Summary: This sermon examines what we mean by "Holiness Unto the Lord," and examines why we must seek Christ and His Holiness - we must continually move forward lest we fall back.
Usually, when I get ready to preach, I go to the Common Revised Lexicon to find a scripture passage. Then I look at what others have had to say about that passage of scripture both online and the good old fashioned way of looking things up in books and commentaries. Sometimes a word in the passage will strike me and I will look it up in a Bible Dictionary and investigate its Greek or Hebrew roots. This can take minutes or days… But the sermon for this Sunday is different. I have done a few of the same tried and true methods of exegizing the Scripture but have found the Word of the Lord simply whispering in my ear… “just preach it… just preach my Word.” As a result, the message for this morning comes out of two weeks of agonizing prayer, research, soul-searching and yes, even a few tears.
As many of you know week before this last I was in Nashville, TN. Home of Country Music and Christian Music. Not too far from Graceland and directions to Opryland on every corner! But I did not visit any of these places… nope – I was there for school – Trevecca Nazarene University to be exact. There I spent thirty hours over the course of five days in a class dedicated to unfolding the doctrine of Wesleyan Holiness. I have spent the greater part of my now nearly seven years as a soldier and now Captain in The Salvation Army trying to understand what we mean by the words that appear on our holiness tables (which growing up I knew as the altar), “Holiness Unto the Lord.” What does that mean? This was the mystery I sought to unravel. And it is this mystery which we will explore this morning by looking at Hebrews 6:1-12.
In order to understand all scripture we can not take it out of its context. So we need to have a clear understanding of those events which influenced the writing of Hebrews. There is only one problem with that… it is a mystery. Most recently it has been proposed that a house church of Roman Messianic Jews wrote it. This church would have been greatly influenced by the sermon and life of Stephen the martyr. Though the exact historic moment and indeed the writer (though we believe all Scripture to be God-breathed) is uncertain the purpose of Hebrews is clear. The aim of this book is to show that the Jewish people and in fact the Christian, Jew or Gentile, is no longer bound to the rules and regulations of the Levitical code as the way that leads men to God. Clearly the goal of Hebrews is to establish once and for all that Christ is the way to God and to a lifetime of abundant fellowship with Him. Christ spells freedom to all who will hear for His life and work fulfill, complete and exceed the requirements of the Torah. With this in mind, Hebrews is a kind of challenge. It is a challenge take everything you have thought about the historic Jesus or Messiah a step further… as one Bible commentator puts it the purpose of Hebrews is to move “From Salvation to Sanctification.” And here begins the language of holiness…Go forward. Don’t fall back.
When chapter six begins the author is dealing with the maturity of the Hebrew Christians. Chapter five closes by stating that although the Hebrews ought to have a very rich, deep Christian life they insist on staying fixed on the initial work of Christ unto salvation… they are still drinking milk and not moving onto solid food. The writer opens by saying, “There fore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” the passage goes on to explain what some of those elementary teachings are …. We must understand that the author is not saying to leave behind these teachings about the crucifixion and life of Christ. In fact he stresses that these teaching (repentance, regeneration, faith towards God, an inward change reflected in outward actions…) are foundational to building our faith. Just like when building a house a foundation must be laid… around here that is crucial! Without a firm foundation the house will quickly begin to shift and settle creating structural damages to the building above… To go back to the food analogy the author began with I am reminded of my children as they have grown. For example, Zoe went from being nursed to having formula and baby food. From there she progressed to solid food… but to this day my baby girl drinks at least 4 cups of milk each day. But notice – that is not all she lives on… we don’t call my babies chunky monkeys without reason!