Church Write-Up: Unshakeable, Consuming Fire, Wealth

The Wednesday Bible study was about Hebrews 13:5-6. As is usually the case, the pastor commented on the preceding verses, as well. Here are some items.

A. The Epistle to the Hebrews teaches that Christians are on their way to someplace else, as the Israelites in the Old Testament were on their way to the Promised Land. Christians are not citizens of this world but are on their way to another place. Christians wait for a new city with a new Temple and thus are not tied to the current Temple. This Promised Land towards which Christians journey cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:18-29). This is in contrast to the trembling that the Israelites experienced at Mount Sinai, as well as the shaking of the earth and heaven that God will do. If Hebrews were written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the author of Hebrews may have mentioned shaking because the destruction of Israel’s national symbol had a terrifying effect on the Jewish people. The author of Hebrews was also seeking to encourage and comfort, in the faith, those Christians who were being persecuted, who had their lands taken away due to their faith in Christ. Christians were tempted to revert to Judaism to avoid persecution, since Judaism was legal and recognized within the Roman empire.

B. Hebrews 12:28-29 exhorts Christians to be grateful for receiving the kingdom that cannot be shaken, and to offer God worship with reverence and awe, for their God is a consuming fire. God is called a consuming fire to remind the Hebrew Christians that God has accomplished victory in Christ, so they need not fear their enemies, whom God has destroyed in a consuming fire. It is also a reminder that divine judgment exists outside of God’s grace in Christ.

C. Christians are to help one another within the body of Christ, since they are members of one another (Hebrews 13:3). The Hebrew Christians are to assist those Christians who are being imprisoned. They are also to honor their marriages, for disrupted marriages can have a demoralizing effect on the body of Christ. Not only does the body of Christ care for its members, but it may also feel that it has done something wrong if a lot of marriages in the church end up in divorce.

D. Hebrews 13:5 exhorts the Hebrew Christians to be free from the love of silver and to be content with what they have. Silver was big money; talents were measured in silver, whereas denarii were copper. The author is not rebuking those trying to pay the bills but rather is criticizing a preoccupation with wealth; at the same time, Christians need not fear recession or creditors because God will not leave them orphaned, without any support or provision. The orientation, foundation, priority, and trust of Christians’ lives should not be love of wealth, but God and trusting in him.

E. The concept of contentment has been misapplied, ever since the Middle Ages appealed to it to tell people to be satisfied with their position in the hierarchical chain of being, so that the social-political order is not unraveled. Contentment is believing that all that we have is from God. Christians have wealth at their disposal, and it is to be used for service: in the case of the Hebrew Christians, they were to use it to serve people in the community and for hospitality to strangers. God provides through the creation, since all belongs to God.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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