It's All the Work of God
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 22 But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. 24 Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. 25 Grace be with you all.
The Christ We Have Seen in Hebrews
On March 31, 1996, we began our preaching series on the book of Hebrews. Today, eighteen months later, we end it. For my part, it has been one of the high plateaus of my 17-year journey at Bethlehem. I have seen Christ and savored his supremacy over and over again. I have come near to him and spoken with him and enjoyed him and worshipped him
- as the final Word of God in these last days (1:2),
- as the Creator of the heavens and earth whom angels worship (1:6,10),
- as the Pioneer of our salvation who was made perfect through suffering (2:10),
- as one who became flesh that he might die in our place and free us from the fear of death (2:14f),
- as one superior to Moses as a son is superior to a servant (3:5f),
- as a sympathetic High Priest who opens the way to the throne of grace (4:14-16),
- as one who saves for all time those who draw near to God through him (7:25),
- as the Mediator of a new blood-bought covenant to secure that our sins will be forgiven and the law will be written on our hearts and that God will be our God (8:10-12),
- as the one who by his blood purifies our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (9:14),
- as the one who put an end to all sacrifices by putting away sin once for all through the sacrifice of himself (9:26),
- as the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despised the shame and sat down at the right hand of God until all his enemies are made a stool for his feet (12:2; 1:13),
- as the one who suffered outside the gate that he might sanctify the people by his own blood (13:12),
- as the one who will never leave us or forsake us but will help us forever by the power of an indestructible life (13:5-6; 7:16).
In these months together in Hebrews, Christ has revealed himself to us again and again for our encouragement and our hope and our perseverance, so that we might have strength and love to meet together and stir each other up to live well and to die well by faith, which is the assurance of things hoped for.
I want to end this series with an special invitation at the end of this service for people to come to the front and receive a prayer that God would preserve and complete the work he did in your life during this series of messages. I'll mention the seven categories of people I will invite to come so that you can be thinking and praying about whether you should come. If God has done one or more of these things for you through his word in Hebrews, I hope you will come at the end of this service.
- Those who have been converted to Christ, and have been brought to saving faith in him.
- Those who were straying or drifting toward destruction and have been awakened and brought back to a serious pursuit of God.
- Those who were enabled to renounce some besetting weight or sin and get some new measure of victory over it.
- Those who have been restored in a relationship that was broken.
- Those who came to a major new way of viewing the world - some significant new insight into the nature of God or his ways - that has changed the way you think.
- Those who have entered a crisis in your lives and found strength to carry on for Christ's sake.
- Those who have heard a call to missions or some vocational change for kingdom purposes.
But to get us ready for this ending, let's look at this writer's farewell blessing. What does he want us to leave with? What does he want to bless us with and to pray into our lives? And when I say "us" I mean those who, imperfect as we are, and prone to wander, and stumbling daily, nevertheless have seen enough of Jesus to put our trust in his promises and our lives in his hands. To you who have done that - or who will do it as I speak this morning, he gives you these six things:
1. You have a God of peace.
Verse 20: "Now the God of peace . . ."
He is at peace with himself and at peace with you. O how many of you wish you had had fathers who were at peace with themselves! But they were tormented. They were divided and torn and frustrated and double-minded and distant and angry. The peace of Christ did not rule in their hearts. And they did not bear the peaceable fruit of righteousness in the family. There was tension and stress and sadness and fear and uncertainty, and no sweet, happy, relaxed, secure peace. You wanted that, even if you didn't know it. And you didn't get it.
And the promise as we end the book of Hebrews is: Now you have it. Your Father in heaven is a God of peace. He is at peace with himself and he is at peace with you. He is like a great ocean, calm in himself, and he gave his Son to suffer in our place so that we might have an eternal family of peace.
2. You have a deathless Shepherd.
Verse 20: "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep . . ."
Nowhere in this book until this very moment has the writer called Christ a "Shepherd." But now, as he takes his leave, as it were, and puts us into the hands of another, he says, "You have a Shepherd - to lead you and to protect you. And he is no ordinary Shepherd. He is raised from the dead and therefore cannot die again and cannot therefore be defeated by any foe.
Therefore, if you will trust him and follow him, you will be safe. The great danger this book is written to warn against is that we would drift away from the flock of God and choose another shepherd besides Jesus. That would be folly. For there is no other who can lead us to green pastures and still waters - to God's right hand where there are pleasures for evermore.
3. You are bound to God by a blood-bought, eternal covenant.
Verse 20: "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord . . ."
This is a reference back to the new covenant in chapters eight and ten. When Christ died, he sealed for God's elect a covenant that will last forever and will never be broken. It is God's pledge to give us eternal salvation (5:9), eternal redemption (9:12), and eternal inheritance (9:15). And what makes it eternal and unspeakably superior to the old covenant is that God swears on the blood of his Son that not only will he keep his side of the covenant, but our side as well. So the writer says in the fourth place that . . .
4. You have a God who equips you to do his will.
Verses 20-21: "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will . . ."
His covenant with you is eternal and sure because he does not leave you without resources to do his will. He provides you with what you need to keep your side of the covenant, namely, faith that works itself out in love.
But someone might say, "Oh yes, he gives resources, but we must put those resources to use. He gives us the word, and the church, and prayer, and suffering, but we must respond in faith to keep our side of the covenant, and be pleasing to him. So the covenant is only as sure as we are strong." But this is not true. Because the writer says, in the fifth place . . .
5. You have a God who works in you what is needed to please him.
Verses 20-21: "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
He wants to leave us with no mistake and no uncertainty that our covenant relationship with him is eternal. So he reminds us that the very essence of the new covenant, and what makes it new, is that God keeps his side, and God keeps our side. He not only equips you with resources for doing his will, he "works in you what is pleasing in his sight," namely, persevering faith - for "without faith it is impossible to please God" (11:6). He causes us freely and joyfully to use the resources he gives.
You are secure not because you are strong, but because God is sovereign and because God is faithful to his new covenant promises. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). All the exhortations to persevere in this book God will fulfil in those who are his. This is my only hope to be a faithful minister of the gospel and a Christian until I die.
Finally, in verse 25 he sums it all up.
6. You have the promise of all-sufficient future grace.
Verse 25: "Grace be with you all."
In other words, as I take leave of you, I hand you over to the abundance and power of future grace. The grace of divine peace, the grace of a deathless Shepherd who guards and guides you, the grace of an eternal covenant that secures an unbreakable relationship, the grace of God's commitment to equip us with all the resources we need to do his will, and finally - lest any of his own ever be lost - the grace of God to work in us what pleases God. This grace be with you.
To Jesus Be Glory Forever and Ever
And so, that is what I want to pray onto you this morning as we close. I want the Lord to get the glory for what he has done in these eighteen months of savoring his Son in Hebrews. Did you see that phrase in verse 20: ". . . through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen"? The point of all this grace is that Jesus receive glory. That is the ultimate point of the book and the Bible and the universe - the glory of Christ and through him, the Father.
So I think it is right to put some of his work on display this morning by asking you to come forward. I know that in one sense we could all come. The word of God preached in the power of the Spirit has good effects in all the children of God.
As you come we are going to sing "Knowing You." Bring your worship folder with you so that you can sing this song as your song of consecration to the Lord as the greatest value in your life, and your readiness to go with him outside the camp.
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