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NOTHING BUT 'A FEARFUL EXPECTATION'
IS NOT PROCURED
A PERFIDIOUS EXPECTORATION
A SPITTING OF WHAT IS NEVER SWALLOWED
WALKING WITH THE LORD.
OR WALLOWING IN UNWISDOM
See also Divine Agenda Ch. 9, for further Focus:
'Don't be Haunted by Hebrews, but Vault on it!'
I think, says one, that Hebrews 6 is speaking of someone who was a Christian and ceases to be one. The context, says he, seems to demand it.
It is not at all so.
It is not possible to become a Christian and to cease to be one for the simple and sufficient reason that once you are begotten again, and have a spiritual 'seed', or if you prefer the modern analogy, spiritual genes, that is YOU. It is out of the question that you should then be of a different parentage, for this IS you as much as any Jones is a Jones or Smith a Smith. I John 3:9 declares this most categorically.
"Whosoever one begotten of God does not practise sin
because His seed remains in him,
and he is not able to sin because he has been begotten by God."
Accordingly, the eternal character prevails, so that in I John 5:11-12, there is speech of another but necessary aspect in view of this. You who believe in the name of the Son of God, says John, must know that you have been given eternal life. It is this, as in John 6:51, in John 6:40, which means that you will be raised up on the last day, that you will live forever. Unlike manna's manner, this is divine meat, and you live forever, sacrificially saved, powerfully kept, by new begetting, born to live for ever. This is the teaching, this is the word in an army of instances.
This is the simple fact. You can be high-minded and pretend you are sinless, a folly which John condemns in Ch. 1 of I John; but you also be low-minded, and wallow in it. Both of these things are excluded by scripture, and it is necessary to realise this. If you take a servant of God like David, then his disciplines may seem a little rough - that is, the ones which he RECEIVED as a child of God, but then if the purity of heaven is to be your eternal companion, then the lusts of earth are to be rebuked as required. The end in view demands the means used. You see such discipline, in the internal side, as in Psalm 51, where David is repenting at leisure of the inane infatuation which led to such sin with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11).
That is easy to follow. However, it is all but a smack of sudden surf when you read of David's fault in persisting in statistics, numbering his troops, even though commander Joab remonstrated with him about the matter. That is found in I Chronicles 21. How severe the plague which came may seem (although the Lord gave to His beloved friend, David, liberty to select one of three disciplines, a glorious tribute)! Yet what was the apparent principle in the matter ?
First, David had been monumentally triumphant in war by virtue of his selection by God; and divine aid given in many ways, had at times been directly supernatural in kind (as in I Chronicles 14:8ff.), both after he became king, and in the earlier persecuted phase, as in I Samuel 23. Thus any tendency to estimate his precise power in terms of army, especially when it took the Commander months to find the facts, in view of the sort of situation facing him in those days, was an index, it seems to a growing sense of power and authority, a more mundane preoccupation with means, instead of ensuring that the spirit of the people, and his own, were in the right mode, and receptive to the leading of the Lord.
It is the uppermost streams of the heart which matter, where the melting snow from above is providing its purity; and if you begin with double or alien motivation to spoil the waters there, your whole being can be defiled. The Lord would not tolerate this sort of spiritual bathos, in one so delicately and graciously led for so long in so much, and so He acted to extirpate the whole underlying attitude of increasing self-esteem or self-sufficiency that seems at this time to have started its strutting development, as if perhaps, God proposes and man disposes, rather than the other way around.
On the other hand, while the Lord disciplines sometimes with rigour, though at other times with the most merciful tolerance for a time, and is His own unconditioned and absolute Being, which is one of His delightful wonders, since He is with it, most loving, there is a continuity of kindness. There is a constant theme of Fatherhood, a portent of brotherliness from the Lord, which is at once a ground of exultation and of tenderness.
Put differently, the Lord is the Shepherd, and the people who entered the door of His fold, Himself who lay about the entry as its guardian, are accepted as His sheep, and He who died for His sheep (John 10), is not at all about to let ANYONE or ANYTHING separate His sheep from His love (Romans 8:38-39), since He has actually foreknown them as His own (Romans 8:29ff.), so that no one who has been justified, covered by His blood and covenant, will ever fail to be glorified as this scripture shows (cf. Romans 8:17), and Romans 5:1-12 demonstrates with relish and precision!
NO ONE and NOTHING will remove them from Him (John 10:27-28); and quite simply, they will never perish. No one who is a person can do it; no force can achieve it. The guarantee is absolute (as in I Thessalonians 5:9-10).
If any soul draw back, He has no pleasure in such a soul. This we find in Hebrews 10:36-39:
"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God,
ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come,
and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith:
but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
"But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition;
but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."
There is always the unresolved, the intermittent, the spiritual transient in fact, the ditherer, the slitherer, who is not willing to go in, who puts in the toe, between the door jams, and perhaps a foot, but then as it stricken by lightning, removes the same, not willing wholly to be committed, or to remove the secondary motivations (such as a desire for greatness, an easy life, comfort, superiority and so forth). Such people toy with truth, and these may be at times fascinated by it, yet at others weakly sink into the latest cultural carnivore, ready to be eaten up by yapping jaws which crunch, now and again, as if abstractedly.
Wolves, those of this kind, at times can be very picky; but in the end, they devour.
People of this type are precisely as in Matthew 13, in the parable, being typified by those who do INDEED EXPERIENCE things of the world to come; they do in fact have a penetration into their being by the word of God; but alas, it is not in any depth, and it is becomes a muddled mission in the mud. The sun rises, and the strength of it - that is persecution or the demands of purity, surprises the equivocating soul, so that the word of God, the seed as Christ here defines it, loses itslife in the soul.
It shrivels. The thing ends.
In Psalm 78, you see the whole thing set forth at the NATIONAL LEVEL.
You become aware that the spirit of man - whether individual or in corporate groupings where certain failings and features become prominent or even dominant, is as capable of various illnesses and diseases, as is his body. Indeed, it is rather like skin tissue, capable of being stretched, chaffed, irritated, itchy, wrinkled, bunched up, stressed, smeared with blood, with blood slowly oozing, generative of puss and so on.
When it is clean and healthy, what a feature, what function, what grace; yes, and it can almost be beautiful. When it is not, what distaste, what pimplish protrusions, what swellings, what dysfunction.
When the spirit of a man is clean and healthy, because in the care of the Great Physician, so that he is not compressed, or stretched, far less generating spiritual puss in philosophical tantrums, or theological pimples, then even something of the beauty of holiness can enter, and the tang of Christ may be felt. Without holiness no man will see the Lord, and while it is far from perfection, it does indicate a wholehearted yielded both to God as the One in whom one entirely trusts, and to His word, which you seek to fulfil by His grace, power and provisions.
If however there is a disinclination to be smoothed, treated, to have swellings and vanities removed, pimples overcome (unlike the case in Psalm 73); if there is, in fact, a general malaise, then there comes such a non-distinctiveness, sometimes like blood slowly oozing, with a smeary merging of malaise, that little is clear except this, that it is not right.
Thus there is, to revert to the spiritual case quite simply, such a proliferation of spiritual disease
when the Great and Gracious Physician is not found, and
when nevertheless He is appealed to, and named, but not followed,
when His prescriptions are sought, but not made up, or if made up, at any rate
not applied or taken,
when there arises such a todo,
of drawing near with the lips, while in heart being far removed,
of being straight as an arrow in word and crooked as a bent stick in deed,
such a hypocritical confusion and such a spiritual profusion ...
that it becomes nauseous.
Here lies precisely that profound and broad scriptural phenomenon: the loud mouth and the slender deeds, the vociferous self-proclaimer and the insipid spirituality, the Pharisee who compares grossly with the 'sinner', the one who thanks God he is not as other men are, and the one who asks for mercy upon himself, as a sinner (Luke 18:9ff.), the type of Isaiah 29:13, the the near mouths and far hearts, the episode in low-level yield and high-level licence, obscured vision and open-eyed smiles or wiles, of Isaiah 28.
But as to that last, it needs a little more. Here we find a stifling unspirituality pathology focussed In the case of this spiritual disease, it is like fever from some outlandish bacterium, in Isaiah 28:11, where God foretells that with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to such rebellious people, people to whom He had offered rest! Despite this, they managed by elaborate hypocrisy and wayward breaches of all holiness to avoid it, while yet not severing formally from the Lord. You see much the same in Isaiah 30:15-18:
"For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
'In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.'
But you would not,
And you said,
'No, for we will flee on horses',
"Therefore you shall flee!
'We will ride on swift horses' —
Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!
'One thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
At the threat of five you shall flee,
Till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain
And as a banner on a hill.
"Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him."
The guile of guilt and the guide of faith appear alike, the one claiming to be Israel, redeemed of the Lord, but so in name and form alone, far from God, desecrating liberty, defaming life and disdaining love.
So great was their folly, their cheap flirtation with what they formally owned and functionally disdained, treating the Lord like some pick-up tart for the sexually roving ruins who masquerade as men, that it was, the Lord declares, as if He had to go to infants, to find someone really willing ACTUALLY TO LISTEN! (Isaiah 28:9).
Line upon line, He chants for them (28:13), precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. Thus was apparent studiousness, in fact only an officious resemblance to real care, while their hearts made of this ostensible spirituality, a slum in a rich city: rich by reputation, a slum by operation. With THAT sort of concentration, what is the result ? It is this: "that they might go and fall backward, and be broken, and snared and caught" - Isaiah 28:13.
Paul cites from this section of Isaiah in I Corinthians 14:21, where the coming of 'tongues' is foretold, a rebuke to the hypocrisy of being virtually unteachable, a mimicking of their spiritual intelligence and a rebuke to their godless hearts, filled with appearance, empty of fact, filled with protestation, at times lapsing into a more yielding mode, like the Liberals of the last century, but empty of learning, prodigious in labours, while professors of vanity not knowledge.
In such cases, as in II Peter 2, there is the sacred CLAIM countered with the riotous REALITY, as if a man told a maid how much he loved her, and even made a proverb of his 'devotion' to her, while in fact guilty of the most saucy ogling of anything impure that came along. Thus do they in the spiritual case itself, 'deny the Lord who bought them!' This is the irony so often found for loud mouths mixed with shallow and sallow superficiality. Thus do they deny Him, whom they had so loudly affirmed to have purchased them, to make them a holy people!
Well might one say in rebuke in the analogy, Oh well, how is the girl you loved! - that is pretended to love, amidst all the unseemly sexual promiscuity, to which God at times refers in terms of unfaithfulness in terms of a marital metaphor, as in Ezekiel 23. (The same thing is used in a good sense where there IS faith, in Ephesians 5).
What then of our illustration of the
roving and promiscuous man who affected only, to love his
wife ? This. When the father in law speaks, he might well say, You have denied the girl you loved! by no means asserting in his profound and disgusted irony, that there was anything in the slightest degree approximating or approaching love, but only a hideous hypocrisy, a sheaf of pretended claims to love, here mimicked and mocked.
These, says Peter of false teachers, deny the Lord who bought them, obvious imposters, rich in clamour about their Saviour, empty of the slightest love or faith. In this, they acutely resemble the children of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea, full of complaints and problems on the way: sending in spies to see how the land lay, and then categorically failing to have any TRUST at all, any faith in the One who had led them, and while thinking only of themselves, making a mockery of all their ceremonies. The word which they heard, and the terms of which they so liked to use, was not "mixed with faith," as we find in Hebrew 4:2. It was like a formula, never applied.
These were ostensibly, directed to the "Lord who bought us", or to "our Redeemer", but in fact such claims were a masquerade, a fiction, their real address being to a god who was not there, a god of their own imagination, a Lord commingled with various alternative gods, a figment instead of the Father of eternity, a bogus operation from start to finish, finishing in their case with 40 years in the desert, wandering until they died.
It is just the same in Hebrews 10, where some are noted who have "trampled underfoot the Son of God" and "insulted the Spirit of grace", making the blood of the covenant "an unclean thing" by their tempestuous, trivial little passions awry and astray, commingling with virtually meaningless abuse of the truth by resting in its formulations or making claims to its essence, like those who so disrelish reality in spiritual things, that there is neither comfort nor reality in their relationship to God, but only a breach of magnificence and a vanity of viciousness, a derogation of the actual deity by profanation of the very holiness they so lightly regard and so wrongly misuse.
This is the fatuity of disfaith, the inanity of callow compromise, conditional loyalty, occasional involvement, as far from faith as in the Isaiah 28-29 cases, where only ruin can come to those whose 'faith' and 'words' are exercises in spiritual lunacy, as in Hosea 9:7, combining the dissimilar and converging the parallel, till the result is a parade of bits, as in a kaleidoscope, ready for divine mockery and contempt.
Thus when 'tongues' are now engaged in, by some with a relish and flourish, it is very much as if, wholly contrary to the scriptural de-emphasis and stringent conditions for such things, which are arithmetically for public use, set at a discount of 5 to 10,000 relative to genuine teaching, it is as if someone were caned, and could not stop talking about it (I Corinthians 12-14 gives the criteria and conditions of use, with I Corinthians 1:1). Failure to keep these is like joining the Army, and making of evening training, a dancing session. It is not bright.
To be sure, there is a time when one can note how foolish one was, or deride in almost comic form, the follies of disfaith, pretended or pretentious substitutes for the authentic trust in the Lord; but it need not be often! and such 'tonguing' is a small consideration. If it is accompanied by a sense of one's inadequacy, well, it can serve, as may a cup of tea; but the real focus is Christ, not oneself, as in I Corinthians 12-14. The action is not in the refreshment bar, but on the field; not in a gabble-mouthed profusion of confusion, as explicitly forbidden, but in edifying; for ALL things must, says Paul, be done to edification. NOTHING is to remain hidden, vague, an uncertain sound.
All this is of one parcel, the pretended and the actual; and on this form of hypocrisy the Lord pours, as we have seen in Isaiah, the most ardent irony, the most scathing scorn, mimicking and mocking, as does II Peter 2:1*1A, focussing those whose pretended faith was nothing but blah, falsetto faith, trust by innuendo, but not in reality. They are, the Lord indicates, scarcely responsible for themselves in this sense, that they are as those in a deep sleep! (Isaiah 29).
"Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine;
they stagger, but not with strong drink.
"For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
"And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed,
which men deliver to one that is learned, saying,
'Read this, please': and he says,
'I cannot; for it is sealed' :
And the book is delivered to him who is not learned, saying,
'Read this, please': and he says,
and he says,
'I am not learned.' "
There you see the dim, devious obfuscatory obtrusion of witless words and startlingly daring subterfuges from a sleeping soul, scarcely able to do more than avoid the issue.
Such a spirit leads to destruction, as in Isaiah 28, and this is its end; and so it is in II Peter 2, in Jude, where the raging waves foaming out their shame, and the uprooted plants, buried in the rubble, tend to figure; for what is not planted by the Father WILL be uprooted (Matthew 15:13). What is however of His seed, has eternal life as we see so often.
Indeed, following the above quotation from Isaiah (29:13ff.), we find the Lord predicting what Paul exults to cite, in I Corinthians 1, a truth and reality which none can ignore, a wisdom to reduce to rubble the pretensions and lift those who receive Him - for it is the Messiah, out of the depths of depravity into the heights of wonder, from the abyss to the empyrean, from fog to splendour.
Thus in John 10:9, ACTUALLY enter the kingdom through the door which IS the Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and you WILL be saved, and carry on your in and out to pasture career, being unable to perish (John 19:27-28), and in 5:24, believing in Him who sent Christ and hearing His words is a condition in which a man may come, and if he should be in this mode, vein, of this tenor, then three things follow:.
1) CONDEMNATION is what he does NOT
2) ETERNAL LIFE is what he NOW has
3) his condition is one in which to
LIFE he has come, and its state is his,
It is the same in once drinking - the tense is not continuous - water, as in John 4, and NEVER thirsting again, in contrast to the wearisome and repetitive coming to the well of the Samaritan woman.
THAT, said Christ of what He was offering, would be no more, but indeed there would even be a ground for the non-coming once one had drunk of His water, and that ? It was this: that there would be a SPRING of water WITHIN one, a spring welling up to eternal life. It is the same in John 6, when at verse 51, we learn that if anyone should eat on some occasion ('aorist' not present) of this bread, he would live forever. They had repetitive 'manna' for food; but this bread from heaven, not symbolic of Christ, but Christ Himself, take it and you live forever. If you ONCE eat this, ETERNITY is your domain, you live forever.
It is as expounded in Romans 5:1-11, where the Lord shows through Paul the obvious fact that if when we were enemies we were redeemed, reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more will we be saved now by His life. If DEATH could reconcile, how much more does Christ's resurrected life, as He who is alive forevermore, secure from wrath! Thus, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. It is not only a FACT, it is an a fortiori fact. That is, since God demonstrated His love toward us when we were STILL sinners, in Christ's death, HOW MUCH MORE will He now keep us from wrath and grant us secure salvation, inviolable, that we have been justified! (Romans 5:10).
This is precisely what Paul declaims in Romans 8:29ff., where "those whom He justified", "these He also glorified," so that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
It is for this same reason that, seeing the crucifixion of the Messiah to come*2, David is assured that when he 'awakes', he will be satisfied with the very likeness of God, or see Him face to face, as Revelation says of Christ, for Christians, in Revelation 22:4.
The divine disdain for the rubble instead of reality, the mixtures instead of trust in His majesty, the ostensible instead of the actual, is shown again in Hebrews 6, just as in Isaiah 28-29, and so often in the divine apostrophies to the delinquent formalists, as in Hosea 7:11-14. They do not cry with their HEARTS when they moan on their beds. They come, but leave the heart behind, They are like a crooked bow, one that cannot shoot straight: they shoot off words, but not from the hand of faith. They forsake the fountain of living waters, which is given to them FOR faith, and instead take to broken cisterns which cannot even HOLD any water (Jeremiah 2:11-13).
They taste with the mouth, but they do not swallow, they experience something of the powers of the heavenly kingdom, as did the ancient Israelites, but when given scope to ENTER with a heart that goes with the mouth, they DECLINE, and complain and have ever so many excuses. Yet they still seem to think there is something spiritual about them, and even try to do things by works instead of faith, just as Israel did after refusing to enter by faith. They try it by war! (Numbers 14:39ff.). The race had been enlightened quite clearly, as in the Exodus miracle of Exodus 12ff., or in seeing wonders as in the plague provision to humble Egypt at that time; but in the event, faith had not been found.
Though observers, they had not become covenant takers; for it was in form, not in fact, in flirtation with reservation, not commitment without qualification, that they had come to inherit that word in Hebrews 4, that "the word they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.".
The topic is simple
and clear: not foolish, not footling faith, not faults and crevasses,
Fondling an asp can
kill; and wandering with wasps can sting: but forging with faith prevails.
Anything less is not
faith, but fiddling, and fiddling whether with antibiotics or the sacred things
This tune is unwarranted, unworkable and has a fatal fascination for its victims.
As Christ declared, EXCEPT you forsake ALL that you have, you CANNOT be My disciples (Luke 14). Formal, experiential, observer-status participation is not enough. You can do all that in either arrogant vanity or careless inanity, but it is perilous, non-participatory, and its dividend is death. It is this that one finds exemplified, whether as coarse substitutes for faith entered before the flood (Genesis 6), or as callow failures to act in the way provided as in Numbers 14, at Kadesh Barnea, in or in the confrontation with Moab, at the time of Balaam (cf. Jude 17, II Peter 2:14-1, Numbers 22), or in the multiplied failures or even fiascos instead of faith, seen in many of the kings, notoriously Ahab and Manasseh.
Such fictional falsity in faith, empty nomenclature, voided documentation, it came and almost endlessly seems to arrive in a parade of fraud and falsity, mischievous mis-faith, delinquent dis-faith; and it is divinely mocked and excoriated again and again in the prophets: for without faith you CANNOT please God (Hebrews 11:6). God is neither mocked nor deceived, and He knows who are His, and what is faith which acts, and what is truthless tort, disrelished rort, fading like a mist without achieving any rain.
To be sure, with it, when that precious and realistic thing, faith is there, you have an anchor in the holy of holies, yes in heaven, and that being staked for you by Christ, held in His own power, you are safer than houses (Hebrews 6:19-20), having a security by contrast with the reward of fictitious faith shown in Hebrews 6:4-8*1. There the spurious spirituality of non-faith is focussed, as with the Pharisee relative to the sinner in Luke, as with the bow so crooked in Hosea, as with those who COULD not be taught in Isaiah, so that the Lord might look to BABIES instead to teach them, before they too should close their ears and yet seem to listen, agents of spiritual decrepitude, fastened to fiction, void of faith!
Putting Christ to an OPEN SHAME, as Israel did so often and so notoriously and famously, as shown by its own prophets speaking in the name of the Lord, is NOT the way. Falling again, when once they had begun to be moved towards the divine vision and power, relapsing without closing, never produces any anchor in the holy place: you need saving faith for that.
It is indeed the sort of thing which the writer of Hebrews is sure IS present in the straying Hebrews to whom he writes (Hebrews 6:9), encouraging them at this very point with these words:
"But beloved we are confident of better things concerning you, yes,
things that accompany salvation, though we speaking this manner,"
and he presses them to the "full assurance of hope."
It is in the midst of this theme that he exhorts them. In this faith, he is assured, they will act, instead of following spurious, if furious substitutes which merely mock, as if a patient is forever DISCUSSING an operation, but never taking it, bringing dishonour to the name of the doctor whom he speciously visits, and so fruitlessly favours with his dissident presence, so losing at last, all opportunity for the operation needed, as a shallow fellow. Of this folly, Hebrews 6 and 10 alike warn.
Again, it is like a potential employer, who being approached on numerous occasions by one who never quite manages to face the function required or to trust the employer or the relationship, no more views except with disdain, further applications. They are marked as spurious, misspent if not mischievous.
By actual FAITH, as Hebrews is so famous for featuring, the opposite is gained, kingdoms are overcome, the dead have been raised, from weakness has come strength, through it they overcame mockings and scourgings, arising like a fire in the midst of torment, fearless or overcoming fear. These who had faith are they "of whom the world was not worthy".
Such are in the vein of those who realise that the things that appear were not made of what is to be seen, being sourced in the invisible God, whose scroll we are, whose poem we constitute, whose novel we comprise, creatures of the Creator, by faith, that same faith that functions as in Hebrews 11. It is THIS faith, the faith of the New Testament Covenant, in Christ, to which it is shown that by ONE OFFERING Christ has justified the ungodly, and by ONE OFFERING He has sanctified them for ever (Hebrews 9:12, 10:10-14), the redemption gained being ETERNAL.
There are many ways of achieving confusion; but Hebrews is not one given to it! Its immediate context in Ch. 6, ending with the anchor of 6:19, is parallel to that in Ch. 10*1, with its fiery indignation for the faithless mockeries of flesh, the latter ending with Hebrews 11, with the ONE OFFERING effective forever, in between. The repeated matrix is so clear that it is diaphanous to light, its message penetrating, piercing, exposing folly and delighting in faith, with poised contrasts, like counterweights, the balance swinging up gloriously, for the weight of the fictitious faith is but air, and its lightness is vapidity.
The thing in the total biblical context is pervasively clear, prevailing on all sides in its consistent presentation. Indeed, even in the highly practical watchman chapter, Ezekiel 33, there is the solemn reality that there is to be found, the SAME context. While living uprightly is the mode of expression, and the formula in view, yet even here, such inadequacy is exposed. Here as elsewhere, good trees are those bearing good fruit without cessation, for they cannot do otherwise (as in Matthew 7 from Christ's lips in effect, and as in I John 3:9). Here is the call to truth, to disparage hypocrisy; yet there is the focus on TRUST.
What then do we find in Ezekiel 33:13 ? It is this:
"When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live,
but he trusts in his own righteousness
and commits iniquity,
none of his righteous works shall be remembered,
but because of the iniquity that he has committed,
he shall die" -
That is the challenge to the godless hypocrites and waverers, ready for winnowing (cf. Luke 22:32 with Hebrews 7:25, where Christ is ever alive to make intercession, being able to save to the uttermost and committed to the same where saving faith in Him and His work is present). Even here, however, in Ezekiel 33, what is the additive which is given ? What is shown both clearly and forcibly, set like a crown in a casket, in the very midst of the turning to sin ? What is the revelation for ruin that is given ?
What is done, as so many have done in this or that painful and atypical phase of life ? It begins with this, that the culprit "trusts in his own righteousness." It is that in the face of the hope of LIVING, of having continuing life, the man so addressed yet falsifies his own position.
What does he do then ? He TRUSTS IN HIS OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND commits evil, then the nice things he did will not save him. To trust in your own righteousness is self-faith, self-belief, a deadly concoction of delusion and feckless and unrealistic recklessness. It cuts off the mercy channel, and ensures that the power of truth is not available, exposing as mere form what preceded it, and mere char what is to follow. With such a delusion, there is no faith, and if there is form, then with it is fraud. You cannot cheat the doctor of the operation of regeneration, nor can you hope that your self-billing and willing will be a substitute for that totality of divine grace where by favour you are granted to repent (Acts 11).
To be sure, God would have ALL to repent and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2) and SAYS so. This yet does not mean that one can play with fire and not be burnt, or presume in fateful arrogance by toying with truth, or being merely tedious in heart. Capitulation is the preliminary to relations with God, surrender is the scenario for spirituality and grace is the mode of acces to godliness. Luke 13 makes this as clear as does Luke 14! The theme does not stop here.
That is precisely the case in Romans 10, where Paul exposes those vehement and vigorous religionists who are "seeking to establish their own righteousness" as occupied in vain. They have "not submitted to the righteousness of God" which being eminent in kind and pre-eminent in quality, is inimitable.
Galatians, from another vital aspect, presses this theme. IF it is not the LORD, but your record, which you specify, then of course you will be trusting in YOUR OWN righteousness, as stated above. If as in this actual case of Ezekiel, you do that, then of course there is no salvation in you. WHO HAS BEWITCHED YOU! Paul exclaims to the stunned ears of the Galatians in Ch. 3. Having begun in the Spirit, do you continue with the flesh ? Is it to be this or that work for entry and confirmation, or Christ, the same at the last as at the first! Is it to some sacrament or feature of function of yourself or your reliance, on which you wait, or Christ crucified, yes rather risen ? Is your resource in yourself or your symbols or in the Saviour ?
If ANYONE in either testament, both absolute truth from the unchanging God, the one preparatory and the other consummatory, trusts in himself, his own works, then there is a way impossible of synthesis. If it is to be CIRCUMCISION for example, then you have to DO the whole LAW! It is the principle that counts (Galatians 5:3):
"For I testify again to every man that is circumcised,
that he is a debtor to do the whole law."
In that case, "Christ is become of no effect unto you."
Such things as that, this work, this sacrament, the other symbol, this function or that performance, these CANNOT be COMBINED with the spiritual. Lifted like a dog to his master's face, then fall before his embrace, you drop when within sight, you fall from the grace offered, and subside in the very midst of hope. You short-circuit, to put it rather differently, just when the current might have wrought things! If you can achieve righteousness by what you do, Christ has died in vain (cf. Galatians 2:21).
If even so small a thing as might appear to be the insistence on circumcision, like that on Sabbath on Saturday, or the Book of Mormon, which are much larger, or speaking in tongues, or believers' baptism, a misconstruction likewise, if there is insistence that this MUST be done as part of salvation, then for such, if their heart is so, Christ has died in vain*3. You are seeking your own righteousness by YOUR performance, and not by HIS, and naturally, this is scarcely faith. It stops like a panting engine, ruined before it achieves the crest, not willing to be hauled over the line.
If you want that sort of thing, then for you Christ has died IN VAIN, says Paul in Galatians 2:21. This is the same case put in its consummatory phase, in the very open and evident death of Christ, precisely as in Hebrews 10. The thing is done but it is disdained even while it is named, and it is a vain combination. What is needed is faith, and faith in the object, Jesus Christ, and in His blood (Romans 3:23ff.), in His death (Colossians 1:22), for you are 'reconciled' how ?
It is "in the body of His flesh through death". It is substitutionary, it is a provision, a payment, a ransom (Matthew 20:28), an eternal redemption, and as Romans 5 labours the point, it is utterly sure, as Romans 8:38ff. confirms, as if someone were patting the hand of a nervous patient repeating the assurance! Hence in Hebrews they are told, in the vicinity and confines of examples innumerable of faith, to USE it to FULL ASSURANCE, avoiding the partial and merely meretricious substitutes which from Exodus on, have disadorned the tarmac of truth, by being mere dust and sand, grit and furrow.
Psalm 78 reviews the whole sad process of the lovelorn, the forlorn, and the operations of faith. It is there as in the prophets, as in II Peter, as in Jude, as in Judas, as in I Timothy 4, in II Timothy 3, that array of the pseudo-spiritual; and it is simply epitomised in Matthew 13, in terms of the word of God ENTERING the soil (equals the life), where the ground beneath not being dug up, or soft, or yielding, it cannot penetrate the heart, the depth of it.
Thus the impact of the seed, the word of God, leads to genuine experience but not result. The sun comes up, and just as Jesus declared, EXCEPT you repent you will perish, so this non-repentant case has the entrammelment, the involvement, as if a snake were to climb a tree; but it never has the thing as PART of it. It is a transient. Now in the figure used, the snake is evil, to be sure, but the point is good: you cannot climb into the tree of life unchanged, and expect to become part of it. YOU YOURSELF have to be PLANTED, and only then are you guaranteed not to be uprooted (Matthew 15:13, I John 3:9), and only then are you kept by the power of God to salvation (I Peter 1:5), when you are regenerated ( Peter 1:22--23).
You can see the thing stretched out as in an amplified X-ray in the famous case of Israel, then, in Psalm 78. There we find the self-same contrast between the "wonderful works" which the Lord "has done" (78:4), and the behaviour of Israel is the period under review, as a nation. It is desired that this message come home to the mind of those who hear, once and for all and lodge with the generation to come (78:3-4).
The point is that "they may set their hope in God", as distinct from the sorry case about to be reviewed (78:7). This is the same as not being "like their fathers" (78:8), so that they shall not "forget the works of God" but instead keep His commandments.
What then was this unfortunate generation to which the coming one, a believing one which will arise, is to be contrasted ? what was its essential nature to the point at issue ? It was confidence in God, faith in Him as distinct from some opted alternative. What however was the dismal past ?
There was to be found, instead of a believing body, "a stubborn and rebellious" one, which "did not set its heart aright" or as the Berkeley version puts it, "did not prepare its heart, and its spirit was not faithful to God."
There, alas, FAITH was not the kernel in the heart, but an enduring diffidence to it made it more a name than a reality, the substitute sometimes trumpeting itself in ways which merely belied it. An excellent example of this is to be found in Psalm 78:19-20. It is so typical of the forlorn substitute for faith, the wordy but woeful alien option, that it needs to be seen directly:
"But they sinned even more against Him
By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness.
And they tested God in their heart
By asking for the food of their fancy.
"Yes, they spoke against God:
'Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
Behold, He struck the rock,
So that the waters gushed out,
And the streams overflowed.
Can He give bread also?
Can He provide meat for His people?' "
Here you see the crux of the case in our view here. They ACKNOWLEDGE that God has certain nameable and remarkable things, but for all that, being slightly involved as they are, and very much aware of His power, they yet do not have the FAITH to embrace it, use it, but confuse it with statistics or uncertainties, ignoring His complete sovereignty, and above all, simply this, that if He says it, it is as good as done.
They do not have FAITH in Him, confidence in His word which is His and His doing; and so they are not saved. Their religion is tasting, not swallowing, they are professional sippers, they let the lips and the palate test, but they are not IN the matter, nor is it in them.
This is the perpetual emphasis of the Bible on fruitless folly, fictional 'faith', in contradistinction to faith, and it is put now as in Psalm 78, now as in Hebrews, now as in II Peter, and again and again it is in PRECISE and EXPLICIT contrast with what FAITH ACTUALLY IS. It is that faith, properly so-called, which the writer of Hebrews is SURE those to whom he speaks, as a body, do in fact have. It is to this that they need to be awakened; it is this which they must acutely realise is what counts.
Where faith is concerned, there is no room for the opposition to the word of God which is multiply involved with the gambol of having someone's dear little lamb's feet, turn out to be those of a wolf or a fox. HIS sheep hear Him do NOT perish. That is their nature and His: what is not of God does not hear Him, but His sheep do, they follow Him, and His gift to them is eternal life, not subject to snatching by ANY party, not susceptible to perishing, continuing for ever (John 10:27-28). End of story. THEY enter through HIM, and ARE SAVED (John 10:9).
In exactly this mode, you see repeatedly in the Psalms the absolute assurance of eternal life, as in Psalm 21, Psalm 17, with Psalm 75, 145, for you cannot bless His name for ever unless you are there to do it! Nor can you know that you will awake in His likeness, unless faith has so instructed you.
Eternity is in their hearts when faith is also there! Faith receives and rests on this fact, knowing that the purchase of everlasting redemption is sure, so that justification at once is due to faith, and sanctification for ever, as in Hebrews 9:12, 10:10,14.
This, to God's spiritual children, it is natural because it is their supernatural heritage, gained and given, and they are now begotten from HIM! Therefore, it is seen and the author of Hebrews shows that the anchor is no more simply in a temporary tabernacle but in the eternal home of God, through Christ, procured for them and to be provided whre He is (John 14). It is as the Messiah has always offered, just this, and His saints have been able to grasp this as they have awaited His coming to pay that redemptive price in the "blood of the everlasting covenant" (Psalms 17, 21-22, 145, 73:25-26, Hebrews 6:19, I John 3:9, I Peter 2:22-23, Hebrews 13:20-21).
That is why even JOB, perhaps before Moses, could cry this, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at last upon the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh, I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another."
Let us see, by paraphrasing it, the thrust of this in the whole context of Job.
I personally will lose my present body, which is so afflicted
and so disgraced at this present time with disease,
so that death manifestly is threatening me.
he is saying (in the entire context as you ponder all his words);
Yet, he continues, this is not to the point.
The fact is that my faith rests in my Redeemer.
Do not talk to me about this and that kind of subjectivity,
for I KNOW! That is faith and I have it, and it rests in Him,
who is its object.
This flesh gone, yet in flesh with my own eyes,
I shall see God, yes resurrection replaces death,
and both personality and individuality remain,
and with these in tow, I will see God,
and do it for myself, by no sort of proxy,
not by a neighbour but with my OWN EYES.
So do not mock me, this is to come; and nothing can remove it.
That is faith; it is taking God at His own statement, and it is sure.
It is not tasting, but a case of trusting under test, which is faith, and not fiction. It is not spitting out but drinking in one great draft from which is engendered, through the application of salvation and the power of the Spirit of God, based on the redemption in Christ, a SPRING rising up to eternal life, unconquerable by incompetence, since the work is HIS, and HE is not only all-powerful, but utterly sure, who executes His word.
There you are moved past the parameters of earthy effort to the celestial horizons of divine achievement, and even space is as a puddle compared with the grandeur of Him who made it, made us and has sent in the person of His own eternal word, His only begotten Son, conceived in a virgin, to remedy wrong, remove guilt, grant pardon, satisfy justice, achieve mercy and transfer us to His own heavenly kingdom, as far above this world as is love above estates, and as far from subjectivity, as granite from dreams.
It is to this height He has brought us who receive Him as He is (II Corinthians 5:17-21), in Christ, by coming to that depth, not merely of vulnerability and accessibility to evil intent, but to that of bearing the very guilt of sin, as if Spring were to become Winter, and brightness drab, so that the skies at Calvary were darkened. He came, He acted, He finished it , crying the same; and He did so in one offering once made, purchasing thereby eternal redemption (Hebrews 9-10). It is HE who came, saw and conquered, but in this, that in His crucifixion He made a home of flesh to be the recipient of deity, and a haven for those who having desecrated in sin, the home provided, need not only relief, but ransom (Colossians 1:19, I Thessalonians 5:9-10).
That is His divine appointment and in this there is no disappointment, for what He says, He does, and what He grants in grace, is already secured in predestination and to be manifest in its time (II Timothy 1:9-10, Ephesians 1).
This is what saves: faith in HIM, in His OBJECTIVE works, in His actual redemption. Appropriately, therefore, it is wrought through Him, without whom you have nothing but deserved judgment, being unfit for heaven and its perfections, and in whom that you are COMPLETE (Colossians 2:10), you are ACCEPTED (Ephesians 1:6), by whose Spirit you have the guarantor, for He is One who SEALS you against that day (Ephesians 1:13-14), and the guarantee ? the inheritance.
Thus in Ephesians 1:11, as if never content with reassuring the believer, Paul indicates this:
"In Him also we have obtained the inheritance,
having been predestinated according to the purpose
of Him who works all things
according to the counsel of His own will."
It is this of which Paul speaks also in II Timothy 1 in similar and delightfully comprehensive mode (emphasis is added by the bold).
"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord,
nor of me His prisoner,
but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace
which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ,
who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel,
to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles."
See DIZZY DASHES, HEADY CLASHES
THE BRILLIANT HARMONY OF INEVITABLE TRUTH Ch. 8, SMR Appendix B.
*1 Matthew Poole in his famous commentary on the Bible, treats this topic at these points in Hebrews, with his customary felicity and precision, and this godly discourse repays reading well!
See Joyful Jottings 22-25.
How often it is the super-righteous, the preferable and the perfect who are in debt to grace, for they trust not only in that, in Christ and HIS work, but in their own: so great is their sanctity, and so incredible to the credulous, appears their devotion. Devotion however must be to the Lord, not to oneself, one's performance or performances; failure here not merely is offensive to the Cross, but tends to erode assurance, as well it might! Whatever one does in obedience must not recklessly be confused, even ever so slightly, with the ground of salvation, which is by faith in Christ crucified, yes rather risen, the Lord's Christ, and not another!
Biblical Blessings Ch. 12, Appendix I, II and III
Journey To God ... Ch. 2,
Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 11,
The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. 5 and
What is the Chaff to the Wheat Ch. 1)
Questions and Answers 11,
A Question of Gifts.