A HEART OF FAITH
We have just endeavoured to find a message, "godly and wholesome, and necessary for these times," in the opening paragraphs in the Epistle to the Hebrews. We come now to interrogate our oracle again, and we open the third chapter as we do so.
Here again we find the Epistle full, first, of "Jesus Christ Himself." He is "the Apostle and the High Priest of our profession" (ver. 1), or let us read rather, "our confession," the "confession" of us who are loyal to His Name as His disciples. We are expressly called here to do what the first two chapters implied that we must do --- to "consider Him" (ver. 1), to bend upon His Person, character, and work the attention of the whole heart and mind. We are pointed to His holy fidelity to His mission (ver. 2) in words which equally remind us of His subordination to the Father's will and of His absolute authority as the Father's perfect Representative. We are reminded (ver. 3) of that magnificent other side of His position, that He acts and administers in "the house of God" not as a servant but as the Father's "own Son (ver. 6) that serves Him." No, such is He that the "house" in which He does His filial service is a building which He Himself has reared (ver. 3); He is its Architect and its Constructor in a sense in which none could be who is not Divine. Yes, He is no less than God (ver. 4); God Filial, God so conditioned that He is also the faithful Sent-One of the Father, but none the less God. We saw Him already in the first chapter (ver. 10), placed before us in His majesty as the Originator of the material Universe, to whom the starry skies are but His robe, to be put on and put off in season. Here He is the doer of a yet more wonderful achievement; He is the Builder of the Church of the Faithful. For the "house" which He thus built is nothing else than "we" (ver, 6), we who by faith have entered into the structure of the "living stones" (see 1 Pet. ii. 5), and who, by "the confidence and the rejoicing of our hope," abide within it.
Thus the blessed Lord is before us here again, filling our sphere of thought and contemplation. It is here just as it is in the Epistle to the Colossians. There, as here, errors and confusions in the Church are in view --- a subtle theosophy and also a retrograde ceremonialism, probably both amalgamating into one dangerous total. And St. Paul's method of defence for his converts there --- what is it? Above all, it is the presentation of Jesus Christ, in the glories of His Person and His Work. He places Him in the very front of thought, first as the Head, Founder, and Corner-stone of the Universe; then as the Head, Redeemer, and Life of the Church. With Him so seen he meets the dreamy thinker and the ceremonial devotee; Christ is the ultimate and only repose, alike for thought and for the soul.
In this Epistle as in that we have the same phenomenon, deeply suggestive and seasonable for our life to-day. In both cases, not only for individuals but for the Church, there was mental and spiritual trouble. Alike in Phrygian Colossæ and wherever the "Hebrews" lived there was an invasion of church difficulties and confusion. A certain affinity in detail links the two cases together. Colossian Christians and Hebrew Christians, under widely different circumstances, and no doubt in very different tones, persuasive in one case, threatening in the other, were pressed to retrograde from the sublime simplicity and fulness of the truth. Their danger was what I may venture to call a certain medievalism. Not Mosaism, not Prophetism, but Judaism, the successor and distortion of the ancient revelations, invited or commanded their adhesion, or, in the case of the "Hebrews," their return, as to the one true faith and fold. There were great differences in detail. At Colossæ it does not seem that the "medievalists" professed to deny Christianity; rather they professed to teach the Judaistic version of it as the authentic type. Among the "Hebrews" anti-Christianity was using every effort to allure or to alarm the disciples back to open Rabbinism, "doing despite to the Son of God." But both streams of tendency went in the same general direction so far that they put into the utmost prominence aspects of religion full of a traditional ceremonialism, and of the idea of human meritorious achievement rather than of a spiritual reliance for the salvation of the soul.
Deeply significant it is that in both cases we have the danger met thus --- by the presentation of the Incarnate Redeemer Himself, in His personal and official glory, to the most immediate possible view of every disciple, "nothing between." The Epistles, both of them, have much to say on deep general principles. But all this they say in vital connection with Jesus Christ; and about Him they say most of all. He is the supreme Antidote. He, "considered," considered fully, is not so much the clue out of the labyrinth as the great point of view from which the mind and the soul can look down upon it and see how tortuous, and also how limited, it is.
But the message of our chapter has not yet been fully heard. It has spoken to us of Christ Jesus, and of the "consideration" of Him to which we are called. At its close it speaks to us of faith: "Take heed, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (ver. 12). "To whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (verses 18, 19).
That is to say, our "consideration" of Jesus Christ must not be all our action towards Him, if we would be sure, and safe, and strong. It must be but the preliminary to a "heart of faith." That is to say again, we must personally and practically take Him at His word, and rely upon Him, committing our souls and our all to Him, to Him directly, to Him solely. We must, in the exercise of this reliance, use Him evermore as our Prophet, Priest, and King. We must venture upon His promises, just as Israel ought to have ventured upon the promises of Him who had redeemed them, although He tried their will and power to do so by the terrors of the wilderness and by the giants of Canaan.
Thus to rely is faith; for faith is personal confidence in the Lord in His promise. And such faith is not only, as it is, the empty hand which receives Divine blessings in detail. It is the empty arms which clasp always that comprehensive blessing, the presence of "the living God" in Christ, so making sure of a secret of peace, of rest, of decision, of strength, of deep-sighted and tranquil thought upon "things which differ," which is of infinite importance at a time of confusion and debate in the Christian Church.
Therefore, alike for our safety and for our usefulness, let us first afresh "consider Him." And then let us afresh "take heed" that with "a good heart of faith" we draw to and abide in union with the "considered" Christ, in whom we know and possess the living God.
From Message from the Epistle to the Hebrews, By HANDLEY C.G. MOULE, D.D. BISHOP OF DURHAM. First Edition May 1909, Produced by Colin Bell, Thomas Strong and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
To the Hebrews - H.C.G. Moule
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.