Hebrews, Part 1: The Stage is Set
John W. Ritenbaugh
Sermon; #1472; 66 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, concluding the preparatory sermons on the Epistle of Hebrews, identifies a paradox widely extant in the First Century Church of God, namely that the early converts from Judaism claimed to accept the Law but had difficulty accepting Jesus Christ (the Lawgiver). A variant of this paradox exists to this day: Nominal Christians claim to accept Jesus Christ, but have difficulty accepting His Law. The setting aside of circumcision as a pre-condition to conversion caused real turmoil in the Church, as Christ began to gather Gentiles into the spiritual commonwealth of Israel. Similar turmoil and persecution occur today as converts from 'Christianity' learn that Christ did not do away with the Law. A primary objective of the writer of Hebrews (most certainly the Apostle Paul) was to explain the terms of the New Covenant. Hebrews and Leviticus are parallel works defining our responsibilities to the Covenant with Almighty God. Both the Old Covenant and New Covenant define responsibilities. As we fulfill the terms of the New Covenant, we are carrying out the same responsibilities as our ancestors in building the Old Temple, except now we are actively working with Christ to build the New Temple, which consists of us as the building materials. We are the church, fashioning what we become under Christ's workmanship. We dare not make alterations or skip steps in our responsibilities as some of our ancestors did. Our penchant to follow instructions poorly or to bypass uncomfortable steps points out the necessity for God's grace. Our calling, initiated by hearing and yielding to God's Word, laid the spiritual foundation—a literal beginning of a God-life, requiring us to diligently tend to our spiritual responsibilities.
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