THE EFFICACIOUS, SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE GOD OF PEACE (cont.)
This means that the law of God, written in our hearts as the new and better covenant, must be fulfilled in us in every last jot and tittle. We do not understand this in the superficial sense in which perfectionism’s teaching manipulates this truth of the Word of God. Perfectionists would here refer to the law as a prescription of rules for the Christian to follow. That is how the Pharisees understood the law concerning killing, adultery, hatred of neighbor, and perfection, It was an external code of legal rules. But Jesus says that unless our righteousness of sanctified keeping of the law exceeds this righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes, we shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. With such a righteousness we shall never be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. No, this sanctifying work is a matter of the purification of the whole man, the inner man, as Jesus indicates in this “but I say unto you” (Matthew 5:22, 26, 28, 34, 39, 44). Here we have the word of the Great Shepherd of the sheep with the real soul-care as it pertains to what he has come to do to fulfill the law and the prophets. Indeed; this is the new covenant, written on the tables of our heart.
Now the actual writing of this law in our heart is the work of the God of peace by the operation of the Spirit of Christ. And for this the writer to the Hebrews prays when he would see them perfected unto every good work. Writes he: “that he might perfect you in every good work!” First of all, it must be a perfection unto works which are really “good.” (agathoo). They must not merely appear to be good unto men, as did the works of the Pharisees. Of this we have the description by Jesus in Matthew 5:20 ff. They must be works which proceed from a faith which is energized by love. (Gal. 5:6.) All works which do not proceed from a true faith are law-works and are not acceptable on the altar of incense and thanksgiving. These are all attempts to bring a sacrifice of sprinkling with blood, which denies the blood of the great Shepherd of the sheep. These are works which are based on the institutions and the sinful imaginations of man. Then too these are such that they are according to God’s law. They must be, as the text has it, “to do His will!” This will refers to the will of God’s command. In Hebrews 10:5-10 the writer refers to the “will” which Christ came to perform to bring the perfect sacrifice as predicted inPsalm 40:7-9. We must have a righteousness which does the Will of God, remembers God’s covenant to do it. These are works of thankfulness. Besides, they must be works which are to the glory of God’s grace. (Matthew 5:16)
Now these good works must be “perfected in you.” No doubt this refers to the man of God’s being “perfected unto every good work.” This God does by His word and Spirit. The entire book of Hebrews has been such a God-Spirited word, which is sharper than any two-edged sword, even to the dividing of the soul and spirit, the marrow and bones, and is a discerner of the thoughts and of the intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, 13) Paul says that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, perfectly (thoroughly) furnished unto all good works.” (II Tim. 3:16, 17) And this must refer to the whole man of God: his whole spirit and soul and body as temple of the Holy Spirit. (I Thess. 5:23) All must be preserved blameless to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be wholly doing the law of God—prophets, priests, and kings of God in Christ. His mind must be our mind; His will must be our will; and we must be very bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. This perfection has in it the preservation of the power of God in Christ. We are kept in the power, efficacious power of God unto that day, and are more and more conformed to the image of God. We are changed from glory unto glory as by the Spirit of the Lord. That is sanctification. It is being perfected unto all the good works of heaven. And this will be in our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Then will the great “Hear, Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD,” be a perfection in our lives, and will be upon our lips in grateful adoration forever! It will be the song of the redeemed in heaven!
But this is all efficacious grace. Here the Pelagian must live in silence, and the Semi-Pelagian with him. For this is all to the glory of God. Here no one may boast save in the Lord. This is also true concerning the work of God’s sanctifying power. We do not sanctify ourselves. We are the objects of this work, and thus are caused to share in it. Being moved we move! And that is what the text says: “working in you what is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” This ought to sink deep into our hearts. God works sanctification into our hearts. He alone! And what He works in our hearts He does through the Mediator, Jesus Christ. This Jesus came to save His people from their sins. He came to save them also from all the pollution of sin, and to bend our wills and make us a most willing people. He gives us a free will to will the good. Christ merited this for us, and now makes us partakers of this grace of a free-will, or, if you please, a will that wills in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. Thus we are king-priests of God.
For the text emphasizes that the things worked in us are “well-pleasing before God.” It should not escape our notice that the Greek text has the article. This points out that which is well-pleasing as in a class by itself. It is the well-pleasing things. They are the chief and weightier matters of the law. The term “To euarestos” is that which is connected with the altar of God, that which is truly dedicated and sanctified by the altar. Our works which are out of faith, according to God’s law and unto His glory, are such works. They are on the altar which we have, and that altar is Christ Himself. He is the Priest which sanctifies such works on the altar. For they are wrought by God through him!
TO WHOM BE THE GLORY UNTO THE AGES OF AGES, AMEN (Hebrews 13:21b)
We have made reference to this “glory” in a former essay; however, we believe that we should explain this doxology to the God of peace a little more in depth. The doxology here reads in the Greek as follows, “hoi ee doxa eis tous aioovas toon aioonoon; amen,” that is, “to whom the glory unto ages of ages, Amen.”
The term “glory” in Scripture has various words in the Hebrew language: Adornment (Zech. 11:3); honor, adornment (Psalm 90:16); honor, beauty, majesty (Psalm 8:1); cleanliness and purity (Psalm 89:44). The most expressive of them in the Hebrew is that of “kabod,” which means: weight, heaviness, honor. We speak of a great and important person as a weighty person, whom we revere and take seriously. The seraphims in the holy temple in the Theophany of God in Christ see this glory. (John 12:40) And the whole earth is full of the glory of the LORD. (Isaiah 6:8) Small wonder that they say to each other “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” It is the majesty of God’s power and wisdom in the earth which constitutes this revealed glory of God’s being.
The concept glory is connected very much with the coming of Christ, the great Shepherd in Israel. He is the Word made flesh which dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) This is the glory which Moses saw in the cleft of the Rock prepared for him. That glory was the manifestation of the virtues of God in the Cross: The LORD, the LORD God, merciful, gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and forth generation.” (Exodus 34:6, 7) When Jesus is about to die, this glory is before His Messianic consciousness very much. In the upper room at the Lord’s table Jesus speaks of this glory. Says He, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31) This refers to the work of His crucifixion at Calvary and also His ascension on high. And in His High priestly prayer in John 17:1 Jesus says to God, “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee, as thou hast given him power overall flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou has given him.” From this it should be evident that the chief end of Christ’s death and resurrection was to reveal the mighty glories of God in this work of salvation. God would glorify Himself in His Son, the great Shepherd of the sheep.
If we keep this in mind we shall understand that, in the doxology which is here ascribed to God, all the virtues of God as they are manifested in the Son constitute this glory, this weightiness, this high and exalted esteem and honor, which God ascribes to Himself. He gives His glory to no one else. He is very jealous of His glory.
Now there is a glory of God in the saints. There is a riches of His glory in the saints. (Eph. 1:18) And we are elected that we should be to the praise of the glory of His grace. God’s work of grace as rooted in sovereign election is such that it only glorifies Him. It is God’s glory manifested in the saints. For the saints are the fulness of Him who filleth all in all. (Eph. 1:23)
Keeping this in mind we begin to understand a bit what this means in the text here in Heb. 13:21. This is a glory which is ascribed to God in Christ. It is the glory which is His in the great Shepherd of the sheep, and which particularly came to manifestation in raising Him out of the dead. And this resurrection life God planted in the hearts of the Hebrew Christians. That was His covenant life. And that life showed the glory of His saving power and grace and faithfulness.
Now the design of that glory is that it is unto the ages of ages. God would show in the ages to come the exceeding greatness of His goodness to usward. (Eph. 2:7, 8) No, this glory is not simply as long as this world lasts and the ages roll along. The distant vistas of the new heaven and the new earth beckon. God will bring in that immovable inheritance, when He will not only shake the earth but also the heavens. Then will the glory of the Lord be revealed and we shall see Him face to face in all His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Having this hope in us let us purify ourselves as He is pure. God will perfect that in us which He has begun.
This shall surely come to pass. All the church says “Amen.” All who share in this work of grace are assured and sealed by the Spirit and all say “Amen.” “Blessing, and honor, and glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever! And the four beasts say; Amen!” And all that hath breath praise the Lord God almighty! Amen!