Because life is a series of edits

Possibly In Need of a Little Persecution?

In Church, Theologians on October 4, 2006 at 9:12 pm

As part of my Pastoral and General Epistles class with Dr. Dan Doriani, I’m studying the book of Hebrews, which essentially means doing some Greek translation, following along in the lecture notes, and reading William Lane’s excellent commentary, Hebrews: A Call to Commitment. Lane does an amazing job of analyzing and understanding the structure and ideas of the author of Hebrews (possibly Luke or Barnabas, or perhaps even Clement, but certainly not Paul – the Greek’s too different), and Dr. D. is top-notch as a New Testament scholar/teacher.

Hebrews was written as a sermon, not as a letter (though it probably was passed around later as such) to a group of Christians in Rome around the time of Nero’s persecution of Christians in 64 A.D.; thus, the particular style and surrounding events give the book a personal, urgent flavor that is fascinating from both a theological and pastoral perspective.

Here are a few choice highlights from Lane:

“The ‘adult’ is the mature Christian who will recognize the moral claim of God upon his life, even if it exposes him to martyrdom. Those who remain infantile and who refuse to exercise their faculties daily by making decisions in a Christian manner will be unable to exercise the proper moral discrimination between good and evil when they stand before the interrogation of a Roman magistrate. In that case, they will be unprepared for the ultimate moral choice between confessing and denying Christ, when the cost of confession and identification with Christ is the loss of one’s life.” (89)

“Pastoral concern for his friends is evident in every line…The writer makes use of biting irony, confident assurance, sharp warning, and warm encouragement to coax the community into recgonizing that they cannot turn back the clock and deny the reality fo the salvation they have experienced.” (100)

“Christ came into the world in order to model committed obedience to the will of God. As the obedient one, he came to do the will of God. The sacrifice of his body on the Cross was the obedient response to the divine will, and this sacrifice secured for his people the benefits of the new covenant…We prove that we are the new people of God precisely as the obedience which Christ displayed when he entered the world becomes the hallmark of our lives.” (143)

“The formulation used by the preacher to express the pilgrim’s disposition is descriptive of an active seeking: ‘we seek after the city which is to come’ (Hebrews 13:14). Here is the litmus test of spirituality: are you actively looking forward to the appeearance of the City of God? What do you care about profoundly? What do you think about when you are caught day-dreaming? Do you display a pilgrim’s dispostion, actively seeking the City of God?” (161)

All that to say, one of the reasons that I (along with most of the American evangelical church) really don’t understand the depth of Hebrews is not because the message is unclear; rather, we have not experienced the kind of hostility Jesus (and those to whom Hebrews was written) did.

To understand the will of God to the same (or at least similar) degree, I wonder if we are possibly in need of a little persecution? I’m not saying I’m asking for it, but I do wonder sometimes: if it came, how would I/we respond? Obviously, this is what the Church in China, North Korea, and other such places of tyranny could teach us, as I bet they understand Hebrews a lot better than I do, not because they choose to, but because they have to as Christians.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:1-4)

Nope. Sure haven’t. How about you?


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