Hebrews Lesson 7 March 31, 2005
NKJ Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Last time, we ended in I Corinthians 13:8-13. Sometime ago somebody told me that geniuses need to hear things 5 times in order to remember them. The rest of us need to hear it 24 or 25 times. So we will repeat to some degree what we ended with last time in I Corinthians 13 because this is so very crucial to understand. We understand that the canon is closed. There is no more revelation given. But let me tell you that this is where the battle lies today.
Martin Luther started the Reformation when he nailed his 95 discussion points to the door of the church in Wittenberg. The door of the church was the local bulletin board. That started the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 1517. Luther once said that if you defend the fortress at every point except where you are being attacked, you would lose the battle. The point of the primary attack today is in technical language epistemology or in everyday language it is knowledge. How do you know what you know? You claim that Jesus Christ is God and that the way salvation is based upon faith alone in Christ alone. How do you know that? You say that is what the Bible says. But how do you know that it is God's Word? Scholars say this or that or the other thing. They can quote whoever they go to on the Discovery channel or A&E or whatever. Too many Christians are left hanging. They don't know the answer.
I Tim 3:15 says that we are always to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. That is called apologetics. It comes from the Greek word apologia meaning to give a legal defense. That is a well-reasoned argument or understanding for why you believe something. So we need to go over this again and again because this is the issue.
Outside the church, the attack is on the Scripture. This is very clear in the Da Vinci Code. It has been going on for 200 years or more. The attack is that the Bible is just another collection of literature. The latest kink in the whole argument is that the old white men that put the canon together back in the 5th century left a lot of books out. So, you can pick and choose. You are not any better or worse than those men, so you can put together your own canon. There are all of these other religious texts that were circulating and were declared heretical by the church fathers. So we have to be prepared to answer this. That is the battle from outside the church. How do you know that it is God's Word? How do you know that God has spoken? How do you know you can rely on that? How do you know that it's those books and not some other books? That is the big challenge of post-modernism, to debunk all canons. Canon means a rule. They want to get rid of the canon of literature. They want to get rid of the rules and standards.
Inside the church we have the same problem, the same battle and the same issue with knowledge. How do you know that God is speaking to you? Do you know it because you have exegeted the Scripture according to a set standard of procedures in exegesis, word studies, syntax, context, and culture? This is what we call isagogics. Or do you just sort of pray about it and see how the Spirit moves you? Or do you just open your Bible, close your eyes, and let your finger fall on some text? If you don't understand everything that is there, do you say it longer and louder and get more emotional? That happens in a lot of churches. How do you go about this? Is there a standard that you use in studying the text or do you have some internal feeling that you blame on the Holy Spirit? Believers blame their failures and unwillingness to do diligent study work on the Holy Spirit. This is crucial today. People come along and say that God is speaking to them. How do you know it the voice of God? It was no less a problem in the ancient world in the Old Testament than it is now.
When God gave the people the Pentateuch, He gave them two tests. He gave them the test of theological consistency in Deuteronomy 13 and the test of prophetic accuracy in Deuteronomy 18. That was the standard. In Deuteronomy 13 we are told that in His permissive will God allows them to perform real, genuine miracles, signs and wonders (not in the power of God of course) to test you to see if you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Will you stick fast with what the Word says or will you add to it from what other people say? So we need to understand a principle that is lost today. That is that when the Word of God is more real than your experience or feelings or intuition or hardships or a difficulty that is when you are then walking by faith and not by sight. It is not some super spiritual, otherworldly endeavor. That is how it comes across in the media. Faith is not a counterpoint to science or knowledge. Faith under girds everything. We have seen the four ways of knowing – rationalism, empiricism, mysticism, and revelation. You don't see faith as a means of perception. It juxtaposes faith to knowledge. They are opposites. In the Bible faith is always directed to something.
Faith is in and of itself non-meritorious. It is the object of faith that is important. In rationalism, the object of faith is human ability and thinking. In empiricism, the object of faith is man's ability to properly interpret the sense data. In mysticism it is faith in man's ability to intuit absolute truth. In revelation the object of faith is the revealed Word of God. It is not faith verses knowledge. What is the object of your faith? Is it finite human experience or finite human reason? Or is it the infinite, omnipotent God who is absolute truth who is omniscient and who has revealed Himself and overseen the process of revelation? That is the issue. What do you believe? It is not faith verses reason. It is not faith verses science. Many believers have already lost the war because they agree with the counterpoint. They have already lost the battle because they are operating on human viewpoint categories.
In the church the issue is just as bad because they import to Christianity the same methodology. They think that because they can learn by some intellectual hot flash outside the church they can also do the same thing inside the church. They accept intuitive reasoning as God's leading. Some pastors don't want to plan a schedule out too far ahead because they want to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. They allow for the spontaneity of the Spirit. Do they think that the Holy Spirit doesn't work in an organized manner? The issue is that the Holy Spirit is not honored and glorified by poor planning or lack of discipline. Paul points out in I Corinthians 14 that our God is a God of order and a God of stability. So we have to address this issue. And the key text on whether or not revelation is going to cease is in I Corinthians 13. We are in Hebrews 1:1-2a. That is what we are studying.
In the first two verses, the writer of Hebrews is saying that there are two periods of revelation. One is in the Old Testament referenced in verse one. And the other is the New Testament. It is important to have a historical perspective.
Corrected Translation: After God spoke in various fragments and in a variety of forms in time past to the fathers by means of the prophets, He has in these last days spoken to us by means of His Son
This is what I hope to finish this evening. It is special revelation. It is important for believers to have a historical perspective. I find that most Christians don't have a clue about what is going on historically. They watch various ministries on TV. If you don't know who the players are you can get fouled up.
I Corinthians 13 is a key passage.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 13:88 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
If you have been around non-charismatic doctrinal churches for awhile you know that verse 10 is the verse that everyone goes to. How do you know that the gift of tongues has ceased? Because the perfect comes and the perfect is the canon of Scripture. You have probably heard that so much that you wonder what the issue is here. But, let me tell you that it is a big issue. You get out there in the big wide world of evangelical Christianity and for the last 35-40 years the one interpretation of this passage (and there are about 10 different interpretations of the perfect) that is dumped on the most as being irrelevant and non-supportable is the view that the perfect equals the canon. Bruce Baumgartner who is the pastor over at Pine Valley told me that when he was at Dallas Seminary the head of the theology department there assigned in their pneumatology class to write a position paper on the cessation of the sign gifts, the cessation of tongues. He didn't want anyone taking the view that the perfect is the canon because it had been decimated by recent scholarship. That is the view that we hold. Is it really a valid statement? If you get out there and read the literature and talk to people in charismatic churches, they are convinced that the perfect being the canon could only be held by a person with a single digit IQ. That is why I am taking some time with this. Not only is it a valid position, it is the only position. Our position is that it is the only position that makes sense within the vocabulary of the text unless you just want to do what is popular today. It is amazing how many people today don't want to believe whatever is based on reason or logic. Everyone wants to do what is right in their own eyes today. They reject reason because of arrogance.
Let's go through this again so that we understand what is happening. Contextually in chapter 12 Paul talked about the gifts. In there he seems to distinguish between revelatory gifts (knowledge, wisdom and prophecy) or standard service gifts. The problem in Corinth was that the Corinthians were elevating these gifts to a high level of significance for spirituality. The background is that not to far from Corinth was The Temple of Delphi. You had the Oracle of Delphi which was a priestess who went in smelled the vapors that came up from the navel of the earth. As she inhaled, she would see visions and dreams and would be possessed by the god Apollo. Then she would speak in ecstatic utterances. This was standard operating procedure in the pagan worship of Dionysus as well. He was the god of wine. If you had enough wine you could speak in tongues and exchange your spirit for god's spirit. He would speak through the priestesses in tongues. So this was SOP in pagan Greek mystical religion. If you want to be spiritual, you have to let the gods speak to you and he does it in an unknown language. They elevated this in arrogance and said they were super spiritual because they spoke in tongues. So Paul lays out the basis for spiritual gifts in chapter 12. Then in chapter 13 he says that the real issue is love. Love is always juxtaposed to arrogance. Love is based on genuine humility and appreciation for what God has for us. So he defines love in the first 7 verses. Then he makes the case that love abides through the Church Age. In fact, love abides into eternity. He makes this distinction.
The key is to understand where the last verse in chapter 13 goes. The "now" means in the Church Age. It is a word in the Greek nuni that indicates a broader period of time. The now in the previous verse indicates a more immediate sense. What continues in the Church Age is faith, hope and love. They continue in contrast to the three gifts in verse 8 that are going to stop. If you don't understand the context there, you will miss the whole thing. Part of the problem in Bible study is that few people take the time to sit and reflect on the text. The first rule in Bible study methods is to pay attention to what you are reading and to see and write down observations. Everyone wants to jump into application and interpretation. They bypass observation. Some pastors have not had this type of training. We need to take the time to do what Sherlock Holmes did and pay attention to all the little details. Get out the microscope. Once you have the data, the interpretation falls right in your lap. You don't have to spend a lot of time with that and the application will come out.
Paul says in verse 8 that love never fails. That is the big idea. Love never fails. He is saying that love is permanent. These three things are not. Knowledge and prophecy will both be removed. The verb is katargeo. It means to be abolished. They will be removed. Something will happen to abolish them. They receive the action of the verb.
In contrast tongues is said to cease, pauo. The main thrust of this passage is not tongues. The best argument for the cessation of tongues is not found here. The best argument for the cessation of tongues is from its purpose in chapter 14. Its purpose was a sign of judgment of Israel. It goes all the way back to Deuteronomy 28 where God warned the nation that if they disobeyed Him they would be conquered by a people whose language they didn't understand. That is what Isaiah picks up in Isaiah 28:11 when he warns them about the Assyrian invasion. It runs all the way through the Scriptures. You just can't take things out of historical context.
Back to verse 8. It is the same verb. Whatever ends one ends the other. The implication is that by that time happens tongues is already out of the way. Katargeo is the future passive indicative meaning it receives the action. Pauo is a future middle indicative. It indicates it will naturally die. That is the idea there. There is a word shift and a voice shift.
Let me give you a little added insight here. One of the things very popular today in seminaries is to say that it is a stylistic shift. The author didn't want to use the same word over and over. He didn't want to be boring. Then why did he use karargeo five times in three verses? He isn't into stylistic variation for the sake of stylistic variation. HHThat avoids the implications of verbal plenary inspiration. What is happening today is that people affirm a doctrinal statement in theory but in practice they violate it left and right.
In verse 9 we learn that prophecy and knowledge are both considered to be partial gifts. They only communicate a limited amount of information. The two partial gifts will be abolished by something. That is the conclusion from those two verses.
In verse 10 we learn that what abolishes them is the coming of what is called the perfect. Perfect is a lousy translation. I don't know why they did it in the King James. Maybe that is what it meant in those days. The word group based on teleios never means flawlessness. It just doesn't. But it is always translated that way. It has to do with completion or maturity. That is always the idea. It is in a context that contrasts it with something that is partial. So even if you have the two options of perfection or completion when you are talking about something that is partial, the only thing that makes sense in context is to translate it as complete. It completes something that is incomplete. Knowledge is incomplete. Prophecy is incomplete. When the completing thing comes, then the incomplete will be abolished. So what is the complete thing? There are 7 interpretations of this.
Two views on the completion side are the completion of the canon or the matured church. What is the difference? The matured church view is they say that the church reached maturity when the last apostle died. When the last apostle died, the canon was closed. There isn't a lot of practical difference here. There is on some exegetical questions and I understand that. I take a completed canon view but I argue that both of these views find 95 AD as the terminus point.
All of the other views take it as some kind of perfection when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord at the rapture or the Second coming or whenever you leave this life. Once you leave this life all of a sudden you will have full, clear knowledge. They take the passage "now we see through a mirror dimly but then face to face" as being face to face with God. They think we will know it all. No, we won't. We will never be omniscient. God is omniscient. We are not. We will always have limited knowledge. We may see things more clearly but that is not the point here. It is not talking about a perfect state. It is talking about an incomplete state. What Paul is arguing here is that there will be a time when the revelatory gifts are completed by something. What completes them must be something in kind. You don't complete a half of glass of water with a steak. It is not the same thing. You have to use the same thing. So if you are talking about revelatory gifts, what completes it must also be revelatory by nature.
Verse 11 simply explains the process - that there are periods of differences. It is immature verses mature. When you are a child you think like a child. But when you are an adult you put away childish things. Hopefully you grow up. He explains his whole argument in terms of the now versus then.
Then in verse 12 he continues the point. He uses the word artithat means right now. It refers to the pre-canon period, the apostolic period. In a mirror we see what reflects back, not through. What do you look at in a mirror? You are looking at yourself. We examine what the mirror says about who we are.
The word dimly is the word enigma. It comes from a usage in Numbers that we will look at in a second.
Face to face with what? Face to face with the Word of God. We will have the complete canon so we will see the whole picture. We will have the completed picture. This reinforces the doctrine of the perspicacity of Scripture. It reveals us for who and what we really are. If pieces are missing then we don't get everything because we have incomplete or partial revelation.
Now what I know is incomplete. But then I will know completely. That is epignosis – full knowledge. The Word of God can give you epignosis knowledge about whom and what you are, your problems, your old sin nature, and how to resolve those problems.
NKJ Numbers 12:6Then He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.
7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house.
8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?"
God revealed Himself uniquely to Moses. "Dark sayings" in verse 8 is the same word used in I Cor 13:7. It is enigma. This indicates that what he is talking about is the uncertainty of prophecy. Once the canon is complete it will make sense.
"Now" in verse 12 refers to period before canon was complete. "Then" is the post canon period. The word now changes. It is not just stylistic. Now what abides. What continues is faith, hope and love. He is not saying that faith, hope and love will continue after the Second Coming.
A book came out on the four views of tongues. What was interesting is that the article on the cessation of tongues was from a man at Westminster Seminary named Richard Gaffin. He never used I Corinthians 13 in his whole argument. Scholars don't want to hear it. Who cares what the Word of God says? Their argument is that the terminus is when you die or are face to face with the Lord. But the thing is that after you die or are face to face with the Lord, hope and faith stop. So it can't be that. The argument of the passage is that love is permanent and these other things are impermanent. Faith, hope and love are going to continue past the point that knowledge and prophecy end. The Scripture says in II Corinthians 5:7 says that now we walk by faith and not by sight. When we are absent from the body we will walk by sight. So obviously faith stops being operational at death or the rapture or Second Coming.
Rom 8:24 says the same thing about hope.
NKJ Romans 8:24For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
Hope has to do with what is unseen. So what we have a clear indication that the terminal point for the perfect has to be the canon of Scripture. It just can't be anything else. It is based on the view that the apostles were those who oversaw the revelatory process. That is what is important to the background of Hebrews 1. Dr.Gaffin puts tremendous weight on Eph 2:20 and Hebrews 1. He said that based on the strength of these two passages that the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church (once the foundation is laid you don't lay it again every time you lay a new floor) and that God has spoken (aorist tense), you have to argue that revelation has ceased. By not referring to I Corinthians he has some weaknesses. That gets us to where we ended last time. I wanted to reinforce for everybody that I Corinthians 13 nails it. Knowledge and prophecy ceased when the canon was closed. There was a clear closing of the New Testament canon just as there was a closing of the Old Testament canon. The Jewish leaders clearly understood that God didn't speak anymore after Malachi. There were no more additions to the canon.
The Apocrypha that you have in a Catholic Bible is a collection of books that had to do with Israel between the closing of the Old Testament canon and the New Testament canon. I and II Macabees deals with the Hasmonean revolt and what was going on with Antiochus Epiphanes. It is great historical data but it isn't canon material. The Jews recognized that. They didn't wait until 90 AD to close the Old Testament. That is what every liberal is going to tell you. It is clear that they understood the Old Testament was closed by at least 300 BC. It was closed and God was silent. He wasn't speaking anymore. That is the test. Once He has given you all the information you need to pass the test, am I going to trust Him when He is silent? That is part of the issue here. Or do you act like a baby and need stimulation every month or two thinking that God is speaking through you? That is where people are today. They want constant validation. If God spoke once that ought to be enough for 6,000 years of history. He doesn't need to repeat Himself in every generation. God has given us revelation down through 2,000 years of history. He doesn't need to repeat miracles. He doesn't need to repeat special revelation. He doesn't need to act the same way. That is an arrogant presumption to make. He has to keep doing it the same way. Talk about putting God in a box. It is the charismatic that limits God to the same means that He has always used.
Back to Hebrews 1:1
Corrected Translation: After God spoke in various fragments and in a variety of forms in time past to the fathers by means of the prophets,
What are the forms? One of the forms is theophanies and direct appearances. It was clear direct communication that could have been recorded by anyone. That was the background. He also appeared in dreams and visions. People claim that God spoke to them in a dream. Let's understand what is going on historically in dreams and visions. Once you understand this you realize that it was unusual for God to speak in dreams or visions. There were important reasons for why He did so.
You see that there is nothing in the giving of dreams or visions that is personal divine guidance. It is all national and covenantal in scope.
That is why we say that revelation has ended. It ended in 95 AD. The test for us is to rely on it. We are to walk by faith and not by sight. If God is still communicating, you are walking by sight. You are expecting God to show up in your dreams or visions or speak to you. That is not walking by faith. Faith means putting your trust in the Word of God and the sufficiency of the revelation of God. We are to study it and meditate on it and concentrate on it. That was the whole point. Our attention needs to be focused on the study of the Word of God.