Some notes on the exposition of Hebrews 10:32-33 from last Sunday morning's sermon at CRBC:
Hebrews 10:32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
Some people get obsessed with thinking about the past. They relive their “glory days” in high school or college. As someone has said, “The key to a good past is often a bad memory.” If there are unhealthy ways of thinking about the past, however, we must also that there can be healthy and positive ways to consider the past.
Our inspired author here calls upon the wayward Hebrew Christians to consider their previous experiences in the faith: “But call to remembrance the former days….” Sometimes it is good to look back and remember what you’ve experienced and to understand how you’ve developed.
One might think the author of Hebrews would have exhorted the Hebrews to think back on times of peace, joy, and tranquility in the faith. But that is not what he does. He calls upon them to think back to a time when they experienced hardship and persecution, which had come soon after the time when they learned about Christ (“were illuminated”).
We might think it would be the worst thing for a new Christian to experience hardship and persecution soon after his conversion, but God sometimes allows it in his wisdom for their good.
He describes their persecution in v. 32b by saying, “ye endured a great fight of affliction.” The word for fight here is athlesis, the root for the English words “athletic” or “athlete.” It refers to a grueling contest, competition, or struggle.
In v. 33 he adds that these afflictions came in two ways:
First, they came partly by being made a public spectacle (see v. 33a). The KJV uses the word “gazingstock.” The word here is a participle coming from the verb theatrizo. This is the only time this verb occurs in the NT. It literally means to bring onto the stage, but figuratively means to be made a spectacle or an object of shame. The related noun theatron is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians to describe the suffering of the apostles:
1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle [theatron] unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
There are numerous examples in history of Christians having been made “gazingstocks.”
One of our Particular Baptist forebears was Benjamin Keach (1640-1704). He was converted and baptized as a teenager. In 1664, when he was only 24 years old, he published an anonymous booklet titled “The Child’s Instructor” in which, among other things, he denied infant baptism. The booklet fell into the hands of an Anglican minister who discovered Keach was the author and brought charges of sedition against him. When Keach refused to renounce the teaching in the booklet he was imprisoned and ordered to be pilloried. To be pilloried was to be bound by the head and arms in something like stocks while a crowd was encouraged to throw items at the victim. One book says “the usual fare was vegetables, dead animals, and stones,” and many of the pilloried suffered “permanent damage” (Beeke and Pederson, Meet the Puritans, p. 387). Thankfully, in Keach’s case, the crowd that gathered was sympathetic and he was able to preach to them while bound. Still, the stand for Biblical truth meant the risk of being made a gazingstock.
When I was a missionary in Hungary, I heard many peers of my generation tell me of being singled out in their schools by teachers and administrators, during the communist times, because they or their parents were believers.
Second, they became companions [koinonoi] of other undergoing affliction (v. 33b). They did not desert brethren who were suffering for the faith (cf. Matthew 25:40; Acts 9:4).
May the Lord continue to preserve his faithful in this generation.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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