Danny E. Olinger
The book of Hebrews teaches that the new covenant brings that which is heavenly and abiding, and, consequently, "better." That which is better includes "a better hope" (7:19), "a better covenant" (7:22), "better promises" (8:6), "better sacrifices" (9:23), "a better country" (11:16), "a better life" (11:35), and "better" provision (11:40).
Believers also have "a better possession" (10:34) in Jesus Christ, which is the theme of the 2006 Thank Offering. Joined to Jesus Christ in faith, we have in him a better possession than any earthly possession, which passes away.
Some of those to whom the author writes in Hebrews 10 were arrested for their faith, while others suffered the loss of their possessions when they showed public sympathy for the brethren. But the encouragement to them from the writer to the Hebrews is that they retained the better possession, that is, heavenly life with Jesus Christ. This knowledge enabled those believers to endure suffering for the sake of Christ. After the seizure of their property, they possessed little or nothing, but these believers were not despondent. Rather, they were joyful, for they understood by faith that they possessed everything of lasting value in having the "better possession."
Content with God's gift of the better possession, they were not swallowed up by bitterness, even when that which they rightfully owned was wickedly seized. They were free from the love of money, being content with what God had given to them and holding fast to his promise that he would never leave nor forsake them (Heb. 13:5). They knew that there was nothing more valuable in this life than to dwell in God's presence. Thus, they were not seeking a city on this earth, but a heavenly city, a better homeland (Heb. 11:16), the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22), where they would live in the presence of God eternally. They were in blessed contact with that world to come and had already tasted of its powers (Heb. 6:5), which enabled them to endure suffering and persecution without complaint.
We find ourselves in the same redemptive age as those in Hebrews 10 who suffered persecution for the sake of Christ. Life for us between the first and second coming of Christ is marked by triumph and testing. Faith keeps the "better possession" in view. Having received that which is "better" than any earthly possession, we are not indifferent to service for the sake of Christ in this world. Rather, we give ourselves in gratitude, knowing that we belong even now to the heavenly order that is abiding. As believers, we must not become enslaved to the present world, as if it were the best and ultimate setting for our life. Nor should we clutch the things of this world, which the author of Hebrews states are "shaken" (Heb. 12:27) and doomed to perish. We must follow Christ and live out of the "better possession" that has been given to us by grace. We are to express gratitude to our God by offering to him an acceptable service with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28).
The Thank Offering is one way for us to express our gratitude to the triune God for this "better possession" which God has freely bestowed upon us by his grace and loving-kindness. It provides an opportunity for us to show that our focus is not on the old age, whose things are passing away, but on the new age, "the better possession," which has dawned with Christ. Like the saints whom the writer to the Hebrews addresses, let us willingly and cheerfully give up that which is passing away. And let us do so with the confident expectation that God will grant his heavenly and eternal blessings to the ministries of Christian Education, Home Missions, and Foreign Missions in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
The author is the general secretary of the Committee on Christian Education. Reprinted from New Horizons, November 2006.