The Glory of God Guards Against Apostasy, Part I

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Long ago, at many times and in many ways,
God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed the heir of all things
and through whom also he created the world.
Hebrews 1:1-2

In our culture of pragmatism and secular humanism, the shape of evangelicalism has morphed into a self-help, pop-psychology rather than standing strong for a passionate striving for holiness and reverencing of God. This has led to best-selling “Christian” books focused on the self, propagating the notion that faith is a means by which you can “name-and-claim” health, wealth, and prosperity or even speak things into existence. Is this new to the Church? Do we face a new dilemma? Will this super-market theology with its theme-park ecclesiology provide substance for a suffering a world? We can have thousands of purpose-driven, plastic smiles in our stadiums, but how would the Christians who were martyred in a stadium feel about our congregations? Would they find brothers and sisters with whom they would lock arms as they were shredded by the fierce jaws of lions?

The banner over the Church is crimson, mounted upon the cross of Christ and baptized in his blood. The blood of the martyrs echoes this theme, proclaiming the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 24:14). The message of the gospel in the New Testament is married to suffering. This should not be a surprise to us; Christ even declared, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20). In fact, watch the banner wave:
  • “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11).

  • “[Y]ou will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22b).

  • “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

  • “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

  • “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).

  • “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).

  • “…if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him” (Romans 8:17).

  • “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Do we preach this to our people? Do we ignore these texts?

The Christian will be persecuted for his faith. It is not optional. The above texts make that clear. What do we do then? Well, Christ got us into this; maybe we would be better off if we left him and this world of Christianity. What do we think of this? Our congregations have seen those who have “tried Christ,” but when it became difficult they deserted him. This is what we call apostasy. How do we fight apostasy in our congregations and in our own lives?

In forgetting the context of the suffering Church in Scripture, we rob Christ of his glory (2 Corinthians 12:9,10). Many in our congregations are weary of the race and are ready to throw in the towel. Can we find an anchor that will hold us close to Christ, equipping us for suffering? The Epistle to the Hebrews is such an anchor.

The authorship of the letter is not exactly known, and we do not know much about the recipients. However, what we do find in the text is in a congregation many people were forsaking the name of Christ because of suffering for bearing his name (cf. Hebrews 10:25,34). Their dilemma is not too distant from ours. How does the writer begin to address their problem? Knowing this will provide a foundation by which we will battle our unbelief.

The author, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, begins, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1,2). There we have our foundation: Christ Jesus, the Incarnate Word (cf. John 1:1-3). If we know Jesus rightly and passionately, the one through whom the world was created, we may begin our battle with the proper footing (cf. Ephesians 6:15).

Because of our gross misunderstanding of Christ, we have no rock upon which to stand in times of persecution. A proper view of Christ will transform our congregations into people who will follow passionately after him, going into the hard places. We will become a people who are being conformed to the image of Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, cf. Romans 8:29).