The Danger of Falling Away – Hebrews 6:4-6

The Epistle of Hebrews was written to second generation Jewish Christians who were dispersed throughout the Roman world. This dispersion was a result of the Jewish Wars waged by Rome against the Jewish revolt (AD 66-70).  The recipients of this letter had not only been run out of their homeland, but there was also a tension brewing between the converts and their family and friends who did not understand their new faith.  In light of this, the author pens this epistle to prevent his readers from abandoning their faith and to encourage them not to go back to Pharisaical Judaism.

In order to accomplish his purpose, the author warns his readers regarding six dangers they potentially faced.  They are:

  1. The danger of neglecting salvation (2:1-4).
  2. The danger of unbelief (3:7-19).
  3. The danger of immaturity (5:11-6:3).
  4. The danger of falling away (6:4-6).
  5. The danger of apostasy (10:26-39).
  6. The danger of turning a deaf ear to Christ (12:25-29).

In this article, consideration will be given to the fourth danger, and perhaps the most contentious… the danger of falling away (6:4-6).

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. – Hebrews 6:4-6

Some of the contention is due in part to a misunderstanding of the rules of biblical interpretation.  Some contention comes from those who hold their particular theological bent above the revealed truth of God’s Word.  Still some contention comes from a desire to willingly ignore the text and make it say something more appeasing to the modern ‘Christian’.  In order to form a proper understanding and application of this text, a proper exegesis of the text is necessary.

WHAT THEY WERE

From the outset, the reader is presented with four statements regarding those in danger of falling away.  First, they “were once enlightened.”  This phrase is in the aorist tense, which means that it was a complete, finished action.  The term enlightened (phōtízō) means to illumine; to imbue with saving knowledge, to instruct, to give knowledge to.   The Septuagint uses this term to translate the Hebrew terms teach and instruct (Judges 13:8; 2 Kings 12:8).  It is clear from John 1:9-12, that  giving the Light of salvation to all mankind, does not guarantee salvation for all mankind.  During the Second Century, the term enlightenment was used as a synonym for baptism.1  The Peshitta Syriac (a translation of the Bible in the Syriac language dating around AD 150) translates this phrase as those “who have once descended to baptism.”2  Thus, it can be argued that some have an intellectual awareness of the faith and have made a profession.  Perhaps they have even gone through the public act of baptism and given testimony of their conversion.

Second, they “have tasted of the heavenly gift.”  The term tasted (geuomai) means to feel, make trial of, experience.  It is the same word used in John 2:19 when the master of ceremonies at the wedding feast in Cana, tasted the water and discovered that it was indeed wine!  That this verb is in the aorist tense, indicates that this tasting was momentary and not ongoing.  The heavenly gift is all inclusive of the spiritual blessings given to believers at salvation (Ephesians 1:3) These include, but are not limited to, the gifts, which Jesus gave to the Church (Ephesians 4:7-8), namely apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers.   Jesus provided those gifts for the purpose of perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry, to edify the body of Christ and to produce unity and perfection within the body of Christ.  The ones who have made an outward profession of faith have on some level experienced the spiritual blessings in Christ.  They have been welcomed into the local body of believers, enjoyed fellowship with believers, and have been ministered to through the ministry of pastors and teachers.

Third, they “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.”   The phrase were made (gínomai) means to show oneself or prove oneself. The word partakers (métochos) means sharing in, partaking. It is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe those who partner or participate with another (Luke 5:7; Hebrews 1:9; 3:1, 14).  In secular Greek, this term is used of one who participates with someone else in a common activity.3 The Greek tense of the participle is in the aorist tense indicating a one time act in the past with no ongoing results.  Thus, these individuals had shared in the pre-salvation ministry of the Holy Spirit.  They had heard the Gospel, repented of their sins and believed in the finished work of Christ, but they had never experienced the ongoing ministry of the Spirit (i.e. indwelling, sealing, baptizing).  There was outward conformity but no inward reality.  The truth of this can be seen in their lack of fruit production.

Simon Magus serves as an excellent example.  In Acts 8, the reader is introduced to Simon.  He is a sorcerer, living in the province of Samaria,  He was greatly feared and respected.  Philip the evangelist came to Samaria, preached the Gospel and was met with a great number of converts.  Acts 8:13 states, “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.”  To all around him, including Philip, he appeared to be a true believer.  When Peter and John came to Samaria (to confirm the reports they heard), the believers received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  However, Simon did not received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Instead, he offered to buy it.  Peter rebuked him and stated that he has “neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:21).  There was outward conformity, but no inward reality.  Peter commanded him to repent and pray that God might forgive the sin of his heart. The text is clear though that this is an impossibility.4  Peter made it clear that Simon was still “in the bonds of iniquity” (Acts 8:23).  Simon’s only response was to ask Peter to pray for him… sadly, no true repentance was demonstrated on the part of Simon.

Fourth, they “have tasted the good word of God.”  Again they have tasted (geuomai) or experienced something.  The verb is also in the aorist tense indicating that this tasting was momentary and not ongoing.  The term good (kalós) means good, excellent in its nature and characteristics. The term word (rhḗma) refers to that which is spoken… a declaration; thus the Spoken Word.  This word is distinguished from the term logos (lógos) which refers to the Written Word. Such individuals have experienced through the declaration of the Scripture the very nature of the Word of God.  Perhaps on some level it has brought conviction but like James’ natural man who beheld his face in the mirror, he turned away changing nothing (James 1:23).  They are hearers of the Word but not doers.

Lastly, they “[have tasted] the power of the world to come.”  This phrase is connected by the conjunction and (kai) to the previous phrase.  Therefore, the participle have tasted applies as much to the fifth statement as it does to the fourth.  The term power (dúnamis) means capability, might in action.  When the plural form of this term is used (as it is here) it refers to the miracles of Jesus.  The term world (aiṓn) means age.  That it is the age to come, differentiates it from the current or present age.  This age to come is the Millennial Age.5  During His first advent, Jesus performed key miracles to identify Himself as the Messiah and King; during His second advent (i.e. the Millennium), He will again perform such miracles.  These individuals have verified the validity of the miracles.  Perhaps they had even performed the miraculous.  Remember the words of Christ, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” It is possible to look like a Christian and act like a Christian, but not be a Christian.

WHAT THEY BECAME

Note the phrase, “If they shall fall away.”  This speaks of what they became.  This English translation has caused some confusion regarding what the text actually says, due to the addition of the term if.  Interestingly, the Greek text does not contain this term, nor does it imply it.  The Greek text reads kai parapesovtos.  As noted earlier, kai translates as the conjunction and.  The term parapesovtos means to fall aside so as to desert; to turn aside.  The term is a participle in the aorist tense.  A proper translation of this phrase would be “and having turned aside” or “and having deserted.”  This is not a conditional phrase that indicates some possibility.  This is a statement of past fact; this is what they became.  This deserting is an abandoning of the principles of Christianity (i.e. apostasy).  A believer’s struggle to overcome sin is not in view here.  These individuals willfully turned away from God’s revealed truth and have embraced the godlessness of the age.

Because they have apostatized, “it is impossible […] to renew them again to repentance.”  Impossible means simply that, impossible or unable.  Renew (anakainízō) occurs only here in the New Testament.  However, the Septuagint uses this term for to translate the Hebrew term meaning restore (Psalm 103:5; 104:30; Lamentations 5:21). By joining the verb renew with the term again (pálin), it denotes the idea of restoring back to a previous condition.  This previous condition is repentance (metánoia).  Repentance is a change of mind where one turns from rebellion to submission to God.  It is a change of heart where one turns from hating God to loving Him.  It is a change of will or behavior, where one turns from disobedience to obedience.  The Scripture is clear: those, who have made an outward profession of faith, gone through all the outward motions and then come to a place where they apostatize and embrace godlessness, cannot be brought to repentance.

Consider Judas Iscariot.  For three plus years, Judas followed Christ, making profession, serving and performing miracles yet he apostatized and embraced godlessness.  While Judas came to a place of remorse for what he had done, he never repented and went into a Christ-less eternity. Remorse is not genuine repentance.  As well, consider Esau.  Hebrews 12:16-17 states, “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.  For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”  Esau found no place for repentance; that is he could not repent.  Esau cried out with remorse, but in his heart he refused to submit to God’s terms.  In his heart, he was a fornicator and profane (i.e. immoral and godless).  Simon Magus, Judas Iscariot and Esau serve as examples of those for whom it was impossible to restore back to a condition of genuine repentance.

WHAT THEY ARE DOING

Apostasy and godlessness are not without recourse.  Indeed the result of one being beyond repentance is due to what they are doing: “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.  Both participles crucify and put him to an open shame are in the present tense.  This indicates that both actions are currently ongoing. The term crucify (anastauróō) means to raise up and fix upon the cross or to crucify again.  The phrase put him to an open shame (paradeigmatízō) means to expose to public disgrace.

This raises two question. First, how does someone crucify… the Son of God afresh? When one turns their back on what the cross accomplished (namely purifying man and making him holy in the sight of God – Titus 2:14) that individual has effectively nailed Christ to the cross once again.  Such people are no different then those who actually rejected Him as the Messiah and personally nailed Him to the cross.  Christ is no longer Lord and Savior but an imposter.  This then answers the next question, namely, how does someone put him to an open shame?  If Christ is publicly seen as an imposter, due to the behavior of the apostate, it exposes him to open contempt and public disgrace.

CONCLUSION

The individuals described here are not true believers who fall away from the truth and lose their salvation.  They are not true believers who deny their faith but remain saved, losing only their heavenly rewards.  They are not simply hypothetical examples of something that cannot happen but used as a warning to press on.  Indeed, the individuals described in this text are in the church and give the appearance of being saved.  At some point, they repudiate their faith and return to the world.  In so doing, their hearts have been hardened against the truth and thus are unable to ever come to genuine repentance.

Beware of dabbling with the faith only to later reject the light of the truth that has been graciously given. It is sobering to know that one can profess Christ and even appear to others to be one of His and yet not be genuinely saved (Titus 1:16).  Beware of producing no fruit.  Every true believer bears fruit and every false believer produces only thorns and thistles (Hebrews 6:7-8).

____________

  1. Justin Martyr, Apology, 1.61.65; Dialogue with Trypho 122
  2. James P. Murdock, The New Testament: Translated from the Syriac Peshiot Version, (1852)
  3. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, (1988) p. 115
  4. if [repent] perhaps… may be forgiven” – This phrase is a Second Class Conditional clause.  A conditional clause states that if something happens then something else will happen.  The if part of the clause is known as the protasis and the then part of the clause is known as the apodosis.  The Second Class Conditional Clause is the Contrary to Fact Condition clause.  It assumes that the protasis as false.  The tense of the verb in the protasis must be either aorist or imperfect tense.  The verb repent (metanoeson) is in the Aorist Tense.  Thus, Peter’s command to repent in order to be forgiven is impossible for Simon.
  5. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, (1988) p. 116-17

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2010, 2016

The Acquiescent Savior – Philippians 2:6-8

Philippians 2:6-11 is considered one of the most difficult passages to understand.  It is brimming with profound theological statements regarding our Savior.  Many believe theology to be impractical to their life or simply academic pontification for seminarians.  This anti-intellectual approach to Scripture, seems to forget that Scripture was not written to theologians but to common people to enable them to live pleasing to the Lord.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:6-11

Philippians 2:6-11 was originally part of an early Christian hymn.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul placed it in his sermon to the Philippians to convey two things.  First, to conveys key truths regarding our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Second, to convey practical steps on how Christians can get along.

One of the great truths revealed in Philippians 2:6-8 is that Jesus is the acquiescent Savior.  Acquiescent means to do something without protest.  This is exactly what we find in our text.  We see Jesus, without protest, taking on the role of Savior of mankind.  Just what does this mean?  It means that…

Jesus Emptied Himself.

At the outset of our text, Paul states that Jesus is fully God (Philippians 2:6).

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: – Philippians 2:6

The term being (hupárchō) means to exist in a state or condition.  The tense of the verb indicates that this is an ongoing action.  Here, we see Jesus existing in a continuous state or condition.  In what state though, does He continually exist?  The term form (morphḗ) provides the answer.   Form (morphḗ) is the complete and permanent essence or nature of who someone is.  That someone is God.  Thus, Jesus continuously exists in the complete and permanent nature of God.  He did not become God nor has He ever been anything less than God.  Jesus is 100 percent deity.  All that God is, Jesus is (cf. John 1:1, 14; Colossians 1:15a; Hebrews 1:3a).

Since, Jesus exists completely and permanently as God, He is equal to God.  The term equal  (ísos), in Philippians 2:6, means that Jesus is equal to God in quantity, quality, character, number, etc.  Jesus did not steal God’s deity, it is His rightful claim (John  5:18; 10:33; 20:28).

The deity of Jesus is essential to Jesus being our Savor.  In order to be our Savior, Jesus must be God.  First, He must be God in that God levied the curse upon humanity (cf. Genesis 3:19) and only God can lift the curse (cf. Galatians 3:13).  Second, He must be God, because the punishment for sin is eternal separation from God (cf. Matthew 25:46), and only an infinite God could experience eternal separation from God in the span of three hours (cf. Matthew 27:45-46).

In order to lift the curse and deliver us from eternal separation and eternal damnation, Jesus emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7).

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: – Philippians 2:7

The phrase ‘made of no reputation’ translates the Greek verb kenóō.  It is from this verb that we derive the theological idea of the kenosis of Christ.  The verb kenóō means to deprive of power, prestige or privilege; to give up or lay aside what one possesses.  The question arises then, “What did Jesus give up or lay aside?”  We can be sure it was not His deity.  Remember, Philippians 2:6 established that Jesus is permanently God.  If at any point, Jesus gives up His deity, He ceases to exist as God.  If Jesus ceases to exist as God, then the Father and the Spirit ceases to exist as well, since the three are co-existent.

While Jesus did not lay aside His deity, He did lay aside five divine distinctives, in order to become our Savior.  First, Jesus laid aside His Heavenly glory (John 17:5).  His appearance, which made seraphim cover their faces, was exchanged for an appearance, which men rejected.  Second, Jesus laid aside the free exercise of His will (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; Luke 22:42).  In laying aside His will, wants, and rights, Jesus became a servant.

Third, Jesus laid aside the unlimitedness of His divine prerogatives (John 5:19; Luke 5:17;  Acts 2:22; 10:38).  Rather, than use His own divine prerogatives, Jesus depended on empowering from the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The All-powerful, Creator of the world, took on a created form with all its limitations.  He limited His omniscience; that is His all-knowingness (Luke 2:52a; 8:45; Matthew 24:36).  He limited His omnipotence; that is His all-powerfulness (Mark 6:5; John 5:19).  He limited His omnipresence; that is His all-presentness (John 4:4).

Fourth, Jesus laid aside His personal riches (2 Corinthians 8:9).  He gave up everything including His own life.  He had to borrow a manger for His birth, a boat for His ministry, an animal to ride, a room for Passover, and a tomb for burial.  He gave up all of His riches and in their place took on man’s debt of sin.

Fifth, Jesus laid aside His intimacy with the Father and the Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:46).  Throughout all of eternity, the Father, Son, and Spirit had enjoyed being in the presence of one another.  When Jesus laid that aside, He dwelt among people rather than the Godhead.  In His death, the loss of intimacy was displayed when both Father and Spirit turned away from Jesus for a period of time as He took on the full wrath of mankind’s sin.

Thus, We see Jesus without protest taking on the role of Savior of mankind by emptying Himself of five divine distincitives.  Acquiescent also means that…

Jesus Humbled Himself

By emptying Himself of these five divine distinctives, He was able then to humble Himself.

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: – Philippians 2:7

Jesus had all power and authority, but willingly laid it aside to become part of the human race.  Notice that Jesus took (lambánō) or assumed the form of a servant.   Again, form (morphḗ) refers to the complete and permanent essence or nature of who someone is.  Jesus assumed the complete and permanent nature of a servant (doúlos).  He came not as a prince, but as a peasant; not as a king, but as a servant (Mark 10:45).    As a servant, Jesus’ entire life, purpose, and will were determined by His Father (John 6:38).   The Father’s will for the Son was to send Him to redeem mankind (John 6:40).

In order to accomplish this service, He ‘was made in the likeness of men’.  The term likeness (homoíōma) means that while remaining 100 percent God, Jesus became 100 percent man.  He did not exchange His divine nature for a human nature.  Jesus was not God in a human body.  Jesus took on an additional nature, that is He took on all the key elements of humanity.  This is called the incarnation.  He was born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).  He grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52).  He experienced human sickness, weakness, and infirmities (Matthew 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:4a; Hebrews 2:17; 4:15).  Even though Jesus is complete man, He cannot sin, because He is complete God.  Jesus remains forever God and since His incarnation, remains forever man (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16a).

If there is any doubt as to His humanity, Paul puts the issue to rest (Philippians 2:8a).

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, – Philippians 2:8a

Being found (heurískō) means to discover by inquiry or examination.  In other words, Jesus’ humanity was not a thing to be questioned since those around him (both enemies and friends) had plenty of time to determine whether or not He was human.  What they found was that He had the fashion (schḗma) or appearance of a man.  There was nothing different about Jesus’ than any other person.  He was born like any other child (Luke 2:7).  He grew up like any other child (Luke 1:80; 2:52).  He learned a trade (Mark 6:3).  He grew hungry, thirsty, and tired (Matthew 4:2; John 4:6; Mark 4:38).  He cried (John 11:35).

Taking on of flesh was only the beginning of Jesus’ humbling.    He humbled Himself and obeyed to His parents (Luke 2:52).  Jesus humbled Himself and was obedient to the Law of God (John 8:46a; Hebrews 4:15b).  He humbled Himself and was obedient to the laws of man (Matthew 22:21b).  Jesus humbled Himself and was baptized in order to outwardly identify with sinners, though He Himself was sinless (Matthew 3:14-15).  He humbled Himself when He washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:4-5).   Jesus humbled Himself when He refused to defend Himself at His mock trial (Isaiah 53:7a; 1 Peter 2:23).  He humbled Himself when He was crucified between two common criminals (Luke 22:33).

We see Jesus, without protest, taking on the role of the Savior of mankind by emptying Himself and humbling Himself.  Acquiescent also means that…

Jesus Submitted Himself

The Creator was bound by creation.  The Self-sufficient One was bound by thirst, hunger, and sleep.  The Eternal One was bound by time.  The Lawgiver was bound by the Law.  The ultimate end of His humility was that the Life-giver was bound to death.  Death had no power over Jesus, rather He submitted to the Father’s will to the point of death (Philippians 2:8b).

and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. – Philippians 2:8b

This was total and complete degradation.  In His death, Jesus was disgraced before man and accursed before God.  Obedience that culminates in such a death is not instantaneous, but learned.    Jesus learned this obedience over the course of His life through the various sufferings He experienced (Hebrews 5:8; Isaiah 53:3a, 4a, 7a).

He suffered contempt and rejection, not just from religious leaders (cf. John 7:48), but His own family (cf. John 7:1-5), His community (cf. Matthew 13:54-58) and even His disciples (cf. Matthew 26:56).  He suffered from sorrow.  He sorrow was driven by the unbelief of people, the wrath of the religious and the pettiness of His disciples.  He suffered from grief, literally disease or sickness.  Each and every time that Jesus healed the infirmed, He was touched by their infirmity and identified with their sins (cf. Luke 8:46; Mark 5:30).

All of this and more Jesus suffered.  Yet he suffered these things to learn obedience.  As God, Jesus understood obedience, but as man, He learned obedience.  Not only does this confirm His humanity, but it demonstrates that Jesus is able to understand suffering, since He learned it by experience.

Paul emphasizes Jesus’ death as the ultimate submission to the Father, because the means of His death was the ultimate humiliation.  The Romans considered death by crucifixion the most humiliating form of punishment.  This is why they reserved it for non-citizens and the worse denizens of society.  For the Jews, though, crucifixion was more than just humiliating, it was offensive (Galatians 3:13; cf. Deuteronomy 21:23).

The degree of physical sufferings associated with His death are unimaginable.  The night before His death, Jesus suffered in agony, the stress so great that that blood vessels in His sweat glands ruptured (Luke 22:44).    After His arrest, Jesus was mocked and tortured.  The blow of the whip cut into the subcutaneous tissues breaking capillaries and veins.  An extended period of whipping eventually tore into His back muscles.  The crown of thorns (about three inches in length) was driven into His scalp (John 19:2a).

Upon arrival at the scene of crucifixion, the suffering only grew worse (Hebrews 13:2).   He was stripped naked and exposed before the gathering crowd.  As Jesus was nailed to the cross, His already lacerated back ground into the wooden beam.  Iron spikes (about five to seven inches longs) were driven though His hands and feet.   Rupturing the median nerve in the hands and the plantar nerve in the feet produced agonizing shooting pain throughout His arms and legs.  Every breath He took, required pushing and pulling with feet and arms already screaming in pain.  As well, with each push, His already bloody back ground against the wooden beam.  As the day wore on, His upper body cramped and breath became more difficult.  While all this is unimaginable, it was not the greatest of suffering of His death.  The greatest suffering Jesus experienced was the rejection from His Father and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 27:46).

In those final three hour, those hours of darkness, Jesus experienced eternal separation God and punishment for sin.  He did it all so that we would not know separation from God and that we would escape the punishment for our sin (1 Peter 3:18).

Conclusion

In order to redeem man, God sent His own Son, Jesus, to suffer man’s punishment – eternal separation from God (Romans 8:3b). The amazing part of all of this is that He willingly acquiesced.  He willingly emptied Himself.  He willingly humbled Himself.  He willingly submitted Himself.   He willingly did it with joy so that we might be saved (Hebrews 12:2)

Are you saved?  Have you been delivered from eternal separation from God?  Has the acquiescent Savior redeemed you from your sin and given you eternal life with God?  Have you repented of your sins (Acts 3:19)?   Have you placed your faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)?  Have you confessed Him as your Lord (Romans 10:9-11, 13)?

If Jesus was willing to lay aside His rights and obey His Father, then should not we?  If He was willing to humble Himself, should not we.  If He was willing to submit Himself, should not we?  The command in Philippians 2:5 is clear, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, YES, we should lay aside our rights, humble ourselves before God and submit to Jesus as Lord.  How different would the church be if we acquiesced like Jesus did?  How different would we treat one another, if we acquiesced like Jesus did?

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Suffering…

Suffering… we’ve all experienced its burning fire. Often, it sneaks up on us, seemingly out of nowhere. Some like to tell us, it makes us stronger. Honestly, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes it makes us weak… Many times, it even leaves a scar.

One thing that can be said for sure about suffering is that it WILL change you. The question is will you allow it to break you or build you?

Joseph suffered at the hands of his brothers. They beat him. They threw him in a pit. They sold him to slave traders. They lied about his whereabouts. Joseph suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. They enslaved him. They imprisoned him on false charges. They forget him.

Joseph knew the burn of suffering. He burned with hurt, loneliness, betrayal, anger, worry, and likely a host of other emotions. However, through all of his hardships, he understood that he had a choice. He could choose how he allowed the suffering to change him.

When his circumstances changed, Joseph found himself in a position of empowerment. As the third most powerful person in Egypt, Joseph demonstrated how his time of suffering changed him. Joseph chose to allow his sufferings to build him rather than break him.

Instead of punishing his former captors, he used his new power to create a food bank which not only saved the Egyptians from starving when the famine hit, it created a period of economic boom within the country and also preserved the lives of people and nations surrounding Egypt.

When his brothers appeared on the scene asking for aid, Joseph faced a choice… would the suffering, he endured from his brothers’ hand, build him or break him. No doubt, the emotions attached to his suffering surfaced and burned within him. Yet, Joseph chose to be built rather than broken by the years of suffering. Not only did he meet their needs, he moved his entirely family (70 plus people) to Egypt.

How did Joseph choose between being built or broken by his suffering? It those dark and lonely times he cried out to God. Joseph learned that while his brothers and the Egyptians meant evil against him, God never did (Genesis 50:20). In fact, God had a purpose for the suffering and a plan for Joseph’s life. Joseph chose to allow the burning of suffering to build him… God’s purpose was to build Joseph into a man who would saved hundreds of thousands of people.

I’m learning that if God can cause a rich, lush forest to grow from an ash filled wasteland, then He can take all the yuck and garbage of our life and use it to paint a masterpiece with our lives.

Suffering’s hard and its burned us all, but don’t let it break you. Endure it and let it build you. Embrace it and let God’s purpose come forth. Rather than shake your fist, extend your hand to Him so that He may lead you to your greater purpose. God used one man’s suffering to save masses of people… what can he do with you?

Communion: A Celebration of Deliverance

Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Table (whichever name we apply), is a symbolic reminder in the present of what Jesus did in the past, namely His death and resurrection. Such a reminder was never meant to be a time of sorrow but rejoicing. Indeed, Communion should be a celebration. We celebrate because He is not dead, but alive and coming again (1 Corinthians 11:26). Even though, the elements of the Lord’s table point towards His death, His death should not be time of sorrow, but rather celebration. His death is good news. What so good about it? Its good news because His death provides us with deliverance from the enemy and enslavement.  Communion celebrates…

Deliverance from the Enemy.

In John 5, Jesus is in Jerusalem for the feast of Purim (John 5:1).

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. – John 5:1

As to how we arrive at this conclusion, it is simple. First, unlike the synoptic Gospels, the book of John is a tight chronology. Second, it is late December to early January in John 4:35.

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. – John 4:35

Third, it is Passover (March or April) in John 6:4.

And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. – John 6:4

Fourth, this feast fell on a Sabbath (John 5:9b).

and on the same day was the sabbath. – John 5:9b

The only feast that fell on a Sabbath between AD 25 and 35 was Purim in AD 28. 1 This fits my previous established chronology for Jesus’ death at Passover in AD 29. Based on these four reasons, the feast of John 5 is Purim. The Feast of Purim celebrates Israel’s deliverance from their enemy, Haman (Esther 9:20-22).

And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them; Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them; But when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letters that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. – Esther 9:20-26

In the context of John 5, Jesus approaches the lame man at the Sheep Pool called Bethesda. Bethesda means house of mercy (John 5:2-4).

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. – John 5:2-4

Archeology has uncovered the location of the Sheep Pool. At the location is an ancient shrine dedicated to the Greek god of healing, Asclepius.

It was customary at Purim to offer gifts to the less fortunate or needy. Jesus’ purpose in approaching this man was to offer him a Purim gift, namely the restoration of his health (John 5:5-6).

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? – John 5:5-6

Usually, these questions led to an immediate discussion on the individual’s faith. However, this is not the case here. Jesus is simply offering him a gift, no strings attached. The man responds affirmatively, but adds that there is no one to place him in the pool when the water is stirred up (John 5:7).

The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. – John 5:7

This is a reference to the Greek god of healing, Asclepius. 2 This man was lying by the pool, at the house of mercy, hoping that Asclepius would cure him. This man was looking for deliverance from a physical affliction, but his true need was deliverance from the enemy of the soul, Satan. Asclepius, like Haman, is just another counterfeit that Satan uses to deceive and blind the masses.

It is clear, that this man is an unbeliever. First, he is looking to a false god for healing. Second, he does not even know who it was that cured him (John 5:11-13).

He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. – John 5:11-13

In spite of this man’s unbelief, Jesus heals him (John 5:8).

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. – John 5:8

Jesus does not need a pool, He simply spoke the command, “Rise…. and walk.” After thirty-eight years of being bed-ridden due to illness, the man obeyed and immediately walked (John 5:9).

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. – John 5:9

Jesus gave him the gift of health and delivered him from his infirmities. The fact that he healed the man without any acknowledgement of faith, underscores that indeed this was a Purim gift.

Later that day, Jesus found the man in the Temple and warns him regarding his sin (John 5:14).

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. – John 5:14

Whether or not his illness was related to sin, we do not know. What is clear is that if he continued in sin, he could expect something worse than being invalid for thirty-eight years. The worse thing is a reference to the severity of God’s judgment, which ultimately results in Hell. Jesus not only offered this man deliverance from illness, He offers Him deliverance from the enemy of his soul. Jesus is calling on the man to repent, that is to turn from his sins and come to salvation through faith in Jesus (John 5:24).

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. – John 5:24

Similar to Esther’s delivering of the Jewish people from Haman, Jesus came to deliver all mankind from Satan (John 17:15; Colossians 1:13; 1 John 3:8b)

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. – John 17:15

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: – Colossians 1:13

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. – 1 John 3:18b

The evil one and the power of darkness are none other than Satan, the enemy of God and all those who belong to God. In fact, the title Satan literally means the enemy. The death of Jesus is the means of Satan’s defeat and mankind’s deliverance (Hebrews 2:14).

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; – Hebrews 2:14

The elements of the Lord’s Table point to the death of Jesus. The cup typifies the blood of Jesus and the bread typifies the body of Jesus. At the death of Jesus His blood was shed and His body broken. As we partake of the those elements, let us celebrate, that Jesus has delivered us from the enemy.  Communion is not only a celebration of deliverance from the enemy, but its celebrates….

Deliverance from Enslavement.

On the eve of His death, Jesus celebrated a final Passover meal with His disciples (Matthew 24:17-20).

Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. – Matthew 27:17-20

Jesus celebrated the Passover in obedience to God’s Law. In Leviticus 23:4-6, God commanded His people to celebrate their deliverance from enslavement.

These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD – Leviticus 23:4-6

Passover served as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery. It commemorated how God through a series of judgments upon Egypt set in motion a great redemptive event: the Exodus-event. Ultimately, Passover foreshadowed the cross of Christ and the greater redemptive event: the Christ-event. Jesus would provide deliverance to humanity enslaved to sin.

It was as Jesus and His disciple were celebrating the Passover meal that Jesus showed them how the Passover pointed to Him. (Exodus 12:3, 5-8, 11-14).

Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: – Exodus 12:3

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. – Exodus 12:5-8

And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. – Exodus 12:11-14

He showed them that the Passover was not simply to remember the Exodus-event, but rather that it was a celebration of the Christ-event. On the tenth day of the first month, when the lambs were being chosen, Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem revealing Himself as the Messiah. Each lamb had to be without blemish. Jesus is the Lamb of God who is without sin (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; – 1 Peter 1:18-19

He indeed was the Passover Lamb, who had come to take away the sins of mankind.

For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: – 1 Corinthians 5:7b

The bitter herbs that once reminded of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt, now reminds of the bitterness of slavery to sin (John 8:34).

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant (i.e. slaved) of sin. – John 8:34

The Israelites departure from slavery in Egypt is symbolic of individuals leaving the slavery of sin (Romans 6:17-18).

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. – Romans 6:17-18

The unleavened bread points to Jesus as the sinless Savior. Leaven is a picture of sin (1 Corinthians 5:8).

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. – 1 Corinthians 5:8

Interesting that a church, made up of predominantly Gentile believers, was continuing to keep the feast… but I digress. Since leaven is a picture of sin, unleavened bread pictures Jesus. Jesus did not know sin, but became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21).

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Prior to baking unleavened bread, it is pierced with little pinholes to allow the heat to pass through the loaf as it bakes. As it bakes, dark stripes appear on the loaf. This points to Jesus’ bodily sacrifice for our sin (Mark 14:22; Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10a; Isaiah 53:5).

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. – Mark 14:22

For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. – Psalm 22:16

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced; – Zechariah 12:10a

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with His stripes we are healed – Isaiah 53:5

Every Passover table is set with four cups. The third cup is the cup of redemption. It was this cup that Jesus took and declared as a picture of His blood (Mark 14:22-25).

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. – Mark 14:22-25

At the first Passover in Egypt, after the lamb had been slaughtered, its blood had to be applied to the doorposts of their homes. Only then would the angel of death pass over and grant deliverance. Every home, not marked with the blood of the lamb, was cursed with the death of the firstborn. Jesus, the firstborn of Mary, took our death upon Himself. It is through His blood that our deliverance is purchased (Hebrews 9:22; Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7).

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. – Hebrews 9:22

In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: – Colossians 1:14

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; – Ephesians 1:7

There are three terms for redemption used in regard to Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity. The first term agorázō means to purchase from the slave-market. Jesus’ shed blood was the price paid to release us from enslavement to sin (Revelation 5:9).

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; – Revelation 5:9

The second term exagorázō means to be bought out of the slave-market, never to be repurchased again. Jesus’ shed blood is a permanent payment. Believers can never be enslaved again to sin (Galatians 3:13; 4:5).

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: – Galatians 3:13

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. – Galatians 4:5

The third term lutróō and its derivative apolútrōsis means to liberate by payment of a ransom. A slave purchased at the slave-market was still a slave. However, the new owner had the right to liberate the slave after purchase. Jesus’ blood has liberated us completely from enslavement to sin (Ephesians 1:7; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19a).

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; – Ephesians 1:7

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. – Titus 2:14

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, – 1 Peter 1:18-19a

Jesus took the Passover, and rather than abolish it, infused it with deeper relevance. Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we reflect back on the Passover. We reflect not on deliverance from enslavement to Egypt, but rather on deliverance from enslavement to sin.

Conclusion:

Just as Purim and Passover were celebrations of deliverance from the enemy and enslavement, so today Communion celebrates our deliverance from the enemy, Satan, and enslavement to sin. Jesus has taken our sorrow and turned them to rejoicing (John 16:20).

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. – John 16:20

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ENDNOTES:

  1. Gordon Franz, “Divine Healer,” Archeology and Biblical Research, Volume 2, Number 1 (1989): p. 25
  2. Andrew T. Lincoln, The Gospel according to Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 2005), 193.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016