“If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants” – Sir Isaac Newton.
Hall of Heroes
We, as Christians, stand on the shoulders of giants. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is often called the “Heroes of Faith” or the “Hall of Heroes” chapter. In this chapter, we discover some giants of faith. These heroes were people who lived before Jesus. They lived before the highways and messenger services of the Roman empire. Their worlds were small, hostile, and volatile. Yet, in their community, in their time, they heard and obeyed God by faith.
Hebrews, chapter eleven, starts with Abel, the son of Adam and Eve. It traverses through Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Moses, and Rahab. And it goes on through David and Samuel, with an acknowledgment to countless others. They all took action based on their faith in God. Yet, Hebrews 11:39-40 states:
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
On Whose Shoulders
These heroes of faith did not, and could not, have God living within them, though, no doubt they longed for Him. God’s promise was/is in Jesus. So now we live on the other side of God’s most important event of all of eternity, the Word of God made flesh.
Today we live after Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven; after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church; after the scattering of Christ’s first followers for the planting of the Good News of Jesus Christ; after the Church counsels, led by the early Church fathers.
Now here we stand. Indeed we stand on the shoulders of giants, and those shoulders are Jewish. No matter how you parse the New Testament, Christianity is Jewish. Most people think that Christianity is Gentile. This perception is because we are living in the Gentile dispensation. A time will come when Jesus closes this chapter. He will again turn His attention fully upon his blood kindred, the Jews.
More than history
Okay, you may say, this was a nice little history lesson, but what does it have to do with me? I go to church, pay my tithe, and contribute to my church’s annual yard sale.
Those activities are good things to do, but we need to act different (a nod to Steve Jobs). We are standing upon the shoulders of giants. And these giants of faith in Hebrews, chapter eleven, are Hebrews. Gentiles, myself included, owe a great debt to the nation birthed from Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and to the saints of the first church, located in Jerusalem. Their ministers were the apostles of Jesus, and the congregation was Jews from Jerusalem’s community. So, what is the nature of our debt? It is the same as the one that the apostle Paul spoke of in the book of Romans:
Romans 15:26-27, For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.
There’s a false axiom within the Church: don’t mess with my money. Still, we owe a material debt to the saints in Jerusalem. I have no intention of telling you whom you should give, how much you should provide, or when you should give. I can say with confidence that we are not more significant than the church in Macedonia. Though poor, if they gave out of their lack, how much more should we give out of our prosperity?
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