The Church: A People Who Worship

What are crucial responsibilities of the church today? How many of them will continue in the new heavens and earth? Hebrews 12:28–29 points you to something that the church does now that will continue for all eternity. You are a people who worship.

The church is God’s unshakable kingdom. Only unshakable things survive. The author of Hebrews is dealing with people who may have come to the Lord from a background in Judaism. The ornate temple, the ceremonies conducted by the priests in their official garments, had all been left behind. Some may have wondered if they had given up too much. The author keeps reminding them that in Christ they have something far better than the shadows, pictures, and types of the Old Testament. God promised through Haggai to shake the heavens. This came as an assurance of the glory of the new temple, Haggai 2:3. The greater glory of the new temple will be that of the presence in it of the Messiah, Haggai 2:6-9. God has shaken the earth and heavens. The reference is to Christ’s coming. The kingdoms of the earth are overthrown before him, Daniel 2:44,45. The old order, including the ceremonial system, was changed. The new covenant, the unchanging kingdom of Christ, is established. You are members of it, Hebrews 12:22ff. God’s shaking of creation includes the entire last days, see Hebrews 1:1,2. The process is complete in the final day, 2 Peter 3:10-14. Even then your kingdom is unshakable, Hebrews 12:28. God’s consuming wrath is a fire which also purifies and refines the church. “The author represents Christ as a portion of heav­en come down to earth. In His voice we hear a heav­enly voice, not a voice of earth. . . . Note that the au­thor lays great stress on the words yet once more; the shaking is one that cannot be repeat­ed; it is the final shaking, and therefore it represents the final transformation of the whole world or universe. The author fur­ther says that this final shaking signi­fies the passing away of all things that were made and therefore can be shaken, in order that the things which cannot be shaken may re­main.” (Geer­hardus Vos, The Teaching of the Epis­tle to the Hebrews, p. 87).

See the glory of the church. God is present in Zion. He was in the Old Testament Jerusalem. The temple was full of his glory. He is present with his people in the New Testament. “Jerusalem” becomes the name for the body of Christ, Galatians 4:26; 6:16. Don’t depreciate the glory of the church. Recognize that its glory lies, not in externals, but in its relationship with its God. Can there be a miss-emphasis on the church as invisible? Some people claim to be Christians, but are part only of “the invisible church.” The fact that the Lord sees those who are his does not minimize the importance of being part of, being involved in, the church as it comes to expression on earth. There are not two churches, visible and invisible, but one church, seen from two perspectives. The assembled church today is part of the great eschatological church. Notice the focus on not neglecting the assembly, Hebrews 10:25. God treats the church as important. So should you. That includes taking seriously membership vows. It includes working on your own sanctification, getting rid of respectable sins. Encourage one another in your progress in the Christian life.

Listen to the God who speaks. God has spoken from heaven, v.25. By comparison, Sinai is an earthly revelation. God came down to the mountain to meet with his people. Now God has spoken in his Son, Hebrews 1:1,2; 2:1-4. The shaking at Sinai (Hebrews 12:18-21), awesome though it was, is minor compared to God’s present speaking in Christ. You are accountable!The content of the message is v. 24, the mediator, Jesus, and the call to repentance, faith, and new obedience in him. This revelation is greater and clearer. Therefore your accountability is higher, see 2:2,3. The speaking in the Son is the ultimate revelation.

Worship God acceptably. Give thanks! Your response comes from God’s gift. The unshakable kingdom you are receiving from him includes: the full revelation in Christ Jesus, Hebrews 1:1,2; God’s rest, which is your salvation, Hebrews 3:7-4:11; your hope, Hebrews 6:18-20; the new covenant, and its high priest, Hebrews 8:6ff. Give thanks instead of speculating about the final shaking. With the eye of faith, the heavenly reality is here for you. “The inheritance of the promised land of the new earth is the author’s [of Hebrews] irreducible summary of what true believers will receive at the eschaton. . . . This final inheritance will be indestructible (12:27–-28) and eternal.” (G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, p. 145).

Worship knowing that your God is a consuming fire. He summons you as his people to worship him. God has a high calling for the church. It’s primary duty is to glorify God. Worship reverently. Reverence grows out of knowing God, understanding who he is, and appreciating the depths of his redeeming love. Your worship is connected with and results in the life described in Hebrews 13. This reverence includes a holy fear and awe. God is the righteous Judge, Hebrews 12:23. God is a consuming fire. He destroys his foes, but purifies you, his people.

Worship with reverence and awe. God created mankind, male and female, to have covenant fellowship with him, to live in a state of worshiping him. That was broken by the fall. But God, in his grace, has reached down in his Son and has drawn us back into fellowship with him. Your life needs to be centered on him. The worship in which you are engaged today is not just an anticipation of the glorious, heavenly worship. It is part of that worship. Recognize the reality of what Hebrews says you are doing.

Listen to your God, and worship him!

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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