July 1st, 2018
Aux. Texts: Luke 24:13-27
Call to Worship: Selected verses from Psalm 103
Service Orientation: Our worship of Jesus is weak because our love for Jesus is weak. Our love for Jesus is weak because our understanding of Jesus is weak. It is the prayer of Pastor Keith that Hebrews will enlighten us as to the amazing majesty and superiority of the real Jesus.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. — Hebrews 8:6
- The letter to the Hebrews isn’t casual bedside reading. Dense and deep, complex and compelling, profound and practical–it requires mental focus and spiritual motivation to grasp its content and grapple with its application. But the return on this big investment has benefits that pay off in eternal dividends. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 3)
- The main term used for God (theos) occurs sixty-eight times in Hebrews, being found in almost every unit. The uses of theos are flanked by numerous pronouns referring to God. Thus, we are on safe ground in asserting that Hebrews is “God-centered” from beginning to end. (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 53)
- It seems that persecution worsened after a Jewish believer placed their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, received the promised Spirit of God, and was incorporated into the church body of Jews and Gentiles. Already snubbed by Gentiles and now shunned by fellow Jews, these Jewish-Christian converts would have often found themselves without homes, without families, without jobs, and without the support of their former, Jewish peers. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 7)
Who wrote the Book of Hebrews?
- When questioned about the authorship of Hebrews, the third-century theologian Origen said, “But who wrote the epistle, to be sure, only God knows.” And that was in A.D. 225. If scholars at the dawn of the Christian era did not know who wrote Hebrews, we certainly will not rise above them. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 6)
- Leading candidates are the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, Barnabas, Apollos, Princilla. . .
To Whom was the Book of Hebrews written?
- That it was written to saints who were by no means young in the faith is clear from 5:12. That it was sent to those who had suffered severe persecutions (cf. Acts 8:1) is plain from what we read in 10:32. That it was addressed to a Christian community of considerable size is evident from 13:24. From this last reference we are inclined to conclude that this Epistle was first delivered to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:22), or to the churches in Judea (Acts 9:31), copies of which would be made and forwarded to Jewish Christians in foreign lands. Thus, our Epistle was first addressed to those descendants of Abraham who, by grace, had believed on their Savior-Messiah. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 11)
- There is a good reason to believe that the location of the original audience was Rome. But, it could as easily been Jerusalem, Alexandria or some other location in which Jewish Christians were known to live and endure persecution.
When was the Book of Hebrews written?
- Some experts claim that Hebrews was written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD because of the lack of reference to the destruction of the temple. But, others claim that Hebrews was written after the destruction of the temple because no Jew, in his right mind would have ever promoted such devastating substitution of the temple, priests and ceremonies like Hebrews does unless the Temple was no longer standing. But, the book of Hebrews was definitely written at a time in which Jewish Christians were suffering greatly for their faith. This could have been around 65 AD with Nero or later under another persecution.
Why was the Book of Hebrews written?
- With variations the phrase God says occurs constantly (1:5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13; 2:12, 13; 3:7; 4:3; 5:5, 6; 7:21; 8:8; 10:5, 15, 17; 13:5). And because the secondary author is unimportant for the writer of Hebrews, his own name also has been deleted, perhaps purposely, in this letter. By focusing attention on the Triune God as speaker, the author teaches that Scripture is divinely inspired. He has heard not the voice of man but the voice of God.
Interestingly, however, when the author quotes from the OT he uses the Greek translation (the Septuagint) of the Hebrew text. And this translation in places differs from the original. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 5)
- In several noticeable respects Hebrews differs from all the other Epistles of the NT. The name of the writer is omitted, there is no opening salutation, the ones to whom it was first specifically and locally sent are not mentioned. On the positive side we may note, that the typical teachings of the OT are expounded here at greater length than elsewhere; the priesthood of Christ is opened up, fully, only in this Epistle; the warnings against apostasy are more frequent and more solemn, and the calls to steadfastness and perseverance are more emphatic and numerous than in any other NT book. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 15)
- We are not sure the genre of the Book of Hebrews. It could have originally served as either a letter or a sermon. Actually, it could have been created to do both.
What is the Platonic connection?
- Ever since the time of Plato, five hundred years before, the Greeks had been haunted by the contrast between the real and the unreal, the seen and the unseen, the temporal and the eternal. It was the Greek idea that somewhere there was a real world of which this was only a shadowy and imperfect copy. Plato had the idea that somewhere there was a world of perfect forms or ideas or patterns, of which everything in this world was an imperfect copy. . . . The thinkers of the ancient world all had this idea that somewhere there is a real world of which this one is only a kind of imperfect copy. Here we can only guess and grope; here we can work only with copies and imperfect things. But in the unseen world there are the real and perfect things. . . . If that be so, clearly the great task of this life is to get away from the shadows and the imperfections and to reach reality. This is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews claims that Jesus Christ can enable us to do. To the Greek the writer to the Hebrews said: “All your lives you have been trying to get from the shadows to the truth. That is just what Jesus Christ can enable you to do.” (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 2-3)
What does it mean that the writer of Hebrews favored the LXX?
- The writer of Hebrews makes numerous references to the OT. And nearly all, if not all use the Septuagint as the source. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the OT (much like our modern day English translations). The Septuagint got its name because 72 Scribes (representatives of 6 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) who also were adept to Greek Translation; were each asked to make a Greek translation of the OT. When they assembled they compared notes and they agreed upon a unified translation. The unified copy of the Greek Translation of the Hebrew OT miraculously took 72 days. And so the Greek Translation of the Hebrew OT was called the Septuagint representative of the number of scribes and days it took to complete.
The question to be answered is . . . Why a 9-month study of the Book of Hebrews?
Answer: Pastor Keith is praying that the Spirit of God will use this book to bring about a new birth of conviction, passion, worship and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry on earth, He made a lot of claims of which we simply do not understand the significance without an understanding of the OT. The religious leaders of His day understood Jesus’ claims perfectly. That is why they wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus was making powerful, outrageous and blasphemous claims . . . if He was not Who He said He was . . . if He was not God.
The book of Hebrews will go a long way in helping us to understand those claims that got Jesus killed. And, as a result of that understanding, I pray that God will allow us to embrace the power, outrageousness and superiority of Jesus.
Jesus considered Himself a special ambassador to earth for God (Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22), as Himself and His life a unique fulfillment of the Law (Mt 5:17), as having ability to do what only God can do . . . forgive sins (Mt 9:4-6), as having authority and dominion over Satan (Mt 4; 12:22-30; 13:7b-39; 16:23; Mk 1:12-13; 3:20-27; 8:33; Lk 4; 10:17-19; 11:14-23; 13:10-17), as having authority and dominion over the angels (Mt 13:41-42a; 26:53), and finally Jesus claimed that if people saw Him they saw God the Father (Jn 10:30, 38; 14:6-11; 17:21-23).
For us as Christians, what Jesus claimed that is even more significant for us 21st Century American Christians is that if we have faith in Jesus we can be like Him and do even greater things than he did (Jn 14:12; 17; Eph 3:14-21; Phil 3:20-21; 2 Pt 1:3-4; 1 Jn 3:2)
It is my prayer that both the HFM family and I might have our faith bolstered, our lives transformed and our hope anchored as a result of better understanding the book of Hebrew’s powerful presentation of the superiority of Christ. — Pastor Keith
The Word for the Day is . . . Superior
If we fail to be overwhelmed by the superiority and excellence of Jesus it is not because God has failed to effectively demonstrate and reveal Jesus to us. Our failure to be moved by the majesty of Jesus is because Satan has so confused, perverted, corrupted and hardened our hearts that we cannot see the truth about Jesus even though it is staring us in the face. — Pastor Keith
Why study the Book of Hebrews?:
I- Hebrews shows us what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:17. (Mt 5:17; Jn 1:1-18; 5:39-40)
Once we realize that the OT is a revelation of the Lord Jesus, and we must find Him somewhere on every page, the study of the OT will be transformed from a dull and wearying task, to a thrilling, exciting exercise as we look for His face, hidden among the incidents recorded in the Book. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Search the scriptures; …they are they which testify of me (Jn 5:39). (M. R. DeHaan, Portraits of Christ in Genesis, 29)
Dr. Charles L. Feinberg, often said that you cannot understand the book of Hebrews unless you understand the book of Leviticus, because the book of Hebrews is based upon the principles of the Levitical priesthood. . . .By the time we get through Hebrews, you should have a pretty good grasp of Leviticus as well. It would be a definite advantage, however, if on your own, you began to familiarize yourself with Leviticus. It contains the ceremonial symbols for which Hebrews presents the realities. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, ix)
In the OT the New lies hid;
In the NT the Old lies open. (John Ritchie, Tabernacle in the Wilderness, 8)
The fact that the author of the epistle boldly writes about the setting aside of the Levitical priesthood can best be understood when we place the time of composition a decade or more after the destruction of the temple and the cessation of the Aaronic priesthood. The writer, therefore, had the freedom to express himself on this matter without incurring the anger of the Jewish people. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the other NT writers refrained from discussing the priesthood of Christ. For example, in spite of the vow of purification that Paul took to show the Jews in Jerusalem that he was living in obedience to the law (Acts 21:22-26), he was accused of teaching doctrines against the Jewish people, the law, and the temple (Acts 21:28). What Paul could not do regarding the priesthood, the writer of Hebrews was able to do in a time in which the priesthood and the law concerning it belonged to the past. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 16)
II- Hebrews shows us the comprehensive superiority of Jesus. (Eph 1:20-22; Col 1:15-18; 2:9; Rv 4:11; ch 5)
In the Lord Jesus, Christians have the substance and reality, of which Judaism contained but the shadows and figures. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 13)
Throughout Hebrews these immature, but beloved, Christians are told to keep their confidence in Christ, the mediator of a better covenant and their new Great High Priest. They are reminded that they were losing nothing for which they were not getting something infinitely better. They had been deprived of an earthly temple but they were going to get a heavenly one. They had been deprived of an earthly priesthood but they now had a heavenly Priest. They had been deprived of the old pattern of sacrifices but now they had one final sacrifice. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, xix)
Throughout this Epistle great prominence is given to the Priesthood of Christ. The center of Judaism was its temple and the priesthood. Hence the Holy Spirit has here shown at length how that believers now have in Christ the substance of which these supplied but the shadows. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 14)
No book of the NT focuses upon Christ like the book of Hebrews does. It is the clearest and most systematic presentation of the availability and adequacy of Jesus Christ in the whole of the Bible. It presents Christianity as the perfect and final religion, simply because the incomparable person and work of Jesus Christ permits men free and unrestricted access to God. In every age that is man’s desperate need. There is no hunger like God-hunger. (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 8-9)
It was not an easy thing for a Jew to forsake completely all his heritage, especially when he knew that much of it, at least, was God-given. Even after a Jew received the Lord Jesus Christ this was difficult. He had a traditional desire to retain some of the forms and ceremonies that had been a part of his life since earliest childhood. Part of the purpose of the book of Hebrews, therefore, was to confront that born-again Jew with the fact that he could, and should, let go of all his Judaistic trappings. But since the Temple was still standing and the priests still ministered in it, this was especially hard to do. Letting go became easier after the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, xviii-xix)
III- Hebrews was written to bolster and revitalize your faith in Jesus so you can hang on. (Rom 10:17)
The recipients of this letter were Jewish Christians. They were well versed in Scripture and had professed faith in Christ. Through doubt, persecution, or false teaching, however, many were in danger of giving up their Christian faith and returning to Judaism. This letter to the Hebrews shows that going back to an inferior system would be foolish. Jesus Christ not only fulfills the promises and prophecies of the OT, but he also is better than everything in the Jewish system. Jesus completed and fulfilled the message that was originally brought by the prophets and forefathers. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 2)
If there is one book of the NT that exhorts the Christian to remain faithful “in the last days,” it is the Epistle to the Hebrews. This epistle has a special message for a day marked by apostasy; it addresses the believer who, facing unbelief and disobedience, must stand firm in the faith. The letter to the Hebrews, then, is an exhortation to faithfulness. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 3)
Satan would not miss the opportunity of seeking to persuade these Hebrews that their faith in Jesus of Nazareth was a mistake, a delusion, a sin. Were they right, while the vast majority of their brethren, according to the flesh, among whom were almost all the respected members of the Sanhedrin and the priesthood, wrong? Had God prospered them since they had become followers of the crucified One? or, did not their temporal circumstances evidence that He was most displeased with them? Moreover, the believing remnant of Israel had looked for a speedy return of Christ to the earth, but thirty years had now passed and He had not come! Yes, their situation was critical, and there was an urgent need that their faith should be strengthened, their understanding enlightened, and a fuller explanation be given them of Christianity in the light of the OT. It was to meet this need that God, in His tender mercy, moved His servant to write this Epistle to them. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 12-3)
The appeal of the writer comes to the readers in phraseology that borders on repetition. The message is clear: keep the faith, be obedient, remain strong, come to God, and claim your salvation. The author warns the reader against the sin of unbelief that eventually takes its toll and ends in apostasy. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 11)
Repeatedly the author admonishes his readers to “pay more careful attention” to the Word of God (2:1). He calls that word preached to the Israelites in the desert “the gospel” (4:2), and he states that these rebellious people died in the desert because they failed to combine the Word they had heard with faith. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 10)
Worship Point: We worship that which we perceive as superior. When we begin to see the superiority of Jesus . . . worship will follow.
Gospel Application: Hebrews, like no other book of the Bible, reveals Jesus as superior to angels, Moses, the Law, the sacrifices, the ceremonies, and the High Priest. The salvation provided by Jesus is superior.
Spiritual Challenge: Fight against the world, your flesh and the Devil which hinder you from comprehending the superiority of Jesus. Allow the following 9 months in the Book of Hebrews to cause you to be reborn.
Maybe you’re thinking about throwing in the towel and calling it quits. Maybe you’ve been tempted to let life not only knock you down but knock you out. If that’s you, Hebrews is for you. Christ–and Christ alone–is superior to our greatest challenges and our lowest despair. He knows you intimately, cares about you deeply, and most importantly, has the superior power, wisdom, and love to save you completely.
Why? Because, in His person and work, He’s superior to everything. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 10)
“How can we make Christians believe what they believe?”
This is the very theme of the book of Hebrews! How to make Christians believe–how to make Christians act like Christians. This is what the world is waiting to see and what the epistle was written to produce. (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 7)
So What?: When you see what the writer of Hebrews saw, you will see Jesus in every page of the Bible . . . both Old and New Testaments. You will discover that Jesus is superior to anyone and/or anything.