Hebrews

Reading 0,45 - 13 Chapters - 303 verses - 6,913 words


Vital Statistics


 Purpose:  To present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ 
 Author: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Priscila, and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the biblical text itself. Whoever is was speaks of TImothy as "brother" (13:23)
 Original audience:  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  
 Date written:  Probably before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 because the religions 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)


Author


    The writer of this letter does not identify himself, but he was obviously well known to the original recipients. Though for some 1,200 years (from c. A.D. 400 to 1600) the book was commonly called "The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews," there was no agreement in the earliest centuries regarding its authorship. Since the Reformation it has been widely recognized that Paul could not have been the writer.There is no disharmony between the teaching of Hebrews and that of Paul's letters, but the specific emphases and writing styles are markedly different. Contrary to Paul's usual practice, the author of Hebrews nowhere identifies himself in the letter—except to indicate that he was a man (see  11:32). Moreover; the statement "This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him" (2:3), indicates that the author had neither been with Jesus during his earthly ministry nor received special revelation directly from the risen Lord, as had Paul (Gal 1:11-12). 
    The earliest suggestion of authorship is found in Tertullian's De Pudicitia, 20 (c. 200), in which he quotes from "an epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas." From the letter itself it is clear that the writer must have had authority in the apostolic church and was an intellectual Hebrew Christian well versed in the OT. Barnabas meets these requirements. He was a Jew of the priestly tribe of Levi (Ac 4:36) who became a close friend of Paul after the latter's conversion. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the church at Antioch commissioned Barnabas and Paul for the work of evangelism and sent them off on the first missionary journey (Ac 13:1-4). 
    The other leading candidate for authorship is Apollos, whose name was first suggested by Martin Luther and who is favored by many interpreters today. Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, was also a Jewish Christian with notable intellectual and oratorical abilities. Luke tells us that "he was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures" (Ac 18:24).We also know that Apollos was associated with Paul in the early years of the church in Corinth (1Co 1:12; 3:4-6,22). 
    One thing is evident:The author was a master of the Greek language of his day, and he was thoroughly acquainted with the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint), Which he regularly quotes. 


Date


    Hebrews must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 4,0.70 because: (1) If it had been written after this date, the author surely would have mentioned the temple's destruction and the end of the Jewish sacrificial system; and (2) the author consistently uses the Greek present tense when speaking of the temple and the priestly activities connected with it (see 5:1-3; 7:23,27; 8:3-5; 9:6-9,13,25; 10:1,3-4,8,11; 13:10-11). 


Recipients


    The letter was addressed primarily to Jewish converts who were familiar with the OT and who were being tempted to revert to Judaism or to Judaize the gospel (cf. Gal 214) s and A. have suggested that these professing Jewish Christians were thinking of merging with a Jewish sect, such as the one at Qumran near the Dead Sea. It has also been suggested that the  recipients were from the "large number of priests who became obedient to the faith" (Ac 6:7). 


Theme


    The theme of Hebrews is the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as revealer and as mediator of God's grace.The prologue (1:1-4) presents Christ as God's full and final revelations, far surpassing the revelation given in the OT. The prophecies and promises of the OT are fulfilled in the "new covenant" (or "new testament"), of which Christ is the mediator. From the OT itself, Christ is shown to be superior to the ancient prophets, to angels, to Moses (the mediator of the former covenant) and to Aaron and the priestly succession descended from Him. Hebrews could be called "the book of better things" since the two Greek words for "better" and "superior" occur 15 times in the letter. A striking feature of this presentation of the gospel is the unique manner which the author employs expositions of eight specific passages of the OT Scriptures: 

    1. 2:5-9: Exposition of Ps 8:4-6 
    2.3:7-4:13: Exposition of Ps 95:7-11 
    3. 4:14-7:28: Exposition of Ps 110:4 
    4.8:1-10:18: Exposition of Jer 31:31-34 
    5. 10:1-10: Exposition of Ps 40:6-8 
    6. 10:32-12:3: Exposition of Hab 2:3-4 
    7. 12:4-13: Exposition of Pr 3:11-12 
    8. 12:18-24: Exposition of Ex 19:10-23 

    Practical applications of this theme are given throughout the book. The readers are told that there can be no turning back to or continuation in the old Jewish system, which has been superseded by the unique priesthood of Christ. God's people must now look only to him, D. whose atoning death, resurrection and ascension have opened the way into the true, heavenly sanctuary of God's presence. To "ignore such a great salvation" (2:3) or to give up the pursuit of holiness (12:10,14) is to face the anger of the "living God" (10:31). Five times the author v. Co weaves into his presentation of the gospel stern warnings (see note on 2:1-4) and reminds his A. readers of the divine judgment that came on the rebellious generation of Israelites in the desert. 


Literary Form


    Hebrews is commonly referred to as a letter, though it does not have the typical form of a letter. It ends like a letter (13:22-25) but begins more like an essay or sermon (1:1-4).The author does not identify himself or those addressed, which letter writers normally did. And he offers no manner of greeting, such as is usually found at the beginning of ancient letters. Rather, he begins with a magnificent statement about Jesus Christ. He calls his work a "word of exhortation" (13:22), the conventional designation given a sermon in a synagogue service (see Ac 13:15, where "message of encouragement" translates the same Greek words as "word of exhortation"). Like a sermon, Hebrews is full of encouragement, exhortations and stern warnings. It is likely that the author used sermonic materials and sent them out in a modified letter form.



How to read Hebrews

    We all face rough times. When the pressure is on, we may be tempted to give up. We need a reminder of what we’re contending for to get us through those tough spots. Hebrews was written for just such a situation. It was for Jewish followers of Jesus who were facing really severe persecution because of their faith. In light of the hardship, some had considered abandoning the faith altogether. The author exhorts them to keep going regardless of the price. Why?

The reason is simple. Nothing—and no one—compares to Jesus!


    He is better than the angels, better than Moses, better than Joshua, better than Aaron, better than Melchizedek. Indeed, he instituted a better covenant based on better promises resulting in a better rest because he’s made a better sacrifice—giving his very own life. In fact, if you were to consider all the great heroes of the faith, Jesus is better yet! That is why we must “consider ... Jesus” (Heb 3:1) and keep “looking to Jesus” him and him alone (Heb 12:2). He is better than better—he is the best there is! The stirring conclusion is clear: Because Jesus is beyond compare, it is worth following him no matter what it costs!


    The writer makes frequent contrasts between Old Testament ritual law and New Testament faith. Notice the strong appeals made to persuade the Jewish believers to stick with the new covenant rather than going back to the old. Look for the vivid Old Testament images used to illustrate what God has done through Jesus Christ. Read the stories of those who endured through the Old Testament, clinging to faith and grace in anticipation of the Christ, “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb 11:16). Delight in the fabulous descriptions of the incomparable life and nature of our great Messiah. And determine in your heart to treasure Jesus above all else—that’s when you know you’ve really got the message of Hebrews!



Hebrews Interpretive Challenges


A proper interpretation of this epistle requires the recognition that it addresses three distinct groups of Jews:

  1. believers

  2. unbelievers who were intellectually convinced of the gospel

  3. unbelievers who were attracted by the gospel and the person of Christ but who had reached no final conviction about Him.

Failure to acknowledge these groups leads to interpretations inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.


The primary group addressed were Hebrew Christians who suffered rejection and persecution by fellow Jews (10:32-34), although none as yet had been martyred (12:4). The letter was written to give them encouragement and confidence in Christ, their Messiah and High Priest. They were an immature group of believers who were tempted to hold on to the symbolic and spiritually powerless rituals and traditions of Judaism.


The second group addressed were Jewish unbelievers who were convinced of the basic truths of the gospel but had not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their own Savior and Lord. They were intellectually persuaded but spiritually uncommitted. These unbelievers are addresses in such passages as 2:1-3; 6:4-6; 10:26-29; and 12:15-17.


The third group addressed were Jewish unbelievers who were not convinced of the gospel’s truth but had had some exposure to it. Chapter 9 is largely devoted to them (see especially vv. 11, 14, 15, 27, 28).


By far, the most serious interpretive challenge is found in 6:4-6. The phrase “once been enlightened” is often taken to refer to Christians, and the accompanying warning taken to indicate the danger of losing their salvation if they “have fallen away” and “are crucifying the Son of God all over again”. But there is no mention of their being saved and they are not described with any terms that apply only to believers (such as holy, born again, righteous, or saints). This problem arises from inaccurately identifying the spiritual condition of the ones being addressed. In this case, they were unbelievers who had been exposed to God’s redemptive truth, and perhaps made a profession of faith, but had not exercised genuine saving faith.


In 10:26, the reference once again is to apostate Christians, not to genuine believers who are often incorrectly thought to lose their salvation because of their sins.   

                     


Outline


I. Prologue: The Superiority of God’s New Revelation (1:-4)


II. The Superiority of Christ to Leading Figures under the Old Covenant (1:5-7:28)

A. Christ Is Superior to the Angels (1:5-2:18)

1. Scriptural proof of his superiority (1:5-14)

2. Exhortation not to ignore the revelation of God in his Son (2:1-4)

3. Jesus was made a little lower than the angels (2:5-9)

4. Having been made like us, Jesus was enabled to saves us (2:10-18)

B. Christ’s Superior to Moses (3:1-4:13)

1. Demonstration of Christ’s superiority (3:1-6)

2. Exhortation to enter salvation-rest (3:7-4:13)

C. Christ Is Superior to the Aaronic Priests (4:14-7:28)

1. Jesus is the great high priest (4:14-16)

2. Qualification of a priests (5:1-10)

3. Exhortation to press on toward maturity (5:11-6:12)

4. The certainty of God’s promise (6:13-20)

5. Christ’s superior priestly order (ch.7)

III. The Superior Sacrificial Work of Our Priest (8:1-10:18)

A. New Sanctuary and a New Covenant (ch.8)

B. The Old Sanctuary (9:1-10)

C. The Better Sacrifice (9:11-10:18)

IV. A Call to Follow Jesus Faithfully and with Perseverance (10:19-12:29)

A. Having Confidence to Enter the Sanctuary (10:19-25)

B. A Warning against Persistence in Sin (10:26-31)

C. Persevering in Faith under Pressure (10:32-12:3)

1. As in the past, so in the future (10:32-39)

2. Faith and its many outstanding examples (ch.11)

3. Jesus, the supreme example (12:1-3)

D. Encouragement to Persevere in the Face of Hardship (12:4-13)

E. Exhortation to Holy Living (12:14-17)

F. Crowing Motivation and Warning (12:18-29)

V. Conclusion (ch.13)

A. Rules for Christian Living (13:1-17)

B. Request for Prayer (13:18-19)

C. Benediction (13:20-21)

D. Personal Remarks (13:22-23)

E. Greetings and Final Benediction (13:24-25)



Hebrews Horizontal



1:1 - Jesus Superior to Prophets and Angels

Jesus Superior


2:1 - Jesus become like us

to Bearers


3:1 - Jesús greater than Moses

of the Law

The

4:14 - Jesús the High Priest  

Jesus the

Superiority

5:11 - Be strong in Christ

Superior

of

7:1 - Priest like Melchizedek

High Priest

Jesus

8:1 - The Sanctuary and the Priests

Jesus the Minister


9:11 - Jesus, the greater sacrifice

of a New Covenant


10:19 - Be strong in your faith in Christ



11:1 - Examples of Faith in Christ

Living out

Faith in

12:1 - Stand in the faith

Faith in Christ

Jesus

13:1 - Final commands and exhortations






God's character in Hebrews


  1. God is accessible - 4:16; 7:25; 9:6-15; 10:19-22; 11:16
  2. God is a consuming fire - 12:29
  3. God is glorious - 1:3
  4. God is loving - 12:6
  5. God is a promise keeper - 4:1; 6:12, 15, 17; 8:6, 10, 12; 10:23, 36; 11:9, 11, 33
  6. God is wrathful - 3:17-19; 10:26-27


Christ in Hebrews

    Directed towards Jewish readers, this is a work of contrasts. The Jewish believers were in danger of falling back into the rituals of the law. Yet Hebrews exhorts its readers to remember God's provision for a perfect priest and sacrifice in Christ to free those under the law. Hebrews presents Christ as the perfect sacrifice over the inadequate sacrifices of the Jews (9:9, 12-15). Christ is also superior as the High Priest, Prophet, and King to all those who came before Him (4:14-16; 12:1, 2).




Notes