Yesterday, Today, and Forever

From the Back Cover:

If you take time to work through this reading guide, you will gain a rich, holistic understanding of Hebrews’ theology and you will be able to come back to this volume again and again as a resource for personal growth, teaching, and preaching. . . . The book of Hebrews has been divided into seven weeks of daily readings (forty-nine days), so you will have time for Hebrews to permeated your heart and mind. If you patiently follow this schedule, you will be rewarded with an understanding of Hebrews unavailable to those who want a quick fix.

From the Forward:

“Gareth’s book is a marvelous resource as we listen to the, at times, complex letter of Hebrews. . . .I envision it sitting amongst several commentaries on Hebrews, and being the first port of call when the pastor—or student, seminarian, or scholar—is working away on this marvelous book, full as it is of Jesus.”

—Rev. Dr. Craig G. Bartholomew, director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology, Cambridge, UK

What Others are Saying:

Gareth Cockerill . . . . brings to fresh life the often-neglected book of Hebrews.  Like a seasoned Sherpa, Cockerill guides the reader [on] a magnificent seven-week journey through the glorious heights and peaks of this cherished landscape of biblical revelation . . . .  I encourage Christians to engage in this amazing journey and recapture anew the glorious identity of Jesus Christ for all time. 

—Timothy C. Tennent, PhD, President and Professor of World Christianity, Asbury Theological Seminary

Gary Cockerill has already written one of the best commentaries on Hebrews, and now he presents the fruit of his work in a book that is accessible to every student of the Bible. . . . What we find here are the reflections of a scholar who has marinated in Hebrews for years. The structure of the letter, the meaning of the text, its theological significance, and the pastoral application are unpacked clearly and profoundly. Pastors, students, and all who want to understand Hebrews will want to read this book. 

—Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Associate Dean, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

. . . . [Gary Cockerill’s] many years of in-depth study and his eager willingness to be mentored by the “pastor” of Hebrews richly infuses this present volume. There are deep theological insights on every page! Cockerill’s own pastoral heart makes this seven-week study winsome, compelling, and accessible. I highly recommend this book. It opens the door to one of the most powerful, beautiful, and persuasive sermons ever written! Those who enter this door will be richly blessed. 

—Dana M. Harris, Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“The grandeur and beauty of the book of Hebrews are only matched by its avoidance and near ignorance in the church. . . . This beautiful, timely book is what the church needs!”

—Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary

“A leading Hebrews scholar takes us step by step through the book. Through its pastoral teaching, we can be shaped and formed into adult Christians. Highly recommended!”

—Thomas A. Noble, Nazarene Theological Seminary

Dr. Cockerill’s work here is accessible to a wide range of contexts and audiences. Whether used in personal devotions, textbook for a class, or study in the local church, the Holy Spirit will use this book to form believers into greater likeness to God through our “all sufficient High Priest who ‘remains forever.’”  

—Christopher T. Bounds, Indiana Wesleyan University     

“Readers will find their knowledge and experience of God in Christ strengthened and deepened.”

—Matt O’Reilly, Wesley Biblical Seminary

 “In this reading guide, Cockerill has masterfully and passionately showcased the crown jewels discovered during his lifetime of exploration in the book of Hebrews.. . . .This is a journey not to be missed, and never to be forgotten!”

—Richard M. Davidson, Andrews University

Have a look at the introduction here:

#Hebrews, #YesterdayTodayandForever, #HebrewsCockerill

The Third Mystery?

Sherlock Holmes, with all his powers of observation, will not solve this one!

Along with some ruminations on Adam Hamilton’s Making Sense of the Bible.

Several summers ago a friend and former student dropped by. In the course of our conversation he asked, “How do you explain the Son of God becoming a human fetus?” My answer was something like this: “I don’t explain, I worship.” There are three mysteries at the heart of the Christian faith. Agatha Christi doesn’t write about these mysteries. They are not the kind of mysteries that Sherlock Holmes, with all his powers of observation, could solve, for they are mysteries that pertain to the nature of the infinite God, the Creator of the Universe. First, these mysteries are not based on human speculation but upon divine revelation. Second, they are impenetrable just because they do reveal the one and only infinite God. Third, although we cannot penetrate them, we can, and must, speak rightly about them if we would worship this God aright. The three mysteries are the incarnation of the Son of God, the Trinity, and God’s self-revelation in the Bible. Although the focus of this article is the third mystery—the Bible, we will offer a paragraph on the other two by way of introduction.

The first and central mystery of the Christian faith is the incarnation. The Son of God assumed our humanity without surrendering His deity. Thus the faith affirms that Jesus was and is not half-God, half-human but one hundred percent God and one hundred percent human. The confession of the Christian Church has witnessed to this truth by insisting that, although the incarnate Son of God is one Person, he has both a human and divine nature and a human and divine will. This mystery is at the heart of the Christian faith because the incarnation is God’s ultimate self-revelation and means of redemption. When we speak rightly about it—though with limited comprehension—all the rest of Christian faith—creation, revelation, redemption, and ultimate salvation—come together in a beautiful whole. The earliest Christians confessed the deity and humanity of Christ on the basis of their empirical encounter with him.  The doctrine of the Trinity, what we might call the ultimate mystery of the Christian faith, is based upon and derived from a proper understanding of how we should speak about the incarnation.

Let us turn now to the third mystery—Holy Scripture. As Christ is the incarnate “Word” of God, so the Church has affirmed the Bible to be the written Word of God, the channel through which God’s self-revelation that climaxed in Christ has come to us. Yet it is also obviously the word of human beings. Thus many theologians have used the analogy of the incarnation to speak about the Bible—the Bible, though one grand revelation, is fully the word of God and fully the word of human beings. In his recent book, Making Sense of the Bible, Adam Hamilton has dispensed with this third mystery, the mystery of a divine/human book, by denying that the Bible should be called the Word of God.[1] He argues that the writers of the Bible were no more inspired than people are today when they preach the Gospel. They were, of course, according to Hamilton “closer to the events” the Bible records.[2] Furthermore, the Church throughout the ages bears witness to the significance and usefulness of their writings. Thus Hamilton would still give the Bible a place with some prominence though denying that it is God’s word. It contains eternal truth, it also, according to him, contains instructions that were appropriate only for the time of writing, and, finally, it contains some things that were never binding because they were merely human misconceptions. According to Hamilton, only the incarnate Son of God should be called the “word of God.”

Hamilton’s removal of the mystery—and the tension—of the divine/human book is an instance of simplistic reductionism that solves nothing. Hamilton and others like him often ridicule Evangelical Christians for referring to the “original autographs” of Scripture or to Scripture as “originally given” as the ultimate standard of accuracy since, “we don’t have the autographs.” Yet they make an even more egregious move when they deny the full trustworthiness of Scripture in favor of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. Through textual criticism we can be ninety-seven percent certain what the “original autographs” said. We have NO access to the incarnate Word Jesus Christ aside from the Bible in front of us! Indeed, if we did have direct access to Jesus, if we had been his original disciples, that immediacy with Him would not have solved anything. Those earliest disciples were convinced of his deity by his character and actions—the authority of His teaching, of His power over Satan and demons, of his healing, of his control over nature, and especially of His Resurrection.  Yet they knew He was also completely human. I think it is C. S. Lewis who asks somewhere if we are to imagine that Christ never asked a question for which he did not know the answer.  We might add, do we think that he never had a slip of memory, stepped on someone’s toe, or spilled a bucket of water? If so, Lewis goes on to affirm, his humanity was so different from ours that it could hardly be called the same thing. We cannot penetrate the union of the divine and human word in Scripture any more than we can penetrate the theandric union of the divine/human Jesus. Yet to dissolve this Scriptural union is almost as perilous as to dissolve the union of the divine/human Christ.

We must speak rightly about, and live with the tension of, this mystery. The Bible is the Word of God through which God reveals Himself by both word and deed with the purpose of delivering human beings from bondage to sin and bringing them into fellowship with Himself as a new and redeemed people of God. It is an accurate record of God’s revelation in history culminating in Christ, of His redeeming grace, and of his instructions as to how his people are to live in accord with His character. At the same time it is a human word, written over millennia by many people, and thus containing various tensions and seeming contradictions. As the word of God its words have been chosen and arranged through divine oversight to communicate God’s message. As the word of human beings its words and their arrangement reflect the personalities of its writers and the vicissitudes of textual transmission. And yet it is less than accurate to speak of the divine and human in Scripture in separation from one another as we have done in these last sentences. Both are necessary for divine revelation—and ultimately for human redemption. As the human will of the incarnate Christ is subject to the divine, so the humanity of Scripture serves God’s revelatory purpose. Thus the Bible, as the Word of God, when rightly understood in its totality, cannot be relativized by attributing some aspect of its teaching to its human authors apart from God.

[1] Contrary to what Hamilton says, the Bible has been affirmed as the word of God from the beginning of the Christian Church—even if the exact expression has not always been used. It is obvious that Jesus, Paul, and the other New Testament writers believed that the Old Testament was the completely trustworthy revelation of God. Despite Hamilton’s protestations to the contrary, the New Testament writers wrote with the conviction that what they were recording concerning the fulfillment of the Old Testament had authority equal to that which it fulfilled. Hamilton’s argument is particularly faulty when he refers to the Thirty-Nine Articles affirmation that “all things necessary for salvation” are found in Scripture as evidence that the Bible was not thought to be the word of God. All sides in the controversies of the Reformation period believed that the Bible was the completely true word of God—what they disagreed on was the relationship between the Bible and Church tradition.

[2] This is a particularly lame argument. While it is significant that the Gospel writers were close in time to the events they recorded, this argument has little relevance to much (perhaps most) of the Bible. Even the Chronicles, which were books of historical narrative, were written several hundred years after the most recent events that they record.

From the Introduction

Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles

The inscription high above the door of the old Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. Louis caught my attention. After the construction of the new Cathedral the Pope designated this historic church as the Basilica of St. Louis, the King of France. This inscription was not only in the expected Latin, but also in Hebrew! At the top were clear, gold, Hebrew letters that formed the OT covenant name of God—hwhy. This was the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus three—“Jehovah,” or, more accurately, “Yahweh”—“I Am.” Below this Hebrew word came the following Latin inscription, still in letters of gold: “Deo Uni et Trino,” “to God One and Triune.”


Before I saw the Latin I thought that I was looking at a synagogue. Then I recognized the appropriateness of joining these two inscriptions. Christians have always affirmed that the God they know as Triune through the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is a fuller revelation of the God of the Old Testament. Their God was the Creator who made covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and delivered their descendants from slavery in Egypt. In controversy with the Gnostics, Irenaeus and other Christian writers resolutely affirmed that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ was the Creator/Covenant making God of the Old Testament. He had revealed Himself in His co-eternal Son and was at work in the world through the equally co-eternal Holy Spirit. This truth is affirmed by the Apostles’ Creed:  “I believe in God, the Father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ . . . . I believe in the Holy Spirit . . .”

In fact, continuity with the Old Testament is the bedrock of the New Testament, stated or assumed on every page. Jesus “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27; cf. 24:44-48). God, who “at various times and in various ways spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, has now spoken to us in one who is Son” (Heb 1:1). Paul “reasoned with them from the scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ’”(Acts 17:2-3).

The Old Testament was, in deed, The Apostles’ Bible. It was the Bible of those earliest Christians, the Bible of the New Testament writers. They were thoroughly convinced that in it God had revealed the salvation they now knew in Christ. Christ was the God-intended fulfillment of its story, of its promises, of its prophecies, and of its types. They understand the fullness of the Old Testament through Christ. They grasped Christ’s identity and significance for the world through the Old Testament. The Gospel writers believed that this perspective had its origin in Jesus.

Modern Christians, on the other hand, are often ignorant of the Old Testament and its significance. For some it is, at best, historical background for the New. For others it is a collection of primitive stories, now superseded in Christ. Some avoid it because it is hard to understand or because some parts of it seem incredible or morally problematic. We read Psalms for comfort, Proverbs for wisdom (after all, we can get these two books bound at the back of our New Testaments), teach (some of) the stories of Abraham and Moses in Sunday School, and read Isaiah at Christmas time. We have lost The Apostles’ Bible, and, in so doing we have lost much. We end up with an anemic view of Christ, a superficial understanding of the atonement, and an individualistic view of the church. Our God shrinks because we no longer see the majesty of his creation, the grandeur of his work in history, or the glory of his salvation in Christ. We have little basis for social ethics. We live in rootless isolation because we no longer see ourselves as children of Abraham, part of the people of God, stretched out in history and on its way to glory. If we do not have The Apostles’ Bible, we will not have the true apostolic faith.

This book is dedicated to helping ordinary, intelligent modern Christians re-establish their apostolic roots in the Old Testament, The Apostles’ Bible. First, the pages that follow are designed to helping the reader understand how each major part of the Old Testament fits into the total scope of Biblical revelation. Second, this study gives needed guidance concerning the way in which each part of the Old Testament applies to contemporary believers. How do the various section of the Old Testament, given before Christ, function as Scripture for people who live after Christ’s coming?