We who have been born from above must luxuriate long in this reality: That Christ is “not ashamed” to call us His “brethren.”
Self-consciousness and a sense of entitlement come with the Adamic territory. We are quite naturally given to what one of my mentors used to call “navel-gazing,” or to put it otherwise, making ourselves the center of all things. We feel it to be quite an innocent and even necessary thing to “take care of number one”, especially when we have yet to encounter the revelation of our depravity, the crisis of the Cross, and the holiness and power of the Atoning work of Jesus Christ.
The “Accuser of the Brethren” Contrasted With the One Who is Unashamed of the Brethren
The Gospel devastates my humanistic naivete and reveals that my heart is itself a “factory of idols” (Calvin). God’s own righteousness and mercy come cascading upon me, and I find myself moved to repentance, believing upon the Son, quickened to newness of life. In Paul’s apostolic vernacular, I become a “new creation.”
Yet and still, there lingers in my mind and heart the propensities that belong to creatures of the fall. If I am not making it my aim to “abide” in the Lord, I will lapse into a train of thought that is unbecoming of one who has been “seated with Christ in heavenly places.”
We need to recognize the need for “renewing” our minds, not merely in a Church service, but in the moment-by-moment matters of life, otherwise our own perceptions will fasten themselves to the “accuser of the brethren,” and our consciousness of the Atonement will be diminished. A casual profession of faith will not free us from the foray of distorted, unheavenly thoughts. It requires a wrestling against demonic pressure; a grappling against all of our carnal perceptions.
We need to pierce through the veil of the world in every context of life, and to look upon the crucified and exalted One. The one who refuses to “contend for the faith,” and who treats the Gospel as a religious preference or a superfluous detail of life, will never learn to live above the accusation of the enemy. It requires an earnestness and a faith that is every bit God-given, but not bestowed upon those who are “complacent in Zion,” unwilling to engage in holy conflict.
We need to be cognizant of the fact that the “accuser of the brethren” has not yet been cast down, and that the “principalities and powers of the air” are still in places of heavenly influence, ever seeking to blur and distort our vision of “Christ, and Him crucified.” If they can coax us into self-absorption, a sense of entitlement, or any posture of heart that issues from “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” they will have triumphed. There is indeed an “accuser of the brethren,” and we need to be able to say with Paul that we are “not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Cor. 2.11)
The Cross of Jesus Christ, which is the flashpoint of God’s self-disclosure in history, is the cure-all for every Adamic ill. Not only does it break “the power of cancelled sin” and “set the prisoner free,” as glorious as that is, but it brings us into vital communion with the One Whom Jesus called the “righteous Father.” This communion has its foundation in the fact that on the basis of the Atonement, “He is not ashamed to call” “those who are sanctified” “His brethren.” Hear Adolph Saphir on this:
As the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says, ‘Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to me;’ and as in the epistles of John, we are taught that we are of God, and the seed of God abideth in us. What a wonderful brotherhood is this, rooted in the mysterious election of eternal love! Christ, the only begotten of the Father, and we who by nature are children of wrath and disobedience, are eternally and indissolubly united with Him. Therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. As it is said also in the 22nd Psalm, in which the sufferings of Jesus upon the cross and His exaltation are described: ‘I will declare Thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto Thee.’ Notice how literally that was fulfilled; for it was immediately after His resurrection, and in reference to this Psalm, that Jesus said, ‘Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.’ The risen Saviour, as the first-born among many brethren, hastens to declare the name Father unto His disciples, and to assure them, that He who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are both of one.
…Is not His atonement upon Golgotha most glorious in the sight of God? It is Jesus Who is our representative and spokesman.
(Adolph Saphir, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Exposition, Vol. 1, pp. 146-7; Chicago, IL, 1902)
Oh, dear saint, is “not His atonement upon Golgotha most glorious in the sight of God?” “Where are your accusers?” What is your petty self-assessment? Are you buckling under the weight of another man’s opinion (or your own heady self-evaluations), as if they coincide with the “testimony of Jesus”? If you are in Christ; if you are walking “in the light”; if you would “rather endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,” you have been set apart unto Him, and He is not shamefaced with regard to His identification with you.
End now the suffocating cycle of seeking a name among men. End now the comparing of your own life with others. End now the envy and all other inward contentions. Be done with the “sin which so easily entangles” your heart. Lift your soul heavenward, and behold Him! “Bask in His beams,” as McCheyne once charged his people. Consider! The Lord of Glory Himself is not ashamed to call you His brother. Oh, dear saint, let not this truth elude your heart. He calls you His own, and He is enough.