Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary
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Go All the Way with Christ, Then Stand!

This week a small town in South Carolina was ground zero for a major battle concerning religious freedom as the ACLU threatened to sue the Oconee County Council for opening their meetings with prayer. Of course, the central issue was praying in the name of Christ. The council’s practice in this regard has been commonplace in our land since our founding and in no way violates the Constitution or the rights of anyone. On the contrary, the right to engage in such activity is protected by the Constitution.

Michael Johnson, Senior Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (an organization that agreed to defend the Oconee County Council free of charge if the ACLU followed through on their threats), had been contacted by the Oconee Ministerial Association and drafted a policy for the Council’s adoption by vote that would set forth their prayer policy and ensure the continuation of opening their meetings with prayer and the freedom to do so.

“‘It’s amazing that, in a country founded on religious liberty, the right to open a public meeting with a prayer would be under attack,’ said Johnson. ‘But that is exactly what the ACLU is doing--using its favorite tactics of fear, intimidation, and disinformation to force municipalities into passive compliance with its agenda to eliminate our First Liberty, religious freedom.’”

What is even more amazing is the fact that the Council caved under pressure and voted to no longer open their meetings with public prayer but opted instead for a moment of silence despite earlier indications they would in fact adopt the policy. Much has been, should be, and will be said concerning the fact that we as Americans are allowing our freedoms to slip away. Of course, the Council is comprised of people who are ostensibly Christian and much has been, should be, and will be said concerning our obligation to stand for Christ.

At the same time, perhaps not enough is being said about the apparent inability of many Christians to stand for Christ. Whether they are unable or simply unwilling is in one sense irrelevant to the real issue for the church as the result is the same in either case. In another sense, the issue is critical for the church in that the sad reality is that some Christians are simply weak and others are Christian in name only. They have fallen short of closing with the Lord for salvation.

While the impetus may be different, we are in a situation not unlike those in the book of Hebrews. The author was concerned that many who had professed Christ did not know Him and were in danger of fully turning away from Him. American Christians must be challenged to not shrink back but go all the way with Christ. This dynamic is in large measure the central issue for the church today. Why must we go all the way with Christ?

First, we must go all the way with Christ because He is the One who said it all. The writer is primarily concerned with those Jewish believers who had committed to Christ but were in danger of falling back into Judaism and law keeping as a means of salvation. In some sense, they were in danger of looking to Moses for their salvation and not to Christ. As an antidote to this danger of apostasy, the writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, begins with the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ over all things including the Old Testament prophets and the angels.

A simple fact is laid out at the commencement of this letter concerning the revelation of God in connection with His Son, Jesus Christ. The author begins, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets (v. 1).” Prior to the New Testament and prior to the four-hundred years of silence between the Old and New Testaments, God spoke. Note a number of things here.     

The first dynamic is that God spoke at various times. His direct revelation to men was not constant, but piecemeal (and progressively) in a sense. He spoke to Adam in the garden; He told Noah to build the ark; He revealed Himself to Abraham in the Ur of the Chaldees; He commanded Moses to confront Pharaoh; He spoke to and through numerous other prophets.

The second dynamic is that God spoke in various ways. He walked with Adam, appeared to Moses in a burning bush, and then later spoke to him face to face. He spoke to Joseph in dreams and gave Daniel visions.

The third dynamic is that He spoke to the fathers, those who lived prior to the coming of Christ, by the prophets. God spoke through those who held a prophetic office; through those who had the gift of prophecy and proclaimed His message; and through the inspired writers of the Old Testament. The profound and wonderful truth is simply this: God spoke.

God spoke to those in the primeval and patriarchal periods. He spoke to Israel and cut a covenant with them as He had with Abraham and others. As He established the Old Covenant with Israel and gave them all the revelation they needed to rightly relate to Him under that covenant, God ceased from speaking in terms of new revelation for four-hundred years. He had spoken by His word and that word was sufficient for those born prior to the days of the New Covenant ratified by Christ Himself.

The writer to the Hebrews then makes an astounding statement in connection to what he has already said: “[God] has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, who He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (v. 2).” In these last days, the days of the New Covenant, and the days prior to the consummation of all things by the coming of Christ in power and glory, God has spoken to us by His Son. The Lord Jesus Christ has revealed the Father to us. Jesus said to Philip in Jn. 14:9, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” God has revealed Himself in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Among other reasons, Christ came into the world to confirm the promises to the fathers (Rom. 15:8) and establish the New Covenant in His blood (1 Cor. 11:25). As He established the New Covenant and His church, the revelation of Himself to New Covenant believers was fleshed out through the apostles and prophets of that time period (Eph. 2:20). Because Christ is the word of God, because God has spoken through His Son, because Christ’s coming in power and glory has been revealed, when that sufficient revelation for New Covenant believers was completed, God once again ceased to speak through new revelation (1 Cor. 13: 1f; Rev. 22:18). He speaks now through the word He has revealed in the Old and New Testaments. That word is both sufficient and authoritative. In that word, all we need for life and godliness has been spoken (2 Pet. 1:3). Who but Christ has said it all?

Second, we must go all the way with Christ because He is the One who owns it all. These are massive statements regarding that which God has done regarding Christ. To begin with, the Lord Jesus Christ has been appointed heir of all things. He has been given the Name above every name: Lord. At His Name every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is indeed Lord to the glory of the Father. Further, the Father has given the whole of the universe and indeed His bride to His Son as a gift. It is Christ who is the head of the church and it is Christ who is head over all things. “For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever (Rom. 11:36).”

Third, we must go all the way with Christ because He is the One who made it all. The triune God created all things. It was through Christ that the Father made the worlds. John calls Christ the word. In Genesis we learn that God simply spoke the universe into being. Christ is that creative word (as well as the living word and the essence of ultimate reality itself while at the same time being no mere force but a personal being concerned with His creation). Paul wrote of Christ, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence. For it pleased [the Father] that in him should all fulness dwell (Col. 1:16-19).”

Fourth, we must go all the way with Christ because He is the One who sustains it all. Christ, “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (v. 3).” Christ is the brightness of God’s glory. He is the glory or the reputation of God. He reflects the glory of the Father perfectly.

But, He does and is more than that. He is the express image of His person. The phrase “express image” is the Greek word used for an instrument of engraving or carving. It was used to refer to the mark or stamp wrought upon that instrument. It referred to a precise reproduction. Jesus Christ is the engraving, the stamp, the exact reproduction of the Father in essence. Christ is fully God.

Further, Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. By His omnipotent strength and the purity, truth, and infallibility of His word, He upholds or sustains all things. If Christ were to remove His hand, the entire universe would literally explode. Paul said the same of Him in Col. 1:16f.

Fifth, we must go all the way with Christ because He is the One who paid it all. Christ purged our sins. That is, He purified a people for Himself by virtue of His substitutionary death on the cross. The “us” here is specific and refers to all those who Christ actually purified by His death. He did not purify every single person who has ever lived or who ever will live. But, He has purified every single one of His people who have or who ever will live. He came to save His people from their sin (Matt. 1:21). He did this wonderful thing voluntarily and by Himself as the sacrificial Lamb of God. His last words on the cross are packed with meaning, “It is finished (Jn. 19:30).”

Finally, when His atoning work was accomplished, He died, rose again, ascended into Heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, the position of power, authority, and kingship. Moreover, the fact that He sat down is significant. Year after year the High Priest under the Old Covenant would enter the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifices for the people. These animal sacrifices never took away sin and the priest had to perform His priestly work year after year. But, Christ, the Great High Priest and true sacrifice took away the sin of His people. His priestly work in that regard is finished and He has sat down to bear witness of that fact. His work is once for all.

By way of specific application, we conclude that Christ has said it all. For one to know the truth and truth itself, for one to know the answer to ultimate questions, for one to be saved from the wrath to come, he must listen to Christ. Further, the forgoing is true in terms of the individual by virtue of the fact that not only has Christ said it all, but Christ owns it all. He is heir of all things. Moreover, Christ made it all. Thus, He alone is able to save His creatures. We may also say that because Christ is the one who sustains it all, He is therefore the only One who can truly sustain us in an ultimate sense. Christ is the one who has paid it all. We could never pay for our sins and we could never save ourselves. We have a merciful Savior who has accomplished salvation for us to the praise of His glorious grace. We have no where to turn but to Christ by virtue of who He is.

A mere profession of faith is not sufficient for salvation. One must actually have a faith that comes from God and affects one’s life. Let us go all the way with Christ. Let us not turn away from Him. Let us not be ashamed of His Name or His gospel. Let us not shrink back from Him when times get difficult. Remember, He is the One who said plainly, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Lk. 9:62).”

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