Pastoral Letter 159

JOHN GILLESPIE

 

 Printable version: pastoral letter 159

Jesus Christ is the Best!  He is our Best

 

Brother

Prophet

Priest

Promise

Purifier

Pastor

 

 

The Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers in the second half of the First Century.  As you read it, you get the drift that these believers were losing their zest for Christ, and beginning to think longingly of their old Jewish ways.

 

One can almost imagine their Jewish grandmother coming for a visit and lamenting their absence from the Temple:  “Don’t you miss the wonders of the Temple?  The sacrifices you can see and smell? The feeling you get just being in a place so grand?  And the priest! His robes? His presence? His grandeur?  You have no such things in this ‘church’ you now attend! Where is your temple? Where is the sacrifice?  Where is the incense?  Where is your priest?

We are all so worried about you!

 

Indeed, in the book of Hebrews, faith is all about the unseen  and the  future.  In Hebrews, it is unbelief that is caught up in the here and now and insists upon seeing and touching.

 

Now, our Jewish brother is going to have to tell his grandmother right out that he has a priest, a wonderful priest, the Best Priest, but that his Priest is unseen.

 

Jesus is the Christian’s Priest.  We cannot see Him now.  We have heard of Him, and we have received Him by faith. As our Priest, He:

 

Has done something

Is doing something

Will do something

 

Now, this may not be good enough for some, certainly not for our Jewish grandmother! But it is the way of faith.  It is the Christian way.  The book of Hebrews presents Jesus Christ as the Best Priest, and our souls will be greatly enriched to explore Him in this regard.  Remember!  The health of our soul is determined by that which we love the most, so, may this exploration serve to enhance yet more our love for Jesus!

 

A Priest is a spiritual “bridge builder”.  He is one who stands for another in order to mediate his cause.  He is one who takes care of another’s relationship with God.

 

Now nobody does these things like Jesus does!

 

Take a few minutes and read Hebrews 4:14- 5:14

 

We are moving into the very heart of Hebrews now.   Discovering Jesus Christ as Our High Priest, understanding just what this means to us as His People, is revolutionary.  Our passage will reveal great Truths about Jesus as our High Priest, all to bring us great encouragement.  Once again we encounter this word “therefore”.  Whenever we see this word it always refers backward to what has just been written and then forward to application.  The immediate preceding verses are full of warnings!  “Let us fear…”; “Be diligent…”; “Do not harden your hearts…”.  What are we do in light of such warnings?  Where do we go for help?  Our passage points us to our Priest!  It warns us then it encourages us to look to Jesus.

 

Jesus is our Victorious Priest

 

The first thing we discover about our High Priest is that he is our Victorious High Priest.

Verse 4:14 tells us that Jesus Christ has “gone through the heavens”.  Unlike all other priests, this Priest is crucified, risen , and ascended in heaven!  Now He is at “the right hand of Power on High”. He is “exalted to the highest place and given a name that is above every name.”  He has “sat down at the right hand of Majesty on High”.

 

So, here we have:

 

A Superior Priest in a Superior Place!

Our Best Brother is in the Highest Position!

 

Peter Lewis writes:

 

There is a human being on the throne of the universe!  Go to the heart of the created universe, and you will find a man!  Go to the place where angels bow…and you will find a man!  Go to the very centre of the manifest Glory of the Invisible God, and you will find a man.  True human nature, one of our own race, mediating the Glory of God.

 

Jesus is our Compassionate Priest

 

Next, we see that He is our Compassionate High Priest.  God required that every High Priest be able to “deal compassionately with those who are ignorant and going astray” (5:2).

 

Just look at Jesus. He:

 

  • Was “tempted in every way, yet without sin.” (4:15)
  • Was “subject to human weakness.” (5:2)
  • “Offered prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” (5:7)
  • “Learned obedience through what He suffered.” (5:8)

 

Therefore, because of Jesus being our compassionate High Priest, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (4:16)

 

The old Temple was all about barriers.  The Gospel is all about access.!

 

Take some time and consider this.  Think about it.  Ask the Lord to plant this wonderful Truth about Jesus Christ deeply into your spirit.

 

Jesus is our Appointed Priest

 

Then, we discover that Jesus is God the Father’s Appointed  Priest.  He is the One  God wants us to have!  The world is full of “priests”. Every religion seems to have multitudes of them.  Jesus is the Father’s choice for us!

 

He is:

 

“Called by God“(5:4)

God the Father says of Him:

 

“You are my son” (5:5)

 

You simply cannot do better than agreeing with God that Jesus Christ, God’s appointed Priest, is the One for you!  God declared Jesus to be His chosen Priest for us by raising Him from the dead (5:5).  This was true of no other priest, ever, and will never be true of any other priest, pope, or pastor (I’m sticking with Jesus!)

 

Jesus is an Eternal Priest

 

Further, this appointed priest is a Priest Forever.  “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”  (5:6)  We will look at Melchizedek in depth later, but for now, just consider the following about him, that relates to Jesus, our Priest:

 

He was:

 

*A King of Righteousness

*A King and a Priest

*A Priest before Levi and his company of priests

*Timeless in ministry and power

*Installed by God’s oath

*Blessed by Abraham

 

If Jesus is a Priest forever, let me ask you, “How long is forever?”  The Book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him.” (5:10)

 

Well, who takes care of your soul?  Who is the guardian of your salvation?  Who is the bridge builder between your sinful self and our Holy God?  Who secures your relationship with God?

 

Entrust your whole self to Jesus Christ and He will be a faithful High Priest over you…Forever.

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter 158

JOHN GILLESPIE

 Printable version: pastoral letter 158

Beloved,

 

To treasure Christ supremely is to be truly rich in the soul.  To treasure Christ above all else is true health and wealth.

 

There is no need greater than that of a deeper and fuller experience of Jesus Christ.  A knowledge of Christ which is both intellectual and felt is the greatest need that you and I have.

 

The letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus Christ as the Best.  He is the Best in every category that counts for the soul.  There is none who surpasses the Lord Jesus.  He is our best:

 

Brother

Prophet

Priest

Promise

Purifier

Pastor

 

Remember what we are learning, that great lesson that the godly Henry Scougal taught us:  The health of the soul is determined by the value of that which it loves the most.  Take some time and read Hebrews 3:1-6.     The passage begins with that telling word “therefore”, meaning, “in light of what we have just discovered about Jesus”.  We have just discovered that the Lord Jesus is our Brother, our Best Brother, our Victorious Brother, the Conqueror of sin, Satan and death.

 

Now these Hebrew Christians are being encouraged to hold their nerve as believers, to fix their thoughts, to not blink in the face of trials. Their old Jewish ways are beckoning them to fixate on the seen and present, they are being encouraged to persevere in faith in the Invisible and Future.

 

In Hebrew 3, Jesus is being presented as One better than Moses.  It is hard for us to imagine just what Moses meant (and means) to serious Jews.  He was their best prophet.  There was none like him.  Moses:

 

Was called God’s friend

Saw God and spoke with Him

Delivered Israel from Egypt

Gave Israel their Law

 

He was their Hero! There was no rival as their #1 prophet.

 

How could anyone be better than Him?  Could Jesus Christ, a lowly, crucified Nazarene, be better than Israel’s Moses?

 

These Hebrew believers, “brothers”, who “share in a heavenly calling” are being summoned to “fix their thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest” whom they, and we, confess (v.1).  “Fix their thoughts on” literally means “to scan closely”, to “consider carefully”.  This brings to mind the command for us in Colossians 3 to “keep seeking things above” and to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things”.

 

Certainly “scanning”, being “fixed upon” Jesus Christ is vital to treasuring Him.  Perhaps as we “consider Him continually“, we will inevitably grow in our love for Him.  If this is so, let us now “scan” Jesus, daring to compare Him to Moses, discovering just how He is our Best Prophet.

 

In other words, let’s discover just how Jesus is greater than Moses, Israel’s best prophet,

 

The heart of the matter is that Jesus was faithful as a Son, where Moses was only faithful as a servant (vss 2-6). God the Father sent God the Son to:

Seek and save the lost

Bind up the broken hearted

Gather the poor, the blind, the lame

Save the lowly things of this world

 

To be sure, Moses was the greatest of all to the Jewish Nation (Numbers 12:7).  But Jesus is greater still!  Christ is the heir of all that is the Father’s…namely US:  “And we are His house”.  Just consider the difference in a servant and a son in terms of the care given for what is in their charge!  As faithful as a servant may be, a son, owns what is charged to Him.  More so, a son is bound by love to his father, and will therefore be faithful through a greater motive.  So, as God’s Son:

 

  • Jesus always does what He sees the Father doing
  • The Father, who loves the Son, has placed everything into His hands
  • Will lose none of all that the Father has given to Him, but will raise them up at the last day.

 

As wonderful as Moses was, he could not, and does not, do any of the above!  The clincher here is that the Son is faithful over the Father’s house (the Church) because He loves the Father in a way that a servant cannot.

 

He:

Stewards

Protects

Provides for

Nurtures

Disciplines…

the Father’s House.

 

He is:

 

Able to keep you from falling and present you before His glorious throne without fault and with great joy…

 

…Because He loves the Father

 

Now take some time and consider this.  Meditate on what Jesus’ love for His Father means to you as a child of grace.  Add all the prophets and great men and women of faith up and consider them next to Jesus.  He alone is faithful as God’s very Son.  He is the Best Prophet, because He is more than a prophet.  He is a Son.

 

Read the rest of Chapter 3.  There is a stern warning affixed to the declaration that Jesus is greater than Moses.

 

Remember, this great letter was written to early Hebrew Christians who were taking their eyes off of Christ and looking longingly back to their old ways.  So, they are reminded of just what happened to those ancient Jews who followed Moses, one so inferior to Christ…The warning is clear:  If they rebelled in the face of the lesser, what about us if we rebel in the face of the greater?

 

Those ancients:

 

Hardened their hearts (v7)

Rebelled (v8,16)

Tested God (v9)

Did not know God’s way (v10)

Disobeyed (v 18)

 

In short:  They proved themselves to be Unbelievers! (v19): Unbelievers in the face of so much blessing; unbelievers who had been miraculously delivered and preserved by God’s might and grace; unbelievers who, through Moses, had heard the very voice of God.  Their unbelief, which displayed itself in grumbling, thankless, hard hearts, disqualified them from entering the fullness for which God had delivered them (v19).

 

The message/warning to us, who have One far greater than Moses is:  “See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (v 12).  We are called to “encourage one another daily” (v 13), to prove our “share in Christ” by holding “firmly to the end the confidence we had at first”.

 

When a professed Christian departs from rejoicing in Christ and His Gospel, replacing rejoicing in the Truth of what he has heard and come to trust in with a murmuring, ungrateful spirit, he is in danger of proving that in fact he has no share in Christ.  When a professed follower of Christ looks back over his shoulder, and hearkens for the old days and old ways, he is leaving the way of faith, evidencing a “sinful, unbelieving heart”.

 

Brothers and sisters, we have the Best in Jesus!  He is not only our Best Brother, He is our Best Prophet.  He is faithful as a Son, over us.  We simply cannot do better than trusting in Jesus!  There is simply no better place to be than in God’s House (the Church of the Living God), and there cared for by none other than God’s Son.

 

Take time this week and consider your privilege and security as a follower of Jesus.  Refuse unbelief and rejoice in your salvation!

 

Yours,

 

John Gillespie

Pastoral letter 157

JOHN GILLESPIE

“He had to be made like His brothers in every way”

Hebrews 2:17

 Printable version: pastoral letter 157

 

Over these next six weeks, we will be discovering just why Jesus is to be treasured above all else, even above life itself.

 

Our exploration will take us through the Letter to the Hebrews.  This letter was written to Jews who had come to believe in Jesus.  In encouraging these Hebrew believers to remain faithful followers of Jesus Christ, Jesus is presented as the One who is better than all the best their old Jewish faith had to offer.  In Hebrews we see Jesus Christ as our Best:

  • Brother
  • Prophet
  • Priest
  • Promise
  • Purifier
  • Pastor

There is so much more to Jesus Christ yet to discover!  The Bible presents our Lord Jesus in so many facets, so many images, so many dimensions.  The letter to the Hebrews is deeply rich and multi-faceted in its offering to us of Jesus Christ.  As we explore this treasure-trove of Truth let us grow in treasuring Christ supremely.

JESUS, OUR BEST BROTHER

We will do well to remember that the very health of our soul is determined by the value of that which we love the most.  To see Christ with ever-increasing clarity and fullness is to invite one’s soul to love Him with ever-increasing abandon and joy, growing in ever-increasing health.

 

Now, imagine with me that you are a Jewish person who has come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and as your Lord and Saviour.  In turning to Christ, you have turned away from the Temple, the Priest, and the Sacrifice, all of which you can see, smell, and touch right now, receiving instead a Faith that deals in the unseen, the heard of, and the future.  You have left a sense-based religion for a faith-based relationship.

 

You have joined a new family, and Jesus, the Lord Jesus, is now your Brother, your best Brother.

 

Take some time to read Hebrews 2.  You will there discover four wonderful Truths about Jesus, our Brother.

 

First, Jesus Christ is not just our Brother, not even just our best brother.  He is our Perfect Brother.

 

Hebrews 2:6-8 speak of the nobility of mankind:  “made a little lower than the angels…crowned with glory and honour…everything under his feet…”  But there is a problem here!  Right now we do not “see everything subject to” mankind.  Rather, we see emotions, wills, homes, nations, bodies, marriages, far from subject to mankind, at least not so in any glorious sense!

 

What do we do?  Where do we go?  Is there any human being that we can look to in confidence?  Is there anyone to “champion” the human family?  Is there anyone without a skeleton in their closet?

 

Yes there is!  Our Brother, Jesus Christ:  “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels [who became our brother] now crowned with glory and honour” (v.9).  We dare not, we cannot, build our hopes upon each other, but we certainly can do so upon our Perfect Brother, Jesus Christ.

 

Broken people, failed and frail creatures of dust, need to see their Perfect Brother crowned with glory and honour and find their hope and victory in Him.

 

Next, He is our Proud Brother. He is not only “not ashamed” to own us as His brothers and sisters, (v 11), he is happy to boast of us, owning us as His own before the very throne of His Father (vv 12-13).

 

He confidently leads us to right to Heaven itself. It is He who will bring “many sons to glory” (v 10).  Indeed, God saw fit to use Jesus’ suffering to provide for us a perfect, complete, saving Brother for us.

 

Jesus Christ, our Best Brother, is both the holy One and the One who makes us holy (v.11).  We are “of the same family” with Jesus.  And as such, “Jesus is not ashamed to call [us] brothers.”

 

What infinite and unimaginable condescension!  Jesus comes down so that He can lead His brothers and sisters up…all the way to glory. He actually wants those whom His Father has given Him to be with Him where He is and to behold His glory! (John 17:24)

 

Because He has redeemed us at immeasurable cost to Himself, He is actually proud of us as His brothers and sisters.  We are His boast!  “Here I am and the children God has given me” (v 13).

 

But there is more to learn of our Brother Jesus!  He is our Victorious Brother. This Brother defeats our enemy for us. Look at verses 14-16.  Our Big Brother, Jesus, has dealt with that “evil trinity” of Sin, Satan, and Death on our behalf.  He handled the bully and sent him on his bike!

 

The Bible is clear that in sharing our humanity, Jesus has even shared in our death, that “by His death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil”.  Jesus, our Best Brother, took it on the chin for us, and then floored the devil for us!

 

We no longer need be afraid of death, held in bondage to it by the fear of it.  Death has been destroyed by death, as John Owen rightly noted in the title of his book, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

 

What a Brother!

 

But there is a fourth great Truth regarding this our Best Brother.

 

He is our Priestly Brother.  Jesus Christ represents us in Heaven.  Read verses 16-18.  Indeed, it is not what you know but who you know that counts!  This Jesus was “made like His brothers in every way” (ponder that), which has enabled Him:

1) to be a “merciful and faithful High Priest” representing us to God,

2) “make atonement for the sins of the people” (that means us!), and

3) “help those who are tempted”, because He Himself has  suffered temptation.

 

Imagine this:  God’s Son is our Advocate before His, and our, Father.  He is our Barrister before a Holy and all wise Judge.  And it is He Himself who has already satisfied the requirements of that Judge, His Father, with His own sacrifice of Himself on the Cross.

 

Our Perfect, Proud, Victorious Brother, is our Priest before the very throne of God the Father.

 

Take time and consider this Wonderful Jesus.  Call Him, the very Lord of all, your Brother, your Perfect, Proud, Victorious, Priest Brother!

 

Treasure Him in this way this week.

 

Your Brother and His,

 

John Gillespie