Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hebrews Chapter One Part 1


The letter to the Hebrews was written by an anonymous author sometime prior to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD. This date is based on speculation regarding the writer’s silence concerning the temple’s destruction and the proof that would yield in that Jesus Christ fulfilled what the temple only foreshadowed. Mind you, remember then that the date is mere speculation.

Hebrews was one of the few New Testament writings that was also “late” in its general acceptance as an inspired writing for the NT canon. The anonymous nature of the epistle cast concern about its origin and authority. Obviously the Holy Spirit prevailed by bringing this weighty doctrinal treatise into the New Testament.

The overall nature of Hebrews is quite interesting. It is not a “catholic” or “general” epistle as some maintain; no, this letter was written to Jewish Christians who were being seduced back into Judaism, and the writer passionately portrays Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices and priesthood, rendering such worship obsolete. Hebrews is a resume’ declaring the sufficiency and perfection of Jesus Christ our Lord. Its overall structure reveals Him to be greater than angels, the lawgiver, the priesthood, even the tabernacle itself. Partially this is because all of these are created things, and Christ is their Creator, Hebrews 3:3-4.

We find a few resounding themes throughout Hebrews. One is of the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all. The rest flows from this fact like water from its source. We find assurance of salvation taught throughout this epistle, and we find the finality of all sacrifice expounded in this epistle. Christ completed with one act what the OT sacrifices foreshadowed every time they were performed: the vicarious offering of another life on behalf of the offending sinner. The lamb that died on Jewish altars was killed for the one who brought them; that life was given in exchange for the life of the offending party. When God offered His Son on the cross it was the perfect sin bearing sacrifice that fulfilled what animal sacrifice never could; He took away the sin of the world, John 1:29; Hebrews 10:2-4; 12.

1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds

The writer of Hebrews does not give his name or any information straightway about himself, but plunges right into the heart of his content with some amount of urgency. We are about to enter into one of the most systematic defenses of the person and purpose of Jesus Christ that the entire Bible offers. First we must understand that this epistle was written to Jewish Christians who were thinking about reverting to Judaism due to persecution from their fellow countrymen. They had come out of the shadow of all that the Old Testament prophesied regarding God’s Messiah and were now living in the light of this revelation; but the shadow was again proving to be enticing, since within it they could hide among their present enemies and be at peace with them.

The writer desired to present Jesus Christ as the sum of the Old Testament. He was greater than angels, prophets, the Law, the temple and anything else. For this reason the writer also had to be very well acquainted with the Old Testament in regards to the temple and its sacrificial offerings. As such, Hebrews was the very first Biblical exposition ever written: it was an exposition of the Old Testament, applying the foreshadowing God had done within its pages to the reality of them in the person of Jesus Christ. This book easily rivals any picture of Christ’s deity that we can find in the New Testament, elevating our Lord to a position far above all created things and revealing Him as both infinite Creator and perfect Redeemer. In Him we find fulfillment of all things that we have waited for. In Him the Jews had their Messiah, the Coming One that had been their cherished desire for countless centuries. Though it seemed that very few Jews were actually still waiting for the Messiah’s arrival. By the time Jesus came unto His own, fulfilling scores of prophecies that predicted how, when, where and why He would come, they did not receive Him but in fact killed Him, also fulfilling prophecy. So, among other things this book will frame the deity of our Lord in unmistakable terms, and present an Old Testament picture of the rituals of yore that foreshadowed Jesus’ arrival, and how they were fulfilled in Him. Consequently, Hebrews is one of the best books to lead someone to who is grappling with the doctrine of eternal security. It happens to be a major recurring theme within its pages, as we shall see.

3 comments:

  1. I suspect that Hebrews was a joint effort of Paul and Luke, combining Paul's logic with Luke's writing style, and some statements later in the book seem to support that idea.

    Over the years I have heard numerous comments that it is impossible to understand Hebrews. I believe that it is true if a person has an incorrect understanding of who Christ is, or what salvation entails. It contains strong teaching on eternal security while standing strongly against the easy believism so widely preached today.

    The presentation of Christ's work in salvation is difficult to understand if one accepts the idea of baptismal regeneration.

    Interestingly, nowhere in the book does the author imply it was primarily for Jews. I suspect it was to help both Jews and Gentiles understand what was required for us to be saved.

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  2. While it does not specifically state that the letter was to a Jewish audience, the idea of lapsing back in Judaism, something Gentiles by and large were not a part of, implies a Jewish audience. The fact that the writer stresses the supremacy of Christ over the earthly models replete within the OT also suggests that the writer was speaking to those who had come from such a background: primarily Jews or Jewish proselytes. Not trying to start an argument; merely stating my reasons for saying what I did.
    Why do you think it was Paul and Luke? I don't think I've heard anyone mention both men before; I was just wondering what led you to that suspicion.

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  3. In all of Paul's writings, he identifies himself clearly. Luke, on the other hand, never identifies himself in either Luke, or Acts. At the same time, the last few verses of Hebrews 13 seem to indicate Paul was telling what to write. We know that Paul frequently had another do the actual writing, apparently because of his vision problems, and Luke was with him throughout the later part of his ministry.

    The comment in Galatians 6:11 "Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand," implies when Paul wrote himself, he had to write excessively large. In most of his letters, he had some one else do the writing, only writing the greetings and salutations himselfas proof of the letter's authenticity. II Thessalonians 3:17 says,"The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write." Romans 16:22says, "I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord," making it clear other's did some of the writing.

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