Tag Archives: Christ

The Man of Mystery

He is without father or mother or genealogy….but resembling the Son of God.    Hebrews 7:3

One of the most intriguing characters in Scripture is Melchizedek.  He entered Abraham’s life for a brief moment and then disappeared (Genesis 14:18-20).  Hebrews says that he had no parents or genealogy.  In this respect, Melchizedek was a type of Christ.  Christ had a genealogy, but He could stand apart from it because His birth was miraculous.

The first thing we should learn from the story of Melchizedek is that salvation in the Old Testament included more than a few favored Israelites.  Melchizedek was not an Israelite.

This is not to say that there is more than one way of salvation than through Jesus Christ.  But who are we to tell God how he has to save any of us through the Savior? Hebrews insists that Jesus is king of the universe, not just king of the Jews.  Everyone who is saved is saved by Him; anyone who refuses light from the Light of the World is lost.

The story of Melchizedek reminds us that salvation does not depend on one’s background or genealogy.  We cannot inherit salvation.  As it has been said: “God has no grandchildren.”  Each of us is called to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Jesus, we can become prophets, priests, and kings who serve God no matter what our background may be.

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Like The Angels

Surely it is not with angels that he is concerned.           Hebrews 2:16

Entire books have been written about angels.  In the Old Testament, angels often served as go-betweens between God and His sinful people.  And there are many cases in both the Old and New Testaments in which God’s revelation was given by an angel.

When God redeemed His people through the blood of Christ, however, He no longer needed angels as His go-betweens: Christ became our Mediator.  This is one of the first things that Hebrews tells us about the greatness of our salvation.  In the first chapter, it quotes seven Old Testament passages to show that Jesus is greater than any angel.  Why does Hebrews do this?  To prove without question that Christ is none other than the Son of God.  Now, as those who believe in Jesus know, the angels stand between them and Satan’s hosts.

Hebrews also quotes Psalm 8, asking, “What is man?” (2:6).  The thrilling answer is that, because Christ is now one with us and we with Him, we cannot be considered lower than the angels — we have the same dignity that they have.

These perfect creatures, whom we admire for their joy, mobility and wisdom, are now our servants, for they help to guard us from evil.  God has made us, with them, to be a little lower than Himself!

The Beginning of Types

He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering….”      Genesis 22:2

We often say that the New Testament is contained in the Old.  But the New is also explained by the Old.  There is much in the Gospels and Paul’s epistles that we would not understand if we did not know about the bronze serpent in the wilderness, the Passover, the Red Sea, and so-on.

We cal these Old Testament pictures types.  Genesis, naturally, is full of them.  Certain human beings, like Joseph and Adam, were types of Christ.  And Adam lived long before Abraham.  But Abraham’s offer of his son Isaac is the first clear-cut type of Christ and His work that we have in Scripture, with many points of similarity between the two.

In the first place, Isaac was Abraham’s dearly beloved son.  (God made a special point of that in the text for our meditation.)  God did not ask Abraham to burn a billion dollars, but to sacrifice his own boy.  There is hardly a clearer picture in Scripture of what God went through on Calvary, when His son actually was killed.

The sacrifice of Isaac took place on Mount Moriah, which was the sacred mountain where Jerusalem and the temple were later erected.  But the heart of the whole episode is in that anguished testimony of Abraham when Isaac plaintively asked what the offering was going to be.  “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering,” was the amazing answer of faith.

No wonder Paul exclaimed, “God spared not His own Son.  How shall He not, with His Son, freely give us all things?”  (Romans 8:32)

Baptism, continued (The Sacraments, Part II)

Baptism “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” can also mean nothing more than the washing away of sins, which for many people is all that salvation amounts to; a kind of ticket to heaven, which is about what the word “sacrament” really means.  It is better to use such a word as “ordinance”, a practice or ritual which our Lord ordained, instituted.

Again, if this is all that baptism represents, it might be well if we were baptized more than once, for we all keep sinning even after our regeneration, all of which sins have to be forgiven.  Some early Christians put off baptism until death was imminent (since repeated baptism was not allowed then any more than now), and the Catholic custom of extreme unction, a form of baptism or anointing at the end of life, has something of that early Church idea behind it.  (Accuracy recommends stating that this 7th of the Roman Catholic sacraments originated in the good advice of James 5:15 as to anointing the sick.  This practice is sadly neglected in all communions.)  Jesus indicated our need of repeated or continuous washing in his example of foot-washing in the Upper Room (same hour that he instituted the Lord’s Supper), and it may seriously be considered whether that pious practice on the part of some churches ought not be a third sacrament for all of us.  The Bible does not say how many sacraments there ought to be, or what constitutes one.  If it be said that sacraments have to do with our relation to God, the answer is that the Lord’s Supper has a horizontal dimension as well, and most sins, for which we have to be forgiven, are committed against our fellow human beings. (Without adding another sacrament we might well imitate the Roman Catholic Church by sprinkling ourselves [!] with water at such times as entering worship services.  While this does not depict the reciprocal nature of our repeated sinning and need of mutual forgiveness, it is an apt picture of its continuing persistence as well as God’s ongoing  forgiveness.)

But in that same situation in which Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he said plainly that there is a once and for all cleansing that makes any exact repetition unnecessary and superfluous. (John 13:10)  This was pictured in the Old Testament by the fact that in addition to the daily ablutions of hands and feet by the priests, at their ordination there was an elaborate ceremony in which they were completely bathed, shaved, and put on clean clothes.  It should be remembered – which some of the early Christians forgot – that our baptism, much like the cleansing stream that followed the Israelites in the wilderness, is a continuous thing, constantly washing and refreshing us as we move along through life. (I john 1:9)  In fact, as we all should know, future sins are forgiven by Christ’s one-time atonement as well as those of the past.  In making this point plain the writer to Hebrews asks the rhetorical question, “How many times do you think Christ was or has to be crucified in our stead?”

All this would certainly recommend immersion as a more appropriate mode of baptism than either sprinkling or pouring.  While it may not be warranted to say that immersion is the only permissible mode of baptism, if baptism represented nothing more than complete washing or cleansing from sin, it is a rather inadequate sign (poor picture) to have a baptizee touched on the head with little more than a moist finger, and even that hardly visible  to the “witnesses” outside the immediate huddle around the fount.  Many ministers are making the ceremony more visible, which is the purpose of it all; they should be encouraged to sprinkle the symbolic water on the hands and feet of the recipient as well as the head.  Are we not enjoined to present our entire bodies as living sacrifices, and do we not sing, “Take my hands…. my feet…..”?

But there is something else that the once-ness of baptism (whatever the mode) is supposed to represent, and that is our personal spiritual death and resurrection at the time Christ died and rose again, which is made literal at the time of our second birth and death to “self”, and becomes a matter of consciousness and experience as we reach maturity and discover for ourselves who we are, essentially.  There is no need to argue that for Paul this is the primary meaning of baptism.  (See Romans 6:3,4)  Jesus, of course, spoke of his death as a baptism.  (Cf  II Cor 4:10)

This being so, immersion – which happily symbolizes completeness of cleansing – would seem to be the most preferable mode of baptism on the score of its representation of burial and resurrection.  Certainly the baptismal formula should be stated exactly the way it is correctly written in Christ’s command, “I baptize you into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.  Any child knows that “the name of” is identical with the person who bears it, so that what we are saying at baptism is the person is symbolically engrafted into Christ, becomes one with him and through him with God, as Jesus prayed at the conclusion of the first Lord’s Supper.

In the Old Covenant (Testament) which is a type of the New, the symbolic death of both parties was an important element that we overlook in both the type and its fulfillment.  Parties to a solemn covenant would mix a little blood of each, as pledge of their lives to each other, and invoking death upon either or both in the event of violation.

Next post:  The Lord’s Supper (Part I), a continuation of “The Sacraments”