Sunday, 30 March 2014


Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
Once of Bristol's most famous citizens is Banksy. He was raised in Bristol. He has taken graffiti and raised it to a new level of art. One of his murials taken from a pub wall in Brighton sold in Miami for $575,000. another Slave Labour taken form a wall in London sold for $1.1m.
You can now get an App for your phone that will give you a map of where to find his work in Bristol.
There is nothing new in graffiti. Last year we had a few days in Rome, and went to the small Palatine Museum. I was quite excited for I was looking forward to seeing a piece of 3rd Century graffiti.
I found the place where it hung, but it wasn't there! Just a small photograph and a sign saying it had been loaned out for display elsewhere!
It is a very crude drawing, far below the standard of Banksy, of a man on a cross with the head of a donkey.
The writing in translation says: "Alexamenos worships his god"!
It is a reminder of how the early Christians faced abuse and mockery for believing in Jesus Christ and him crucified. The cross was a scandal.
The writer has just mentioned the death of Jesus - Hebrews 2:9
Today the scandal we get mocked for is believing in creation and not evolution! Maybe we need to say more clearly that there is a much bigger scandal in the Christian faith than creation and that is the cross!
To the Jews it was a scandal because it meant Jesus died under a curse.
To the Gentiles (that's everyone else) it was a scandal because the whole idea was sheer madness!
The Hebrew Christians had suffered - 10:32-34
They were suffering - 13:2-3
And were facing maybe more intense suffering - 13:13-14, 12:4
Our writer is saying: Don't be intimidated by the graffiti on the walls, by the Jewish opposition, or the Gentile philosophers and intellectuals, or the suffering you face.
Do not give up the faith. Do not go back! Keep going. Endure.
Because the Suffering and death of Jesus is fitting:
[1] Fitting for the Glory of God - Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist,
Why does he do that?
Because he wants to bring to our minds the greatness and the glory of God.
So rather than just saying God, or the Father, he describes him as "he, for whom and by whom all things exist." God is the reason why the world, and men and women, exists in the first place - all was created for him.
Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Rev 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
The world was created for the glory of God. We all exist for the glory of God. It is why God made us.
And we will bring God glory. Even if you do not believe in him, you will bring God glory.
Romans 9:22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory--
God has done this says the writer, the one for whom and by whom all things exist, so we can be certain that this was all for his glory.
Men may mock the suffering of Jesus. Let them draw their little graffiti pictures and write their slander. One day they will see that all Jesus did through his suffering brings great glory to God.
What did he achieve by his suffering? That brings us to the second reason why it is fitting:
[2] Fitting for Jesus is bringing many sons and daughters to glory!
Heaven is a glorious place, but what gives it the glory is not the streets of gold, but the glory of God. Jesus is bringing us to see his glory.
The writer has already spoken of his glory: 1v3, 2v7, v9.
John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
v24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
The Christian is being brought by Jesus to glory. We are on the way to glory!
WE are going to see the glory of Jesus. Not as a tourist sees something they have long desired to see, spend a while looking at it and then leave, perhaps never to return. No, we shall see his glory and live with him in that glory for ever.
Re 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
How can it be that we who are sinners can live glory? That brings us to the third reason why it is fitting:
[3] Fitting for Jesus to be made perfect through suffering.
The way to glory required Jesus to suffer.
Peter O'Brien, "Christ is led by God through suffering to glory, so becoming the leader of his people on the journey to salvation."
So Jesus becomes the founder of our salvation. The word for founder can mean the initiator, the originator, the author or pioneer. He is the one who defeated sin, death and the devil, he brings salvation.
To do so he had to first be made "perfect through suffering".
Now do not misunderstand this. Jesus was never imperfect. He was without sin. It is the perfection of the rosebud compared to the greater perfection of the Rose flower. Both are perfect, but the flower has a maturity in it's perfection.
So Jesus suffered so that he would be perfect to save his people.
Jesus' suffering culminated with the cross, but did not begin with the first hammer blow on the nail through his hand that held him there. His suffering begun, perhaps even whilst he was in the womb.
If the mother is suffering then her unborn child is aware of it. Mary must have suffered in becoming pregnant before she was married, although she knew she had done nothing wrong, that the child was of the Holy Spirit. Yet the reaction of others must have pained her.
She had the difficult journey to Bethlehem. Giving birth in a stable. Jesus was laid in manger, a cattle trough. Herod tried to kill him. He became a refuge in Egypt. He grew up with the stigma of the circumstances surrounding his birth; his temptations in the wilderness, the abuse - he's in league with the devil they said. The plots to kill him. Rejection by his own people. Sometimes he had no where to lay his head, he slept rough. Finally, betrayal, Gethsemane! An unjust trial, and all the events of good Friday.
Yes, Jesus suffered much before the cross.
All his suffering brought him to mature perfection for the time when that first nail was struck by the hammer and driven through his hand into the wood. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He had been made perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
So never be ashamed of Jesus, the cross, or the gospel.
Then the writer says something so encouraging:
11b That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
Jesus is not ashamed to bring you to glory, to present you before God his Father, and every living creature, and call you his brother or sister.
Why is he not ashamed? Aren't you ashamed of your sin? How can you be worthy of Jesus calling you his brother or sister?
The answer is in the first part of v11. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin.
Jesus sanctifies every believer. He makes us holy. That doesn't mean that we will be without sin. It does mean there will be visible changes in our lives towards holiness.
Later he will say: Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
What does he mean all have one origin? Jesus and his brothers and sisters share the same origin. The explanation is found in the word brothers. Jesus was made like us, yet without sin. He is God the Son, and through the incarnation becomes also man.
He is of the same origin as us. A claim he proves from three quotes:
[1] Psalm 22:22. v12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
It is a Psalm that gives us an insight into the cross. But it doesn't end there. It goes on to thanksgiving after suffering has been completed.
To tell the name of God to his brothers means more than just his name! It means to make God known.
[2] Isaiah 8:17 - v13a And again, “I will put my trust in him.”
The King and the people were not receiving the message of salvation. They were dark and difficult days. Well if no one else believed, Isaiah would believe his own prophecies, for they were the word of God. He would trust God to keep his word.
Jesus trusted in God in the darkest times. He trusted him in Gethsemane. He trusted God's will. He trusted him on the cross, even though he felt abandoned.
Lu 23:43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Luke 23:46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
How fitting that one who so trusted in God should be the one who leads us even through the dark valleys of the shadow of death.
[3] Isaiah 8:18 v13b And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
Isaiah presents his family, his wife and children. His sons have names full of significance. They are signs to the people.
7v3 And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, (A remnant will return.)
8v3 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hashbaz; (Quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.)
Jesus presents his family, his brothers and sisters. They too are a sign showing how fitting his suffering was. Here is the fruit. Here are those who were sinners, n ow fully sanctified, made holy, presented to the Father.
Here are those the Father had given him.
John 6v37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
v38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
v39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
You may be despised by society but Jesus is not ashamed of you.
The Father has given you to him that he may one day present you before him as his family, and that you may see, and dwell in, his glory.

Sunday, 23 March 2014



Hebrews 4v5 Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.
6 It has been testified somewhere,
What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honour,
8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Have you watched the News in this past week? You just know that much of it is going to be 'bad news'! If there is a God then how come the world is in such a mess? If he has all these angels that he talked about in chapter one then why doesn't he command them to do something about it? If Jesus really is the Son of God then shouldn't the world be a better place?
Our passage tonight gives us some answers to these questions - it helps us to better understand the world as it is today. It shows us something of what God is doing. Where we are now in his plan and purposes for the world and his people, the believers - those who have taken his warning in 2v1-4 seriously and are acting upon it.
He has not finished with comparing the Son to the angels. He continues with this for the rest of chapter two. Our passage for today, v5-9 give us an insight into the world as we see it today.
1. Let's begin by getting into focus the world that he is talking about. The world he describes as 'The world to come.'
When we hear that expression, 'the world to come' we may think of 'this world' in all it's fallen state, described by Paul 'the present evil age' being changed. We are waiting for a new world to come, when Jesus returns and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
Two ages and sharp line between them separating them.
The Jews expected the Messiah to bring about the new world. This was one reason why they rejected Jesus. He claimed to be the Messiah but the world as they saw it had not really changed. The Romans were still in charge!
Jesus told many parables to teach about the kingdom of God. One of them was about the smallest of all seeds, the mustard seed, that when planted grew. Jesus said that the kingdom of God had come.
The new age had broken into the now old one. The world to come has already begun - but it has a long way to go before it reaches it's fulness.
The dividing line between the ages was not a horizontal line, but a line at an angle. There is an overlap between this present evil age and the world to come.
2 key moments in this that have taken place were:
[1] The incarnation. The coming of the Son of God into the world, his birth when he become not only God but also man.
[2] His exaltation - 1v3b.
He takes these up in his comparison between the Son and the angels - 1v6, 1v8-9, the new world coming in its full and final state - 1v10-12;
And the situation now - 1v13.
The angels, they are ministering to believers as we live in this present evil age, but are no longer part of it, for in Christ we belong to the world to come.
Why does the writer say: Hebrews 2v5 Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come?
Who thought the angels were going to rule the world to come? It's a bit like saying: The angels are not going to win the World Cup! Cricket, Rugby, Football - no team of angels is ever going to lift the cup (although I have no doubt they could easily do so!)
His first readers read the OT in the Greek translation. In Deuteronomy 32:8 that makes a difference.
ESV translation of the Hebrew: "When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God."
The translation of the Greek OT reads: "according to the number of the angels of God."
This passage is then teaching that all the nations were ruled by God through the supervision of angels, but God chose to deal with Israel direct. There are other passages that associate angels with the nations - especially Dan 10.
But in the world to come, the world to which believers already belong, it will not be under the supervision of angels, it will not be subjected to them.
Then still focusing on this world as it is today he quotes Psalm 8v4-6.
Psalm 8 is a hymn of praise for God's work in creation. David is in awe of creation. It reveals the glory of God, showing us his majesty and power - v1-3;
But that is not all this Psalm is. David goes on to think of himself and mankind living in this wonderful creation. When he looks into the heavens and sees the stars, the vastness of the Universe. How insignificant man seems to be. Little man in this immense universe - 1v4.
1v4a - 'man' thinking of mankind;
1v4b - 'the son of man' thinking of individual man.
This was a title that Jesus used to refer to himself. Ever since then Christians cannot but look at this Psalm and think of Jesus.
God has given to little mankind remarkable dignity. God has bestowed on man glory and honour - v5.
God has given man dominion over this world.
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
This was marred by the fall in Genesis 3. Because of sin we do not carry out this task as we should. Marred but not totally obliterated. We still see something of the majesty and power of God in creation and we still have dominion over this world. We should be caring for it.
But something is wrong. Psalm 8 is beautiful poetry, but it is not our experience!
We do not see an orderly world. We see a world with daily 'bad news'. Natural disasters: floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, fires, famines, accidents, illness, not to mention what man does: wars, neglect of the poor, crimes and so on.
"Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him."
Thank God we do see some fruits of the world to come - we see the good that Christianity has brought to the world: Education; Hospitals; End of slavery. But many things are not yet in subjection.
God's enemies are not yet under his footstall. The devil is as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The wicked often seem to do very well in this life and the righteous suffer.
We are living in an age characterised by death. This enemy that no man can master. Death that comes to all. Very often suddenly, even violently.
We are living in the overlap of the two ages: the present age and the age to come.
I would put it to you that the Bibles description of this world is true. It is an accurate picture of what we see and experience. The Bible is true to life.
2. Having given us this realistic, accurate, and true description of the world he shows us what God is doing so that we may look at this world in a new light.
v9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
This is the first time he mentions the name JESUS. He doesn't rush straight to it does he - But we see him! Who? Him who for a little while was made a lower than the angles"
That is true of everyman! Yes, and it true of the Son of God, who was given the name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.
Him...namely Jesus!
We see him in the incarnation. Born of a virgin, laid in a manger. For a while was made lower than the angels.
And we see him crowned with glory and honour! He has gone through the heavens and ascended to the throne of God where he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Surely that's his rightful place as the Son of God?
Yes it is his by right of his deity.
But the writer attributes another reason for Jesus' entitlement to be crowned with glory and honour:
....because of the suffering of death,
Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, v6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus went through the suffering of death, a violent death, a death in which he bore the wrath of God against of sin. that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
He is going to take that up and explain it later in this chapter.
John Calvin: "The cause of redemption as the infinite love of God towards us, through which it was that he spared not even his own son."
Why is the world as it is? What is God doing? Here is the answer.
He has sent his Son, his only Son, even to die on a cross to redeem a people for his praise and glory. A people who will be part of the world to come. A world that has already begun. You do not see it as you look at the news. There you will only see a world that is not in subjection to man, a world out of order. But for those who see Jesus, they see him saving a people, and making them into a holy people, a people who serve him and do good in this world, a people who are looking for the coming of a new world, when what begun with Jesus will be complete.
Do you see Jesus?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


The center of the book of Lamentations. We often work towards a climax the end of a piece, but very often in the OT the center is the high point, the heart of the message. So it is here. This chapter contains the best known verses in the book - 22-23.
Once again it is in the form of an acrostic - but this time in groups of three verses: aaa,bbb,ccc - for all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
v1-18: You Think You Have Problems!
What are you initial impressions of these verses? Do they remind you of any other passages of scripture?
Who it who says: "I am the man..."? Some think Jeremiah, or the King. We do not know for sure but we can say it was a male survivor, a believer. The first two Laments come with female voices - Lam 1 Jerusalem is 'She'. Lam 2 the focus is on the daughter of Zion, daughter of Judah, daughter of my people, daughter of Jerusalem v1, 2,4, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18.
Note how many times he says: 'He has'. Although the destruction was brought about by the Babylonians they are the secondary cause, it is the Lord who is the first cause of the affliction.
Here is a believer who says in v1 that he is under the rod of his wrath. How do you reconcile this with the believer been loved by God?
It is popular today to hear preachers say: "No matter how much you sin God loves you just the same." "God hates the sin and loves the sinner." We hear more today about 'grace' than we did 30 years ago. All these things are true but they are not the whole truth.
However, there is often a missing 'chord' that puts the preacher out of tune with the music of the message of the Bible. It is the chord sounded in Lamentations 3:1. We need a theology, an understanding of God that includes this. We need a full doctrine of the love of God.
(I am indebted for what follows to Mark Jones and his book 'Antinomianism' for the reminder of these truths.)
Briefly: [1] The intra-Trinitarian love of God. The love between the three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is an eternal love, and a natural love. There cannot but be love between the Father, Son and Spirit.
[2] The love God has for all he has made. This is not a necessary love. God does not have to love all his creation. It is a voluntary love. We can distinguish between: 
(1) God's universal love for all things. 
(2) God's love for all people - believers and unbelievers. 
(3) God's special love for his people.
God's love for his people be seen in three categories: 
(1) God's love of benevolence (big heartedness, giving out of generosity, kindness, grace,) seen in election and predestination. 
(2) God's love of beneficence (a gift that is not deserved or earned, but is generously and freely given). 
(3) God's love of delight or friendship in which he rewards his people for their holiness and obedience to his commandments - Hebrews 11:5-6; John 14:21; 16:26-27.
God loved our writer of Lamentations 3 with a love of benevolence and beneficence, but God did not delight in the sins of the City of Jerusalem and for a while his people were under his rod of wrath. This is the warning Jesus gave to some of the Churches in Rev 2-3:
Here we see that the Lord gets angry with believers - Rev 2:4-5; 14-16; Rev 3:1b-3; 15-19. The Lord disciplines those he loves. At times he hides his smile and we see and feel his displeasure, and disappointment, as the disciples did at times. (We shall not at this point take up the thought of grieving the Holy Spirit - Eph 4:30)
v19-33: How To Find Hope When Hope Has Perished.
v18 hope has perished.....v21 I have hope.
v22-24: He calls to mind God's love of benevolence and beneficence. Thomas Chisholm's testimony. What we can learn from sorrow.
v25-33: He sets about regaining God's love of delight and friendship. Pascal said: "All the miseries of mankind arise from his inability to sit still in his own room." Lloyd-Jones comments: "You have to be still, you must stop, you must be isolated, you must think. You cannot meet with the Lord in the midst of the noise and the bustle and the fury of life. Stillness is one of the great prerequisites."
v34-48: Evil In The World:
v34-36: Here is evil as God sees it. He sees every injustice.
v37-39: God's punishment is fair.
v40-42: He calls on the people to repent.
v43-45: Once again we see God's anger.
v46-48: All our enemies are against us.
v49-66: When The LORD Hides Himself Call to Him!
v49-51: He will weep until the Lord sees.
v52-54: The danger he faces - this fits with Jeremiah being imprisoned in a well.
v55-57: Persistent calling on the Lord
v58-60: God redeems him - enemies beware!
v61-63: God hears and sees all

v64-66: Romans 12:19 Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. 

Monday, 10 March 2014



1. He give us a brief definition of hell as 'the place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked'. Is this how you thought of hell before you were a Christian? Did the thought of hell play any part in your conversion?

2. He then gives us a brief description of hell on pages 17-20. Do you find it easier or more difficult to think about hell in this way now than you did 5,10, 25, 40 years ago? Why do you think this is?

3. Praying for the dead (page 23) is far more widespread, and even expected, today than it used to be. What would you say to an unbeliever who asks you to pray for their loved one who has just died?

4. "Hell exists for God's should not be an embarrassment to us" (page 24). Do you ever feel embarrassed by hell? Why do you think this is? What can you do so that you do not feel embarrassed?

5. "If we lose hell, we will eventually lose the cross" (page 27). Do you find his answer to the difficulty, 'is hell disproportionately severe' helpful?

6. One of the purposes of the Bible's teaching on hell is as a warning. How can we make the warning creditable so that people will take it seriously.