Question and Answers


Tell Me What To Write On


Posted By on Aug 19, 2013

Every now and again, I ask on social media what you guys would like me to write on. In the spirit of that idea, I thought it might be fun to ask our blog readers what topics you would like to see me write on (as well as the other contributors) here on Servants of Grace. I want you to tell me (and us as a team) what you want to see covered here on Servants of Grace. All you have to do is leave a comment with your topic suggestion. Any topic is up to be covered. If there are one’s you like in particular please reply to that suggestion with a “second” or something like that. If I’m completely overwhelmed with great ideas, I will take the top ten to start with and run a poll to see which one’s you guys are particularly interested in. All suggestions are welcome. We will do our best to get to every topic suggested. I look forward to  all of your suggestions.

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Every week I am going to take a question and answer it. If you have a question or questions feel free to submit it here: http://servantsofgrace.org/contact/ and it will be answered either on the website or privately. This week’s question is, “How do I grow from immaturity into maturity in Christ?

The author in Hebrews 5:12 is sharpening and expanding why the Hebrew believers are sluggish; not growing in mature understanding as they should be. The exhortation here extends to all believers not just teachers. Furthermore, any mature believer in Christ should be able to lead others by word and example to maturity.[1]

The irony is that members of the community have need for someone to instruct them again. The author was aware that they had received teaching in the Christian faith from the time they had heard and believed the message of salvation (Heb. 2:1-4). His assessment of their situation now however, is that they need to be taught all over again.

At one level, they ought to go back to the basics. The community needs to be taught “the most elementary matters of the oracles of God’.  Dr. O’Brien notes that the term stoicheia could refer to physical or metaphysical principles, as well as ‘letters’ or ‘elements of the alphabet’, or by extension ‘any basic teaching.’[2] The community needed to learn the elementary teachings of the Christian faith. Some of the “first principles” are mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-2.  The “therefore” in Hebrews 6:1 shows his commitment to move his readers from their present state of immaturity by providing them with the advanced teaching they need for insight and commitment. F.F. Bruce notes that their particular condition of immaturity is such that only an appreciation of what is involved in Christ’s high priesthood will cure it.[3] Dr. Guthrie explains that the admonition of 6:1 has to do with the listeners’ indifference to weightier matters of Christ-following and their consequent need to move to a new level of commitment.[4]

In urging his readers to move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ, the author is not suggesting that they should move behind the Gospel as is often thought for some form of deeper or fuller instruction for initiates. There is no proposal here that the listeners should abandon these basic truths. The author reminds them of some of the essential elements of the foundation by immediately listing them in vv.1b-2. His point is that they are not to lay again the basis for elementary teaching, but to make progress by building on it. The solid food that they have need of is ‘a development of the themes of repentance and faith, resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment’, in the light of the author’s ‘exposition of the high priesthood of Christ’. The author of Hebrews calls his readers and believers today to grow deeper into their understanding of Christ by apprehending and appropriating who Christ is as their High Priest which will result in radically re-orienting everything from how they conduct themselves in their marriages, Christian lives, and ministry. The end result of growing in understanding the High Priestly ministry of Jesus is that the believer will move on from immaturity to maturity in Christ.



[1] In Colossians, Paul and his c-workers engage in teaching others as they proclaim Christ. At the same time, they apostle recognizes that members of the congregation at Colossae will all teach and admonish one another in their singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (3:16). The language of teaching is used of a narrow group and of the whole congregation within the letter.

[2] Peter. T. O’Brien, The Letter To The Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2010), 207.

[3] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. Ed. NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990),138.

[4] George H. Guthrie, Hebrews. NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998), 205.

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Every week I am going to take a question and answer it. If you have a question or questions feel free to submit it here: http://servantsofgrace.org/contact/ and it will be answered either on the website or privately. This week’s question is, “How does understanding Jesus High Priest ministry relate to dealing with temptation?

In the earlier verse (2:11) the author of Hebrews has demonstrated that Jesus and His people belong to the same family; the implication is that Jesus has assumed our human nature. Now the author indicates that the necessity of delivering His people from their enemies, death and Satan, meant that Jesus had to become man. He had to have a body of flesh and blood and had to be fully human in order to set His people free. Delivering His followers from the curse of sin and the clutches of the devil demanded nothing short of taking the place of those whom God has given Him but who stood condemned because of their sin.

The author of Hebrews elaborates more on this point in Hebrews 4:14LibronixLink dark Question and Answer: Jesus High Priestly Ministry and Temptation with the phrase “the Son of God” which is a reference to both the title of humanity (Jesus) and of deity (Son of God). The writer in Hebrews 4:15LibronixLink dark Question and Answer: Jesus High Priestly Ministry and Temptation adds to his statements in 2:18 that Jesus was sinless. Jesus was able to be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11LibronixLink dark Question and Answer: Jesus High Priestly Ministry and Temptation), but not able to sin (Heb. 7:26LibronixLink dark Question and Answer: Jesus High Priestly Ministry and Temptation). Though Jesus was tempted in every respect, that is, in every area of personal life, he (unlike every other human) remained sinless, and thus He is truly the holy high priest (Heb. 7:26-28LibronixLink dark Question and Answer: Jesus High Priestly Ministry and Temptation5:2-3LibronixLink dark Question and Answer: Jesus High Priestly Ministry and Temptation). In their temptations Christians can be comforted with the truth that nothing entices them is foreign to their Lord. He too has felt the tug of sin, and yet never gave in to such temptations.

The result of Christ’s death is twofold: He conquered Satan and set His people free from the fear of death. Satan, the murder from the beginning desires man’s death in the fullest sense of the word: physical and spiritual death.  Since the death of Jesus on Calvary’s cross, death has lost its power and its effect. Through death the Christian enters not hell but heaven, and because Jesus’ human body was resurrected, the believer’s body also shall come forth from the grave in the last day.

Jesus’ humanity can be demonstrated the author of Hebrews teaches in Hebrews 2:18, by the fact that He was tempted. Dr. Guthrie notes that because of His suffering Christ is able to help believers in their temptation.[1] Christ personally experienced the power of sin when Satan confronted him and when the weaknesses of His human nature became evident. Jesus experienced hunger when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, thirst when He asked the woman at Jacob’s well for water, weariness when he slept while the storm raged on the Sea of Galilee and sorrow when he wept at the grave of Lazarus.

As High priest, through His sacrificial work, Jesus removed the curse of God that rested on man. Because of the forgiveness of sin, God’s love flows freely to the redeemed, and Jesus stands ready to help. Those who are being tempted may experience the active support of Jesus. They can expect nothing short of perfect understanding from Jesus, because He himself suffered when He was tempted.  Jesus did not share with man the experience of sin; instead, because of His sinlessness, He fully experienced the intensity of temptation.

Christ’s ability to sympathize and help is the result of His likeness to us. He was tested in every respect but did not sin. The verb “to test or tempt’ was used in Hebrews 2:18LibronixLink dark Question and Answer: Jesus High Priestly Ministry and Temptation; where His testing was related to His suffering, and by implication to His death. His own experience of suffering and trials during His earthly life equipped Him so that He is able to support His people in their sufferings and temptations. Christ’s likeness to us meant that He was tested in every way and yet without sin. The qualifying phrase “without sin” in Hebrews 4:15 does not resist the reality or likeness of testing but relates exclusively to its outcome: but without the result of sin in His case. Jesus was faithful to the One who appointed Him (3:2) He was tested to the very limit; His shameful death (12:2; 13:12), but He did not sin. Jesus is a faithful and merciful High Priest whose sympathy for His people in their weakness will prove to be a powerful help to those being tempted.

For those who are tempted and facing various trials, the confidence of sins forgiven and God’s anger turned aside by their merciful High Priest (v.17) is a profound hope. The emphasis in Hebrews 2:18 on Christ’s personal experience of temptation teaches that this help includes strength for them to stand firm in the face of their own trials, particularly those temptations to be disloyal to God and to give up their Christian profession. Later, Hebrews will draw attention to a further dimension of Jesus’ powerful help, namely, His ongoing intercessory role as High Priest by which He will save His people completely (7:25). Because Christ himself suffered- and His suffering was the source of His temptation—He is able to come to the powerful aid of His brothers and sisters who themselves are tempted and exposed to humiliation in a hostile world.

The fact that Christ intercedes and has gone through similar temptations as every believer, and withstood them victoriously is a source of great assurance for the believer.[2] Jesus Christ is able and willing to help man oppose the power of sin and temptation. As He said to the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee, “Your sins are forgiven go in peace” (Luke 7:48, 50), so also Jesus shows mercy, peace, and love to His people; as He is our sympathetic High Priest.

 



[1] George H. Guthrie, Hebrews: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998), 111.

[2] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews Revised (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1990), 89.

 

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Every week I am going to take a question and answer it. If you have a question or questions feel free to submit it here: http://servantsofgrace.org/contact/ and it will be answered either on the website or privately. This week’s question is, “What does the word “neglect” in Hebrews 2:3 mean, and how can I have increased assurance of my salvation?”

The key word in Hebrews 2:3 is salvation. The term has already been used in Hebrews 1:14, in which the readers are told that all angels are ministering spirits that serve believers (the heirs of salvation). The value of salvation ought never to be underestimated, for its price was the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus is called the author of salvation who brings many sons to glory (2:10). The believer’s salvation is immeasurably great.

As Hebrews 2:2 states, the message of the Old Testament cannot be violated without suffering the consequences. How much more, then (this verse says), ought believers to treasure their salvation. If believers ever ignore the message concerning redemption; it is impossible for them to escape God’s wrath and subsequent punishment. Dr. Guthrie points out that those who care so little about the word of salvation that they neglect it will find no escape from the punishment they deserve.[1]

Dr. O’Brien notes that the warning of “neglect” is real, but conditional; as it is not stated to refute the congregation’s salvation, but to prevent this from happening.[2] Dr. Bruce comments that the author is afraid that his readers may succumb to the pressure to renounce the Gospel by detaching themselves from its public profession until finally the Gospel ceases to have any influence on their lives.[3] Moses generation refused to remain in the covenant, so God allowed them to die in the wilderness (8:9; 2:12-19). Their persistent neglect was in effect a rejection of God’s purposes (Jer. 4:17). Those who do not heed the divine warning will be overtaken by God’ judgment (Matt. 24:37-39; 25:1-12).

The Christian who neglects their salvation fails to give diligence to making their calling and election sure, failing to “press forward” and “run the race.”  The perservance of believers ought to increase assurance. Believers who persist in good works that spring from faith will usually attain high levels of assurance, which is why believers must preserve to the end in faith, holiness and obedience. To deny the necessity of perservance is to deny abundant scriptural teaching to the contrary (Heb. 2:1; 3). Such denial will weaken the resolve of the believer to run the Christian race, which, in turn, will open him to the chastening hand of his Father (Heb. 12:1-13).



[1] George H. Guthrie, Hebrews: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998), 85.

[2] Peter O’Brien, The Letter To The Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2010), 85.

[3] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews Revised (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1990), 68.

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The other day, I was asked by someone online, “How do I make major or minor decisions?” The first thing I do in making a decision whether major or minor is to pray. The second thing, I do is read through and meditate on the book of Proverbs. The third thing I do is to go talk to godly counselors since Proverbs teaches that in the abundance of counselors there is wisdom (Proverbs 11:14). The fourth thing I do is to pray again. After I’ve done all of this- prayed, read Proverbs (or other Scripture also), talked to godly counselors, prayed again, I make the decision.

If you noticed the order of how I make a decision, I intentionally put in the word “prayer” twice. At every crucial juncture of Jesus ministry- He prayed. Just to give two examples, Jesus prayed before He commissioned the Twelve Disciples, and in the Garden of Gethsemane before He went to the Cross. If prayer was so central to the ministry of Jesus then it ought to be essential to the lives of those who proclaim themselves to be follower of Jesus.

Making decisions, whether they are major or minor can be difficult. Some decisions such as getting married involve your entire family close friends, and you’re Pastor. Other decisions may not involve a wide circle of people in your life. All decisions that believers make should be done to the glory of God. Every decision that believers make ought to be made through the lens of a biblical worldview. Crucial to making sound decisions is having a firm grasp on what God has said in His Word. One of the keys to making good decisions is to be thoroughly grounded not in what you think the Gospel is, but in fact- what it is truly.

The Gospel is the announcement that Jesus has come into the world- born in a manager, lived a sinless life, suffered, died, was buried and rose again for the purpose of seeking and saving the lost. The Bible has one unifying message and that is the Gospel.

Knowing what the Gospel is addresses many areas in the life of the believer- such as how to deal with feelings of guilty, shame, and condemnation. Knowing the message of the Gospel helps the believer to live a holy life unto the Lord. Knowing the Gospel helps the believer to engage non-believers in evangelism. Knowing what Gospel is helps the believer understand and appreciate the precious biblical truths of regeneration, imputation, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification.

Understanding the Gospel will help the believer to live their new life as a new creation in Christ. Understanding the Gospel will help the believer to live out their new life, and new identity in Christ. Understanding the Gospel will help the believer deal with difficulty, suffering, and hard times.  Understanding the Gospel will give the believer a sense of urgency to live a holy life that testifies to the truthfulness of Christ and the totality of the work of Christ on their behalf.

Making decisions is both easy and hard. Making decisions is easy because the Lord Jesus in His Word teaches the folly of those who trust in their own wisdom (Proverbs 3). Making decisions is hard, because man wrestles like Jacob did with God to understand why circumstances and situations in one’s life often turn out the way they do. Making decisions is hard because man lives in a sin stricken world- where man is a sinner by nature and choice. The only way to make godly decisions is by resting in the finished work of Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Christ calls us in Matthew 11:28-30 to come to Him and find rest for our burdens.

The Lord knows our needs, burdens, our anxieties, fears, and doubts. This is why the believer must trust in the Lord and not in themselves. The key to making godly decisions is to trust in the sovereign care of God. The natural inclination of the human heart is to trust in ourselves. The believer in Christ is one who believes that the Lord created the world, sustains the world and who orders all things in accordance with His will and good pleasure, for His glory. The Lord longs for His children to trust in Him- to know His goodness, and for them to find their pleasure and satisfaction in Him.

How do you make decisions? Do your decisions reveal your trust in God, or your lack of trust in Him? Today, I urge you to allow the Lord through the work of His Word and Spirit to examine you, and purify you. Allow the Spirit to convict you of self-reliance and self-righteousness. Allow the Lord to minister to you today so that you can grow in Him.

As the Holy Spirit does His work in your life- repent, turn from your sin, and confess your dependence upon the finished work of Christ.  As you turn from yourself to God, I urge you to pray as you learn to make decisions. Spend time in Proverbs. Find godly counselors in your local Church, or talk to godly believers you know. Pray again, and then make your decision.

Making godly decisions requires trust in the sovereign care and concern of a good God who loves us and wants His children to grow in His image and likeness. I urge you today- to put your trust in the Lord, rest in His finished work, pray, read the Word of God, find godly counselors, and make all your decisions for the sake of the Gospel to the glory of God.

 

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Every week I am going to take a question and answer it. If you have a question or questions feel free to submit it here: http://servantsofgrace.org/contact/ and it will be answered either on the website or privately.

This week’s question is, “Why do many people tell new converts to begin reading the Gospel of John? and why is the Gospel of John so attractive to Jews?”

Dr. Hughes said, “John is unique in his powerful presentation of Jesus as the great Creator-God of the Universe. His massive vision of Christ has been used countless times to open the eyes of unbelievers to who Jesus is and the way of redemption. This Gospel’s continuing effect on Christians is equally profound because in John’s account believers find an ongoing source for expanding their concept of the Savior’s greatness.”

John’s Gospel account is simple to understand but its simplicity also gives us its greatest strength, which is its depth. The Apostle John is known for his ability to paint a picture. As an artist John takes his paint brush and paints a panoramic picture of Jesus. He also takes us into the life of Jesus but continues to weave the story so that we gain intimate knowledge of Jesus. John’s writing is easy to understand but plumbing the depths of his thought requires great effort. New converts are told to begin reading John because of this simplicity and because it is a key to understanding the other Gospels.

Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger said, “Although it is the Gospel of Matthew that is widely known to focus on Jesus’ fulfillment of OT messianic expectations, John’s Gospel, too, roots Jesus’ mission firmly in OT conceptualities and specific texts. From the very beginning and throughout the prologue of his book, the Fourth Evangelist operates within a salvation-historical framework. In his references to the OT John spans the entire range from explicitly quotations to verifiable allusions and thematic connections. In keeping with John’s purpose statement, Jesus is identified as the Christ and Son of God and is set in relation to major figures in Israel’s history, whether Abraham, Jacob, or Moses, as well as the Prophet, by citations of or allusions to Scripture.”

John’s purpose in this Gospel is to show both Jesus’ public ministry and his cross-death fulfilled scriptural patterns and prophecies. The Gospel of John begins with the story of Creation, and grounds all of history in the person and work of Jesus. John wants people to see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. While Matthew is aimed at the Jews; John is aimed at the world. John is attractive to the Jews because it spends considerable amount of time relating in one way or another to various Jewish religious festivals.

 

Sources

 

Hughes, R. Kent. John: That You May Believe: Crossway Books, 1999.

 

G.K. Beale, D.A Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Baker Academic, 2007.

 

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