WHAT GOD DID FOR US IN
JESUS' DEATH AND RESURRECTION
Hebrews 12:18-29 For you have not
come to a mountain that can be touched and to a
blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet
and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no
further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast
touches the mountain, it will be stoned." And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said,
"I am full of fear and trembling." But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly
and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all,
and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new
covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See
to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they
refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from
Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has
promised, saying, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven."
This expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be
shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude,
by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our
God is a consuming fire.
For a few Sunday evenings we have focused on the conscious roles Jesus served in
his earthly ministry. I stressed several times, "It is not a question of what we do for
God. It is an understanding of what God did for us in Jesus' death and resurrection."
The focus of our faith must not be on our achievements in obedience. The focus of our
faith must be on God's achievements in giving the life of Jesus on the cross and on
resurrecting Jesus from the tomb.
For a few weeks I want us to consider God's accomplishments (for us) in Jesus' death
and resurrection. This evening I want to focus on this accomplishment: In Jesus' death
and resurrection, God gave us an entirely new way to look at him and to approach him.
- To make the point I wish to make, we must begin with a basic
of the writing called Hebrews.
- First, I want to share this understanding.
- When we approach any scripture, we first need to ask ourselves, "What was
the problem to writer addressed? How was the problem being addressed in
- No writing in scripture was consciously written to 21st century America.
- That does not mean that scripture was not "god breathed" or inspired.
- That does not mean that the messages of scripture are not relevant to our
- It simply means that if we do not seek to understand the point the author
made, we are likely to miss God's point an make the wrong application of
what was said.
- No scripture receives its meaning from us.
- All scripture means what the writer meant as he was moved by God to
write--the true point is the point of the writer.
- Originally, each book (especially in the New Testament--most of the Old
Testament books were written to Israel) was written to someone or a specific
group about a specific problem or set of problems in that group.
- The more we understand what the problem or problems were in the group
who first received the writing, the better we understand the point the
author of the writing made to them.
- The better we understand the author's point, the more likely we are to
make the correct application of the author's statement.
- That simply means the more likely our lives reflect God's values instead
of our human values.
- Let's make application of these principles to the New Testament writing called
- We do not know who the author is because it does not give the author
- While it is legitimate to be concerned about who the author is, it is not a
matter of grasping the message because we "know" who the author is.
- At best, it is a matter of opinion.
- We each have the right to hold an opinion.
- We do not have the right to use our opinion as a standard of
- It is my conclusion and understanding that the message is written to Jewish
Christians who were in spiritual difficulty.
- I hold that understanding for several reasons.
- First, the message shows the superiority of Jesus as God's
spokesman, to angels (big in Jewish first century theology), as the
means to God, to the Jewish high priest, and to Moses--all this would
have special significance to Jewish people.
- Second, there is extensive use of the concept of covenant, which was
an important part of Jewish theology--there is even a long quote from
Jeremiah 31 to explain what God was doing in Jesus.
- Third, there is the reminder of "the former days" when these Christians
made enormous sacrifices for Jesus.
- Fourth, there is a contrast made between the temporary nature of
Jewish sacrifices and the permanent nature of Jesus' sacrifice.
- Fifth, there is the role call of faith in the 11th chapter in which people
and instances from Jewish history are prominent.
- Sixth, there is the contrast between God acting at Mount Sinai and
God acting at Jesus cross and tomb (in the church).
- These understandings become even more significant to me when I
understand the resentment of Judaism against the conversion of gentiles
through nothing more than faith in Jesus.
- What was the problem?
- Some Jewish Christians were seriously considering leaving faith in Jesus
Christ to return to Judaism.
- They would not be leaving God, just Jesus.
- Judaism worshipped the same God, just not Jesus.
- If they did this, they would avoid the ire and consequences of Jews
who said, "You can be a part of Judaism or a part of the church, but
- "If you choose the church, we no longer regard you as part of the
Jewish community"--and that was a huge sacrifice!
- The writer said in a number of ways, "You cannot do that!"
- "If you leave Jesus, you leave God!"
- "Jesus is God's intent and purpose!"
- "Every blessing God intended you to have is through Jesus!"
- The basic point is simple: "You cannot go back by deserting Jesus! That
is not the solution!"
Now let me call your attention to the text that was read
To me, Hebrews 4:14-16 states this powerfully and beautifully.
- The contrast is between God's actions at Mount Sinai resulting in the nation of
Israel and God's actions in Jesus' cross resulting in a kingdom of people called
- The contrast is not between a nation and an institution.
- The contrast is between two kinds of people--the people who responded to
Mount Sinai and the people who responded to Jesus.
- In Hebrews 12:18-21 a reminder of what occurred at Sinai is given.
- There was the mountain the could not be touched, the fire, the darkness, the
storm, the blast of the trumpet, and the sound of words--all designed to
create an atmosphere of fear.
- Now consider Exodus 19:16-21:
So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that
there were thunder and
lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound,
so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people
out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount
Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke
ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When
the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him
with thunder (or a voice; literally a sound). The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the
top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses
went up. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, "Go down, warn the people, so that they do
not break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish."
- The text says that was not the experience of those who come to God through
- Christians come to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to
the Judge of all Who perfects the righteous, to Jesus who is superior to
anything before him.
- Realize the superior thing God did through Jesus!
- Realize how serious it is to reject Jesus!
- In the context of the entire book, the point is simple: Jesus provides you a whole
new way to approach God. Consider this chart.
- Sometimes I think we just do not appreciate how evil people were prior to
- The Israelites were so evil they did not even appreciate what God did for
them in releasing them from slavery (see Exodus 32).
- Under no consideration did the bulk of those people love God!
- What do you do with people who are so wicked they are out of control?
- You try to bring them under control.
- How do you do that?
- You fill them with the fear of the consequences of being out of control.
- Yet, if the goal is to create a relationship of love that allows you to bring
yourself under control because in love you appreciate what is done for you,
the fear of consequences is only the beginning of the journey.
- The point is not that God is some great big teddy bear you snuggle up to.
- The nature of God had not changed.
- The nature of those who come to God through Jesus has changed.
- God is still a consuming fire, but those who come to him through Jesus have
no reason to be afraid of Him.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed
through the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all
things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the
throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
- Jesus represents us to God the Father.
- He represents us because Christians acknowledge and trust who he is.
- Therefore, Christians must not abandon Jesus.
- Jesus knows our weaknesses.
- He has experienced human limitations and temptation.
- Yet, he refused to sin.
- Because of him, God can look at us with grace and mercy.
- Because of him, weak we can go to God in confidence.
- The confidence is not in us, but in Jesus.
- We can go to God when we are really struggling and know we will receive
grace and mercy in our struggles.
- That is an enormous blessing we can live with!
The point is simple. We are not saved because we are so good. We are saved
because of what God allows Jesus to do for us that we cannot do for ourselves.
Because of Jesus, we have a new way to come to God.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 11 December 2005
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