Dark Brewed: Hebrews – Part 8

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Jul 2, 2017

(Heb 12:1-17)

Like a good dark brew (of either coffee or beer), this portion of the book of Hebrews delivers the kind of “kick in the pants” that is always appreciated when the pressures and temptations of this life have got us feeling like compromise is the only option. If you are beginning to feel like the Christian life is too hard, or that the preservation of God’s people will (at times) require a little “letting off the gas”, now is the time to take a sip of the following dark-brewed truths:

1. Countless saints have run the Christian race w/faithful endurance until the end (1).

The overwhelming evidence (“so great cloud of witnesses”) proves we can do it (“run w/endurance the race set before us”) if we

put away ghetto thinking (“lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely”) (Deu 30:11).

2. Jesus is the One Who establishes the standard/definition of faithful endurance expected of us (2-4).

We are to be continually “looking to Jesus” (or His life) as the definition of faithfulness – and more importantly, what God is expecting of us if we are to be identified as those winning our Christian race. As such, when asking the question, “Am I being faithful?” It is not others in the church we are to be comparing ourselves to – but (again), Jesus.

3. One of the biggest reasons we fail to faithfully endure is b/c we have the wrong perspective on trials.

According to the author of Hebrews, trials are incredibly vital to our Christian growth and salvation.

4. Faithful endurance requires a church with the right focus.

What does God say the church should be most concerned w/? Where should she spend the majority of her time? What must be the essentials of her ministry? What things should she preoccupy herself w/as the things that matter most? That is what is meant by “right focus”. And that is what the author of Hebrews reveals in this last section of verses (14-17). They represent God’s prescriptive focus for the church; those areas vital to faithful endurance in the Christian Faith; those areas (then) which must be the “majors” (versus the minors) in the pursuit, practice, preaching, promotion and prevention of the church, if her people are to (Verse 1), “run w/endurance the race set before” them – or (Verse 4), “resist to the point of shedding (their) blood” – or (Verse 5) “not regard lightly the discipline (or training) of the Lord”. That the author is indeed drawing our attention to the responsibility of the church is apparent based on the corporate/communal nature of his commands – i.e. their fulfillment requires others or the oversight of the community (Verse 14 –“Strive for peace w/everyone” w/Verse 15 – “See to it that no one fails to obtain…”, and  Verse 16 – “[See to it] that no one is sexually immoral…” ). That being said, these verses (in 12:14-17) also become a powerful tool for answering a priceless question, “What should I look for when shopping for the right church – one that won’t lead me astray but will keep me on the narrow way?” (since that once more is the end goal our faithful endurance). With that (also) in mind (then) consider what the author reveals as the areas of focus:  4.1. The Pursuit Of Justice For All People (14a); 4.2. The Practice Of Careful Obedience To All Of God’s Laws (14b); 4.3. The Preaching Of The Gain And Maintain Gospel (15); 4.4. The Promotion Of Sexual Purity.

(16a) “(See to it) that no one is sexually immoral” = This (then) is the 4th area of focus in the church achieving faithful endurance among its members. They will “see to it” (as discussed, a phrase implying both focus and fervent commitment) that those things the Bible condemns as “sexually immoral” are not associated w/their people. As such they wb a church promoting (instead) the godly virtue of sexual purity. Four things make this particular area of focus worth our time and attention:

4.4.1. The fact that it made it on this limited list (of five). Of all of the other things that the author could have chosen as items worthy of our focus (fellowship, prayer, etc.), it is the subject of sex/sexual activity which the author believes to among the top five.  Consider (then) how serious this particular sin (and subject) must be (to God) if it holds such a high priority position! Additionally, consider how many claiming to be Christians (today) seem to treat this issue as almost trivial – or that God no longer has a category called “sexual immorality. How many churches would have this on their top five list of essentials (or areas of focus)? [1] If we (however) are taking our cues from the biblical text (including what we find here), then not only should the church be devoting considerable amounts of time to this subject -but also parents in the home. Christian children need to be raised in homes where sex/sexual activity is a common topic of discussion (versus something the parents talk about only when they go thru puberty or stop thinking the opposite sex has “cooties”). The relevancy of this becomes immediately apparent when one realizes it is virtually impossible to teach anything in the Bible without running into sex/sexual activity. Both are regular topics in Scripture. As a matter of fact, the Bible begins w/sex (Gen 2), and is filled w/sexual language, events and imagery. God uses sex/sexual activity to communicate many of His truths to His people. As such,, talking a lot about the subject of sex/sexual activity and our need to be pure (especially in a child’s youngest/formative years) is one of the bible’s prescriptions for warding off immorality when sexual desires become strong in their later years (Pro 22:6 –“train up” = constant instruction and reinforcement; “a child” = Infant/toddler/preschooler/kindergartner; ages 0-5 yrs; those years in child’s life experts believe to be the most influential to a child’s overall psychological/emotional development. This is the time when many of the convictions we will hold for the rest of our lives are established. Hence why the author of this Proverb can say “when he is old he will not depart from it” = As adolescents or adults, we tend to stay the path established – thru constant instruction and reinforcement, during our formative years since those things have once again, become our personal convictions. In re: to sexual activity and money (mankind’s two biggest vices), such early training has the added benefit of desensitizing the child to the “psychological and moral crisis” that will become the pitfall of many whose majority training/focus regarding these things doesn’t really begin until their pubescent years[2].).

4.4.2. The connection the author of Hebrews is making between sexual immorality (or the promotion of sexual purity) and faithful endurance (or Verse 1, running “w/endurance the race that is set before us”). This (once more) is the context of the author’s current conversation in the book and why (then) the author wants us to focus or “see to it” in this area. There is (therefore) a connection between these two things – but what is it?

The answer is simple – b/c there is no sin in all of creation history more responsible for the destruction of faithful endurance of God’s people than those related to sexual immorality. The Bible records many whose lives were ruined either temporarily or eternally b/c of their sexual immorality (e.g. the first generation of Israelite men – Num 25:1-3, The men and women of the Northern Kingdom – Hos 4:7-14, David – 2Sa 11:1-19:15, Solomon – 1Ki 11:1-11). This is why (then) the Bible puts so much emphasis on avoiding sexual immorality and pursuing sexual purity (e.g. Paul focuses his entire discussion to the Thessalonians about pleasing God – or the will of God, on the subject of sexual purity – 1Th 4:1-8; consider also – Pro 5:1-14, 7:24-27). So (again) what is the connection between sexual immorality and faithful endurance? It (more than anything else) is the master-killer of faithful endurance. No one will continue running the race of the Christian life – or finish that race (and receive the crown of eternal life) who doesn’t run w/equal fervor, in the opposite direction of those things deemed sexually immoral by God. Such sins (according to Scripture) zap the life and vitality out of anyone who pursues them.

4.4.3. The identity of the “sexually immoral”.

God created all sex/sexual activity as the exclusive right of a male husband and a female wife. As such, any sex/sexual activity not a part of marriage is considered immoral by God. (1Co 7:1-2 – “not to have sexual relations w/ a woman” [gunaiko.j mh. a[ptesqai] = Lit. not to touch a woman-  all sexual activity is in focus – not simply sexual intercourse)[3] = For those not wanting to be condemned for their sexual activity (in any form), marriage must (again) be a part of it (“each man should have his own wife”).

4.4.4. Why God reserves all sex/sexual activity to marriage and considers all sexual immorality a capital crime.

Though people may be prone to view God’s scope and scrutiny on sex/sexual activity as narrow or harsh, they do so only b/c they do understand the primary and sacred purpose of sexual activity. Marriage is not simply the place for sex/sexual activity, but what we are attempting to establish or confirm every time we participate in it w/someone else. IOW: All sex/sexual activities have as their purpose, the establishment or confirmation of a marriage covenant between the parties involved. This was God’s design for it as made abundantly clear by man’s first sexual encounter. (Gen 2:24-25) = Becoming “one flesh” is the first phrase to ever be used in the Bible to refer to sex/sexual activity (e.g. 1Co 6:16). The term (however) also refers to marriage (Mat 19:5-6; Eph 5:31). Putting those two meanings together, reveals this deeper/fuller understanding (sex/sexual activity as a marriage-making/confirming act). This understanding is also the reason the man “shall leave his father and mother” in order to “hold fast to his wife”. Because the sex/sexual activity between the man and woman will establish a marriage, there will also be the establishing of a new household – or family, separate from the one he (and his wife) existed in before. The certainty of this is made clear by the order of events and imperative mood in which they are communicated. Notice, the leaving of his current household to create a new one (to again “hold fast to his wife”) precedes the sex/sexual activity of becoming “one flesh”. Notice also it is not optional. The man “will leave” his father and mother (whether it is his intention or not) thru his pursuit of sex/sexual activity (again, to “become one flesh”). IOW: There wb (w/o question) the creation of a new household where there is (or wb) sex/sexual activity. And according to the Bible, new households are only created where there is the establishing of a marriage. This (too) then speaks to sex/sexual activity as marriage-making/confirming. Hence why verse 25 says neither the “man” nor “his wife” were “ashamed” to be “naked” before each other. It wasn’t b/c they liked how they looked in their birthdays suits, but rather b/c the marriage they were attempting to establish through such naked sexual activity was approved by God (versus unapproved or immoral). This unique aspect of sex/sexual activity (i.e. that it is equally a marriage-making or confirming activity) is reaffirmed throughout the biblical record. Consider: 1) What the Law prescribes when an eligible bachelor and bachelorette engage in sexual activity (Deu 22:21 = Sexual activity est’s the obligation to marry. It is a marriage-making act.), 2) Why Leah was also Jacob’s wife (Gen 29:18-30 = Though Jacob was not betrothed to Leah, he nonetheless had sex w/her. As such, she becomes his wife. The sex establishes a marriage), 3) The assumption of Abimelech (Gen 26:8-9 –“laughing” = Lit. caressing/fondling. Abimelech concludes that b/c of such acts the two must be married since such activity communicate this very thing – i.e. that a marriage is being made or confirmed), 4) When Rebekah became Isaac’s wife (Gen 24:67 = No ceremony, only sex, constitutes/est’s their marriage)[4]. So then, whenever people participate in sex/sexual activity, they are (whether they know it, like it, care about it or not) attempting to establish or confirm a marriage covenant relationship w/one another. That is (at least) how God sees it – which is why (then) all sex/sexual activity is reserved for marriage – b/c that is what sex is (a marriage making/confirming act). That brings us (then) to what makes sexual immorality so wrong (or serious). B/C in every case of sexual immorality, what you have is sex/sexual activity that does not (or cannot) reside or result in marriage (homosexuality = same sex individuals cannot be married; bestiality = humans cannot marry animals unless you live in Boulder; sexual idolatry = Christians cannot marry non-Christians; whoring = man and woman who participate in sexual activity but will not marry). Sexual immorality is ultimately (then), marriage fraud (i.e. going thru the motions/activity of marriage w/o the existence or the end being actual marriage). It is (however) more serious than that for the Christian. Though our sexual immorality may not always make us guilty of adultery in relation to a physical marriage (ours or others), such is always the case as it relates to our marriage to Christ. IOW: When we commit acts of sexual immorality, we are equally committing spiritual adultery against Christ. And that b/c God views our sexual immorality in relation to that marriage in the same way as He does our physical marriages. They are adulterous and grounds for divorce (e.g. Hos 1:1-7, 2:2 w/4:10-14; 1Co 6:15-20 = Sexual immorality is the equivalent of attempting to form a marriage covenant w/those God forbids us to marry while at the same time still in marriage covenant w/Christ. It is adultery that Christ will not tolerate – see 2Co 6:14-7:1= Notice, for Christ to remain in marriage covenant relationship, we must be “separate” from the immoral. Same word as 1Co 7:15 referring to sexual activity. Sexual activity w/those God forbids, will mean “defilement” that removes our covenant relationship w/God or Christ). So again, just as such sexual immorality constitutes grounds for divorce in our physical marriages (Mat 5:31-32), the same is true as it relates to our spiritual marriage to Christ. Our “joining” in marriage activity thru sexual activity w/those God forbids us to marry means we commit adultery and lose our marriage to Christ. Is it any wonder (then), that all such acts are considered capital crimes – since isn’t that the punishment – loss of marriage covenant relationship to Christ -or worse, eternal damnation? (Lev 20:10, 13, 15-16; Deu 22:21; Lev 21:9; Num 25:1-3 1Co 6:9; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:5).

4.4.5. Closing takeaways: 1) Shift your paradigm: sex establishes marriage not marriage establishes sex, 2) Who/what determines the scope of sexual immorality indicates who/what you follow (Christ or culture; 3) The question to ask when contemplating sex/sexual activity, “Will it result or reside in marriage?”, 4) Parents, sex education begins at the beginning.

[1]For example, Foothills Bible Church (of Littleton Colorado) states on their What We’re About website page that, “Foothills Bible Church exists to glorify God by helping people be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. We do this primarily through: Engaging in Worship, Growing in the Word, Get Connected in Growth Groups, Serving Others & Sharing Our Faith”. Notice, though they too believe they are five areas of focus necessary to producing faithfulness in Christians (i.e. “to helping people become faithful followers of Jesus Christ”), promoting sexual purity is not on that list. As a matter of fact, one wb hard-pressed to find any of the items of listed by the author of Hebrews in the categories they present (Gospel maybe in “Sharing Our Faith”?). Foothills however is not unique in this regard. W/respect to those churches in Colorado who present a similar set of values/essential areas of focus as the means to producing faithfulness or faithful followers of Jesus Christ, I could find none who included the promotion of sexual purity or the avoidance of sexual immorality.

[2] “Psychological and moral crisis” is my way of referring to what happens when the news about sex and money takes place at relatively the same time they are hit w/a tidal wave of very strong sexual feelings and the urge to be on their own. The result is a combination of intellectual and emotional overload which creates both confusion (why did my parents hide this from me? How could something that feels so right be so wrong?) and suspicion (the fact that my parents/church hid such things until now makes me not want to trust what they say about it since people who hide stuff are untrustworthy).

[3] For further support that all sexual activity is relegated to marriage – or conversely, that all forms are considered immoral, where no marriage can be secured, see (Mat 5:31-32 = Whatever you limit sexual immorality to, you equally must limit the charge of adultery to).

[4] Gordon Hugenberger (Marriage As A Covenant, p.248) writes, “The biblical evidence for wedding ceremonies is regrettably scant. [Instead] sexual union when engaged in w/consent, was understood as a marriage-constituting act and, was considered a requisite covenant-ratifying and renewing oath-sign for marriage [to continue to exist].” Is this not (then) why Paul calls sexual activity a “right” which if either party “separates” from, gives grounds for divorce to the other? (1Co 7:3-5 w/15).