“Together with all (members of the congregation) pursue peace and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord, by watching out that no one misses out on the grace of God, that no bitterness springs up and causes trouble and through it many become defiled, that no one is a fornicator or unholy person like Esau, who gave up his birthrights for the sake of a single meal.” (Heb 12:14-16, translation by John W. Kleinig)
Through Jesus you have ongoing access to the peace and sanctification that God provides for you. We “pursue” peace and sanctification by our faithful participation in the Divine Service and our avoidance of everything that desecrates their holiness.
Pursuing peace together is God’s will for us, His saints. It is a gift from God which we need for mutual cooperation and encouragement as we run together as one body in the race of faith.
We are also to “pursue” sanctification together, which is actually something done to us communally by Jesus (Heb 2:11). He does this throughout our lives as we participate in the Divine Service with the body he offered for us (Heb 10:10) and the blood he shed for us (Heb 10:19; 13:12). Through Jesus as our High Priest, we participate in God’s holiness. Without this sanctification “no one will see the Lord”.
We are told in Hebrews that the vision of the Lord is available to all of the saints both when the Lord returns to bring salvation to those who wait for him and by faithful participation in the Divine Service. There we see Jesus by faith crowned with glory and honor (Heb 2:9). There we see Jesus at God’s right hand (Heb 1:3; 12:2). There is where we get a preview of him before he returns in glory when he “will appear a second time” (Heb 9:28).
Practically, the congregation pursues peace and sanctification by exercising communal oversight of itself and its members and “watching out” for three things. First, the congregation watches to make sure none of its members “misses out on the grace of God” by falling behind and dropping out of the race. The grace of God can be lost by refusing to listen to his Word and participate in Christ’s holy meal. So, the congregation’s first duty is to encourage its members to keep on seeking God’s grace by faithful participation in the Divine Service. Second, the congregation needs to watch out for any embittered members and deal pastorally with them, so that it is not polluted by them. Third, the congregation needs to watch that none of its members do as Esau did by desecrating his holiness by sexual intercourse outside of marriage, damaging the peace of the community and hindering its sanctification.
Lord, help us to pursue peace and sanctification together with You. Amen.