|Volume 18 Number 10 October 2016||
In affirming the great salvation that is in Christ, the writer of the Book of Hebrews attested to its authority and validity by reminding his readers, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4).
Here we have four different terms used to describe God’s confirmation that Scripture is His infallible Word. The first term, “sign,” refers to “a sign by which something is designated or distinguished, a token or proof, a sign by which the divine power in majesty is made known; thus a supernatural event by which the power and presence of God is manifested, either directly or through the agency of those whom He sends” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament).
The second term, “wonder,” is closely associated with the word sign, and does not refer to a different type of miracle, as much as to how it is perceived. Due to its extraordinary character, it is apt to be observed and kept in the memory. It is a miracle regarded as startling, imposing or amazing.
The third term, translated “miracle,” comes from the word for “power.” While it can refer to human strength, here it is rightly translated as miracle as it reveals the divine source for the working of miracles, the authority by which such power was given. Paul speaks of this in Romans 15:18-19. “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
The last phrase, “gifts of the Holy Ghost,” uses the word “gift” and refers to the distribution of these miraculous abilities; God through the agency of the Holy Ghost gave them to each whom He chose according to His own will. Paul spoke of the miraculous power some had in the church at Corinth, “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:11).
The point of this terminology, taken together, is to distinguish a miracle from anything a human being can do separate and apart from God merely through one’s natural ability. They are also distinguished from what God provides through His providence, meaning through the laws of nature that He established for creation through which the world functions. Miracles clearly and unmistakably reveal the power of God at work in the lives of men. The Hebrew writer revealed that this had to do with confirming the message of the Gospel to show it was not of human origin, but instead, it was from God through the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
A miracle, then, is a supernatural event by which the power and presence of God is manifested. By its very nature, it arrests one’s attention, something to be kept in memory. Its source can be none other than God, given through the agency of the Holy Ghost. The purpose of miracles was to show clearly and unmistakably that Scripture is the Word of God, and as such, should be heard, obeyed and lived. This is what the apostles preached and confirmed. “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:20). Scripture still possesses this ability to confirm and convict, to offer life and eternity, if we will listen and obey. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Father, Into Thy Hands
I Commend My Spirit
Have you ever been with someone when that person breathed his or her last breath? Oh, how we cling to the last words spoken before death. Have you ever wondered what Jesus said just before He died upon the cross? “And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46).
“Into thy hand I commend my spirit” are the words of Psalm 31:5. Jesus was thoroughly familiar with Scriptures, and He had quoted them often throughout His preaching ministry. Now, even at the point of death, He quoted once again. What an example! He died with Scripture on His lips.
Many claim to love God and purport to love His Word. However, few really seem to feast daily upon the Holy Bible. How fitting it would be for you and for me to die with Scripture upon our tongues.
It is also significant that with His dying breath, Jesus called God, His “Father.” He had called Him “Father” so many times before. The Jews did not accept the implication of His usage. On one occasion, they sought to kill Him, because He “called God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Those jealous men knew there were only two possibilities to explain what Christ had spoken. Either Jesus was on a level with God, or He spoke blasphemy. They never even considered the possibility that this poor man raised near Galilee could be God in the flesh, so they charged Him with blasphemy. In reality, Jesus actually was “Immanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Our Lord’s dying words also indicate His trust in the Heavenly Father. The word “commend” here means “to present; as one who would make a deposit.” He was entrusting His spirit to the Father’s safekeeping. Similarly, when Paul was facing death (2 Timothy 4:6), he wrote, “I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Once Jesus had spoken His last words, he “yielded up his spirit” (Matthew 27:50). Just as had been predicted, “he poured out his soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12). “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)!