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NT Survey 111 Seminar 16 Hebrews

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                                       20th July 2007

New Testament Survey NTES 111

Seminar 16

The Epistle to the Hebrews

Hebrews

Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago Ch 19

Libronix DLS

Guthrie, Donald  New Testament Introduction  Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed  1990 Ch 17

John MacArthur, Hebrews,  (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1983)

Evaluate the question of authorship, readers and purpose of the Epistle:

            The purpose of writing from Jensen’s introduction is: “It interprets Old Testament history, explaining the fulfilment of its prophecy and revealing the ultimate purpose of all its institutions of worship”; “A grand portrait of Christ with the Old Testament as a background” (p 406).

            Macarthur summarises: “In the book of Hebrews the Holy Spirit is not contrasting two kinds of Christianity. He is not contrasting immature Christians and mature ones. He is contrasting Judaism and Christianity, the unsaved Jew in Judaism and the redeemed Jew in Christianity. He is contrasting the substance and the shadow, the pattern and the reality, the visible and the invisible, the facsimile and the real thing, the type and the anti-type, the picture and the actual.”[1]

            In terms of date, Jensen (p 409) places this before 70 AD in that the Temple in Jerusalem is still in use according to Hebrews 8:4-5 and 10:11 (where the verbs are in the present tense), although I do not agree with him that 12:27 might refer to imminent Temple destruction (based on the context of cataclysmic judgment I believe this refers to the end of the millennium with the formation of the new heavens and the new earth). One of the main points of this Book is that Jewish institutions have been superseded by a more perfect system; therefore if the Temple had already been destroyed, this relevant fact would have been mentioned.

            Jensen (ibid) further mentions: “That the epistle was written as late as AD 65 is supported by the observation that the readers were a second generation of Christians (Hebrews 2:1-4 cf 5:12), whose leaders probably had passed away (13:7).” Chart 1 (Jensen p 20) leaves Hebrews undated but places it after Paul’s Pastoral Epistles which were written about 67 AD. It therefore seems not unreasonable that Hebrews was written between 67 AD and before Temple destruction in 70 AD.

            Guthrie concludes: “In view of all the data available, it would seem reasonable to regard this epistle as having been sent either just before the fall of Jerusalem, if Jerusalem was the destination, or just before the Neronic persecutions if it was sent to Rome.”[2] Which perhaps is also not unreasonable.

            Authorship (ie the individual who penned the Letter by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) is unknown. Origen (Jensen p 407): “Who wrote the epistle in truth God alone knows”.

            Some suggestions are:

  1. Paul. This assumption is based on language and thought pattern similarities between Hebrews and Paul’s epistles; the centrality of Christ as in other Pauline epistles (this must be a very weak argument as all of the scripture is fundamentally Christ centred); Paul’s association with Timothy (Hebrews 13:23. I see nothing in this verse which suggests that Timothy wrote Hebrews; rather the reverse); the “Pauline salutation” ie “Grace be with you all” (Hebrews 13:25. Again not a particularly strong argument).
  2. A co-worker of Paul. Said to account for the passages that are Pauline and those that are non-Pauline. Apollos? Luke? Barnabas? Apparently for those who fall into this camp, Apollos is most favoured because he was an Alexandrian Jew (Acts 18:24. Significance?); worked closely with Paul toward the end of Paul’s ministry (Titus 3:13. As did a number of others eg Timothy and Titus. Why aren’t they included in this guessing section?); was well grounded in the OT scriptures, and was an enthusiastic teacher-preacher (Acts 18:24-26).
  3. Others. Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, Epaphras, Jude, Philip the Deacon and Clement of Rome (see Guthrie pp 668-82).

For those OT and NT letters which have clearly defined writers, and for those which do not, the inspired writing of the Holy Spirit is far more relevant than being certain who the human writer was. Where the writer is known, that is important for context and interpretation. Where the writer is not known, there is no confusion about Who authored it. In a sense this makes the hermeneutic of Hebrews easier.

            Guthrie’s introductory contribution is: “This epistle raises several problems, for not only is it anonymous, but its destination and purpose are both obscure. The importance of careful examination of all these problems, even if no dogmatic conclusions can be reached, cannot be exaggerated since they affect both the approach to the epistle as a whole and the understanding of the argument. Moreover, its modern relevance clearly depends on a right appreciation of its original setting.”[3] As above, I cannot agree with this view. Guthrie’s approach is one of rationalistic liberalism which robs him of the simplicity of accepting the text as God-inspired. If he had a “primitive faith” he would have much less difficulty with his exegesis and “scholarship”.

            Guthrie returns almost to reality when he states: “Nevertheless its canonicity was never called in question, and this led to its general acceptance in the West.”[4] And “Of greater importance is the situation which the epistle was intended to answer.”[5] With two strokes this does away with his insistence on attempting to explain who penned it, where and when.

            The readership has to be derived from the Epistle itself (Jensen p 407): “They were from a single congregation of Hebrew Christians, living in the Roman world (eg Hebrews 2:3, 5:11-12, 6:9-10 cf 13:23-24).” Jerusalem, Alexandria, Caesarea, Antioch in Syria and Rome are suggested but all have problems.

            Guthrie argues that internal evidence for a particular community demonstrates that it has a history, it had a definite connection with the writer, it was a section of a larger community, and it was intended for a Jewish Christian congregation (see pp 682-6). He also presents unconvincing evidence that the Letter was intended for Gentiles in a mixed Jewish/Gentile congregation (pp 686-8).

Hebrews 13:24 strongly implies that the Letter was written in Italy, but this has been countered by claiming that this represented a group of Italian Christians elsewhere sending their greetings back to Rome via this letter. It seems it is possible to get around anything when no specific information is available either way.

            Jensen (p 408) makes the point that it is more important to know where the readers were spiritually than geographically. These folk were “in a backslidden condition, in danger of apostasising from Christ and returning to Judaism”. It seems that that generation of Christians in the Church were about to buckle under persecution which had previously been successfully resisted (Hebrews 1:32-34). If this Church was indeed in Rome this might have been the persecution under Nero when he burnt the city (64 AD), but this is pure speculation.

            Jensen divides in two his section on Purposes for writing (p 408-9):

  1. Teaching. The best way of counteracting the false is to faithfully proclaim the true.

a). A Revelation  Hebrews 1:1-4: “God…….has……..spoken” in both OT and NT and Hebrews expounds the relationship between them, as well as revealing the Living Word, Jesus the Christ.

b). A Person  “Hebrews is the most comprehensive New Testament Book  portraying Christ as Son of God and Son of Man. “Consider Jesus” is a key phrase in the epistle” (Hebrews 3:1 Jensen p 409).

c). A Work  Christ’s sacrifice on earth is once-for-all, although His work continues in heaven as Priest and King.

  1. Warning and exhortation. The warnings concern the just consequences that God imposes for sinning against Him, and the exhortations are for appropriating the power, privileges and maturity that goes with being God’s children. Exhortations are scattered throughout eg 4:1, 11, 14, 16, the main passage starting at 10:19. Jensen lists five main warning sections:
    • Take heed (2:1-4)
    • Do not miss the ‘rest’ (3:7-4:13)
    • Beware sloth and apostasy (5:11-6:20)
    • Beware wilful sinning (10:26-31)
    • Beware disobeying Christ (12:25-29)

Guthrie’s list for ‘Purposes’ (see pp 688-96) is:

·         To warn Jewish Christians against apostasy to Judaism

·         To challenge restricted Jewish Christians to embrace world mission

·         To announce the absolute character of Christianity to mainly Gentile Christians

·         To counteract an early type of heresy

This list of itself betrays Guthrie’s lack of focus on the superiority of Christ and the Godly character of the Book, a focus more on the thinking and practice of religion rather than relationship.

Jensen observes (p 414) that “the main Person of Hebrews is Jesus…..We behold Him in His Deity, His sacrificial work, His Priestly office, and His Kingly glory”. Guthrie surmises that: “There is almost as much difference of opinion about the writer’s aims as about his own identity and that of his readers. This problem is nevertheless of greater importance, since it affects the interpretation of the epistle.”[6] If Guthrie or his colleagues actually know that they cannot grasp what the Epistle is being written about then they should not demean themselves or their own readers by attempting to explain it. On the other hand, Jensen does not claim to know everything about Hebrews, but he approaches the Word in a Godly manner which makes his opinion worth listening to.

Examine the destination, date of writing, the background and literary form of the Epistle:

            For destination and date see above.

            Jensen (p 409): “(Hebrews) is the Spirit’s commentary on the Pentateuch, especially the book of Leviticus”. There are 86 direct references in Hebrews to the OT, with direct or indirect reference to at least 100 OT passages. Hebrews explains that the OT sacrifices and priestly ministrations are types pointing forward to Christ - the great sacrifice for sin, the true Priest, the one Mediator between God and man; and “should lift the drifting believer from spiritual lethargy to vital Christian maturity….the antidote for backsliding is a growing personal knowledge of Jesus” (Jensen p 418). Discuss this in terms of the rationale for writing the book eg was it, as Macarthur claims, to encourage hesitating Jews to commit to Christ?

            As Jensen (p 410) observes, Hebrews has been referred to as the fifth Gospel because it takes the work of Christ from its finish on earth to its continuance in heaven. Like no other Book it describes His present work for His people. There are a number of parallels between the leading of the Chosen Nation out of the wilderness into the Promised Land, and Christ’s current saving, interceding, inspiring, instructing and indwelling ministries so that we may enter into the rest of abundant living now, a foretaste of the heavenly glories to come (from Jensen p 410. This type cannot be pushed too far else error will be introduced eg Reformed theology).

            Jensen also observes that Hebrews is often compared to Romans (p 410) - he must have been sorely tempted to construct a comparative Table, which sadly is not there. Guthrie notes that Hebrews bears a remarkable parallel with Stephen’s speech in Acts 7. 3, [7]

            The English word “better” is used 12 times in the Book to show Jesus’ superiority over things Jewish. There are a series of contrasts between the good things of Judaism and the better things of Christ. Jesus is superior to:

  • Past prophets
  • Angels
  • Moses
  • Joshua
  • Aaron

Jensen (possibly because of lack of interest or space) does not discuss literary form. Guthrie usefully points out that: “The possession of a conclusion without an introductory greeting and without address raises a problem as to the form of the letter. Its conclusion and its personal allusions to the readers mark it out as a letter, whereas its style, method of argument and various incidental indications (e.g. ‘I do not have time to tell’, 11:32) point rather to a sermon.”[8] 1 John has a similar structure.

Guthrie notes that Hebrews as a Book may well have been generally neglected in modern times because of its emphasis on the ceremonial law of the OT, modern readers failing to grasp the importance of the OT to the NT. “Yet it gives to our contemporary age the same message as it gave to its original readers, an assurance of the superiority and finality of Christ and a clear insight into the Christian interpretation of Old Testament history and forms of worship.”[9] Perhaps I should not be too hard on Guthrie’s scholarship after all.

Summarise the superiority over the old revelation 1:1-3:

            The divine authority of the OT prophets is agreed (although they did not always understand what exactly it was that they prophesied 1 Peter 1:10-11) but the vital difference with the New Covenant is the Person of Christ - Who fulfilled prophecies and made them understood, was heir of all things, glorious Creator and upholder, sacrificial Saviour and Victorious ‘Prince’. “This opening statement sets the tone for the whole epistle, for Christ is introduced both in his royal dignity and in his fulfilled priesthood.”[10]

            Macarthur makes a useful comment: “From beginning to end the New Testament is Christ. No prophet had been given God’s whole truth. The Old Testament was given to many men, in bits and pieces and fragments. Jesus not only brought, but was, God’s full and final Revelation.”[11] It then follows that to add anything to the NT ie to the revelation of God which is in Christ, is blasphemous (eg Revelation 22:18-19). [12]

“In these last days” refers in the Jewish mind to when the Messiah arrived (eg John 4:25).

This first section establishes Jesus’ pre-eminence over “all the Old Testament, over its message, its methods, and its messengers.”[13]

             

Analyse the superiority of Christ over the angels 1:4-2:18:

            Although Christ is superior to all created beings, including the angels, He “was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death” (2:9). It might be said that the angels remaining in heaven after the fall of those who followed Satan will no longer allow themselves to pursue evil, and are holy, powerful and wise compared to humanity in its current fallen state. Discuss

            Jesus voluntarily enters the human race at a level where He becomes subject to the frailties of mortality, identifying with humanity as its Servant, and actually becoming capable of death, which the angels are not subject to.

            Like the angels Jesus has come to minister to men, but His ministry far surpasses theirs in that no angelic sacrifice can match that of God’s only begotten Son. Macarthur gives a short dissertation on the characteristics and function of angels (pp 22-24) to all of which Christ is superior in His humanity and deity combined. Macarthur also notes the Jewish concept of angels at the time of Christ: “They believed that angels were the mediators of their covenant with God, that angels continually ministered God’s blessings to them.”[14] As an example he quotes Stephen in Acts 7:53, Colossians 2:18 with Galatians 3:19 in support (which appears to state that the Law was mediated by angels). See also Psalm 68:17; Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:38 Discuss

            Seven OT passages are used to establish that Christ is superior to the angels (quoted from the more familiar Septuagint which is proposed as a reason why Paul was not the writer of the Letter). This is a crucial point in that the writer of Hebrews intends to show Jews (believing and unbelieving) that Christ is superior - only their own scripture would be adequate to convince them. Macarthur notes that these passages show that Christ was superior in five ways: “ - in His title, His worship, His nature, His existence, and His destiny.”[15]

            As Hebrews 2:9 shows, the Christ Who is the God of eternity past became lower than the angels as the suffering Son of time, and is now returned to eternity future, once again better than the angels as the Second Person of the Triunity. It should be noted that saved mankind will also become higher than the angels (Daniel 7:18, 27; Revelation 3:21) and will rule with Christ over them (Ephesians 1:20), restored to mankind’s original destiny by the Cross. Discuss?

            The Jewish mind could not conceive of a Messiah that was a man, made lower than the angels, subject to death and actually killed; but if they could appreciate that Jesus was in reality superior to angels, then by definition He would have to be God as well as being all those things He came to earth to do.

            Christ’s superiority extends to being greater than Satan (2:14) in that it had become necessary to wrest from Satan the power of death (which God the Father had allowed from the Fall till the Cross Discuss). This was accomplished by Christ’s victory over death, delivering those who were “all their lifetime subject to bondage” (2:15; Philippians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 15:55).

 

Compare Christ’s superiority to Moses’ and Joshua’s 3:1-4:13:

            Even more than Abraham, Moses is revered by the Jews as the face-to-face Friend of God, the Giver of the Law, the man to whom God entrusted the plan and building of the Temple of God’s Presence, the man God chose to ordain Aaron as High Priest. But “Jesus is shown to be superior to Moses in office, in work, and in person. In His office, He is the Apostle and High Priest. In His work, He is the Builder of the house. In His Person, He is the Son.”[16] Clearly superior to Moses (who if asked, would be the first to agree!); “most Jews could not imagine that the Mosaic economy was temporary and inadequate and defective and unable to bring perfection” [17] although of course God had never intended that it should.

            Hebrews 3:2 addresses Jesus not only as High Priest but also as Apostle. Moses might be considered as an apostle in that he was sent with the message of God’s Law (but not with the message of the better New Covenant). But he was never a Priest (although in some respects he represented man to God and God to man Discuss). Jesus came with the capacity to inherently express all the qualities of God; Moses was a special man selected by God for a purpose, a man who in fact refused to accept all of the means God had wanted to give him to carry out that purpose.

            Moses was faithful (Numbers 12:7) but not in all things. Christ was also faithful to the will of the Father, even unto the death on the Cross, without the slightest imperfection (John 7:18, 8:29, 17:4-5).

            Moses was faithful as the servant in the house (ie to Israel 3:5); Jesus as the Son made the house (eg the Church), for all men (3:6).

            Joshua led the children of Israel out of the wilderness, across Jordan into the promised land of (physical) rest. As a result of unbelief, the previous generation had rightly suffered the judgment of God and died off before they could enter their ‘rest’. Jesus has led His people out of death into life, and the rest occasioned by this is not physical (health, wealth and happiness), but spiritual (release from the penalty of sin ie the judgment of God - and entrance into a life with God now and for eternity), with all the blessings that go with such a state entered into by faith, not by birth.

It is a state in which “…he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10)[18], that is, the rest that a saved person receives is the same as the rest God experienced when He had finished the Creation. Neither Joshua nor Jew could not even conceive of delivering such a rest, or of having any capacity to receive it if it happened to be offered.

Interpret the superiority of Christ’s priesthood 4:14-7:28:

            The sacrifices that the Jewish High Priest was required to offer could not take away sin. In fact he had to offer a sin offering for himself for personal cleansing before he was qualified to enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur to offer a sacrifice for the nation.

            As the sinless Lamb, Jesus in His Godly holiness could not only approach God the Judge on His own merit, but was able to offer Himself as the perfectly acceptable sinless sacrifice which was sufficient to deal with all sin for all time. Proof that He did this is the Resurrection by which the Triunity announced that the penalty for sin was paid, its power was broken and for those who by faith accepted these as a gift, its presence would ultimately be removed.

            Jesus did these things in the real earth and the real heavens, not in a representative Temple built by men. Jesus passed through the heavens (4:14) to accomplish this. See also 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Hebrews 1:3, 9:12; John 17:4-5.

It is significant that the Temple in Jerusalem needed to be destroyed about 40 years after the Cross, so that the human/priest/sacrificial system was forced to cease, having been replaced by the perfection of Christ.

            A Jew might well ask a Christian how his sins are to be dealt with seeing that Christianity has no visible High Priests or sacrifices. Jews ought to feel acutely embarrassed to realise they are in that very same position: they used to have a system whereby their sin was taken care of. According to their own scriptures sin is dealt with by priest offering sacrifice, and it is a travesty of their religion to claim that synagogue worship and prayer are as effective. Their religion requires a Priesthood and sacrifices. They are truly blind for the moment.

It is a tragedy that so many Jews have died, often on account of the religion they follow, and although it was necessary for some that they offered themselves pre-Cross in order to preserve God’s word, it is no longer necessary as their prophecies have been fulfilled in the great High Priest of Christ.

            The Church, the body of which Christ is the head, is now the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5,9). Sacrifice is completely unnecessary and each of the saved is guaranteed direct access to God through Christ.

            Faith is a necessity in order to enter into the benefits given by the High Priestliness of Christ. Abraham is put up as the prime example of Jewish faith. But even he tithed and gave honour to a superior - Melchizedek. Jesus is the anti-type to Melchizedek and should be recognised as such. Melchizedek as the type was real, historical and of God, but at the same time not perfect and not permanent. Jesus as the antitype is real, historical, perfect and eternal.

            The description of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7:1-3 gives him Godly qualities not normally associated with men. His priesthood was universal, royal, righteous and peaceful, personal not hereditary, and eternal, not temporary. This introduces a contradiction with his obvious mortality.  Discuss

            The impeccable logic of ‘if the Aaronic priesthood had been perfect, there would have been no need to introduce another’ cannot be denied. Jesus said “No man cometh unto the Father but by me” to a Jew under the Levitical priesthood.

Logic also forces the conclusion that if the sacrifices had had any permanent benefit, they too would have been done away with long ago.

 

 

Consider the superiority of Christ’s priestly work 8:1-10:18:

            If Jesus were currently on earth, He would not be a Priest at all, for if the Jewish sacrificial system was still in place, not only would there be others to do this human work, but they would be working with ineffective sacrifices in a building which was just a  shadow of the real thing. Jesus works in the real Tabernacle in heaven, achieving perfect and eternal results. The sacrifice made by the Jewish priest in the Tabernacle/Temple on Yom Kippur was on behalf of the sins of the nation for the previous year only - there was no suggestion of atonement for future sin nor of permanent remission with forgiveness.

            Jesus is also the mediator of a better covenant than Jewish priests. They were confined to the Old, Jesus to the New (promised long before the Cross - Jeremiah 31:31). The New Covenant was originally made with Israel, but by the grace of God, Gentiles may share in it. Again there is unassailable logic: ‘if there was no problem with the Old Covenant, why was it necessary to replace it with a New one?’ The New Covenant was written by God, was different from the Old, was not legalistic, was internal, personal, brought total forgiveness and is available now. God is not asking the Jews to give something up without offering them something better in return.

            The Jewish High Priest entered the Holy of Holies for the people ie on their behalf and on his own. Jesus takes all the saved with Him right into the throne room of God. The tearing of the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in Herod’s Temple during the crucifixion should have been an illuminating and a startling event for all Jewry; perhaps it was, for those who had the eyes to see. As believers, we are already seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:4-6; Philippians 3:20).

            If the Old Covenant indeed served its purposes eg of reconciliation of man with God, how much more will the perfection of Christ in His sacrificial and Priestly roles do so. The copies or shadows of the representations of the earthly Tabernacle were cleansed by the prescribed blood of bulls and goats - how much more perfect is Christ’s blood in the Temple of heaven.

 

 

Classify the superiority of which method of approach should be used 10:19-25:

            The approach to God employing the Old Covenant would result in the sacrifice of about 300,000 animals at Passover but “they were ineffective. They failed in three ways: they could not bring access to God; they could not remove sin; and they were only external.”[19] The approach to God under the New Covenant is in faith, love and hope and is based on the finished work of Christ. This allows full confidence in our approach to and continuing relationship with God Himself, knowing that we will always be accepted by Him and acceptable to Him, never to be rejected.

 

 

 

Articulate the dangers of apostasy 10:26-31:

            A definition of apostasy is contained in 1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”[20] Having understood what the gospel is and how it should apply to an individual, there are only two responses: belief or unbelief, salvation with God or hell without Him.

            In my view, rejection of the sin-convicting pleadings of the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin. There can be no salvation if the first-base fundamental is ignored or despised. This is not a sin of ignorance. Judas Iscariot is a good example and so is the current world’s population (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Discuss

            Apostasy must be viewed in terms of what is left behind, not of what is alternatively turned to. See the parable of the soils Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.

            Although the fundamental of apostasy is wilful unbelief, it can be associated with persecution, false teachers, temptation, neglect on the part of an individual, an unreasoning clinging to the Old law and forsaking Christian fellowship.

            If a person is truly apostate, then there is “no further sacrifice” for his/her sin, and the only expectation is of judgment (of which there are degrees).

 

 

Amplify that the memories of past days are cause for encouragement 10:32-39:

            Recalling to memory and dwelling on the details of the persecutions endured in the past and victoriously overcome in Christ, are cause for great encouragement in the present. By extension, it is then easy to look forward to future rewards that the same God has promised to provide.

            In addition, Christ has promised to return in “a little while….and will not tarry”. In context this may mean that an individual may soon be saved. Discuss

 

 

Discuss examples of triumphant faithful Biblical heroes 11:1-40:

            By the time of Christ, Judaism had been twisted into a system of works - self effort, self salvation and self glorification. God hates this, and throughout history in contrast to the prevailing system, He honoured men of faith (eg Habakkuk 2:4). The faith principle is the foundation of both the Old and New Covenants, and was a requirement of the Dispensation of Innocence in the very beginning, and certainly a requirement for a restoration of a relationship with God after the Fall. Faith is the fundamental on which a correct understanding of the creation depends.

            The first hero of faith is clearly neither Adam, Eve nor Cain, but Abel. Dead men do tell tales. From her comments, Eve appears to have thought that Cain was the Deliverer that God had promised would bring back their garden-of-Eden personal relationship with God. Cain used his sweat to till the ground, and Abel his to shepherd sheep. Macarthur supposes that God allowed a place of worship outside the Garden, possibly where the angels with flaming swords guarded the way to the tree of Life.

            Both Cain and Abel were conceived and born after the Fall and therefore in sin. Both appear to have appreciated this and gave offerings to God at the same time. The way of worship was certainly prescribed by God -  “It is inconceivable that Cain and Abel accidentally stumbled onto sacrifice as a way of worshiping God.”[21] Abel offered his sacrifice by faith; faith cometh by hearing; therefore God would have prescribed this method by telling the boys directly or through their parents.

            There is nothing inherently wrong with the fine produce of the ground, but approaching God requires that sin be the very first element to be dealt with and unless it is, every other offering is unacceptable. Cain was disobedient to the expressed will of God and would not/did not deal with his sin; he did what he wanted rather than what God wanted, and therefore both his offering and he were rejected. He would not admit to himself or to God that he was a sinner. He believed in God, but did not believe God. He therefore becomes the father of all false religion (Jude 11; Romans 10:2-3).

            Cain’s “sacrifice was simply a religious activity designed to suit his own purposes and fulfill his own will. Cain was like the Pharisee in the Temple who Jesus said was praying “to himself” (Luke 18:11). He was patronizing God and worshiping himself. Also like the Pharisee, Cain went home unjustified; whereas Abel, like the penitent tax gatherer, went home justified.”[22] Abel was declared righteous - not because he was righteous, but because he obeyed God.

            It is important that the first recorded successful offering to God in worship was a blood sacrifice made in faith, setting the pattern to be fulfilled in Christ. NB the animal (lamb?) slain by God to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness.

It is not appropriate at this point to treat similarly with the other heroes mentioned in this Chapter except to say that the fundamental of all their testimonies is that they are able to witness to us because of the works produced by their faith.

Critique “the greatest example of all is Jesus” 12:1-11:

            We are encouraged to ‘run for our lives’ with the example of Jesus before us. We look to Him not only to give us the faith we need but also to the strength to continue in the race He has set before us. As with Christ, we have a race to run which will be testing but will fade into insignificance compared to the joy He promises at the end. What He had to endure is incomparably greater than what we would ever be asked to go through. He made it by trusting in His Father and depending on the Spirit. We can do the same.

 

 

Review the moral inconsistencies that must be avoided 12:12-17:

            This is a passage that is full of exhortation which should attend scriptural preaching (2 Timothy 4:1-2; Hebrews 13:22). Doctrinal truth which is known but not obeyed becomes a hindrance and judgment rather than a help. “It is not enough to know the New Covenant is better; we must accept it for ourselves. It is not enough to know that Christ is the superior and perfect High Priest; we must trust in His atoning sacrifice for us. It is not enough to know how we should live; we must actually live what we know. The biggest fool of all is the one who knows the truth but does not apply it to life.”[23]

 

Expound the superiority of the New Covenant 12:18-29:

            For those Jews looking on the events surrounding the early Church, and being attracted by the faith and Godly lives of the Christians, the cost of participating ie the exposure to ridicule, shame and physical harm - must have been very daunting. “It was evident that being godly in a godless society was costly.”[24] Nevertheless it must have been abundantly clear that the New Covenant that the Christians were rejoicing in was far superior to their Old one.

            Furthermore, they should also have been aware that rejecting God would incur His wrath, which was to be feared above all else. They were able to see first hand the difference between the penalty prescribed by the Law of Moses given on Sinai, an integral part of their own belief - with the blessings of Christ under grace. To become a Christian was to be made safe from the voice of God which will shake both the earth (as it was on a small scale at Sinai) and the heavens (at the end of the millennium).

 

Assess the practical results which must follow from these considerations 13:1-17:

            “Early Christians were a rebuke to the pagan and immoral societies in which they lived, and those societies often sought to condemn them.”[25] See 1 Peter 2:15; Titus 2:7-8. This passage describes the kind of Christian activity that typifies Matthew 5:16  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”[26]

            A successful testimony demands right doctrine and a right relationship with Jesus Christ. Chapters 1 to 12 of Hebrews has presented the doctrine and the necessity of being saved. Macarthur lists the following practical qualities (pp 419-450):

  • Love for the brethren (and why this is important)
  • Love for strangers
  • Sympathy for those in trouble
  • Sexual purity
  • To be satisfied with what we have
  • To be steadfast in the faith - purity of doctrine, rejection of legalism
  • Separation from the world
  • Sacrifice (as per Romans 12:1-2)
  • Submission to our Church leaders because they are accountable to God and that they may be so with joy
  • Supplication to God for the needs of the writer

The fundamental is to keep Christ as our example and to use the power He freely provides.

 

Compare and contrast the benediction with Paul’s Epistles 13:18-25:

            Jensen (p 419): “The most important teachings of the epistle are referred to in the benediction of 13:20-21: the power of God, the death of Christ, His resurrection life, His present work, the everlasting covenant, the object of Christ’s work, namely, to restore again in man the image of God, which has been marred through sin.” This is more full than the frequent “Grace be with you all” of the Pauline greetings and benedictions eg Titus 3:15.

            The historical detail of Timothy’s imprisonment mentioned in 13:23 is unknown.


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[1]John MacArthur, Hebrews, Includes index., 128 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1983).

[2]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 705 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[3]ibid 668

[4]ibid 671

[5]ibid 682

[6]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 688 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

3 See pp. 677 f.

[7]ibid 708

[8]ibid 712

[9]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 717 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[10]ibid

[11]John MacArthur, Hebrews, Includes index., 6 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1983).

[12]ibid 7

[13]ibid

[14]ibid 25

[15]John MacArthur, Hebrews, Includes index., 26 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1983).

[16]ibid 74

[17]ibid 185

[18]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[19]John MacArthur, Hebrews, Includes index., 247 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1983).

[20]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[21]John MacArthur, Hebrews, Includes index., 298 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1983).

[22]John MacArthur, Hebrews, Includes index., 300 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1983).

[23]ibid 401

[24]ibid 410

[25]John MacArthur, Hebrews, Includes index., 420 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1983).

[26]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

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