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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Faithfulness and Salvation: Together in Christ

Faithfulness and Salvation: Together in Christ

The Rev. David J. Harnish
Rector of All Saints Anglican Church of Rochester
Easter Season 4/16/13

In the great litany of faithfulness and in witness to the faithful, Hebrews chapter 11 ends with this amazing summation ( Hebrews 11:32-40 (RSV) ):
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated-- 38 of whom the world was not worthy--wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Did you notice that last verse (verse 40) and what it is saying? (look again!)

We are inextricably united with the faithful of old…  and they are inextricably united with us.
Indeed, the saints of old are linked with us for their salvation!
They will not… nor should they be… made perfect apart from us!
All the wonderful ‘giants in faith’ who have gone before us into eternity have not received what was promised to the faithful and shall not be made perfect UNTIL we ALL are made perfect in Christ… since as God has designed it: ‘apart from us they should not be made perfect’.
This means that the salvation of others is directly related to each of us completing our faith journey as we live out our lives in faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ponder this great mystery and realize that no believer in Jesus Christ is alone: we are joined with each other eternally. Our current life of faith is interrelated with the lives of faith of fellow believers in all time. Believers: our loved ones in Christ who have gone before us, our loved ones in Christ who are living now, and our loved ones in Christ who are young and yet to be born… we are all through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ to be made perfect TOGETHER. Verse 40 is saying: apart from us they should not be made perfect. This unity of the faithful is what God has seen ahead of time for each and every one of us who believe in Him: we are joined as one in faith and will enter salvation in relation to and directly connected with one another. What we are doing here and now in our faith is important to the whole Body in all time.
Can you fathom the immense importance of this Biblical and Sacred Truth?
(Let me know your thoughts! May our Lord bless you!)

For further study:
If you would like a little further treatment of this passage please consider the following comments from the commentary prepared by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown which was  published in 1871. The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed. This excerpt is on Hebrews 11:39-40):
39. having obtained a good report--Greek, "being borne witness of." Though they were so, yet "they received not the promise," that is, the final completion of "salvation" promised at Christ's coming again ( Hebrews 9:28 ); "the eternal inheritance" ( Hebrews 9:15 ). Abraham did obtain the very thing promised ( Hebrews 6:15 ) in part, namely, blessedness in soul after death, by virtue of faith in Christ about to come. The full blessedness of body and soul shall not be till the full number of the elect shall be accomplished, and all together, no one preceding the other, shall enter on the full glory and bliss. Moreover, in another point of view, "It is probable that some accumulation of blessedness was added to holy souls, when Christ came and fulfilled all things even as at His burial many rose from the dead, who doubtless ascended to heaven with Him" [FLACIUS in BENGEL]. (Compare Note, perfecting of believers in title, and in respect to conscience, took place once for all, at the death of Christ, by virtue of His being made by death perfect as Saviour. Their perfecting in soul at, and ever after Christ's death, took place, and takes place at their death. But the universal and final perfecting will not take place till Christ's coming.
40. provided--with divine forethought from eternity (compare Genesis 22:8 Genesis 22:14 ).
some better thing for us--( Hebrews 7:19 ); than they had here. They had not in this world, "apart from us" (so the Greek is for "without us," that is, they had to wait for us for), the clear revelation of the promised salvation actually accomplished, as we now have it in Christ; in their state, beyond the grave their souls also seem to have attained an increase of heavenly bliss on the death and ascension of Christ; and they shall not attain the full and final glory in body and soul (the regeneration of the creature), until the full number of the elect (including us with them) is completed. The Fathers, CHRYSOSTOM, &c., restricted the meaning of Hebrews 11:39 Hebrews 11:40 to this last truth, and I incline to this view. "The connection is, You, Hebrews, may far more easily exercise patience than Old Testament believers; for they had much longer to wait, and are still waiting until the elect are all gathered in; you, on the contrary, have not to wait for them" [ESTIUS]. I think his object in these verses ( Hebrews 11:39 Hebrews 11:40 ) is to warn Hebrew Christians against their tendency to relapse into Judaism. "Though the Old Testament worthies attained such eminence by faith, they are not above us in privileges, but the reverse." It is not we who are perfected with them, but rather they with us. They waited for His coming; we enjoy Him as having come ( Hebrews 1:1 , 2:3 ). Christ's death, the means of perfecting what the Jewish law could not perfect, was reserved for our time. Compare Hebrews 12:2 , "perfecter (Greek) of our faith." Now that Christ is come, they in soul share our blessedness, being "the spirits of the just made perfect" ( Hebrews 12:23 ); so ALFORD; however, Hebrews 9:12 shows that the blood of Christ, brought into the heavenly holy place by Him, first opened an entrance into heaven (compare John 3:13 ). Still, the fathers were in blessedness by faith in the Saviour to come, at death ( Hebrews 6:15 , Luke 16:22 ).