Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Christian's urgency to paying much closer attention to doctrine

Hebrews 2:1 "For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it."

We spent the last couple of days considering the overall message of the Book of Hebrews. The twin themes of Christ's supremacy and warnings to not stray away were explored - with the idea of ways in which we can make our faith bullet proof. Today's post focuses particular attention upon what the writer mentions in Hebrews 2:1 with regards to "paying much closer attention". Hebrews 2:1-4 represents the first of five warning sections throughout the Book of Hebrews. The specific concern of Hebrews 2:1-4 is to urge the readership (and us) to not neglect the sound doctrines and thus practices of the Christian faith. 

The opening phrase of Hebrews 2:1 "For this reason" indicates that the writer is getting ready to comment upon what he discussed in Hebrews 1:1-14. Moreover, the concern with the warning of 2:1-4 is to not only urge but to remind readers that the doctrines of the Christian faith are built upon the solid foundations of evidence and testimony. Now it is clear that there are specific truths to which the writer is concerned, being that he then says in Hebrews 2:1 "pay closer attention to what we have heard". Why is this so important? He goes on: "so that we do not drift away from it." The word translated "drift" can also refer to "losing sight" or "wash away" - i.e "erode". 

In other words, sound doctrine prevents the shorelines of the Christian faith from eroding. When we lived in Florida for a time, every so often we would visit one of th beaches of that state. It always amazed me to observe the process of beach erosion, whether witnessing in person or seeing images on television. The communities that based their livelihood on those beaches would spend untold thousands and millions of dollars building up "beach heads" and "bulwarks" so as to prevent nearby homes adjacent to the beaches from sliding into the ocean. This is what I see as the purpose of doctrine spelled out in Hebrews 2:1. 

So the question is, what main doctrines are essential for us to meditate, communicate and put to practice in the Christian life? What doctrines require the Christian's need to pay closer attention as spelled out in Hebrews 2:1? From Hebrews 1:1-14 we can discover the following key truths:

1. Doctrine of God or Theology Proper. Hebrews 1:1 "God". 
What is God like? Who is He? What does it mean when we talk about God being One in existence and yet Three in identity? Such questions address this chief doctrine.

2. Doctrine of revelation. Hebrews 1:1-2 
We discover in Hebrews 1:1-2 that God is a talking God, a God who desires to relate and reveal Himself to His creatures. He has revealed things about Himself in creation or general revelation. He has secondly revealed His will in the scriptures or special revelation. Then in Hebrews 1:2 we see reference to the fullness of revelation in the Son in the New Testament. 

3. Doctrine of Christ or Christology. Hebrews 1:2-13 
The dominate doctrine of this chapter is not just merely a set of propositions or statements, but moreso the Person of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1 spells out some significant highpoints and details of the Lord Jesus Christ. In 2 Peter 3:18 we read - "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." Knowing God and knowing how this God reveals Himself anchors our faith and prevents us from drifting. The fulness of God's revelation in the Person of the Son ensures that our faith won't erode. Notice specifically in short order what the remainder of Hebrews 1:2-14 says about Jesus Christ or the doctrine of Christology...

a. Eternal Pre-existence of the Son. Hebrews 1:2,5

b. Incarnation of the Son. Hebrews 1:2-3a, 1:6

c. Atoning work of the cross. Hebrews 1:3b

d. Ascension (which follows from the implied resurrection) and exaltation of the Son. Hebrews 1:4

e. Enthronement of the Son in Heaven. Hebrews 1:7-9

f.  Second coming of the Son. Hebrews 1:10-13

g. Angels in service to the Son as God in human flesh and to believers. Hebrews 1:7,14

When we consider the three main heads of doctrine emphasized in Hebrews 1 (Theology Proper, Revelation and Christology), we have a three-braided cord that guards our faith-life. Moreover, since the emphasis is placed on Christology, it would seem that if we make ourselves students of the Master, Jesus Christ, we will know God (Theology Proper) and the revelation of Himself (specifically in scripture and appreciating the revelation of Himself generally in creation). Thus let us take seriously this urgency to pay much closer attention to doctrine.