The Unpardonable Sin: An Exposition of Hebrews 6:1-8

 

(Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

This passage yields a variety of interpretations. The following is an edited version of a two-part sermon I gave recently. I am lightly editing it. I hope that it blesses your heart.

Doctrine: When blessed with full revelation, if you fail to accept Jesus as Messiah, you damn yourself to eternal hell.

This doctrine, as such as revealed in this passage, is unrepeatable today. By this I mean, the Jewish people to whom the author is writing had received as much revelation as humanly possible and were still unsure about the Messiahship of Jesus. As John MacArthur notes addresses a similar situation in Matthew 12:31, where he writes, “The sin He was confronting was the Pharisees’ deliberate rejection of that which they knew to be of God (cf. John 11:48; Acts 4:16).” (The MacArthur Study Bible NKJV, 1414)

The topic of the unpardonable sin is a weighty topic. It is a deep doctrine, for its implication is that a sin cannot be pardoned. That is a heavy thought. Which leaves us to ask the questions: Is there a sin that God cannot forgive? Is there a state that man can reach that is beyond the reach of the mercy of God? Men and women have discussed this, argued about it, and contemplated it for centuries. With that knowledge, this is my humble attempt to faithful exegete this passage, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and seeking to apply it to our present lives.

Let us remember the context in which our author is writing. He is writing to Jewish people. Within this larger group of Jewish people are two sects, if you will. One group accepted Jesus as the Messiah. They are, in the words of one author, “completed Jews.” (Gartenhaus, 163) 1516305939 (1)This same author, a Jewish man who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, writes, “Christianity not only does not oppose basic Judaism but it is Judaism itself fulfilled.” (Gartenhaus, 163) The Jewish men and women who accepted Jesus as the Messiah were not leaving Judaism behind, rather they were embracing its biblical essence. However, there was another group, a group that rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Whether blatant rebellion or simple apathy, these individuals reject Jesus.

Our author has spent five chapters developing the doctrines of Jesus. He is God, greater than Moses and Abraham, He is the high priest and faithful minister of the true people of God. It is this thought, the high priesthood of Christ, that creates a switch in the author’s mind. The readers were immature in their understanding and unable to bear deep thoughts on Melchizedek (see chapter 5, specifically verses 12-14). Our author could not speak on the deep things of God due to their immaturity.

This immaturity leads to two assumptions: immaturity due to a failure to grow, and immaturity due to a failure to be reborn (whatever terminology is used, salvation is the point). It is this thought, a failure to be reborn, that is the focus of Hebrews 6:1-8. We will notice several points:

  1. The basis of Jewish faith- Hebrews 6:1-3
  2. The danger of rejecting revelation- Hebrews 6:4-6
  3. The illustration of damnation- Hebrews 6:7-8

We note, first:

  1. The basis of Jewish faith- Hebrews 6:1-3

    Now, as we begin this discussion, it is vital to remember the context. Many individuals who read the first few verses take this as basic Christian doctrine because of the word Christ, but this is referring to the Jewish faith. Our author, who is Jewish, is writing to Jewish people, about the Jewish Messiah. It is inherently Jewish. So why would our author use the word Christ? Simply because this was the Greek version of the Hebrew term Messiah. There are many connections to Hellenistic influence in this letter. The writer frequently uses the Septuagint (commonly abbreviated as LXX). This is the Greek version of the Tanakh. One of the possible authors of this letter is a Hellenistic Jew, meaning he was a Grecian Jew. This follows the logic that he was familiar with the word Christ (anointed one in the Greek) rather than the Hebrew term Messiah (anointed one in the Hebrew). I belabor this point because it must be anchored within that Jewish context to properly interpret this passage. Otherwise, as many people have done, it will be misinterpreted and misapplied.

    We will discuss the basis of the Jewish faith by understanding the thoughts behind each concept.

    1. Repentance from dead works and of faith toward God

      The idea behind this concept is repentance and faith. Now, you may immediately think, “Repentance and faith is in the Gospel!” And you are partially correct, for there is an absence of the essential individual. The absence of Jesus leaves this teaching (or doctrine) within the framework of the Tanakh, thus an incomplete picture of repentance and faith. John the Baptist, in introducing the Messiah, preached this same message in Matthew 3:2. He is the last of the prophets (Luke 16:16), still preaching repentance but not yet in the person of Jesus. You see, they repented and had faith but failed to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Messiah, the only Name given under heaven whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Repentance from dead works and faith toward God points to salvific faith in Messiah Jesus.

    2. Instructions about washings (or baptisms)

      The idea here is the washings in the Torah. One need only look at the book of Leviticus. The word wash appears 36 times (in the ESV). Washing was an essential aspect of remaining pure, clean. If you look to the Gospels we are given a wonderful example in Mark 7:1-23. Washing was an aspect that would point to the holiness of God and the necessity for purity among God’s people. It is something that was repeated, many times. However, it was a shadow of the washing by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5. Also, if you simply search for “Jewish washings” you will still see the influences to present day Judaism.

    3. The Laying on of hands

      Here we may be tempted to place the act of laying hands from the book of Acts in this passage. The apostles and elders of the church were seen throughout the establishment and development of the churches as laying hands on people. However, remember, this is a Jewish book, to Jewish people. What, in the Tanakh, do we see involving laying hands? When you look to Leviticus 1:4; 3:8 and 13 you see a completely different purpose for laying on of hands. This action represented the transference of guilt from the individual to the animal. It is the act whereby the sinner imputes his sin into the innocent victim. This action points to the act whereby Jesus becomes sin for us (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

    4. The resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment

      This sounds like Christian doctrine, right? I mean of all the phrases mentioned surely this is Christian. I am afraid not. Resurrection and judgment were doctrines of the Jewish faith. Now, if you were to pick up a handful of books on the Jewish faith you will see a variety of opinions on this subject. Some deny that the Tanakh even addresses life after death. Others see it as essential to the Jewish faith. The Jewish people of Jesus’s day, and even Orthodox Jewish people of today, held this biblical truth. I encourage you to look through Isaiah 35, a passage that develops the teaching on the world to come. You can also check out Ecclesiastes 12:14 as well. Both of these passages illustrate belief in an afterlife and judgment to come.

      We see, then, that the framework of Judaism springs one into the presence of the Messiah. We are to repent from dead works and place our faith in Messiah. We are to be washed by the Holy Spirit. We are to accept the substitutionary atonement of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. Additionally, we are to look to the time when Messiah will come and make all things new. Judaism points directly to Jesus Messiah.

    5. The desire for growth

      Our author makes one final note for this section, that he desires to move beyond this elementary doctrines on to maturity, and for the readers to move on to maturity. But he adds one phrase, “if God permits.” Please remember that God is sovereign, as we can see in Ephesians 1 and 2.

      Because of all of this, our author then moves on to the dangerous, precarious situation of these Jewish readers:

  2. The danger of rejecting full revelation- Hebrews 6:4-6

    After this brief review of the “elementary doctrine of Christ (or Messiah)”, our author then brings the point to a stark point: rejecting full revelation brings damnation.

    1. The finality of rejection- it is impossible

      The very first point the author makes it that renewal after rejection of full revelation is impossible. I asked, at the beginning, are there sins that God will not, or cannot, forgive? The biblical answer is yes. Now, before we get too far into this passage let me paint you a broad picture. This rejection of full revelation is not repeatable. That is, this situation was specific to this generation. While we breathe a sigh of relief, please understand that rejection of God’s truth today is no less serious. After looking at our passage in Hebrews, we will turn to Matthew 12:22-32 to see this played out in a narrative fashion.

    2. The specifics of this rejection:
      1. Those who have once been enlightened

        This phrase seems to suggest salvation. That is how many throughout church history have taken this passage. However, I believe when we examine the context and compare Scripture with Scripture, it refers to Jewish people who had access to full revelation. In other words, these Jewish people had received as much truth as humanly possible without bringing about conversion. Let us look at what this enlightenment entails. Remember the Jewish context. Turn to Isaiah 9:1-2 where the same idea can be found. This divine light shined on all who saw it, but not all who saw it rejoiced in the Messiah. As with the other phrases, this does not imply nor is it used to refer to salvation in a specific way. And since our author has placed every warning within the context of the Tanakh, this passage is no different. You will notice in your sermon notes additional references. I encourage you to look these up as you work your way through this rather difficult passage. There is also an interesting connection to Exodus 13:21 and Nehemiah 9:12.

      2. Tasted of the heavenly gift

        There are two allusions to this idea of tasting a heavenly gift. For one, those that ate of the manna from heaven in Exodus 16:4. They tasted that heavenly gift (a similar word used by our author in Hebrews). Nehemiah 9:15 gives the same idea, as well as Psalm 78:24. Think, as well, of Jesus. In John 6:22-59 where Jesus is the Bread of Heaven, and Jesus graphically states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6:47-47) These individuals had tasted of the heavenly gift.

      3. Shared in the Holy Spirit

        Can one share in the Holy Spirit and not be saved? Indeed, I believe Scripture clearly communicates this. Nehemiah 9:20 speaks about this giving of the Holy Spirit. If you can run through your minds all the accounts where “the Holy Spirit came upon” so and so, you get the idea. Numbers 11:16-29 also speaks of this. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to present a full treatment of pneumatology (the doctrine/study of the Holy Spirit). But you can briefly see that the Holy Spirit operated differently in the Old Covenant than in the New Covenant. Think about the life of Jesus, who by the power of the Holy Spirit completed some amazing miracles!

      4. Tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come

        The Israelites (and the people in Hebrews) have tasted the goodness of the Word of God. They experienced God’s goodness through the Tanakh, what we call the Old Testament. They also experienced incredible miracles. This is referenced in Hebrews 2:4. It is an allusion to Exodus 7:3 and the wonders of the plagues against Israel. The powers of the age to come is a reference to the miracles wrought by Jesus on earth (and in the Tanakh by Moses and the prophets), a breakthrough-look to the future kingdom of God in which all wrongs are righted and all sickness, pain, and tears and done away with. In the second sermon in this series we discussed the phrase found in Hebrews 1:2 where the author writes, “…in these last days…”. We discussed the implications of the phrase in regards to the Messianic promises and kingdom to come.

    3. The Implication of rejection- Crucify Him!

      We turn our attention, now, to the verse six. The thought of impossibility begins in verse four. Our author, then, takes the time to discuss the specifics of this rejection. Now we see the implication. What does it mean to reject Messiah? For this, our author describes in a graphic way what happens. He states, “It is impossible….to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Heb. 6:4, 6) When they reject all the revelation presented, all the truth preached, the miracles wrought, and they have fallen away, shout with the crowds: Crucify Him! Crucify Him! By their actions they are claiming Jesus is guilty as charged. The seriousness of this verse cannot be overstated.

      One more thought before moving to the illustration of damnation. The idea behind “have fallen away” gives the same ideas found in the other warning passages. Hebrews 2:1 says we must pay attention, lest like a boat, we drift away. Hebrews 3:12 mentions the danger of unbelief leading us to “fall away” (a different Greek word). Hebrews 4:11 states that we must strive to enter the rest of God lest we “may fall”. All the ideas are of gradual, slow, and steady rejection. I used the illustration of Bart Ehrman, a brilliant New Testament scholar who, after witnessing the evil of the world, slowly rejected the idea that God existed. It is a process. Imagine the individuals of whom our author is speaking. They had seen everything, and still rejected Messiah Jesus.

      David Klinghoffer’s Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History, discusses the precariousness of rejecting Messiah Jesus. He writes,

      If Jesus was the Messiah, then the Jews today are in big trouble, as all their ancestors have been for the past two millennia, along with a lot of gentiles who haven;t grasped what a vital truth the Christian idea is. Even setting aside the belief that the disposition of one’s immortal soul depends on recognizing him in this role, if Christians are right about Jesus, then many generations of Jews and other peoples have missed out on the very climax of history, the ministry and death of Jesus Christ. It happened, but we weren’t paying attention.

      Brothers and sisters, we are in the same danger if we reject the truth of God in our lives.

  • The illustration of damnation- Hebrews 6:7-8

    The author takes the remaining two verses to provide a natural illustration of this biblical truth. We will break it down to the positive response and negative response. Keep in mind, however, the statement made by our author in 6:3, “And this we will do if God permits.” God is sovereign over all.

    1. The Useful Crop- Heb. 6:7

      The rain falls on both types of plants. Just as God’s word, power, miracles, and everything accompanying them did on the hearers and readers of this letter. However, the response is quite different. The useful crop cultivates (the word we get geography from) to the rain and earth to produce food. That is, it takes the enlightenment, the heavenly gifts, the Holy Spirit, the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come and cultivates it with belief and action. This is where we need, must be! We must take the truths of God’s Word and believe and act on it.

    2. The Worthless Crop- Hebrews 6:8

      The same rain falls on this plant as it did with the useful crop. Again, God’s Word, power, miracles, and everything accompanying them did on their hearers and readers of this letter. The worthless crop bears “thorns and thistles”. I am certainly not a farmer, but I do know that if you are growing food (or flowers for that matter) you do not want thorns and thistles. What is the difference? Why did one yield a useful crop and the other yield thorns and thistles?

      There are several clues, both from this passage as well as other Scripture, which give us the difference. In our own letter of Hebrews we have seen that our response is to be filled with faith (belief) and action. These two are proper responses to the wonderful revelation given to us by God. However, the language is found in the Tanakh as well. For one, in God’s judgment on Adam and Eve he speaks of thorns and thistles. Genesis 3:14-19 speaks of God’s judgment on the earth. However, all of these aspects of the judgment can be summed up with the words from Genesis 2:17. It is death! From which we know from Ephesians 2:1-8 that it is only by God’s grace that we are brought back to life (If God permit, remember?).

      There is one other passage that I think is particularly pertinent for our passage this morning. Deuteronomy 28 is the chapter which presents the blessings for obeying the covenant and the curses for disobedience. At the heart of both obedience and disobedience is belief, whether positive or negative. If they believed the Torah they would obey and be blessed; if they failed to believe the Torah they would disobey and be cursed. As with the Torah, so with the belief in the Messiah, belief and action are essential to holding fast, of true biblical conversion. Failure to respond in biblical faith and action is impossible to repent from. This is the danger that these Jewish people faced. They had been presented the full source of revelation that no one before nor since has had the privilege, and they failed to believe. It is staggering. However, lest we think that we are not able to experience damnation we must take heed. For, while we do not see physical miracles take place, we do not witness the resurrection of dead men and women, we do not taste the powers of the Word of God, we have, as Abraham reminded the rich man in hell, “Moses and the Prophets.” (Luke 16:29) We have something that no one before us had, the Sacred Scriptures. If we reject, constantly, slowly, gradually, the Word of God then we are illustrating that we are the worthless crop that is doomed to be burned.

    3. The Blasphemous Pharisees- Matthew 12:22-32

      This narrative illustrates, in a narrative fashion, what Hebrews 6:1-8 discusses. The Pharisees witness a miracle. Jesus casts a demon out and heals a man. The crowds, witnessing this wonderful event respond, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:23, NKJV) How did the Pharisees respond? “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.” (Matthew 12:24, NKJV) They maintain that the only way Jesus did miracles was through demonic power.

      The Pharisees were privileged to see incredible miracles, hear powerful preaching, and witness God in the flesh (see John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:1-3). They enjoyed revelation in a way no other human beings did. What was their response? Unbelief. They remained dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Applications:

How are we to apply this, if this passage is time-specific? While the actual passage may not be repeatable, the act of unbelief is. Rejection of revealed truth is dangerous. One is reminded of Paul’s address to the saints at Rome. In Romans 1:18-32 discusses, in graphic detail, what the rejection of truth brings.

Brothers and sisters, do not reject truth. If you are not a Christian, please consider the truth of Scripture, repent of your sins and believe in the Messiah Jesus.

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“The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP”: A Review

The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP by Terry Heaton is an interesting, self-reflective book. To be honest, upon seeing the title I was not sure what to expect from Mr. Heaton’s work. In a short summary, it is the walkthrough of Mr. Heaton’s time working with Pat Robertson and CBN, covering how the motives of Mr. Robertson and CBN eschewed the lines between legality and truth, adherence to love for neighbors and the pushing of an agenda. Ultimately, it is a memoir of Mr. Heaton’s journey to a more open, emergent faith.

Rather than walking through the book, I want to present my thoughts on different aspects of the work. It may be confusing, but as this is the way I digested the book, I wish to be consistent.

At times, it is difficult to follow the book. It roughly follows a timeline of Mr. Heaton’s time with CBN and Mr. Robertson. However, interwoven throughout the work are “soapbox” stands, political views, and personal issues with both Mr. Robertson and CBN. Unfortunately, Mr. Heaton confuses conservative politics with the actions of a few, presents his arguments as the best, and then leaves the reader with the only conclusion that anything less than a leftist, liberal politic is following a gospel of self.

For example, Mr. Heaton opens his first chapter with these words, “The evangelist’s message has always been self-centered, for it preaches the gospel as a means to saving one’s own ass from eternal hellfire and damnation in the afterlife. Evangelical Christianity has refined the message over the years and turned it today into the means for blessings in this life as well.” (Heaton, 2017) Mr. Heaton is illustrating a failure to grasp the biblical Gospel. It is not a means of “saving one’s own ass” but of God intervening to deliver individuals from death in trespasses and sins to life (see Ephesians 2:1-10). Later in the book his asks, “Was I naïve, because I was such a novice in the faith?” (Heaton, 2017) Yes Mr. Heaton, you were, for the views you present in your work are not biblical Christianity. Furthermore, Mr. Heaton attaches his hatred for conservative views (politically, economically, etc.) by attempting to apply the “blessings in this life” with those views and stances of conservatism.

Let me say that Terry Heaton has a point. This aspect of his book should be eye opening to those who claim to be Christians but do not go to church, do not believe the Gospel, and fail to live the Christian life. Instead, they find an avenue that furthers their greed and personal comfort and cloaks it with the name Christian. Mr. Heaton’s book does an excellent job of this. He acknowledges, “We presented as Biblical mandates or “laws” economic views that catered to the haves of culture, teaching that being one of the haves was available for everybody.” (Heaton, 2017) The problem with Mr. Heaton’s work, however, is a failure to distinguish individuals who proclaim a prosperity gospel rather than the true Gospel. Additionally, his hatred for conservatism belies an ignorance of how the economy works, basic constitutionalism, and how balanced Christianity is in light of both conservative and liberal views. He laments, “There is no zeal quite like that of religious zeal, for it comes with blinders to alternative views of reality.” (Heaton, 2017) Is this not what Mr. Heaton is doing? If you read the book, I believe you will come to that conclusion.

In his condemnation of the politics of Mr. Trump (see pages 7-13) he fails to exhibit grace in reaching out to others (see pages 38-39). He refers to the viewers of his programs as “ignorant, polyester-wearing, Bible-thumping morons.” (Heaton, 2017)

The chapter on The Shadow Government, 1984-1985 was highly interesting. I would like to say I am shocked about the accusations, but Christians, particularly those who are most likely not Christians, it is no surprise.

Finally, the last chapter is an appeal to an emergent view of Christianity. The emergent church movement is a joke. The absence of biblical basis is ridiculous. The movement saps the foundation and material of Christianity from the faith and leaves nothing but a blubbery mess of confusion and damnation.

Who should read this book? I think it would be helpful for individuals claiming to be Christians and hyper-conservative. It may help open your eyes to your own consistencies. For those on the left, I recommend reading this to see the spirit in which some of your own arguments come. Both sides have much to learn from each other. One last recommendation: do not read this book for any information about the Scriptures, God, or the Gospel. It is a failure for this.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

The Key to Sanctification

As I work my way through Powlison’s book How Does Sanctification Work?, I have been repeatedly impressed. The biblical insight is amazing, the practical aspects are encouraging, and the balanced approach is encouraging.

In my last post I mentioned the coming of snow. I can happily say that snow it did! We received about a foot of snow during the evening. It is beautiful, a small spark of God’s incredible beauty, wisdom, and graciousness. As I type this, I am sitting near a warm fire with BBC’s Planet Earth II playing in the background. I am not sure why I am telling you this, but now you know!

Back to sanctification. Chapter two begins with a question, “Is there one key to sanctification?” My understanding of sanctification would have answered with a qualified answer. Yes, of course there is one key! This key may be multifaceted, but it boils down to the basics of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

This, of course, is simplistic and utilitarian thinking, and unbiblical. Powlison provides nine typical “keys” that we often hear (or that I often say). He makes the point, “These nine assertions becomes problematic only when we lapse into saying, ‘Just remember this one thing…Just rehearse…Just make sure…Just ask…If you will just do…’”. (Powlison, 25)

What are the nine keys? Here they are:

  1. “Remember that God is sovereign and is working all things for good in those who love him.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)

    This one is a go-to for myself. When something bad is happening, I relish God’s control of the situation. While it may be difficult to fathom or understand its implications, God truly is in control. The problem lies when we focus on this to the exclusion of the other biblical truths about our God.

  2. “Rehearse and remind yourself of your identity in Christ.” (Powlison, 24)

    A few people seem to focus on this aspect of the Christian life. It is so important, and it is one of Paul’s emphases in the book of Ephesians. I typically hear this in conjunction with conquering sin. If you just saw yourself in Christ you wouldn’t sin! While this may be a help, it is certainly not the

  3. “Make sure you are in honest accountability ” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)

    Depending on the flare of the church, this one can be huge! Accountability is certainly a vital part of growth in holiness. Yet, it is not everything. Some seem to suggest that having an accountability partner will alleviate all sins.

  4. “Avail yourself of the means of grace.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)

    By ‘means of grace’ Powlison means “corporate worship and sacraments, and maintain[ing] daily Scripture reading and prayer.” (Powlison, 24) This would be second on my list. I love the way Scripture reading and prayer can be completed, almost like a chore that can be checked off my daily to-do list. I encourage people to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer daily. It is a great way to grow, but in and of itself it is not the complete way to sanctification.

  5. Wage spiritual warfare against the predator of your soul.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)

    The spiritual warfare movement received more attention in the past than it does today (perhaps). Ephesians 6:10-18 warns believers about this war and how to fight it. I just began working through William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armor, and in the beginning he mentions the seriousness of the conflict.

  6. “Get busy serving others with the gifts the Lord has given you.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 25)

    This one brings me back to my fundamental Baptist days. Some seemed to think that service equaled holiness (thankfully not everyone felt this way!). The more you do, the more holy you are. If you share with others the Gospel then of course you are a great Christian! God has gifted each believer with a gift (or gifts, as is the case) to be used for the edification of believers, evangelization of the lost, and the exaltation of our Savior.

  7. “Remember that you are accepted by God as his child and that he fully forgives your sins through the shed blood of Jesus.” (Powlison, 25)

    This is a wonderful truth that as a Christian we can never get over! Our sins, which were scarlet, are now white as snow! What a glorious reality! This, in its entire splendor, is not all there is to the Christian life. There is so much more!

  8. “Ask the Lord to give you his Holy Spirit that you might walk in his ways.” (Powlison, 25)

    Frequently the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer is downplayed. We love the Holy Spirit; he helps us live the righteous life. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to pray to our Heavenly Father.

  9. “Set your hope fully on the grace to be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Powlison, 25)

    This is a look to the future grace that will be all for all believers. And I cannot wait for this! But, this is not the

Powlison’s work is already so helpful. As I continue to work through it, I hope to share it with you!

Sanctification: A Threefold Understanding

First, as I write this, I am waiting in line to pick my daughter up from school. Isn’t technology amazing?

Second, it is cold! It’s around 32 degrees with a chance of snow tomorrow. I’m hoping we see some white on the ground!

Third, I began reading David Powlison’s book How Does Sanctification Works? In the introduction, Powlison defines what sanctification is. He gives a snap shot of the tenses of sanctification: past, present, and future.

I’d simply like to provide his material, as I think it may prove beneficial for you in your walk with God. Everything from here on out is Powlison’s work.

  • In the past tense, your sanctification has already happened. You are a saint—an identity for which you get no credit! God decisively acted by making you his very own in Christ. You have been saved.
  • In the present tense, your sanctification is now being worked out. God is working throughout your life—on a scale of days, years, and decades—to remake you into the likeness of Jesus. You are being progressively sanctified. You are being saved.
  • In the future tense, your sanctification will be perfected. You will live. Your love will be perfected. You will see God’s face when he decisively acts to complete his work of conforming you to the image of Jesus. You will participate in the glory of God Himself. You will be saved.

David Powlison, How Does Sanctification Work?, pages 13-14.

How to Sanctify God: Practical Progress from the Puritans, Part Three

How do we sanctify God? We have been looking at this thought, brought from the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9. Thomas Manton, a Puritan preacher, has walked us through very practical ways in which we can sanctify God. We have noticed how God is sanctified upon us in judgment and by us in our lives. We can sanctify God in thoughts, words, and actions. (Manton, 86) We have examined how to sanctify God in thoughts and words, and now we will look at how to sanctify God in our actions.

Manton begins by dividing our actions into two things: worship and ordinary conversation (or lifestyle).

Sanctifying God in Worship

Manton writes, “In our worship, there God especially will be sanctified.” (Manton, 87) He goes on to write, “God is very tender of his worship: sancta sanctis, holy things must be managed by holy men in a holy manner. Therefore, what is it to sanctify God when we draw night to him? To have a more excellent frame of heart in worship than we have about other things.”

When we worship God, we must remember Who we are worshiping. Manton cites Ecclesiastes 5:1. Feel the reverence and seriousness of this verse, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.” We would do well to consider the seriousness of worship. I am slowly (very slowly) working my way through R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O’Donnell’s The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry. The very first chapter addresses Sunday worship. In the chapter, specifically pages 32-38 provide a walkthrough of Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 in which they address the seriousness of worship.

Manton ends the section with these weighty words, “We must not go about these holy services hand over head, but with great caution and heed.” (Manton, 87)

Sanctifying God in Ordinary Conversation

Our lives can either sanctify God or dilute His good Name. Manton quips that to sanctify God is, “When our life is ordered so that we may give men occasion to say, that surely he is a holy God whom we serve.” (Manton, 87) This, according to Manton, can be accomplished two ways:

  1. “When you walk as remembering you have a holy God.” (Manton, 87) We should build our lives around the truth that God is holy. The Wesminster Confession of Faith describes God as, “…most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands.” (WCF 2.2) In another point Manton observes that God’s holiness “…is that which God counteth to be his chief excellency, and the glory which he will manifest among the sons of men.” (Manton, 88) God is, according to the angels, holy, holy, holy (see Isaiah 6:3). When we remember that God is holy, our lives will be different. We will seek to be like our holy God in our speech (Ephesians 4:29) and in our interactions with each other (Ephesians 5:1-6:9). Manton, bridging off this idea, comments, “Therefore you must be watchful and strict.” (Manton, 87)
  2. “When you walk as discovering to others you have a holy God.” (Manton, 87) This is a wordy way of saying practice what you preach. One of the greatest hindrances to the Christian faith is hypocrisy. If you want some proof of this, check our Barna’s research on this. Manton notes the issues surrounding this, “A carnal worshipper profaneth the memory of God in the world.” (Manton, 88) One of the dangers of living a life rightly structured is human moralism. Not unaware of this, Manton warns, “We should discover (or make known) more than a human excellency, that so those which look upon us may say, These are the servants of the holy God.” (Manton, 88) When Christians sanctify God in action they “discovereth what a God he hath.” (Manton, 88)

So, Christian, are you sanctifying God? We have noted three ways in which we can sanctify God: in thought, speech, and action. Let every aspect of our being sanctify God!

Some Helpful Articles from 9Marks

9Marks is an incredible ministry for churches and pastors. Here are some of their recent articles. I do not own the articles, materials, or anything associated with them. However, I encourage you to visit the links and be blessed.

I was particularly blessed by the Best Books for Pastors in 2017. One book that I’d like to highlight is David Murray’s Reset. I will be reading that annually!

Best Books for Pastors in 2017, by Alex Duke

4 Reasons Every Church Needs Senior Saints, by Tim Counts

Life and Apologetics with R. C. Sproul, an interview with Mark Dever and R. C. Sproul

 

 

 

Photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya on Unsplash

How to Sanctify God: Practical Progress from the Puritans, Part Two

In a previous post we examined Manton’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, namely, how to sanctify God’s name. We noted that God is sanctified upon us and by us. We say that we can sanctify God in our thoughts, looking at maintaining a biblical view of God in our minds and staying close to God during times of difficulties.

Today we are going to walk with Manton as he teaches us how to sanctify God with our tongues (or speech).

Manton gives three ways we can do this:

  • “God is sanctified with our tongues, when we use God’s name, titles, ordinances, and word, as holy things.” (Manton, 87)
  • “When we speak of the Lord with reverence, and with great seriousness of heart, not taking his name in vain” (Manton, 87)
  • “When we are deeply affected with his praise.” (Manton, 87)

Let us look at each individually and discover practical ways that we can apply them.

Using God’s name, titles, ordinances, and word as holy things.

One aspect of Judaism that I admire is their reverence for God. The Scriptures portray God as holy (see Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:3; and Revelation 4:8). This is his “beauty” (see Stephen Charnock’s quote in A. W. Pink’s The Attributes of God, 41). The most common name for God in Rabbinic Judaism is “The Holy One, Blessed Be He” (see Abraham Cohen’s Everyman’s Talmud, 22). This refers to God’s name. What about His titles? What about His ordinances (or works)? Or His Word? Do we reverence these?

Take our Bibles, for example. Do you place God’s Word on the ground? Do you sling it into the pew, on your book shelf, or leave it all week in the back of your car? One way that we can sanctify God is to treat His name, titles, ordinances, and word with great reverence.

Speaking about God with reverence and seriousness, avoiding taking His name in vain.

The command in Exodus 20:7 is, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This, indeed, is a serious matter. One way in which we can sanctify God in our speech is to speak reverently of the Holy One of Israel. To take something in vain is to treat it as common.

How do we do this? One example is in our prayers. If, when we pray, we say “God,” “Father God,” and “Lord,” sixty times in a short prayer, we may be taking His name in vain. I said may, because I cannot see an individual’s heart. However, if we say God’s name repeatedly, it can become common.

Another way in which can sanctify God’s name is by speaking with it lovingly and reverently. Too often I find myself using God’s name in a nonchalant way. When we speak about God, we must treat His name in a holy way. We should take great care in not rushing through it, or speaking of it in a light manner. Let us speak about God with reverence, thus sanctifying Him in our speech.

Being deeply affected with God’s praise.

This method seems off when compared with the other two. Perhaps that is because we are more familiar with the first two, and we are not as well versed in the biblical foundation for worship. Our hearts should be affected. The older usage of the word deals more with the emotions, or affections (Jonathan Edwards uses this definition in his work, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, in Three Parts.) Manton states, “It is no slight thing to praise God.” (Manton, 87)

It is not slight thing to praise God. -Manton

I think of my wife. She is, other than God, my greatest treasure. She is always so kind, loving, and sweet. She adores our three children, always finding new ways to express her charity toward them. She is my life. I cannot imagine going through a day without expression some form of praise to her. This is the idea of our praise to God. On an infinitely higher plane, God deserves our praise. Manton references Psalm 51:15 and 45:1 as texts that support this thought. One can always return to 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul encourages, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Imagine if we walked through our day constantly praising our incredibly holy, loving, and sovereign God! This would change our lives! So, sanctify God through praises.

Meditate on these practical exhortations of Thomas Manton. Live in the Lord’s Prayer, and daily sanctify God in your life!