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In Hebrews chapter 1 we read that God has spoken to us in the last days by His Son, Jesus Christ--that Jesus Christ is, therefore, the messenger of the 'last days'. Today, this fundamental truth is expanded, and we will see the sufficiency of Jesus Christ's message of salvation.
Christian cults, in order to establish themselves as the "one true move of God" must undermine the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and minimize the importance of His work on the Cross in order to elevate themselves as necessary. In the message taught by William Branham, this meant that 'believing upon the Lord, Jesus Christ' was NOT sufficient for salvation, and that in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit and saved a man or woman must first do a number of works in order for God to deem them worthy of salvation. William Branham explained it using his "steps to the new birth" and "jar in the chicken yard". According to Branham, step one is belief and faith (picking the dirty jar out of the chicken yard), but then you must sanctify yourself--get rid of cigarettes, stop drinking, stop even desiring sinful things (clean out that jar). Then, you can be filled with the Holy Spirit--but remember, that according to William Branham you can have the Holy Spirit every single day of your life and STILL go to hell. So what else is required?
WORKS. You must DO something for God and be used of Him in order to be absolutely sure that you're saved. From a message position, this may mean ministry, a life of financial giving, service to the local church, faithful attendance, raising a big family in the message, handing out Voice of God tracts, or listening to tapes, and of course rigid adherence to Message standards. Basically, accepting and living the 'message life' was the ONLY sure way of guaranteeing a position in the Bride.
In this scheme Jesus Christ and His sacrifice consists of one part of a four-part picture--sanctification is a work done by man in order to merit the Holy Spirit, but even that is not entirely 'freely given' is it? How many times did we kneel at the alter and pray for hours on end for the Holy Spirit? How many went back time and time again certain that their 'filling' hadn't been sufficient? So we "wait upon the Lord", get right, and pray up--doing all that we can in order to convince God that we are worth His grace. We had to be SURE we had repented of everything that might be hindering us, and we had to be sure to keep a meek spirit, for the Holy Ghost was a timid dove that would fly away when we grieved Him. And of course, those not truly put to use are simply clean jars filled with a drink and benefitting no one. If God doesn't come down and take that jar and put it to work, why pick it up in the first place? It might be clean and filled, but was it redeemed?
Hebrews 2 paints us a very different picture about the Gospel and about the sufficiency of Christ. Starting in verse 1:
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
And so, let's pay attention! We don't want to drift away, as so many have and adopt something extra. Again, the writer of Hebrews contrasts the Old Testament with the New in verses 2 and 3--on one hand, the messages delivered by 'angels' or messengers was binding and violation was met with punishment, and even more so is this true for those who reject the Truth of Christ Jesus. And what is this Truth?
Verses 5 through 9:
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? 7 You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor 8 and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
God's plan all along was to place the world and all it contains--physically, spiritually, and otherwise under the control and subjection of Man. It was true in the beginning, and even after the Fall it was God's intention to restore it to the way it was. It is true that we don't currently have complete control over all things in the earth, but this is because we are a fallen creation, and we cannot nor will we ever measure up. But the Gospel--the Good News is that we do not have to! Regardless of our shortcomings, there is One that DID overcome--there is One that was crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death as a completely innocent man--paying the infinite penalty for sins He never committed so that He might taste death for us all.
But even more than this, Christ's sacrifice did something else profound:
10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
Verse 10 tells us that Jesus Christ pioneered the perfection of salvation through His suffering, and in verse 11 we find that those for whom Christ died are made HOLY. Not that Christ's sacrifice causes people to want to be holy, or causes them to strive for holiness, or that Christ's sacrifice enabled them to become holy--no. Christ's sacrifice MAKES PEOPLE HOLY! It makes sons and daughters of the same family as Christ, and it makes us perfectly redeemed before a Holy Father, true sons and daughters. No further work necessary, no maintenance of a holiness code needed, and no begging and pleading at the alter required. We WERE made perfect in Christ through His suffering--the debt is paid, and we are holy in Christ Jesus!
As if this is not enough--being made holy, redeemed, and freely restored as a son or daughter of God through Christ, the rest of the chapters tell us that Christ is unfathomably more. Not only does Jesus Christ and His death make us holy before God and restore us as sons and daughters, He also overcomes MORE!
Death is overcome. Sin is overcome. Now listen to what else Christ has done for us:
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Jesus broke the power of the devil and freed us from the fear of death. Sure, we may die in this earth, but Christ proved that we will rise again--that there is more, and that our final breaths are not the end. We don't have to live in fear of missing something in this life, for Jesus Christ destroyed the fear that grips man. When we truly come to appreciate what Jesus Christ did for us we can approach death with boldness, knowing that if we lose our lives here it is not the end--that there is a place prepared for us in the Father's house.
Not only this, but Jesus does not leave us comfortless. He has become a 'high priest' to us, and he is faithfully sitting and making atonement for us forever. His sacrifice was completely sufficient, and He is constantly ready to apply that sacrifice to us afresh every single minute of every single day. He does not grow weak, but is faithful to atone for the sins of the people.
Jesus knows what it is to be tempted, and He knows what it takes to overcome. Are we always going to be overcomers in our flesh--within ourselves and through our efforts? Absolutely not. If we're truly honest with ourselves, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God every single day. There are days we will win the battle, and there are days we will lose the battle. But we can rest assured of one thing--the war over sin is already won! Jesus Christ was victorious, and it is through His victory that we too are more than overcomers.
We don't just overcome sin, we are completely without sin--we are holy. And not because we did something, or were good enough believers, or 'prayed up'. WE are overcomers and we are holy because Jesus Christ is, and by faith we can partake of what He alone was able to accomplish.
In summary, the Truth of Christ is so much more than we ever imagined while sitting in a legalistic, works-based system. The Gospel is far more than a list of steps we must take or an incantation or prayer to recite. The Gospel is Jesus Christ and He alone, accomplishing BY Himself righteousness. It is the loving Father sending His most beloved Son in order to redeem the unworthy and unholy in order to elevate the lowly as sons and daughters, holy in every way. It is a faithfulness to continue atoning for the sins of man, and it is a promise to help us overcome our fears and shortcomings from a place of understanding.
In short, the Gospel is Jesus Christ and Him alone.
I'm astounded at times how clearly this Truth is spelled out in scripture and how I overlooked it for so long. But by God's grace, I see it now. I take Hebrews 2:1-4 seriously, and have purposed in my heart and mind to not forget. The Gospel is not about me. It's not about what I gain and what I can now do and what I should now not do. It's not about how to properly dress, what we should eat and drink, or how we can best show the world and the Lord our commitment to righteous living. The Good News is that God sent His Son to die for us, and that by doing this, we are holy. All scripture leading up to Christ's birth was given to point forward to Him, and all scripture given after was given to point us back to Him.