Reading: Joshua 1:1-11; Hebrews 3:14-15.
In the first place it is necessary to translate
correctly the first part of Hebrews 3:14: "We are become partners with Christ if
we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end."
We are become partners with Christ, that is the
true rendering. The correct understanding and apprehension of what is here is
very important, because it is strictly in keeping with the whole object of this
letter. The letter has as its object partnership with Christ. The object is
intimated at the beginning of the letter by such words as "Son"
and "heir"-"God... hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son...
whom he appointed heir of all things..." The words "Son" and "heir" are key
words to the whole letter.
Follow on from that point, and it will not be
long before you find a quotation from the Psalms: "For not unto angels did he
subject the inhabited earth to come, whereof we speak. But one hath somewhere
testified, saying, What is man, that thou makest mention of him? or the son of
man, that thou puttest him in charge? (literally) ...And didst set him over the
works of thy hands: thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet." As
to the complete fulfilment of this the writer of the Hebrews goes on to say,
"But now we see not yet all things subjected to him. But we behold... Jesus...
crowned with glory and honour..." Then follows that wonderful unveiling of the
relationship of that exalted Christ to the race, to the redeemed out of the
race-"Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in
like manner partook of the same...." And again, "For both he that sanctifieth
and they that are sanctified are all of one..." Hence the force of the opening
words of chapter 3: "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly
calling..." What, then, is the heavenly calling? Partnership with Christ." For
we are become partners with Christ if we hold fast..."
So you see that the correct translation here is
very important, and much hangs upon it. The whole of the letter is represented
in this single phrase, "partnership with Christ," or, to sum up in another word,
the fulness of Christ and our coming thereto.
If we want to know what that partnership means
when it is fully realized, we must go back to the words of the psalm: "Thou
madest him to have dominion" (Psalm 8:6). It is partnership with Christ as
exalted, crowned with glory and honour, with all things put in subjection under
Him. That is no small thing to contemplate. Into that consideration is packed
the whole of this letter.
Associated with that great, consummate object
are all these elements of urgency and appeal, expressed in such words as: "Let
us" (twelve times repeated in the letter); "Lest" (repeated seven times, and
always a word of caution, of warning); "Go on"; "Full growth." What is this full
growth to which we are urged to go on, and concerning which we are so steadily
and persistently warned of the possibility of falling short? What is the reason
of all these earnest pleadings and exhortations? To what do these relate?
They relate to this fulness of Christ as the heavenly calling, or, in the words
of this phrase, to our being "partners with Christ."
The Correspondence Between
the Letter to the Hebrews and the Book of Joshua
There is a close correspondence between the
letter to the Hebrews and the book of Joshua, and it is our purpose as the Lord
leads to move from the one to the other, to see from the book of Joshua the
historic illustration of this spiritual movement that is set forth in the letter
to the Hebrews. Three things in the main will occupy us; firstly, the object to
which we have just made reference; secondly, the urgency; thirdly, the process,
including the principles by which the object is attained.
1. The Object
The object, as we have said, is the fulness of
Christ, or partnership with Christ. The fulness of Christ as the governing
object is represented by such various figures as the promises, the covenants,
the description of the land, the Sabbath rest. Let us consider each of these
(a) The Promises
If you read through the letter to the Hebrews
you will find that reference is made to the promises on at least twelve
occasions in the letter, and those references will be found to refer you back to
the promises which were made by God unto His people. Those promises were bound
up for Israel, in the main, with the land, so that the land became known as the
land of promise. All the promises were to have their fulfilment historically in
the land; they related thereto.
When you realize that the letter to the Hebrews
is the spiritual counterpart of the book of Joshua, which was the material or
the literal side of things, and that Christ as exalted in the place of fulness
is the object in view, it is significant and impressive that there should be so
many references in this letter to the promises. Surely that expresses quite
clearly what was said by Paul on another occasion, that all the promises of God
are in Him, Yea! and in Him, Amen! to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). So
that just as the land was the land embracing all the promises, so now for us
Christ is the land in which, in Whom, all the promises have their fulfilment and
their realization. Every promise is gathered up in the Lord Jesus, is fulfilled
already in Him in glory. It is important to realize that. There are no promises
unfulfilled so far as He personally is concerned, though there is much yet to be
of a further outworking. There is a sense in which He is yet to come into
something. But His position now, as crowned with glory and honour, declares
beyond any approach of doubt, or question, or chance, or risk that every promise
is fulfilled. His exaltation is a present exaltation far above all rule and
authority, principality and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in
this age but in that which is to come. He is established on high. So that in Him
and in His present position every promise is fulfilled. For us that means that
in Christ the fulfilment of every promise is already secured, and that there is
such a thing as putting our foot down upon every promise and appropriating it by
reason of full fellowship with Christ, of standing in Christ in fulness of
faith. "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I
given it..." That land is the land of the promises, which again is Christ.
It is a matter of importance to our faith and
to our procedure to recognize that in Christ God has already secured for us the
fulfilment of the promises. I believe that is why there is so much said about
faith that is unwavering. In our asking, in our praying, we are bidden to have
an unwavering faith, and the law which governs us, from the standpoint of the
Divine mind, is that God has already in Christ secured everything. It is
necessary for you and for me to recognize and fully grasp the fact of the
completeness of the Divine work in Christ. Is it not true that a good deal of
our failure is due to the fact that we have some doubt, some question, as to the
outworking of things; or, to put that in another way, that we have not fully and
sufficiently recognized that in the exaltation of the Lord Jesus the complete
work of God is accomplished? It is only honouring to God to believe that His
work in Christ is perfect, the whole work is done, in Him. There is nothing to
be added to the work of God; it is complete, it is final.
There is a sense in which Christ will never be
more exalted than He is now. He will be exalted amongst us, He will be exalted
by us; but He Himself is already exalted, and in that sense He will never be in
a higher position than He is in now. He has reached the highest. That means that
God's work is full, complete, utter, final in the Lord Jesus, and, if that be
true, the fact, again, proclaims that all the promises are settled in Christ.
That is the ground of faith's advance unto possession. It is a question of
putting the foot down upon something that God has done. That is the point of
view of the book of Joshua-"I have given..." The Lord never says that He is
going to give. It is an accomplished fact with Him before ever He says that they
are to advance. Before the foot was placed in the land He said, "I have
given..." "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you
have I given it..." which, in effect, is to say, Go in and possess. That for
us, then, applies to the promises of God.
Those promises are only ours in Christ. This
means that a spiritual position, and a position of faith is basic to the
realization of the promises. Our difficulty is not, as sometimes we may think it
is, to get God to fulfil His promises, but rather to come to the place where we
believe sufficiently to take it as a settled thing that the promises are
fulfilled in Christ.
What are the promises for? The promises were
never intended to be a matter of personal pleasure, either in the case of Israel
or in our case. Perhaps that is a realm in which we never do come into the
enjoyment of the promises. As the Lord's children we are often found in
situations of personal embarrassment, personal difficulty, personal suffering,
in a place where things for us are hard. At such times we are apt to take hold
of some portion of the Word of God, and take that to the Lord and claim it for
our deliverance. That may sometimes be all right, and yet if the motive should
ever be definitely a purely personal one, we can take it for granted that the
promise will have no fulfilment. How many have found that that is how it works.
In a certain situation, by reason of some difficulty, trial, suffering, some
adversity, you have gone to the Lord, taking His Word and pleading it before Him
for a change of the situation, a deliverance, the bringing to pass or the
removing of something, and you have found that you were up against a stone wall.
You have discovered that you were knocking yourself to pieces, and you came to a
standstill; you could get no further. It seemed that the heaven was closed, that
there was no way through, no answering voice, no sense of a listening ear; and
with deep heart exercise about the matter you have been tempted to doubt the
promise, question the faithfulness of God, raise questions as to the truth of
His Word. But in the final issue the Lord has shown you that something needed to
be done in you.
You were reaching after some object that you
wanted, which you thought was necessary and very important, but somewhere there
was a secret personal interest, personal concern-unconscious perhaps, but in
God's sight very real-which was making it impossible for you to accept that
situation. You have come to see at length that your seeking of the Lord was not
altogether because of the Divine interests bound up with the situation, but, at
bottom, because of the way in which it affected yourself. The Lord had to
bring a crisis in your experience, where you were perfectly willing to accept
that trial in the will of God; that if so be the Lord wished it then you gave
your full consent, and said: "Well, Lord, if this is Your will for me I accept it
wholly and fully. All that I ask is to know that it is Your will, and, given
that, then I accept it from my heart." When you reached that point the wall
disappeared, and you had a sense that you were now getting through; and very
often the thing for which you had been standing before the Lord was granted;
deliverance came, a change took place. That is not always so, but it is very
often the case.
In such experiences we learn that the promises
are not for us as things for our personal interest, but wholly and utterly for
the glory of Christ, to bring about a greater measure of the fulness of Christ
in us. Thus, once more, through an ordeal, we have come to the place where it is
" no longer I, but Christ." That is God's required ground for the fulfilment of
If you turn to the book of Joshua you will see
that it can be interpreted very largely from that standpoint. Whenever personal
interest came in there was a check in progress, an arrest upon possession. The
promises are all intended to realize God's object, which is the fulness of
Christ. When we put our feet down upon the promises with personal detachment and
whole-hearted devotion to God's end, we are in the way of the fulfilment of the
promises; or, more correctly, we come into the fulfilment that has already taken
place in Christ.
So the promises are set forth in the Old
Testament in relation to the land as comprising the fulness of Christ, and in
the letter to the Hebrews the many references to the promises are brought into
that particular relationship. Christ is now in full view: the promises are seen
to be fulfilled in Him; and the promises thus secure are held in Him for us.
(b) The Covenants
What is true of the promises is true also of
the covenants. Here again in this letter the word "covenant" is of frequent
occurrence. At least nine times the word is mentioned, and that has its own
significance. We know that these covenants were called the covenants of promise.
Go back to the Old Testament again with its covenants, and you will find that
they had reference to the land. The covenants made with Abraham, with Isaac, and
with Jacob, all pointed on to the possessing of the land by their seed. God
covenanted with them concerning the land.
In the letter to the Hebrews two covenants are
specially mentioned, an old covenant and a new covenant; the covenant made with
Israel concerning the land, and now the covenant made with the Church concerning
the fulness of Christ. One was a type, an illustration, a foreshadowing of the
other. And just as types and illustrations all fall short of the actuality, so
the first covenant was but a shadow of the second, the last covenant, the
covenant in His blood. The point is that it is covenant!
God covenanted to bring the children of Israel
into the land, and here, again, is the ground of faith's strength as to coming
to God's end. God from His side has made a covenant with us in the Blood of His
Son, and that finds God giving Himself to the utmost; for that is the meaning of
a covenant. If you study covenants in the Scriptures you will find that they
represent a mutual giving in utterness on the part of those entering into the
We will not stay to illustrate that, but it can
be clearly seen. There are always two sides to a covenant. That is why, in
making a covenant, the sacrifice was divided in two. The one entering into the
covenant stood by his half, and likewise the other. And in the making of
covenants the essence of the declaration was that the parties to the covenant
respectively gave themselves and their all to the other for a purpose; they held
We have a marked illustration of this in the
life of Abraham, in the familiar scene of Genesis 15. There we see the
sacrifice divided in two, each half laid over against the other, and Abraham
taking his position by his part of the sacrifice, and the Lord also represented
as being present. In effect, God was saying: From My side I swear by Myself, by
all that I am and all that I have, that I give Myself to this end! Now Abraham
had to take that position on his part and say: As for me, all that ever I have
and am is given to God for His end! We read that in the course of time "it came
to pass that God did prove Abraham." "And he said, Take now thy son, thine only
son, whom thou lovest... and offer him..."
Did you mean your part of the covenant,
Abraham? Did you really mean everything, even your very life as bound up with
that child if need be? And Abraham stood faithful to his part of the
covenant. Then God came in and said further: "By myself have I sworn... that in
blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed...
because thou hast obeyed my voice"; "...because thou... hast not withheld
thy son..." That is the utterness of a covenant, and God has given Himself by an
oath that so far as He is concerned He will leave nothing undone to realize His
end. This letter to the Hebrews is a call for an equal utterness on our part,
along with the utterness of God in Christ, so that the covenant shall have a
So the letter concludes with one of the most
glorious declarations and statements as to God having stood by His part of the
covenant: "Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great
shepherd of the sheep with the blood of the eternal covenant, even our
Lord Jesus, make you perfect (complete)..."
God's everlasting covenant could not be
ratified if He left Christ in the grave. He has gone all the way, and in the
raising of Christ from the dead He has done the utter thing to secure the end
that He has in view, for you, for me, for all His own. The covenant concerns the
fulness of Christ.
Now, we are made partners if we hold fast
(Hebrews 3:14). There is nothing lacking in God. We shall never find that God
falls short, and in view of the utterness of God's purpose we should be at pains
to come into all that the Lord has designed. So this letter goes on earnestly
and persistently to sound its appeal to us in various ways. To cite but one
example, we turn to the close of chapter 5: "For when by reason of the time ye
ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments
of the first principles... Wherefore let us... press on..." The covenant
concerns the fulness of Christ in the Church. As Paul expresses it in the letter
to the Ephesians, the Church is "the fulness of him that filleth all in all"
(c) The Description of the
As to the third thing very little need be said
here. We are speaking of the fulness of Christ as the governing object
represented in the Old Testament in these various ways: firstly, by the
promises; secondly, by the covenant; thirdly, by the description of the land.
You are familiar with the description of the land, and can read it again. It is
a goodly land, says the Lord, a land flowing with milk and honey, barley, oil,
olives, pomegranates, and with minerals in the hills (Deut. 8). I have been
wondering if it is a fact that these resources have been very richly discovered
in that particular land, or whether they have never yet been exploited. But here
is the word about these various mineral resources in Palestine. The Lord gives a
wonderful and glowing description of the land, and we know that the land has
been the envy of every nation from the beginning. There is probably no country
in this world which has been more the centre of rivalries than this particular
country. All the great empires that have been have fought for it or over it. The
Lord knew what He was doing when He chose that land. He did not choose Iceland,
or Labrador, or some place like that. It would not have been suitable to His
thought. He chose this particular land, which geographically is the centre of
the world, and is such a land as to make possible tremendous enrichments.
Corresponding to the spiritual thought of God,
this land would be an illustration for all time of His Son, the Lord Jesus, in
Whom are all the riches of wisdom and knowledge, of Divine grace, the fulness of
God. The description of the land is a wonderful revelation of God's thought
concerning His Son.
(d) The Sabbath Rest
The letter to the Hebrews carries us back to
Joshua. At one point, in the fourth chapter of this letter, referring to the
sabbath rest, we read: "If Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken
afterward of another day. There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the
people of God." That clearly indicates that God's thought of the land was that
it should be for them the place of His sabbath rest. They never entered into
that. For us there is the spiritual counterpart, and in this letter seven times
at least the sabbath rest is referred to. Christ in fulness is God's Sabbath
rest. He was that personal Sabbath, Who said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn
of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls"
(Matthew 11:28-39). Christ is the Sabbath rest in the land. The fulness of
Christ is the Sabbath rest in experience.
There is a sense in which we find rest
immediately we find Christ, in which our restlessness ceases when we come into a
living relationship with the Lord Jesus. There is a further sense in which that
rest enlarges as we go on with Him. To put that in another way, the more we
livingly discover of Christ in an experimental way, the deeper our rest and
satisfaction become. We have not yet entered into all that the Sabbath rest of
God means, because we have not yet reached all the fulness of Christ. The urge
in this letter, even concerning the Sabbath rest, is to believers. It is not
occupied with the warning to sinners, lest they fail to come into Christ and
initially find Him as their rest, but with believers, lest they fail to come to
the fulness of Christ, which means God's Sabbath rest in completeness.
All this is what the Lord is seeking to bring
us to. All these things in the Old Testament are gathered up into Christ, and
the Lord's great desire is our going on, as set forth in these various and very
real ways. What that going on is and means we have yet to consider, and by the
grace of God we shall do so presently. For the moment we recognize the first
implication of this. The Lord calls us by every urge, every exhortation, every
encouragement, and even warning to go on. That going on, as we shall see, will
be fraught with conflict, adversity, withstanding. Nevertheless, it all leads to
God's end, it all leads to that final fulness. The challenge is as to whether we
are willing to go on, in face of a mighty organized resistance and withstanding,
an opposition working in various ways, openly and subtly, all to cause us to
come to a premature standstill, to yield some ground which ought to be ours.
That is the challenge. It comes to us right at the beginning.
There is the need and call for a resounding of
this challenge and this exhortation. We are spiritually very much in the
position in which these Hebrew believers were, and which gave occasion for this
letter. They had just gone so far in abandoning earthly things, earthly
religion, for heavenly things, the true spiritual realities, and in so doing
they were coming up against a tremendous cost. They were put outside the camp
and bitterly reproached for Christ's sake. Their standing, status, reputation,
all came under a shadow, a cloud, and they found themselves in very great
difficulties, even amongst the religious people, those who would call themselves
the people of God, and were brought almost to a standstill. Yes, they had even
begun to entertain thoughts of returning to earthly things; not worldly things
necessarily, but earthly things, earthly religiousness. Because of the peril,
because of what had already set in to stop their going on, this letter was
written. It shows the promises, the covenants, God's great full-orbed desire for
His people, and then says: Let us! Let us! Let us! Lest! Lest! Lest! Let us go
on to full growth! These are the dominating words. Let us hear them in our
hearts in a day when we too might sometimes feel that the way is too costly,
that we are meeting too much in consequence of the position we have taken. Let
us hear the word: "...we are become partners with Christ, if we hold fast
the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end..." The Lord help us.