Looking Unto Jesus (The Longer Version)

Written by Larry M. Jaynes:

Hebrews 12:1-2:
-1: WHEREFORE seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
-2: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is {now} set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The great cloud of witnesses is the Old Testament believers talked about in Hebrews chapter 11. The witness of these believers was their faith, their positive believing faith and inner hope and conviction in the coming of Jesus Christ which even today is recognized when reading the Bible. In retrospect, from the Old Testament Scriptures, we today are still compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses who left us vividly written examples about how they looked to Jesus in their time, to inspire the people of this current age of grace to reach forward to Jesus.

The race that is set before us is to look to Jesus just like the Old Testament believers practiced. Their past examples encourage us to daily look to Jesus, for in him and with him is continued access to God our heavenly Father and His merciful grace. Jesus taught that when we pray, we are to offer our prayers up to God in the name of Jesus Christ (John 14:13-14). This further helps us place him at the forefront of our daily thinking, just as we are always in his daily thoughts, and through our prayers he is in ours.

Today we can look to Jesus Christ and rely on his believing faith, knowing that he is the author and finisher of our own believing faith. The word author means princely leader, the first and foremost. The word finisher means to bring to full maturity, to the completion of where our believing faith will ultimately take us – to God – to eternity. Thus, the author and finisher of our believing faith is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega, infusing his own believing faith to enhance our personal believing faith in him who gave his all in all for you and me. Jesus is the finisher, completing and perfecting our believing faith which enables us to believe in God, through believing His Word.

Ephesians 2:8 records, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that {faith is} not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” This verse is not referring to a man or woman’s personal faith, and is why the Epistle says, that not of yourselves, but rather it is the gift of God. Then, to what faith is God referring? He is referring to the faith of Jesus Christ; this is our gift to begin enjoying our Christian life on the Path of Righteousness.

The main difference between man’s faith and the faith of Jesus is that human faith can only rise up to believe in that which is seen. In stark contrast, the faith of Jesus Christ is given so men and women can rise all the way up to believe in that which is not physically seen, yet is spiritually real ― such as salvation.

In truth, man needs Jesus to fulfill his own faith, as we read in Hebrews 12:2 “Jesus {is} the author and finisher of our faith.” Having Jesus’ own faith, we become enabled to perceive the spiritual realities of God. Christ’s faith is given to every believer at the moment of salvation, for “God hath dealt to every man {every believer} the measure of faith (Romans 12:3).

We can genuinely and honestly receive the actual gift of God, which is our salvation, without any works on our part because of the faith salvation imparts. Another reason why Ephesians 2:8 reads, and that not of yourselves is because we did nothing whatsoever to earn salvation, nor can we do anything to lose our salvation ― that is why it is such a precious gift. Salvation is something God through Christ made available to us and is freely given. God’s grace, His divine favor of love, is manifested to us through His gift of salvation.

With Jesus’ own faith, he literally becomes our spiritual window to the Creator; that is certainly much greater than going it alone, with so-called “blind faith.” Jesus’ own faith helps us perceive God in the genuine light that His Word reflects. Rather than God remaining an unknown entity or enigma Who is out there someplace just out of our reach, Christ and his faith helps those who are trying to find their way to the Creator Who dwells through all eternity.

We all receive gifts at certain times of the year, on our birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions. Yet of all the gifts we have ever received, nothing will be as everlasting as the gift of God. The gift of God is our salvation, given freely on account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

A gift is never worked for, earned, or even necessarily deserved. Gifts are simply given to bless and make one happy. Many of the gifts that we have received as early as last year are already gone, used up, or spent, but the gift of God is eternal. God’s gift is given to men and women by His divine grace, which is unmerited and unearned, yet eternally present, and we can gratefully accept it and daily appreciate its fulfillment.

Ephesians 2:9:
{And this gift is given} Not of works, lest any man should boast.

In the sight of God, no one is more saved than another for we believed unto God’s own righteousness (Romans 10:9-10), which gives complete salvation along with total access into His grace and family (Romans 5:2, and Ephesians 2:19). If salvation could be obtained by works, then logic commands that one could give more or pray more or be a better citizen or Christian than his neighbor is, and he could boast on the works performed, thinking this would give him an edge toward his salvation.

However, if works were the way to get into heaven, then God’s grace (freely given) would become totally worthless and most of us would never make it on through to heaven.

Thankfully, salvation is not based on our works, but as the Scriptures reveal, salvation is by God’s grace because Christ has already done the work and paid the full price in order that we may sincerely believe to receive. We receive our salvation on account of a friend, on our friend, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

This is the friend we read about in Proverbs “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), and he indeed laid down his life for each and every one of us. I do believe that if you or I were the only person to believe, then this close friend would still have laid down his life so that you or I my walk on the Path of Righteousness with our Savior!

Indispensable completeness of our believing faith is what we may expect to receive by simply looking unto Jesus, rather than only looking to our own abilities (or lack thereof), or our own strength (or lack thereof), in the hopes of receiving spirituality and blessings from God. With the believing faith of Christ, men and women truly have avenues into an abundance of promises recorded in God’s Word.

When studying, for instance, the life of King David from the Books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, or from the Psalms, we find how he looked forward to the coming of his Redeemer, and we can aspire to his examples. We can read about David who was just a man, a man who tried to walk with God to the best of his abilities.

We can also see how David failed when he did not look to Jesus, but more important is that we can see him succeed whenever he was looking ahead to the Savior, the hope of his life. When and where David looked to Jesus, David had believing in God’s Word, and then he became a great recorded witness for us to still read about centuries later.

King David also wrote about the hope of Christ’s coming throughout the Book of Psalms. When teaching about the resurrection of Christ on the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts chapter 2, the Apostle Peter refers back to David as a witness of Christ. Peter says of David that he always had Jesus Christ in the forefront of his thinking and writing as a great example for Peter and all believers.

Acts 2:25-26:
-25: For David speaketh concerning him {recorded in the 16th Psalm}, I foresaw the Lord {Jesus Christ} always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
-26: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

What gave David this inner joy, continued hope, and a glad tongue was having a personal understanding of his Lord and Savior, inspiring David to speak and write of him, being moved by God’s inspiration (II Peter 1:21).

The Old Testament Scriptures continue giving us joy, hope, and a glad tongue, the same joys that David and Peter knew when reading or speaking the Word of God because they knew Christ’s heart and had placed their allegiance, fidelity, and future hope in him. Peter uses the witness of David to introduce Christ who is our entrance into God’s family.

Acts 4:11-12:
-11: This {Jesus Christ} is the stone which was set at nought {rejected} of you builders {Peter is addressing Israel}, which {or rather who, Jesus} is become the head of the corner {of the spiritual church and family of God}.
-12: Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Jesus took our sins and shortcomings to his cross in order to present you and me to God as those who are now saved. When we look to Jesus with a believing heart in expectation to receive, we will find the true spiritual presence and presents that God gives.

God now sets this daily joy before us at the table of life, and all the Word requests is for us to believe to receive, and it is our joy to enjoy by looking to Jesus, our friend, the author and finisher of our faith.

Looking Unto Jesus (The Shorter Version)

Written by Larry M. Jaynes:

Hebrews 12:1 – WHEREFORE seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

The “great cloud of witnesses” are the Old Testament believers talked about in Hebrews chapter 11. The witness of these believers was their faith, their positive believing faith in the coming of Jesus Christ that even today can be seen throughout the Bible. When studying the life of David for instance, we can see how he looked forward to the coming of his Redeemer, his Lord and Savior. We can discover the struggle he had against his sin nature to walk uprightly before his God and his human weakness in being just a man who tried to walk with God to the best of his abilities. We can see how David failed when he did not look to Jesus, but more important is that we can see him succeed whenever he believed God’s Word. These believers from the Old Testament were witnesses leaving us vivid examples of how to look to Jesus as they themselves did. “The race that is set before us” is to look to the finish line, it is to look to Jesus, for in him and with him is our continued access to God our heavenly Father, His grace, and His praise.

Hebrews 12:2 – Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is {now} set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Amplified Bible* reads Hebrews 12:2 as: “Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its {believing faith’s} Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Today we can look to Jesus Christ and rely on his faith, his believing faith and receive his assurance that he is for us the author and finisher of our own believing faith. The word “author” means princely leader, the first and foremost. The word “finisher” means to bring to full maturity, to the complete end. Thus, the author and finisher of our believing faith is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is first and the last, the alpha and omega, the author and giver of our desire to have his believing faith in our lives; he is the first and the last, completing and perfecting our own believing faith. This is what we may expect to receive by “looking unto Jesus” rather than looking to our own abilities or our own strength.

Acts 4:11-12:
-11:  This {Jesus Christ} is the stone which was set at nought {rejected} of you builders, which is become the head of the corner {of the spiritual Church and family of God Himself}.
-12:  Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Today we have the blessed privilege to accept within our own heart the believing faith of Jesus Christ, who has been completely perfected in us through his believing actions that he took to his cross for us. We can believe on him and rely on his strength, as we continue “looking unto Jesus” throughout the revealed Word and will of God. When we look to Jesus, we will find the true spiritual presence and presents that God gives; this is the daily joy that He now sets before us.

* Scripture taken from THE AMPLIFIED BIBLE. The Amplified New Testament copyright (c) 1958, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation.
Used by permission.

The LORD Is My Helper

Written by Larry M. Jaynes:

In the Book of II Kings, there is the story of Ben-hadad, the King of Syria, who wanted to get rid of the Prophet and man of God, Elisha, because he spoke against the king. Elisha even went so far as pointing out what the king spoke in the privacy of his bedchamber (II Kings 6:8-12).

The king sent spies throughout the land to locate the man of God so Ben-hadad could have him executed. When the spies returned, Ben-hadad found out that Elisha was residing in Dothan, which is approximately forty-five miles north of Jerusalem, near the Mount of Gilban. Ben-hadad sent his army out to go and fetch Elisha in the middle of the night, prefiguring Jesus’ arrest also at night (John 18:3 ff).

Let us follow the story along and see how the LORD, Jehovah helped Elisha out of this current danger:

II Kings 6:14-18:
-14: Therefore sent he {Ben-hadad} thither horses, and chariots, and a great host {a very large army}: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
-15: And when the servant of the man of God {Elisha’s servant or understudy} was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
-16: And he {Elisha} answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
-17: And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD {Jehovah}, I pray thee {kill all my   enemies! No he did not; perhaps there is a lesson here; See Romans 12:14-21}, open his eyes {Elisha’s servant}, that he may see. And the LORD {Jehovah} opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
-18: And when they {the great host of the enemy} came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD {Jehovah}, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

Wow, this is quite a wonderful story! Yet it is only one of hundreds, which are written to inspire our hearts to also look unto our heavenly Father and His strength, for He is always with us. So, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. “For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6). It should be noted that the blindness and disorientation of the enemy army was short-lived, and they even received a free meal out of the deal (II Kings 6:21-23).

The story continues:

II Kings 6:19-20:
-19: And Elisha said unto them {the enemy army that came to get him}, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria {right into their enemy’s camp}.
-20: And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD {Jehovah}, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD {Jehovah} opened their eyes, and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.

Imagine the puzzled looks on the faces of the Syrian army as they found themselves in the predicament of being in Samaria, and seeing that they were surrounded not by horses and chariots of fire, but by their sworn enemies.

As this story is in the Bible, we must also look for him who is the subject of Scripture, Jesus Christ. Elisha was a Prophet and foreshadowed Christ, just as each and every Prophet in the Old Testament had done. At every point in the Scriptures we can find revealed features of Christ, and as well, every event in the Bible reflects Jesus’ ministry.

Elisha became the Prophet of the LORD, after the Prophet Elijah. (Elijah in the New Testament is spelled Elias ― Elias is the Greek form of the Hebrew word for Elijah.) Similar to the relationship between Elijah and Elisha, Jesus superseded John the Baptist, as we in grace have been baptized into Christ, and in the holy spirit (Acts 1:5).

I always remember which of the two Prophets came first by the spelling of their names. The first prophet’s name starts with the letters Elij, while the second name begins with the letters Elis, and “j” in Elijah comes before the “s” in Elisha. This may help you keep them separated when reading for understanding and enjoyment.

Elisha was anointed with a double portion of the same spirit of God that Elijah had upon him (II Kings 2:9), in the Old Testament the prophets received certain measures (or amounts) of the spirit, and Elisha with a double measure performed double the miracles of Elijah being twice as powerful (See below). Elisha was a precursor to Jesus who received the spirit without measure (John 3:34) at the time of his baptism (Matthew 3:16-17). Correspondingly, in the Gospels, John the Baptist said, “He {Jesus} must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), and he did, and Jesus did, as Elisha doubly increased after Elijah. Whether we are studying Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, or any of the other prophets in the Bible, they always add something uniquely special that focuses on the life of Jesus, giving us more insight about his life.

The LORD Jehovah answered Elisha’s prayers, as witnessed in the story above, and when Jesus prayed to Jehovah, he said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:41-42).

As Elijah and Elisha were prophets of God and foreshadowed Jesus, John the Baptist was also a prophet (Mark 11:32), and foreshadowed Jesus the Prophet (Matthew 21:11). Elijah was a living forerunner to Elisha; John was a living forerunner to Jesus, and (ta-da!) Jesus is a living “forerunner” (to God) for us ― us who become the endeared children of God. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil {to God’s heavenly home}; Whither {where} the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

Matthew 17:12-13:
-12: But I say unto you, That Elias {Elijah} is come already {See Malachi 3:4, 4:5-6}, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed {pleased}. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
-13: Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

Jesus uses Elias (Elijah) as an example to explain John the Baptist as his forerunner, in the same manner as we have shown you the relationship of Elijah to Elisha or John to Jesus. John was an Old Testament Prophet (not a New Testament Prophet), as Jesus said, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until {or to include} John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias {Elijah}, which was for to come” (Matthew 11:13-14), for John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, and witnessed to Israel about the Messiah, and this he did. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him {the Son of God} might believe” (John 1:6-7). As John fulfilled his ministry, we receive “it” i.e., we received the understanding that John foreshadowed Jesus’ ministry as Elijah had done.

Today in Christ, we were, “Buried with him {Jesus} in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12, also See Romans 6:4, I Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 4:5).

The eight miracles of Elijah and the sixteen miracles of Elisha are briefly noted below. The student of the Word is welcomed to look at them in much more detail at leisure, all prefiguring the miraculous life Jesus would display for humanity in the Gospel age.

Elijah’s miracles:

  1. The closing off of Heaven’s rain – I kings 17:1
  2. Food and oil multiplied – I kings 17:14
  3. The widow’s son raised – I kings 17:22-23
  4. Fire from Heaven – I Kings 18:38
  5. Rain from Heaven – I Kings 18:45
  6. The fire of Heaven on fifty-one – II Kings 1:10
  7. The fire of Heaven on fifty-one (more) – II Kings 1:12
  8. Parted the Jordan river – II Kings 1:12

Elisha’s miracles:

  1.  Parted the Jordan river – II Kings 2:14
  2.  The healing of the water – II Kings 2:21
  3.  Bears out of wood – II Kings 2:24
  4.  Provided water for kings – II Kings 3:20
  5.  Provided oil for the widow – II Kings 4:1-6
  6.  The gift of a son – II Kings 4:16-17
  7.  Raised a child from the dead – II Kings 4:35
  8.  Healing of pottage – II Kings 4:39-41
  9.  Multiplying of bread – II Kings 4:43-44
  10. King Naaman’s leprosy healed – II Kings 5:10-14
  11. The betrayer Gehazi smitten – II Kings 5:27
  12. Caused an iron ax-head to float on the water – II Kings 6:6
  13. From spiritual blindness to spiritual sight – II Kings 6:17
  14. Causing blindness – II Kings 6:18
  15. Restoring sight – II Kings 6:20
  16. Elisha raises the dead after Elisha himself died – II Kings 13:21

Number 16 reminds me of Samson, “So the dead which he {Samson} slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life,”― Judges 16:30, and those in Christ, all shall live.

Elisha gave physical life to one person after his death (See number 16 above). Jesus died to give life to the entire world and so that we could have eternal life because “by the grace of God {Jesus} should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).

Both Elijah and Elisha had parted the Jordan River for they had the LORD God, Who was their helper, and the purpose for parting the river is actually quite a simple one, they did this to get the other side ― end of story. Jesus had done some similar things in his life, such as stilling a hurricane upon the sea, and walking on water, and passing through the heavens (Ephesians 4:10, Hebrews 4:14), as he parted the spiritual way for all believers to follow. He also left us examples to follow his believing so we could live in miraculous ways.

The Crown Incorruptible

Written by Larry M. Jaynes:

II Kings 11:12a – And he brought forth the king’s son {Joash} and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; . . .

At Joash’s coronation as king, he received first his crown, secondly they gave to him the testimony, which was the Word of God; this was to be his standard and rule of practice in ruling his kingdom. They also anointed him.  The anointing set him apart as the king and established him as God’s servant and leader for the people.

Today in God’s grace we, His children, believe in the future crowns that we may receive from God when Christ returns for us. We are anointed today with holy spirit by God Himself (II Corinthians 1:21-22), and we have God’s Word as our standard to believe in and enjoy as we serve one another with the love of God. With God’s Word we can discover His guidelines on how to receive the crowns that will be given to believers who live in God’s love and grace.

II Timothy 2:5 – And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

“Strive for the masteries” literally means to contend or compete in the games.  These games were common to the believers in the first century and were known as the Olympic games. Paul is teaching that when we look forward to the spiritual goal of Christ returning for us, that we must compete lawfully by the rules. The rules are recorded in God’s Word. We are saved for eternity, yet there is more to be received if we follow the guidelines recorded in Scripture, and the underlying principle to everything recorded in God’s Word is always to walk in love.

As we apply and enjoy God’s love we will literally stay in bounds.  When Christ does return, we will indeed receive the prize and be crowned, “I press toward the mark {the finish line} for the prize {the crown} of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Each believer can receive the crowns now offered by God, the crown incorruptible is eternal, and will be “reserved in heaven” (I Peter 1:4).

I Corinthians 9:24-26:
-24: Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but {only} one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
-25: And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they {in a physical race} do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we {in a spiritual race} an incorruptible {crown}
-26: I therefore so run, not as uncertainly {because we know that we can win}; so fight {box} I, not as one that beateth the air {one who shadowboxes}:

Noting that God uses so many metaphors of competition about receiving our crowns is interesting. In a physical race one must stay in bounds, and one must be “temperate in all things.” Temperate means to have self-control in all things. In the Greek Olympics only one received the prize and only one received a crown of olive leaves, but in God’s Word all believers who strive to follow His healing Word will receive the “crown incorruptible.”

The crown incorruptible is for believers who practice self-control over life’s circumstances and walk within the bounds of God’s wonderful Word. Whenever we walk (conduct our lives) according to Scripture, then, we are more than conquerors. When we walk in love and believe the Scriptures we are literally hitting the mark rather than simply shadowboxing against the forces of evil.

Hebrews 12:1-2a
-1: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses {recorded examples of believers who believe in Hebrews chapter 11}, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us {that can knock us out of bounds}, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
-2a: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; . . .

When we keep our eyes on the goal of the coming of Christ Jesus and look to him through the Scriptures we can “run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Running with patience is like getting a second wind (an ease) which believers receive as they continue “striving lawfully.”

Then at the finish line we will receive the crown incorruptible for having patience and self-control in our own lives. Jesus as our “author and finisher of our faith” has already won, we only need to follow his lead by living in the love of God to achieve and receive the crown incorruptible.

To be continued in The Crown of Glory