The writer of Hebrews saturated his letter with the reality of Jesus Christ as the beginning and end in respect to both their faith and salvation. In other words, to the Hebrews, Christ not only authored faith but also has become its completion; for he is the perfecter, that is, the finisher of it. Whoever wrote this letter left absolutely no room for anything else, especially in view of a hard-hitting statement like “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
You see, I know why we get trapped between two conflicting propositions when we venture beyond the seemingly safe passages in the letter of Hebrews. I mean, we read a few of the more questionable passages and immediately find ourselves grappling with statements about perseverance and holding fast, not realizing that we learned them according to the very same reasoning that stirred these things to be written in the first place. I’m saying that those who live by the Law have taught you how to perceive the words that were written against them. I think the adage If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em pretty well describes what I’m getting at here. And I’m not saying that we need to join them, but that they joined us … in order that they might subvert our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ.
What we easily overlook when coming across Bible verses that speak of continuance or perseverance is the reason for them having been written in the first place. We simply don’t ask why! And because we automatically fall back upon the perceptions we learned from a world that has long since formulated how to handle such concepts, we immediately categorize them along with other works that can be accomplished by sheer strength of will.
ADAM … Jim, isn’t that exactly how we have learned to read Hebrews 12:1?
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
What I’ve been proposing is simple: When a NT author makes an ultimatum, it precludes that something else besides Jesus Christ was being preached to or being considered by the particular audience. For example, when a man like Peter wrote — You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 2 Peter 3:17 — he was not making some kind of hypothetical statement (as so many do today), his encouragement declared a challenge to the legal, religious mind of man as it had been confronting them. In other words, he wrote what he did because somebody was actively attempting to pull them away from their confidence in Christ. By Jesus having been declared as both author and perfecter of faith in the Hebrews letter, it suggests that something else had been put forth as a substitute of Christ — that is, either as a replacement of Christ as the beginning or as the conclusion of faith. What this means is that the endurance referenced in Hebrews is not some kind of fleshly or legalistic work or effort, it is the ongoing insistence that Christ is our all in all … that he has put an end to our former life of futility. Ironically, when we stand in this determination, we will be criticized by the religious mind as doing absolutely nothing.
ADAM: Something Peter wrote in his first letter seems to fit quite well with what we’ve been discussing in this whole series, where he said:
”..who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,-” (1 Peter 1:21-22)
I see this as something that directly speaks to the fears we have about the Apostles’ use of the term “believed in vain’ or ‘vain faith’. Maybe even “if we hold fast” [at least the sense we project upon it]. Look at the emphasis on HOW we came to be believers in God. Look at the raising of Jesus being the “SO THAT” of our faith actually BEING in GOD [not vain faith].
Yes, I think we often overlook the grace in some of Peter’s statements because we somehow miss the clarity of his thoughts on faith. I mentioned it last week, but take another look at the verse where he wrote:
Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Peter 1:1
Notice how these passages from Peter’s two letters are situated at the beginning, as if he meant to establish everything he wrote upon the truth of a faith that comes from God himself as opposed to some kind of mental exercise of the human brain.
ADAM: Now Jim, last week you stated that Christ as the author and finisher of faith is seen throughout the NT letters. I was thinking of the following verse in Romans…
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
The beginning can be clearly seen in how Paul described what it is to be made righteous in Christ, that is, our justification by faith. And let me add a reference from another of Paul’s letters for any who might question the nature of the righteousness by which we are justified in Christ, because the sterile environment in which many handle the letter of Romans has led some to conclude that the righteousness by which we are justified is not the same as Christ’s own righteousness. Here’s that reference:
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption 1 Corinthians 1:30
Do you hear that? Christ Jesus became righteousness to us. In other words, he himself is our righteousness. You see, the way it had been presented to me was that since God’s righteousness is infinite, he had to justify us with a finite righteousness, because to do otherwise would make us equal with God. After all, God shares his glory with no man, isn’t that what he said in Isaiah 42:8? I mean, who do I think I am by suggesting otherwise? Do you hear the mind of fleshly religion that feels bound to make such a distinction in view of the miraculous union brought about in Christ Jesus? But then again, our birth in Christ is “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13. What we are in Christ is the very same life that has both come from God and returns to God.
ADAM … what about where it refers to Christ as the end, the finisher, the perfecter, the completer?
Consider the reality of the beginning and the end, the first and last, the alpha and the omega — that is, consider our life in Christ according to faith as in the one who is the beginning and the end: from faith to faith. In Romans, Paul set out to establish that not only do we begin in faith, but also that we continue in faith. Take a good look at how Paul related the phrase “from faith to faith” to the OT quote: But the righteous shall live by faith. Do you realize that the whole letter of Romans simply expanded upon this reality? That’s right, the beginning of the letter establishes Christ as the originator of our faith — for he has justified us freely through his blood —
we’ll get that down as we sit in ;a Bible study and in our churches and say “yes, justified by grace through faith”. We love to hear that. We talk about the glory in knowing that our sins have been forgiven. It’s like wow, this is fantastic. But in the nugget of the quote that Paul brought out to describe faith to faith, we’re only considering part of that. But the righteous shall live by faith. Is it any surprise that as he moves from the end of chapter 5 he gets into some heavy stuff where he brings up questions about sin and grace being way, way more than the sin ever was. Even to the point where he poses the question that you and I love to quote,
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace might abound. Because that is the mind of the flesh as it apprehends this teaching. When it hears reality it has to say, whoa whoa … what are you trying to say here, that its okay to sin because we’re under grace. You see, we think that okay. We think that’s a legitimate question. I guess it is legitimate … it’s legitimate from the viewpoint of the fleshly mind … (Adam: the natural mind) … yes … you see, what so many don’t realize is that Paul’s answer to the question reveals that it comes from the natural self-righteous mind
and then as he moved into chapter 6, he argued that through the Spirit of life we have been set free through grace. We are saved by grace, and we live by grace. Two aspects of the same salvation.