Hebrews

Eskimo man enjoying some music on a record player 1922

CONSCIENTIOUS consumers shop for value, the best products for their money. Wise parents desire only the best for their children, nourishing their growing bodies, minds, and spirits.  Individuals with integrity seek the best investment of time, talents, and treasures.  In every area, to settle for less would be wasteful, foolish, and irresponsible.  Yet it is a natural pull to move towards what is convenient and comfortable.

Judaism was not second-rate or easy. Divinely designed, it was the best religion, expressing true worship and devotion to God.  The commandments, the rituals, and the prophets described God’s promises and revealed the way to forgiveness and salvation.  But Christ came, fulfilling the Law and the Prophets, conquering sin, shattering all barriers to God, and freely providing eternal life.

This message was difficult for Jews to accept. Although they had sought the Messiah for centuries, they were entrenched in thinking and worshipping in traditional forms.  Following Jesus seemed to repudiate their marvellous heritage and their profound Scriptures.  With caution and questions they listened to the gospel, but many rejected it and sought to eliminate this “heresy”.  Those who did accept Jesus as the Messiah often found themselves slipping back into familiar routines, trying to live a hybrid faith.

Hebrews is a masterful document written to Jews who were evaluating Jesus or struggling with this new faith. The message of Hebrews is that Jesus is better.  Christianity is superior, Christ is supreme and completely sufficient for salvation.

Hebrews begins by emphasising that the old (Judaism) and the new (Christianity) are both religions revealed by God (1:1-3). In the doctrinal section that follows (1:4-10:18), the writer shows how Jesus is superior to angels (1:4-2:18), superior to their leaders (3:1-4:13), and superior to their priests (4:14-7:28).  Christianity surpasses Judaism because it has a better covenant (8:1-13), a better sanctuary (9:1-10), and a more sufficient sacrifice for sins (9:11-10:18).

Having established the superiority of Christianity, the writer moves on to the practical implications of following Christ. The readers are exhorted to hold on to their new faith, encourage each other, and look forward to Christ’s return (10:19-25).  They are warned about the consequences of rejecting Christ’s sacrifice (10:26-31) and reminded of the rewards for faithfulness (10:32-39).  Then the author explains how to live by faith, giving illustrations of the faithful men and women in Israel’s history (11:1-40) and giving encouragement and exhortation for daily living (12:1-17).  This section ends by comparing the old covenant with the new (12:18-29).  The writer concludes with moral exhortations (13:1-17), a request for prayer (13:18, 19), and a benediction and greetings (13:20-25).

Whatever you are considering as the focus of life, Christ is better. He is the perfect revelation of God, the final and complete sacrifice for sin, the compassionate and understanding mediator, and the only way to eternal life.  Read Hebrews and begin to see history and life from God’s perspective.  Then give yourself unreservedly and completely to Christ.  Don’t settle for anything less.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

PURPOSE: To present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ

AUTHOR: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Priscilla, and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the biblical text itself. Whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother”  (13:23).

TO WHOM WRITTEN: Hebrew Christians (perhaps second-generation Christians, see 2:3) who may have been considering a return to Judaism, perhaps because of immaturity, stemming from a lack of understanding of biblical truths; and all believers in Christ.

DATE WRITTEN: Probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are referred to in the book, but no mention is made of the temple’s destruction

SETTING: These Jewish Christians were probably undergoing fierce persecution, socially and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not returned to establish his kingdom, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

KEY VERSE: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (1:3).

KEY PEOPLE: Old Testament men and women of faith (chapter 11)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Although Hebrews is called a “letter” (13:22), it has the form and the content of a sermon

 

THE BLUEPRINT

The Superiority of Christ (1:1-10:18) The superiority of Christ over everyone and everything is clearly demonstrated by the author.  Christianity supersedes all other religions and can never be surpassed.  Where can one find anything better than Christ?  Living in Christ is having the best there is in life.  All competing religions are deceptions of cheap imitations.

  1. Christ is greater than the angels
  2. Christ is greater than Moses
  3. Christ is greater than the Old Testament priesthood
  4. The new covenant is greater than the old

 

The Superiority Of Faith (10:19-13:25) Jews who had become Christians in the first century were tempted to fall back into Judaism because of uncertainty, the security of custom, and persecution.  Today believers are also tempted to fall back into legalism, fulfilling minimum religious requirements rather than pressing on in genuine faith.  We must strive to live by faith each day.

 

MEGATHEMES

Christ Is Superior

EXPLANATION: Hebrews reveals Jesus’ true identity as God. Jesus is the ultimate authority.  He is greater than any religion or any angel.  He is superior to any Jewish leader (such as Abraham, Moses, or Joshua) and superior to any priest.  He is the complete revelation of God.

IMPORTANCE: Jesus alone can forgive your sin.  He has secured your forgiveness and salvation by his death on the cross.  You can find peace with God and real meaning for life by believing in Christ.  Don’t accept any alternative to or substitute for him.

 

High Priest

EXPLANATION: In the Old Testament, the high priest represented the Jews before God. Jesus Christ links us with God.  There is no other way to reach God.  Because Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, he is the perfect substitute to die for our sin.  He is our perfect representative with God.

IMPORTANCE: Jesus guarantees our access to God the Father. He intercedes for us so we can boldly come to the Father with our needs.  When we are weak, we can come confidently to God for forgiveness and ask for his help.

 

Sacrifice

EXPLANATION: Christ’s sacrifice was the ultimate fulfilment of all that the Old Testament sacrifices represented – God’s forgiveness for sin. Because Christ is the perfect sacrifice for our sin, our sins are completely forgiven – past, present, and future.

IMPORTANCE: Christ removed sin, which barred us from God’s presence and fellowship. But we must accept his sacrifice for us.  By believing in him we are no longer guilty, but cleansed and made whole.  His sacrifice clears the way for us to have eternal life.

 

Maturity

EXPLANATION: Though we are saved from sin when we believe in Christ, we are given the task of going on and growing in our faith. Through our relationship with Christ we can live blameless lives, be set aside for his special use, and develop maturity.

IMPORTANCE: The process of maturing in our faith takes time. Daily commitment and service produce maturity.  When we are mature in our faith, we are not easily swayed or shaken by temptations or worldly concern.

 

Faith

EXPLANATION: Faith is confident trust in God’s promises. God’s greatest promise is that we can be saved through Jesus.

IMPORTANCE: If you trust in Jesus Christ for your complete salvation, he will transform you completely. A life of obedience and complete trust is pleasing to God.

 

Endurance

EXPLANATION: Faith enables Christians to face trials. Genuine faith includes the commitment to stay true to God when we are under fire.  Endurance builds character and leads to victory.

IMPORTANCE: You can have victory in your trials if you don’t give up or turn your back on Christ. Stay true to Christ and pray for endurance.

©Kingsway International Church 1973.

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