“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
Especially two reasons there are for calling your attention to the Word of God in this text.
The first is the fact that, according to the church calendar, we are in that time of the year which is called Lent. Traditionally during this season the church of Christ centers her thoughts particularly on the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This periodical, too, from its inception has not failed in this department to enlighten its readers with respect to some phase of the subject. In accordance with this custom we feel now impelled to write on some aspect of the sufferings of our Saviour.
The second is the fact that the sufferings which the children of God are required to endure in the present world are all closely tied into and arise from their relationship to Christ. The Scriptures not only reveal that the sufferings of Christ were basic for our salvation from sin and death; but they also instruct us in the truth that there is something of the sufferings of Christ that is filled up in the sufferings which we are required to endure for His sake. Moreover, the Word of God also emphasizes the fact that the sufferings of Christ serve for our example in suffering; and such examples are intended for our encouragement. Such undoubtedly is the intention of the Word of God in our text. The practical purpose of the exhortation in our text is that by a faithful consideration of Christ’s sufferings we may receive the strength of patience to endure as children of God in the world.
For consider Him . . . !
The antecedent of the pronoun “him” in the King James Version we find in the immediately preceding verse, where we read, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith . . .” Jesus, the One Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. That Jesus Who ran before us on the road of suffering that leads to glory, while He was at the same time the author and finisher of our faith, is the One on Whom we must look shall we be able to run with patience the race that is set before us. And in our text we are exhorted to consider what great contradiction of sinners He endured against Himself, lest we become wearied and faint in our minds.
O, what great contradiction He endured!
The contradiction here refers to the fact that He was spoken against. His testimony was gainsaid, denied; and His works were so contradicted that they were ascribed to the devil. The writer of this epistle assumes that his readers were acquainted with the life and times of the Son of God in the flesh from the moment of His birth in the lowly cattle stall in Bethlehem to the moment He was laid in the tomb of Joseph’s garden. The contradiction must not be limited merely to the moment of His crucifixion, but it is extended over His entire sojourn upon the earth and finds its climax in the cross.
Contradicted He was by sinners! Those who were always missing the mark set forth in God’s law to love Him with all their heart and mind and soul and strength were missing that mark by withstanding His words and criticizing His works.
O, how they contradicted His words! At the very beginning of His earthly ministry when He read from the prophecy of Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth and informed the listeners that the prophecy was fulfilled that very day in Him, they replied with the question: Is not this Joseph’s son? Though they were gracious words they heard, they derogate them by implying they were only of a mean man. (Luke 4:16ff). When Jesus explained to His audience that He was the Bread of life which came down from heaven, those who were following Him said: This is a hard saying: who can hear it? (John 6:60). When Jesus spoke boldly of His doctrine in Jerusalem, and some began to wonder whether He were the Christ, there were others under the instigation of the Pharisees who said: Shall Christ come out of Galilee? thus causing a division among them. (John 7:32ff). When Jesus said, I am the light of the world; the Pharisees said, Thou bearest record of Thyself; Thy record is not true. (John 8:12-13). When Jesus rebuked His audience because they did not hear His word, they said that He was a Samaritan and had a devil. (John 8:47-48). When-He informed the people that He and His Father were one, and they took up stones to stone Him, Jesus replied: Many good works have I showed you from My Father; for which of those works do you stone Me? (John 10:30ff). Many more examples could be produced, but these will suffice to show how the words of Christ were constantly contradicted.
Also contradicted was He in respect to His works! When the Lord had healed on the Sabbath, they accused Him of breaking the law of Moses. When He sought to save the lost, they accused Him of being a friend of publicans and sinners. When He came eating and drinking, they charged Him with being a glutton and winebibber. When He cast out devils, they said He did it by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils. When He cast the money changers out of the temple, they disputed His authority. When His miracles reached their climax in the raising of Lazarus from the dead, they concluded that Christ was a danger to the very life of the nation, and they must kill Him. Indeed, it becomes evident when you study the gospels that no work of Christ was ever approved. He was opposed in all that He did, and all His works show Him to be the contradicted One.
However, if we were to conclude that Christ’s contradiction consisted only in the opposition men registered to His words and works, we would miss the real essence of the contradiction.
We should note that the essential contradiction was against Himself. In other words, it was not so much what He said and did that evoked the contradiction; it was Who He is that aroused all the antipathy and contradiction of sinners. And this is precisely what our text expresses. The contradiction was specifically against Himself, that is, against His Person.
It is noteworthy to observe how the Scriptures bear this out. They predicted that so it would be. In Psalm 2 the question is asked: Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing? And the answer is supplied: The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. It is evident the wicked hate the Lord and His anointed. Isaiah tells us, “Now go, write it before them in a tablet, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: which say to the seers. See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isa. 30:8-11). The Holy One of Israel is unbearable in their sight. And when the Holy One of Israel appears in the flesh and the Child of the virgin is presented in the temple, the aged Simeon lifts Him from His mother’s arms and declares: “Behold, this Child is set for a sign that shall be spoken against.” (Luke 2:34).
O, yes, when this Child began to speak and to act, His words and deeds were contradicted, but only because He was the One Who would be spoken against.
This contradiction is translated into deeds of hate and violence. Often the wicked sought to kill Him, but could not, for His hour was not yet come. But when that hour came, and He was apparently in their power, they contradicted Him unto death. They contradicted that the Holy Child Jesus was the Christ by blindfolding Him, smiting Him on His sacred head and spitting on His face. They contradicted His kingship by disrobing Him and placing a mock robe, over His bruised body, a mock sceptre in His hand and a crown of thorns upon His head. And when He was crucified and designated the Christ, the Son of God, the King of Israel, they cried out that this could not be, for then He would come down from that cross. Indeed, they contradicted Him to death, the death of the cross! When Pilate offered to crucify Barabbas the criminal because he was convinced that Jesus was innocent, they cried for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. When Pilate taunts them with the question: Shall I crucify your king? they replied: Away with Him, we have no king but Caesar.
This contradiction, so the text informs us, Jesus patiently endured.
But the question persists: Why? What is the reason for all this contradiction?
The answer: He was contradicted of sinners!
No, He was not contradicted simply because He was misunderstood. The very opposite was true. For the more they understood Him, the more they hated Him and contradicted Him. Was it perhaps because there was a difference of opinion, which men would normally come to respect in one another? No, the facts would deny this. There was no more bitter spirit of intolerance than that manifested in those who contradicted Christ. They hated Him without a cause.
Verily it was a contradiction of sinners! The cause was sin. And that means the contradiction was ethical. It was not a matter of the head, but of the heart. And this means, too, that the contradiction rises out of hell, from the father of sinners, the devil. Take a look at what Jesus says in John 8:40-44: “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that told you the truth, which I have heard of God . . . Ye do the deeds of your father . . . Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. . . .”
Indeed, the reason for the contradiction rests in the fact that the contradictors are sinners. Mere sinners cannot do anything else but contradict Him.
And it makes no difference in what form or from what background the sinners appear. Whether the sinners are blatant atheistic, communistic contradictors who have sworn to obliterate the Name of God and His Christ, and exterminate the church which represents His name in the world; or whether the sinner is one who possesses a form of godliness, has the form of religion while denying the power thereof, as he is found in the modem church with its mere semblance of Christianity — always the mere sinner contradicts Christ’s word and work because he contradicts Him. One is either for or against Christ — there is no neutral ground. The sinner is against Christ when he is apart from Him. The sinner is for Christ when Christ redeems him through His atoning death, and implants in his regenerated heart the grace of faith which looks to Him as its author and finisher.
Contracted of sinners!
O, yes, that includes you and me, as we are by nature!
And even after we have become redeemed sinners whom Christ came to seek and to find, we carry that contradiction in our sinful flesh that still is inclined to contradict Him Who redeems us. Nothing gracious is there in our depraved natures which we bear with us to the grave. Herein is the desperate struggle which the child of God experiences in this world so long as he dwells in the flesh. On the one hand, by the grace of Christ, he has in principle the desire of heart to love and serve Him, to marvel with thanksgiving at His work, and to obey His Word. On the other, according to his old nature, he still opposes Him and contradicts Him to His face. O God, be merciful to me, the sinner!
Make no mistake about it, this confession of our natural contradiction belongs to the consideration. If we do not confess this, we can only conclude that we still belong to the number of those who contradict Him. When we do confess this, there is salvation in the very blood that was shed by our contradiction. For Christ died for all His own. He took the NO of our contradiction to the place of judgment, where in our place He expressed the perfect YES.
Moreover, the consideration of His contradiction, when His grace dwells in our hearts, identifies us with His contradiction. Just as really as He was contradicted for Who He is, so shall we suffer contradiction for Christ’s sake in the world. As Jesus said: The disciple is not above his Master; if they hated Me, so will they hate you.
And when we suffer with Him and grow weary and faint in our minds (souls), perhaps even imagining that we have forfeited all rights to true discipleship, then we must look to Him, the author and finisher of our faith, and consider more deeply the contradiction He endured; in order then to be encouraged to endure the contradiction that shall be ours.
Consider then that the grace of Him Who endured contradiction is able to keep us even to the end.
He endured, and is set down on the right of victory !
So we enduring shall also enter the victory He gained for us through patience!