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July 11, 2010
“In the same way God,desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18).
Christians are a people who have taken refuge to take hold of the hope which is set before them by the gospel. This hope is in Christ, as he is set forth in God’s unchangeable plan. God took two actions to give Christians consolation or encouragement — his promise and his oath. The reference to Christians being a people who have fled for refuge has to be an allusion to an expression and provision of the Old Testament.
The Israelites were given provision by God for those who inadvertently took a life. “But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee” (Exodus 21:13). The law of Moses specified the penalty for murder: “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:12).
In order to prepare for the safety of those who killed without design or intent, six cities of refuge were prepared so that such an one could flee for refuge until he could have a fair trial (Joshua 20:1-9). These were chosen so three could be on one side of Jordan and three on the other side. One commentator on this subject said that sign posts were placed at crossroads so that one could easily find one of these cities. On the east side of Jordan were Golan, Ramoth and Bezer. On the west side of Jordan were Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron.
Many things of the law of Moses were shadows of the good things to come (Hebrews 10:1). We often call these shadows and the things they show “types” and “anti types.” In these cities of refuge, we certainly see another of those shadows. This time it is the shadow of Christ and his church. All of these cities, in their very meaning signify in some way some great truth of the church of Christ.
Kedesh means holy or set apart. This certainly is a sign of the Lord’s church. The Kingdom is set apart from the world of darkness (Colossians 1:13). We are His people (1Peter 2:9). Those making up the church are a called out people (1Corinthians 1:2). Those making up the church are to remain a separate people: “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you” (2Corinthians 6:17).
Shechem means shoulder or strength. This definitely is a mark of the church, as the church is said to be the pillar and the ground of the truth. “I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1Timothy 3:14,15).
Hebron means company or fellowship. This definitively indicates the Lord’s church, as one of the great aspects of the church is that of fellowship. How often does the Scripture use the word “fellow” (1Corinthians 3:9). “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1John 1:7).
Bezer means strong or fortress. This of a surety signifies the church of our Lord, as the church is the fortress or enclosure of the saved (Acts 2:47). It is God that supplies our strength (1Peter 4:11). His church is a strong and consecrated building planned by God: “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21).
Ramoth means high place. David captured a city built on mountains. This is Zion, the city of David (2Samuel 5:7). God’s temple was built in this high city. We note that this also designates the high place of the church: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels” (Hebrews 12:22).
Golan actually has two meanings. Both meanings can apply to the church. One meaning is “completeness or circle” and one meaning is “their rejoicing.” The church is a circle — a complete thing and Christians are complete in it. “And in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:10). Those in the church certainly have reason to rejoice. We rejoice in God, “And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).
In addition to the shadows involved in this idea of refuge, there are two more important lessons here. One, just as all had to flee to and enter the cities of refuge in order to be saved, so it is with the Lord’s church. There is salvation within and there is no safety without. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Notice, Christ is our refuge, the Savior of the body which is the church: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). Two, like all had to remain in the cities of refuge in order to remain in a saved state, so it is with the Lord’s church. We must remain faithful until death to have the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).The ones who have found refuge and remained faithful have the right to wear white robes and has his name in the book of life (Revelation 3:4,5). Are you among that number who have fled to Christ for refuge?
— S. Scott Richardson Sr.