- Introduction & Rules for this Series.
- Is the Question of Cessationism/Continuationism Worth a Discussion?
- The Absolute Sufficiency of God’s Word (Cont’).
- God’s Providence in History: A Punctuation of the Miraculous.
- And He Gave Gifts: An Evaluation of Ephesians 4.
- Understanding 1 Corinthians 12-14: The Fruit of the Spirit is Love.
- Arguments of Omission and NT Revelation.
- A Brief Comment About Church History.
No, the Signs and Wonders series wasn’t swallowed by the Red Sea - I have just been too busy to get back to it all with any degree of time, energy or effort. So I’m back at it, with the resolve to do a better job of keeping up a better pace. In the previous post we examined this text carefully:
Hebrews 2:1-4: 2:1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? which was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
This text affirmed the truth that the Lord’s signs and wonders are a subordinate means to the greater end of confirming the Word of God. Grammatically (and graphically), this is very plain to see:
This is a crucial observation indeed. It is one that would prevent us from exalting God’s signs and wonders over Scripture. Thus, we are reminded of the absolute sufficiency and priority of Holy Writ. Therefore, of the four Biblical bases of the Lord’s signs and wonders, we see that this principle of confirmation is central: Confirmation of God’s messengers, and confirmation of His message:
- To disclose God’s glory and power to this world of men, without exception (Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:20).
- To render a clear confirmation of His divine revelation (Joel 2:30-32, Luke 21:25-26).
- To affirm His uniquely appointed messengers (Romans 15:18-19, 2 Corinthians 12:12). (from Signs & Wonders Part II)
- To disclose His glory for all eternity (Revelation 15:1-4).
I keep repeating this word confirmation, in order to stress what the author of Hebrews emphasizes: God’s revelation has been confirmed already. The instrumentality of His signs and wonders, as manifested amidst the apostolic generation, has already served its purpose because - God’s word has been confirmed. This verb, employed in verse 3, is ebebaiothe, which speaks of something that is reliable, certain or firm. The author of Hebrews uses this word once again in Hebrews chapter 6 in order to emphasize the surety of God and His Word. To do this he recalled the example of Abraham who patiently waited on the Lord to fulfill His promises (13-15); he then reminded his readers of God’s immutable nature and His inscrutable oaths:
Hebrews 6:17b-19: 17b. ...God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast [bebaian] and one which enters within the veil...
Here is a crucial insight into this important word [bebaios] - it is a word which speaks of something which stands and cannot move. According to TDNT the primitive concept of this word is that of “standing firm on the feet” - denoting something that is steadfast and immoveable. In the Septuagint this term was used to speak of a financial transaction whereby the buyer would receive a bebaiosis, which was a legally binding confirmation of a transaction [Lev. 25:23, 30]. The Apostle Peter used this word as well concerning God’s prophetic revelation:
2 Peter 1:16-19: 16For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982. [Bold, mine]
Peter clearly wanted the church to comprehend that the Word of God is indeed sure - so much so that we must use it as our lamp shining in the darkness. The Lord’s prophetic revelation, already having been confirmed, is our immutable and undiminished source of light throughout life.
Now these examples have been supplied here in order to illustrate how this word is used with respect to God’s Word; but we must go back to Hebrews 2:3 and consider that primary [governing] verb in order to understand what else is emphasized there:
Greek verbs contain a great deal of important information. Sometimes they can be so involved that four or more English words are required in order to represent just one Greek verb. In our case, only two English words are employed to represent ebebaiothe. In most cases English translators have to use what are called auxillary and notional verbs in order to represent these robust Greek verbs. The notional verb contains the central verbal idea, whereas auxillary verbs clarify some additional details that often relate to the tense, voice and mood of the verb itself. In our case the Aorist passive verb [ebebaiothe] is related through the auxillary word was and the notional verb confirmed. The word “was” reminds us of two things - this verb is passive and it is indicative: passivity means that God’s word received the action of confirmation and that it is indicative means that this confirmation was not some mere potentiality or possibility - it really happened. The notional verb “confirmed” speaks of completed action, and as in this case this represents the simple concept of the aorist verb. The fact that it is both aorist and indicative indicates past time with reference to the time of speaking. We could put it this way - God has already demonstrated, through His apostolic messengers, that His Word is sure. His public confirmation of His own message and His messengers has in fact been completed. The instrumental means by which this was accomplished (God bearing witness with His Apostles through the signs and wonders that He worked through them) subordinately served this ultimate work of God - ebebaiothe - the confirmation of His revelation.
Now before you try to think ahead of this series (and trust me, there are several more texts which we must consult), I would just ask that you hang on and consider the simple principle as it is presented to us in this wonderfully clear and simple text in Hebrews 2. In fact, let me summarize the crucial implications of this text as it relates to Hebrews overall, and to us all in the here-and-now:
- Let’s back up for a moment and remember one of the key objectives of the book of Hebrews - This letter was written to a community of Jews, many of whom were believers (Heb. 6:9), while others were false brethren (Hebrews 6:1-8). Those who professed Christ suffered severly for it (Hebrews 10-11) and therefore needed to be reminded of the true hope of Christ whose supremacy over all things is indeed the grounds of our joy and confidence (Hebrews 6:9-20). Therefore, to premise his message of hope to this despairing community, the author of Hebrews prefaced his entire letter on this subject: the perfection and completeness of God’s revelation concerning His son (Hebrews 1-3). It is a revelation that is sure; it is a revelation that has been given in many portions and in many ways throughout the generations (Hebrews 1:1); it is a revelation that is consummately revealed through the exalted Son Himself (Hebrews 1:2-14) and it is a revelation that was delivered through His apostles, having already been firmly established (confirmed) as God’s complete, sufficient and immutable revelation to men, without repentance, for God cannot lie. This is indeed a hopeful message - His word is sure - it has in fact been confirmed.
- When we consider Hebrews 2 today, we too must be challenged to a greater hope as were the struggling Christians of the 1st century - and this is why: The very sure word that was entrusted to that generation is no less sure today - In a sense we must confess that the Apostles speak to us today indeed - not through flesh and blood, but through ink and paper, through the record of God’s Word. Ultimately, our Chief Apostle, the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1), speaks directly to us today. His authority, as communicated through the apostles and prophets of that generation, communicates to us today with just as much power and authority as if He were here with us today in flesh and blood. The surety of God’s Word is no quaint doctrine - this is a truth that is foundational to our hope in Christ.
- Therefore, in our pursuit of truth - we must seek out God’s confirmed Scriptures as we ultimately pursue the person of Christ Himself. He is our chief end, and we can hear from Him with confidence, knowing that the very Scriptures that He left us, through His servants, are sufficient, complete and all that we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him.
These are, I believe, very important and comforting reflections for all believers. It is a meditation which elevates our appreciation of Holy Writ. Though I would love to eye-witness these events, I really don’t need to see the Red Sea being parted, nor even a dead man being raised from his grave. Instead, I can confidently know of these things through what God has revealed through His already confirmed word. But does does any of this then mean that there is no place for signs and wonders today? Doesn’t the constancy of God’s nature require that His signs and wonders continue to this day? Well, these questions will govern our study next time...