Peter, like James is writing to the elect exiles of “the Dispersion”. Like in the book of James, the Peter’s audience are God’s people who are scattered across the land due to persecution, and he writes to them regarding perseverance, and proper Christian living. It is to no surprise that Peter reminds God’s people that though they face the uncertainties of their lives and safety in the time of persecution, they can be certain in the hope of God, and that their salvation is an inheritance that no one can harm or take away. He mentions that trials last a “little while” which makes sense in the context of eternity. Trials will only exist in this finite lifetime, which is negligible when compared to the eternal joy of being with God for all eternity. Thus, we can take heart in knowing that though trials are hard now, they are only temporary.

Grace is a gift to us allows us to be free from the punishment of all our sins. This however does not mean we continue on sinning as we believe there will be no more consequences. As genuine believers, we are called to be obedient children, and strive for holiness in all areas of our lives. At conversion, we are to no longer desire the passions of our former ignorance, but to pursue holiness as God is holy. It is a shift in mentality, that though sin no longer has any power over us, the though of relishing in it should be atrocious to us. We are freed from sin, and freed to righteousness.

 

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James 3 begins with a segment on the words that come from our mouths. James uses a clever analogy between the tongue of the body to the rudder of a boat. It’s true, by mass, the tongue is nearly negligible compared to the weight of the body, similar to a rudder to the boat. However, what isn’t negligible is the ability for both of them to have a major impact on the overall structure. Just as the rudder is able to steer the boat to and fro, the tongue is able to build others up, tear people down, and capable of many sins. James is warning us therefore, to tame it as it is wild and easy to let loose in it’s ways. Our mouths (like the rest of our body) is meant to glorify God, and cannot be doing so when it is slandering or cursing others. If we proclaim our mouths as springs of fresh water, why would salt water be produced from it? Likewise our mouths are our instruments of praise to God, and must be reserved from anything that does not glorify him.

Those who are steadfast in the Lord are blessed according to James. Whereas we often think of ourselves as overburdened or cursed in times of suffering, perseverance and steadfastness is highly regarded by James. He gives the example of Job, which is perfect in conversations of patience in suffering. In his trial, Job did not curse God, but remained faithful to him. James wants us to do the same, as a farmer waits for the fruit of the earth, we are to wait for our deliverance from suffering, all while praising God through it all. 

James is often known as the proverbs of the New Testament, because of the various and many points of conviction and application that can be taken away from it. From the get-go, James lets us know that it’s a letter to the scattered groups of Christians as it first started, mainly due to persecution of the church in the first century, a reason for James beginning his letter telling believers to persevere through trials. 

James tells believers not only to persevere trials, but to count it all joy. This counter-intuitive reaction is not only unnatural, but absolutely difficult. When we are in pain and suffering to feel joy? James clarifies that it produces steadfastness which perfects and completes us. It simply prunes us into spiritual growth, and makes us better followers of Christ. This comes to no surprise, as Jesus endured much suffering on earth, and our own suffering allows us to relate and be like him. James however gives a warning not to confuse trials with temptation, for God does not tempt his people. Temptation comes from our selves and the devil, but not from God. Temptations lead to sin, but trials are meant to develop  perseverance. 

James reminds the people to be doers of the Word. Those who are mere hearers are like those who look in a mirror, look away, and forget how they look like. That is ridiculous. The expectation is that we would remember how we’d look like, just like how when we look into Scripture, and read the laws which convict us of our sin. We are expected to know these convictions and commands, and do something about them, not merely forget about them. 

James 2 is a hotly talked about passage in Scripture, due to what is seemingly, anti-Evangelical teaching in salvation by grace through faith alone. Here James is seemingly advocating a doctrine in which believers are saved by both faith and works, and both must be present in order for justification to take place. However, at closer look, it can be seen that when James uses the word justified in 2:25 that it merely means to be shown righteous, not to be made righteous, which makes all the difference. It can be compared to when the Pharisees in Luke 10:28-29 desired to justify themselves to Jesus. They were not trying to be made righteous on their own, but to be seen as righteous to Jesus. This is similar.

Thus, the message of James 2 is that works allows the believer to be seen as righteous, not that they are righteous. If a believer has saving faith, then works are result of that, not the other way around. It is a warning to those who claim to be of the faith but do nothing for the kingdom of God: James’ message is that your faith is shown through your works, though not proven. Even demons can claim to know of God, but it is only the believer who is able to do works for him.

It is interesting to note here, that the author of Hebrews is saying that by showing hospitality to strangers, we may be coming across angels and serving them. It piques my interest because it makes me wonder – what are they doing on earth? Why would they need my help? What incentive do I have to serve an angel more than man?It is interesting nonetheless, that by serving strangers, we may be interacting with a supernatural being. 

The author mentions here two very important characteristics of God. He will never leave us, and he is constant. The Lord’s love is boundless, and goes far beyond our iniquities. No matter how unfaithful we are to God, or rebellious to Him, He will never leave us if we are truly saved. There is no pushing him away, and neither will he turn away from us in our time of trouble. This is a promise we can put our lives on, not on money, fame or fortune for those things may come and go, and eventually perish. But the love of God, and his nearness, is eternal and vast and unchanging. 

Verse 17 rings true especially having been on CCF committee for so long. as leaders, we are “keeping watch over souls as those who will have to give an account”. Our work as the Lord’s servant is not for the sheer mundane acts of having things to do before we die. People’s souls are at stake, and God uses his people as the medium in order for them to be saved. We are to keep watch over  them, guard the ones who have been saved as if they could be lost, and seek to win more over to the kingdom of God. We are held accountable to this, as leaders are judged more harshly. We will hold an account to God in this matter, and I only wish to be able to say with honesty and with all my heart that I did my utmost best with what God had given me on earth. 

The author of Hebrews recaps many of the stories of people in the Bible who have done mighty things by faith. It is by faith that “these people of old received their commendation”, that they had assurance that God had the best in store, even in their uncertainty in what lied ahead of these people. One of the people mentioned was Abraham, who to me is a great man of faith. Abraham performed mighty things for God, often not knowing exactly where he was going or what he was doing, but performed out of faith for God. Having been called by God, he ventured to his land of inheritance, a land many ways from his homeland. By faith, he was able to have a son with Sarah, though they were old, and way past the age to have babies. Yet from that one son, God had promised his descendants to be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Yet at the same time, Abraham willing was about to offer his only son up to God, not knowing what would be the outcome of the situation. Abraham knew the promise that Isaac was to bear him descendants, but still put him on the altar to be sacrificed. That is a great and immense amount of faith, but he stayed true to God, and was blessed for it. 

We should not be surprised at the discipline of the Father in heaven. If we are sons and daughters of his, then we ought to understand that the Father disciplines us as our earthly fathers do. Our Father disciplines us towards holiness, and “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness”. We ought to welcome discipline, and not be subject to our sin, as that is what is continually perfecting us to being holier like Jesus.

God’s kingdom cannot be shaken. It knows no fear, and and yields to nobody. This true speaks powerfully about the power of God, along with characteristics such as being a blazing fire, shaking the earth, and a consuming fire. Our God is gentle, and kind hearted, but fierce and strong. 

The author of Hebrews describes the parallelism of Jesus as the High Priest, and the Most Holy Place. Prior to Jesus, high priests would enter into the Most Holy Place once a year and taking blood of bulls which he offers for himself and behalf of his people. The curtain separates this Most Holy Place from the rest of the people, as only the high priest can enter. Christ’s death has physically and metaphorically torn the curtain, and access to the Most Holy Place is made available to all who believe. No longer is it about the physical temple and the constant shedding of blood, but it is about the spiritual temple, our bodies, and the shedding of the blood of Christ for our sins. For the blood of goats and bulls were not sufficient in satisfying God’s wrath for our sins, but Christ’s blood is enough. 

Christ’s sacrifice is once and for all. Unlike the priest who had to reenter the Most Holy Place on behalf  of the people every year, Christ’s death is sufficient for all the sins of the believer, those of the past, present and the future. That single sacrifice is enough for those who are being perfected, and our sinful deeds are remembered no more. By Jesus’ blood, we may enter the holy place ourselves to the presence of God.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. We need to uphold our belief in the Gospel, and continue to profess our faith in him, no matter how hard life gets. God is faithful regardless of our unfaithfulness, and he proves himself time and time again that he is sovereign and a provider.

Melchizedek is first mentioned in Genesis 14, as the king of Salem, and priest of God Most High. Melchizedek’s name means king of righteousness and of peace. It is mentioned that he does not have a father or mother or genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, but like the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. He is mentioned as even greater than Abraham and Levi, because it is to he that tithes have been paid to. The significance of Melchizedek is that he is the prototype, or the prefigure to Jesus Christ. Like Melchizedek, Jesus is also the eternal priest and is great without comparison. Likewise, the coming of Jesus was like the era of Melchizedek, that a new priesthood implies a new law. The law of Moses is no longer in force, but we are given a better hope, we have something better than the law that allows us to draw near to God in a way that was not possible before. 

Jesus as an eternal priest is greater than on earth. He (nor any other priest) needs not make daily sacrifices for his own sin (for he had none) and the sins of his people (for they have been atoned for), but yet is ready to act as our intercessor, mediating between us and God the Father. As we pray, we pray to God the Father, with Jesus the Son through the Holy Spirit.

The author of Hebrews is addressing an audience that had renounced the belief of God, and had reverted to needing basic principles of God again. The were unskilled in the word of righteousness, became dull of hearing and needed to be spurred towards spiritual growth and maturity.

Verse 4-6 occasionally proves a problem with many who hold the belief in the perseverance of the saints. At first glance, it may seem as though there were those who have been saved and received the Holy Spirit, and then have fallen away, and requiring them to be restored to repentance again, which is contrary to those who hold that those who receive salvation and genuine saving faith, are saved forever. Those verses are not the case however, as words describing experiences such as being enlightened, taste and shared, do not necessarily mean that they have been saved. For example, a taste is temporary, so one who has “tasted the word of God and the powers of the age to come” does not mean that they have received, or embraced it. Neither does having shared the Holy Spirit, imply the same thing. In essence, it talks about those who are not saved, but have been around Christians for a while, and in a sense, have tasted, shared and been enlightened in some of God’s truth, but not in a manner that results in salvation. Hence, these people can fall away, and require repentance.

The author ends off chapter 6 with these verses:

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

He was referring to God’s encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. It is an anchor, unmovable and meaning to hold our souls in place. In his promise, our soul cannot wander too far for it grounds us in place with him. This hope is Jesus, who has entered into the inner place behind the curtain on our behalf, and as High Priest, performed the sacrifice necessary for us to escape condemnation. Beyond that, the curtain had been torn by him, not that we do not need him for that purpose any longer, but so we can have direct access to God ourselves at the holy of holies.  

The author continues on his comparison of Jesus, acknowledging his greatness as far beyond that of Moses. Moses would have been considered as a servant in God’s house, whereas Jesus would have been considered a son. Likewise, Jesus’ glory surpasses Moses’ as a builder’s glory surpasses the building’s. Surely, Moses had done great things leading God’s people out of Egypt, but he, along with no other human being, or living or spiritual creature can be compared to Jesus. 

Jesus, being God, is the great high priest. The priest is he who was appointed by God to offer sacrifices, and offering prayers and praise to God on behalf of the people. Jesus is the great high priest because he offered the ultimate sacrifice. Where other priests had offered up animals such as bulls or goats, Jesus offered himself as a perfect sacrifice – complete and sufficient where the animals were not. Also, as Priest, Jesus continues to bring us closer to God, having initially closed the gap by tearing the veil to the holy of holies in the temple, and even now, being able to draw near to the presence of God, through Jesus’ work. Lastly, Jesus intercedes on behalf of all believers.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”. God’s word is a alive because it is God-breathed and contains the essence of God (John 1). As a double edged sword, it is useful in the defense of faith, as well as an attack, or being able to share it with others. Likewise, it convicts it’s readers in truth of our sin as it pierces into our soul and spirits.

Hebrews begins with a magnificent declaration of the majesty of Jesus. The author, though unknown, very explicitly acknowledges Jesus’ divine nature in verse 3, as he “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature”. Jesus is of the exact imprint of God’s nature. Likewise, the author acknowledges the power of Jesus as “he upholds the universe by the word of his power” and orchestrating the creation of  the world. Who else could have created the world but God alone? Jesus is God as is the Father. As if it wasn’t enough, the author continues by comparing Jesus to the angels, proving that Jesus is far above the angels, in case we didn’t get he was God yet. God the Father did not say to the angels that they were his begotten Son, nor that he was their Father. But these were the things he had said to Jesus. Likewise, the angels are the ones who worship Jesus and are subordinate to him, not the other way around. This further displays the majesty and power of Jesus the Son of God.

This same very Jesus, whom all things, including the ones we do not know, are subject to, was the founder of salvation through suffering. Being God, he came down as a child, and lived as a man without sin, to die on the cross as a propitiation for our sins. Through his death, he had destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is the devil. No longer do believers have to worry about spiritual death – life in Jesus has already rid us of all condemnation, and we have eternal life in him. And when Christ returns, the last enemy, death will also be lifted, where we will be reunited with our perfect bodies and commune with God in new earth forever.

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ALLANALLAN

Phan of Jesus

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