The Christian character of the Christian-Hebrew epistles, often called the General Epistles, is profound. That is, the truths of our standing in Christ, of the mystery of the one body growing into a holy temple, the hope of Christ’s return, and of the believers as God’s ministers link the General Epistles irrevocably and completely to the all truth of the seven Church Epistles. Looking simply at the interlocked truths on Christ within as incorruptible seed builds an understanding of how the early church, Hebrew and Gentile, were taught to walk in grace and in power.
II Peter 3:15-16 is a clear exhortation for those to whom II Peter was written to accept the revelation given to Paul:
II Peter 3:15-16:
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; [This must be a reference to Hebrews, for only it is written to the twelve tribes. All of the church epistles are written to the church of God or to leadership in the church of God.] 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
However, the content of the Church epistles and the Hebrew-Christian epistles tie them together even more closely. For instance, as the book of Acts details how believers immediately receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit into evidence was the norm in the early church, so also the links between the Christian-Hebrew epistles and the seven Church Epistles document the consistency with which the Christian realities of having Christ within as seed were held forth to every saint whether he or she was of Gentile or Hebrew background.
The Heavenly Father wastes no words. While all the epistles teach the truth of our standing in Christ as born-again sons, there is no simple vain repetition on the subject. These wonderful truths are held forth from unique perspectives and with new insights under each ministry through which they were revealed. For example, I Peter 1:23 boldly declares the believer’s new birth in Christ:
I Peter 1:23:
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Not only does this fit so wonderfully with the truths of John 3, but this reality is echoed and magnified in James 1:16-18:
Do not err, my beloved brethren.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Because there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” with the Father, “the gifts and callings of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). I Peter and James deal with how we are born-again by the truth of the word of God. This is fully explained by the salvation that comes through the word of believing given in Romans 10:6a, 8-10:
Romans 10:6a, 8-10:
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise…
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach:
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
James, delivering God’s word as correction (“Do not err my brethren”), also describes some of what it means to be born-again. The gift within is from above (Luke 24:49). This good and perfect. gift allows us to shine as lights (Philippians 2:15) like our Father, “the Father of lights.” How much more plainly can God spell out that we are sons and that we are called to be full sharers of His divine nature (II Peter 1:4)? The insights in James are new and profound yet interlocked with the all truth of the church epistles.
The new perspectives given in James 1:16-18 also enhance truths revealed in the church epistles. Just as Colossians 1:27 handles the what of our new birth as being “Christ-in-you, the hope of glory!” so James also explains the what of our new birth in terms of our hope. Christ is the firstfruits “of them that slept” (I Corinthians 15:20). We, having the firstfruits of the spirit (Romans 8:23), are the firstfruit of His creation. This metaphor between our new birth and seed in plant life magnifies the truths, again delivered as correction, in I Corinthians 15:36-38:
I Corinthians 15:36-38:
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
In due season, despite the death of the outward man, we shall be raised with a new, incorruptible body in Christ. Why? Because our mortal bodies carry life, incorruptible, within:
I Corinthians 15:42-44:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body
The resurrection power of Christ is sown a natural body, for it’s Christ in us the hope of glory! It is incorruptible seed. We have new life within because we are born again. In I Peter we are born again by the word of God, in Romans men and women are born again when they receive the word of believing which we who already believe preach.
So throughout the Christian-Hebrew epistles our standing in Christ blazes forth in harmony with the truths of the Church Epistles. In I John 3, Hebrews 2 and Romans 8 we are the sons of God. In Hebrews 2 and Romans 8 we are called brethren of the son of God and heirs with him. The two natures at war in the believer, the sense knowledge man and the spirit within, are revealed in Romans 7-8, Galatians 5:17, Hebrews 6:1-8, and James 3. Continuously, the great realities revealed in the church epistles are woven together too perfectly for even a single human author to design. Instead of a single author, though, we have Peter, James, John, Jude and Paul writing at various times from vastly differing geographic locations, all testifying as one to the new birth realities. From this great, multifaceted, unified witness of God’s word, it is plain tha t the realities of the new birth were taught consistently to every believer whether of Hebrew or Gentile background. In the woven fabric of these great letters we are given the reason for the power of the first century church and a model for the power available to the twenty-first century church today.
by Ren Manetti