(last edited 9/1/15)
Abraham was called a Hebrew, and his descendants were often called Hebrews; this book was written to Jewish Christians. The author is not identified, but many think it is Paul. It was probably written before A.D 70 because it speaks of the temple sacrifices so the temple must have still been standing (it was destroyed by Titus the Roman in 70). It seems to be more of an essay or even a sermon rather than a letter.
The author's concern seems to be that some Jewish Christians did not understand the relationship of Christianity to Judaism, especially the Law. Keep in mind that these early Jewish believers were living in a time when the old dispensation--Law--was giving way to a new dispensation--Grace. This time of transition was very difficult for Jewish Christians.
1-2 Who are the fathers? The Jewish ancestors of Old Testament days. How did God speak in the past? He spoke primarily through various prophets--how? He spoke to them in many ways: visions, dreams, voices. Did He reveal everything at once? This is called "progressive revelation"--compare Rom. 16:25-26. Throughout different time periods, God has revealed more of Himself. How has He spoken now, in what the writer calls the "last days" (the church age)? Luke 9:35. Here is evidence for the concept of dispensations. God works differently in different time periods (dispensations). So in the church age God is no longer speaking through prophets, or in many ways; we now have Jesus' life and teachings and His teachings through the apostles, through whom He laid the foundations of the church.
In 2, what does "us" tell us? Who is being addressed--believers or unbelievers? This has been the pattern throughout the Epistles. What does the end of 2 say about how Jesus compares to the prophets just mentioned? What will Jesus receive from God? all things! Does it say God "is speaking" or "has spoken"? Why is that significant? Some today believe that God is still speaking, through modern day self-proclaimed "apostles." God spoke through Christ; He finished saying everything He had to say. The Scriptures are complete and are closed. Jude 3. How do these two verses claim that both the Old and New Testaments are divinely inspired?
3-4 Is Jesus an angel or on the level of angels? How does this passage teach that Jesus is indeed God? He is an exact copy of God, John 14:9. Who alone can purify from sin? Where is He and what is He doing there, Rom. 8:34? Some false religions teach that Jesus is an angel or a created being. Compare John 1:3, Col. 1:16. Could an angel purify from sin or sat at God's right hand or make intercession for us? How does Jesus compare to angels? The Jews thought very highly of angels; they are mentioned often in Hebrews. (In the Old Testament, the pre-incarnate Christ often appears as "the angel of the Lord" but the context always makes it clear that this term identifies Him as God in the flesh, not as merely an angel.) The writer uses the term "better" numerous times in this book, written to Jewish Christians who are being drawn back to Judaism. We will see how many things about the new covenant are better than the things of the old covenant.
5-6 How is Jesus compared and contrasted to angels? The Old Testament speaks of angels as "sons of God" but the writer quotes Old Testament passages speaking of the Son. The Jews who did not accept Jesus as Messiah did not believe God had a Son or in the Trinity, but the writer is showing them that their own Scriptures speak of God's Son. Jesus is the eternal Son of God; He did not become the Son at some point in time, although He was incarnated (became flesh) at a point in time, at which time He became the incarnate Son of God. Was Jesus born at the time this was written? His birth was 1000 years later but He is already the Son. (Some have taught the heresy that Christ was not the Son eternally, that He was God eternally, but that He only became the Son upon His birth--implying that God changed at some point.) Being the Son of God is not a term that denotes subservience, but rather oneness of nature: Jesus Christ is God. Father and Son are equally God.
Jesus is called the "begotten," quoting from Psalm 2:7. Again, can this term refer to angels? The writer says, no, this is further evidence that Jesus is not merely an angel but someone above angels--God Himself. "Begotten" as used of Jesus cannot refer to coming into being at a later time than the Father, because the Bible is clear that He was from the beginning and all things were created by and through Him; it means He proceeds from the Father rather than being created by the Father. Angels were created, Col. 1:16, but Jesus was not created; begotten of God = being of the same nature of God.
Some take Ps. 2:7 to mean that Jesus became the Son or came into being on a particular day, such as His incarnation or His resurrection, although the psalm is actually about the time of the millenial kingdom following His second coming to earth at the end of the seven years of tribulation. A comparison of Strong's shows that "today/this day" (NASB/KJV) has a great many possible meanings, which sheds light on the implications of this passage. Some possibilities: age, completely, continually, entire, eternity, every day, forever, perpetually.
Some claim "firstborn" speaks of coming into existence at a point in time, as one's first child. Compare Ps. 89:20,27. Was David the firstborn child in his family? What is this passage saying about him? It was often used as the highest position or a title of one receiving honor. God made him primary in importance so Christ even more so, Col. 1:18. If He were an angel, how could angels worship Him? What does Rev. 22:8-9 say about worship of angels?
7-9 What does 7 teach about angels? God made/created them, as spirits. Are they eternal? How does 8 contrast Jesus? Eternal. 8 is a quote from Ps. 45:6-7; who addresses whom as "O God"? The Father addresses Christ. 6, who will have the throne in the kingdom? In 9, who anoints whom?
10-12 Does the writer relate the quote from Ps. 102:24-27 to the Father or the Son? In Psalms, the context of the chapter is about the endtimes; the first half of the chapter, 1-11, is about the tribulation, and the rest is about the millenial kingdom, see especially 15-16, 21-22. Jesus is given qualities of God: creator, eternal, sovereign, unchanging.
13-14 According to 13, is Jesus merely an angel? Compare Ps. 110:1; who is speaking to whom? The context of Ps. 110 again is Christ ruling in the millenial kingdom. What is going to happen in the future? Some endtime views claim that all prophecy has already been fulfilled; has this one? So we see that the writer is trying to convince his Jewish Christian readers of what? Why would he need to do that? As opposed to sitting, like Christ, what are angels doing, 14? Who are "those who will inherit salvation"? Are they Christians, or those who will become Christians, or is this speaking of Israel coming to their Messiah in the future? Perhaps this verse sheds some light on how Rom. 8:28 might take place. Does the Bible speak of guardian angels? This passage is often used to support that idea.
The Jewish Christians were confused about the relative importance of Jesus and angels; Christ rules, angels serve. Don't many people today place a great deal of importance on angels? Aren't many confused on the true importance and identity of Jesus? When Jehovah's Witnesses come to our doors claiming that Jesus is not God, do we know how to answer them from Scripture?
1 For what reason? What has the writer just presented? That Christ is not only greater than angels, but is God Himself. He speaks with much greater authority than angels. So because of these facts, what should our response be? Who is "we"? Believers--Jewish Christians. Were they paying close attention? Were they starting to drift, to let things slide? Apparently so, or at least they were in danger of doing so. Is this a problem in the church today--in our lives? What's the difference between drifting/sliding and turning/walking away? What is the solution? "Heard" reminds us that these believers did not yet have the complete written Word of God.
2-4 The writer is comparing what, 2, and what, 3? What was given through angels (Deut. 33:2, Acts 7:53, Gal.3:19), involving penalties for disobedience? But the message of salvation was spoken by whom? So we see that the Law was NOT the message of salvation; Paul said earlier that it was a "tutor" to lead us to Christ.
Who are "those who heard"? All eyewitnesses of His earthly life, or the apostles? Verse 4 seems to answer this; who performed signs, wonders and miracles? All believers, or the apostles? We have no record that Christians in general performed signs and miracles. Philip did, Acts 8:6, but he was ordained directly by the apostles for ministry and apparently operated under their authority, Acts 6:5-6. Likewise Stephen, Acts 6:5-8. There is no record that healings, or being raised from the dead, were done within the church to keep Christians from the effects of illness. They appeared to be done mostly among unbelievers to authenticate the evangelistic message.
Those who say signs and wonders for today, and who claim to do them, say they are to follow the preaching of the Word, and if they are not present, we should question whether the power of the Lord is present. If Christians today truly have the gift of healing, and believe healing is our right, why don't they go to hospitals and heal? If tongues are for today, why do missionaries still have to study to learn foreign languages? And why are tongues (foreign languages) practiced instead in English-speaking churches? This passage in Hebrews seems to teach that signs and wonders and the gifts of the Spirit were given for a specific purpose: to confirm the message of salvation. Various passages point to the specific short-term purpose of the sign gifts: Rom. 1:11, I Cor. 13:8, II Cor. 12:12, Eph. 4:13.
The Jews believed the Law, given through angels, was from God, but the writer is arguing that the salvation message given through Christ was higher than the Law. What does the writer counsel these Jews not to do, 3? They were concerned about escaping the curses of the Law that followed disobedience, which were mostly earthly, Deut. 27-28; what should they really be concerned about escaping? Hell, eternal punishment. What does it mean to neglect? Strong's: to be careless of, make light of, be negligent, not regard. Is this related to the "drifting" of 2:1? Are we careless about things we value? The writer is speaking to careless believers, but isn't this same warning true for unbelievers who could care less about Jesus who claims to be the only way to God? Are there many paths to God?
5-8 Again the writer makes a comparison between who and who? Christ and angels. How does this passage speak of the world to come--what later dispensation is in view? The millenial kingdom reign of Christ. How does 8 in particular speak of these two different dispensations? What will be different in the next? This is not said of angels, only of Christ. 7, "a little lower" in the KJV reads more clearly "for a little while" in the NASB. How was Jesus made lower than the angels for a little while? As a man. This quote from Ps. 8:4-6 originally spoke about man, but here the writer interprets it as applying to Christ.
9 Why is Jesus crowned with glory and honor? Here we see the centrality of the cross; how does the writer explain the doctrine of substitution here? So every believer is identified with Christ in His death for us.
Did Christ only die for the elect, as the Calvinists teach? No--for everyone; compare Is. 53:6, Rom. 5:18, I Tim. 2:6. They believe that His blood could not have been shed for the non-elect: "limited atonement." Since Calvinists believe salvation took place at the cross, prior to any faith being exercised, then it is impossible that Christ's blood was shed for the non-elect; in hell their sins would be paid for a second time. (But this is unbiblical because sins are not paid for in hell--they are punished.) Therefore, Christ must have only died for the elect. So they interpret "all" to mean "all kinds of men," but still only the elect.
They believe the work of the cross is applied to the elect by grace BEFORE they exercise faith--that the elect were actually saved when Christ was on the cross. So if you are the elect, you are unable to resist the grace of God: "irresistible grace." They believe that man is so completely sinful that he cannot exercise saving faith of his own dead works; saving faith is given only to the elect, even though the Bible tells us over and over to believe on Christ. This view is called "the total depravity of man." So if a non-elect person believed in Christ, it would be a false conversion. How can you know if your salvation was true or false? If you received the grace to believe, then you also received the grace to obey, so your life of obedience will show whether you are truly saved; this is called "the perseverance of the saints." The beliefs of Calvinism/Reformed theology/Covenant theology (which are pretty much synonymous) are represented by the acronym TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints.
Is this the true gospel? For a fuller explanation, here is an excerpt from Basic Reformed Theology Explained and Exposed, e-book by Brenda Nickel, pp. 82-83. Bolding and brackets are mine, not the author's.
In the Reformed system of theology, Unconditional Election means God chose some men to be saved before meeting the condition of faith in the gospel. Unconditional Election means that God chose some men, but not all, to be saved.....effectively consigning the rest to the lake of fire. Only those predestined and elected will be enabled to respond to the gospel by means of Irresistible Grace. It is reasoned that mankind is too dead in sins to choose to believe the gospel [total depravity]; therefore the Holy Spirit must, through irresistible grace, grant faith to the elect for them to believe. Irresistible grace not only brings the gift of faith, but it also applies the blood of Christ before faith so that the elect are said to be born again before belief. Irresistible Grace brings both regeneration and gifted faith: grace to apply the blood of Christ before belief and faith employed at belief for justification..
The Reformed justify their doctrine of election by claiming that inside the Godhead, an inter-Trinitarian covenant was made before time began called the 'Covenant of Redemption.' In this covenant, which cannot be found in the Bible but is instead deduced by intellectual and spiritualized reasoning, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit made a covenant within the Trinity before the foundations of the world..... and determined that God would create and choose an elect people for Himself, permit the fall of man, provide atonement for and redeem the elect only [limited atonement]. God the Son would die an atoning death for this special elect people and live a perfect life to give them His perfect law-keeping righteousness. God the Holy Spirit would give the elect Irresistible Grace that would apply the work of the cross and save them before hearing the gospel, give faith as a gift to enable a response to the gospel, justify them by the earthly law-keeping righteousness of Christ, and enable perseverance in good works and obedience throughout the elect's life [perseverance of the saints]. This quick overview of the Reformed gospel is predicated upon this Covenant of Redemption.....not found in the Bible with chapter and verse, is one of three pre-time covenants which form the basis of Covenant Theology.
The Biblical view of election is what's called Conditional Election. The Bible teaches God chooses or elects men who meet the condition of faith in the gospel. Election is conditioned upon belief. Men are elected based on the foreknowledge God (1 Peter 1:1-2). All men are required to obey this command in order to be saved. "And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son," 1 John 3:23a. God's righteous character doesn't command man to do what he is unable to do. All men are expected to consider the existence of God from creation. From creation all men can conclude that God exists. And for those who believe that God is Creator, He is able to bring whatever needed biblical revelation they require to know His Son, Jesus Christ. No one can be saved apart from believing in the Son as Lord and Savior. We clearly know that Jesus is the narrow gate that all must pass through for there is salvation in no one else.
From the vantage point of earthly time, men who believe the gospel are then elected to salvation. But from the vantage point of eternity, God elects the believer based on His foreknowledge. God knows everything before it happens. So election for believers is in time (whosoever may come) and election by God happens from eternity (chosen from before the foundations of the world).
Think about the politician whom the public elects. The public doesn't arbitrarily choose a candidate but chooses and elects a candidate based on what is known about him. The word election is in voting because information is disclosed that makes the candidate desirable. God also elects believers to salvation based on what He knows about them. As 1 Peter 1:1-2 says, God elects based on foreknowledge. Foreknowledge simply means to know before, although the Calvinist will redefine the word foreknowledge as foreordained. This reinterpreted definition supports his theology.
God, in His omniscience, sees the future perfectly. Therefore, He knows who will exercise faith and believe that Jesus is God who died for mankind's sins. This is the faith that God chooses to save The believing person has met the condition for election, which is why the correct view is called 'Conditional Election' while the opposing view is called 'Unconditional Election.' For the Calvinist, Unconditional Election is election not conditioned on belief, but rather on being elected.
These views are the outcome of not understanding and interpreting the Bible in its literal and normal sense. They come from seeing Israel and the church as the same group, now being "spiritual Israel," with the church inheriting the promises that were made to Israel. This stems from an allegorical interpretation of the Bible, where it does not mean what it actually says, but where other symbolic meanings can be read into it. A literal reading leads inevitably to a dispensational view, where Israel and the church are seen as two separate groups, with prophecy pointing to the pre-trib rapture followed by a seven-year tribulation, the second coming, the 1000-year earthly reign of Christ, the great white throne judgment, then the eternal state.
10 Who is "Him"? How is He described here? Who is described the same way in Col. 1:16? What does that teach us? Who is being brought to glory? Sons, not children. We saw in Gal. 3:23-4:5 that the Law was likened to a tutor, which, according to Roman custom, was over the children of the household until they came of age. To signify their coming of age, they no longer dressed as children but put on the garments of sons, 27, and were legally adopted by the father as the heir. Hebrews here calls us sons. Who is the author or captain of our salvation? And this salvation He brought could not be complete without what? Why, 9? This is made clear by the terminology in Is. 53: sorrow, grief, stricken, smitten, afflicted, pierced, crushed, chastening, scourging, oppressed, anguish. Why was this fitting--why couldn't Jesus die a painless, bloodless death?
11-13 In some places, the Bible says we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit; in other places, by the Father, or by the Word. How is it explained here? The writer will speak often of our being sanctified through His blood. Sometimes sanctification speaks of the process of being made more holy and Christ-like; sometimes it speaks of being made holy as in salvation. In Hebrews the context seems to speak of salvation. What does Jesus call us who believe? The first quote is from Ps. 22:22, a Messianic psalm that speaks of the cross. This Old Testament passage shows that the Messiah is a man like us; yet other passages, like Ps. 2:7, speak of Him as God Himself.
14-16 Jesus gives help not to angels but to who, 14? To who, 15? To who, 16? The writer is speaking specifically to Jewish believers, but Gal. 3 made it clear that all believers are now spiritual descendants of Abraham. Jesus had to take on flesh and blood for what purpose? How is Satan described here? Does Satan have power? What effect did Jesus' death have on him? What slavery is he talking about?
17-18 What is another reason Jesus had to become man? What does a high priest do? In the temple, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people. He placed the sacrificial blood on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant--where God met with His people. Make propitiation/reconciliation: what does that mean? An act that satisfies the wrath of God. How would being like us make Christ a more merciful high priest? Does He understand how hard our temptations are? Why?
1 Therefore: in the light of everything he has just presented. Who is the author writing to? Believers. These believing Jews are partakers of what? in contrast to the earthly promises made to their forebears that he just talked about--Israel in the Old Testament dispensation. Israel, in the age of the Law, had earthly promises of physical blessings; the church, in the age of grace, has heavenly promises of spiritual blessings. He is clarifying to them that things have changed for the Jews; they are having trouble with this.
He has been contrasting Jesus and angels; who are they to have their eyes and minds on? Because He is what? A high priest represents who to whom? An apostle does just the opposite; he represents who to whom? Jesus does both at the same time; what is He called in I Tim. 2:5? Some religions today have priests--do we need a priest? Some Christian groups today claim to have apostles; if apostles speak for God, that would mean God has more to say to us than He said in the Bible, and that God's Word is not complete but open to change. This is unbiblical heresy.
2-6 Now Jesus is contrasted with whom? We have seen much evidence that the audience is Jewish believers; there has been talk of prophets, angels, the high priest's sacrifices in the Holy of Holies, Abraham, and many Old Testament quotes. Moses and Jesus are both described as what? Faithful. Moses was faithful where? In God's house--the tabernacle. What is Christ's house? Who is the builder? In the Epistles, we remember that Paul often spoke of the church as a body--the body of Christ--but he also spoke of it as a building, with a foundation and a cornerstone. Rom. 15:20, I Cor. 3:10-12, Eph. 2:20.
The writer is making it clear that the Old Testament was not the complete revelation of God; God has given new revelation through His Son. The Old Testament must be interpreted in light of the New Testament. Only in Jesus is God's revelation complete. What did God tell the disciples in Mat. 17:1-6? They are now to listen to whom, rather than who? Is 6 saying Christians must do these things to stay saved, or is it describing what is true of a true Christian?
7-11 The author points his Jewish readers again to the Old Testament they know, where the psalmist speaks of the time of the wilderness wandering. Who is the author of Scripture, 7? Moses and Jesus were both what, 5-6? On the contrary, he reminds them that their forebears did what, 8? And because of that, God did not allow them to enter His rest but caused them to wander 40 years in the wilderness; what would that rest have been? Deut. 6:10-12, the land God promised to Abraham. Some teach that the promised land represents heaven--salvation. Others teach that it represents the blessings of obedience for the Christian, which is available to all but which not all Christians manage to attain. We will try to determine from the context which meaning is correct.
The writer will go on to speak more about this rest in this chapter and the next, and how important it is to the Christian. We often find the principles of the New Testament illustrated by the historical events of the Old Testament. Someone has said, "The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed." To understand the importance of this rest, we will look at the scriptural context and read Num. 13:1-14:35. Were those who left Egypt God's people, or were only those who entered the promised land 40 years later, God's people? Ex. 19:3-6. He brought them out of Egypt to Himself; what did they put over their doors that enabled them to leave Egypt? Blood of a lamb; they were saved by blood, but He also wants their continued obedience. Did they doubt Him? Do Christians doubt the Bible, doubt God? What is the opposite of doubt? What hymn title sums this all up? Trust and Obey. (Egypt often symbolizes the world; Israel was often reminded not to return to Egypt or to desire the good things it had to offer, but rather to trust in God.)
12-19 If salvation is not the issue, then what is (end of 18)? Do believers continue to struggle with doubt and obedience after they are saved? Might that lead to a "wilderness experience"? Is it always easy to rest in the Lord? So is 12 talking about losing your salvation, as some teach? What does he call them in 12? Might a Christian withdraw from God--draw farther from Him rather than closer? Can a Christian's conscience become hardened? By what--lack of faith? No, by rebellious choices we make. Can Christians choose to walk in the world's ways, to play around in sin? What can happen if we continue in that pattern? Didn't the author already warn them about drifting, 2:1? "Fall away" does not equal loss of salvation; what is the opposite of falling away from God, James 4:8?
Do rebellious Christians generally continue in active Christian fellowship around the Word, 13? Don't they usually go off by themselves and avoid conviction by avoiding close contact with Christians and solid Bible teaching? So what two groups of people is he talking to in 13? Is "partakers of Christ," 14, referring to salvation, or to sharing in close fellowship with Christ? Do all Christians experience this? Why? Is the unbelief of 19 the state of an unbeliever, or of a believer? J. Vernon McGee says unbelief is the Christian's worst sin and will keep us from the blessings of obedience--the rest of obedience.
1-2 What word begins 1? The author uses this word frequently; what can we infer from this? He is carefully building a logical case. We find that word or that idea often in this book; it is written like a logical essay, building from one idea to another. There is a danger of believers being deficient, coming up short, in what? Entering His rest. Don't all believers make it to heaven? So is this talking about heaven? Does crossing the Jordan into Canaan represent death and heaven? In Numbers, did they experience rest like heaven after they crossed the river, or did they experience battles and many faith-testing experiences? We don't experience literal physical battles as they did but rather what type of battles? The Old Testament often pictures the spiritual principles of the New Testament.
All heard what? But they heard it with differing levels of what? Is he comparing believers and unbelievers, or believers with varying levels of faith? In Numbers, they had all had enough faith to come out of Egypt, but only who had enough faith to enter in to what God had promised to give them? Why? How did it look to them? Why was God displeased by their lack of faith? Num. 14:22-23. Why do we often focus more on our circumstances than on what God's Word says? When we see God meet our needs in one trial, why do we then have trouble trusting Him in the next trial? Plus we have the Bible record of what God is like and what He has done. Given all that, isn't it insulting to God not to trust Him completely? It's like calling Him a liar.
3-7 Who will enter God's rest, 3? The Old Testament speaks of literal rest after literal work. God provided the pattern of rest following works. Of those who came out of Egypt, only "some" entered into rest; why didn't the rest, 6? The writer quotes Ps. 95 to emphasize that there is STILL a rest today for God's people, if you do what and don't do what, 7?
Could God have used evolution and long ages to create everything? If He did, the Bible is false. God gave the Sabbath (and enforced it with the death penalty) as a constant reminder of literal six-day creation. This would make no sense if the days were millions or billions of years. Creation was God's defining act of the Old Testament; He is often identified as the God who created heaven and earth.
8-10 The historical events involving Joshua point ahead to another different future rest. In 9, the word for rest is different than the word used previously; the KJV still just says "rest" but the NASB clarifies it as "Sabbath rest." This rest remains for God's people; who are God's people now? The church. God's people have entered His rest because they believed; so now we what from our what? The Sabbath of the Old Testament pictures and is fulfilled by the spiritual principle of what? Therefore, 11--summing up the writer's entire argument--we need to labor (KJV) or be diligent (NASB) to what? Is it always easy to rest in the Lord, to trust Him completely? We must work hard at resting! Exercising faith is exercise--work. What happens to us when we exercise our faith muscles? Is the path to maturity and spiritual blessing instant and painless? Do they only come through obedience? What hymn should be our theme song? Trust and Obey.
The Christian walk is to include good works, but can good works get us to heaven? We rest in Christ's completed work on the cross, resting in the fact that we can not earn righteousness but receive it by faith. Do we only do this on the seventh day? When are we to rest from our works? Every day is a Sabbath rest for the Christian. Is the Christian commanded to treat one day of the week as different from the other days, either to meet together or to cease from labor? The Sabbath is still the seventh day, but the church is not Israel. The church meets on the first day of the week--not because the Sabbath was changed because it wasn't; what do we commemorate instead of creation? The resurrection is God's defining act of the New Testament, and we point to it every Sunday that the church meets, yet not by commandment because we are not under Law.
11 This verse could be misunderstood and used to promote two false teachings, both which are easily corrected by comparing this verse with the context and with the rest of the Bible. Error #1) Rest = heaven, and that we get there by diligence, by obedience. How do we get to heaven? By diligence? No, by faith alone, Eph. 2:8-9. And is "rest" in this passage speaking of heaven? No, it speaks of the Christian's rest from works; it speaks of the walk of the Christian life--walking in obedience and faith rather than doubt and disbelief, and the spiritual blessings that result.
Error #2) Fall = lose salvation. Once we have eternal life can we lose it, or even walk away from it, as some teach is possible? No; if we can, it is not eternal life. If nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, Rom. 8:35-39, can WE separate ourselves from Him? All who truly exercise faith in Christ are baptized into the Holy Spirit when we believe, and then He does what, II Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13, 4:30? In the church age, nowhere does the Bible indicate that we can break God's seal on us; nowhere does it speak of the Holy Spirit leaving us. Those who think He can leave us get that idea from the Old Testament, where the Spirit did indeed come and go upon people; He only indwells and seals the church. It is important to understand what is different in each dispensation. But, can the Christian's failure to believe God completely cause us to stumble and even fall?
12 What is the solution to the problems the author has just discussed? God's Word is likened to what symbol? Also Eph. 6:17, Rev. 1:16, 2:12,16, 19:15,21. Is the Bible just a book, written by men? If it is, it is a book of lies, because it claims to be God's Word, His revelation to us. "Quick" means alive, not fast. What can we infer by the references to soul/spirit, joints/marrow, thoughts/intents? Our innermost parts. Who else might we think of as using a very sharp instrument on our inner parts? A skilled surgeon; does God's Word do surgery on our inner being? Do we always know and understand our innermost self? This helps us understand the previous discussion on believers who struggle with unbelief. Our hearts are not always black or white; we have many shades of gray. Even though we believe God, do we completely believe Him at all times, in all things? Even though we believe the Bible, might we struggle with accepting, or obeying, some things in the Bible? So--again--what is the solution? Get deeper into the Word and let the Word get deeper into us. Is. 55:1, Jer. 23:29, I Thes. 2:13.
13 Is this comforting or scary? What are the words that mean God is present everywhere and knows everything? Omnipresent and omniscient. Compare Psalm 139:1-12. This is true for everyone. How might truly understanding this affect our relationship with God? It should result in deep faith and trust. How might it affect our prayer life? We understand that God already knows our situation and everyone's situation--we don't have to explain it to Him. Is God only aware and concerned about Christians? The Bible makes it clear that God is working all the time, in every person's life, in every situation in their lives. If God is indeed sovereign, can we trust Him completely? Do we, always? If we trust Him completely, should that make it easier to obey Him in all things?
14-16 In the Old Testament we read of the high priest that served according to the Law of Moses. In the Gospels we read about the high priest in Jesus' day. The only other mention of high priests in the Bible is here in Hebrews, mentioned 17 times. It was important that these Jewish believers understand who Jesus is--how the Old Testament pointed to Him, how the Law was fulfilled by Him. Before Jesus, access to God was through a priest; what line were the priests? Levi; hence, the Levitical priesthood. What line was Jesus in? Judah, yet He came as a priest, representing us to God. He also came as a prophet, representing God to man. And He came as a king, in the kingly line of who? David.
These Jewish believers were being tempted to return to Judaism; the writer exhorts them to do what instead, 14? Our high priest is superior to a human high priest because He alone has gone where? So is there any need for a human high priest? Jesus is who, 14? So He is God in the flesh. Having lived as a man, was Jesus tempted by sin? Did He sin? So is it sin to be tempted? Is God unapproachable, as Satan would like us to think, so that we need to approach Him through someone else--perhaps Mary, "saints" (not a biblical concept), or a human priest?
Jews in the Old Testament, under the Law, could only approach God at the temple; does that mean we can only pray at church? Where is the temple of God now, I Cor. 6:19? The Jews sometimes approached God with fasting, to mourn, afflict and humble themselves before God, Ezra 8:21,23, Neh. 1:4, Is. 58:3-4, Dan. 9:3, hoping to get God to hear their prayers. Some Christians believe fasting enhances their prayers, but according to this verse, what attitude should we have when we go to God in prayer? Why? Now every believer can pray when and where? Can rituals or physical actions change or benefit us spiritually? No.
1-4 What is the role of the high priest, 1? Before he can do that, a high priest taken from among men must first do what, 3? Why? Because he himself is a sinner, he is to be compassionate with other sinners. 4, who alone could be a high priest? Only those of the tribe of Levi, in the line of Aaron.
5-8 Who appointed Christ as high priest? How long will He serve as high priest, 6? Was He of the line of Levi? Judah. He is actually of the order of Melchizedek, which the writer does not explain here, but will in chapter 7. Where do we read of Christ's tears and supplications? In the garden, what did He pray? How does Mark 14:36 show His piety and obedience? On the cross, what did He cry out? Mark 15:34; why had God forsaken Him at that point? Did God save Him from dying or from death? Did Jesus have to obey His parents? How would suffering and learning human obedience help Him to be our high priest? He experienced our human trials and has empathy for our weaknesses; is obedience a problem for us? Can suffering teach us obedience too?
9-11 What word do we see in 9 where we would expect to see the word "believe"? What can we conclude? What does this tell us about what it means to believe in Him? We find the same idea in Acts 5:32, 6:7, Rom. 6:17. Who is the author of salvation? New Agers think we are--that we can each make our own way and all ways are valid. Salvation is only through Christ. "Perfect" does not speak of sinlessness but of what? We are also told to be perfect: complete. Was He made complete on the cross or at the resurrection? He fulfilled the purpose for which He had been sent.
Again he mentions Melchizedek, who we will read about in chapter 7. We will see that he appears to be a "type" of Christ as high priest, which will lead into a discussion about other types or foreshadowings in the Old Testament that point to New Testament truths. Why is the writer hesitant to get into this discussion? Which implies they were previously what? Do they have ear trouble? How or why might they, and believers today, slide back into that condition? So instead he gets into a long discussion about their problem, from here to the end of chapter 6. Are some teachings (doctrines) harder for immature believers to understand? What will help them to mature so they can understand? Be more in the Word. What are some reasons that many Christians do not really get into the Word? What tends to be the problem among Jewish believers? Compare Acts 20:17-21.
12-14 This passage is important as it sets the context for chapter 6, which is often misunderstood. What facts do we learn in 12 about these Jewish believers? What does milk and solid food speak of? Babies/growing up. Solid food/meat is what, 13? So what would milk be? Do some understand and believe who Jesus is and what He did for them, but then never go on to get into the Word and grow? John speaks of this same thing in I John 12-14. Are those baby Christians going to show much fruit? But are they still saved? We need to be careful in judging whether someone is truly saved or not; immature, baby Christians may look a lot like unbelievers.
Do you automatically mature as a Christian as time passes, 14? Is maturity simply the result of gaining knowledge? What else is needed? Repeated application. Do immature believers lack discernment about whether teachers, or teachings, are true to the Bible, or might they not even care? Are they dull to the Word, only into the basics, and unskilled in applying the Bible? Babies are fussy, self-centered, cry a lot, sleep a lot, know very little, will eat anything and play with anything, need a "mommy" to feed, change and burp them; are some Christians like this?
The writer says these believers have been saved and been learning long enough that they should be teachers by now. Should all believers be able to teach someone else what they know? The word used here for "teachers" has a little different flavor than other words used for "teacher." Possible translations include: instructor, doctor, master, teacher; it might imply functioning as a master teacher. Yet they need to be re-taught the basics; he will explain what that is in 6:1-2.
1-3 What word ties these next remarks to the last few verses? What word in 1 was just used in 5:14 and is the issue here? Maturity, the need for maturity, their lack of maturity. The "principles" (KJV) or "elementary teaching" (NASB) in 1 points back to what phrase in 5:12, and what word in 13? Elementary principles & milk. The writer wants to discuss some meaty doctrine with them, 5:10-11, but first he must help them with an "attitude adjustment." They need to recognize that they are muddling around in the basics, and that staying there does not make for a healthy growing Christian. Once you are saved, do you need to keep going over and over the salvation message?
He lists some basics, using terminology that speaks to his Jewish readers. He speaks not of "Jesus" but of the "Christ," the Messiah, who is prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Can our own works save us? Can the works of the Law save us? Most people are trying to work their way to God, but we must repent of this; repent means to think differently. If we turn "from" works, what do we turn "toward," 1? This is the very basis of salvation. Jesus is the promised one; we receive Him by faith; we admit we can't work our way to God.
2 speaks of "washings," which sounds like baptism, but the writer chose not to use that term; "washings" sound more like what the Jews did at the temple under the Law. Before they offered their blood sacrifices at the altar, they had to wash at the laver. "Laying on of hands" could refer to incidents in Acts where when people first received the Holy Spirit. But the Jewish context may point to the Law. In Lev. 3-4, we see numerous references to "laying on of hands" in connection with sacrifice; why were they to do this?
The resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment is taught in the Old Testament; the writer chooses not to use "eternal life" which has more of a Christian connotation. 3, what will we do? Leave the elementary teachings and press on to maturity, 1. The writer is not positive this will result for his readers; he hopes this is what God will do in their lives.
4-6 Bible students differ over whether or not this describes true believers. Context gives us the answer; has the writer been addressing believers in this letter? But what have we learned so far about the state of those believers? They believed and are saved, but they struggle with unbelief, with returning to the elementary teachings of Judaism, with reverting to a state of immaturity.
Many see the term "fallen away" as meaning "lose salvation." Again, context: the rest of the Bible is clear that just as salvation is not based on our works, so continuing in salvation is not based one what we do, but on God's faithfulness in spite of our sinfulness, because of the cross. So in what way have we seen these Jewish believers fall away? They have begun to turn back from faith in Christ alone, from doctrines they once believed. Do we see this happening in the church today? Some people begin watering things down; some people begin to believe a watered-down version of Christianity. But might they be truly saved? Only God knows.
The rest of verse 6, when taken out of context, makes people wonder if you can indeed lose your salvation, and if so, it sounds here like you could then not be saved again. But since we know you can't lose your salvation if you ever truly had it--eternal security--we know it doesn't mean that. If you have been born again, is it possible to become un-born? So what instead might be impossible? It IS impossible to be saved--renewed--made new--again! They have begun to drift, but the answer is not to get saved again. That is an impossibility.
Why would it be impossible? Two reasons are given here. 1)They "have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit." What do we learn about the indwelling Holy Spirit, whom all receive when they believe? II Cor. 1:21-22, Eph. 1:13, 4:30, II Tim. 2:19. The Bible says nothing about the Holy Spirit ever leaving once He indwells us and it says nothing about us being able to remove Him. 2)What do we learn at the end of 6? IF it were possible (which it's not), it would be saying that His blood, His sacrifice for sin, was not enough, that more is needed. Perhaps some of them were concerned that they had lost their salvation and needed to be saved again; the writer assures them that is not the case. If we as Christians stumble or drift, as we all do, confession and repentance is the answer, as per I John 1:9.
What about those who do appear to have been Christians and then have departed from the faith, or even claim to have done so? They are described in I John 2:19. Are all who appear to be saved, really saved? Are all who claim to be Christians, really Christians?
He gives an analogy from nature--perhaps a warning. They were like this ground that was tilled and watered; did they receive God's blessings? Did they bear some fruit at one time? But then what did they yield? Was the ground cursed? No, only close. Why was it burned? What does I Cor. 3:10-15 teach about our worthless works?
9 But: in contrast to the scenario just described. The writer has been severe with them, but now addresses them with what term, assuring them that he KNOWS they are fellow believers? So, rather than needing to be saved again, here is the answer. They don't have to be like that ground he described. And he again uses the term "better" as he has frequently earlier in the letter; he keeps encouraging them by offering them a better way than what they are doing. In all ways, Christ is better than Judaism. He is convinced of the fact of their salvation.
Do you know Christians who struggle with the fear that perhaps they are not truly saved? This is a common fear. Many worry that perhaps they need to just get saved again. This usually stems from not "feeling" saved. How you help someone deal with this focus on feelings? Show them Scripture that speaks of faith in Christ being a belief, a choice, that nowhere does it speak of feeling saved. WHO wants us to focus on such feelings? Satan.
10 Here are some verses you can use to encourage those who struggle with such fears. What does God never do, 10? Because He is not what? If you ever truly believed on Christ, will God remember that even if you forget about Him? Besides the fact that they truly believed, what else did they do after that that he reminds them of?
11-12 In 11, he doesn't tell them to be diligent that they stay saved; instead, diligent about what? Salvation, and assurance of salvation, are two different things. And how do we get that assurance? Study the Bible! Find those verses that state it. Write them on cards and read them often. And don't be what? As he said in 5:11-14, they had been spiritually lazy, dull, slothful, sluggish--strong language! They needed to wake up; they needed a loving kick in the behind. In 5:14 he said to practice; what descriptive terms does he use here with the same idea?
Who are they to imitate? Those who inherit the promises. We can look back to see what the writer has said about inheriting, about promises. What is inherited (obtained) in 1:14? What promise is mentioned in 4:1? So the writer is referring them to those who will receive salvation. Those who receive the promised rest from works are those who do what, 4:3? And who don't have what, 3:19? So they are to imitate these people regarding what two qualities? The writer has much to say about faith/believing, and about patience. In the next verses he gives an example of someone to imitate--someone they are very familiar with, someone he is going to talk about in the next chapter.
13-15 Who should they imitate? What promise did God make to him? This is from Gen. 22:15-18. Do we need patience and endurance in the Christian life? Why? What if we don't exercise those qualities? Might we end up like the Hebrews--immature, lazy Christians?
16-18 Why did God swear with an oath? Today we think of curse words, but what is the original meaning of swear/oath? Will God do what He said, or can He lie? Two things assure us He can't: His promise, His oath. Do God's purposes change? Does His "Big Plan" change? How He works them out may change throughout history; according to dispensationalism, God "dispenses" His purposes in different ways as He pleases, but even that was planned in eternity past. 17, again we see that phrase, "the heirs of the promise"--who is he speaking of? Believers--those who will inherit salvation. Who are "we who have taken refuge"? Believers. "Refuge" is an Old Testament term; this is the only place it is used in the New Testament. How is it used in the Old Testament? God our refuge, and the cities of refuge--what were they? Num. 35:9-15. What is a refugee?
19-20 In what way is our hope like an anchor for our soul? An anchor is what and what? An old hymn says:
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.
What was inside the temple veil? The Holy of Holies, where the ark of the covenant was located, where God met with His people. Who alone had access to God's presence? The high priest. After he had done what, 5:3? What happened when Jesus paid for all sins on the cross, Mat. 27:50-51? Why?
So our hope is in whom? What does a forerunner do? We can follow Him into God's presence, 4:16. And now we finally get back to the subject of Melchizedek, from 5:10. The subject of their spiritual immaturity has been dealt with; now the writer continues on with this teaching, apparently geared to the more mature believer.
To get the context for this discussion, look back at the last chapter and a half. The writer was talking about how Jesus is a high priest, "according to the order of Melchizedek." End of 5, but they are too dense to understand; 6, more about how dense they are, and the danger of reverting to immaturity compared to their previous understanding. End of 6: faith and patience are needed to receive God's promises, which we WILL receive because God made an oath, which He can't break. This knowledge is an anchor to our souls, a hope which enters "in the veil," which is where only the high priest can go, which is who? Now--more about what kind of high priest He is.
1-10 Main point: Who was greater--Abraham or Melchizedek? Why? The greater blesses the lesser; the lesser tithes to the greater. Since M is greater, we need to know about him. The short passage about him and his meeting with Abram is Gen. 14:18-20. (Salem, meaning peace, was an early name for Jerusalem.) Did Abraham accept M's claim and his position, or did he protest that HE was God's chosen man and who did M think he was?? For some reason, he believed M. In Heb. 7:1 how is M identified? So he is a what and a what? Under the Law, kings were from which tribe? Judah, Gen. 49:10. Priests were from which tribe? Levi. M is both. What does his name mean, 2? So he is king of what and what? Which of those two comes first?
In Genesis, everyone is identified according to their genealogy, but not M. Nor is anything further told us about what became of him. 3, many consider him a type of Christ; others believe he was the pre-incarnate Christ. He was the first priest mentioned in the Bible, and identified as serving the "most high God," yet he was not of the line of Levi. The Hebrews might have reservations about Jesus as High Priest because He is not from the priestly line either; how is this dealt with in 4-10?
11-16 Did the priesthood and the Law bring perfection--completion? Therefore a change was needed, of both, 12. Christ fulfilled the Law, so it is clearly no longer in effect, as we find throughout the New Testament. Galatians taught us that the Law was like a tutor to bring us to Christ--its purpose was temporary. Jesus became our High Priest, even though He was of what tribe? Because, like M, His priesthood was not based on a physical requirement (the line of Levi); what does His life have in common with M? Endless, indestructible, indissoluble. Could this be said of any of the Levitical priests?
17-22 The Christ/Melchizedek connection is made in one other place in the Bible, Psalm 110:4. The context of this short psalm makes it clear that God the Father is speaking to the Son, to Christ, the Messiah; even back in David's day, the Levitical priesthood was said to be less than Christ's priesthood. What are we again told about the Law? Why? After we come to Christ by faith, can we be perfected by keeping the Law? Apparently that is what these Jewish believers had been doing. Are we sometimes tempted to do the same? The Law is replaced by what, 19? Here we see the concept of dispensations; previously God dispensed His plan through the medium of the Law, but now, in the age of grace, He is doing something different, and better. Through whom did God give the Law and the Levitical priesthood? Moses. Jesus could not be a priest under the Law. But His priesthood is associated with whom?
We find frequently in this letter the concept of "better." What is better now? Which allows us to do what? Jesus Christ our High Priest allows us to do what, 4:16, and to enter where, 6:19? His priesthood is indeed better than the Levitical priesthood and the Law; what is one evidence of this fact, 20-21? Again we are reminded that because of His oath, God will not what, 21? Jesus guarantees what, 22? The writer will have more to say regarding this covenant.
23-25 How does Jesus compare to human priests, 24? "Therefore" may speak of eternal security, but probably more the fact of a complete salvation--nothing else need be added, as the Hebrews were trying to do. How many facts about Jesus can you find in 25? This is a key doctrinal statement. What does the Bible say is the only way to get to God? So is the Bible primarily about God, or about Jesus? Jesus is the way to God--to fellowship with God. What is Jesus doing now in heaven? What does that mean? Why does He need to do that, Rev. 12:10? How does that make you feel? So do we need priests as intercessors? Do we need to pray to Mary or "saints" as intercessors?
26-28 How does this passage prove that Jesus = God? What does it mean that Jesus is holy? The Old Testament often speaks of God's holy name, and warns against profaning His holy name--profaning meaning to make common. The 10 Commandments and the Lord's Prayer both speak of keeping His name holy--what does that mean? Not using it in a common disrespectful way. Ironically, today we hear God's name often, but not in a way that is truly speaking of God. At school or work we are not to speak of God, but everyone can say "god." "Oh my god"--"my god"--"god"--"OMG." I have even heard this from a pulpit.
What did Jesus do once for all? Why is that phrase important especially in the context of this chapter? This is what the Hebrews were confused about, as we saw in 6:1-9. Catholics fall into this same error in re-enacting the crucifixion weekly by claiming that the Mass is the actual blood and body of Jesus (even though they claim it is not a re-enacting); His body and blood were only offered once, not over and over. Was Jesus put to death against His will? How does 28 contrast Jesus with human priests? So could there be any benefit in these Jewish believers going back to the Law and adding sacrifices to their faith in Christ? God's oath is in Ps. 110:4--after the Law. How in 28 is Christ declared to be God?
All this talk about the Law, priests, high priests, genealogies, Levites and Melchizedek may have our heads spinning. Why is this important to us and how does it relate to us in the church today?
Many people believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are truly saved, yet know very little about biblical teaching about Jesus, or about anything in the Bible. Hebrews shows how truths about Jesus were laid out way back in the beginning of the Old Testament, how the Law pointed to Jesus long before Jesus was born as a man. We learn how the entire Bible dovetails. The Jews knew the Old Testament; they knew the Law. When Jesus came along and presented Himself as the promised Messiah, and when the apostles later spread the gospel, the Jews should have recognized Him. Most didn't, but a few did, like the Bereans who eagerly compared the apostles' teachings with their Old Testament Scripture, Acts 17:10-13.
Likewise, if we don't know much about the teachings of the Bible, we can get confused and caught up in false teachings. Two of the biggest religions, Catholicism and Mormonism, are built around the necessity of priests--what have we been learning about human priests? Are they necessary anymore? Why not? You may have friends caught up in New Age or other versions of "spirituality" where all roads lead to God and all beliefs are equally true. Does the Bible say we can approach God without going through Jesus Christ?
Some Christians think that along with believing in Jesus, we need to follow man-made rules or still follow the Law or parts of it--what does Hebrews say about this? Some unbelievers think Jesus was just another good man, another good teacher or prophet--what does Hebrews say about this? Some think we should focus on angels--what does Hebrews say about this? The same old errors of the early church are still floating around today. Satan hasn't changed his tactics much, because his old ones still work. How can we avoid those detours? By knowing the Bible and using it as our roadmap. We compare all beliefs to the Bible.
Chapters 8, 9 and 10 are a discussion of Christ our high priest vs. human priests under the Law, of Christ's sacrifice vs. the sacrifices of the Law, of the tabernacle as a type of the heavenly tabernacle, and of the old covenant and the new covenant. Keep in mind that the readers are Jewish believers in Christ and His shed blood who have begun to look backwards to the Law and its sacrifices. We will see how what Christ did is a fulfillment of the Law, and how the old dispensation has given way to the new dispensation. God is no longer dispensing His grace through the Law and its sacrifices, but through faith in Christ's sacrifice. Some people do not like the term "dispensations" or "dispensationalism"; even if you choose not to use those terms, the concept is definitely taught in this section. God used to do things one way, but now He is doing things another way.
1-3 What is the main point of the previous chapters? (and the next few also!) All religions, including pagans and Wiccans, have had priests--those who stand between men and gods, or God, and who have the authority to offer sacrifices. The high priest was the chief of those priests. It is important that we understand who Christ is and what He did. The "true" tabernacle was made by who? The earthly tabernacle was made by who? These will be contrasted. Apparently there is a tabernacle in heaven which the earthly one is patterned after. Earthly priests stand to do their work; what about Jesus? Because His work is done--once for all. What did He offer?
4-5 Where is Christ now? That is where He is exercising His high priestly ministry. The writer speaks of priests at that time still offering the gifts according to the Law; from this statement we can infer that the temple in Jerusalem was still standing at the time of this writing. It was destroyed in 70 AD, dating this book prior to that time. What does 5 tell us about the priests, gifts, the tabernacle, and the Law? They are a copy/shadow/example, or what we would call a symbol or "type." We also read of the concept of "types" in 10:1, 11:19, Rom. 5:14, Col. 2:17. As we interpret the Bible literally, we are told from time to time that symbolism is used, as here. Another example is the fig tree sometimes representing Israel, as shown in Hosea 9:10.
6-7 What key concept in Hebrews do we see here? Better--everything about Christ is better than that which He replaced. Through Christ God has changed things--for the better. This dispensation is better than the previous one. The new and better covenant will now be compared to the first/old covenant through some quotes from the Old Testament, mostly Jeremiah.
8-13 Did God find fault with the first covenant, or with the people of the covenant? Some claim that God made a mistake with the first covenant and had to come up with a new plan--could that be true? Why change things? God only revealed part of His plan in the Old Testament. Paul speaks several times of "mysteries"--things revealed now that had not been previously revealed, according to God's plan for the ages, made before the foundation of the world. This is sometimes called "progressive revelation." In each dispensation, God revealed a little more of Himself and His plan.
Who was the old covenant with, 8? Was Israel able to keep the first covenant? Was anyone able to keep the Law? The Law was based on external works and was for the purpose of exposing sin, proving that all are sinners in need of forgiveness. What is the new covenant like, 10-12? It will result in internal change. When will this take place for Israel, 10? Not until the kingdom, after they recognize and accept their Messiah. Is it just for Israel, 11? What will it result in, 12? What about the old covenant, 13? Remember, the Hebrew believers were confused about this, and, like many today, kept looking back to the old covenant of works. We read about the New Covenant in Jer. 31:31-34, Is. 61:8-9, Ez. 37:21-28, and II Cor. 3:6. We will learn more about this new covenant of grace in the next two chapters
The covenant God made with Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3 (the Abrahamic Covenant) promised a land, a people, and a blessing. It was unconditional, and the blessing included all nations, not just Israel. God expanded on the promises of the land in the Palestinian Covenant, and on the promises of a people in the Davidic Covenant. The covenant God gave through Moses (the Mosaic Covenant) was conditional (if you...then I...), was specifically with Israel, and was temporary. The New Covenant was made with Israel; it would change their hearts (through the Holy Spirit) and was inaugurated with the blood of Christ, the prophesied Lamb of God. Israel's rejection of their Messiah resulted in the grafting in of the Gentiles--the church; we experience the benefits of the New Covenant now, but Israel will not benefit from it until they accept their Messiah, at the second coming. At that time God will fulfill this covenant to Israel and they will fully experience its blessings.
In this chapter we get more details about just how the first covenant, the tabernacle, and the Law relate to Jesus Christ, the new covenant, and our salvation. This section really helps us to get an Old Testament perspective. If we take the view that we don't need to know the Old Testament, how much of the Bible are we ignoring--2/3? Was any of the Bible written directly to us? If we try to read and apply it that way, we can get off. But if we start by understanding who it was first written to, and why and when, then the difficult parts make more sense. We see in the early church that the Jewish believers had trouble understanding what became the New Testament. Can we be just as dense in our understanding of the Old Testament?
1-5 To whom did God Himself give the instructions for erecting the original tabernacle? The writer takes us back to Moses, not to the later temple. As pointed out in 8:5, the earthly tabernacle was a what? J. Vernon McGee has a good discussion on this passage, explaining how the elements of the tabernacle speak of Jesus Christ. The writer does not go into detail about this, assuming his readers are well-acquainted with these details of the dispensation of Law. Is it important for us in the church age to know the Old Testament? Some think not, but the New Testament frequently refers back to the Old, speaking of how Christ is fulfillment of the types and prophecies found there. The Old Testament pictures and foreshadows Christ and His work; the New Testament fulfills and explains the Old.
The first (earthly) tabernacle had a room called the Holy Place; a heavy veil separated it from the second room, the Holy of Holies. What was the key item in the Holy of Holies? The ark of the covenant was a gold-overlaid wooden box, the wood and gold picturing the dual nature of Christ (fully man and fully God); it was topped by a mercy seat, where blood was applied, and where God met with His people (again, picturing Christ and His work on the cross). A church today is not at all like either the temple or the tabernacle of the Old Testament. They were not places where believers assembled weekly for corporate worship or teaching. People then could not enter the tabernacle or approach God personally; they could only approach God through priests, who represented them before God by offering blood sacrifices for their sins. Old Testament believers did not have a personal relationship or fellowship with God as does the church; that was only provided by our mediator Jesus, who paid the price on the cross for the sins of all time. This is why the New Testament stresses Christ's role now as mediator.
6-7 In 6, we see the words "worship" and "service" used in the NASB and KJV; what can we conclude about the meaning of the word "worship"? It is not rituals or Christian singing or the song service in church, nor is the song leader a "worship leader." Other terms used in the Bible along with "worship" include "yield" and "bow down." In this earthly tabernacle, what could the priests not do, that only the high priest could do? What was he required to bring? This took place on the annual Day of Atonement. Sacrifices were offered all year long; apparently sins of ignorance/NASB (errors/KJV) were sins they had been unaware of and therefore had not already covered by a sacrifice.
8-10 Two important words in this passage are "yet" (8) and "until" (10); what do those words tell us? The earthly tabernacle was designed to be temporary in nature. It was a symbol of what has now happened in the church age, which is what? In the Old Testament, what had not yet happened, 8? When and how did that happen? Mat. 27:51. What did that signify? Under the Law, could the sacrifices in the tabernacle cleanse from sin? They only dealt with external things. They were temporary, until when, 10? Col. 2:16-17, Heb. 7:12. The time of Christ.
This passage makes it very clear that God was doing something in the Old Testament that was temporary, that was planned to become obsolete. Then the time came when He caused that to cease and something else to take its place. You don't have to call these time periods "dispensations"; you don't have to call this idea "dispensationalism." But it is pretty hard to deny that before the cross, God was dispensing His grace in a somewhat different way--yet not totally different because it foreshadowed the age of grace.
11-12 Why is Christ mentioned instead of Jesus? "Christ" means "anointed," "the Messiah." These Jewish believers knew the Old Testament, which prophesied of the Messiah to come--God's Anointed. "But when..., " the writer is making it clear that the prophesied time has come to pass--a new dispensation. How is Christ's work contrasted with the earthly tabernacle just described? Not earthly but heavenly. Not the blood of what but what? What about the holy place--what is the key phrase here? What key time word tells how often Christ is to be sacrificed? This word is emphasized in this chapter and the next. Must His blood be offered yearly, each Day of Atonement?
13-14 Under the Law, what cleansed the flesh (the outer man)? But now, what cleanses the conscience (the inner man)? Now God is doing something new and different, yet similar to, related to, what He gave through the Law. Christ fulfills the shadow and symbol of the old covenant--the Law. God first gave them physical, earthly, outward symbols, so that when Christ came as prophesied and fulfilled the Law, they would recognize His work as spiritual, heavenly, and inward. A sacrificial lamb was killed, but Jesus did what? The physical points to the spiritual. What in 14 tells us that Jesus is God? Eternal, without blemish (sin). Do you see the Trinity in this verse? The Bible never uses the word "trinity" but we see the concept pictured frequently.
15 How many doctrinal truths do you see in this verse? Jesus is the what? Of the what? Things have changed; God is now dealing with man in a different manner, yet not different, because Christ fulfills everything that was symbolized previously. Under the first covenant, sins were not forgiven by animal blood, but temporarily covered; they were saved "on credit" as the animal sacrifices pointed ahead to the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God, Gen. 22:8. Sins committed under the old covenant were forgiven under the new covenant, inaugurated with the blood of Christ. Many religions have engaged in human sacrifice in attempts to satisfy "the gods." Why can human sacrifice not pay the price for sin? In 14, Jesus is described as without what? Compare Ex. 12:5, I Pet. 1:19.
God revealed to Adam and Eve that a death must take place for the redemption of sin; blood must be shed to cover sin. Following the flood, God gave Noah the added mandate of human government, including capital punishment. God gave Abraham a promise (covenant) for his descendants which laid out God's program for the future. Through Moses, God gave Israel the Law. All these dispensations fall under the old, or first, covenant; we have just been told about the old and new covenant, the first and second covenant.
Why is the church no longer under the old covenant--what has happened? What was done for sin under the old covenant? Did that actually bring redemption of sin? What has now provided redemption for sin? So have the sins of Old Testament believers been redeemed? When they died, did their souls go to heaven? No, Luke 16:19-31. Hades, the place of the dead, had a place of torment for the unrighteous, and a place of comfort for the righteous, called Abraham's bosom, or paradise. Their animal sacrifices expressed obedience to God and looked forward to the promised Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world, John 1:29. According to Eph. 4:8-10, what happened to the righteous souls in Hades--are they still there? (Apparently Hades is in the lower parts of the earth.) Compare Rev. 18:20. Abraham's bosom--paradise--is empty, for Abraham is no longer there either. But the place of torment continues to be the place where the unsaved dead go; no one goes to the lake of fire until the Great White Throne judgement, Rev. 20:11-15.
What do all these inherit? The New Testament speaks of inheriting eternal life, and inheriting the kingdom of God. In the Old Testament, we read of inheriting a land. In the New Testament we see a spiritual hope for the church--heaven, the New Jerusalem; in the Old Testament, for Israel, an earthly hope, an earthly kingdom, an everlasting kingdom. All the redeemed will inherit eternal life, in the new heaven and the new earth.
16-22 A covenant or testament is like a will; we often speak of a "last will and testament." It takes effect following a what? Who died to bring the old covenant into effect? Animals. The promise of eternal life only becomes valid after whose death? What key word is repeated in each verse of 17-22? Some people are offended or grossed out by all the talk of blood--in the Bible, from the pulpit, in hymns we sing. Why is blood central to the story of the Bible, 22? Also Lev. 17:11. Are we saved by living like Jesus? by His perfect life? No--by His what?
23-24 Again the writer contrasts earthly things with what kind of things? In 9 he called them symbols; here he calls them what? Where is Christ now?
25-26 What is the main point here? Because the blood of animals could not pay the complete price for sin, the earthly priest had to offer it how often? Christ's offering of His own blood happens how often? So what is the key word, used for the second time in this chapter? And His blood actually put away or cancelled sin. So was there any point in these misguided Jewish believers going back to the Law and offering sacrifices, along with believing in Christ?
The Catholic Eucharist repeats the sacrifice of Christ every time it is offered; how does this passage refute that practice? Can a priest actually turn wafers and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ? Even if they could, would ingesting the physical body and blood of Christ impart any spiritual benefit? I Cor. 8:8. If it could, what would happen after Christ was digested and eliminated? We are to remember Christ's sacrifice, I Cor. 11:23-26; to repeat or re-enact it is to say that once was not enough. This passage clearly teaches the purpose of Christ shedding His blood; the New Testament is clear that physical acts or rituals do not impart spiritual benefit. The Catholic crucifix keeps Christ on the cross, denying the finished work of redemption by His blood. Can we have Christ's presence in our lives continually? If not by the Eucharist, then how? We receive Him by faith, by believing, and then He is in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit, John 14:16-17, Rom. 8:9, II Cor. 6:16, Eph. 3:17, I John 4:15.
27-28 Reincarnation is the belief that you live and die over and over, getting many chances to "get it right." What does the Bible teach about what happens after death? Judgment, not another chance at life. Does Christ live and die over and over? The teaching and practice of the Catholic Eucharist is not the teaching of the Bible. What key word is used in 28 for the third time in this chapter? Chapters 9 and 10 emphasize this important doctrinal teaching.
Is the appearing spoken of here the rapture or the second coming? At the rapture He comes for who? The church--those whose sins are forgiven. At the second coming, He will deal with the sin of evil men. He came the first time to bear our sins; one day He will appear to the church to rescue them and take them to safety. What should the believer's attitude be regarding the rapture? We are to be expecting Him; the rapture is imminent--nothing must occur first. We are not warned to be expecting or looking for the tribulation or the Beast.
1-4 Why should these Jewish believers NOT go back to the Law and its sacrifices, 1? Was the law meant to be THE way? Today Jews don't even offer sacrifice; their religion is about being good. Even aside from the sacrifices of the Law, don't many unbelievers think they can be good enough ("made perfect") by self-effort, a form of law-keeping? According to the Bible, is there any way outside of Jesus to become good enough to get to heaven, to satisfy God? What do we learn about the blood of animal sacrifices in 4? So as the Old Testament righteous followed the Law and offered sacrifices, were they saved? The Old Testament speaks of them as righteous, but not as saved, yet looking for the salvation of the Lord. Did they go to heaven when they died? Why not? When did they finally go? Luke 16:22, Eph. 4:8-10. Offering animal sacrifices expressed obedience to God and looked forward in faith to the Lamb of God, as Isaiah the prophet expresses in Is. 53.
5-10 What was done away with, 9? In order to establish what, 9? Yearly animal sacrifices; Christ's sacrifice--offered how often? How in 9 do we see the interplay of the Trinity? And how does all this affect us? Why did Jesus come, 9? God's will being what? First/second: again we see the concept of God dispensing His grace in different ways: dispensations. Does the Bible teach that we may need to be saved over and over? Again the key doctrine of "once" is stressed--three times in the previous chapter, and three times in this chapter.
11-13 How often must sin be paid for? How often must Christ's blood be shed? How often do we need to be saved? This is the fifth time it is repeated. What did He do after paying for sin? His work of salvation is done. What will happen in the future? When will that take place? Compare Rev. 5:6; why is He now standing instead of sitting? The time has come for action as the tribulation begins, to bring His enemies under His feet.
14 What truth is repeated for the sixth time? Six times--what should we conclude? It is VERY important, this teaching will be disputed, and false teaching must be refuted.
15-18 How do we see the Trinity in these verses? The Holy Spirit is speaking as who? God the Father. This quote from Jeremiah is prophesying that in the future, God will do something new: He will make a new covenant with Israel. When will He do this? After an unspecified period of time, "after those days." We know this foreshadows the church age, because Israel did not accept her Messiah so He turned temporarily to who? the Gentiles. So by "new" we see a change of dispensations, a new dispensation. The new covenant brings inner transformation through the Holy Spirit. What does God promise in 17? Does God forget anything? But does He choose not to remember? But what about our past sins, and our continual guilt feelings about them? If we feel guilty, does that mean we are still guilty, in God's eyes? We may not forget, but can we choose to not remember those things, to choose to stop wallowing in feelings about what we confessed and what is forgiven? If we are having trouble forgiving someone because of memories of what they did, can we choose to stop purposefully remembering? How does 18 sum this up?
19-22 How do we know the writer is addressing believers, not unbelievers? He sums up his points in 19-21. Because of these facts, we can do what, first half of 22? We can go directly to God through Christ's what? Because of faith in His truth, we can have assurance of what? That we are saved, clean, forgiven. Are we saved, or do we stay saved, by being faithful enough? What if we don't feel we can draw near to God? We know we are no longer bad/evil because what has happened? First, our inner being is clean/transformed, by the sprinkling of the sacrificed blood of Christ; the sprinkled blood is mentioned many times in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Heb. 9:13,19,21,11:28, 12:24, I Pet. 1:2. We show this cleaning by what outward act? Under the Law, there were washings of the body, but those could not remove sin; now, the washing God provides is of the inner man.
23-25 What does 23 say about doubting our salvation? Had these Jews been holding fast to their profession of faith without wavering? No. Why can they, 23? What if WE are not faithful? We let Him down all the time; does that cause Him to let us down? How can believers help each other in these matters? Encourage one another. The writer teaches believers to look expectantly for what? Which should cause us to do what, 25? "As you see the day approaching" implies what? There are no prophesied events preceding the rapture, but the Bible does described signs preceding the endtimes--the tribulation, the Beast, the second coming. As we see the stage being set for these events, we can know the rapture is near.
Is it easier to walk with the Lord if we go it alone, or if we get together with other believers? Is discouragement a problem for Christians? Is missing church the same as forsaking Christian fellowship? To forsake would be to turn away from, permanently. So does 25 teach that it is wrong to miss church, or not to be part of a church, even if you have fellowship with Christians outside a church? No, but many pastors teach that. It is always important to interpret a verse in its context. Forsaking is what some of these Jews were being tempted to do as they looked back to law-keeping. So in 19-25, we are reminded of the basics of faith, hope, and love.
26-31 This passage is speaking of unbelievers (probably Jewish, based on the context of the rest of the book) who had considered Christ, who had knowledge of the truth, but then willfully, knowingly, rejected it in favor of "religion," Judaism, law-keeping, good works. It doesn't say that for believers there is no "forgiveness" of willful sin (we have all done this); it says for such people there is no other "sacrifice" for sin (again, seeming to allude to the sacrifices of Judaism). For such people there will be fiery judgment, 27--for those who have insulted God by dismissing His Son, His blood, the Holy Spirit, 29. 29 is the fate of people who know about Jesus but reject Him. "His people" in 30 quotes an Old Testament passage about God speaking to the Jews. The book of Hebrews has a lot to say to Jews who vacillated between Judaism and trusting in the blood of Christ, the final sacrifice, offered once for all. If you reject Christ's offering for sin, repentance and salvation is impossible, because there is no other way. This is the unforgivable sin Jesus spoke of, Mat. 12:31, in connection with the Jews willfully rejecting Christ. This passage is not speaking of Christians losing their salvation; the Bible's clear teaching is that this is impossible.
32-34 The writer goes on to assure these Jewish believers, who were in danger of turning away from Christ, that they are indeed saved. Would unbelievers suffer for the name of Christ without denying Him? In 32, does the word "enlightened" (KJV, "illuminated") indicate salvation? So this lends weight to the use of that same word in the controversial 6:4 to mean the writer is speaking of true believers. What is better? What is lasting?
35-39 And because of that assurance, they can have what and what, 35? Instead of fearing they might not be saved, they can have confidence. Do Christians sometimes fear they are not truly saved? 36, is it easy to be a Christian? When do we receive the promised reward? Later, maybe much later, maybe in the next life. Might some Christians receive no reward at all? What should encourage us to endure, 37? Meanwhile, how do we live, 38? This foundational doctrine is quoted from Hab. 2:4 and is also quoted in Rom. 1:17 and Gal. 3:11. What can we conclude from its repetition four times? This passage is not teaching that Christians can lose their salvation; the one who shrinks back was not truly saved, I John 2:19, and is a tare not wheat, Mat. 13:24-30, 36-43. Believing (faith) results in what, 39? Salvation.
1 Where did the writer just speak of faith? In the previous verse, 10:39. He has spent quite some timing reassuring these struggling believers in their faith, and he has just told them that they are indeed among those who have faith--who are saved. So he tells them just what faith is. Verse 1 is the classic definition of faith. Faith is the substance, the assurance, the confidence of what? Are we to exercise blind faith, or faith in the facts of the Bible? Hope speaks not of wishful thinking, as we use it today, but of expectation. Faith is the conviction, the evidence, the proof of what? What are these things that are expected, that are not yet seen?
2 In the Old Testament, under the old covenant, God gave man the Law to be obeyed. Did He also require faith? What did God say about faith in Gen. 15:6? This fact is repeated three more times: Rom. 4:3, Gal. 3:6, James 2:23. What can we conclude from the repetition of this fact? Who might the men of old (KJV: elders) be? The giants of the faith in the Old Testament. Whose approval did they gain by demonstrating their faith? They gave testimony of their faith. P>The rest of this chapter goes on to tell of them, and what they did that gained approval. Would the readers of this letter be familiar with these people? Of course, but they needed reminding. Why do we need to be frequently reminded of what we already have learned in the Bible? Because we get our eyes on Self, and on this world, and off of God's Word. Then 39 concludes with the same thought as here in 2, bracketing this chapter, and showing what faith in action looked like in the Old Testament. This chapter also clarifies that the Bible teaches that Old Testament characters and stories were real historical characters and events, not mythical or legendary.
3 What event is spoken of here? Why must we understand or accept this by faith? Was anyone there to witness this event? But the Bible records it as it was revealed later to Moses, the author of the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch). Might God have used the Big Bang? The Big Bang had to start with something, but what does the Bible teach? Evolution is not compatible with the Bible. Accepting creation does not mean we ignore facts of science; rather, we look at how the evidence compares to the account of creation (and the flood, while explains the strata and fossil record). Evolution is not based on evidence but on the interpretation of men already committed to a naturalistic explanation: naturalism says it is impossible that anything supernatural has ever happened, or that there could even be a God. Therefore, such men reject creation regardless of the evidence. No evidence exists to prove that the universe could have come into existence "naturally" or that life could come from non-life through natural means. Creation was a one-time, non-repeatable event in which God used processes and powers that are not taking place today. How did God create the worlds? Compare Ps. 33:6, II Pet. 3:5. If you can't believe that God created the world from nothing, can you truly believe in the God of the Bible, since it identifies Him over and over as Creator?
4 Why does the faith story begin with Abel, not with Adam or Eve? Since Abel offered his sacrifice "by faith," did he know what God required--blood sacrifice? The Genesis 4 record does not say that God explained the concept that righteousness before God was only by means of blood sacrifice; besides this verse, how do we know that they knew? Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with fig leaves; was that acceptable to God? How do we know that? What did God do? How were the skins provided? By the death of an animal, by the shedding of an animal's blood on their behalf. Adam and Eve had never seen death or bloodshed; how must they have felt as they witnessed God do this thing?
So would Cain have known the requirement of a blood sacrifice, even though the Genesis account does not spell that out? But did he see the need for a blood sacrifice on his behalf? Whose sacrifice did God approve and accept? How does this apply today? Do people think there are various paths to God? Do some people think they can be acceptable to God without Christ's blood? If we make up our own religion, no matter how logical it may seem, does God accept that? Cain's pride convinced him that best of the work of his hands was just as acceptable to God; isn't this the crux of man-made religion? And when God let him know his sacrifice was unacceptable, did he humbly accept, repent, and obey God, or did he hold to his prideful spirit?
In the Bible's historical books, we have an account of what happened, but not much commentary on it. The New Testament sheds light on those historical events. We compare the comments in Hebrews with the original account and get a more complete understanding. Another passage mentioning Abel is Luke 11:50-51. According to this passage, what is Abel? A prophet--probably the first. How might this fact shed light on the original account, when we think about why Cain killed Abel? Was Abel rewarded in this life for his faith? We will be in the future; we may or may not be in this life.
We see how comparing these passages on Abel gives us greater understanding. Let's digress a moment--this is a good place to talk about how to study the Bible. Sometimes people comment that, before coming here to Bible study, they read the passage, but when they get here and we discuss it, they find there is much more there than they had seen; some people get frustrated by that, and wonder why they don't see more. Here are some Bible study strategies that will help you; you can also find them on my website, www.jansbiblenotes.com, in an article titled "Bible Study Strategies."
Do you ever wish you didn't have to rely on someone else's teaching for Bible study? Would you like to learn how to move your Bible reading up to the next level--of studying for yourself? These strategies are based on reading strategies teachers use with their students to help them learn how good readers interact with a book rather than simply reading through it. In working with these strategies in a school setting, I began to think of them in relation to the Bible. I used them as a starting point, then tweaked them and expanded on them to apply to Bible study. You will probably think up more questions of your own, but these questions will get you started.
After reading through a passage for content, go back and reread for meaning. As you reread, stop often to reflect and ask questions--interact with the text. Your questions, which may appear to be "talking to yourself," are actually a way of entering into a conversation with the Author of the book--God (the Holy Spirit). This type of "conversation" will help you to personally connect with the text. Instead of your Bible reading time being an exercise that never impacts your thinking or your life, interacting with God's Word helps you find personal meaning and leads to spiritual growth.
1. Questioning: What did I notice in this passage? Begin by asking "who, what, when, where, why, how" questions. How does this relate to what I already know about this idea or character? Where can the answer to my questions can be found: cross-references? margin notes I have made? other study books? Pastor, teacher or friends? Can I read selectively if I need to find the answer to a particular question?
2. Making connections: What do I already know that the Bible says about this? Where else in the Bible have I read something related to this? Do I need to note in my margin that this relates to another helpful passage? Have I or someone I know experienced anything like this? How does this passage help me to better understand God, the Bible, how God works, and what is happening in my life?
3. Visualizing: Can I picture this story, the context, the situation, or even a similar present-day situation in my mind? Does a "movie in my head" help this passage come to life and help me personally relate to this situation? What facial expression or tone of voice do I hear or see? What other expression or tone might give a different meaning? How might this person be feeling? How would I feel?
4. Inferring: Biblical truths aren't always stated in exact words in a given passage. Can I infer a biblical truth from this story or passage? Can I combine elements from various passages to determine the truth? Does this confirm something I knew or wondered about, or does it cause me to revise my thinking?
5. Determining importance: Can I pick out the main point from the less important details? Can I state in my own words--not quoting exact words--the main point of this passage? this chapter? this book? the entire Bible?
6. Synthesizing: How can I apply this knowledge to my life, so that my knowledge becomes understanding? How can I change my thoughts, or my reactions in a specific situation, to better line up with God's Word? Can I identify more than one layer of meaning in this passage?
7. Interacting with the Author: What does the Author want me to know about this topic? Why has He included this in His book? Why is He spending so much time on this scene, character, topic, or fact? Have I figured out the Author's "Big Idea"? This passage was not originally addressed to me--how is God speaking to me through this passage?
Now back to our text...
5 Read the short account of Enoch in Gen. 5:21-24. Did Enoch die? What happened instead? He was translated (KJV)/taken up (NASB). Strong's: transferred, changed sides, exchanged, removed. Why? This fascinating Old Testament incident is an important foreshadowing and precursor of what event spoken of in the New Testament? The church being caught up to meet Jesus in the air: the rapture.
Many Christians have questions about the book of Enoch. It is not in the Bible. It was not recognized by believers through the ages as bearing the marks of inspiration. There is no proof that it was authored by Enoch. There are some interesting things in it, but also some errors and far-fetched stories. Beware--some (especially some prophecy teachers) draw heavily from it and base their teachings on it and other writings not inspired by God.
6 This chapter on faith gives not only great examples of faith, but great explanations of faith. We have a definition of faith in 1; then in 2 we learn that faith is the way to gain God's approval. In 4 we are reminded that faith = righteousness. Here we learn that faith is the only way to do what? What is the first thing we must believe? How did God identify Himself to Moses in Ex. 3:14? Hebrews speaks a number of times about recompense, both as a penalty, 2:2, and as a reward, 10:35, here, and 11:26. When are rewards given? In the millenial kingdom, Luke 19:11-19, and in heaven, Rev. 4:10.
7 Many Christians, even pastors, do not believe the literal record in the Bible of creation and the flood, but choose to believe that evolution accounts for the fossils and the strata. If the flood did not literally happen, then this writer was either mistaken or lying, and so were Jesus, Mat. 24:38-39, and Peter, II Pet. 2:5. Many believe the flood was local, but if so, why would God not have Noah simply move farther away? And if the flood was merely local, would Gen. 6:5-13 and 7:17-24 make any sense? When you deny one part of Scripture, there are always further implications for other teachings of Scripture.
It is quite likely that up until the flood, the earth had not experienced rain, Gen. 2:5-6. The next mention of rain is Gen. 6:11-12. Apparently the two events in 6:11, followed by the great amount of water now on the earth, caused the first "climate change"--Gen. 8:20-22. Apparently before the flood, the earth had been uniformly temperate--did Adam and Eve need clothing to keep warm? Many creationist resources explain how the dynamics described in Gen. 6-8 resulted in great tectonic changes to the earth, such as rapid mountain uplifting and rapid movement of tectonic plates. (Mountain uplift after the flood sheds light on Gen. 7:19-20: the highest mountains would not have been very high then.) The temperate waters of the flood interacted with the new colder climate to bring about the ice age, which gradually went away as the earth adjusted to its new climate extremes. The dynamics of all that water explain the strata and the fossils. The Bible's historical accuracy of the flood account are just as important as the creation account in refuting evolution, yet both accounts are denied in many churches today by Christians who think they must compromise the Bible in order to accept the interpretation of naturalistic scientists: self-proclaimed deniers of God and of anything supernatural.
Had Noah ever seen a flood? So did he scoff at what God told him was about to happen? Does salvation here speak of eternal life? In the Old Testament context, salvation usually speaks of being saved as in being delivered, in an earthly sense. How was the world condemned by Noah's act of faith--preparing an ark and taking his family into it? The faith of the believer stands in contrast to the condemnation that results from failing to believe God.
Again, if the flood was merely local, then the world was NOT condemned by this act--only a few might have been condemned, if they didn't manage to escape the local flooding. If the flood did not happen exactly as the Bible says, then the teachings of the Bible are FALSE. Why even read a book that contains lies and false teachings? Then we find another great doctrinal statement: what is the only way to obtain righteousness? The Bible repeats this in many ways. Can anyone be righteous by being good enough? What does the word "heir" speak of? When you inherit something, what must first happen to the person you inherit from? Because of Christ's death on our behalf, we can inherit His righteousness.
This is one of our goals in Bible study, to confirm that the Bible is true by comparing what it says to various other passages. God's Word is without error. It does not contradict itself. It is truth. Discovering that truth is SO exciting! And it builds our faith.
8-10 Which giant of the faith is next? God called him to leave the world of idolatry and set out on a walk by faith, not knowing exactly where it would take him. Like Abel, Enoch and Noah, Abraham lived a life of faith and obedience, looking to a future inheritance, to God's promise of a better place. Read Gen. 12:1-7, 13:14-18, 17:21, 26:1-5, 28:10-15. Did Abraham, Isaac or Jacob see the fulfillment of God's promise? How is Abraham a picture of the New Testament believer? Are we to put down roots in this world, Gen. 23:4, Phil. 3:20, II Pet. 2:11? What is that city we are looking for, and where do we read about it? Rev. 21-22. So were Abraham's eyes on this world only? Why did he live in tents? Are tents a permanent abode? How are tents symbolic of our lives as Christians?
11-12 Several Bible women are listed in this chapter of faith, but who is first? Gen. 18:1,9-15. What was miraculous about Isaac's birth? Was Sarah's and Abraham's faith perfect, without any doubting? Yet they are listed as an example of faith. What can we learn from this? In Heb. 3-4, the writer spoke of the problem of believers struggling with what? We all deal with this. Which is more important--how strong and unwavering our faith is, or WHO our faith is in? Did their faith have an impact on others, in future generations? Might ours?
13-17 What two characteristics of these Old Testament believers do we see in 13? In each of their lives, God had told them what to do and how to live, and they obeyed. What had God promised them would happen in the future, that they did not see in their lifetime but showed faith in? The coming of the Messiah. Their faith looked forward to the coming of Christ; ours looks back, as well as to the future. Prophecies of Christ are throughout the Old Testament, beginning where? Gen. 3:15. God revealed His will for their lives, but also revealed to them that He had a plan much bigger and more farther-reaching. Are we living for this life, this world? We have the entire written revelation of God, where we too can find His Big Plan for the ages. 15-16, why did they not turn back? Even though man is sinful, why is God not ashamed to be called our God? Because of the blood of Christ.
Keep in mind the context of this letter. What problem do these Hebrew believers struggle with that the writer is talking to them about? Not looking back to the Law and the sacrifices, but looking to Christ, to promises of a heavenly future. He is always talking to them about choosing and focusing on what is "better." Do we sometimes need reminders to get our eyes off this world, off our past, off ourselves, and back on The Big Picture of what God is doing as revealed in His Word?
17-19 What important fact do we learn in 19 about Abraham offering Isaac that was not told in the Genesis account? Abraham had faltered in his faith many times, but now he was given the ultimate test of faith. Did this test come early in Abraham's walk with God? He had had many failures of faith, but now he was more mature spiritually. We'd like to think that as we mature, the Christian life would get easier. Might our greatest tests be ahead, when we are most mature to handle them?
The phrase "only begotten" points us to whom? In the Genesis account, "only begotten" is not used, but the similar phrase "your son, your only son" points us in the same direction: Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Father. Do you see how the story in Gen. 22 is a picture--a type--of Christ? Read Gen. 22:1-19. Mount Moriah, 2, is where Christ was later crucified. We also find the first appearance of the word "love" in 2--of the father for the son, pointing us to which Father and Son? Significantly, 22:5 is the first use of "worship" in the Bible; so how does the Bible define worship for us? Sacrifice, obedience, yielding one's will to God. In 7 we have the first use of "lamb"--what is the significance? In 18 we have the first use of "obey" as obedience to whom? What did Abraham say in 8? Did God actually do that? Compare John 1:29.
20-22 Keeping His promise to Abraham regarding his descendants, God appeared to Isaac and Jacob also, repeating to them the promise He had made to Abraham. Did they believe Him? Was their life of faith without doubts, stumbling and disobedience? Isaac believed the promise and taught it to his sons, yet what had God told the parents in Gen. 25:23? What do we learn in 28? And in 27:1-4? Did Isaac defy God's revealed will? Was he successful? What was his reaction when he saw he had failed, 27:33? In some ways Isaac was a man of faith, but in other ways he failed. Yet God chose to bless him and use him--why, Gen. 26:4-5?
Jacob, on his deathbed, passed on his faith in God's promises to his sons, and especially to the two sons of Joseph, his favored son. Had God appeared to him also and repeated the promise He had made to Abraham? Had Jacob's life been characterized by faith? The writer mentions Jacob's staff in connection with what? How does Jacob's staff relate to worship in Gen. 32:10? Perhaps he had kept that staff, perhaps as a symbol of his faith in God. In looking at the lives of Isaac and Jacob, we can see how difficult it was to hold onto faith without the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Old Testament saints did not have. We in the church are so blessed!
Joseph's dying words are found in Gen. 50:24-26. What did he know and believe and remind his family? So was he buried in Egypt? Why not? Read Ex. 13:19, Josh. 24:32.
What is the writer's point to his readers? Were these acts of faith easy for the people he has mentioned? Are they easy for us? Will they be easy for the Hebrew readers struggling with their faith?
23-29 What giant of the faith is discussed now? Read Ex. 2:10-11. Were his parents people of faith? Did they face danger because of their decision? (This was at the age of 40.) Here in Hebrews we learn why Moses did not agree to remain as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, although, hadn't he got himself into a sticky situation where he was practically forced to run away? Did he risk the anger of his foster family who had poured so much into him, seeing his potential? Might it have been a difficult decision for him? Where did he learn these values? (In those days, children were nursed until 3-5 years of age.)
In what way did Moses choose the "reproach of Christ"? What did he know about Christ in his day? Hint: what is another name for Christ? Did he know about the Messiah promised to come in the descendants of Abraham? So he chose to identify himself with the people of God rather than be a wealthy powerful Egyptian. Was that choice a test in his life? Does God bring tests in our lives where we have to choose between God's way and the godless world system? What does Egypt often represent symbolically in the Bible? The world; the desire to return to the world's values and lifestyle, to the godless (but often attractive) world system. We again see faith as obedience to God in that first Passover and in the crossing of the Red Sea.
30-31 Again we see faith displayed as what in these two examples? 31 makes this especially clear by contrasting what kind of people? KJV, believed not; NASB, disobedient. This word can be translated either way, clarifying to us that "believing" in the Bible includes the idea of acting on that belief, not just a thought or attitude in your mind. We find this same idea in John 3:36.
32-38 All of these had faith in God, which they showed through their what? Does walking by faith guarantee a good time? They did more than just have a positive thought about God in their head; they acted upon it, even to what extent? Were those mentioned in 32 all sterling examples of faith? What can we learn from that? But God honored their obedience. What contrast do we see between 33-34 and 35-38? What can we conclude from this regarding living by faith?
34, what can result from weakness? Physical or spiritual? What word in 35 have we seen frequently in this book? Perhaps this is what Rev. 20:4 is talking about; some will have greater honor than others in the resurrection. Might "not accepting deliverance/release" be talking about refusing the opportunity to escape torture by denying Christ? Even in the dispensation of Law, when righteousness was rewarded with health and wealth, did any of these examples of faith end up rich and successful, like many of today's preachers? What does 26 say about these hardships?
39-40 How does 39 relate back to 6, and 2? This chapter illustrates this teaching and shows us what faith looks like in real life, in imperfect people. Did they gain God's approval by racking up points for good works? Yet that faith was shown by what? What promise did they not receive? Who is "us" in 40? Who is "they"? (see 2) What did God provide for us that they did not have? "Perfect" does not mean sinless but what? Complete. In what way were they not complete before the church age? The blood of the Lamb had not yet paid for their sin. This lends weight to the interpretation that Eph. 4:8-10 means that Jesus, following His death, went to Abraham's Bosom (Luke 16:22) and took the waiting Old Testament believers to heaven. What other promise have they not yet received that cannot come to pass until we are removed and the church age ends? Israel's earthly kingdom under their Messiah.
Is faith a choice? Is it displayed through our obedience? Is it an easy choice? Some people use the excuse, "I just don't have enough faith." What matters more than how much faith you have? (Who your faith is in, and that you choose to exercise what faith you have.) If you are not putting your faith in God, what are you putting it in instead? Everyone puts faith in something
1-2 Keeping in mind the greater context of this letter, what is the problem with the Jewish believers reading this? Why, 10:39, had the writer explained so much about faith in the previous chapter? Who are these witnesses that surround us? Some believe this implies or even teaches that those in heaven can see us and are observing us; others believe it means that their lives are a witness to us. "Therefore" we are to do three things.
Lay aside what and what? What might this mean? Might weight/encumbrance be two ways of saying the same thing? Or are they different things? Might we be weighed down by things that are not sin? Might we need to lay aside some things in our lives that are not wrong, but slow us down--get in the way of moving on with the Lord? Some think the sin mentioned here is sin in general; some think it is particular sins that we are especially prone to. What is "the sin" these readers were struggling with, 3:19? Do we also struggle with this sin? Why would it hold us back in our Christian growth, our running?
We are also to run what? how? Is the Christian life a sprint or a marathon? Are the Jewish readers running, or walking, or stumbling around, or stopping and standing around, or going the wrong way? Have we ever done this? So we are to be encouraged onward by the stories we read in the Bible. Why is it important to share our testimonies--our ups and downs?
What is the third thing we are told to do? Why might we need to be told this? We have wandering eyes. When you are running a race, where is your focus? Faith originates with and is completed by whom? Phil. 1:6. The main point again is faith. "Author" may also be translated "captain": Jesus is the captain of our faith. What does a captain do? What word in the next phrase ties back to the end of 1? What if we struggle with endurance--are we on our own? He is our example and empowers us how? Through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Is endurance joyful? But might endurance be easier for us if we too try to stay focused on the joy of what awaits us? Did He let the disgrace of crucifixion deter Him? Because He disregarded that and chose to endure, what resulted? And what awaits us? When trials get really hard to endure, we need to stay focused. One day this earthly life will be over.
Where is Christ now? What is He doing there, Rom. 8:34? Christ did not always sit at the Father's right hand; when did it happen, Mark 16:19? But at the beginning of the tribulation, Rev. 5:6, how do we see Him? The church is now in heaven, the church age is over; in the tribulation, He is finally moving to put His enemies under His feet. The first part of the prophecy of Psalm 110:1 is fulfilled at the ascension, and the second half is fulfilled after the rapture.
3 As in 3:1, we are again told to consider Christ--to contemplate Him. Are we to measure ourselves by others? What is it about Him that we are to consider? What word in 3 did we just see in 2 and 1? What is the implication about the readers? They/we need to endure: bear our trials, persevere, have patience/fortitude, stay, remain, suffer. Our trials seem small when we consider that Jesus endured what? It's hard for us to imagine what it must have been like for a holy God to take on weak mortal flesh and subject Himself to living with sinful man.
4-6 What do we learn about the readers in 4--what were they struggling to endure? Was that persecution involving bloodshed? This verse helps date this book as being written before AD 70, before Rome conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. As Jews who knew the Old Testament, they are reminded of Prov. 3:11-12, regarding what? Have we ever been guilty of disregarding or lightly regarding the correcting, training, instruction of the Lord? What might such correcting look like? Something uncomfortable, stressful, painful, unpleasant? Something designed to get us to do something different than what we have been doing? And when we experience such things, is our first response always to say, "OK, Lord. If you say so." What might be our response instead? To beg God to take away or change those circumstances, as quickly as possible? To bow our necks and continue on doing what we are doing? To think God is being mean? To complain about how He is handling our lives? Even if we don't tell Him that, might we hold that attitude? Sometimes He merely rebukes us, but does He ever have to scourge us--to draw blood, literally or figuratively?
7-10 Had these believers been "enduring"? Or had they been drifting, thinking of turning back to their old ways? The writer has been speaking to them of the importance of enduring--in 1,2,3. Now he says that enduring is part of God's discipline that he just spoke of. So what is one reason God gives us trials requiring endurance? In this passage, does "discipline" speak of punishment or of training? Does God discipline those who are not His children? (He does convict them, and eventually He will judge and punish them, but that is not discipline.) How should we feel about God's training? What is His training about? So the trials and difficulties He allows in our lives prove His fatherly love for us, rather than lack of concern for us.
Did we also struggle with our parents' discipline? Was their discipline imperfect? So does God just desire our salvation? Won't all Christians be sinless after death? So what more is He preparing us for? Perhaps for greater responsibility in the millenium, when we (the church) will help Him administer His earthly kingdom for 1000 years? Many Christians struggle with why we have trials, often asking, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Does this passage help answer that concern. (Of course, we understand that technically there are no "good" people.) And another reason for trials is that because of man's choices in the Garden of Eden, God allowed sin, evil and pain to enter the world, which affects us all in many ways.
So this section is not speaking of punishment; is God ever punishing us for our sins, or were they paid for when Jesus took all our punishment? But does God allow us to reap the natural consequences of our actions? Might that feel like punishment? So in a way, we sometimes "pay" for our sins in this life by reaping what we have sowed. The Bible speaks often of this principle. But the penalty for sin--death--has already been satisfied by Christ's death on the cross and the shedding of His blood, not ours. Some, like Mormons, teach that Christ's blood might not completely atone for all sin, and that therefore we must do more than just believe on Christ, but the Bible does not teach this.
11 Note four important ideas here: 1)for the moment, 2)seems, 3)yet/nevertheless...afterwards, 4)fruit. How do those four thoughts speak to us about this subject of God's discipline? Do all believers produce this fruit, or is it possible to ignore or resist God's discipline, to just whine about it or wallow in self-pity?
12-13 Had these believers been firmly walking straight forward? Or was their Christian walk characterized by weakness? Straightness might not imply a straight line that never turns or curves, but might it include the idea of inner straightness within oneself--all things in balance?
14-15 Here is what those straight paths look like. Peace with men is a good thing to pursue--at any cost? How does the next phrase balance that ideal? Sanctification, or holiness (KJV), means being blameless; we cannot sacrifice the truth in order to please men. (Or course we know that unbelievers will face God's judgment, so we know that "see God" is speaking of having a relationship with Him.) Does 15 describe the drifting and unbelief that characterized these faltering Jewish believers? But this is NOT to characterize our lives! Have you ever struggled with bitterness? This verse says it is a choice, as is the unbelief discussed earlier. Our feelings are actually choices. Do we have to be controlled by them?
16-17 What is Esau famous for? We don't read about him being a fornicator; this verse may be saying that he was. We do know he had several wives, Gen. 28:8-9, and was an earthy man who lived by his impulses and appetites. This verse could also be likening the sin of fornication to Esau's sin; what do both have in common? Can either sin be undone, even though repented of tearfully? Did God refuse to forgive a repentant man? Was Esau truly sorry about his sin before God? Was he a godly man? Was he just upset because of the unpleasant consequences of his behavior? The thought begun in 14-15 continues here: a warning of what? Not to lag behind or be short-changed in your spiritual life because of poor choices, lack of godliness, unbelief.
18-21 What incident is described here? The giving of the tablets of law at Mt. Sinai.
22-24 What is pictured here? So the writer has contrasted Israel, the Old Testament, the old covenant, in 18-21 with the church in 22-24. The old covenant is about the physical (a mountain that can be touched); the new is about the spiritual (Mt. Zion--the new Jerusalelm). It's no longer about Moses but who 24? Again we see the change--a new dispensation of God's grace, a new covenant that replaces the old, the earthly hope replaced with a heavenly one. 23, what happened to the righteous of the Old Testament who were in Abraham's Bosom? Could they approach God under the old covenant? What about under the new, 24? As in a courtroom scene, God is the what and Jesus is the what?
The end of 24 speaks twice of blood, contrasting the sprinkled blood of Jesus and the blood of Abel. One interpretation is that "the blood of Abel" speaks of Abel's own blood, shed by violence, the blood of the first martyr. This bloodshed is being compared to Jesus' blood that was shed willingly. Jesus' blood, rather than demanding justice, is "better" because it satisfied God's demand for justice. Another interpretation is that "the blood of Abel" refers to the blood Abel shed in his sacrifice which God found acceptable--the first recorded blood sacrifice by man. It is being compared to the sacrifice of Jesus' blood, in that Jesus' shed blood is better than the blood of animals. This interpretation better fits the context of the previous several chapters which dealt at length with Jesus' blood, shed once for all, being better than the blood of animals, which must be shed yearly, and which never took away sins. The sprinkling of blood as part of the sacrifice is referred to many times in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, as well as in Hebrews 9, 10 and 11.
25 Who is "Him who is speaking"? Who is the last "Him"? Not all versions agree on capitalization. The second "him" if capitalized would be God/Jesus; if not capitalized, who might it be? Moses (21)? This verse could be contrasting Moses and Jesus as did 21 and 24, and the earlier chapters of this book. If avoiding or rejecting the law of Moses was serious, how much more serious is the rejecting of Jesus or trying to avoid what He has said. Or the second "Him" could be speaking of God: rejecting the law He gave through Moses at Mt. Sinai was serious, but rejecting His Son Jesus is even more serious. Both are true. This thought reflects back to chapters 3 and 4 where they were warned of the dangers of unbelief in the Christian's life.
26 What three sets of contrasting words continue the idea of the old and new? Then and now, earth and heaven, shook/will shake. When in the future will this shaking take place? The day of the Lord--the time of destruction and judgment following the rapture and ending with Christ's second coming.
27-29 What phrase contrasts with "the removing of those things which can be shaken"? So what is being removed, and what is now permanent and eternal 27? What do we learn in 28 about the kingdom? The Old Testament prophets tell that the kingdom will not only be fulfilled when Christ returns to earth to rule, but that it will go on eternally. What should our response be to these amazing truths? The KJV says "have grace," the NASB says "show gratitude." God did what for us? So we do what for Him? 29, there are many Old Testament references to God being a consuming fire, and to the fire of the Lord coming down and consuming sacrifices and other things too. Fire in 29 may tie these thoughts together by taking us back to 18. God is not to be trifled with; therefore, we serve Him with what and what, 28? Such service will be elaborated on in the next verses.
1-3 "Agape" love stresses choices and actions, not feelings; but 1 uses not "agape" but "phileo," brotherly love, affection. This term is also found in Rom. 12:10, with the idea of putting others before yourself. Does this mean we must like every believer, everyone in our church? Even if we don't especially like another believer, can we show Christian love toward them?
Is 2 talking about taking unknown people into our homes, or is it elaborating on verse 1? In Bible days, there were no motels, and people looked for lodging in the homes of others. Christians would obviously want to stay in the homes of fellow believers; just as today, safety was a concern. Hospitality was encouraged in the early church, Rom. 12:13, I Tim. 3:2, Tit. 1:8, I Pet. 4:9. Some take this verse to mean we should pick up homeless people and bring them home for a meal and maybe even for night; in today's world, as then, this may not be wise. There are many ways to help the unfortunate without risking the safety ourselves and our families. This is probably more about being hospitable to other believers who are strangers. Why might Christians "neglect" to do this?
The angel reference may point back to the stories of Abraham and Lot, holding them up as an example of Christian hospitality. Or it could mean that even we too may meet up with an angel without knowing it, although it doesn't say this; angels appear as humans. We never see angels appearing with wings; only the cherubim and seraphim around God's throne are described with wings.
What other group of Christians are they to remember to show brotherly love to? Is this speaking of a jail ministry today, or to a situation of Christians imprisoned for their faith? Unlike in today's welfare state, prisoners at that time often depended on friends and family to provide food and necessities. Why might the early Christians neglect to visit such believers? Some day if persecution comes here, we may also find ourselves having to choose between self and others, and for those who become believers after the rapture, it will be very dangerous to be a Christian. We can empathize with and help those with troubles and needs.
4 What status is marriage given today, as opposed to its many options? Fornicators/whoremongers would probably be the unmarried who engage in sex, and adulterers would be the married ones. The Bible teaches that all sex outside heterosexual faithful marriage is sin. Why is the church going soft on these sins? Today, as in their day, unbelievers living in a culture of loose morals may have trouble changing their lifestyles when they are saved, having been desensitized to this sin. Some religious people, then and now, think abstaining from marriage or other things (asceticism) makes you more spiritual; what does this verse say?
5-6 KJV "conversation" is an old word translated better in NASB as "character," your manner of life. Is money evil? Can we be guilty of love of money no matter how much we have or don't have? Is covetousness/materialism thought of as a sin in our culture? How does contentment relate to the quote in 5-6? If we fully understand and believe this, what happens to the desire for money and things? If we truly desired God and God alone, wouldn't many of our attitudes change? So in 1-6, these Hebrew believers (and we also) are being encouraged to go on with the Lord, and told what it looks like to walk in faith and obedience, rather than to look back at the Law or look around them at the world's values.
Let's look as these quotes in 5-6. The first is Deut. 31:6 and 8, where Moses was speaking to God's chosen people, the Israelites. Now it is applied to God's present people, the church, who have been given His presence in what way? The indwelling Holy Spirit. How does this passage speak to the subject of the eternal security of the believer? Some believe Christians can walk away from--leave--their salvation; that would mean that somehow the indwelling Spirit no longer indwells them. What does this passage say about that possibility? Nowhere does the New Testament speak of the that possibility.
7-8 Is this saying that pastors are to be obeyed, as some pastors claim? The apostles were eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus and were attested by God through miraculous signs and wonders. Some of them had died by this time, but their solid teaching of the Word was to be obeyed and their godly lives were not to be forgotten (remember that they did not yet have the written New Testament as we do). Does God's Word evolve, as many teach today? Do biblical truths change to reflect and better fit in with man's thinking? What the apostles taught is what we believe today and will always be true. God is NOT doing "a new thing" today. Jesus is God, and does not change. Compare Mal. 3:6.
9 Have you ever gotten off on some different teaching? Why are we attracted by strange and divergent teachings? We learn of one example of how false teachers were trying to change the apostles' teachings at that time. Is there any spiritual value in eating or not eating certain foods? Why? What IS important? Grace: salvation in Jesus alone. The Lord's supper is a memorial; if the bread and wine actually did become the literal body and blood of Christ, as some teach, would eating that food have any spiritual value? We receive His grace through a relationship with Him, through His Word and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Foods have no bearing on our spiritual lives.
10-13 This talk about serving the tabernacle, sacrifices and high priests lead us to think that the previous verse, about foods and divergent teachings, are about who? Jews, Judaizers, those who would draw believers away from Christ and back to the Law. So again Jesus is compared and contrasted with Judaism. He is our altar of sacrifice, or perhaps the cross. The sacrifice of His body, that brought us into the Holy Place, was made outside the city gates of Jerusalem, fulfilling the picture in Lev. 16:27.
13-14 Based on these facts, "let us" do what? Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers contain many references to "the camp"--the camp of Israel in the wilderness, set up around the tabernacle. What might "the camp" refer to for these Jewish believers? They need to go outside "the camp" of Judaism to follow Jesus alone. What might it mean for us to go to Him "outside the camp"? Will going to Him there make us popular with the world? Or even with other religious people? Instead of Judaism, what might we need to leave? "Bear" gets back to the theme of enduring. As Christians, we may need to bear quite a bit to get through this life. Where did we just read about a city that is heavenly, not earthly, in the previous chapter? 12:22. What city was important to the Jews? What is the writer saying about that city? It is not a lasting city--pointing once again to the temporary nature of Judaism. They need to leave Judaism behind. Are we looking eagerly to our eternal abode, or are we also hung up on this temporary, fallen world? The future abode of the church is the New Jerusalem--where is this described? Rev. 21.
15-16 In both verses, we are reminded that God is pleased by what, just as He was in the Old Testament? But now, instead of animals, we offer Him what? In what way are those things sacrifices? And they are reminded that they no longer have to bring them through a priest, but through whom? So we can please God both with our words and our what? We just saw in the epistle of Titus that good deeds should characterize the church, along with sound doctrine. How often should we praise Him? What else do we give Him that is similar, 15?
17 "Leaders" could be the apostles, who taught with authority and who set up the churches and the local leaders over them. Or it could be the local leaders--the pastors and elders. Back in 7, the people had been exhorted to "remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you" and were told to imitate them; that sounded like the apostles. But "leaders" down in 24 seems to refer to local leaders. Either application would be true. Remember that at this time, they did not have the complete written Word of God, only the Old Testament. Today we see Scripture as authoritative, but at that time, the New Testament teachings were still being passed along orally, so those who knew sound doctrine were to be careful stewards of it.
The Epistles give clear teaching on doctrine and conduct in the church, even to the point of church discipline, so this would be the context of "obey" and "submit. Some churches have taken this further, to mean that the pastor and elders require obedience in all matters of life, even personal decisions such as finances, job choice, marriage choice, parenting actions, etc. This practice is often called "shepherding," "heavy shepherding" or "discipling." They stress the concept that everyone is to be accountable to someone over them, and is to obey that person unquestioningly. If someone offers to "disciple" you or be a "discipleship partner," beware. These groups are into legalism, spiritual manipulation, and intimidation, even requiring you to confess your sins to that person. More recently we also find people who offer to be your "mentor" or "spiritual director"--a milder version of the above. Does the New Testament give such authority to church leaders, or to anyone? Do we see this type of heavy-handed authority in cult leaders? We are not to go beyond Scripture. What other clue in this verse tells us it is speaking of doctrinal matters, not personal life choices? They must keep watch over (NASB) or give account for our what?
18-19 Although we today cannot be sure who the author is, this letter was not written anonymously; the readers knew the writer. Many argue about who the author is, with Paul being the most popular choice; since the Bible doesn't give us that information, apparently it's not important for us to know. "Us" could mean more than one person, or it could be a way to referring to "me." Perhaps there have been false accusations about the writer (as we have often seen about Paul). But the situation is in need of prayer. Why is it important for leaders, or any Christian, to live honorably and blamelessly? Then if there are false accusations, there will be NO basis for them. What else does he want them to pray about?
20-21 He has asked them to pray for him; now he prays for them--a closing benediction, again full of doctrinal truth. Only here does he mention the resurrection. If the writer is Paul, that is unusual since the resurrection is often primary in his message; in Hebrews the writer has emphasized Jesus as High Priest and His sacrificial death. Earlier he spoke quite a bit about the new covenant--here he calls it what? Because it IS. What sealed that covenant?
21 sounds very much like Paul. What is God's plan for their lives, and for ours? Such equipping (KJV: perfecting) was mentioned twice by Paul, in Eph. 4:12 and II Tim. 3:17. Regarding God's will, compare Paul's words in Phil. 2:13. So ar we on our own to try to do good deeds, good works? How does He equip us and work in us what is pleasing in His sight? Through giving us stress-free lives? Where does the power come from? The indwelling Holy Spirit. Did the Old Testament believers, trying to keep the Law, have the Holy Spirit indwelling them with power? These Hebrews needed to remember that now, in the church age, under the new covenant, it's not like it was under the Law. We see a change in dispensations. And if we do what is pleasing in sight, do we get any glory? All the glory goes to God, to His Son.
22-24 The "Amen" seemed to mark the actual end of this letter or sermon--this word of exhortation; now we have a little postscript. If the author is Paul, he may be referring to the fact that he is actually the apostle to the Gentiles, not the Jews, yet he has written this exhortation to Jewish believers--very possibly to the church in Jerusalem, which was Jewish and liable to be struggling with the issue he addressed. We know Paul was very educated and very knowledgeable about Judaism. Apparently there was much more he could have said on the issue (unless he said this tongue-in-cheek, with a "wink"). We see this was written after Timothy's imprisonment. The writer appears to be in Italy, perhaps even Rome. All the leaders and all the saints may refer to the various house churches of their city, to which this letter is to be circulated. Grace, Paul's usual benediction, used by no other writer of any epistle. This lends weight to the possibility that Paul may be the author.
Copyright 2014 Jan Young
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