul gives us an idea of the content of those prayers: He prayed “that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”

He knew that Christians must “stand.” Perhaps he had been instructed by Paul who urged Christians to “stand fast in the faith,” (1 Cor. 16:13), “stand fast” in the liberty we have in Christ (Gal. 5:1), “stand fast in one spirit,” (Phil. 1:27) and “stand fast in the Lord,” (Phil. 4:1). Paul and Epaphras knew – either Christians stand or they fall! If we stand, that means we are characterized by stability, strength and the activity of commitment.

He prayed that his brethren might stand “perfect.” This is not about sinless perfection. This is about spiritual maturity. Paul’s goal was to proclaim Christ, “admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ,” (Col. 1:28). One of his last recorded statements to his brethren in Corinth was, “Finally, brethren, farewell, be perfected,” (2 Cor. 13:11; see also Matt. 5:48, 1 Cor. 2:6; 2 Cor. 13:11 and Eph. 4:12,13). In the NIV, Epaphras prays that Christians might be “mature.” How can I tell if I’m mature? By comparing my attitude, commitment, behavior and zeal to what the New Testament teaches.

Epaphras wanted Christians to be “fully assured” or “complete in all the will of God.” In my efforts to learn the will of God and be mature, I must strive for wholeness, attending with active faith to all the will of God. I must not tolerate personal neglect in one area due to my professed diligence in other areas of obedience. Paul wanted the saints at Corinth to prove that they were “obedient in all things,” (2 Cor. 2:9), and the Ephesians needed to grow up “in all things into Him who is the head – Christ…,” (Eph. 4:15).

Epaphras prayed for what every Christian should be working to demonstrate – standing; standing complete; being fully assured in all the will of God. This should be the prayer of every child of God.

The True Vine

Gospel-of-John950x323Reflections from John 15:1-11

-Warren E. Berkley-

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

In the section of the gospel of John that begins with chapter 13 and ends with chapter 16, Jesus is speaking to the men who were chosen to serve as apostles.

First, that means some of this is specific to the apostolic work and the inspiration imparted to these men, through whom the truth would be revealed (see verses 14:26 as an example).

Second, when Jesus speaks of a person’s relationship to God and the obligations and life of every disciple of Christ, we apply that to our lives. For instance, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Love that produces obedience wasn’t something limited to the apostles.

As we read and study John chapters 13-16, we must be careful to distinguish between what is specifically apostolic and what is generally about anyone’s relationship to God.

We come now to John chapter 15 and the above cited text. The opening verses are not about matters limited to the apostles. Everyone who comes to God through Jesus Christ needs the nourishment that is the subject of these verses.

  • There is only one source of nourishment and life for the branches. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser.” {Jesus didn’t need to stop and explain this. His imagery was based on horticulture or viticulture commonly known among these men in that time.} Jesus followers (apostles or not) would be nourished by Him, the true Vine. There is no book, no preacher, group or religious empire able to provide the nourishment every disciple of Christ needs. There is only the one source, Jesus Christ. And mark that word “nothing.” Without Me, “you can do nothing.” In baptism, you attach yourself to the True Vine. As you stay connected to Him, you are nourished for good harvest and growth.
  • “Abide in Me.” If I understand that Jesus is the only source of nourishment, I will want to abide in Him. Not just claim He is my nourishment but receive that nourishment by abiding in Him. As I believe in Him and follow His instruction, I am abiding in the Vine. That’s relationship, based on trust that produces fruit. The call of the text is not limited to apostles. And the call of the text is, not only to become attached to the True Vine, but to say there: “abide.”
  • Fruit bearing. When Jesus used these agricultural images – when He spoke of seed sown in soil, etc., there was always an end product: Harvest; Fruit bearing. But this is generic. What are the specifics of this harvest. Gal. 5:22,23. The fruit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control; against such there is no law.” Not just the apostles. Every disciples of Christ should be “bearing fruit in every good work,” (Col. 1:10).
  • Many today back away from this word. Jesus didn’t hesitate to demand obedience. “Whoever does what is true comes to the light,” (Jno. 3:21). “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see light,” (Jno. 3:36). “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” So, my initial attachment to the True Vine is in obedience in repentance and baptism. My continued attachment is surrendering to His will in obedience, abiding there day by day.
  • “Every branch that does not bear fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Non-bearing branches are taken away. Fruit-bearing branches are tended to with care; pruned so that they bear more fruit.

What a simple way to consider relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Have you attached your life to Him? Are you abiding in Him?

-My Podcasts on the gospel of John, Click Here.

 

 

Better Word: Temporary

Temporary Conditions

I was the visiting speaker at a large local church in a metropolitan area here in Texas last month. As the announcements scrolled across the screen, then prayers offered, there were those words I see over and over: Cancer, Heart Attack, Asthma, Parkinson’s, Surgery, Diabetes, Leukemia, Alzheimer’s, Brittle Bone, on and on.

When we see or hear these words, we often feel disappointed, defeated and we grieve with the “sick and afflicted” and their families. Sometimes the word “terminal” is part of the reality.

Here is another perspective. All these conditions are temporary! It is so hard to replace the word “terminal” with the word “temporary.” But when the full scope of existence is brought into view, that there is an existence after this life, “terminal” is overpowered by “temporary,” especially for those who build their lives on the foundation of active faith in Christ.

I was preaching from 1 Peter 1 at this church. I read their list of conditions/diseases and told them, “these are all temporary,” then I read 1 Pet. 1:6.

Truth Connection: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.”

 

1 Jno. 5:6-12

John’s First Epistle

1 Jno. 5:6-12

Testimony

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. -1 Jno., 5:6-12

John is principally concerned with evidence and testimony that Jesus is the Christ, in the gospel of John. That concern surfaces here in his first epistle. This paragraph is mainly concerned with testimony that is part of the evidence that Jesus is who He claims to be.

The testimony of God has been abundantly given. He has borne witness to His Son, leading John to stress that faith in Him is essential. “Whoever has the son has life; whoever does not have the son of God does not have life.”

“Having” the Son of God means – He is in your heart and life, as real, true and the only way out of sin. God grants eternal life through His Son. Have you, by the activity of faith, accepted that grant?

“You are THE people”

man wearing white dress shirt with black necktie
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“Let Your Speech Be

Always With Grace”

In reply to his “friends,” Job said:

Doubtless you are the people,

and wisdom will die with you!

But I have a mind as well as you;

I am not inferior to you.

Who does not know all these things?

Job 12:1-3

Job’s pain incited his friends to come to his side, but not with warmth, care and love. Instead, they went on and on about how he must have done something that was so bad, it brought all this pain into his life.

Job’s frustration boiled over from time to time, causing him to speak frankly with his friends. That’s what we are reading in the above text.

What can we learn?

We should never speak to people in a demeaning manner. Apparently Job’s friends spoke as if they were “the people,” and as if, upon their death, wisdom would die! Further, it seems they spoke down to Job so arrogantly, they implied that Job wasn’t as smart as they were; thus prompting Job to say in his defense, “I have a mind too!”

No matter what we perceive people have done, and no matter how clear we believe we need to be, demeaning speech is never justified.

Fortunately my parents were very careful to teach me this. Through example and with direct admonitions they trained us to avoid demeaning speech. We were not allowed to call people, “stupid” or “idiots.”

It is not helpful! We cannot “win” people, train people and help people while we demean them and berate them. The object of all speech should be, to help, not hurt; to educate, not denigrate.

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one,” (Col. 4:6).

Sometimes we may be justified in thinking about people with this typical response: “You think you are so smart. Not so much. I have a mind too!” Let’s be careful to not provoke such thoughts in those we speak to.

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My Podcasts Click Here

The One Talent

The One Talent

Hide not thy talent in the earth,

However small it be;

Its faithful use, its utmost worth,

God will require of thee.

His own, which He hath lent on trust,

He asks of thee again;

Little or much, the claim is just,

And thine excuses vain.

Go, then, and strive to do thy part,

Though humble it may be;

The ready hand, the willing heart,

Are all heaven asks of thee.

– William Cutler

Heb. 7:18-28

Hebrews 7:18-28

Better

Hebrews 7:18-28 (ESV)

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

I believe one of the key words in the book of Hebrews is “better.” In this section, through Christ we have “a better hope,” and “a better covenant.”

Christians who came out of Judaism to become Christians may have been tempted to hand on to the old priesthood and the old covenant. Or, to return to that obsolete system under pressure. The writer is urging them to embrace fully the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. He is our access to God. God put Christ in this high position. “Consequently,” verse 25 says, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

If …still…

R. L. Wheeler is right when he says:

“If I had the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of John, the meekness of Moses, the strength of Samson, the obedience of Abraham, the compassion of Joseph, the tears of Jeremiah, the poetic skill of David, the prophetic voice of Elijah, the courage of Daniel, the greatness of John the Baptist, the endurance and love of Paul, I would still need redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of sin.”

(Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World [Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992])

Baseball cards and marbles

sport ball baseball play
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“Buy The Truth And Do Not Sell It”

Prov. 23:23

Warren E. Berkley

In the neighborhood of my childhood there were two commodities of exchange: marbles and baseball cards. We were also fortunate to have crawdads, sock balls and various other treasures. But when you needed to do some serious trading, you had to have either marbles or baseball cards.

Sometime after 1953, I came into possession of about four Mickey Mantle baseball cards. Now the primary purpose of having baseball cards in the 1950’s was bragging and trading. (On rare occasions, baseball cards might also be useful to bribe a bully. As a last resort, before being beaten to a pulp, you could offer the bully a popular baseball card.)

Back to these ’53 Mantle cards I owned. In a moment of immature impulse, I traded those four cards to Charles Pruitt for a bag of marbles. I don’t even have the bag of marbles today (I lost my marbles). Those four Mickey Mantle cards sell today for thousands each! If I had them today I would pay debts and buy a truck.

Nobody told me in 1953 to hold on to those cards. I didn’t appreciate the value of what I had, so I lost it.

Do you have a Bible? Have you learned the truth about Jesus Christ and what the individual response should be? Hold on to that truth, comply with it, share it. Do not sell it. You’ll be setting yourself up for eternal regret.