Monday, October 26, 2015

1 Chron 12:32 report, 119: The Kingdom of God, Jesus as Foundational Cornerstone and the six ABC foundational principles of discipleship

As we continue to ponder the signs of our times and how we are to respond to "the stone cut without human hands" that shatteringly strikes the proud edifice of the kingdoms of man, growing into a mountain that fills the world, I would like for us to look at Jesus as Cornerstone and at the Heb 6:1 - 2 foundational principles.

Accordingly, let me now clip from the NCSTS Unit 10, on discipleship:


>>In Heb 5:12 - 6:3, the words of the beginnings of Christ -- i.e. the ABC teachings of Christ  -- are  identified, and set in a context of correcting spiritual retardation.
The call is that the original recipients of the letter should move on to long delayed Christian maturity by ensuring the soundness of one's foundations and building thereupon:
Heb 5:12 . . . though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. 13 For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil.

 6: 1 Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary [= "basic" or "ABC"] instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again:
[I] repentance from dead works and
[II] faith in God,
[III] 2 teaching about baptisms,
[IV] laying on of hands,
[V] resurrection of the dead, and
[VI] eternal judgment.
3 And this is what we intend to do . . .
[NET. Also, let us observe carefully: these six principles are "the elementary [= "basic" or "ABC"] instructions about Christ." So, those who would assign this list of first principles to the Levitical system need to think about that emphasis. A far more reasonable view is that these are first steps instructions about Christ, "ABC's" and "123's" that lay out what it takes to so properly respond to the gospel that one's life of discipleship can have a sound basis.)]
Pulling back a moment, to see the Kingdom of God scale, prophetic panorama courtesy Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel ch 2:

We can then focus on foundations in that context:

The writer to the Hebrews makes it plain that  the mature are well-founded on these six elementary/ABC principles, and so are stable and discerning, having developed the confident ability to discern good from evil (which includes discerning truth from misleading falsity) by reason of practice.

This is not at all a call to empty theorising and speculative argument, but to transformation of life and character through evil acknowledged and turned from, through trust in God through the Christ and through gospel truth learned and lived . . . . the "six principles" foundation of such well-founded discipleship includes:
I: Learning to trust and serve God through repentance: penitently changing our hearts and minds in surrender to God [Isaiah 55:1 - 9; Psalm 51:1 - 17; Matt 3:1 - 15; Lk 24:36 - 48, esp 44 - 48; Acts 10:23 - 48, esp 43 - 48, with 11:1 - 18, esp. 15 - 18]; nb: the word for repentance, μετάνοια (Metanoia -- met-an'-oy-ah) speaks of a heartfelt godly sorrow for sin and more specifically the resulting God-given gift of change of mind, thus thought perception and attitude leading to a right about turn from wrong to right and amended pattern of life.]
(Michelson: "1. (subjectively) compunction (for guilt, including reformation) 2. (by implication) reversal (of [another's] decision)," Thayer: "1.  a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done"),
. . . and

II: faith: trusting God based on his Word. [ Rom. 1:1 - 4, 16 - 17; 4:4 - 8 and 10:17; Heb. 11:6. Such faith -- πίστις (Pistis, pron: pis'-tis) -- can be seen as the new attitude adopted by the penitent sinner, that of trusting God who forgives the wicked who turn to him that takes God at his word even in the teeth of impressions and inclinations otherwise.]
(Thayer:  "1.  conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it  a.  relating to God,  the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ   b.  relating to Christ,  a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God  c.  the religious beliefs of Christians  d.  belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same 2.  fidelity, faithfulness  a.  the character of one who can be relied on.")
III: Celebrating death to sin, new life in Christ, eternal hope and the indwelling and empowering Spirit, through water baptism — a symbolic burial and resurrection. [Rom. 6:3 - 7, cf. 1 - 14; Acts 1:4 - 8 & 2:32 - 39; Rom 8:9 - 17; 1 Cor 12:1 - 13 & Eph. 5:15 – 21.]

IV: Learning the principle of service from the laying on of hands: our hands, but God's initiative, control and power. [Acts 8:14 - 23, 2 Cor 4:1 - 11. Also cf. Jn 5:19 - 20, in its context.]

V: Living life from an eternal point of view: Jesus rose, validating the gospel and giving us an eternal hope of resurrection; but this also means that God "has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed," Christ.

VI: Accordingly, we must live as stewards who shall give an account for our lives and service, before the bar of eternal judgement. [Acts 17:30 - 31; 1 Cor 3:10 - 17, 4:1 - 5, 15:1 – 8; Matt. 6:19 - 24; 2 Cor 4:17 – 5:10.]

These, as the writer to the Hebrews stresses, we must lay in our lives and build upon . . .
This can be succinctly and powerfully focussed through reflecting on Eph 2:8 - 10, noting especially the verse we usually do not cite, 10:
Eph 2: 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.[NET]
It is also instructive to see the tension in Heb 5:12 on, as the writer is torn between wanting to move on to more advanced subjects and the slow learner behaviour he challenges. In 5:12 - 14, he therefore comments:

Heb 5: 12 For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. 13 For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil. [NET]
 This is perhaps a little close to home for many of us, who need to consolidate our foundation and properly build on it. So, let us observe how the writer addresses these slow learners who he warns of the dangers of apostasy, even while saying he has confidence the case is not that bad.

First, the warning:

 Heb 6: For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt.
 It is clear that he has here focussed the first three teachings, repentance, faith in God through the crucified and risen Christ the Son of God (which cometh by hearing the word of God as a heavenly gift from God) and the spiritual aspect of conversion, being born from above by the Spirit. The gospel context of these foundational principles is readily apparent; these are indeed about the words of the beginnings of Christian discipleship.

Of course, in so speaking, a major and too often divisive doctrinal controversy surfaces, can one be saved but so apostasise as to be lost, irretrievably lost as this text seemingly suggests?

That is a worthwhile question for pondering, but it is equally noteworthy that the NT does not go into grand expositions on the nuances and possibilities. Instead, we find an emphasis on making one's calling and election sure, as Peter counsels:

2 Peter 1: May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!
I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.
  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. 

  For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately. 

  But concerning the one who lacks such things—he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins. 

  10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin. 

  11 For thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you. [NET]
So, while we refrain from a definitive conclusion on a subject where learned and saintly teachers of the scriptures have differed over the centuries, we emphasise the balance of discipleship: growth in grace-filled godliness is the hallmark of one who has justified confidence in his status of discipleship. Living faith, by the power of the Spirit, flows over in transformation. And, soberingly, faith without works is dead. But also while we are saved by grace through the gift of faith, we are saved to walk in those good works laid out in advance for us to do.

So, let us be about the true business and focus of discipleship.

 Such themes are strongly echoed as the writer continues in Heb 6, connecting issues of a life of fruitful service (which itself hints of the sign of laid on hands: my hands under God's initiative, in his power . . .), to themes of the resurrection and eternal judgement:

Heb 6: For the ground that has soaked up the rain that frequently falls on it and yields useful vegetation for those who tend it receives a blessing from God.
But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is useless and about to be cursed; its fate is to be burned.
But in your case, dear friends, even though we speak like this, we are convinced of better things relating to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints.
11 But we passionately want each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of your hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises.
 This imagery directly echoes Jesus' parable of the Sower, Seed and Soils:

 Luke 8:While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from one town after another, he spoke to them in a parable:
  “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled on, and the wild birds devoured it. Other seed fell on rock, and when it came up, it withered because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up with it and choked it. But other seed fell on good soil and grew, and it produced a hundred times as much grain.” As he said this, he called out, “The one who has ears to hear had better listen!”
Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant.
  10 He said, “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that although they see they may not see, and although they hear they may not understand.

11 “Now the parable means this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in a time of testing fall away. 14 As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance. [NET]
Again and again we see how important it is to have hearts soft to God's voice and word, which is how the gospel-seed of eternal life with its innate power of fruitfulness can find open deep, singly-focussed soil that then will "naturally" respond to the power of life in that word by the Spirit of Christ, come to spiritual birth, grow and be fruitful.  And of course, we are aware of our stewardship and duty to venture in the ways of God that we may gain more and more treasure for the Kingdom. It is the cowardly, hoarding servant who hides the deposit he has been given who is rebuked.

Where also, the passage hints at our responsibility to watch and address the condition of our heart and our responses to the word of God. Indeed, earlier in Hebrews, we read:

Heb 1:1 After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Thus he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs . . . . 
2:1 . . . we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. [NET]
Heb 3:15, part of a pointed exposition of Psalm 95, cites the Psalm's warning . . . here, in the classic KJV: "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts . . . "

 The warning is patent.

The culminating words as he returns to the discussion on the priestly order of Melchizedek, point both backwards to the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith and forward to our eternal hope in Christ:

Heb 6: 17 In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, 18 so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. 
  19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. [NET]
And so, we can see how to fruitfully build on the foundations we have in Christ as we move forward under our great commission, through our eternally certain hope, our sure and steadfast anchor.>>

Food for further thought as we ponder how we should live and act as Disciples in such a time as this. END