Hebrews Lesson 180 November 19, 2009
NKJ Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
We are in Hebrew 11 working our way through the list of those who have stood as witnesses for faith, the efficacy (the significance) of faith down through the ages in the Old Testament. That faith is defined in verse 1 as the substance (the hupostasis) of things hoped for. So it relates to something that is yet future. Hope is always oriented to something that is future that is not seen.
NKJ 2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
Faith is not oriented towards immediate visual reality. Faith is taking God at His Word. Faith means to trust Him. When we walk by sight when we are face-to-face with Him, we will be walking by sight and not by faith because it will be evident who we are believing. We will see things as they are. But in time we walk by faith.
We also live our lives based on hope. Hope is also based on that which is not seen according to Romans 8. So in both of these passages, faith and hope are future oriented; and they rely upon that witness of the Scripture that God has given to us, the authority of Scripture that God has spoken to us. We believe it because He has said it.
So in verse 1 we're given that summation (not a definition, but a summation) statement that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Now when we look at that phrase, (as I pointed out before) "the evidence of things not seen", we don't see something. There is something that's invisible to us. The only evidence that it exists is the faith of individual believers. It is their belief that that exists. But it's not this sort of empty subjective faith-in-faith, mystical faith-in-faith kind of thing that you often hear people reference today. That's how they think about faith. But it is a faith that is based on content. We get this from the way the word is used. It's not only used to refer to the act of believing; but it also implies what is believed in, the content of faith.
So I've pointed that out, that it relates to doctrine (what the Bible teaches). That is what doctrine means. It's what the Bible teaches about what to believe and how to live. Faith, then, becomes the evidence of this unseen reality because when we believe something is true, we live on the basis of that as reality. We don't live a different way. If you believe that it is raining outside, then that should change your behavior so that when you leave you are prepared to handle the deluge. You try to put on a raincoat or an umbrella or stick a bag over your head or something like that to protect yourself. In other words when you believe something to be true, it changes the way the way you make decisions and what you do. So there's a connection between faith and application.
That's what James is getting at in the whole chapter of James 2. He starts off in James 2 talking about hearing and doing. The hearer is the person who is doing what you're doing right now, sitting in a church setting, listening to the teaching of the Word of God. Doing is then taking that which is taught and applying it to the thinking and the lifestyle of the individual who has listened. Doing isn't Christian service. It may eventually result in Christian service; but doing is simply responding to the teaching of the Word of God.
For example if the Scripture says that we are to pray without ceasing, then we say, "Okay, I need to pray continuously and I need to make that a part of my life. I'm not doing them real well right now so I need to make a plan and figure out how to pray more consistently. The Scripture says I need to confess my sin, so I need to make sure that I should keep short accounts."
That's what it means to do what the Word of God says to do. So hearing produces application for doing. When James gets to the second chapter of James, he shifts the terminology but it still talks about the same thing. People don't understand that. That's why they misunderstand James 2:12f. When he begins to talk about faith and works, he's talking about hearing and doing. When you hear and believe it that results in applying it, which is the same thing as works. You are working out, as Paul says in Philippians 2, you are working out your faith with fear and trembling – working out your salvation rather with fear and trembling.
So the Scripture sets up faith not as something that operates in a vacuum. It's not just an intellectual procedure. It's not divorced from life. It is not just keeping notes in a notebook. It is not just learning certain jargon or terminology and being able to talk a certain way. It is changing. It's moving everything towards a change in how one thinks, which leads to change in how one acts (a change in behavior.)
So when you believe something to be true, it changes the way you think and the way you live. That change in life is evidence, evidence of what you believe, that it makes a difference. That's what it is emphasized in those first two verses that are summarizing the point of the chapter.
NKJ Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
NKJ Hebrews 11:2 For by it
That is by means of faith.
That is the patriarchs, those who went before (the Old Testament believers.)
obtained a good testimony.
Or actually they worked out or demonstrated a good testimony. That's the background.
We've gone through the first 12 verses last time. Last time we looked at Abraham's life and how God tested his faith through 13 different tests. In that process he grew to maturity demonstrating and illustrating the principle of James 1:2-4.
So then we come to a summary or transition paragraph in verses 13 through 16 that's going to make the point that the writer of Hebrews wants his readers to reflect on. That has something to do with the fact that when we come to understand what our future destiny is, when we believe that God does have a specific destiny and future for us and that He is preparing us for that destiny; then that should change the way we think and the way we live today. It should our values, our priorities. It should work itself out in every area our life so that we live our lives today in light of the future reality.
It we believe it to be true and to the degree that it becomes more and more of a reality in our life and a reality our thinking; then it's going to change the way we live today. If you knew that you were going to die next week that would surely have an impact on certain decisions that you would make in the next week. But most of us only theoretically act as if we're going to die next week. We understand the principle, but we sort of assume that we're going to be around for a while longer. So we don't live as if each day the Lord could come back or the Lord could take us home. We don't live in that sense of eminency in order to prepare ourselves for that future destiny. The more that future destiny becomes a reality and you recognize that it could be tomorrow; it could be next week, it could be the next week; the more it should impact the values, the priorities of your life and the decisions you make today. That's what is being emphasized in verses 13 through 16.
Now when we look at this verse, it begins:
NKJ Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith,
Now the "these" is simply a summary of most of the people we've talked about. We've talked about Enoch. We've talked about Abel. We talked about Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah. But there is one of those that didn't die. That was Enoch; but he's using the term death in terms of that separation. Enoch is still separated from his physical life even though he doesn't go through physical death itself. So the writer is able to summarize that saying:
NKJ Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith,
Now we come into a little bit of a problem. It doesn't say that in the original. This is one reason why it's important to consult the Greek, not because people and pastors are trying to show how much education they have but because you have to understand what the Word of God says.
NKJ Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith,
Now there are two phrases that we ought to pay attention to in the Greek. The first is the phrase kata pisten. This is a phrase that we have here - "according to faith." It's kata plus the accusative of pistis which means faith. So it is "according to a standard." That's the meaning of kata plus the accusative. The other phrase is the one I have under that is piste, which is the dative form of the noun pistis which should be translated "in faith" or "by faith." Now the single word piste is used 18 times in the 31 verses in Hebrews 11. The phrase "kata pisten" is used 1 time and that is in verse 13. That's the only time that phrase is used in this entire chapter and yet what we have this many scholars (many Bible students) simply dismiss this change as being insignificant and "the author is just using this as a stylistic variation."
Now this is one of those little hobbyhorses I love to point out every now and then and eventually people catch what I'm talking about. It may be poor writing in your English creative writing class to use the same word over and over and over again in a paragraph; but do not take that principle and apply it to English translation when you're translating the Word of God. If God the Holy Spirit thinks you ought to use the same word 15 times in 4 sentences; then you should translate that same way all 15 times in English in order to convey what the Holy Spirit is doing. But that's not what translators do.
Translators will say, "Oh, that's not good English."
So they'll use every synonym in the book. People then don't notice the flags that the Holy Spirit is setting out there. If you've got 18 uses of piste (the dative of pistis here) and one that's different, it's not stylistic variation. It would seem to me that if the writer wanted to just vary things so he wasn't being monotonous, he would have used a different phrase more than one time. He uses the "piste" phrase (the dative of pistis) those 18 times because he's making a point that it is by means of faith and trust in what God has revealed that all of these heroes had a testimony. Because they believe something to be true and it changed their decision making process and what they did and that became evidence in the angelic conflict and evidence in their spiritual life and evidence in history. But there's something different going on in the verse 13.
"These all died according faith." So he's making a different point.
But before we go on to that, I want to make a corollary point to understand the importance of a doctrine and that is the Doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture. But literally the Greek word doesn't mean inspire. We often use the English word inspire to talk about somebody who's an architect who has just designed a beautiful building.
We say, "That must have really been inspired."
Or some writer who had captured a tremendous turn of the phrase.
"That was really an expired statement."
Or we talk about poetry as sounding inspired. That's not what this word means that all. The Greek word is theopneustos, which is a combination of the word theos for God and pneustos related to breath or wind. It refers to God breathing something out. So this is the word that is used in 2 Timothy 3:16-7.
NKJ 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
It's how most English translation. But it's better understood that all Scripture is breathed out by God. It emphasizes God as the ultimate source of the Scripture. So we define this as God the Holy Spirit because of 1 Peter 1:20-21. We know the God the Holy Spirit's the one who moves the writers of Scripture.
God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directs the human writers of Scripture.
There is a parallel here with the virgin birth because in the virgin birth you have a combination of the inerrant divine passing through fallen humanity and remaining untainted by sin. Did you catch that? You have perfect deity passing through the womb of fallen humanity. Mary is a sinner. She was not immaculately conceived. (Immaculate conception doesn't refer to Jesus' conception. It is a Roman Catholic heretical doctrine that refers to how Mary was conceived) Mary was born with a human father and a human mother and received a sin nature from Adam just like every other human being with the exception of her first born who because a human father was not involved did not receive a sin nature.
So the pattern that we see there is that the perfect divine passes through the instrument of a fallen human being; yet the fallenness of the human being doesn't affect the divine. It doesn't corrupt it. So that just as Jesus was born without a sin nature and is without sin, so the writers of Scripture even though they are sinful, even though they are fallen, even though they have many ideas and thoughts that were not scriptural that God is able to work through them to superintend to govern the process so that He can guarantee that what they wrote was without error.
Now inerrancy is a term that we use to describe that. That it was written without error applied only to the original manuscripts. It didn't apply to copies. God is not inspiring the copyists (the scribes) who were copying Paul's letters, or Peter's letters, or the Old Testament letters. I believe God in His providential care is preserving the Scripture accurately; but that's a different doctrine from inspiration. Now the reason I say that is because you will run into (and I have run into more and more over recent years) people who have bought into this irrational position (and I know there are people with PhD's who hold it and I've read their books and they're still irrational) that believe that the King James translators were inspired by God so that even though the King James Bible completely misses the point of the Greek, they would say that the King James Bible is inspired.
"If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it is good enough for us"!
We laugh and giggle and I poke fun at it; but the reality is that this movement is really growing. Jim Myers has run into people associated with this who will go over on the mission field and say, "You know if you could read this in the King James it would be better than reading it in the Russian."
Only the original writers were inspired, sovereignly intended. God then oversees the transmission process and guarantees that to be free from error. But the Scripture, the inspiration, that terminology, only applies to be the original that God moved the writers of Scripture in I Peter 1:21. So it doesn't apply to anyone else. It doesn't apply to translators. It doesn't apply to copyists. It only applies to the original writers of Scripture.
God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture that without waving their human intelligence, vocabulary, individuality, literary style, personality, personal feelings or any other human factor
That's the brilliant thing. It's not like reading some of these other religious books. If you read the Bible and you read other books such as the Mary Baker Patterson Glover Eddy Science of Scripture, or you read the Koran or you read the Bhagavad-Gita or you read some of these other so-called divinely given books; there's something missing. They're just not the same. There is a stiltedness to their language; there is an artificiality to it. In many cases they are only written by one person. Look at the Book of Mormon. It is always interesting how when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon that it sounded just like Elizabethan English which hadn't been spoken in 200 years. He just mimicked the sound of the King James Bible.
At least 40 different writers of Scripture over a period of about 1500 years, wrote. You see all their different personalities, especially when you read in the original. You can see that these guys are not the same. Paul is very different from Peter. He is very logical, the way he piles up his clauses and sentences and just says idea after idea after idea until you want to pull your hair out. You have John who just states things very simply. It's the easiest Greek in the world to understand. That's why every first year Greek class ends their teaching on grammar by going to 1 John or the Gospel of John to teach students to read Greek and to be comfortable with short sentences, simple vocabulary. You can't understand it because it's so profound. It's unbelievable how John uses language and how he builds his thoughts. You really have to think deeply about it in order to understand and interpret what he is saying. So you see their different traits come out, their different personalities come out. They write in different styles. They use different vocabulary, all of these things. So God the Holy Spirit isn't just dictating to the individual writers of Scripture. He is not telling them what to write. In a marvelous way, He oversees the product so that is free from error but with out destroying or wiping out the individual personality of the writers.
There are a couple of other words that we use to describe inspiration and they are "verbal" and "plenary". The word plenary means full so that relates to the next part of the definition.
that His complete and coherent message to mankind is recorded
So plenary inspiration indicates the totality of it so that there's no part of Scripture that is less inspired than any other part of Scripture. I mean you go and you read the genealogies in the Old Testament and they're just as much part of inspiration and just as accurate and if you understand it correctly they are just as much a part of understanding reality as anything else. There is a purpose to those, but we have to understand that.
His complete and coherent message for mankind was recorded with perfect accuracy
The word that has been coined to describe that is inerrant. It came in to vogue in the 50's and 60's because of continuous assaults on the infallibility of Scripture.
…with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.
Then we get into verbal plenary inspiration, the guarantee that the Bible from beginning to end in its original words is the exact record of the mind and will of God as He intended it to be: verbal plenary inspiration. That's the idea that the Bible in its totality in the original words is the exact record of what God wants you to know. The words make a difference. You change synonyms; you change ideas. The word plenary emphasizes the extent of inspiration. It is equal to every part of the Bible. Every part of the Bible is equally and completely from God, and the words bear the authority of divine authorship.
But verbal emphasizes the extent of that inspiration. It extends to each word, the form of the words, whether it's plural or singular, the choices of one synonym over another and repetition of words and that each word is validated and approved by God the Holy Spirit.
Now that's important for us. I've gone through that rapidly because I want to get on to the text we're looking at. But the point is that God the Holy Spirit has one word used over against another word. When you come along and just dismiss that by saying that's just stylistic variation, you're ignoring the fact that there could be a real, important distinction being made there. You can't assume that this is just stylistic variation because that's what would happen in English.
Yet I have found that that happens more and more today and I've seen that over the course of my time since seminary and that it has become more and more popular.
You want to make a tight exegetical argument on something and some scholars say, "Ah, that's just stylistic variation. That really doesn't mean what you are trying to say it means."
Then why did the Holy Spirit say it that way? We have to understand that. When we look at this, God wants you to pay attention to something.
NKJ Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith,
The "according to faith" there draws our attention to their physical death. The previous examples talked about how they lived by faith. They lived by faith trusting in the promise of God that was never fulfilled in their lifetime. They never saw the land under their ownership. They never realized the promises that God had given to them; but they died according to faith. Just because they never saw it and they never experienced it didn't mean they stopped believing it and when they got to be in their senior years they just gave up and said: "Well, I guess that wasn't true. I don't have a few years left to really enjoy life. I'm going to go out and have a great time."
I remember a man in my church in Irving a number of years ago was telling me, he said, "My dad has been a deacon and elder in every church that he was involved in since he was a kid – straight as an arrow. He had a crisis of his faith in his 70's and started sleeping with every woman he could find."
You don't give up just because you've had thirty or forty years and your kids are grown. You keep a living on the basis of faith, trusting in God until you die according to faith, living according to the standards and the principles of faith. That is the point that the writer is making here. They didn't give up.
Now who wants to give up? The people he's writing to. Remember, these are Jewish background believers (Jewish believers) who have trusted in Jesus as their Messiah. They were probably coming out of the priestly tribe, the Levitical tribe because there's so much emphasis on the priesthood and ritual in the book of Hebrews. Now they're hitting a lot of personal persecution and rejection, and difficult times, and are wanting to give up their belief in Jesus as the Messiah and go back into Judaism.
So the writer is encouraging them by saying, "Don't give up."
Just because you aren't seeing the return of Jesus now just because you're still going through persecution, just because you're encountering difficult times and there's danger and crisis on the horizon, doesn't mean you should give up.
Remember the time of this is in the early part of the 60's, around 63 or 64. The Jewish revolt doesn't begin until 66 A.D.; but the intense emotions and the intense divisions within Israel and their attitudes and rebelliousness towards Rome are clearly evident. So there is all of this turmoil that's going on. You think that people are fractious today. For the last ten years I know we've heard about how in political discourse we've become less and less civil. Just go back to Jerusalem in 68 A.D. That's were the proverb got started - where there are 3 Jews, there are 5 opinions. And they would fight for every one of them.
That's what caused such a collapse. They couldn't really unify against Rome in their rebellion against Rome. That's one way Rome was able to overpower them. In A.D. 70 the Temple was destroyed; but there was another revolt that occurred some 65 years later (the Bar Kokhba Revolt) that occurred about 132 A.D. And in the Bar Kokhba Revolt you had another major revolt against the Romans. A huge numbers of Jews flocked to the banner of Bar Kokhba until Rabbi Akiva announced he was really the messiah. When that happened, all of these Jews that had trusted in Jesus as the Messiah couldn't fight for Bar Kokhba anymore. So they just left. They deserted the army. But when the Romans defeated the Bar Kokhba Revolt and they killed Bar Kokhba and they executed Rabbi Akiva, they executed tens of thousands of Jews after that; do you think the Romans got blamed for that? No. Think the Jews who led them to this foolish revolt got blamed for it? No. Who got blamed for it? The Jewish Christians. They became the scapegoat of the Jews and then the Jewish Christians had a major decision to make. Are we going to go back to Judaism or are we going to separate completely from Judaism and our Jewish heritage and become as Gentiles and live as Christians? That's where you have the first major split between Jews and Christians in the early church. In the church Christianity took on a completely Gentile character at that particular point. But those Jewish believers at that time had to make the same kind of decision that these Jewish believers were having to make, and that is: are we going to stand for the Messiah or are we going to just fold and go back into Judaism?
So the writer of Hebrews says:
NKJ Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith,
They didn't fold. They didn't give up. They didn't quit. They continued to believe in the promise even though they did not receive the promises. That is the next part of the verse.
NKJ Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises
None of them had received the promises that God has given them. God promised Abraham that he would be worldwide blessing. He promised him that he would have the land. All the land would be his from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. He never saw that. The only piece of land he owned was the Cave of Machpelah, which he bought for the burial of Sarah and where he was buried. So they never received the promise.
but having seen them afar off
Afar off is relating it temporally. They understood that this was going to be centuries before they would realize it. Well, wait a minute. If they are dead, how will they realize it? Resurrection. So they have a clear Doctrine of Resurrection. Now we'll see that when we get to verse 17 that Abraham clearly understood the Doctrine of Resurrection; but it's implied here.
were assured of them,
Therefore they understood that physical death wasn't the end; but that they would be brought back to life so that they could then in the resurrection experience the fulfillment of those promises.
NKJ Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, but having seen them afar off were assured of them,
So they had a confidence that the fulfillment of those promises was as real as that which they saw, any empirical data in front of them. That's the essence of living by faith. It is when the promise of God (the doctrines in the Scripture) are more real to us than our experience, no matter how tired we are, no matter how worn down we are, no matter how much we're grieving over the loss of something, no matter what the devastation has been in life; when we believe in God's promise and that's more real to us and shapes our thinking and our reactions and our response –when that is more real to us than what we're experiencing; that's when we're beginning to learn to walk by faith and not by sight. So they had a confidence that they would receive the promises even though it may not be for centuries as measured in human time.
…which simply means admitted or acknowledged something that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
They understood that this is a transient life and as believers we are here only for a short time before the Lord returns.
This word for strangers is an interesting word, a kind of fun word for strangers is we find several words and they're used in several different places in Peter. We'll get there in a minute. It refers to strangers or xenoi. You will hear the English word xenophobe. Those are people who are against illegal immigration. They're just xenophobes. They're afraid of strangers, literally; xenoi, strangers. The other word that is used here is parepidemos. It refers to someone who may be a refugee, may be a traveler, someone who doesn't have a permanent place to live; someone who is on still looking for permanent residence. Then the other word that is used is a word used back in verse 8.
NKJ Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
NKJ Hebrews 11:9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
It is a word that is used for someone who lives as a stranger in a location; living as in a foreign country in verse 9, living as a stranger. It's paroikeo. Oikeo comes from the word to live or to dwell. Oikos is a word for a house. Para is the prefix, as a prefix indicates living alongside of something. So it indicates living as a stranger, moving along. It's used in some interesting passages like 1 Peter 1:1.
NKJ 1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion
That's our word there, the noun form. To those who are strangers or those who are sojourners of the dispersion…
in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
Now the use of that word in that verse helps us understand this because it's talking about Jews who were scattered. The word that's used there for dispersion is diaspora. That's the technical word to use of the scattering of the Jews among the Gentiles after the destruction of Jerusalem back in 586 B.C. It was used all throughout this period to refer to the dispersion of Jews. Even though there was a return to land, there was only a partial return to the land under first Zerubabbel and then Ezra and Nehemiah. So this term dispersion is a term referring to Jews and they're called pilgrims or sojourners because they're not living in the land God that promised them. They may have some sort of permanent dwelling in Greece or Rome or Turkey or someplace like that; but it's not a permanent home. Their permanent home as descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would be in the Promised Land.
Then Peter is going to use this and applies this to their spiritual life in 1 Peter 2:11 where he says when he's addressing Jewish believers. He says:
NKJ 1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
So he's addressing them as believers; and he's using this in sort of a double entendre sort of way. As Jewish believers in the dispersion, they are sojourners and pilgrims; but as believers living in this world they are also. So he's using that with a double sense that this isn't our permanent home. Our permanent dwelling place (our permanent home) is in heaven. That is, as we will see. Paul says that's where our citizenship is in Philippians 3:20.
NKJ Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
So these passages that I have just gone through emphasize the fact that the believer has a permanent home, a permanent dwelling place, that isn't here. This is a temporary life (a temporary environment) and because of that we have an ultimate reality that is in heaven. But this creates a conundrum for believers living on the earth because on the one hand we have a heavenly citizenship so that we are dispatched from heaven as it were to fill out the analogy. We are dispatched from heaven is it were to a foreign country to represent God and to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and to proclaim the gospel. That is the Doctrine of an Ambassador.
An ambassador is someone who doesn't live in their home country (lives in a foreign land) and his life is designed to represent the home country and to proclaim whatever messages and policies the home country wishes for him to represent (wishes for him to proclaim).
So our citizenship is in heaven, but we still live here on the earth. We still live and operate within earthly kingdoms, earthly governments with earthly responsibilities. Down through the Church Age there have been various ways in which Christians have tried to deal with that apparent paradox, that conundrum. How do we balance heavenly citizenship with earthly responsibilities? That is what's at the core of what we see in this section in Hebrews 11. They are living on the earth. They're not separating themselves, and those are the two ways (the two poles or polarities) that we see among believers down through history.
You see either one group that wants to completely separate from the world and not have anything to do with it and just focus exclusively on what they define as spiritual things. It was manifest in the early church among the monastics. They would leave and they would go out into the wilderness and they did all sorts of things to try to show that there were more spiritual, that they were really focused on just spiritual things. Some of this was influenced by the fact that for the two or three hundred years before Monasticism started, the early Christians were persecuted. There was sort of a martyr complex that developed, that if you were really spiritual, then you would be martyred for your faith. But after Christianity was legalized by Constantine, what do you do to show that you are really spiritual?
"Ah! We'll go out in the desert and not eat for 40 days and 40 nights. Or we will climb up on a pole and sit on that pole for five or 6 years like Simon Stylites did."
People would come from all over the empire to see this spiritual man who sat up on a pole. So after 5 or 6 years he came down and decided well, he wanted a taller pole. He did it for longer. And that was the beginning of Monasticism.
We often think of that in terms of the early church context, but it also happens in various Protestant groups. One of those groups was a group that became known as Plymouth Brethren. We have a strong connection to Plymouth Brethren. Bible churches in the 20th century have several groups that influenced them. One of them was the Plymouth Brethren group because one of the founders of Plymouth Brethren was John Nelson Darby who was the first to really systematically articulate the rapture and to systematically articulate dispensations.
Darby though was a man who was personally very much an ascetic: just his personal habits, I think his personality. When he went to Trinity College in Dublin as a student, he was a brilliant man. He took a first in classics at Trinity, which meant that he was the head of his class in that major. The requirements were just unbelievable when you read all of the Greek classics and Latin classics that they had to read and be familiar with. Of course they would take their Greek exams in Latin and Latin exams in Greek. You had to know everything. If you were qualified, you were in competition for the first place position, and then you had to know even more than what the normal student in the classics field would know. So he majored in classics. He was brilliant in that.
Then after he left he became a lawyer for short time. Then he was ordained and he was a pastor in a small Irish village for a couple of years. He would go out and he had a tremendous heart for people. He would go out among these extremely impoverished Irish farmers. He would go from one hovel to the next and he would pray with the people and he would give them the gospel. He would teach them the Bible. He would leave at 6 o'clock in the morning and not come home until 11 o'clock at night. He hardly ate anything. He was like a scarecrow. He was emaciated. So he had this sort of ascetic trend.
Well that influenced his view later on of the role of Christianity and living in the world. He believed desperately that Christians were too involved with the things of the world, so much so that the way he talked was like, if you were an engineer and you loved engineering that's the world. That has not eternal value. You need to be in love with Scripture and Jesus Christ.
Now that's true. You need to be in love with Scripture and Jesus Christ, but not to the exclusion of science or the arts or anything of that particular nature.
Here's a quote from Darby.
His coming to receive the church – that is, Jesus, talking about Jesus' coming – is our present hope. There is no event between me and heaven. Those who have not the hope of the Lord's return cannot apprehend what is the true path of a Christian. They may have life of course in one sense, but they have not the proper stamp of heavenly life in their daily practice down here. If I'm waiting for someone to come and take me up out of it -- that is, out of the world -- what then is the world to me? What comes of its plans and its running after money and all that kind of thing?
According to Darby, statements like this and other brethren, they so emphasize the separation from the world that a Christian should not be involved in any of these day-to-day things because that was all worldly or earthly. It led to a separatistic asceticism that prohibited any involvement in politics or any involvement in government or the arts or science or social action or anything like that – just focus on the Bible, fall in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and just think about living your own spiritual life.
But that's just asceticism taken to an extreme. There's a lot of good there but when it's left and leaves out the other; then you have other problems.
Then to the other extreme you have your post-mills and some of your amillenialists coming out of the Reformation tradition that are trying to reform the world to the extent that politics and everything else must be completely redeemed so that Jesus can come back; because He's not going to come back until the church has completely changed all of the institutions of history.
So they're (as J. Vernon Magee used to say), they're polishing the brass on a sinking ship. But the reality of biblical teaching balances the two. We have been given a responsibility as human beings from Genesis 1:26 that we are to subdue the earth, that we are to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field. In other words we have a responsibility to take all the God has given us in terms of creation and to explore it, to exploit it, to utilize it to its fullest. We have to learn about it. We have to learn about all of the properties of oil. We have to learn about all the properties of various metals and what they can do and how they can benefit us because God has given us all those natural resources and we need to learn about them and use them to the fullest extent.
When we come together as a society there needs to be various rules and regulations on how man organizes himself, and how man conducts himself in that social life. Every group of people has certain rules and regulations (values) that govern how they behave and how they operate. We call that culture.
If you look in the dictionary, you'll see that the first two definition of culture are:
- One is the definition that most of you think of is that the definition of culture is the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. That's the Oxford English Dictionary.
- The second meaning is the meaning that I'm focusing on and that is that culture is the customs, ideas and social behavior of a particular people or group. Let me say that again, the customs, ideas and social behavior of a particular people or group. It has to do with all of their ideas: their ideas about origins: Where did we come from? Were we just an accident or did God create us? What are our values? What is right or wrong? Where did we get our values? How are families to be led? How are families to be organized? How are smaller groups to be organized? How are cities to be organized, or villages? Does one person dictate to everybody else or do we give a voice to everyone?
All of those ideas and values make up a culture. You have a culture in your family, whatever your family is, whether it's 2 people or 5 people you have a culture. That family manifests certain values, certainty ideas, certain behaviors. You have a company that you work for. Every company has a different culture. Every church has a little bit different culture. That's what gives us a certain level of diversity.
But when you talk about a larger group such as nations and we talk about those cultures, those cultures reflect what we also call a worldview, the value system that comes from their view of ultimate reality. All of that tends to impact then what you believe and how you act. The Bible calls that cosmic thinking, the cosmos. We are not to be conformed to the world (that is the cultural values around us) but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. That is going to affect everything. We have to recognize the principle that Jesus recognizes in John 17 in His priestly prayer that we are not of the world. That's not our source. Our source is God. We have, as Paul says, our citizenship in heaven. But as Jesus said in John 17:18, we have been sent into the world. So we have a citizenship that's in heaven. We have a different orientation than "earth dwellers" (the term we see in Revelation). But we are to have an impact on those around us.
NKJ Matthew 5:13 " You are the salt of the earth;
Salt helps to preserve, to protect from decay.
but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
He says in the next verse:
NKJ Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Both of these images of salt and light reflect the impact the believer has on the culture around him by articulating truth from a biblical framework. So the first thing that has happened is we have to identify and exchange the cosmic thinking that is in our own souls. If you're not learning the characteristic of the cosmic system around you, then how can you identify in your own soul where you're thinking like the cosmos instead of thinking like God? We have to identify all those areas in our own thinking that come from the culture around us and not from God.
Then we have to learn the truth of what God says and that transforms our thinking. When it transforms our thinking, it transforms the way we live. When it changes the way we live, there is evidence of our faith, which is what we're seeing in Hebrews 11.
NKJ 2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
See we are to live according to faith. That's the same preposition kata that we have in our passage in Hebrews 11.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal
Not only is the fight different, but how we fight it is different.
but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
Not just thoughts that relate to so-called spiritual things, but thoughts that relate to everything within God's creation. So we have to maintain that distinction. Yes, we have a citizenship that is in heaven and that is our priority; but part of that means that everything we do in this life is to be done to the glory of God.
That means that for example in our nation if you are a citizen of the United States, then you're within that group that governs the nation. Our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people - so far any way. That means that each one of us by virtue of our US citizenship means that we have a responsibility in government that other forms of government don't have, that they don't give their citizens. But we do. So we have to execute our responsibilities as citizens on the basis of the Word of God and learning how that addresses everything in life. So that doesn't mean that as Christians that we're out there trying to reform the world or that we're out there trying to make it a perfect place or polish the brass on a sinking ship; but that we are to be exercising our influence in our culture because we're coming from the framework of truth. But we're doing it in light of our future destiny -- back to Hebrews 11. We're focusing on the future because the next verse (in verse 14) says:
NKJ Hebrews 11:14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
That is, those who confess that they're strangers and pilgrims on the earth. We understand what our future destiny is and that as part of living today in light of eternity, we need to live today which means everything that you're engaged in today (all the different spheres of life that you're involved in) need to be influenced by Bible doctrine. It doesn't just talk about prayer and Bible reading and your spiritual life, but every area of human endeavor.
So we'll come back and pick up with verse 15 next time and then press on into the rest of Abraham's testimony.