Hebrews

Jesus’ Superior Atonement and Covenant

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of Hebrews is to see that throughout the argument in chapters 1-10, the author is systematically demonstrating that Jesus and his work of atonement is substantially superior to every leading feature of the old covenant. This letter is an exhortation to some Hebrew Christians to persevere through persecution, and lay hold of the glorious future life with Christ that we are already beginning to experience and live.


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above for an audio version of Hebrews.

 

Download the Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling in the car.


Read
Read

Since it is not that easy to see and understand the argument throughout Hebrews, it is perhaps best to read the book section by section (see the five sections in the ‘Structure’ section in ‘Essentials’). One leading view is that the letter is actually an edited collection of a series of 5 sermons.

 

It will take between 30 – 45 minutes to read through Hebrews in one sitting.


Watch
Watch

Watch a film where the heroes have to persevere through real difficulty and trial, resisting all temptation to turn back to an easier life, in order to reach and inherit their goal.

 

A film like “Strictly Ballroom” portrays the struggle of a young couple to bring in a new form of dance into a strictly conservative context, and this does in some ways mirror the leading exhortation of Hebrews.


Study
Study

In each of the sections, study the contrasts that the author is making between the features of the old covenant and the superior features of the new covenant.

 

Use the BfL material and answer the BfL questions at the end of each section.

 

Make a list of your own questions for a ‘Pod’ one-on-one discussion.


Meditate
Meditate

Suggested verses for meditation

 

1:1-4   ‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our father by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.’

 

10:12-14   ‘But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.’

 

10:19-25    ‘Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ 

 

11:39-40   ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only with us would they be made perfect.’

 

12:7   ‘Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.’

 

13:1   ‘Keep on loving each other like brothers.’


learn
Learn

1:1-4   ‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our father by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.’

 

10:14   ‘… because by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.’

Maps

The Eastern Mediterranean

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Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Summary - All the key features in a one page summary
    • Summary
    • /
    • Video

    Summary and Exhortation

     

     

    ‘Hebrews’ is a letter exhorting Hebrew Christians, who may be a group of Jewish Christians near Rome, to persevere and not give up their faith in Jesus (13:22). As young Christians they had joyfully suffered for their new belief in Christ, but many years later they have lapsed, even to the point where some are considering renouncing their faith and returning to Judaism. The (anonymous) author, who demonstrates considerable knowledge of Pauline theology, is also clearly steeped in the old covenant sacrificial practice at the Temple.

     

    The argument, which is not particularly clear, has two parts. In the first part, the author demonstrates the complete superiority of Jesus and his atoning work over every leading feature of the old covenant. First, Jesus is God’s Son: he is fully divine and fully human, and greater than the angels, who are only servants (chapters 1-2). Second, Jesus is faithful as God’s Son and he is leading God’s people to their eternal rest, whereas Moses, although a faithful servant of God, failed to lead God’s people into their inheritance – the promised land (3:1-4:11). Third, Jesus’s High Priesthood is altogether superior in every way to every aspect of the Aaronic priesthood. The old covenant priests had to offer repeated sacrifices for their own sins, but Jesus offered only one perfect sacrifice for all time (4:12-7:28). Fourth, Moses’ tabernacle was only a copy of the heavenly one, but Jesus entered heaven itself to offer one sacrifice for all time, and by this sacrifice ‘he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy’ (10:14). Jesus’ covenant and atoning sacrifice is therefore completely superior to the old Mosaic covenant that is ‘obsolete, ageing and will soon disappear’ (8:13).

     

    The second part, which runs from 10:19 onwards, is an exhortation to these wavering Hebrew believers to persevere towards the certainty of their inheritance in Christ, their ‘hope’ (10:23, 11:1), thereby behaving like and following the finest examples in the old covenant, of people who believed what God had promised them and lived their lives in the expectation that God would fulfil what he had promised, even after their deaths. Alongside this exhortation to continue their commitment to their faith are admonitions to continue to love one another (10:24-25, 13:1).

    Video >
      Book In A Picture -
    • Book In A Picture
    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Have you ever encountered an angel (Hebrews 1)?


    Question 2 -

    Eleven times in the first part of chapter 4 the author writes about ‘the rest’ that God will give his faithful followers. What ‘rest’ do you long for?


    Question 3 -

    Why do some people who previously loved Jesus ‘fall away’ (2:1)?


    starter course

    the essentials

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    Questions

    10 mins

    • the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    Author:

    Although no name is stated, we can discern the following about the author. First, the author was a ‘second-generation’ believer (2:3), that is someone who had become a believer as a result of hearing about Jesus from those who knew and heard him personally (Luke 1:2). The writer uses excellent Greek, and has an outstanding knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.

     

    Date:

    Again, no details are given, but although estimates range from 50CE to 90CE, the absence of any reference to the destruction of the Temple in a document that is focused from beginning to end on Judaism surely indicates that the letter was written before 70CE.

     

     

    Circumstances of writing:

    The letter, which the author describes as a ‘word of exhortation’ (13:22) seems to be written to Jewish Christians who, after many years, are starting to flag in their faith and are considering giving up, despite the fact that at the beginning they suffered for their new faith (10:32-34). Some have even stopped meeting with other Christians (10:25).

    In the past when they became believers they stood their ground ‘in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes (they) were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times (they) stood side by side with those who were so treated. (They) sympathised with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of (their) property’ (10:32-34). They had helped God’s people.

    Generally, they are slow to learn. Whereas they should have reached a stage of being teachers, they are instead needing to be taught the basic truths of Christianity all over again. They have become lazy. Some had given up meeting together. Some were being tempted to drift away, some have ‘a sinful, unbelieving heart’ (3:12).

    Genre:

     

    Although the document is titled as a letter, actually it contains almost none of the usual features of a letter. Similarly, although often referred to as a sermon, it has few of the usually accepted features of a sermon. The author refers to it as a ‘word of exhortation’ (13:22), which seems a much more accurate description. The letter is written in good Greek with frequent use of metaphor, imagery and reference to old covenant, priestly and sacrificial practice. Rhetorical argument and appeal is employed throughout. The words ‘better’, ‘greater’ and ‘more’ occur at least twenty-five times, demonstrating the author’s argument that Christ’s atoning work in the new covenant far exceeds that of the old covenant.

    Structure:

     

    The first ten chapters are a theological and biblical argument for the superiority of Christ over all the leading features of the old covenant. These chapters also include successive exhortations not to turn back to the old covenant, but to persevere living the life of the new covenant. The last chapters then apply these truths to the believing community, but even this is not as clear as is the case with the other New Testament literature. In this way this document is unique in the New Testament canon.

     

    Section 1   1:1 – 2:18   Jesus is superior to angels

    He is the Son of God, but he also became fully human, in order that he could make full atonement for humanity.

    Exhortation 2:1-4: Don’t drift away from Jesus’ superior message!

     

    Section 2   3:1 – 4:13   Jesus is superior to Moses

    Jesus is the Son of God whereas Moses was only a servant; Moses led God’s people to the promised land but they failed to enter. Jesus is leading God’s people into an eternal ‘Sabbath’ rest and we must make every effort to enter that rest.

    Exhortation 3:12-19 and 4:11: Make every effort to enter the rest Christ gives.

     

    Section 3   4:14 – 7:28   Jesus is superior to Aaron…

    …and his High Priesthood is of the order of Melchizedek.

    Exhortation 5:11 – 6:12: A severe exhortation to persevere and not fall away.

     

    Section 4   8:1 – 10:39   Jesus’ covenant is superior to the first covenant

    Every aspect of the new covenant is superior to the old covenant.

    Exhortation 10:19-39: A strong exhortation not to commit apostasy, but to persevere in our faith towards the hope promised to us.

     

    Section 5   11:1 – 13:23   The new life of faith, hope and love

    Application 1   11:1-40

    Just as the leading people of the old covenant lived believing that God would do all that he had promised, so as members of the new covenant we must live the life of faith, believing that God will fulfil all that he has promised us.

     

    Application 2   12:1-29

    Persevere and endure hardship now because we are already beginning to receive the inheritance God has given us in Christ, and promised us in full. So, live focused on the hope we have in Christ.

     

    Application 3   13:1-6

    Live a life of love and obedience to Christ.

     

    Epilogue   13:7-25

    Summary reflections.

    Themes:

     

    1. Christology: Hebrews gives a study of the person of Christ, his divinity and humanity, his high priesthood, atoning work and the new covenant he established. In these aspects, Hebrews is second only to the letter of Romans.

     

    1. The new covenant fulfils all aspects of the old covenant and is in every respect substantially superior to it.

     

    1. The nature and pursuit of hope.

     

    1. The nature of faith.

     

    1. Christian discipleship, with special emphasis on the need to persevere through difficult times.

     

    Literary Genre >
      podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    Our Hope

    Audio Commentary on Hebrews 1-2

    Can a Christian Lose their Salvation?

    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    Apostasy is formally, publicly renouncing faith. Backsliding is drifting away (Matthew 24:12). Do you know anyone who has committed apostasy?


    Question 2 -

    In the 21st Century it is quite rare to find priests sacrificing animals and offering food to gods, so the concept of a High Priest is especially unfamiliar. Have you ever personally witnessed a priest sacrificing an animal?


    Question 3 -

    If we want to be qualified in our work, we will need to persevere with our studies until we have passed exams and become certified in a trade or profession. If we are bringing up children, we will need to persevere in caring for them and loving them until they are able to leave home as adults. If we want a good pension when we retire, we shall need to work hard throughout our lives. What exactly is the apprentice of Jesus persevering towards?


    Question 4 -

    Hebrews chapter 11 lists many people who received promises from God and believed that what he had said would come true, even though they died before it had happened. Write down the promises God has made to you.


    Question 5 -

    What is the single most powerful thing that is frustrating your growth and progress into the Kingdom of Jesus?


    Question 6 -

    In the film ‘Silence’ directed by Martin Scorsese, a Christian leader is tortured until he renounces his faith in Jesus. Should we understand this to be apostasy in the sense described in Hebrews 6:4-12?


    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Contrast OT and NT

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • Hebrews 1&2 The Son of God
    • /
    • Hebrews 3:1 - 4:13 Superior to Moses
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    • Hebrews 4:14 - 7:28 Superior Priesthood
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    • Hebrews 8:1 - 10:39 Superior Covenant & Atonement
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    • Hebrews 11:1 - 13:23 The New Life of Faith, Hope & Love

    Section 1   1:1 – 2:18   Jesus is superior to angels

     

    1:1 – 3   Jesus is the Son of God

    This majestic opening parallels the very highest texts of the New Testament, such as John 1:1-14, Romans 1:1-4, Revelation 1:12-18 and Colossians 1:15-20, in its forthright declaration that Jesus is God’s Son, through him God created all things and revealed the very person and glory of God, he has provided sanctification for all humanity, and that he now sustains and rules over all Creation. This opening sentence is rightly considered to be one of the finest statements in all of Scripture.

     

     

    1:4 – 14   Jesus, the Son of God, is far superior to the angels

    Seven passages of Old Testament scripture are quoted in order to demonstrate that the Son of God is far superior to angels. Jesus is the Son of the Father, but the angels are only the servants in heaven. The author will argue from 1:1 to 10:18 that Jesus is superior to every leading feature of the old covenant, and the reason for beginning with a comparison of Jesus with angels is that the old covenant law was understood to have been delivered by angels to Moses on Mount Sinai, whereas the new covenant was delivered by God’s own Son.

     

     

    2:1 – 4   First exhortation to faithful discipleship

    The Hebrew Christians must continue to live as faithful disciples.  This is because if the old covenant Law, which they used to follow and which was given by angels, was binding, then the salvation brought by the Lord himself and confirmed through miracles by the Spirit is consequently even greater, demanding more serious allegiance and greater commitment. The book of Hebrews is essentially a warning not to give up our commitment to following Christ, and even here in the beginning there is a warning of punishment.

    V3       This verse is actually addressed to long-term Christians who are being tempted to compromise and give up.

     

     

    2:5 – 9   Jesus has been made Lord over everything

    Although we do not yet see Jesus as Lord of everything, we do see him honoured and glorified because he suffered and experienced death on behalf of everyone. He submitted himself to be temporarily lower than the angels so that through establishing salvation for humanity, he might be raised to Lordship over humanity and the universe.

     

     

    2:10 – 18   Jesus became fully human in order to atone for humanity

    This section describes the necessary process in which Jesus became fully human and suffered death in order to be our High Priest, atone for our sins and establish salvation for humanity. Since Jesus has fully experienced humanity’s suffering, temptation and death, he is ideally placed to help us when we are tempted. He has become our merciful and reliable High Priest.

    V10 The only way to learn perfect holiness is to be tested to the limit. As a human being, Jesus was tested to the limit and his perfect holiness was demonstrated to humanity.

    Section 2   3:1 – 4:13   Jesus is superior to Moses

     

    3:1 – 6   Jesus is superior to Moses

    As the pioneer and High Priest of our faith, we apprentices should fix our thoughts on Jesus who as God’s Son is greater than Moses, God’s servant.

    V3 The term ‘house’ refers to God’s great work of salvation for humanity, centred first by Moses by way of preparation, and then perfectly through Jesus within the community of those faithful to God.

     

     

    3:7 – 19   Second exhortation: it is more serious to reject Jesus than Moses

    The author quotes from Psalm 95 to demonstrate the importance of responding to Jesus now with faith and not unbelief. If we lose our faith in Christ then, like the Israelites in the desert, we will fail to enter into our ‘promised land’ with Christ.

     

     

    4:1 – 13   There is a ‘Sabbath Rest’ for the people of God

    Just as God rested after creating the world, so there is a ‘rest’ for his people. This rest is like the ‘promised land’ for those who left Egypt and crossed the desert. However, it is possible through disbelief (4:2) and disobedience (4:6) not to enter into this ‘promised land’, or ‘Sabbath rest’. The word of God – the things he has promised – is incisive, it is the truth, and it addresses all Creation, so we ought to live and behave in the light of what it says.

    Section 3   4:14 – 7:28   Jesus is superior to Aaron

     

    4:14 – 5:10   Jesus is the great High Priest

    The author now argues that because Jesus is the Son of God and he is sinless, he is the greatest High Priest. Since he is fully human, he can identify fully with human weakness (2:17-18, 4:5:7-8). Since he is sinless, he has opened a source of eternal salvation (5:9) for us – so all can approach his throne, a place of abundant mercy, which leads to grace and peace (4:16). Jesus’ high priesthood is of a completely higher order than Aaron’s – he is of the order of Melchizedek.

     

     

    5:11 – 6:20   Third exhortation: warning against continuing immaturity

    This third exhortation has four parts.

    First, the author is frank about the community’s spiritual immaturity; by this stage they ought to have reached a place of substantially greater understanding of the faith and committed obedience to it (5:11-14). He describes the basic foundations of the faith and states that he is moving on from them (6:1-3).

    Second, he warns them severely of the very serious penalties of committing apostasy (6:4-8).

    Third, he encourages them to continue in the dedication and perseverance that they had when they first became believers (6:9-12).

    The fourth part of this exhortation focuses on our future with God (our hope), and argues that it is secured by God’s very own personal promise and oath, precisely so we believers may know the surety and security of our future with God.

    V20 This excursus (from 5:11-6:20) ends at the very point of the argument up to 5:10: that Jesus’ High Priesthood is of the order of Melchizedek.

     

     

    7:1 – 28   The order of Melchizedek’s priesthood

    This rather long section argues that Jesus’ High Priesthood is of a completely different order to the inferior priesthood of Aaron.

    V1-3    Melchizedek was a Royal Priest without genealogy and with an eternal priesthood.

    V4-10    Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham the patriarch is demonstrated by the tithes that Abraham gave him.

    V11-22    The Aaronic priesthood was imperfect (v11), weak and useless (v18). Jesus’ priesthood was established by divine oath (v20-22), and he therefore establishes a superior covenant.

    V23-28    The Aaronic priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins, and they had to repeat their sacrifices every day until they died. Jesus was sinless and perfect and had no need to offer sacrifices for his own sins, and he offered one sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He is eternally alive and his sacrifice continues to make effective intercession in heaven for all.

    Section 4   8:1 – 10:39   Jesus’ covenant is superior to the first covenant

     

    8:1 – 13   The High Priest of a new covenant

    This chapter starts by summarising the section on the High Priesthood and then introduces the argument about the new covenant as a foundation for this fourth section.

    V 1-2   Jesus is the Lord of Heaven and the High Priest of the heavenly sanctuary.

     

     

    9:1 – 28   Jesus is the High Priest of the heavenly sanctuary and the mediator of a superior covenant

    The tabernacle revealed to Moses and build by him was at best a mere representation of the genuine and perfect tabernacle in heaven. The old covenant tabernacle and sacrificial system was a mere trivial copy of the genuine perfect sanctuary in heaven into which Christ our perfect High Priest went only once to make one perfect sacrifice for all sin.

    V1-5    A description of the old covenant sanctuary.

    V6-10    Description of the annual sacrifice of atonement under the old covenant.

    V11-15    Christ’s single unblemished sacrifice in the heavenly sanctuary has mediated a new covenant and ransomed us, and cleansed our consciences from the sins committed under the old covenant.

    V16-22    Only when a person has died is their will made effective. It was necessary for Christ to die for the new covenant to be established.

    V23-28   In the same way, Christ entered into the heavenly sanctuary to make one sacrifice once for all.

    V28    Just as the High Priest returns from the sanctuary to bless the people (Luke 1:21-22), so Christ will return to earth from the heavenly sanctuary bringing salvation to those who are waiting for him.

     

     

    10:1 – 18   Jesus, the High Priest’s single offering, ‘has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified’

    Jesus’ single sacrificial offering is far superior to the daily offerings under the old covenant. Their offerings failed to make perfect those who approached God (v2, 11). Christ’s single offering made the believers perfect for all time (v14), and there is now no need for any more sacrifices (v18). The sacrifices of the old covenant failed to cleanse the consciences of the worshippers (v2), but the sacrifice of Christ established a new covenant in which God put his laws in the hearts of the worshippers and wrote it on their minds (v16).

     

     

    10:19 – 39   Summary exhortation to approach God through Christ

    V19-25   This summary exhortation describes three applications: 1) Approach God in full assurance of faith (v22), hold fast to our hope, the quite assurance of participating in the future glory of God (v23), and encouraging each other to live lives marked by love (v24).

    V26-31   A final (severe) warning against apostasy and backsliding.

    V32-39   While these verses summarise the writer’s appeal to the ‘Hebrew’ Christians to persevere and endure difficulties, they are also the greatest accolade to their earlier commitment and discipleship. V35-39 both perfectly complete this exhortation and by speaking of persevering in faith now lead directly into the first main application: that as people defined by faith, we should live now in the perspective of what will happen in the future.

    Section 5   11:1 – 13:23   The new life of faith, hope and love

    Application 1   11:1 – 40

     

    11:1 – 40   Faith is living now in the light of what will happen in the future

    This famous chapter lists successive examples of individuals in the Old Testament who chose to act and live their lives on the basis of what God had promised them about their future. However, the very first sentence derails many today because the 21st Century meaning and use of the word ‘hope’ is significantly different from its 1st Century use in the New Testament. Today a person using the English word ‘hope’ refers to what ‘MIGHT’ happen in the future. In the New Testament, the word translated ‘hope’ refers to what WILL happen to us in future. So faith (v1) is being sure of what WILL happen in future because we (believers) are already in Christ. It is being certain that all the massive promises that God has already made to us, but we currently do not yet see, are absolutely assured in Christ. The last phrase of Romans 5:5 is a significant help in understanding this. The point of the author’s argument is that the Hebrew Christians, who are considering giving up their Christian faith and reverting to the old covenant religion, should follow the very examples of the old covenant heroes who lived their lives on the basis of what God had promised. So it is logical that if a person does not believe what God has promised about his future, he will certainly not please God (v6). The way we live our lives now should be determined by our knowledge of our future with God. Every example in this chapter is about someone who made decisions, acted and took the consequences of their decision and action because they chose to believe what God had promised about their future. The chapter demonstrates that throughout history, God’s salvation purposes for humankind are taken forward by those, and only those, who believe what God has said about the future, and who live their lives within the perspective and on the basis of these promises.

     

    Application 2   12:1 – 29

     

    12:1 – 17   The summary exhortation to imitate Christ and endure hardship

    v1-3 These verses cite Jesus as the primary example of the argument of the previous chapter: he was someone who lived all his life in the light of what God promised him. He suffered severely but despised the shame of the cross in order to do God’s will with the result that he is now ‘at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven’ (8:1) – which in modern parlance means he is ‘CEO of heaven’!

    V4-11 This is a serious appeal to endure hardship as discipline from God our heavenly Father. Just as our earthly father and mother disciplined us for our good, so our heavenly Father disciplines us so that we may share his holiness, having our characters cleansed from sin and evil so we are set apart for God’s purposes, so that our lives are agents bringing righteousness and peace.

    V12-17 These are the imperatives of apprenticeship. These are the actions we need to take, while God through his Spirit is working in us (Philippians 2:13). We should actively pursue peace, holiness and the grace of God, and take steps to avoid every ‘root of bitterness, … sexual immorality… or godlessness (idolatry)’ (v15-16).

    V18-24 Finally, the author describes our hope. Typically this is done by contrast, first by describing the harrowing experience with which the Law was given at Mt. Sinai (v18-21) which the Hebrew Christians are foolishly reverting back to, and then by describing Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and then God himself. Everything from 11:1 culminates in 12:22-24.

    V25-29 Then yet again the author warns these defaulting Hebrew Christians of the dangers of refusing to listen and obey what God is saying (3:7-19). Everything that God makes is tested, and what does not stand will be removed. We, those who faithfully believe in God, are receiving a Kingdom that cannot destroyed, so we should respond with thankfulness and worship, because ultimately everything outside the Kingdom will be shaken, will crumble, will be removed and will be burned up.

     

    Application 3 and Epilogue   13:1 – 25

     

    13:1 – 25   Final exhortations

    Although verse 1 is the only specific exhortation to ‘love one another’ in this chapter, it is fair to see the following sweep of exhortations in verses 2-8 as general applications of this dominical command (John 13:34-35). There is a similarity between this passage and Paul’s exhortations in Romans 12 in both the content and the style of the argument. In this way, the final three chapters can be viewed as the exposition and application of the summary fulcrum of the letter in 10:22-25: chapter 11 – faith; chapter 12 – hope; chapter 13 – love.

    V9-16 are a final reflection on the letter’s message and focus and act in a similar way to Paul’s final reflection in Romans 16:17-19.

    V15-16 The sacrifices of the New Covenant are praise and worship from our lips, and a life committed to the serious pursuit of what is good.

    V22-23 These briefest of details do give some indication about the author. He is well known to Timothy. The absence of any reference to Paul almost certainly indicates that this letter is written after Paul’s death, that is after CE65. The author is certainly Jewish with a profound understanding of the Old Testament and the Jewish sacrificial system and priesthood. Paul’s colleague Silas had all these attributes, and his authorship would explain the occasional Pauline-like prose in the letter.

     

    Hebrews 3:1 - 4:13 Superior to Moses >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Holy Habits
    • /
    • Applications

    The overall message of the letter to the Hebrews:

    The Letter to the Hebrews is a strong exhortation to Jewish Christians warning them not to give up their faith, because in every way Jesus and the new covenant are superior to the old covenant. All believers need to persevere through trials towards the certain hope of our future in and with Christ.

    The leading imperatives:

     

    2:1   We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 

     

    3:1   Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 

     

    3:12-13   See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

     

    4:1   Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 

     

    4:11   Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

     

    4:14   Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 

     

    4:16   Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

     

    6:11-12   We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

     

    10:22-25   …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

     

    10:35   So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 

     

    12:1-3   Therefore, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

     

    12:7   Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.

     

    12:12-13   Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Establish responsible healthy spiritual disciplines in your life – and stop behaving like wimps!

     

    12:14-16   Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 

     

    12:25   See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.

     

    12:28   Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our “God is a consuming fire.

     

    13:1-5   Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.

     

    13:7   Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

     

    13:15   Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. 

     

    13:16   And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 

     

    13:17   Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

     

    13:18   Pray for us. … I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

     

    13:22   Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.

     

    13:24   Greet all your leaders and all God’s people.

     

    Implied Imperatives:

     

    2:2   Don’t reject God’s work of salvation.

    3:7-11   Don’t fail to enter into the inheritance that God has given in Christ.

    3:14   Only if we persevere to the end will we inherit.

    5:11-14   Christians are expected to grow up.

    6:7-8   Disciples are expected to bear good fruit for God.

    10:26-27   Don’t keep on sinning.

    10:29   Don’t dishonour Christ.

    10:32-34   Keep on identifying with and supporting those who are being persecuted.

    11:1   Believe and live in the light of the absolutely certain future we have with Christ.

    11:6   We please God when we draw near to him believing that he will reward us.

    Chapter 11   All the ‘heroes of faith’ lived their lives in the anticipated expectation of their future with God because of the promises he had made to them.

    12:4   Be prepared to suffer physically – even to the point of being wounded for your faith.

    12:7-11   Accept God’s discipline, he is training you to be a responsible adult in the Kingdom.

    13:9   Beware of heresy.

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    12:12-13 is probably the passage in this letter that addresses this most clearly: ‘Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees’.

    Arms and knees represent work and prayer. In order to persevere and ensure we take hold of and do not lose our inheritance, every believer should establish a lifestyle of Holy Habits so we are active in Kingdom activities, and steady and committed in prayer.

     

    Applications:

     

    1. Thinking, reflection, attitude

    2:1   We must pay more careful attention.

    3:1   Fix your thoughts on Jesus.

    10:32   Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 

    12:3   Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

     

    1. Faith

    3:12   See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 

    4:14   Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 

    4:16   Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

    6:12   We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

    10:22   Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…

    13:7   Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same     yesterday and today and forever.

     

    1. Hope

    4:11   Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

    6:11   We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 

    10:23   Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

    12:2   Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

     

    1. Love

    3:13   But encourage one another daily.

    4:1   Let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of (entering the rest).

    10:24   And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.

    13:1   Keep on loving each other as brothers. 

    13:2   Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. 

    13:3   Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

    13:4   Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

    13:16   And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such   sacrifices God is pleased. 

     

    1. Effort, perseverance

    10:35   So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 

    12:1   Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

    12:7   Endure hardship as discipline; … How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!

    12:12   Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

     

     

    1. Godly Living

    12:14   Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; 

    12:15   See to it that no one misses the grace of God

    12:15   …and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile any.

    12:16   See that no one is sexually immoral…

    12:16   … or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 

    12:25   See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.

    12:28   Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

    13:5   Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.

    13:9   Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.

    13:13   Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 

    13:15   Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that confess his name. 

    13:17   Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

    13:18   Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

    13:22   Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.

    13:24   Greet all your leaders and all God’s people. 

     

    Leading Imperatives >
      Contrast OT and NT -
    • Comparing the Superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant

    Contrasts:   Old and New Covenant

     

      Old New  Ref.
     
    God’s mouthpiece:
    God spoke through … Prophets. His Son. 1:1-2
    The law was brought through … Angels (2:2; Gal 3:19). His Son (2:3). 2:1-4
     
    God’s agent:
    The person who established the covenant Moses – faithful as a servant. Jesus– faithful as a Son. 3:1-6
    The “rest” God intends for us Moses – the promised land – but the people failed to enter (3:19, 4:8). “The Sabbath rest for the people of God”. 4:1-11
     
    God’s Priest:
    The High Priest Aaron. Jesus – God’s Son, and a priest in the order of Melchizedek. 5:4-6
    Effectiveness of priesthood Unable to ‘make perfect’ (7:18). Able to ‘make perfect’. 7:11
    Basis of appointment Ancestry. An indestructible life. 7:16
    Length of priesthood Priests died in office (7:23) and had to make sacrifices for their own sins (7:27) Jesus: a perpetual priesthood. ‘Holy, blameless pure, set above the heavens’. 7:23-25
    Sacrifices Repeated sacrifices. One sacrifice once for all (9:25). 7:27-28
    The Place:
    Sanctuary Only a copy of the heavenly sanctuary. The heavenly sanctuary (9:11). 8:1-5

     

    Entry to the Sanctuary By the blood of goats and calves. By the blood of Christ (9:24). 9:11-12
    Covenant:
    Covenant Unfaithful people – covenant is now obsolete, ageing, and will disappear. Based on better promises. Christ is mediator of a new covenant (9:15). ‘I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts’ (8:10). 7:22, 8:6-13
    Atonement:
    Conscience Sacrifices were unable to clear the conscience (9:9). Effective in cleansing the conscience. 9:14
    Law A mere shadow of what is coming – unable to make the worshippers perfect (10:1). The reality of what has come/is still coming. 10:1-4
    Efficacy of the sacrifice Unable to make the worshippers perfect. ‘It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins’ (10:4).

     

    Believers made holy (v10) through Christ’s one and only sacrifice – ‘by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy’ (v14). 10:1-13
     
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    The first part of Hebrews (chapters 1-2) address the divinity and humanity of Jesus. What stories in the gospels demonstrate Jesus’ humanity? And which gospel stories exhibit his divinity?


    Question 2 -

    In their laudable pursuit of peace throughout the world, the secular authorities urge the different ‘faiths’ to accept one another’s differences and appreciate that each can make a real contribution to human welfare. However, there is a strong message of ‘pluralism’ underlying this appeal. Hebrews 1:1-3 states that God has spoken and acted through his Son Jesus in a way that surpasses the revelation in any other religion. What are the essentials that we cannot compromise in our interfaith conversations?


    Question 3 -

    I know a man who has struggled all his life to trust God, because twenty years ago he was suddenly sacked from his job, and as a result he thinks God let him down. How can we help those who, for whatever reason, find it really hard to trust God?


    Question 4 -

    List the reasons why Jesus’ new covenant is far superior to the old covenant.


    Question 5 -

    List the things that help us to persevere towards the prize.


    Question 6 -

    Do atheists have faith?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on Hebrews

     

    Oh Holy Spirit, enlighten our minds and spirits that we may see and pursue Jesus and his Kingdom with every ounce of our love and energy, and hold unswervingly to our certain hope in Christ until the end of our lives. Amen.

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    Is it possible for a baptised believer to lose their salvation (Hebrews 6:4-8)?


    Question 2 -

    What does it mean for a believer whose love has grown cold (Matthew 24:12) to fall into the hands of God the consuming fire?


    Question 3 -

    Hebrews argues that the new covenant is in every leading aspect superior to the old covenant; what attitude should Christians have to Jews?