3 things, according to O’Brien:
1. Passive dangers
Continually throughout the letter, there are signs that the recipients have developed ‘a certain weariness in pursuing the Christian goal, or making progress along the road of Christian discipleship’.
2. Active dangers
The author warns many times about the seriousness of rebellion and ‘falling away’.
3. External and Outward Pressures
People giving them a hard time for being Christians, bringing suffering through persecution.
[P.T.O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010: 9-13.] (citing Ellingworth)
Keller, in some sermons I have listned to, reckons the people who received Hebrews are those who are asking the question: if God is for us, committed to our God, and has redeemed us for all eternity, then why is it so hard living for him right now?
Martin Luther’s dismissal of the Letter of James as the ‘right strawy epistle’ (written in the preface to his 1522 edition of the New Testament) is well known.
Less well known is his complete agreement with the actual argument of James, that faith without works is dead. He wrote this in his preface to Romans:
(Read the rest over on the St Pauls staff blog…)
Filed under faith, Luther, works
Tonight we had bible study on Roman 3:21-26.
What an awesome passage that is. I will never tire of it. We just need to hear of grace over and over, for it is so foreign to us and the desires of our hearts.
Our discussion moved to living in the freedom from guilt that grace brings. Someone remarked that they were told in Sunday School about being in the Kingdom of God through grace, through trust in Jesus – but that they haven’t heard it that often since then.
Someone said that they left from church so often feeling bad, thinking after the sermon, ‘Gee, I’m a bad person.’ They didn’t then hear as often, ‘And you’re forgiven through Jesus’.
It reminded me of Keller’s comment I heard through the Gospel Coalition conference talks. He said that most people don’t preach the gospel, either from the Old Testment, or the New. That is, most people spend not enough time on the DO, and not nearly enough on the DONE.
Or, in Rom 3:21-26 terms, on the righteousness from God, providing justification freely through his grace, by faith.
Gotta have that grace, grace, grace.
You see that the First Commandment, which says, “You shall worship one God,” is fulfilled by faith alone. Though you were nothing but good works from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, you would still not be righteous or worship God or fulfill the First Commandment, since God cannot be worshipped unless you ascribe to him the glory of truthfulness and all goodness which is due him.
This cannot be done by works but only by the faith of the heart. Not by the doing of works but by believing do we glorify God and acknowledge that he is truthful.
Therefore faith alone is the righteousness of a Christian and the fulfilling of all the commandments, for he who fulfills the First Commandment has no difficulty in fulfilling all the rest.
Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty (Fortress Press, 2003), 22.
I had a very sad conversation today with an older lady. Someone that many people in her church would consider to be a rock.
The topic was evangelism. She told me that she felt like she couldn’t be involved in that with any integrity. She just couldn’t talk to other people about Jesus.
When she was younger, she had given herself to God and the church with lots of enthusiasm. In her own words, she had been very committed.
Now, she felt different. She no longer believed that the bible was God’s word. She had decided a while ago that she would ‘follow God very slowly, and from a distance.’
What had happened to change her mind? When she was younger, she ‘expected more from this whole Christian thing.’ What more? ‘Gifts of the Spirit that were more obvious; or a major ministry, or…. ‘
I was floored, and deeply saddened. I wondered what had given her those expectations at the start. Maybe a case of expecting to walk by sight, rather than by faith.
She will be in my prayers.