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Consuming Fire

Text: Hebrews 12:28-29

Dr Alex Tang

Hebrews 12: 28-29

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

 

Sermon statement

In our busy life, especially in difficult times, there is a tendency for us to ignore God and all that God has given us. We need to re-examine ourselves and make sure we are being obedience to God. Then all the good things that God has given us will be meaningful.

 

Introduction

The Book to the Hebrews

  • more than any books perplexes scholars as to its authorship than more other book in the Bible
  • produces the greatest information on Scripture on several doctrines: the Melchizedek Priesthood, the High Priest of Christ, the New Covenant, and the typology of the offerings and feasts in Leviticus
  • Greek is considered to be the most elegant in the New Testament. At least 157 words are used in this epistle which are not found elsewhere in the New Testament
  • OT quotes abound in the book. There are 86 direct quotes and altogether more than 100 references from the 21 OT books
  • Often called the fifth Gospel. The four Gospels relate what Christ did while on earth, Hebrews supplement by explaining his role in heaven now
  • Main message: Despite the perceived advantages, never let difficulties convince you to return to the religion you embraced before you were saved.

Outline of Hebrews

Rick Griffith, New Testament Survey (2), Singapore Bible College, 254

Today’s Text (Heb 12: 28-29) in Context (Hebrews 12:14-29)

14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” a 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” b

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Structure of Hebrews 12: 14-29

 

v.28a Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken

 

 

 

 v. 22-24 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

 

v.28b let us be thankful

 

 

 v.14-17 14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

 

v.28c and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe

 

 

 v.18-21 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.”  21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

 

v.29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

 

 

v.25-27 25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” c 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

 

In Heb 12:28-29, the author of Hebrews reminds us of who we are as Christians. The recipients of the letters are like us in many ways:

  • Jewish Christian
  • They live in difficult times
  • Roman rules. Advantage to citizens, disadvantage to others. Social injustice
  • Impending destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 (Hebrews may be written in 67-68AD). Political unrest and terrorists. The Zealots had the leading role in the Jewish Revolt of 66. They succeeded in taking over Jerusalem, and held it until 70, when the son of Roman Emperor Vespasian, Titus, retook the city and destroyed Herod's Temple during the destruction of Jerusalem.

The Zealots objected to Roman rule and sought violently to eradicate it; Zealots engaged in violence were called the Sicarii. They raided Jewish habitations and killed Jews they considered collaborators, while also urging Jews to fight Romans and other Jews for the cause. Josephus paints a very bleak picture of their activities as they instituted what he characterized as a murderous "reign of terror" prior to the Jewish Temple's destruction.

  • Religious persecution beginning
  • Economic instability
  • Temptation to go back to our old ways
  • Illness, cancer, family conflict, relationship problems
  1. Our inheritance

v.28a Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken

And such is the character of the kingdom which we are receiving.

Kingdoms of the world

·        USA economic crisis

·        China faltering economy

·        Roman empire

·        Alexander’s empire

·        Mongol’s empire

v. 22-24

    • 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.
    • You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,
    • 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.
    • You have come to God, the judge of all men,
    • to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 
    • 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and
    • to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

 

  1. Our gratitude

v.28b let us be thankful

The words let us be thankful may be rendered “let us have [or, ­obtain¯] grace” (echōmen charin) and are likely a final reference to the resources of grace available from the great High Priest (cf. 4:14-16).[1]

v.14-17

    • 14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 
    • 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and
    • that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

 

  1. Our worship

v.28c and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe

This is confirmed by the words and so (lit., “through which,”di’ ēs) which remind the readers that this grace is required in order to worship (better, “serve,” latreuōmen, also used in 8:5; 9:9; 10:2; 13:10) God acceptably within the New-Covenant community.[2]

v.18-21

    • 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire;
    • to darkness, gloom and storm; 
    • 19 to a trumpet blast or
    • to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” 
    • 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

 

  1. Our obedience

v.29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Failure to do so should be deterred by the concluding solemn thought that our God is a consuming fire (cf. 10:26-27).

v.25-27

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” c 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

He is the white heat of purity that consumes everything unworthy of Himself. He will burn up all that is temporal, false, and sinful.

  • True Christians do not lose their salvation
    • Calvinism
      • Teaching of John Calvin, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, Charles Hodge, Arthur Pink
      • God’s sovereignty elects to salvation and helps believers preserves in faith until death
      • Eternally secure in their salvation
    • Arminian
      • Teaching of Jacob Arminus, John Wesley, Methodists, Pentecostals
      • God elects those whose free will accepts Christ and preserves them unless they lose faith
      • Not secure in their salvation because no one knows if he or she will preserve
  • Christians will suffer the consequences of disobedience to God
    • Consequence of sinful actions
    • God’s discipline (Heb 12:1-13)
      • Realisation that we are God’s children from enduring God’s discipline (12:4-9)
      • Righteousness results form enduring God’s discipline (12:10-11)
      • Reassurance and spiritual strength results from enduring God’s discipline (12:12-13)
  • God is a ‘jealous’ God

Deu 4: 23-34

23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Like a consuming fire (4:24) He would purify what is precious (just as fire purifies precious metals) and destroy what is worthless. As a jealous God (cf. 5:9; 32:16, 21)  Israel needed to be extremely careful to remember the covenant

  • Types of  idolatry
    • Worship of Money (Mammoth)
    • Worship of our own strength
    • Worship of God’s gift rather than God himself
    • Worship of false teachers and teachings

Conclusion

This passage has an encouragement and a warning. In our busy life, especially in difficult times, there is a tendency for us to ignore God and all that God has given us. We need to re-examine ourselves and make sure we are being obedience to God. Then all the good things that God has given us will be meaningful.

The writer of Hebrews gives us two mountains representing two covenants to remind us who we are and to resist the temptations to turn back.

 

Mt. Sinai

Mt. Zion

Reality

“You have not come to…”(v.18a)

“You have come to…”(v.22a) as if heaven is a present reality

Nature

Mountain of fire and darkness (v.18b)

City of perfection (v.22b)

Mood

Gloom (v.18)

Joy (v.22)

Privileges

Fear even touching Sinai (v.20)

Names recorded in heaven(firstborn) (v.23)

Location

Earth (v.25-26)

Heaven (v.22,25)

Covenant

Old/Mosaic (v.21)

New (v.24)

Atoning blood

None was yet shed (v.20)

Perfect atonement (v.24)

Participants

Jews under the law (v.25)

God (v.21,23b)

Angels (v.22)

Church (v.23a)

OT saints (v.23c)

Jesus (v.24)

Listening

Ask not to hear God (v.19b)

Should listen to God speaking (v.25)

Application

Never turn back to your past religion (v.25)

Press on to your future reward with thanks and worship (v.28b-29)

 

 

 

adapted Rick Griffith, New Testament Survey (2), Singapore Bible College, 266cc

Move on, don’t look back

This is an important message for us. If you are a mountain climber, moving up a steep cliff, the best advise anyone can give you is to keeping moving upwards and don’t look back. If you look back, you are likely to fall. The only way you can make it to the top is to keep climbing until you have reached the peak.

  1. Make up your mid to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things.
  2. Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything, and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with gladness of life. The trick is to make the laughter outweighs the tears.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t think that somehow you should be protected from misfortunes that befall other people.
  4. You can’t please everybody. Don’t let criticism worry you.
  5. Don’t let your neighbours set your standard. Be yourself.
  6. Do the things you enjoy doing but stay out of debt.
  7. Never borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than the real ones.
  8. Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish jealousy. Avoid people who make you unhappy.
  9. Have many interests. If you can’t travel, read about new places.
  10. Don’t hold post-mortems. Don’t spend your time brooding over sorrows or mistakes.
  11. Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself.
  12. Keep busy at something. A busy person never has time to be unhappy.

Sermon statement

In our busy life, especially in difficult times, there is a tendency for us to ignore God and all that God has given us. We need to re-examine ourselves and make sure we are being obedience to God. Then all the good things that God has given us will be meaningful.

 

Soli Deo Gloria


 

 a Exodus 19:12,13

 b Deut. 9:19

 c Haggai 2:6

 a Exodus 19:12,13

 c Haggai 2:6

cf. confer, compare

[1]John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 811.

[2]John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 811.

 a Exodus 19:12,13

cf. confer, compare

 c Haggai 2:6

cf. confer, compare

 

|posted 11 January 2009|

 

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