"Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about Christ, let us press on to maturity."
Hebrews was written amidst a growing number of Jewish Christians forsaking their new found truth and reverting back to the bondage of Judaism. The writer shows how Jesus the Christ and the New covenant is far superior to Judaism and the ceremonial Law (filled with sacrifices and rituals). The arguments presented are clear and aggressive. Several times the writer warns of the dire consequences of turning back to the old covenant. He shows that once someone has accepted the blood of Christ as the only thing that can cleanse away their sin, if they then continue in sin, then in actual fact they trample on the blood of Christ.
WHO WROTE HEBREWS?
The King James Version has the title "The Epistle of Paul to The Hebrews". However, based on the earliest manuscripts, we can not positively state who the author is. For this reason, the New American Standard version has the author as being anonymous. Many scholars maintain that Paul was indeed the author based on a few things mentioned within the epistle. Firstly, the expression "They of Italy salute you" (Heb. 11:24) suggests that the author was in Rome at the time of writing. At this approximate time Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Secondly, the author associates with Timothy (Heb. 13:23). Paul's association with Timothy was well known. The timing of this epistle being written to the Hebrews of Jerusalem was just after James the Just was killed. This would have caused the faith of many in the Jerusalem church to be shaken. If Paul was the author, it stands to reason that his name could not be mentioned in the epistle as many Jews had distanced themselves from his ministry.
Despite there being some evidence that Paul may have been the author, even the earliest church fathers didn't know who the author was. Turtullian referred to Barnabas as the author, while others suggested Luke, Apollos or even Philip. However the statement by Origen still stands today "Who it was as that really wrote the Epistle, God only knows."
WHEN WAS HEBREWS WRITTEN?
Because Timothy is referred to, we know that it was written in the first century. Because the destruction of Jerusalem was in AD 70 and no mention of it occurs in Hebrews, we assume it was written before then, especially when the writer says that a great shaking is yet to come and the system of sacrifices will be done away with (Heb. 12:26,27). Therefore, it can be concluded that the epistle was written sometime between AD 64-68.
1. LET ALL THE ANGELS WORSHIP HIM
"But when He again brings the first born into the world, he says: "Let all the angels of God worship him."
1. According to Matthew 4:10, who is to be worshiped?
2. Based on Revelation 19:10, can angels (heavenly beings) be worshiped?
God commands all the angels to worship Jesus.
3. What does this tell us about Jesus?
In verses 8-9, the Son is accredited with the acclamation "Your throne, O God is forever and ever . . ." You have to try really hard to not make this say what it`s really saying. The passage goes on and says that God has anointed Him, thus we see the Father-Son relationship, as equals together.
The writer is stating that Christ is far superior to any angel.
2. BUT WE SEE JESUS
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angles, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone."
Despite Jesus being superior to all the angels, He was made lower than all the angels and became the ultimate sacrifice for mankind's sin. The writer says that although all authority and power now lies with Christ, we do not see the complete outworking of that in the world.
4. What did Christ's death achieve? (2:14)
5. What did this do to those who received Christ? (2:15)
Jesus became as we are. He became a member of the human race so that He was able to call others brethren. Now, he is able to aid His brethren through their temptation because He knows what its like. (2:18)
3. DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEART
"Therefore, just us the Holy Spirit says, today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.
The writer urges the believers to maintain their faithfulness to Christ just as Moses was faithful in all his house. This honor due to Christ is rightly deserved because Christ is the Creator of all. Yet some were becoming hardened to the message of salvation and the things of Christ. Hebrews 3:14 says that it's simply not good enough to accept Christ and drift back into our old ways.
6. What does it say is required?
7. What are we told to do to prevent each other from becoming hardened by sin? (Heb. 3:13)
8. With whom was God angry? (Heb. 2:17)
4. THE PROMISE REST
"Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering his rest, and one of you should seem to have come short of it."
The type of rest that's referred to here is a rest from "works". That is, a rest from the continual ceremonies and rituals required to atone for sins. The fourth commandment, about keeping the Sabbath, was a shadow of the rest that God had in mind - a rest that would come through the work of Jesus Christ. This rest could not be earned but was only available by faith in Christ.
9. According to Romans 10:17 how does faith come?
10. What does Hebrews 4:12 say about the word of God?
11. What's the comforting thought of Hebrews 4:15 about Jesus?
12. Who is Christ the Author of salvation for? (Hebrews 5:9)
The writer shows in chapter five that Christ is our High Priest. Unlike the High Priesthood of the Old Covenant, which descended from Aaron, Christ was after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a king and a priest (see Gen. 14) when God had called. The same with Christ. Priests who descended from Levi and Aaron were priests because of their birth, but Christ was a priest because of who He was. Our High Priest is far superior to the shadow of priesthood in the Old Covenant because He offered Himself as the sacrifice for sins. He is also able to relate exactly to the needs of His people, because He became a man and learnt what suffering was all about. Yet despite these truths, that Christ was ready to minister to any who were growing weak, the writer says that they had become "dull of hearing" (vs 11).
13. What does this mean?
14. What should they have been instead? (vs 12)
15. Who does "solid food" belong to? (vs 14)
The writer calls these truths "elementary" and also lists others the same way.
16. What are some other elementary truths? (Heb 6:1-2)
The passage in chapter six, verses four to eight, is a difficult one to interpret on its own. We must compare Scripture with Scripture. The overall message of the Bible is that if we slip or stumble, Christ is able to forgive us and cleanse us from that sin (Jn. 1:8-9). We know that we all still have to battle with sin and occasionally stumble back because of it. But this passage talks about someone who has enjoyed the beauty of God's kingdom and willingly, in full knowledge of what they are doing, rejecting Christ.
17. What is essential to our daily walk with God? (6:15)
The writer makes the point that Christ is superior to the high Priesthood of the Old Covenant because when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, he did so on behalf of Levi. Therefore, Melchizedek's priesthood is greater than the Levitical one. He asks the question, if the High Priest could have gone on atoning for sins, then why did God prophesy of another priesthood coming after the order of Melchizedek?
18. What's just one of the advantages of our High Priest mentioned in verses 23-34?
19. According to verse 25, what is Christ doing for us?
Chapter eight sets out the argument for the New Covenant. God had told His people that a new covenant would do away with the old.
20. Where did He say this?
Chapter nine shows how Christ's sacrifice was greater than any before.
21. How was it greater? (9:28)
22. In light of this, what is the thought conveyed in verse 27?
Chapter ten continues the point about Christ's sacrifice and says that because of it we can now enter boldly into the Holy of Holies.
23. What are we told to do in verses 24-25?
24. What happens if we wilfully go on sinning? (vs 26)
5. WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE GOD
The Old Covenant was based upon works requiring effort. The New Covenant is based on faith requiring trust. The New Covenant is actually the outworking of what God required all the time: faith. The unchanging God has always required faith.
"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him."
The writer lists examples of Old Testament heroes who proved that faith was what God actually required even then. By doing this, the writer shows those contemplating reverting back to Judaism that they would be out of the will of God if they did so. Consequently, faith is seen as the only acceptable way to approach God.
There is also a close link between faith and endurance mentioned. In 10:36, the message is that we need to endure to receive from God. The list in chapter 11 is clearly an example of those who combined faith and endurance. We need to keep in mind that this was a suffering church to which this letter was written. The message of endurance is continued in chapter twelve with the writer adding the extra motivation of there being a great cloud of witnesses (listed in chapter 11) and that God was disciplining the church.
25. According to Hebrews 12:26-27, what was going to happen, that the believers needed to be ready for?
Despite so many things crumbling, Jesus Christ remains the same.
26. What's the comforting thought in Hebrews 13:8?
New Testament Survey
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania