subject, we have pointed out that this is a key to the
whole of this Letter to the Hebrews, which is an appeal
for companions of Christ, and for companions of a
heavenly calling. We have also said that this Letter is a
summary of the whole of the New Testament. In making that
statement, of course, we provide you with a very large
field of consideration. We simply have to say that all
that is in the New Testament is gathered in some way into
this Letter. Therefore, all that is in the New Testament
is gathered up into this one thought: God is seeking
companions for His Son in a heavenly calling.
now going to dig more deeply into this Letter, always
with this one thought in mind: It is companions of Christ
which are in view.
say one brief word about the point of view taken by this
Letter. We understand that it was written and given to
these Hebrew Christians at a time of very serious crisis,
when a whole system which had existed for many centuries
was about to pass away. The whole system of the Old
Testament, from Moses onward, was about to go. After the
writer had put down all that is in this Letter he put
over it a quotation from the Old Testament: "Yet
once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but
also the heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth
the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things
that have been made, that those things which are not
shaken may remain" (Hebrews 12:26,27 - quoted
from Haggai 2:6). By quoting that Scripture and putting
it at the end of this Letter, the writer indicated that
this was just about to take place, and he proved to be
right. It is evident that this Letter was written just
before A.D. 70.
Roman legions may already have been gathering around
Jerusalem, and we know from history what happened. The
city was besieged and destroyed, not one stone of the
temple being left standing upon another, and the whole
land was desolated. The priestly service ceased and all
the functions of the temple came to an end. The whole
country was put into a state of utter desolation, and
from that day, even until now, that system ceased to be.
Letter was written because the Lord knew what was going
to happen and because, in the Divine plan, the time had
come for it to happen. Always read this Letter in the
light of that great historic crisis.
the dark side of the story. But you will notice that this
Letter is just full of that 'better thing' which had
taken the place of the old, and we shall be dwelling upon
that 'better thing' as we go along. As the people of an
earthly calling were being set aside this great Letter of
a heavenly calling was presented to them.
we go further with the Letter, let us remember that its
message abides for us. It would be a very blind person
who today could not see that another such event is very
near. There has been built up on this earth another great
system of Christianity. It is very earthly as a system,
and , just as the hearts of the Jews here were very much
bound up with their system, so in our time multitudes of
Christians are just bound up with this historic
Christianity. I do not claim to be a prophet, but there
is much in the Word of God which points to the time when
this whole system will be shaken. It is very impressive
that in our lifetime we have seen this in a small way,
when churches have been destroyed, congregations
scattered, and it has not been possible to go on with the
old forms. People have had to find the Lord for
themselves without any earthly helps. They have had to
get their help from heaven and not from earth. We have
seen this happen, in a comparatively small way, on at
least two occasions. The Lord has smitten the earth on
two terrible occasions, with not so many years between
them, and it is not difficult to see that it could happen
again on a very much bigger scale. That event may not be
very far off. We Christians speak of the coming of the
Lord. That is our hope and our salvation: but we must
remember that the coming of the Lord is going to be
accompanied by a terrible judgment upon this earth, when
everything that is not heavenly is going to be shaken, so
shaken that it will just collapse.
Letter has a real message for us. As was said to the
Jewish Christians at that time: 'Your whole system, in
which you are so bound up, is going to pass away', so
this Letter says to us today: 'All the earthly system is
going to be shaken, and shaken out of its place. But
there is a better one coming' - "God having
provided some better thing" (Hebrews 11:40).
that is the standpoint of this Letter. I am sure we can
see that it is very applicable to our time. We are not
just studying a book of the Bible which relates to many
centuries ago. God is the eternal God and He speaks to
all time, but the message is intensified as we get nearer
are going to see further this transition from the earthly
to the heavenly. In the terms of the New Testament, and
of this Letter in particular, it is the transition from
an earthly, historic Israel to a heavenly, spiritual
Israel. So we are going to look at the beginnings of
Israel in both cases.
notice how the Letter begins? It begins with one word:
'God'. You can put a big ring round that word. God stands
over the whole content of this Letter. Everything in it
must be viewed from God's standpoint, not from man's, or
from the world's, or from the earthly standpoint. It is
God who is speaking, and all that is here is what God is
saying. God stands over all that this Letter contains,
and no one is allowed to say that this thing is of man.
As we move through the Letter we have constantly to say
to ourselves: 'God is saying that. This is not the
interpretation of man. This is God speaking.' The great
transition which is marked by this Letter is God moving
forward. God is going on. God is in charge of everything.
And the Letter says: 'The companions of the heavenly way
are those who are moving on with God.' The appeal of the
Letter is: 'Let us go on, because God is going on.'
whole of the old Jewish system was something which had
settled down, and in a very real sense it had gone to
sleep. God is not the God of the spiritually asleep. The
appeal to Israel was: 'Awake, thou that sleepest!' That
system had gone to sleep, had settled down and had become
an end in itself. It was not moving on with God. That was
the trouble in the days of the prophets. And this Letter
says: 'God is going on. The companions of Christ are
those who are going on with God.'
remember this: that a true, living Christianity is a
'going on' Christianity. It will never stop going on, in
this life or in eternity. It says: "Of his
government... there shall be no end" (Isaiah
9:7). So we begin with God, and we move on with God.
Letter is God expressing Himself. That is in the very
first statement in the Letter: "God, having
of old time spoken unto the fathers in the
prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath
at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son".
Here, then, we meet with a God who is expressing
Himself. He is here declared to be a speaking God; He is
not a dumb or silent God. He is a God who has always been
speaking and is speaking now. So, right at the beginning,
this Letter declares God to be a God who speaks. And
then, to analyse it further, He is spoken of as being a
God who speaks with a purpose. He is a God of purpose and
is speaking concerning His purpose. He spoke in times
past "in the prophets by divers portions". He
speaks now in His Son, and here there are two very
important things to note.
past God spoke in many parts, by many prophets. He said
one thing through one prophet and another thing through a
different prophet. All the prophets were parts of God's
speaking. No one prophet said everything. You can look
into the prophets and see that every one of them had a
specific aspect of God's message. "In many
parts", is the word. His final speech in Christ is
the gathering up of all the parts into completeness.
God's Son is the complete speech of God - all the parts
are brought together in Him. That gives this Letter a
very, very big place, does it not? It says that now,
here, God is speaking in fullness in His Son.
alongside of that is the appeal "to give the more
earnest heed" (Hebrews 2:1), because this is so
much fuller than anything that God had ever said before.
says that in times past God spoke 'in many ways', not
only in different portions, but in different manners. It
would take too long for us to go back to the Old
Testament to see all the manners in which God spoke. He
spoke by a thousand different means: sometimes by words
and sometimes by acts. The manners were indeed 'divers'.
However, the statement here is that at the end He speaks
in one way, one all-inclusive way, and that is in His
Son. God's Son is His one inclusive way of speaking at
the end. On the one side, no one is going to get anything
from God apart from Jesus Christ. God will absolutely
refuse to speak other than in His Son. If you want to
know what God wants to say to you, you have to come to
His Son. On the other side, in Jesus Christ we have all
that God ever wants to say.
to say that especially to young Christians. I have been
reading and studying my Bible all through the years, and
I tell you quite honestly that today this book is
altogether beyond me. I would never come back to this
Letter to the Hebrews if that were not true. I have
preached and lectured on this Letter for years, but today
it is far beyond me. Should I say 'the Letter to the
Hebrews'? I would be more correct in saying 'the Lord
Jesus who is revealed in this Letter'.
have far more of God's speaking in His Son than we have
yet come to understand. We have nothing apart from Jesus
Christ, and we need nothing apart from Him.
that this letter presents God as a God of purpose, and it
goes on to show that His purpose is centred and summed up
in His Son. That is set before us at the beginning of the
Letter in three ways.
in the person of His Son. Just look at this: "At
the end of these days (He hath) spoken unto
us in his Son, whom he appointed
heir of all things, through whom also he made the
worlds; who being the effulgence of his glory, and the
very image of his substance..." You notice
that the whole of the first chapter is occupied with
presenting God's Son. God is speaking concerning His Son,
as to who He is. What a great Son this is!
presents the Son in terms of redemption. "He
made purification of sins''. That is
just one phrase, but many chapters follow to explain what
that redemption is. All these chapters on priesthood and
sacrifice have to do with that one clause. God is
speaking in His Son concerning redemption.
third place He is speaking in His Son concerning glory.
The Son is "the effulgence of his
glory", and He is going to bring "many
sons unto glory" (Hebrews 2:10), because "when
he had made purification of sins, (He) sat down
on the right hand of the Majesty on high". God
speaks in a Son whom He has now glorified and sat at His
own right hand.
does not speak in His Son and leave it there. You will
notice that in chapter two He brings man into this, and
this Letter has a wonderful message for man: that all
that God has put in His Son is for man. God speaks in
this Letter of the finished work of Christ, the work
which is made complete for man.
something that you and I must dwell upon. Personally, I
am constantly brought to this: I have not yet learnt
thoroughly to believe what I believe in! I believe in the
finished work of Christ, yet sometimes I am just as
miserable about myself as any man could be. I am often
almost at the point of giving up because of what a
wretched kind of thing I am. If there is anything in this
world that would cause me to give up the Christian
ministry, it is myself. Do you understand what I mean?
Oh, how we are discouraged by what we find in ourselves!
And so, we don't believe what we believe in. We believe
in the finished work of Christ, and that God puts all
that finished work to our account. God does not see us in
ourselves - He sees us in Christ. He does not see us, He
sees Christ in us. We don't believe that! If we really
did we would be delivered from ourselves and would indeed
be triumphant Christians.
course, that does not mean that we can just behave
anyhow. We may speak and act wrongly, but for every
Christian there is a refuge - a mercy-seat. It has not to
be made; it is there with the precious Blood. That has
not to be shed; it is shed. There is a High Priest making
intercession for us. There is everything that we need.
The work is finished, completed. Oh, we Christians must
believe our beliefs! We must take hold, with both hands,
of the things which are of our Christian faith.
know you have problems when I say that: 'What about this
old man?' Perhaps you are one of those people who believe
that sin has been absolutely rooted out of you and that
it is quite impossible for you to sin - well , if you
believe that, the Lord bless you! I think you may be
tripped up one day and find that there is an old man
there after all. But leaving that aside, most of us do
know that there are two things in us - there is the new
and there is the old, there is the spiritual man and
there is the natural man, and this natural man is a very
troublesome fellow! What about him over against the
finished work? This Letter tells you all about that when
it says: "God dealeth with you as with sons"
(12:7), and God loves sons. Are you a child of
God? Has there been in your history that deep action of
new birth? Have you received the Lord Jesus? The Word of
God says: "As many as received him, to
them gave he the right to become children of God"
(John 1:12). If you have received the Lord Jesus you are
a child of God. The spirit of sonship has come in and
dwells in you.
Letter says that God loves His sons, and therefore He
chastens them: He child-trains them, and 'no
child-training', says the Letter, 'for the present is
pleasant'. God's dealings with His own family are not
always pleasant, and when they are unpleasant there is a
little demon sitting on our shoulder who will whisper in
our ear: 'You see, God does not love you. He would not
deal with you like this if He loved you.' The devil is
always out to turn the loving works of God into evil
is dealing with us as with sons. It is discipline, and it
goes against the flesh. The Letter says: 'It is not for
the present pleasant.' Indeed, it might have said: 'It is
very unpleasant!' 'What father is he', says this Letter,
'who does not chasten his son?'
am saying is not easy to say, because I may be exposing
myself to the rod. We have enough experience to know that
we have to say some things very carefully, because we are
often tested on the things that we say. But here is the
statement that it is a totally unkind father who never
chastens his child. Have you seen children who are never
chastened or corrected? Those children are going to have
a bad time in this world, as people are not going to like
them, and they will discover that. Their parents have
Letter says that God's love is expressed in His using the
rod to His children. He does not always put His good
things, His best things, into a nice form. I heard the
other day of a little boy who had to take some medicine,
and it was not very nice. His father said: 'There are
many vitamins in this medicine.' The little boy said:
'Daddy, why must all the good things be put into nasty
things? Why can't they be put into ice-cream?' The Lord
does not always put the good things into ice-cream.
Sometimes the vitamins are in the nasty medicine.
is exactly what this Letter says. God is not condemning
us when He deals with us like that. He is working to
deliver us. If you think that these talks here are going
to save you, you are making a mistake! They are only to
explain what God is doing. God never saves by theory. You
can read everything that has ever been written on
Christian doctrine and still be the same man or woman.
God's ways are very practical, and He teaches us by
experience. That experience is sometimes very difficult
and is called here 'the training of sons'.
Lord Jesus just impress our hearts again with these
things! God is still speaking in His Son, and His
speaking is in order to get companions of His Son.
Companions of this heavenly calling and of Christ will go
into the hard school and have to learn many hard lessons,
but in learning them they will come to understand how
great is their inheritance in the Lord Jesus.
add this: My experience is that no one really has
spiritual knowledge without suffering. I am not speaking
about head knowledge. I am speaking about real knowledge
of the Lord in the inner life. I do not know of anyone
who has come into that knowledge apart from suffering.
Perhaps that is a depressing thing to say, but there it
is - it is a law in God's Word. "We have
this treasure in earthen vessels" (II Corinthians
4:7), and how poor this vessel is we learn through trial
and affliction, but then we learn how wonderful the Lord
is. The Letter to the Hebrews says: "Afterward"
(that is, after the chastening) "the
peaceable fruit of righteousness" (12:11). What
a wonderful phrase! Those fruits come along the line of
chastening and by way of suffering.
us ask for that grace which the Apostle had to rejoice in