Hebrews: As You See The Day Approaching

The book of Hebrews was written to encourage Christians who were being persecuted and discouraged in their faith. The trials and discouragement was predicted by Jesus. He told His disciples of the hardships that His disciples would experience prior to the fall of Jerusalem (as recorded in Matthew 24). Before the fall of the Jerusalem temple, famines and persecutions would bear down upon the disciples of Jesus and the “love of many would grow cold” (Matt.24:8-12). This prediction was made in about AD 30 and the fall of Jerusalem was completed in AD 70, 40 years later. The years of 66-70 AD were especially difficult years. Because of the signs Jesus gave in Matthew 24 regarding the fall of Jerusalem and what would take place just before that fall, the disciples would know the signs to look for, and these would signal to them when to leave the city of Jerusalem. So Hebrews was written just prior to the fall of Jerusalem encouraging the brethren to stay strong and beware “least there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Heb.3:12). The Christians were to encourage one another and “so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb.10:24-25). What day could they see approaching? The day of the final fall of Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, and the place from which Christians needed to be prepared to escape when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by the Roman armies (Luke 21:16-22).

At one point these brethren “endured a great struggle with sufferings” (10:32) and “joyfully accepted the plundering of their goods” (10:34). Paul encouraged them not to “cast away your confidence, which has great reward” (v.35). He told them to “endure” and not “draw back to perdition.” The whole book is designed to encourage them in the midst of their hardships. The Jews were doing well at this point, and it seemed for the moment that it was advantageous to return to Judaism and avoid persecution. The book of Hebrews reminds these persecuted Christians that returning to Judaism was not the answer. As great as the system of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron was, it was only a shadow of the better things that are provided by Christ. The whole book argues that we have a better lawgiver in Christ, a better covenant, better promises, a better High Priest in Jesus, and a better sacrifice (Jesus Himself) for sin than was imposed in the Old Testament system with animal sacrifices. We have a better provision in Christ since all the Old Testament was foreshadowing  the things the Messiah would accomplish, and Jesus is the prophesied and foreshadowed provision of God. The thesis of the book is hang tough and “endure,” but hold on to the spiritual advantages you have in the better provisions in Jesus.

After proving that Jesus is greater than Moses and Aaron, greater in every way, and His provisions were better, then the admonition was to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (10:23), and “we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (v.39). Following that encouragement, he reminds his original readers that men and woman of faith have done well in the past “by faith” even under times of inferior provisions. Chapter 11 is a reminder of people who did great things by faith, and by believing in God and trusting His promises and provisions we can likewise handle more than we think. It is a matter of “looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Ch.12), who endured hostility of sinners against Himself, enduring even the cross (12:2,3). He learned “obedience” in all that He suffered and became the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him (5:8-9). Our obedience must be in place through the trials because that is how we prove our faith in genuine. If the only time we show faith is when it is easy to show faith, when there is no opposition, then that is no quality faith at all. We must obey Him loyally through the things that bear down hard to discourage us, else we have not learned obedience as Jesus did. Look to Jesus for strength. He authored your faith and He will help you finish your faith, that is, take your faith and help you get to your goal of heaven with it intact.

Read this book all the way through and be impressed with how encouraging it is even now. Watch it build the case for knowing the better things in the New Testament system over the Old Testament system. Notice how Jesus is able to aid us in so many deep and meaningful ways so that we too can have a heart “established by grace” (13:9), a heart that is able to endure anything for the honor of Christ Jesus our Lord! To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen! Is your faith the obedient and enduring kind?

–Terry W. Benton

Overview of Romans

Romans is a great book for the new Christian convert to read through. Paul explains the meaning of our salvation and what God expects from us now. The book of Romans can be organized into five simple parts:

  • First, Paul covers the problem of sin and our unrighteousness (1-3).
  • Next, he speaks about the provision made for those who desire to be righteous—God’s salvation (4-5).
  • Third, Paul talks about pursuing righteousness with all our might (6-8).
  • Fourth, he explains the selection of God, choosing the humble of the world to respond to His gospel call (9-11).
  • Finally, Paul concludes with the practices of righteousness—loving one another, giving, showing mercy, and doing good to our enemies (12-16).

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At What Moment Were The Ephesians Saved By Grace Through Faith?

Salvation comes to us BY grace THROUGH faith, and that is a GIFT of God, not something we earn or deserve (Eph.2:8).

“BY grace” means that God did not have to save us at all, but due to His own mercy and grace, He provided a way for sinners to be saved. “THROUGH faith” means that this saving grace comes to us THROUGH this channel. The condition we were in before this channel was created was that we were “children of wrath” (Eph.2:3). Why? Because we were “dead” (separated from God) in trespasses and sins (v.1). What we earned was “wrath.” But God’s great love provided a means to make us “alive together with Christ” (v.4,5). So, by grace we are saved!

Well, how did this channel of faith connect us back to God by grace? “You first TRUSTED in Christ,” he said to the Ephesians (1:12), and you first “trusted” AFTER you heard the word of truth (1:13), “the gospel of your salvation.” You see the “gospel” is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom.1:16). This church first “trusted” in Christ and were “sanctified” (set apart to God) and “cleansed” (Eph.5:26), but notice, “with the washing of water by the word” (5:26). So there was a “washing of water by the word” that was involved in their faith. No, it was not faith alone, but faith WITH the washing of water by the word. Jesus said “he that believes AND is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). The word moves people to believe and be baptized (washing of water — Acts 10:47-48; 22:16) BY the word. Except the word had instructed this, the Ephesians would never have been “baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 19:6). By the word they were baptized in the name of the Lord wherein they experienced “the washing of water” by the word.

This is the way it happened to the 3,000 Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-41). The word cut them to the heart. They had been “dead in trespasses and sins” just as the Ephesians. They cried, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They were told to “repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins” (v.38). Peter exhorted them further to “be saved” from this perverse generation (v.40). They were not saved just by being convicted, but if they repented and were baptized they would have “remission of sins” or be “cleansed with the washing of water by the word.” Those that gladly received his word were baptized (v.41). So, what happened here? They were saved by grace through faith, sanctified by the word (John 17:17), “cleansed with the washing of water by the word.” You see, “through faith” we must repent of sins, and through faith we FIRST TRUST Him to cleanse us when we go down into the water with Him in baptism. We are “buried with Him” in baptism (Rom.6:3-6; Col.2:12), and we have “faith in the operation of God,” not in the power of the water, but this is where God promised to cut our sins away, and we believe what God says. We first TRUST in Him in this way.

This is not trust in the water, but trust in Jesus who told us to be buried with Him in baptism. We trust Jesus who said, “he that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). We trust in Jesus who promised to cut our sins away when we are baptized in His name (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Baptism in his name is in “water” (Acts 10:47-48), thus the cleansing “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph.5:26). The Ephesians as well as the Jews on Pentecost and all others we read of in Acts were all saved by grace through faith WHEN by the word they were baptized in the name of Jesus to receive the washing of water by the word. THROUGH faith there comes a specific moment when our sins are removed from our record. That moment in faith is when we repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom.6:3-5; Col.2:12-13; Gal.3:26-27). If faith stops short of this, it is not “TRUST.” The Ephesians first TRUSTED and received cleansing “with the washing of water” (Eph.5:26; Acts 19:6). Have you actually TRUSTED Jesus in regard to when our sins are washed away?

— Terry W. Benton

Calling On The Name Of The Lord

On the day of Pentecost, Peter preaches his first sermon. Peter’s explains how the prophesied day had come when the Lord would save His people. He quotes the prophet Joel saying, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh…That whoever call on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Acts 2:17-21). First, God’s Spirit had just been poured out on the apostles. They received the power of the Holy Spirit and many could hear the different languages that the apostles could now speak. After seeing that the “last days” or last time period had come, confirmed by the giving of the Holy Spirit, then the second part of the prophecy was also fulfilled. “And it shall come to pass…That whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

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The Resurrection of Jesus Is The Ultimate Evidence

The historic crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection that followed three days later is the ultimate verification of the truth of His deity. It was predicted in the Jews’ own scriptures (Psalm 16; Isa.53), and that is no small thing to deal with. If Jesus’ body could have been kept in the grave, the church of Christ would never have gotten started. Peter spoke in Jerusalem just 50 days after the crucifixion had taken place. There could be no credibility in a man like Peter talking about a resurrected Jesus if it were not for the fact that the Jews’ own scripture predicted it, the tomb was empty, the body of Jesus was missing, and witnesses were willing to testify to having seen Jesus alive again. In Acts 2 we find the presentation of evidence, and no Jew was able to refute any of the evidence Peter presented. Miracles were also adding credibility to Peter and the other apostles. The evidence stood that day and every day since.

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The Lord of Heaven And Earth

When Paul traveled to Athens, he was shocked by the large numbers of idols in the city. Athens was a place where there were countless idols dedicated to the many gods created by the human imagination. He even saw one that was called “The Unknown God.” When Paul got an opportunity to speak a large group of Athenians, he referred to the “Unknown God” as being the one true God that the Athenians worshipped but were very ignorant about.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. (Acts 17:23-25)

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The Prophesied Time For God’s Messiah To Come

An amazing feature of the Old Testament is that it was written by the Jews, and the Spirit of God guided prophets to write some amazing prophesies about a Messiah-Savior who would come in their future. But they gave some specifics about that time when the Messiah would come.  Daniel interpreted a dream for the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, and the dream was of an image made of four metals. Daniel 2:32-33:  “This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” (NKJV)

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The Prophetic Credentials For The Messiah

The prophets often wrote about the coming Christ in the Old Testament. They explained His general characteristics, His mission, His plan, and even the way He would die and be raised from the dead. They wrote these prophecies down so that when the Messiah did come, God’s people could recognize Him. Also, by having these prophecies, God’s people could recognize a false messiah claiming to be the Christ. All God’s people had to do was compare that person with the credentials set forth by the prophets. Jesus Christ matched these credentials perfectly. If He had missed just one, there could be an argument made against Him for not being the Son of God.

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Do I Need The Gospel?

As just established, the gospel is the power of God. It is the good news that Jesus died for us, was buried, and then raised. First, the Bible convicts us of our sins. Next, the gospel informs us that Jesus has created a way to forgive us of those sins. Our sins have ultimately separated us from God. While carrying the guilt of sin, we will never to be able to have a relationship with God.

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” (Is. 59:2)

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The Power Of The Gospel Of Christ

How did Christianity survive even one day in Jerusalem? The leader, Jesus, had been crucified in Jerusalem before many witnesses. His tomb was guarded. There would be no possible way for the followers of Jesus to claim Jesus was God or the prophesied Messiah. A dead Jesus could only lead to one logical conclusion: He was not God, was not the Messiah, and believers were all wrong. With the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, the memory of his crucifixion still fresh, there is no way that the church of Christ could ever get started in that hostile environment. But, it did get started and it thrived because something powerful happened in that city.

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