Hebrews Lesson 3 February 24, 2005
NKJ Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Tonight we will work our way through the 13 chapters of Hebrews in a brief overview. What is the plan or approach? The early church would have received it as an epistle and the pastor of the church would have read it in its entirety as one piece on a Sunday morning. That is how they initially heard it. You can see the kind of concentration they had in the early church.
What is being said here? I want you to have a frame of reference so that when we look at the bits and pieces they will be significant to the whole. Most of the time when we look at a book in the Bible we look at a verse or a clause or a small piece of the Word and we pick it apart and compare it to other verses. Somehow we lose how that piece fits in the whole picture. It is like picking up a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, studying that one piece and never seeing the whole picture.
This book was written as a word of exhortation. It is a challenge where a certain amount of information is given in the message and then the volition is challenged to apply the information. The Bible does not teach raw information. Its purpose is to change your thinking. There is an embedded challenge for you to respond to God's teaching so that we can respond to the world biblically. Hebrews is structured around 5 sections or warning passages. They are called problem passages because they seem to some to suggest that you can lose salvation. Or, maybe you aren't really saved if you didn't stick with it. But the truth is that it is really a warning passage to stick with it or there may be serious consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ and in the millennial kingdom. The structure of this sermon is built around five points. Each section contains a doctrinal exposition followed by a challenge that is a sobering warning to believers.
Section 1 Hebrews 1:1-2:4
This is the opening section. The writer has an opening salvo in 1:1-4. It is a tour de force introducing the central themes of his message. Like any good writer he has a thesis statement embedded here.
NKJ Hebrews 1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
The first 4 verses are one complete sentence in the original Greek. If you chop them up you lose the thrust. In the opening prelude he introduces us to the central theme that God has spoken. It is very important to trace this idea through Hebrews. Because He has spoken, there is an implied necessary response from the creature. He introduces the superiority of Jesus Christ the Son. The Son is the future heir of all things. Then we see His qualifications of the Son. He is the creator. The Son by Himself cleansed us from our sins. He ascended into heaven and is now at the right hand of God the Father above the angels with a name higher than theirs. The implications of His ascension over the angels and His present session will be developed throughout the entire epistle to challenge Church Age believers to press on with their spiritual growth in preparation for the future.
I would say that the theme of the whole epistle is the implications of the Savior's session on the current sanctification of the saints and their future service in the kingdom.
To summarize it even more, it is living today in the light of eternity. That is what he is talking about. It is a sobering warning to believers not to give up, not to fall by the wayside, and not to treat your salvation or your future destiny lightly. Hang in there.
The opening sentence presents the main idea of the epistle. Christ by virtue of His victory in His humanity is qualified to be elevated above all creatures. As a man He is to rule over all creation. As Church Age believers we are united with Him and have the promise of future and final victory over sin, evil, and the enemies of God. He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. The idea of inheritance points us to the future realization of inheritance when He assumes His position as the king. He has not inherited the kingdom yet. That is yet future. As the second person of the Trinity in His deity, He is eternally the Son. In His humanity He had to have victory over sin and suffering and temptation as He grew in His humanity so that in His humanity He also earned the title of Son that is declared at His ascension. So we will spend some time understanding the sonships of Christ. What does it mean that He is the Son of God? And more importantly in this epistle, what does His title Son of David mean?
This is immediately related it to His Messianic rule and millennial rule emphasized in verses 5-6. It is understood to be related to the Davidic sonship. It takes His sonship in Psalm 2:7 and connects it to the Davidic Covenant. It is a profound theological statement. There is so much in this first chapter. What we see here in the first four verses is the major thrust of Hebrews - a challenge to press on to spiritual maturity because your present decisions and growth will determine your future position and responsibilities in the millennium. Your continued walk by the Holy Spirit and application of doctrine consistently will eventually result in rewards and privileges in the coming kingdom. He develops these themes as he goes through the five sections.
Verses1:5-14 develop the idea that though He is eternally begotten and is superior to angels in His deity, He is also elevated above them in His humanity. In these verses, the writer quotes 7 Psalms and one verse from Isaiah to substantiate his argument. The emphasis is on Jesus Christ as the Davidic Son. At the ascension He is declared begotten. He held this position in eternity in His deity and qualifies for it in His humanity. This qualifies Him to take the throne for a righteous rule in the kingdom. This reflection upon His sonship and His future reign in verse 5-9 leads to a praise related to God's character.
Note that a key word throughout this book is son.
Another word to watch is the word companions. It is the Greek word metochoi meaning companions or partakers. There are two concepts we will run across in Hebrews and Revelation 2-3 that we will tie together. Revelation uses the word overcomers. His friends as it were. They are roughly analogous to David's band of mighty men in the Old Testament. These are the ones who will rule and reign with Christ. Metochoi is one of the New Testament words for Church Age believers who are victorious in the Christian life and qualify to rule and reign with Him in the kingdom.
Pay attention to the word 'speaking' and the idea of communication. Above all, this is the most important word to watch. We will see this throughout our study. "After God spoke in time past". That He spoke is a key concept in this epistle. That God speaks demands a response from us. His speaking is through His Son. He is qualified because He is elevated above the angels. This is the theme of the first chapter.
The chapter comes to a close talking about the angles.
NKJ Hebrews 1:14Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.
Salvation is another word to watch. There is a tremendous debate here. Is this talking about being saved from the eternal penalty of the Lake of Fire? We call this phase one justification. Or is this phase 3 justification - glorification salvation with a view to the future of everything that Christ has secured for us that will only be realized when He comes with His kingdom? If you take the warning as phase one justification, you run into problems. Then you have to interpret the warning passages as a possibility of the loss of your salvation. You have to take it as the realization of future rewards when we fully realize our salvation. God speaking demands a response on our side.
Then the first warning comes in Hebrews 2:1-4.
NKJ Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
NKJ Hebrews 1:2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
What did we hear? We heard what was spoken by the Son. God has spoken by the Son in Hebrews 1:2. So we must take heed to what we have heard according to Hebrews 2:1. They are connected. The word spoken by the angels was the law. You see how the warning flows out of the prelude. It is connected. If there was retribution for disobeying what was spoken by the prophets, how much more retribution and punishment would you expect if you did not pay attention to the word spoken by the Son? Remember the Son is the heir of all things and is elevated above the angels. That is the message of the first part.
Section 2 Hebrews 2:5 – 4:13
In this section we learn that God sent His eternally begotten Son to qualify for the Davidic sonship in the incarnation to the end that He would establish His kingdom on the earth. So He made the Son lower than the angels as a human so that He can fulfill man's original purpose given in Genesis 1:26-27. God said to let him rule. Yet Adam failed. So what is happening is that in the incarnation He takes on humanity and enters human history lower than the angels so He can fulfill what Adam failed to fulfill and be crowned with glory and honor and elevated above the angels to rule all creation as a man. That is the important thing to realize. We come right back to what was emphasized in the prelude – the ascension and session of Christ. In the ascension you have a man ascending to heaven. In His humanity He is over the angels and at the helm of the universe. This is the emphasis of this next section. It is all for the purpose of bringing many sons into glory. We move from Him being higher than the angels in the first chapter to how the process took place in the second chapter. The process is sanctification as introduced in verse 10.
NKJ Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Jesus Christ had to go through the process of sanctification just like we do. We usually think of sanctification in terms of being divested from sin. But Adam had to learn to obedience. You don't have to commit murder to learn that murder is wrong. You do not have to do wrong acts to learn that they are wrong. You learn obedience by the things you suffer. Sanctification had to take place. Christ is matured through suffering. We are one with Christ in the process of sanctification. This has tremendous implications for the Christian life. He went through the same process we go through.
NKJ Hebrews 2:11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,
That is the metochoi concept again. It is a special class of believers who have consistently obeyed and moved forward in the Christian life. Revelation has the same declaration in the letter to Sardis. For those who wash their robes and are cleansed, Christ will confess them before the God and the angels. This is the overcomer. The thrust of this section is that Christ is our brother in His humanity shared our flesh and blood so that He can be our high priest. This is where the argument moves.
NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
This tells us that He is now able to aid us in the process of sanctification. Therefore the challenge is given in vs. 1.
NKJ Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. 3 For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward,
6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
We have the word metochoi again. Consider means we are to learn all we can about the apostle and high priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. The thrust of verses 1-5 is that just as Moses was faithful over the Jews in the house, Jesus is faithful as the One over the house. We need to be firm in the faith for phase 3 rewards and special blessings in the millennial kingdom.
Then there comes a warning starting in verse 7.
NKJ Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice,
This is the practical exhortation and warning section. One verse is repeated three times.
NKJ Psalm 95:7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
This verse is quoted in 3:7, 3:15, and 4:7. It is the theme of this section. The analogy that is being made is to the rebellious Jews in the Exodus generation. The challenge to the believer today is not to harden your hearts as in the rebellion against the message. Who having heard rebelled? The Jews heard the Old Testament revelation. God spoke in times past by the prophets.
NKJ Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
Doctrine better be mixed with faith in your life.
We see the constant idea that God has spoken. It calls upon us to respond in a certain way or there will be consequences. It does not mean that there is no forgiveness. That causes great confusion among believers. If I go out and commit murder and confess it, I am forgiven, but there are still consequences. I can still go to jail. God forgives, but there are still consequences.
There is in this section a promise of rest here. That is the parallel. The Jews in the Exodus generation forfeited their rest because they didn't trust in God. The rest is analogous to our future millennial blessings and rewards.
NKJ Hebrews 4:8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.
Even the conquest generation under Joshua entered the land, but they did not have the full rest that was spoken of. There is a rest for us, and that is our position in the millennial kingdom. Will you respond with positive volition, learn and apply the Word today so that you will be prepared to rule and reign with Christ?
This brings home the final exhortation.
NKJ Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
Verse 11 exhorts us to be diligent to enter that rest. Work hard at living the Christian life.
NKJ Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
We see again the principle that God has spoken. That verse if familiar to all of us. Note the context. Be diligent because the Word is alive and powerful. See the emphasis on what God has spoken. The Word lays bear your life. And no creature is hidden from His power! This is not a verse just about inspiration. All things are naked before him. This drives us right to the judgment evaluation at the Bema seat. There will be an evaluation for rewards.
Section 3 Hebrews 4:14-6:20
The High Priesthood of Christ is now emphasized in the third section.
NKJ Hebrews 4:14Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
He immediately takes us back to grace. As soon as you get the hardcore punch that we should wake up because we will be evaluated, we get a reminder of grace. There is a reminder that there is grace because we have a Savior that went through the same things we did. He sympathizes with us. He aids us in our suffering and testing. He gives us everything we need to surmount these tests and move forward. If we fail, we confess it. We have forgiveness and we move on.
Then we shift to His high priesthood of Christ. He saw that He was created lower than the angels and that he is created lower than angels and elevated above man. He was created lower than angels so that He can go through the sanctification process. His diligence qualifies Him to be our high priest. Now he develops the priesthood of Christ. He has to do something to explain it because Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. He is not qualified to be a priest by birth. He is not a Levite. He is from the tribe of Judah. How can he be a high priest? He did not glorify Himself to become a High Priest.
NKJ Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. 3 Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.
NKJ Hebrews 5:5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You."
6 As He also says in another place: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek";
Now we connect Psalm 2:7 given in Hebrews 1:5 and Psalm 110:4 (Melchizedekian priesthood). He picks up a thread from chapter 1. See what happens in the flow of the author. In the first chapter we see Christ as the David Son. He is the royal Son. He is the royal human Son. Now he is the royal human Son, high priest. We tie all these things together. This is building a case for what Christ can do in the millennial kingdom. Because we are identified with Him, we will be there if we go through the process that He went through. The writer comes back and develops the idea of the Melchizedekian priesthood. It is not a Jewish priesthood. It is a Gentile priesthood. It was a royal priesthood. Melchizedek was the king-priest of Salem.
The writer now has to break off because he sees that they are dull of hearing. They are on the edge of dumping their Christianity completely and tubing it almost irretrievably. He stops and tells them that by now they should be teachers. But, you need someone to teach you the basics of the oracle of God. What is the oracle of God? It is what He has spoken. Once again we are back to the theme that God has spoken. That requires something from us in a response.
NKJ Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
They are unskilled in the message of righteousness. Why? Because he is a baby. Solid food belongs to the mature. That is the mature believer.
The great warning passage everyone knows follows.
NKJ Hebrews 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
They may be babies but he is going to press on anyway. You need to hear this! He almost rams it down their throat despite their disobedience. This is a sensitive pastor! He makes sure they understand the doctrine. He will not allow the Word to be "dumbed" down. He does not lower his expectation of them because they are carnal. In fact he will ratchet it up a few degrees and really drive it home. If you don't do this, there is a warning.
NKJ Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
We see the word metochoi again. If you keep on the downhill slide you will reach the sin unto death and lose your rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ. You need to confess your sin, get back in fellowship, and move on. The warning goes on down through Hebrews 6:20. He continues to emphasize key ideas such as salvation.
NKJ Hebrews 6: 9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.
NKJ Hebrews 6: 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The whole idea of special blessing for the overcomer is emphasized.
Section 1 1:1-2:4
Doctrinal Exposition 1:5-14
Practical Exhortation and Warning 2:1-4
Section 2 2:5-4:13
Doctrinal Exposition 2:5-3:6
Practical Exhortation and Warning 3:7-4:13
Section 3 4:14-6
Doctrinal Exposition 4: 14-5:10
Exhortation and Warning 5:11-6:20
Section 4 7:1-10:39
Doctrinal Exposition 7:1-10:18
Exhortation and Warning 10:19-10:39
This is the lengthy section. In this section he returns to his theme of the High Priesthood of Christ that is according to the order of Melchizedek.
NKJ Hebrews 7:7Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.
The principle in verse 7 is that the lesser is blessed by the better. Since Abraham is blessed by Melchizedek (Abraham is the lesser, Melchizedek is the greater) by implication all of the descendents of Abraham would also be lesser than Melchizedek's. One of Abraham's descendents was Levi. Abraham gave birth to Isaac who gave birth to Jacob who gave birth to twelve sons one of whom was Levi. The Levitical priesthood comes from the loins of Abraham. If Abraham is subordinate to Melchizedek, then a fortiori the priesthood that comes from Abraham is inferior to the Melchizedekian priesthood. So, Jesus Christ is after the order of Melchizedek. His priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood. To the Jewish audience the writer says that it is a tragic mistake to return to temple or tabernacle ritual. These are dead works. If you go back to that, you are going back to an inferior system. It is analogous to going back to the prophets of the old times rather than the full and complete revelation given by the Son.
Then in verse 11-19 the writer argues three things. First there were limitations in the old covenant so there has to be a better priesthood. The point is that there has to be a better priesthood. That meant there had to be a change in the law. The Levitical priesthood was a codicil in the Mosaic Law, to change the priesthood you had to change the covenant. A change of the covenant would annul the commandments related to the Mosaic Law. He concludes by saying that on the one hand the former commandment is annulled because of its weakness. Other passages in the New Testament say that the Law is holy. It is holy and good and right, but it couldn't save you and it couldn't make you mature. That was not its purpose.
NKJ Hebrews 7:19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
One the other hand there is the bringing in of a better hope through which we draw near to God. Then he goes on to argue that a new covenant demands a new priesthood, an unchangeable priesthood related to Jesus Christ.
NKJ Hebrews 7:26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;
What doctrine is that? It is the ascension and session. All the themes of the opening prelude keep coming back. He weaves them together. Then he talks about the new High Priest. He unpacks everything related to the ascension and session of Christ and what it means to us and our future destiny to reign and rule with Jesus Christ. A new high priest demands a new covenant. He talks about the fact that if the first covenant had been faultless, then there would have been no need for a new one.
Then he quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34. He quotes them for one reason. This is typical of New Testament writers. Peter does the same thing in Acts 2. New means the old has to go. New is new and old is old. With a New Covenant, He made the first obsolete. That is a simple argument. Because the Bible says it is a New Covenant, it shows that the Mosaic Covenant was not going to last. It was going to be replaced.
In chapter 9 he argues that the first covenant had a protocol of the tabernacle. He talks about the tabernacle and tabernacle worship. He relates this to Christ's role. He is the mediator of a New Covenant. He is able to enter the most holy place in heaven by virtue of His substitutionary spiritual death.
In chapter 10 he goes back and shows that the Law was perfect, but it did not make those who approach God perfect. That was not its role. The Pharisees screwed it up. But the Law was holy and perfect. It could not save or mature anybody. So there had to be a replacement of the old law.
Then we have one of the most serious warnings in the New Testament. The challenge is that if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer a sacrifice for sin. That sounds scary. A lot of people think that this means you lose your salvation. This says that if you don't stay in fellowship and don't mature then you have treated the sacrifice of Christ lightly and there will be consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you confess your sins and keep going, there will be rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Section 5 11:1-13:25
Doctrinal Exposition 11:1-46
Chapter 11 is the familiar Hall of Faith chapter. It is a favorite of many people. It is a development of the heroes of the faith from the Old Testament. But is not simply a rehearsal of great believers in the Old Testament. There is a theme around it. The theme is faith. It is a trusting in what God has revealed and living out of what God has revealed. It focuses on the future. Each of these heroes lived in their present time in the light of future promises of God. That is the theme of Hebrews. Live today in the light of eternity. They understood a future.
NKJ Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God
He is trusting God. Abraham looked to something in the future. He never saw it. He never realized it. They understood future rewards that are still unrealized. Moses made decisions in his time in light of the future reward and blessings. It was the future rewards of God that were so tangible in their minds that it affected their day-to-day living. By their faith, they trusted in what God had spoken to them in times past through the prophets. Of course the ultimate example of one trusting in the light of future expectation was the Lord Jesus Christ.
NKJ Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God
The writer now builds to a conclusion. Notice how he comes back to these things again and again. Again we have the doctrine of the session. He is doing something today. He is waiting for the kingdom. He is preparing a cadre of metochoi who will rule and reign with him.
There is a warning to endure. He will discipline believers. He warns us not to be like Esau because he was willing to sell out everything for present gratification. He wanted that bowl of lentil soup. The challenge is to maintain your walk with the Lord today and be disciplined and be willing to put off gratification in light of future blessings and rewards.
NKJ Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
If the Old Testament believers did not escape, much more we will not escape. A shaking is coming. When that happens we want to be companion believers.
Chapter 13 ties things together. He challenges them to continue in Christian love. It is impersonal love and application from that. It encourages them to have personal love for each other. He challenges them in marriage. He challenges their personal conduct. He prepares us to be rulers with Christ. We need to understand where God is taking us. The desire of godly leadership is to prepare the congregation to be rulers with Him. This is the message of Hebrews. He wants us to get to the point so that this is such a reality that it affects our daily decisions and attitudes.