A Unique Faithfulness

Hebrews 1:1-4; 3:1-6

Dr. Chris White April 13 ,2013

     Have you ever considered your spiritual genealogy? That is, who shared the gospel with you? Who shared it with that person? Who shared it with that person? I do not know how you got here, whether it was a grandma’s whisper or a preacher’s lightning, but I can tell you this: your genealogy is peppered with people who found a way to stay faithful to Christ through hard decisions. You may remember these people as giants of faith, but they were never more than common people holding onto Christ through temptation, disappointment, and disillusionment. If you go back far enough, you’ll even find they held on through persecution. In the grand story of God’s faithfulness to you, part of that story is faithful people.

      If you want to know how common people stayed faithful through such pressures, I would offer that they remained faithful because of letters like the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews. It is written to a people who cannot lightly carry Jesus in their culture or family. And because the cost of following Christ in the first century became so difficult, it is written to a people who were having second thoughts about staying with Christ.

     If I can, I would like to consider Hebrews as an argument before a tired people, even a persecuted people, who are wondering if Christ is worth all that he is going to cost. Maybe you fit that description this morning. And so our question: Why should we hold to him at all cost?

     First, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was unique. But there is more, he also offered a unique faithfulness to us. Read with me from Hebrews 1:1-4:

     In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful world. After he had provided purification for sin, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

     The Letter to the Hebrews is very, very aware of the faithful people in God’s story—the prophets. The prophets through whom God spoke were many and important, to include Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, and Amos. Their unique personalities and messages were critical for the time and the need of Israel, but they were limited people. And they were messages that left questions unanswered. God was on the mountain, in the fire, in the wrath—but always at a distance, unapproachable. In Jesus we find more than a prophet; we find the Son and heir of God. What is so important in this paragraph is the note “exact representation.” This literally means an impression of a seal on wax. With sealed documents in the ancient world, the document carried the imprint of the authority sending it. The seal meant that the receiving party should read it as if the authority was present. Jesus is God represented in flesh to us and for us.

      God within reach was not always considered good news. There were few who wanted to deal with God when He was on the mountain with Moses. The glory of God that Moses radiated and the glory Isaiah saw in the vision only made people afraid. His mystery moved people away. With Jesus mercy, and we find people moving toward him. Fishermen leave nets, Zealots leave national interests, and the wayward find reasons to go home. The humble and humiliated saw God in Jesus. Lest we miss the point, Jesus’ mercy was not a sign that God was less concerned with sin. Jesus only sits down when purification for sins has been provided. In Jesus, God provided forgiveness, purity for our poisoned streams. In Jesus, we find someone who is faithful to the point of being led to a cross and its humiliation to be executed for our forgiveness. The story here is of a Savior faithful to the people who would receive the forgiveness—you and me. *Grace/KIIS

     His uniqueness as a Son and heir, the radiance of God’s glory, his sustaining word, and his superiority could have been used any number of ways. The cross is a unique act of faithfulness offered to God on our behalf. It was for the world, but it was also for you. His fingerprints are all over your forgiveness, all over your optimism, all over the promise of the heaven that awaits. To a people with second thoughts about Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says, “Jesus was a unique act of faithfulness for you.”

     This leads us to our response. The unique faithfulness in Jesus toward you and me is the reason God expects in return a unique faithfulness toward Jesus.

Read along with me from Hebrews 3:1-6:

     Therefore, holy brothers, who share in a heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold to our courage and the hope of which we boast. 

     As great as was the work and reputation of Moses, Jesus’ faithfulness surpassed his. And so Jesus is not supposed to be like anyone else behind you or before you. As Hebrews 3:1 notes, this calls for a unique response. First, this call to follow Jesus is a heavenly calling. God in heaven calls for us to follow. It is not merely a decision or a belief in a religion; it is an invitation you’ve accepted. Following Jesus is a calling. Ours is not, and cannot be, a calling limited to this world or our time in it. More, you are part of no few spiritual genealogies or callings playing out around you, and so you must see Jesus as the lasting legacy of your life. *Fr. Emil Kapaun

     Second, the simple advice to “fix your thoughts on Jesus” is how we follow. To follow this calling, Jesus must be on the mind. The mind does not have to go anywhere good or profitable. In fact, it can lead us down no few roads of dark ending. This is why Paul calls for the transformation of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2) It is for us to consider the one who met our deepest need, understands our deepest distress, and went before us in death.     

     Third, consider also the role of Jesus in your confession. This is not a matter of words in the first century. It is, for some, an issue of life and death. Jesus was more than a name. He was a confession of highest allegiance, and when this was pitted against the confession of Caesar as Lord, it was a choice between living and dying. At a minimum, the confession of Jesus is a choice between a direction and no direction. At a minimum, confessing Jesus is a first word in the morning and the last word before sleep. The name should mean something.

     The last sentence in our passage is also of interest. It is a matter of holding to courage and hope. But it is to be the courage like that of a parent for a child or between spouses in quiet times or threatening time. For them we will not only walk on fire but enter fiery buildings. So it is with Jesus Christ. He is to be on your short list—the people for whom we will do what they would never ask. Is this Jesus in your life?       

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