If you were following our Hebrews series, you know we took a detour when we hit Hebrews 5:8-9 into a related discussion on obedience, a discussion that turned into a 7-part series! :) If you haven’t listened to any of that series, and you’ve been plagued by an ongoing lack regarding obedience, I suggest you might want to check it out. I’m certain that many in the religious system would denounce it out of hand as heresy.
And well they should! LOL! What I mean to say is that because our discussions on obedience pretty much destroy the prevailing wisdom of a system built upon a guilt-induced, fear-motivated obligation to God, there’s really no other conclusion imaginable to those who promote and feed off that wisdom.
So Jim, let’s focus all that insight regarding obedience back into the part of Hebrews 5 where we deviated from. It’s the passage that says:
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:8-10
For example, why did Jesus have to learn obedience? And what does it imply where it speaks of him becoming the source of eternal salvation to all those who OBEY him? That’s a biggie!
I’m just going to answer this in the form of a recap. Those who are looking for more than that have 7 audios that provide a lot of groundwork behind much of what I’m saying now.
First of all, it’s because we’ve so totally misunderstood what obedience truly refers to that we might have difficulty understanding why Jesus had to learn obedience. See, when we come at it as if learning obedience means that Jesus may or may not have done the right thing, it reveals our misunderstanding that something might be true even though it hasn’t yet been experienced.
So, what are you saying … that Jesus’ obedience at any given time wasn’t in question, rather that it was something yet experienced?
Isn’t that the very premise of Hebrews? I mean, from the very opening statement in the letter, wasn’t the Son of God declared to be the One who was appointed for this? Listen to how the writer began the letter:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:1-4
Is there any hint whatsoever that Jesus, the Son of God, the anointed one, would not carry out exactly what he came to do? Is there any suggestion that he would not continue to hear his father all the way through so as to renege on his father’s will? I mean, many people have examined some of recorded accounts and imagined that Jesus may or may not have seen it through, especially there at the end in the garden of Gethsemane … but is that truly the case?
Jim, I am reminded of what is stated in Hebrews 10:7
“THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’” Hebrews 10:7
I mean, that was the very reason he came. Like you said, nothing in Hebrews seems to suggest it was all hanging in the balances. During the course of our 7 audio series on obedience, we repeatedly came back to the significance found in the very meaning of the word obedience, how it comes from the word — in both Hebrew and Greek — meaning, to hear.
Yes, Jesus lived his life within this hearing, a hearing that came from his father, and as he heard, he did. Of course, when we consider our own hearing we mostly question it, don’t we? We assume that our obedience was on the line … and we blew it. But what are we listening to as we examine ourselves? Upon what basis do we consider ourselves to be hearing God? Isn’t it when we apply the written word to ourselves — or more often than not, to let someone else apply it to us — as if to test our obedience?
So Jim, back to what you were saying about experiencing obedience … that the obeying is not in question, but that it needs to be experienced. It seems we’ve learned to view ourselves as if our obedience is always hanging in the balances, as if the next application of God’s word is going to reveal that we are not really obedient. There are a lot of Christians living in that frame of mind, aren’t there?
That’s for sure. Now, I came from a background where I was taught that Jesus’ obedience was never in question. I was also taught that my own salvation was not in question. Basically, that meant that I was assured a place in heaven. For some, that’s the pinnacle of assurance. But you know what? It may have given me great comfort regarding what would happen when I died, but it didn’t mean much in view of the bondage, and subsequent failure, that kept building up in my ongoing day-to-day life. I was taught to make myself strong in the Lord by reading and applying God’s written word to my life, by confessing my sin on a daily basis, by witnessing to the lost of God’s gift of salvation, by making prayer a priority in my life. Somehow, that was supposed to override the complications that came up. That was supposed to keep me from sin.
Adam, do you remember the verse in the Psalms about how a young man could keep himself cleansed?
Yeah, you’re referring to Psalm 119:9
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalms 119:9-11
That’s standard fare in many Christian circles, isn’t it? Hide the word in your heart: Commit those verses to memory, and call upon them when needed. While I was in Bible College, I took it upon myself (after having been challenged by a visiting preacher) to start a Bible-memorization program that employed the use of 3x5 index cards. I started out with a standard-sized index card box but quickly graduated to an over-sized box. Before I finally gave it up, I had numerous index-card boxes filled with Bible verses.
So, what made you give it up?
I can’t really say for sure. It did take a lot of discipline, and maybe I just wearied of keeping up with the process. Then again, it didn’t help matters when I realized how far I was straying from my Bible College teachings. For the ending of my memorization program somewhat coincided with the beginning of my realization of grace. It makes me wonder if my hearing God was instrumental in letting it all go.
Anyhow, I sure many of our listeners have seen one of those lists of Bible verses where the appropriate Bible verse is quoted for any given situation or problem you might find yourself in. Now, I’m not saying that we can’t find some needed encouragement and help through single Bible verses, but haven’t we gotten ourselves into a habit that’s more like searching through the drug store for the best product for our symptoms?
In this mentality, we believed that if we could avail ourselves of the appropriate Bible verse, we could keep ourselves pure. I won’t try to tell you that I didn’t find much encouragement in the process, but in many ways the obedience I was hoping for didn’t always work out as well as I had imagined. I mean, I was hiding the word in my heart, but I was more and more convinced of having sinned against God … which convinced me that I was not obedient.
Because we’ve been ingrained to view ourselves according to sin, we can’t see the simplicity by which our obedience is not gained but learned by the hardships we experience. What if we knew that God wasn’t throwing things at us to expose our disobedience, but that he has been causing us to learn what the true obedience that we’ve been brought into really is … and it happens through whatever sufferings we go through?
So, God is not bringing calamity upon us in order to force us into an ongoing process of pass-or-fail situations, but that in all our sufferings, we are being taught as to the reality of the obedience that is ours in Christ. This sounds more like the God Paul referred to in Romans 8:28, the one who is working all things out for our good.
You know, we were raised in an intellectual-based world that places so much value on book learning. We sat in classrooms and were subjected to an endless flow of information, and we took tests to gauge our understanding … and if we got a good grade, we patted ourselves on the back for having learned. The hard truth is that such a system produces educated fools.
Then, do you think our systems of education are worthless? I mean, doesn’t it help to know traditional subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic?
I’m not suggesting that it’s worthless to learn and know things, rather I’m saying that we’ve built our perception of wisdom upon a false premise. We assume we have wisdom because we can pass a test or figure out a complex equation. Our levels of understanding have established clear-cut distinctions by which we can set ourselves up over others. We assume our level of education makes us somehow superior to those who aren’t as smart as we are. And for most, our arrogance grows in proportion to our established intellectual levels. The truth is that most in our society have lost touch with the real stuff of life, and we are ignorant when it comes to the most basic survival skills that seem to come naturally to those we’ve judged as inferior to ourselves.
And because our world so highly values and judges according to intellectual standards, we have too often applied the same fallacy when we approach the wisdom of God. This has everything to do with why we falsely assume that our obedience is always in question.
Do you see where it says, “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears…?” Do we assume that Jesus was somehow filled with good feelings of confidence, you know, the kind of emotional confidence we keep looking for? When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he felt as if God had forsaken him. Every physical and emotional sensation suggested that such a thing was true. The truth is that he was forsaken of men… and men were the ones who assumed that he was also forsaken of God.
Somehow, we have come to the conclusion that our physical and emotional sensations are reliable indicators of God’s estimation of our state of obedience … and yet we have only learned to judge according to man’s estimation. For it is within that very suffering that you are truly learning obedience. That is, you are learning what it is to truly hear God. For when you are weak, he is powerfully at work in you.
This connection between hearing and obedience is crucial, isn’t it? We’ve totally separated them so that one thing can be considered without the other, but there was only a small distinction in the words in both Hebrew or Greek. How does affect the way we live?
Just this past week, a fellow worker — a professed believer in Christ — approached me about a touchy situation he and his wife have been experiencing with a long-time friend. He was asking what I thought he should do about it, and in the process of his question, he threw in that he should probably be asking, What would Jesus do? We so easily get ourselves caught up in a conundrum over that, don’t we? As soon as I suggested that it was a fallacy to ask WWJD, he immediately assumed the position that because there was no way he could know what Jesus would do that it would be arrogant to think that he could. Don’t miss what my friend did here, for this is one of the basic assumptions we have had pounded into us by our religious upbringing. It has everything to do with our basic belief that even though God has given us his spirit that we still can’t hear him on most things.
Near the end of Hebrews 5, there is a comment about “the order of Melchizedek” where the writer goes on to say:
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:11
Dull of hearing? To the Hebrews, this would have caught their attention. For it would have stood in stark contrast to the miraculous work of God of having the Law written upon their hearts.
The elementary principles of the word of God. Consider the similarity with how Paul addressed the Galatians about the distinctions of living as under the guardianship of the Law. In their relationship as children, they were no different than the slave.
Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:1-7
The writer is confronting the Jews in a similar way, for in having gone back to the Law to deal with their sin — not the Law as written on their hearts, but the oldness of the letter — in having availed themselves of sacrifices that could never take away sin, their hearing had become more like that of an infant.