Our Bible readings cut to the heart of our faith. In the Reformed Tradition, our faith was expressed upon the five-fold Latin sola foundation:
- Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
- Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
- Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
- Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
- Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
A typical summary of how this foundation was established is preserved at Christianity.com:
The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century changed Christianity forever. Roused to action by the corruption and abuses they saw in the Roman Catholic church of the time, visionary pastors and leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin spearheaded a movement that transformed Christianity and eventually led to the emergence of the Protestant denominations that exist today.https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/the-five-solas-of-the-protestant-reformation.html
Since the reformation within the church, where we were birthed as the Presbyterian Church, theology has progressed.
Depending upon your current theological opinions, you will say the progression is either good or evil. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.
Passages like our text from the Book of Hebrews stirs coals quietly burning beneath the Church’s surface. There has been a tendency to question “How?” can the blood of Jesus Christ be the means of salvation. Was it not enough that he died vicariously?
Other questions focus on the “What?” What does it mean to be saved? What does it mean to be redeemed? What does it mean that Jesus affected eternal salvation? These questions and all others related fall under the theological classification of soteriology – the study of or doctrine of salvation.
I want to focus on a different question this morning. “Why?” Why did Jesus do what he did? Why are we meant to be thankful for his work? Why would our Creator want to manifest himself as one of us?
It is the “Why?” question that intrigues me this morning. In one sentence, my answer is this:
That is the life principle I wish to draw from this text for the next few fleeting minutes. The answer to the “Why?” of salvation is so that we will become servants.
Servitude versus Liberty
The concept of servitude may seem distasteful. Modern Western values that proceed this post-modern era exalted liberty at all costs.
And yet we know by common sense that there are limits. The current debate over protecting the rights of non-vaccers is a good illustration. Society no longer values liberty as a supreme virtue. As it seeks a greater good, it has become acceptable to compromise individual liberty.
However, it is not just on a societal level that we choose servitude. In our daily lives we choose to tie ourselves into employment agreements. Contracts of servitude are tolerated because of the wages received. Again, many willingly indebt themselves to banks and financial institutions. Contracts of servitude are tolerated because of the ability to obtain a mortgage to purchase land and/or houses; loans to purchase vehicles and holidays.
Do not climb on a high-horse and condemn the Christian concept of servitude at the mere mention of its term. Please listen to understand the “Why” of salvation.
Purpose for Being
Faithbuilders introduced you to the Heidelberg Catechism. In the English speaking world, that was replaced by a catechism created from the Westminster Confession. The very first question and answer are:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
Justin Holcomb, an Episcopal priest (Anglican) who teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary, explains:
Glory belongs to God alone. God’s glory is the central motivation for salvation, not improving the lives of people—though that is a wonderful by product. God is not a means to an end—he is the means and the end.
The goal of all of life is to give glory to God alone: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/the-five-solas-of-the-protestant-reformation.html
We are products of our Creator. We have purpose and meaning for our lives. They are not lived for selfish pleasures of “flesh”; they are lived for loving others in spirit. Mark points out the first commandment to love God. Closely connected to that is a second commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Why were we redeemed? The Hebrews text plainly states that it was to purify our conscience from dead works. Why? To serve the living God!
The author of Hebrews notes the shortcomings of the Mosaic tabernacle worship in the first 10 verses that proceed our text. Our text ends with an argument from lesser to greater.
How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! Hebrews 9:14
- There is a contrast with the blood of Christ and the blood of goats and calves.
- There is a contrast with the eternal Spirit who offers himself
- There is a contrast with the priestly office of Christ and that of Aaron’s
- There is a contrast with the sacrifice of Jesus and Old Testament sacrifice.
Jesus is holy, innocent, unstained. Christ’s sacrifice cleanses the innermost being which Mosaic sacrifices could not do. Jesus is able to purify our conscience! We are revived from dead works. Deeds no matter how religious cannot save our souls. Religion is not salvation in and of itself. It is meant to be an expression of it. However, too many persons use religion in hopes of gaining salvation.
When compared to Mosaic tabernacle worship, the new covenant high priesthood of Jesus provides a single superior sacrifice in a superior heavenly tabernacle. It brings complete forgiveness of sins, eternal salvation, purified consciences, and direct access to God. (ESV Global Study Bible)
The Reformation Era in Church history taught us that salvation cannot be obtained by any merit other than that of Jesus Christ’s.
The first time Edeth and I moved house we could hardly believe our fortune. We went from a basement flat I had dubbed “the Cave” to a house above ground with a balcony overlooking a view to Tamaki River. The flat had been dark and cramped. The new house was full of light and spacious. Moving was hard work, but it was worth it in every way. Everything was better.
So too is it better to come to Christ. The old way of trying to work your way into heaven is dark, cramped, and full of sorrow. The new way in Christ is Light, Spacious, and eternally abundant.
On this Reformation Sunday, why not surrender your attempts to earn a salvation we do not deserve and accept Jesus Christ’s finished work at Calvary?
Prayer of Application
- Beloved Companion who we know as God,
- You deal with us kindly in steadfast love,
- lifting up those bent low with care
- and sustaining the weak and oppressed.
- Release us from our anxious fears,
- that we, holding fast to Your commandments,
- may honour You with all that we are and all that we have.