Sunday, 5 May 2019
For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:29
This verse is often quoted in relation to God’s judgment on sinners who will be consumed before Him. And, it is true that this is the case. Vincent’s Word Studies explains this verse as –
“He is the God of both covenants (see Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2, and notes); but though now revealed in Jesus Christ, and offering all the privileges of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:22-24), his anger burns against those who reject these privileges.”
The verse is a quote from Deuteronomy 4:24 –
“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
Understanding this, and knowing that the same God is revealed in both covenants, it doesn’t mean that this is a reference to unbelievers. Rather, the previous verse said –
“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.”
The author there is clearly speaking of saved believers, not unbelievers. And yet, as saved believers, we must “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. The reason for this isn’t because we might lose our salvation and be cast into the fires of hell, but because we will stand before Christ Jesus and we will be judged by Him for reward and loss. This is found first in 2 Corinthians 3:11-15 –
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
And then again, in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 we read this –
“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”
It is this fire which consumes which the author is here referring to. It is not one of judgment leading to condemnation, but one of judgment leading to final purification. All that which is of passing value will be burned away. What is left is what we shall be for all eternity.
Life application: In the quote from Paul, he gave two types of foundations – one built on something which can withstand fire and one which can’t. Gold, silver, and costly stones can all withstand fire and are purified from impurities when heated, but wood, hay, and straw are all easily burned up. The question for each of us then is, “What type of eternal foundation am I laying?” If we are spending our Christian lives living marginally for the Lord and entertaining the world, our deeds will be burned up. If we are living our lives for His glory and to His good ends, then what we do will be refined and found useful in our eternal home. Think now on the things of God and live for him lest your deeds be consumed, rather than purified in His refining fire.
Truly Lord, You leave the choice up to us – will we receive a thimble, a cup, a bucket, or a drum full of Your blessings when we stand before You? May our deeds be pleasing in Your sight, and may our lives not be wasted in the temporary when the eternal is our true home. Teach us to live our days rightly. Amen.