|Study of Hebrews|
By E.H. Jack Sequeira
Hebrews eleven gives us a list of names of Bible characters whose faith endured unto the end. In our last study we brought out six facts as to how faith reveals itself in the life of the believer. Let us quickly review them:
He who endures unto the end shall be saved.
Wherefore seeing we also are encompassed about with a great cloud of witnesses...
That phrase doesn’t have meaning in America today because our roads here are paved. In Bible days when a messenger was coming with some message on horseback, he was riding his horse on a dirt road. What did you see? A cloud of dust. We had to put up with this in Africa. Of course it is worse when you are driving a car. It is a terrible thing to drive behind another car. Remember that all these heroes of faith were witnessing one thing — never give up.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,”
Now he is using a metaphor here. When a person runs in a race he makes sure that his shoes are light, that he doesn’t wear anything heavy. Why? What does that do? It hinders his progress in running. Well, today we don’t do much running but what we do today is race cars and motorcycles. I know what I did. We tried to make those things as light as possible. If you look at a racing car they do everything to reduce weight. They remove the headlights, for that is weight. They remove everything that hinders the speed.
So what Paul is saying here is, “Let us lay anything aside that is hindering our faith.” Please remember the devil will give as many attractions as possible. Be very careful that the devil doesn’t use things — anything — to destroy your faith. That’s the greatest desire of Satan. He knows he cannot touch the righteousness of our Saviour because that’s in Christ. He cannot touch Christ, but he can touch your faith. And Paul is saying, “It is better for you to go to heaven light than to cruise all the way.”
We have an excellent illustration of this in the book Early Writings where Sister [Ellen G.] White was showing the saints travelling toward heaven. The road becomes narrower and steeper and the people had to throw away every burden. Folks, that’s the direction we will be going. The closer we come to the kingdom of God the more we will have to throw away. I don’t mean throw away by having a garage sale because we have a garage sale of things we no longer want, things that we thought we wanted but we never used (and we discover afterwards that we wanted them even though we had not used them). So we sell them for almost nothing even though they are brand new. They tell us that one of the highest business’ in this country is garage sales. That is not what Paul is talking about here.
We will have to give up things we cherish too. Lot had to give up his house. Lot’s wife couldn’t take it. She turned around and said, “Boy, am I giving up this?” And she turned to a pillar of salt. We must lay aside anything that weakens our faith. That’s negative. The first “let us” is negative. The second is positive.
Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
I don’t know if you remember. I faintly remember the Olympics in 1984. There was a lady. The race was over but she would not give up. She came very close to the line and I think she fell and the people cried, “Get up!” and she did and she finally reached the tape. Everybody was excited. It won’t be like that in the Christian race. You don’t have people encouraging you. You have just the opposite. We will have to gain strength from the discouragement of others. So Paul is saying here “Let us run to finish the race.” If you give up your faith, remember Hebrews ten:
The just shall live by faith. Anyone who draws back I will have no longer pleasure in him.”
Your faith must endure to the end. The most valuable thing we possess is our faith. Now there are two things I would like to mention as we go to verses two to four. These verses present the greatest example for the Christian. The supreme example is Jesus Christ. Verses 2 and 3:
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; [Look at verse three]....consider Him.
Whenever Paul uses the metaphor of running, and he uses it often, he will never use it for salvation. He will only use it for Christian living. Salvation is a gift but Christian living is a struggle. It is also a battle. It is also a fight. It is also persevering. Christian living must not be equated with salvation. Salvation is a gift that you receive without any merits of your own. But Christian living is a struggle. I’ll tell you why.
When you become a Christian you become a citizen of God’s kingdom which is heaven. Who is the Lord of that Kingdom? Jesus Christ. Who is the god of this world? Satan. So when you become a Christian, a member of God’s kingdom, you become an enemy of Satan. You can be sure that he will make your life miserable as long as you are living in his territory. It is not really his territory legally but he is still trying to control what goes on in this world. 1 John 5:19 says so:
The whole world still lieth in wickedness under the evil one.
To use a good expression, “being a Christian is no picnic.” We must never give the idea that when you become a Christian everything will be O.K. Your bills will be paid and you will never have any financial or material problems. Folks, that is not true. What will you do if you live in a communist country where they give you no peace? I tell you it was hard for our young people in Ethiopia. They were not allowed to pray and they couldn’t go to church. There was no argument. If they were found simply reading the Bible they would be stoned to death. It was as simple as that.
The first two years of the Marxist revolution in Ethiopia the hyenas got fed. We used to hear them every night. The hyenas make a horrible noise when they are eating. And they are right there on your doorstep. The Marxists were just disposing of their bodies for the hyenas to eat. Many of these were Christians who were willing to die. I will be honest with you, the ones that were the bravest in Ethiopia were the Pentecostals. And I asked myself why. There was one thing the Pentecostals were sure of and that was their salvation. Therefore, they were willing to die.
Our kids are not sure of their salvation because they have equated Christian living with salvation. Christian living is a struggle. Sister White says in Steps to Christ:
You will have to come to the cross of Christ many times because of your shortcomings. But you are never forsaken.
Please remember that. So we need to realize that it is not your faith that saves you. It is the object of faith that saves you which is Jesus Christ. Your faith simply links you with Jesus Christ. So we are saved through faith or by faith. That faith becomes the most important thing in your life.
That opened my eyes. We think we have the truth and those Pentecostals, they are Philistines. But they were willing to stand up in prison and before the court and willing to die for Christ because they had the assurance of salvation. They may have been wrong on the Sabbath and a lot of other things, but they were sure of their salvation. So they were willing to die. These men of Hebrews eleven were sure of their salvation and they were willing to die. They were willing to be deprived of their material possessions. They were willing to go through anything.
The second thing I have to say is never use Christ as an example to the unbeliever. There are two things Christ is. First, He is a Saviour. He is a Saviour of whom? Turn to Timothy please. Let’s read the Bible. 1 Tim.4:10:
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, [notice the same idea of reproach] because we trust in the living God [if you trust in the living God you will have reproach], Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.
Why? Will all men be saved? No. He is the Saviour of all men but that salvation has to be effective and when we accept Christ, it applies to us. Now to the world Christ is only one thing and that is a Saviour. To the believer He is two things. He’s a Saviour and He’s an example. Never use Christ as an example to the world but to the believer. The New Testament only uses Christ as an example to the believer. So Jesus says to those who believe:
If any man follow me let him take up his cross and follow me.
Keep this in mind because here in verses two to four Paul is using Christ as an example and by the way there is a text that I would like you to see now in terms of having the patience of the saints and that is James 1:1-4. Please read it at home. You will discover that one of the things that the Three Angel’s Message produces in Rev.14:12 is patience [endurance]. Now let me go to Hebrews twelve:
Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith....
In other words, faith always has an object. That’s why we are saved through faith and by faith, not because of our faith. The object of our faith is Jesus Christ, Who is the author and the finisher of our salvation, our hope of faith. Our salvation from beginning to end depends on Christ. So we must look unto Christ. This is very important, because we must not look at our performance for assurance of salvation. The devil will try everything to get you to look at your performance.
I was giving Bible studies to a lady in Nampa. She was a nonchurch goer. She took a class in Revelation and did not agree with certain things. She said, “You people do not preach the gospel.”
I said “Will you study? I’ll give you the gospel.”
She said “Fine.”
About three weeks after the study there was a TV program in which they were answering calls. She called this program to pray for her husband who wanted nothing to do with religion. So the lady who answered the phone said to her, “I’ll pray with you on the phone but before we pray let me ask you if you have spoken in tongues.”
This lady said, “No. What has that to do with prayer?”
Then the one answering the phones said, “If you haven’t spoken in tongues how do you know that you are saved?”
This is not true of all Pentecostals, but many of them look at tongues as the evidence that they are saved. If they have had that experience that is their assurance. So they are looking at themselves. That is a form of legalism.
I told that once to a Pentecostal and he was shocked. He said, “We see you Adventists as legalists and now you are accusing me of being one.”
I said, “You read Philippians chapter three. The Jews were looking at their genealogy for salvation: ‘We are the children of Abraham.’” And Paul says if you have the blood of Abraham it does not make you a child of God. Some Adventists say that because you’re Seventh-day Adventist you will be saved. Folks, the denomination cannot save you. Some of them are looking at the speaking of tongues and this lady on the phone said, “If you have not spoken in tongues, then you have not received the Spirit, and if you have not received the Spirit, you don’t belong to Christ.”
So this lady asked me, “What do I do?” I had an answer for her. I said, “It is very simple. I’d ask her to defend those statements that she gave you from the Word of God. Ask her: Where in the Bible does it say that everybody has to speak in tongues as evidence of their salvation? One text?” I gave her some texts that say not all speak in tongues. “What are you going to do with that?” I don’t know what she did with it because her husband stopped her from studying. He was an atheist. So I gave her some material and advised her to study it secretly.
What I am trying to say is this, “Christ is always your anchor.” Yes, if you look at your performance and get discouraged because of it don’t let that affect your salvation. Let it affect your repentance. “God forgive me for letting you down. Please, God forgive me for being a poor witness.” But don’t let the devil tell you that you are lost. You are lost when you turn your eyes from Christ. Look at Christ who is the author and the finisher of your faith. Continuing in verse two:
Who for the joy that was set before Him....
What was the joy? In other words, Paul is saying here that there was a joy in the life of Christ as the author and finisher of our salvation. Was it easy for Christ to save us? No. Then what was the joy? Look at Luke 15:5,7,9,10,24,22. It would be good to read the whole chapter, but these verses are dealing with three parables that Jesus told: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.
In each case, the one who was looking was happy. Was it hard work looking for that sheep? After a hard day’s work he comes home. By the way, sheep watching his hard work. It’s boring. After a whole day’s work he comes home and puts his sheep in the pen, counts them, and finds that there is one missing. If he leaves that sheep out in the wilderness the wolves and the lions will get him so he goes in search for it. When he finds it he rejoices. The coin: was it hard to find it? Yes. Look at the prodigal son. Was the elder brother happy? No. The elder brother represents the Pharisees and scribes who were murmuring at Jesus Who was eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. Why was He eating with them? In the Middle East, when you eat with someone, it is a symbol of acceptance. That’s why in the Laodicean message it says:
If you will open the door I will come in to you and I will sup with you and you with me.
Which means, “I will accept you.” To the Jews, when Jesus ate with the publicans and sinners, it was a symbol of acceptance. There was joy in each case. There was joy not only in the heart of the people who found the lost thing, but joy in heaven for one soul that is saved. What was this joy that was set before Christ? “The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost.” That was His joy. His joy was to save us. Was it hard work? Yes, extremely hard work. How hard? Well, let’s continue in verse two. “Who, for the joy that was set before him,...” did two things:
Now let me look at those two statements from the Roman’s point of view. To the Romans the cross was a very painful, cruel method of execution. It was a slow, lingering death. There is a book that describes the cross in terms of its physical torture, Watch With Me, by a famous BBC commentator who happened to be an Adventist. He had a degree from Cambridge University. He wrote a book based on a statement by Ellen G. White, that we should spend a thoughtful hour each day contemplating the life of Jesus. He missed the point, in a sense, by pointing to the cross in terms of the physical torture. He looked at the cross through Roman spectacles. The whole book is documented with Roman historians.
It is a very slow, lingering death. They say that gangrene forms in your hands and your feet. You have pains everywhere. You are exposed to the cold at night and the heat in the day time. It is terrible. Your joints ache. You have headaches that are unbearable. It’s agony. And it goes on for three, four, five, six days. Then number two, crucifixion was always in public, naked. They crucified them in the open publicly. Hebrews six says that if you reject Christ and go back to the world you are crucifying Him afresh and putting Him to an open (public) shame. There are only two things you can do with Christ. You can either crucify Christ or be crucified with Him. A believer is crucified with Christ. A nonbeliever crucifies Him. So this was the situation that Christ endured, both the shame and the physical pain.
But if you look at the cross through Jewish spectacles — remember, the Hebrews were Jews — they looked at the cross with an added dimension: not only physical and not only shameful but with the curse of God. Turn to Gal.3:10, which says:
Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Now look at verse thirteen:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us...
Who made Christ a curse for us: the Romans, the Jews, or somebody else? Who made Christ a curse for us? Yes, it was God who made Him a curse for us. You see, the Jews could not make Him a curse for us because they themselves were cursed and needed a Saviour. It is God. Look at the rest of the verse:
...for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.
Paul is quoting here, when he says, “it is written.” It is written where, in the Encyclopedia Britannica? No. In Scripture. In Deut. 21:23, the statement in the black brackets:
For he that is hanged is accursed of God.
If you read Isa. 53:4,10 you will notice that is God who put Him to grief. Now what is the curse of God? What did Paul mean in Gal. 3:10? What is the curse? The unpardonable sin. What happens to a person who commits the unpardonable sin? The second death. A death without a hope. Read Desire of Ages, p. 753, where we are told that He could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him a resurrection. He feared that sin was so offensive to the Father that the separation was eternal. He experienced agony not only because of the physical torture and the mental torture but, above all, He experienced the agony of the curse of God. That was so much worse than the other two that they could be hardly felt, we are told. He endured the cross, He was obedient even unto death. Why was He obedient to all this? Why was He willing to endure the cross? It was so that He may have the joy of seeing us in heaven. That’s what Christ was willing to go through.
After He had finished our salvation He didn’t go into sustentation. No. He went to heaven and He is sitting at the right hand of God, doing what for us? So the joy of Christ is to see you in heaven. He will not rest, folks, until He makes sure that every soul that can be saved will be saved.
I know what He will say in the judgment to the lost people. He’ll say, “How many times I pleaded with you. How many times I brought you under my wings. How many times I led you to the gospel but you would not. So I had to leave you desolate.” That is the abomination that makes desolate. The deliberate, willful, persistent rejection of Christ. But, as far as He is concerned, He will not rest until He can take every soul. With this in mind, go to verse three of Hebrews twelve:
Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself...
Was life easy for Christ during His stay here? No. Did He have to face opposition? Yes, from all kinds of things and people. Was He falsely accused? Yes. Was He mistreated? Yes. Was He not appreciated? You name it. He went through it. It ends up:
...lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.
“If Christ was willing to go through all this for our salvation, aren’t we fools if we give up faith?” That’s what he is saying. Don’t give up hope. Hold on. Look at Christ. Let Him be your example. There is one difference. He went through all this for whose benefit? Ours. We go through all this for whose benefit? Ours. So please remember, Christ did it for our sakes. Let it be an example. Look at 1 Peter 2:19-23, this is something that you need to keep in mind:
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when you be buffeted for your faults [If you are punished for your mistakes, even the unbeliever goes through that. There is no glory for anyone suffering for his mistakes], you shall take it patiently? But if you do well, and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
It may not be acceptable with you and it may not be acceptable with your friends. They will say to you, “Why are you taking it sitting down? Take them to court.” Have you heard that advice? “Don’t take it sitting down.” But what does God say to you? “Endure it patiently.” Let’s go on in verse twenty-one:
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example...
Who is the “us” here? The believers. He is not talking to unbelievers.
...that we should follow in His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; [He did not take revenge.] when He suffered, he threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously:
You can mistreat me but, some day, you will have to answer God.
One day I was deprived of some money on the part of the treasurer of our union. He kept some money from me that, according to policy, I should have had. My fellow missionaries said, “I would not keep quiet.” Now he knew it, because I told him about it, but he still wouldn’t send the money.
Two years later, the treasurer said, “Jack, I did it deliberately to test you to find out what kind of missionary you are.”
I tell you, I got lots of advice to fight. I said, “No.” I said, “One day, he will have to answer in the judgment.” It was no longer my problem. It was his problem. When he told me two years later, I said, “Thank God I did not listen to my fellow missionaries, because I would have failed the test.
He was a South African. He said, “I was testing you.” He was that kind of person. He had the check already in his drawer, dated two years ago. He pulled out his deposits from the safe and took out the check and said, “Here it is.” I needed the money at that time. I thank God for the savings.
Let’s go back to Hebrews and consider Jesus Christ, as your example. As your example of what? Suffering wrongfully, folks.
...Lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.
Please notice that discouragement begins in the mind. Don’t let your mind dwell on the sad things in your life, on the mistreatment and the people who mistreat you in the church. Don’t let it affect you because it is the devil that is using it for your downfall. Now look at verse four:
You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
Don’t look at sin only in terms of doing wrong. In the context of Hebrews, sin, here, is unbelief. When you turn your back to God, you have committed the unpardonable sin. The unpardonable sin is a sin against grace and not a sin against the law. The unpardonable sin is rejecting the spirit of grace and that’s how the Bible defines it. Don’t let anything cause you to give up your faith. The church can mistreat you. The people may not visit you, but please don’t say, “I’m not coming to church because nobody loves me.” Who is going to suffer for that? You yourself. Don’t be a fool. So I tell my brethren, “You can mistreat me. You can deprive me of my salary, but I will never give up my faith. If I give up, I’m the greatest fool in the world.”
Should you give up your faith, the person who suffers for that is you. And folks, this is what Paul is saying here, to the Jews of his day, “Please never give up because, if you give up, you’re giving up everything else that goes with righteousness by faith.”
So Jesus said you will be hated, you will be mistreated, both in the church and out of the church. By the way, the ones who mistreated Christ were not so much the Romans. Who were the ones that mistreated Christ? The people who called themselves the “Covenant People of God.” They were the ones who mistreated Him. And you know, we somehow expect to be mistreated by the world, but when we are mistreated in the church we think that is terrible and we give up going to church. Don’t you ever give up folks, that’s the devil using people. The devil even used Peter to try and keep Christ away from the cross. “This will never happen to You!”
And what did Christ say to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” He saw behind Peter. He saw Peter only as a tool of Satan. And when you are mistreated and the devil comes to you and says, “Look man, stop going to church. These people are terrible,” you must do what Christ did, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” The devil will use members, he will use the pastor, he will use the brethren as tools because they are human beings. But never give up.
So Christ is our Example, not any human being. Yes, the heroes of faith are good examples but the supreme example to the believer is Jesus Christ.