Summary: We should strive to be more like GOD in every way and not in just the ways we find easier to accomplish.
Hebrews 10:19-25, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.”
Several weeks ago, we, in Bible Study, were examining the early Church. While many of us think of the church as a single monolith, uniform in thought and deed, such was not the case. The primary expression of early Christian up to the year 70 AD was what historians call the Jerusalem Church.. This Jerusalem church was headed by James the Just or sometimes called James the Less. James was the brother of Jesus and the Jerusalem church saw itself as a radical wing of Judaism commonly referred to as a messianic community. One of the primary sources of information we have concerning the Jerusalem Church is of course the book of Acts, which speaks considerably of its activities. In addition to the book of Acts several other historians of that day provide for us supplemental information on this era of the early church. These include the Roman Historian, Tacitus, the Greek Historian Tseutonius and of course the ever popular Hebrew historian, Pliny Josephus.
Jerusalem politics in the days of the Jerusalem church was intense and volatile. The well-known militant group, the Sircari and their co-conspirators, the zealots, were ever pushing Jerusalem closer and to a physical confrontation with the powers of Rome.
The zealots and the Sircari wanted to rid Jerusalem of the presence of Rome, its soldiers and officials, and in 70 AD these groups led the citizens of Jerusalem in an uprising against the Roman authorities. This act is now known as the Jewish Revolt of 70 AD.
Rome’s response was swift and brutal. Thousands were massacred and the revolt came to a blood end in the outlying fort called Masada where the ring-leaders of the uprising were rounded up and executed. Caught up in this blood bath of 70 AD, were many who belonged to the early church and Tacitus and Josephus report that not only was James the Just killed the year before in 69 AD, but the temple in Jerusalem was leveled and what was known as the Jerusalem church was utterly destroyed leaving the lingering remnant to scatter to the far corners of the earth.
This destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy when he said to the women “weep not for me but for yourselves because a day is coming when there will be gnashing of teeth and no stone will rest upon another in the city of Jerusalem.” ith the decimation of the church in Jerusalem, the survival of Christianity now rested upon the activities of the outlying rural gentile churches that had not been affected by what had taken place in Jerusalem. These churches were strongly associated with their founder and operated across the landscape of Asia Minor in places like Corinth, Collossae, Phillipi and Thessalonika. These churches had been founded by the Apostle Paul, a missionary, and without them we would not have a religion called Christianity today.
In contrast to the church of Jerusalem, that had been very parochial and narrow in membership, these Pauline churches were attractive to non-Jews or gentiles as they were called, and celebrated a faith and belief in Jesus Christ has a pre-condition for membership in the church rather than circumcision or being of the seed of Abraham.
People in these gentile churches did not have the history of their Jewish counterparts and had been for the most part involved in the Greco-Roman culture of their environment when they came to the church. Therefore, one of the ongoing balancing acts that had to be maintained by the Apostle Paul, their founder, was to affirm their cultural and ethnic identity while not ignoring the theological base upon which Christianity was built. In other words, Paul was constantly celebrating their diversity while holding fast to the core beliefs that made them part of the Christian community.
The text selected by the missionaries today represents a classic case of Paul reminding believers of the high price and sacrifice that Jesus performed on their behalf. Paul begins by first affirming that those whom he is speaking to are undoubtedly apart of the Christian community. He refers to them as Brothers and Sisters.