This morning I was listening to a sermon by Tozer on Faith for the long road. Among the references he used was Hebrews 11. The relevant verses for our study are 8-16. After studying this a bit, I really got thinking about what it is to be a “Pilgrim,” a “Stranger” in a foreign country. In researching this idea, I found that “Pilgrim” is really only cited twice in the Bible. In the aforementioned Hebrews and in 1 Peter 2: “…I urge you as Strangers and Pilgrims.” The following is what I learned about being a Pilgrim.
First, as usual, what does Webster’s1828 say a Pilgrim is?
- “a traveler; particularly, one that travels to a distance from his own country to visit a holy place”
- “one that has only a temporary residence on earth.”
The world pretty much has two views on what a Pilgrim is: the American pilgrim and the religious pilgrim that leaves home to travel to a Holy place. However, history has been blurred to lump the pilgrim in with everyone else who came to America. The American pilgrims were people who left their homes to seek out a place where God could be followed without the interference of government. They sought a Holy place. So, they were not unlike those who leave their homes and travel, or make a “pilgrimage,” to a place of religious significance, like Jerusalem. The point here is that a Pilgrim is someone who leaves the home they know to become “a stranger in a foreign land.” More than that, a Pilgrim’s motivation to leave home is to pursue God.
Hebrews 11 is talking about the Faith of Abraham and Sarah. It says that even though he had no idea where he was going, Abraham, “when called” to trust God and leave home, “obeyed and went.” In going, Abraham became “a stranger in a foreign country.” It also says that Abraham didn’t look back to the home he had left, but forward to a “city with foundations, whose architect and builder was God.” Hebrews then speaks of Sarah and her becoming the mother of nations. It says that Sarah did not look at the fact that she was “beyond the opportune age,” or that the husband whom God said would be the father of nations was, as far as fathering a child was concerned, “as good as dead.” Sarah looked forward, past the physical world to God’s “promise,” believing Him to be “Faithful” and trustworthy. Sarah traveled forward in Faith.
Finally, Hebrews 13 says: “All these people died in faith, without having received the things they were promised. However, they saw them and welcomed them from afar. And they acknowledged that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” There are a lot of important things in this verse that can be misunderstood, so let’s take a closer look. First, what does it Not say? It does not say that the things they were promised did not happen, only that they did not live to see them happen. This quickly becomes obvious when you consider Sarah’s promise was that from her and Abraham would come “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” How many generations would that take? Sarah did, however, see children and the seeds of that promise. So, what it Did say was, “they saw them and welcomed them from afar.” They so completely believed and trusted in God that they knew the whole promise would be fulfilled. This is verified by the last piece of the verse, “they acknowledged that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” By Faith, Abraham and Sarah lived as “Strangers and Pilgrims” in the limitations of the physical world. They traveled not as citizens of the earthly country to which they were born, but as members of God’s country, or, as verse 16 says, “a heavenly one.” Verse 16 ends by saying that because this honored Him, “He has prepared for them a city.”
Let’s take a second here and focus on better understanding the “strangers” distinction in our study. Webster’s 1828 defines stranger as someone “alien” to. Ephesians 2:12 actually uses both words together to explain the flip side of what we are discussing: “…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, being aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Here we are told that, prior to accepting Christ, we are “strangers” and “aliens” to God’s world. That, as citizens of the Physical world, we are “separate” or “set apart” from Christ and the Spiritual world. This study is making clear that when accepting citizenship into God’s country (the spiritual world), we must give up our citizenship to the country of the Gentiles (the physical world). We are to set ourselves apart, becoming “strangers” to the world we left behind.
As quoted above, 1 Peter 2 is “urging” us as Christians, who are “Strangers and Pilgrims” in the land of Gentiles, to travel with “honor” even though our world will lie and call us “evildoers.” It talks about the “flesh” of the physical world, of which we are now “strangers,” that “wars against our souls,” and our pursuit of the spiritual world. What does Peter say a few verses before this? Interestingly enough, he references the “City,” as does Hebrews 11. 1 Peter 2:6 says: “See, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” Verse 7 goes on to say that this “stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone.” Two quick references for the “Stone.” Isaiah 28:16: “…the Lord GOD said: ‘Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will not make haste (will not panic and act in haste).” Confirmed in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 3:10,11: 10. “By the Grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise master builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds. 11. For no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
R U a Pilgrim? As we said in “Faith is,” as Christians we are to “emulate” the elders, which includes Abraham. So, what did Abraham and Sarah do? While it’s true they picked up and left the physical home they knew to follow God, what’s important is they left the mentality that went with it as well. Reality was no longer dictated by physical circumstances or limited understanding, but by “Walking in the Truth” of God’s Promise. They became “strangers” to the earth, its ways and its limitations to go on a “Pilgrimage” to join God’s Kingdom. They no longer looked at their existence as limited to their time on earth, but to be beyond time. They knew that a promise spoken by God today was part of His plan before creation, and, therefore, had already been fulfilled. They did not look back at the way of life they left behind but stood on the “Stone laid in Zion,” knowing that one of those “stars” was, and would be, a man called Christ.
So, here I am. I believe I have clearly made my case, yet I feel something is missing. Or, at least that it is not complete. After a couple of days thinking about it, rolling it around in my head as they say, I have what was missing… R U Crucified? R U an Apostle?
R U Crucified? Really? Didn’t Christ get Crucified so we wouldn’t have to?
Let’s see! Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” & Galatians 6:14, Matthew 16:24, John 3:3, John 12:24,25. John 3:8 makes clear that the life of the born again does not start at birth or end with death: “The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” In order to be born into the Spiritual world (born again) we must first die to the Physical world we are a part of. When Christ was crucified, He took on the cost of our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. But before we can receive this Gift, we must acknowledge and die to those sins. We must be crucified, or as we showed in “R U a Sanctuary,” we must die to “self.” Our devotion to the Physical world and its priorities must be crucified so that we may enter the Spiritual world to which Christ’s crucifixion gave us access. Christ Himself applied this symbolically to the first Apostles when they committed to follow Him. Simon (the physical) died to become Peter (the spiritual), Saul (the physical) became Paul (the spiritual), etc.
I began this post talking about Abraham and Sarah, Old Testament “Pilgrims.” While I regularly talk about the relevance of the Old Testament, we are not Old Testament Pilgrims. We are post-crucifixion, so we are New Testament Pilgrims, otherwise known as Apostles. I realize there are those who might take issue with my statement, so let’s take a look. The Greek word [G652] for Apostle means “specifically, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ.” This is from Greek word [G649], which means to “set apart” or “send out.” So let’s compare: We have shown that a “Pilgrim” is someone who travels away from the Physical world, pursuing the Spiritual world, living for the “Glory of God.” An Apostle is someone who has died to the earth and has been Born Again in the Spirit, or as Romans 6:11 says: “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” As such, they commit to be a “delegate” or representative of Christ to the world, living for the “Glory of God.” So, there is little doubt that we, as post-crucifixion Christians, must be more than just Pilgrims; we must be “messengers” of Christ. We must be Apostles.
[G652] Apostolos ap-os’-tol-os From G649; a delegate; specifically, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ (“apostle”), (with miraculous powers): – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.
[G649] apostellō ap-os-tel’-lo From G575 and G4724; set apart, that is, (by implication) to send out (properly on a mission) literally or figuratively: – put in, send (away, forth, out), set [at liberty].
In “R U Wandering” we showed a great example of failing on all counts. The Israelites were not “Pilgrims,” but were and would remain for generations “Wanderers” (“required to” live in the wilderness because they did not “follow God completely.”) They followed God through Moses, but they never let go of their slavery. Every time their walk got difficult, they turned on Moses and God and looked back to Egypt. Yes, they left the land of Egypt, but, as we said above, it is not about leaving a physical place… it’s about mentally leaving the Physical world to Faithfully Trust in the Spiritual world God has promised. Unlike those Israelites, we have more than the promise of Christ, we have the manifest Reality of Christ. Even so, how many Christians never completely let go of the slavery of the Physical world reaching back for what we think we can control when our walk gets difficult? To be a Faithful Christian we must be “set apart” from that world and “Trust in God Completely”.
So, R U a Pilgrim? Do you travel away from the sinful world you were born into? Forward in Faith, not looking back, trusting in the promises of God? R U Crucified? Have you surrendered and “set apart” the things of this world, becoming dead to them to be Born Again in the Spiritual world of Christ? R U an Apostle? Do you live as one Crucified to the World, In the World but “Not Of The World?” (John 15:19 & 1 John 2:15-17) R U a witness, a delegate, an ambassador, a messenger of Christ? Or, do you worry and doubt as you look at the power of the world He has already defeated? Do you Trust God or fear evil? Do you move to Pursue and represent God and His Character, or stand still in faith without works? Do you believe in what you cannot see (Hebrews 11:1), trusting that if God said it, it is already True? R U a Pilgrim? R U Crucified? R U an Apostle?… R U a Christian… that has left the physical world behind and doesn’t look back, traveling and living for the “Glory of God?” Can it be said of you: “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called your God?” (Hebrews 11:16)
1 Peter 2 9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11Beloved, I urge you as strangers and pilgrims, to abstain from the desires of the flesh, which war against your soul. 12Conduct yourselves with such honor among the Gentiles that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.
Hebrews 11: 8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, without knowing where he was going. 9By faith he dwelt in the promised land as a stranger in a foreign country. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11By faith Sarah, even though she was barren and beyond the opportune age, was enabled to conceive a child, because she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12And so from one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13All these people died in faith, without having received the things they were promised. However, they saw them and welcomed them from afar. And they acknowledged that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14Those who say such things show that they are seeking a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Isaiah 28:14 So now, do not mock, or your shackles will become stronger. Indeed, I have heard from the Lord GOD of Hosts a decree of destruction for the whole land.
16Therefore the Lord GOD said:” Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.
1 Corinthians 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise master builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:11 So you too must count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
John 15:19 …the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.
1 John 2: 15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world. 17The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:16 …they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.