Hard Sayings

Text: Hebrews 5:5-14


I.         There are hard sayings in the Bible

            A.        When Jesus was followed by a crowd looking for free food, he began explaining that they needed to seek spiritual food that only he could offer - John 6:35

                        1.         Eventually Jesus said something hard to understand - John 6:53-58

                        2.         Jesus’ own disciples decided this was too hard to hear - John 6:50

            B.        In discussing Jesus’ priesthood, the writer of Hebrews makes a parallel to Melchizedek - Hebrews 5:9-10

                        1.         But he then stops to express his frustration in trying to explain this to his audience - Hebrews 5:11

            C.        Peter notes that Paul is sometimes misunderstood - II Peter 3:15-16

II.        Some teachings can be hard

            A.        Some teachings are deep. It takes greater spiritual maturity to unravel the truths being taught.

                        1.         In the introductory three examples, the audience struggled because of their lack of growth in spiritual knowledge.

            B.        Some teachings are difficult because of the context

                        1.         Mark 16:16 is straightforward as it is in a narrative of Jesus’ life

                        2.         Revelation 13:16 is hard because it is in an account filled with symbolic language

III.       Sometimes the language itself can be hard

            A.        Idioms can make it difficult

                        1.         All languages have expressions that mean something different from what is said

                        2.         Luke 16:22 - How Lazarus staying in Abraham’s bosom?

                                    a.         Isaiah 40:11 - A shepherd carries a lamb in his bosom

                                                (1)       It expresses tenderness and a place of safety

                                    b.         John 1:18 - Jesus is in the bosom of God. He is well-acquainted with the Father

                                    c.         John 13:23 - John reclined in Jesus’ bosom. He had a close relationship with Jesus and it was an honor to be that close.

                                    d.         Thus, when Lazarus died, he went to a place of safety and honor

            B.        Translating nuances

                        1.         It is often difficult to bring clear meaning when translating from one language to another

                        2.         Ephesians 3:8-12 - What is “the unsearchable riches of Christ” or “the unfathomable riches of Christ”?

                                    a.         One person ask, can’t we read the Bible and learn of Christ?

                                    b.         "Unsearchable" in these passages does not mean "unable to be examined."

                                    c.         Rather it is in the sense of mapping out a territory.

                                    d.         God is so infinite and the things that He does is so vast that we are unable to completely map out all that He has done and plans to accomplish.

                                    e.         In the Greek, the word is anexichniastos, which means unable to track or unable to map.

                                    f.         The phrase in Ephesians 3:8 speaks of the Jesus' saving of mankind. God has revealed through the church and the teachings of Paul and the other apostles His eternal purpose of saving man through Jesus Christ.

                                    g.         Yet who among us can say that we fully and completely grasp the extent of God's plans or all the things He did to accomplish this goal or all the reasons why certain actions were done or even exactly how Jesus is able to save us by his death?

                                    h.         We can discuss just this one subject to the end of time and not cover all the possibilities or the reasons.

                                    i.         We know what God has revealed to us and we see hints of vast things happening behind the scenes, but we aren't able to map all of it out.

                                    j.         We admire and praise the wonder that Jesus should come and save us, but still we realize that what he did for us is beyond human understanding.

                        3.         I Timothy 1:20 - Why would Paul give anyone to Satan?

                                    a.         The word “delivered” translates the Greek word, paradidomi, which literally means a betrayal or a surrender.

                                                (1)       It means that Paul is acknowledging his failure to keep these two brothers out of sin.

                                                (2)       It is a public statement that we lost a brother to Satan, so we are letting go in hopes that the misery that will result will teach the person not to willfully disobey God.

                                    b.         The same word is found when Paul commanded that a fornicator be removed from the membership in Corinth - I Corinthians 5:4-5

                                    c.         What is interesting is that this same word is used when a person is cast into prison (Matthew 4:12).

                                                (1)       That is how Christians view it. They are free from sin - Romans 6:7

                                                (2)       But when a Christian returns to sin he is also returning to bondage or imprisonment - Romans 6:16

                                                (3)       Thus Satan is looked upon as a jailer and the person who refuses to stay out of Satan's realm is released to fall back under Satan's control.

                                                (4)       But it is done in hope that the person will realize what they lost and return; that he will destroy his fleshly desires so he might be saved.

            C.        Dealing with figurative language

                        1.         Some passages are hard because readers don’t always recognize when figurative language is being used

                                    a.         Such was the case in John 6:51-52

                                    b.         The audience did not recognize that Jesus was using figurative speech

                        2.         How do you recognize figurative speech?

                                    a.         If the literal meaning results in an absurdity or a conflict

                                    b.         Jesus used the present tense in John 6:54; yet, the audience was not presently gnawing on Jesus. Therefore, it is a figurative statement

                                    c.         The Bible also forbids the drinking of blood - Acts 15:20

                                    d.         Contextually, Jesus is talking about being taught - John 6:45,63

                                    e.         Matthew 5:6 - Hungering and thirsting for righteousness

                                    f.         Jesus is talking about fully learning from him

IV.      Sometimes the message is hard to accept.

            A.        The sinful world too often misjudges the perfect Creator. We don’t understand the holiness of the Most High.

            B.        When the Israelites entered Canaan, they were to utterly destroy those who lived there – including women and children

                        1.         When Israel defeated Sihon - Deuteronomy 2:32-34

                        2.         When Israel conquered Jericho - Joshua 6:20-21

                        3.         When Saul was sent against the Amalekites - I Samuel 15:3

            C.        Why?

                        1.         God owns the universe

                                    a.         Ezekiel 18:4 - We all belong to God

                                    b.         Death exists because man violated God’s command and let death in with his sin - Genesis 2:17

                        2.         They were utterly immoral - Deuteronomy 9:4-5

                                    a.         God did not allow Israel to move in until the people became too wicked - Genesis 15:16

                                    b.         They were involved in child sacrifices - II Kings 16:3

                                    c.         Homosexuality - I Kings 14:24

                                    d.         Religious prostitution with Baal and Asherah worship - Judges 2:11-13

                                    e.         They were not good people - Leviticus 18:20-25

                        3.         God had given these people centuries to repent

                                    a.         Even with these nations, God gave them the opportunity to flee - Deuteronomy 4:37-38

                                    b.         A reason for their destruction was their refusal to take the loss of their land as punishment for their sins.

                        4.         It wasn’t wholesale slaughter. For instance, even after Saul wiped out the Amalekites, there were still other Amalekites - I Samuel 27:8

                                    a.         In fact, in a sense of irony. Saul failed to kill the king of the Amalekites and it was an Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul - II Samuel 1:8

                                    b.         Some chose to change, like Rahab - Joshua 2:8-13

                        5.         The innocent sometimes suffer because of the sins of others

                                    a.         What about the children, could they not be saved?

                                                (1)       If only the adults and older children who already were learning the evil were destroyed, who would care for the children?

                                                (2)       Which is a crueler death, instant death by the sword or starvation?

                                                (3)       If the Israelites took the children in, then they would be profiting from the evil – extra hands on farms, or perhaps slaves

                                                (4)       It was important for all to see that this destruction was not for Israel’s benefit; it was because of the Canaanites’ sins.

                                    b.         Consider the world before the flood - Genesis 6:5-6

                                                (1)       God destruction of the world was not arbitrary or done in a fit of rage.

                                                (2)       As bad as mankind became, God gave them 120 years to change - Genesis 6:3

                                                (3)       Noah preached to change the world - II Peter 2:4-9

                                                (4)       People were offered salvation. They did not have to die.

                                                (5)       Why did children die in the flood? Because their evil parents did not believe God.

                                    c.         Despite the parents’ bad choices, God doesn’t hold those choices against the children. They will have eternal life despite their parents’ sins.

            D.        Yes, justice is sometimes hard, but we should see the necessity when there is no other solution

                        1.         We need to keep in mind that these destructions were relatively rare

            E.        Some Pharisees tried to test Jesus on the topic of divorcing - Matthew 19:3

                        1.         Apparently the rules for ending a marriage were fairly relaxed under Jewish law

                        2.         Jesus pointed out that their focus was wrong. They were focused on ending marriages instead of making them last as God intended - Matthew 19:4-6

                        3.         But when pressed, Jesus stated that unless a marriage ended on the basis of fornication, then marrying again was to live in the state of adultery - Matthew 19:9

                        4.         The disciples were stun by the strictness expressed - Matthew 19:10

                        5.         Jesus pointed out that not everyone will receive this message - Matthew 19:11

                        6.         Married life is demanding and if a person cannot accept the restrictions then he is to remain celibate, which the word “eunuch” symbolizes - Matthew 19:12

                        7.         Why can’t men and women drift in and out of multiple marriages as they desire?

                                    a.         Marriage is an intimate relationship. In marriage a person can be emotionally vulnerable. When unions are treated casually, it causes emotional trauma.

                                    b.         Children need to grow up in a stable family. A strict marriage code protects the little ones.

                                    c.         The family is the foundation of society. More crime occurs in areas of higher broken families. A stable family, stabilizes society and allows the gospel to be spread with less hindrances.

                        8.         It isn’t hard, after reflection, to realize that “hard” marriage regulation makes sense

            F.        Few will be saved - Matthew 7:13-14

                        1.         Many will want to enter, but won’t be able to do so - Luke 13:24

                                    a.         That means there are going to be people I know who won’t make it to heaven!

                        2.         The entire human race has sinned - Romans 3:23

                                    a.         We are all under condemnation - Romans 3:19

                        3.         It is only by God’s grace that we are saved - Ephesians 2:1-9

                                    a.         Though we did not deserve it, Christ died to give everyone the chance to be saved - I Timothy 2:3-6

                                                (1)       Only those willing are saved - John 5:39-40

                                                (2)       But the way is available - Revelation 22:17

                                    b.         Thus, the truth is that most don’t want fellowship with God

                                                (1)       The Jews rejection of Christ - Luke 19:14

                                                (2)       Even followers of Christ left - John 6:66

                                                (3)       God doesn’t force His grace on people

                        4.         While the number, compared to all of mankind is few, the number who will be saved is quite large - Isaiah 2:2-3; Revelation 7:9

                        5.         There are millions of souls across the centuries and around the world who have responded to God’s invitation that we have no personal knowledge of. But God does know - II Timothy 2:19

                        6.         Some may claim that people don’t universally have access to the Gospel; yet, such a claim is hard to prove.

                                    a.         Those who hunger for righteous will be satisfied - Matthew 5:6

                                    b.         God has, through His providence, brought the gospel to people

                        7.         It is not God who prevents people from being saved. It is merely an acknowledgment that few want salvation.

V.        Are you going to be one that lets the difficult parts of the Bible prevent you from responding?

Based on “Hard Sayings in the Bible” by Wayne Jackson

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