STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”
In last month’s text we saw the Hebrew Christians being presented with two options. They could go back to the old covenant surrounded by its fires and darkness, tempest and terrors; or they could remain in the new covenant into which they had been called by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. In the text before us, the apostle lays out his conclusion: let us have grace.
“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.”
It seems so self-evident, doesn’t it? Jesus speaks; we listen. It appears so obviously simple, but is it really? Not when our sinful nature gravitates toward every other voice but the right One. Our sinful flesh challenges, “Why should I listen to this One Voice above all other voices? Why Jesus instead of some other voice?”
The answer is really simple.
It’s because every other voice preaches from Mt. Sinai with its terrors of threats and punishments. With the Law, there are only demands. With the Gospel, there are only gifts—gifts of grace, mercy, and forgiveness in Jesus. The Law says, “Do this, or die.” The Gospel says, “Jesus did and died; now you may live.” Therefore, to listen to any other voice, even the voice of the old covenant, is to refuse God’s free gift of life in His Son. In other words, to refuse Jesus is to choose death. That’s the alternative. For as our text reminds us, “our God is a consuming fire.” Therefore, let us have grace and live!
The author goes on to say that it’s by grace that we may serve God acceptably.
That means that anyone who seeks to serve God apart from grace serves Him unacceptably, which is to say he doesn’t really serve Him at all. Seeking to serve God through the Law is unacceptable because it disregards what God says about everything; what He says about the Law and its purpose, and what He says about His Son Jesus and His sacrifice. It would be like holding up a finger to God’s lips to shush Him, and then proceeding to tell God what He really wants instead. By God’s grace, service to God is acceptable as He fills us with faith through His Word to trust in His unearned favor through Jesus’ death and righteousness and then to respond accordingly.
Through this text, God is pleading with His believers not to take His grace lightly. When God speaks His grace to you, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.” Though you did not earn or deserve it, God has nevertheless brought you into the unshakable kingdom of His grace through faith and freely gives to you every unshakable blessing found there. Therefore, let us have and hold onto God’s grace, by which we may serve Him acceptably in reverence and godly fear. Amen!
Chad Seybt is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming.