Saturday, 4 May 2019
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. Hebrews 12:28
The word, “Therefore,” is given to sum up the words of verses 18-27. The author has been dealing with the kingdom which is expected for the believer and what it will be like. This is received as an inheritance the moment a person places his trust in Christ, but it is not actually received at that point in time, just as an inheritance is given to a son, but he does not receive it until a certain point in the future.
This is certain based on the author’s continued words which say, “since we are receiving a kingdom.” The verb is a present participle, and thus “are receiving” is correct. This will be realized at a future point, but which is being received as believers are brought into the New Covenant since its inception. This kingdom is one “which cannot be shaken.”
These words are in confirmation of what the author has referred to in the previous three verses and are summed up in verse 27. There it spoke of “the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.” That which remains is the “kingdom which cannot be shaken.” Based on the fact that this lies ahead for the believer as a certainty, he then says, “let us have grace.”
It is argued by scholars whether this should be translated as “grace” or “thankfulness.” Both ideas fit well in the verse if so translated. The chosen translation is to be based on what is next stated, which is, “by which we may serve God acceptably.”
If thankfulness, then Jesus’ words of Luke 17 fit the idea well –
“Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” Luke 17:9, 10
It is further seen in Paul’s words elsewhere, such as –
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” 1 Timothy 1:12
However, the idea of having grace also fits the idea of serving God acceptably. In Romans 12, Paul speaks of the grace given to him which allowed him to serve, and then he says the same of those he is writing to by saying, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8).
One receives grace to in order to serve, and therefore he should have grace when serving. As you can see, and as stated above, the word can easily be connected to either “grace” or “thankfulness.” Either translation is acceptable.
From there, the author says we are to have this grace (or thankfulness) and to use it in a manner “by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” The word “acceptably” literally means, “well-pleasingly.” We are to serve in a well-pleasing manner in order for it to be received acceptably. And that is by giving God due reverence, meaning with circumspect behavior, and with a godly fear, meaning that we are to understand that our actions will be judged and will be either rewarded or burnt up.
We cannot presume that because we are doing good words in Jesus’ name that our conduct can be less than godly in the performance of those works. The two must be united to form a holy, acceptable offering to the Lord.
Life application: As difficult as it is to imagine, we – the fallible masses of Christendom – are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Imagine the bickering, divisiveness, petty argumentation, and out-right backstabbing that goes on in Christian circles. People fight over whether to stand or sit while praying. Congregations divide over which version of the Bible should be used. People point fingers at those who dress differently. The list goes on. And yet, despite all of this child-like behavior, we are promised a kingdom. Let us be thankful.
It is hard to imagine how it must look to the Creator when we disparage each other as we do in the name of “denominational purity.” And yet, we are promised a kingdom. Let us be thankful.
Despite ourselves – even despite ourselves – we are promised a kingdom. Let us be thankful.
And because we are promised such an unshakable kingdom, let us worship our Creator acceptably, and with reverence and godly fear. Reverence and godly fear, although often held by the entire congregation, is an individual decision. Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God. Then your service will be acceptable!
Almighty and glorious Creator, help us to focus on the proper form of service to You – in whatever manner we serve – with reverence and awe. As we serve, may our words bring you glory, may our actions bring you glory, and may our very lives bring you glory as we worship you – our great and majestic God. Amen.