Hebrews 4-8 (8.31.19)
Grab your Bible, and let’s go deeper into Hebrews 5.
In verse 9 it says, “… he (Christ) became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him …” Christ is the source of eternal salvation—salvation from guilt, condemnation, and power of sin; from the wrath of God; and the fear of spiritual, eternal death. This verse says that all of our salvation comes from Christ.
The good news is that Jesus is the source, or the cause, of our salvation. It is not on, nor is it up to, you and me. It’s not dependent on our political, social, or economic status. We are dependent on Him! Even better, He became the source of eternal salvation. It’s eternal; it lasts forever. It starts in this life and it lasts through death, through judgment, and goes on forever and ever.
The entire book of Hebrews is helping us find perseverance in Christ while enduring the harsh circumstances of life on the road. One of the ways we find perseverance is in our solidification of who Jesus is. We must realize He is a solid foundation to rest on and draw from along life’s weary road. We have this confidence in Christ that gives us perseverance by answering the question, “Why was Jesus a suitable savior?”
Today we are going to see that Christ is all sufficient, more than suitable, and became the source of eternal salvation because of three things—His 1) dignity as the Son of God, 2) eternity in the priestly order of Melchizedek, and 3) purity in the crucible of suffering.
Then, we will look at the last part of Chapter 5 and see why we still struggle and how Christ gives us perseverance and growth through that struggle.
1) Christ is all sufficient and became the source of eternal salvation because of His dignity!
Dignity means worthiness of honor. A dog has more dignity than an ant, meaning that it’s worthy of more honor. That’s why nobody gets upset when you poison ants but would get angry at you if you poisoned all the dogs in the neighborhood.
Children have more dignity than dogs, because humans are worthy of more honor than dogs. The humane society gathers up stray dogs and mercifully puts some of them to sleep. We wouldn’t do that with children. Well, we do in abortion, but that is another bible study entirely.
God has more dignity than children or adults, because He created us and owns us and is infinitely superior to us in every way.
So, dignity means worthiness of honor. Christ has infinite dignity as the Son of God.
Look at verse 4. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In other words, the office of high priest is an office of immense dignity and you can’t just decide to have it. God has to call you to it like He called Aaron in the Old Testament.
Read verse 5. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“You are my son. Today I have begotten you.”
In other words, Christ did not glorify Himself with the dignity of the office of high priest, God the Father did.
What is interesting is the author quotes Psalm 2:7 about God begetting Christ as His Son. I believe this is saying Christ is qualified to be our High Priest and to become the source of eternal salvation because He is the Son of God, and it was God Himself who qualified Christ in this way.
So, Christ has the dignity to be our High Priest and to become the source of eternal salvation. No one but the Son of God could do it. No other being in the universe has the dignity that was required to obtain an eternal salvation. It took an infinite dignity. No priest of Aaron’s line and no angel in heaven could do it. Only one could do it—the Son of God. So, we see how important it is to know the dignity of Christ.
Why this is good news? All hell will rage at you one day with this one message, “Your salvation is not sufficient; your guilt remains; condemnation hangs over your head; and the wrath of God is not removed.”
At that moment you will need truth about the foundation of your eternal salvation. And one truth that will strengthen your confidence, in that hour, is the truth that you have no ordinary High Priest, but one who has the infinite dignity of the Son of God, and He has therefore become the source of eternal salvation.
2) Christ is all-sufficient and became the source of eternal salvation because of his eternity!
Eternity means forever. Something that has eternity has no beginning and no ending. If something lasts for a while and stops, it does not have eternity. If something didn’t exist for a long time and then it was created or came into being, it doesn’t have eternity. Eternity means forever—backward and forward, no beginning and no ending. Jesus has become the source of eternal salvation because He is an eternal priest.
Verse 6 says the same thing Psalm 110:4 says, “…‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’”
The key word here is forever—”You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Not only does Christ have the dignity of the Son of God, but He also has the eternity of the “priestly order of Melchizedek.”
What Melchizedek symbolized, Christ realized. Christ really is a High Priest, as Hebrews 7:3 says, “having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” He has eternity.
That is the second reason He has become for us a source of “eternal salvation.”
Not only was His death infinitely valuable and infinitely effective because He has infinite dignity, but He goes on ministering the effect of that death for us in heaven forever and ever and never dies.
Why is this good news? In this we can have confidence in the face of fear and doubt, temptation, and accusation.
Wouldn’t it be an all-satisfying experience if two things were true?
- You had a treasure of infinite value—I mean infinite with nothing lacking that is truly valuable;
- You had the guarantee that you could go on enjoying its infinite resources forever and ever with no end and no diminishment?
In other words, Christ’s infinite value (dignity) combined with Christ’s infinite duration (eternity) is what brings us complete satisfaction.
3) Christ is all sufficient and became the source of eternal salvation because of His purity!
Purity means unsoiled, not dirty. It means that when Jesus suffered and was tempted, He did not give into the impurities of anger, bitterness, cursing, or self-pity and unbelief. He prayed for help and God helped Him stay pure.
Christ became the source of eternal salvation, not only because of His dignity and eternity, but also because of His purity—not just the purity that He brought to His ministry as the Son of God, but purity that He had to forge in the furnace of suffering.
If you ask, “Did Jesus’ divine dignity and His priestly eternity give Him automatic purity?” The answer is no. It was not automatic. He proved His purity every day He overcame temptation and trials to remain faithful to God without sin. Jesus lacked nothing but learned or proved His purity over time and testing. This is what it means in verse 8, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”
This does not mean He moved from being disobedient to being obedient. If that were true, He wouldn’t be God. It means He moved from being untested to being tested and proven. He moved from a state of obeying without any suffering to obeying through unspeakable suffering. It means that the gold of His natural purity was put in the furnace and melted down with white-hot pain, so that He could learn from experience what suffering is and prove that His purity would persevere. In this, you and I are now able to persevere in Him.
Did this come automatically to Jesus because he was God? No. Verse 7 says that it was prayed for and begged for and cried out for and wept for with tears. This was no fake test of Christ’s purity. Everything in the universe hung on this test.
Was it brief? Notice the word “days” in verse 7, “In the days of His flesh …” Not just a night or a day, but during all the days of his humanity, He was wrestling and praying and begging and crying out and weeping. It was not brief. It was a lifetime of warfare against sin. Do you see that the Christian life is tough? Period.
Jesus prayed for obedience—for persevering purity. So, He prayed all his life against that, and He was heard by His Father and, instead of caving in to sin, He proved His obedience in what He suffered.
Jesus is our source of eternal salvation because of His dignity as the Son of God, His eternity in the priesthood of Melchizedek, and His purity in the crucible of incredible suffering.
A life altering question is, “Do you have this eternal salvation?” Not everyone does. Verse 9 tells us who does: … he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
Is Jesus Christ your LORD? The one whom you serve? The one for whom you live? Do you obey Him? If not, He can be! His dignity, eternity, and purity cleared the path through death so that you could have life—eternal salvation with God.
Now verses 11-14 close this chapter with a strong warning and charge.
Verses 11-12: About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food
The Author of Hebrews is calling out the people’s prioritization of growing faith and life in Christ by saying it has become so casual it has left them immature—they still need milk even as adults.
If my ten-year-old, Natalie, were still only drinking only milk for her nutrients it would be a major concern for Jennifer and me, right?
The writer of Hebrews hasn’t come right out and said it until now, but he has implied it along the way. There is something wrong with the Christians to whom he is writing.
- In 2:1 he said, “Pay close attention to the message you’ve heard lest you drift away.”
- In 3:1 he said, “Consider Jesus.”
- In 3:8 he said, “Don’t harden your hearts like Israel did in the wilderness.”
- In 3:12 he said, “Take care, lest you have an evil heart of unbelief.”
- In 4:1 he said, “Fear, lest you fail to enter God’s rest.”
- In 4:11 he said, “Be diligent to enter God’s rest lest you fall by disobedience.”
- In 4:14 he said, “Hold fast to your confession.”
And as he takes a breath you can almost hear him sigh and say, in Hebrews 5:11, “About this (who Jesus is) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”
Did you hear it? He gives a specific diagnosis. Here’s the disease he is working on in this letter—dullness of hearing. This is what’s behind all those exhortations to pay close attention; consider; don’t harden your heart; be diligent; hold fast. These are all doctors’ prescriptions for the disease of dullness of hearing. The most urgent question today is, do you have this disease? And if so, how can you get well?
Take first the word, dull, which means slow or sluggish. It’s used one other time in the New Testament, namely, in Hebrews 6:12.
Let’s read 6:11–12 and you’ll see what the opposite of dullness is.
… we desire that each one of you show the same diligence (opposite of dullness) so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish [there’s the word for “dull” in our text], but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (NASB)
So dull hearing doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your physical ears. It means there is something wrong with your heart. The heart is not diligent to embrace the promises and turn them into faith and patience. Instead, the Word comes into the ears and goes down to the heart and hits something hard or tough. That’s dullness of hearing. The promises come to the ear, but there is no passion for them, no lover’s embrace, no cherishing or treasuring; and so, no faith and no perseverance.
The other word we can track down is the word “hearing.”
It’s used one other time in Hebrews 4:2. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard [literally: “the word of hearing”—same word as in 5:11, “dull of hearing“]—the word of hearing—did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
This is “dullness of hearing.” The word goes in the ears, and comes to the heart, and meets dullness, slowness, and hardness. The opposite of “dullness of hearing” is “hearing with faith which produces obedience.”
“Dullness of hearing” is hearing without faith. This is like hearing the Bible or the preaching of the Bible the way you hear the freeway noise, or the way you hear music in the dentist’s office waiting room. You hear it but you don’t. You have grown dull to the sound. It does not awaken or produce anything.
Hebrews 5:11 says that there is so much more that the writer wants to give his readers: “Concerning him we have much to say … but you have become dull of hearing.” If they had more grace to hear, they would receive more that the writer has to give. But they are becoming hard and dull and in danger of throwing away the little they have.
So, what is the remedy? Why are some Christians stuck at the baby stage of development with the disease of “dullness of hearing”? What is the cure? Why are some of you feeling broken down on the side of the road of life with little to no hope or perseverance to press on even in tough times?
The key verse to describe the remedy is verse 14.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Now ask yourself this question, “If solid food is only palatable—digestible—for the mature, with what food do you become mature so that you can then eat the solid food?”
The answer is milk. You become mature with milk.
The problem with these Christians, and many of us today, is not that milk is weak or that babes can’t eat steak. The problem is that babes are not exercising with the milk they have. You see the key word there in verse 14 is practice. You become mature by practice, exercise, or habitual responses to the milk.
The problem is that the milk of the word is not producing muscles of faith. The good news is still seen as an entrance to salvation only, instead of the good news being the daily feast and power of your day and the foundation of your growth. What this means is that if you want to grow up and feast on the fullness of God’s revelation, you don’t do it by jumping from milk to meat.
The key is the way you drink the milk—what you do with the milk of the Word.
So, let me close with three steps in how to grow with milk to maturity.
- Drink in the milk. That means you listen to the milk of the Word—the message of God’s promises in the gospel. You read them yourself in the Bible and you sit under the solid preaching and teaching of God’s Word. You diligently apply your heart and mind to what is being said. You spend time with people who get the Gospel and see the Gospel reveal itself in their lives. You hunger to talk about Jesus and study His word—babes long for milk and are incredibly focused when they are thirsty. Is this you, hungry for the word and for Christian, Gospel-centered conversation?
- Savor, swallow, digest the milk, and be satisfied. This is crucial. If this doesn’t happen, the next stage of discernment will not happen. This is the miraculous, spiritual event of loving what you once hated. You love the taste of the milk: “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). And when the promises of God, and the God of the promises, are tasted, the milk satisfies. And when it satisfies, it transforms your values and priorities, which leads to step 3.
- With a heart satisfied with God now, discern good and evil. There are hundreds of decisions that you must make day in, day out which are not spelled out explicitly in the Bible. What to watch on TV, political positions to take, investment strategies, vocational focus, insurance, retirement, where to live, what to drive, how to discipline your children, what to wear, where to volunteer, how much to give, etc. Your transformed heart and life begin now to have discernment for all of those everyday decisions; God at work in and through you, maturing you, the fruit of the Spirit coming out of you.
So, this is the remedy for “dullness of hearing.” Drink with delight until the desires of your heart are so transformed as to become
the discernment of good and evil. Then you will be mature and ready for meat.
A final thought: I am so thankful for God’s word, to write these studies to help equip our soldiers around the world, and I pray God is very present and not distant in your life. I pray you are growing and maturing.
Share with others the dignity, eternity, and purity of our High Priest, Jesus Christ. Share with them how He is the only one who can bring us eternal salvation!
Do not grow dull in hearing. Listen. Feast on God’s word. Grow in the Gospel and mature to meat as God sanctifies you. But never move beyond the gospel. It is the power and the center of all we do.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine