No matter how seemingly helpful the many psychological formulas that help you cope with life may be, no matter how transforming the practical counsel you might find in today’s world to help you with your problems may be, everything is either partial or periodic. They only go so far and for so long before they lose their capacity to make a difference.
Every person, every strategy, every promise that comes your way will eventually fail you. If it’s a friend, the day will come when they won’t show up when you need them most. If it’s a formula, the day will come when it proves inadequate to meet your need or answer your question or soothe your conscience or get you over the hurdle of some obstacle in life. Everything in life ultimately fails. Everyone in life ultimately falters.
This isn’t rank pessimism or cynicism. This is realism. But there’s no reason why this should be discouraging to you, as we read in Hebrews 7:25 that Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
“Uttermost” and “Always.” These two words are life-saving. These two words are hope-giving. These two words are joy-awakening and heart-thrilling and breath-taking in their force and implication.
The word “uttermost” is probably qualitative in force. It means to the utmost degree. It means that nothing in the salvation Christ provides is lacking in any way. It means that there is nothing defective in what Christ has done or in the reconciliation with God that he has obtained for us. It means that this salvation is complete and whole and pervasive and all-encompassing.
We struggle to believe that because we think that surely somewhere there must be someone who is simply too sinful to be saved. And maybe that someone is me! Surely somewhere, perhaps right here in the person of myself, there is an individual whose failures are simply too many for Christ to save. Their shortcomings are too frequent for Christ to save. Their sins are too severe, too hard-hearted for Christ to save. Maybe the selfishness of some is too deep-seated for the salvation Christ offers to overcome. Maybe the guilt people feel is too deeply entrenched in their souls that no salvation, not even that offered by Jesus Christ, can cleanse and wipe clean.
That’s how most of us at one time or another tend to think. The quality and extent and frequency and selfishness and repetitive occurrence of our sins in life are greater, so we think, than the quality and capacity of Christ’s person and work to overcome. After all, there have to be limits to what even Jesus can do. There has to be a point beyond which he cannot and will not go. I mean, no one is that patient or kind or pure or loving. No one is that good or gracious or tender or longsuffering. At least that’s how we tend to think.
Most of us at some time or other in life reach a point of complete frustration with ourselves. We’re fed up with our failures and we’re convinced that God is, too. We envision God as looking up as we run to him for the umpteenth, saying, “Oh, no. Not you again! Enough already! I’ve had it up to here with your stupidity and your sin and how you always expect me to be there waiting for you with open arms, ready to start all over again. Well, that ends today. This simply can’t go on forever.” And it makes sense to us that he would react that way. As far as our own experience is concerned, we’ve learned that everything has a limit, a boundary, a point beyond which not even God can go.
But the point here in Hebrews 7:25 is that our thinking is bad and off-base and skewed. The point of v. 25 is that we have sold God short. We have horribly misjudged what he’s like and have terribly underestimated what he has done and will continue to do.
That’s the point of the word “uttermost”! This word is saying that there are no lengths to which God in Christ won’t go to save you, that there are no sins you’ve committed, are committing, or will in the future commit that are beyond the power of Christ’s atoning death to forgive. This word is saying that Jesus Christ has accomplished for you what no one else ever has, can, or will. He has left nothing undone. He has not failed to make provision for every need.
When you begin to think that God missed a step, I remind you that he saves to the “uttermost.”
When you begin to wonder if there are limits to his love, I remind you that he saves to the “uttermost.”
When you struggle to believe that an infinitely holy and righteous God would ever allow someone as vile and sinful and wretched as you and me into his presence, I remind you that he saves to the “uttermost.”
And when you simply throw up your hands in frustration and confusion, declaring that nothing this good could possibly be literally true, I remind you that he saves to the “uttermost.”
And what he saves he saves utterly and exhaustively and comprehensively. He doesn’t save your soul and leave your body to rot and decay. He doesn’t save your spirit but leave your mind to deteriorate. One day your salvation will be consummated when you are raised in glory and made to conform not only in your mind and spirit and heart but in your body also to the glorious resurrection body of Jesus himself. The apostle Paul had this in view when he wrote these words to the Philippian church:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).
Jesus Christ not only saves to the uttermost, but he also always lives to make intercession for you. If the word “uttermost” has a qualitative force to it, “always” has a quantitative force. Or perhaps we should say a temporal force. It speaks of duration and extension in time. It means never-ending, never-ceasing. It points to something that is incessant, eternal, everlasting.
It may actually be the case that we struggle more to understand the implications of the word “always” than we do the implications of the word “uttermost.” The reason is that even if something given to us is perfect, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will last forever. Nothing lasts forever. Or does it?
It seems that everything we experience has a shelf life. Everything we eat or drink has an expiration date. “Good until July 14, 2016,” it says on the medicine bottle. Change your oil every 5,000 miles. Replace the filter on your air conditioning unit every six months. Be sure you install fresh batteries at least once a year in your smoke alarm in the house. “I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband until death do us part.” So not even marriage lasts forever. And some don’t last more than a year or so. Nothing lasts. Or so it seems.
One thing that lasts is the heavenly intercession on your behalf of Jesus Christ our great High Priest!
“Oh, come on Sam. Don’t exaggerate. Are you saying that Jesus continues to live to make intercession for me even when I prove faithless and fickle and keep failing in committing the same sins over and over and over again? Are you saying that nothing interrupts his presence at God’s right hand on my behalf? What about the chaos in the Middle East? Doesn’t he have to take a break interceding for me so he can attend to matters of far greater importance, like trying to arrange a cease-fire that will continue for more than 24 hours? Are you asking me to believe that when hurricanes and tornadoes and financial crises befall us that he doesn’t at least take a 15-minute break to put things right?” That’s right!
Always? Really? Always? Forever? Are you sure it isn’t only for as long as I prove worthy of his attention? Are you sure it isn’t only for as long as I love him? Are you sure it isn’t only for as long as I don’t lose my temper with my spouse and don’t yell at my kids? Are you sure it isn’t only for as long as I keep my house clean? Are you sure it isn’t only for as long as I make him proud of me with my godly behavior? Yeah, I’m sure!
Try to envision what kind of Christian life you would lead if you genuinely and sincerely believed what these two words are saying! How it might affect the way you and I worship? Would any of us ever feel restrained in our shouts of joy? Would we ever grow weary of singing his praises? Would we ever again be embarrassed to kneel or raise our hands or clap or dance or weep or laugh? I don’t think so.
If we grasped just a small measure of what these two words mean there is simply no way to predict what our prayer lives would be like. You would never have to be encouraged to attend a prayer meeting. You would never struggle to volunteer in some capacity at your church. You would never have to be told to be generous and sacrificial in your giving to the financial needs of your local church. Never.
If you doubt what I’m saying, it must be that you still mistakenly think that “uttermost” means almost and that “always” means sometimes.
One final and critically important thing to note is the relationship between Christ’s ability to save to the uttermost and the unending, incessant intercession he fulfills on your behalf. Did you see that word translated “since”? He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him “since” (i.e., because, for this reason, on these grounds) he always lives to make intercession for them. Clearly, then, the fact that Jesus is always and forever on your side as he sits at the Father’s right hand is the reason why we can have confidence that the salvation he gives us is complete and comprehensive and all-inclusive.
In other words, if Jesus did not always live to make intercession for us he would not be able to save us. But “since” he “always” lives to represent us before the Father and to plead our case and to defend us against Satan’s accusations we can rest confidently in the salvation that he died and rose again to obtain. As the apostle John put it in 1 John 2:1, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
When Jesus died and rose again on our behalf he obtained for us the very faith by which we continue to draw near to God. He promises that he will continually sustain that faith in our hearts so that we will never turn away from him (see Phil. 1:6; 1 Peter 1:5).
And just how effective and long lasting is this ministry of Jesus on our behalf? Our two words provide the answer: he fulfills his ministry to save us to the “uttermost” and “always”! Praise God from who all blessings flow!
Bethlehem College & Seminary
1. Please pray as we begin the new semester and especially for those students who are on track to graduate this spring. Pray that they finish strongly and well.
2. Please pray for the upcoming Bethlehem Conference for Pastors and Church Leaders (Jan. 25-27). Pray that registrations would continue to grow and it would bless those pastors and church leaders in attendance and greatly encourage them as they lead their churches in these difficult times. Pray also for Dave Clifford and his team as they organize and host the conference that all would go as planned and glorify God through their labors.
3. Pray, as always, for the continued outpouring of God’s benevolence on this school. We cannot ever become complacent in our prayers or presumptuous in our expectations of the Lord’s goodness to us. Thank you so much for standing with us and holding us up in prayer so faithfully.
New for the New Year! Our online contributors’ site allows you to program a recurring weekly or monthly gift. Please pray whether you are called to make us a part of your on-going ministry in 2016.