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Holding Fast in Confidence and Hope

Rev. Michael Calvert, Ph.D., May 3, 2020
Part of the Hebrews series.

One of the questions that is often raised by believers in Christ has to do with the how the Old Covenant people, Israel, and the New Covenant people, the Church, are related. And certainly, that is a somewhat complicated issue, and one that will find a variety of answers offered in response.

From our point of view (that of the Protestant Reformed tradition), the answer is that the New Testament Church is the fulfillment and continuation of the Old Covenant people, Israel. We are, as the Apostle Paul would teach, “ the Sons of Abraham ” (Gal. 3:7), and “ the Israel of God ” (Gal. 6:16). Thus, we hold that we are the spiritual descendants Abraham, and those who are part of the nation that God promised to make of him (Gen. 12:2; Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:9).

This being true, it means that Israel’s history is also related to us in a very close way. Again, it is Paul who sounds this note for us (1 Cor. 10:1-13). He tells us that Israel’s history, and especially the event of the Exodus from Egypt under Moses, parallels the experience of New Covenant believers. That is why he can claim that the many things they did and experienced on their way to Canaan are to serve as “ examples” for us (1 Cor. 10:6).

When we come to the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author shows us in specific ways how the Old Covenant people under Moses are connected to the New Covenant people under Christ.

In Hebrews 3:6-19, the author appeals to the wilderness wanderings of Israel, and the sins the Israelites committed while there in the desert, namely their failure to believe in the goodness, power, and provision of the Lord God. And having offered this example, the author then sounds the warning bell, calling the Church, the new Israel of God, to learn from that disastrous example, and to avoid the grievous sins they committed.

What Paul and the unnamed author of Hebrews have done, then, is to summon us as Christians to find our story in the Exodus as well.

We have been redeemed from Egypt (our slavery to sin). We have been saved from the waters of divine judgment at the Red Sea (signified in our Baptism). And we have been fed the mana from heaven which sustains us in our pilgrimage (the Lord’s Supper). But we also face the many perils of the wilderness, those sins that we so easily fall into when difficulty arises. We do, in fact, meet ourselves there in the wilderness!

This coming Lord’s Day, we will begin looking closely at this passage, starting with an investigation of Hebrews 3:6 and those rather ominous words, “ And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”