hebrewsIcon

Module 1
Introduction to Hebrews

Hebrews: The Story of God’s Sovereign Grace & Promises to His Chosen People.

  - Thru the Perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ we boldly approach the Throne of God.

 

Opening remarks: Tonight, we will be focusing on the Epistle to the Hebrews,

  • Matthew in his gospel dealt with the prophetic foretelling of the Messiah.
  • His gospel quotes more than 60 times from Old Testament prophetic passages emphasising how Christ was the fulfilment of these promises.
  • The epistle to the Hebrews takes this further, explaining how Jesus Christ is the new & Superior High Priest – again backed up by Old Testament references.
  • Both books in scripture can, I believe be summarised by the title of my message……

 

Reading.  Hebrews 10:19 – 25.

  • Note the passage begins with a ‘therefore’ and the writer refers to his readers as ‘brothers’ – we shall focus on the significance of this later this evening.

 

Message:

Tonight’s message is by way of providing an introduction to the Letter which is both,

  • An encouragement & a reminder to the Hebrew Believers,
  • Also provides application to us fellow believers.

 

  1. Introduction to the Letter.
  • People often appoint someone to act or mediate on their behalf,
    • A Solicitor in legal issues or a Financial Advisor on money matters.
    • Someone who is trusted & we have faith will achieve the desired outcome.
    • We also establish an agreement with them to achieve the task.
  • In the Old Testament when God thru Moses established a covenant agreement with his chosen people, the function of mediation on behalf of the Israelites with God was fulfilled by the High Priests – who were descendants of Aaron.
  • This letter was written to a group of believers to encourage them in their faith & trust in the Lord Jesus Christ,
    • Supported throughout by Old Testament references with which they would be familiar.
  • Before going further let us firstly deal with items normally addressed by commentators when studying a book in the bible, particularly the New Testament,
    • The time period it was written,
      • It is noted that Timothy had just been released from prison (Heb. 13: 23) and that persecution was becoming severe (Heb. 10: 32– 39; 12: 4; 13: 3). 
      • These details suggest a date for the epistle around A.D. 67– 69 although some commentators place it as late as AD 85.
    • Who were the group of believers it is written to?
      • Referring to Heb. 2:3(b), “…….It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,”
      • The letter was written to what we might call ‘second generation Christians’ – those who, unlike the apostles, had not heard the Gospel message directly.
      • It has the traditional Greek title ‘To the Hebrews’ 
      • In our reading, Heb. 10:19, they are referred to as “brothers’ – i.e. fellow believers.
      • There is no mention to either Jewish or Gentile believers with tradition ascribing it to Jewish believers because of the Old Testament references & emphasis on Jesus High Priest role.
    • The writer,
      • We are not told who wrote the letter & scholars have enjoyed speculating.
      • Theories have been put forward for both Paul & Barnabas being the authors, but I like two comments that I have read,
        • “if we needed to know who wrote the letter we would have been told”.
        • “a friend of mine likes to joke that when he gets to heaven he is going to find out who wrote Hebrews!” 
      • I appreciated one commentator who refers to the pastoral nature of the writer who often speaks as ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ – thus including himself in the message.
    • Why the epistle was written,
      • The overall message could be summarised as magnifying the Superior High Priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ
      • The writer goes to great lengths to demonstrate that faith in Jesus Christ is far superior to everything they had left behind for his sake.
      • It was supported by key Old Testament passages & events to which Hebrew believers would be familiar.
      • At that time this was the Old Testament was the record of The Lords sovereign Grace in maintaining his promises to his chosen people, from which Jesus himself also quoted.
      • An encouragement to them as it should be to us as fellow believers.
      • Encouraging them to “run the race” & persevere.
      • We shall also observe a series of pastoral warnings or cautions to the believers which we should also pay careful heed to.
      • Warning the readers of wandering from Jesus & the Gospel.
    • This message is further illustrated by some of the commentary titles,
      • ‘The Name High over All’ – Richard Brooks.
      • ‘An Anchor for the Soul’ – R. Kent Hughes.
      • ‘Race to Glory’ – James Reapsome.

 

  1. Key Themes of the Message in the Letter to the Hebrews.

In this introduction to Hebrews let us identify some of the key themes in the letter.

  • They now had a ‘Superior’ (better & more perfect) faith to what God’s people have previously experienced – the key message of the epistle.
    • It is chiefly & pre-eminently about the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • Focusing on the Supremacy of God’s Son – who was the believers new & more perfect High Priest.
    • This was made clear right from the beginning & captured in the opening verses of the letter, Heb. 1:1-4. 

1: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 

2: but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 

3: He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 

4: having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

  • V1: refers to the scriptures & prophetic writings which the readers would be familiar with & are quoted in the letter.
  • V2: immediately anchors the letter on Jesus Christ, his message & that he is Gods son & heir – He is the message from the father, revealing a unique message no other prophet could.
  • V3: no one has ever seen God the Father but thru Jesus we can experience His nature & sovereign power,
  • Jesus High Priestly role in cleansing sin, after which he took a position of authority, seated on God’s right hand.
  • V4: the superior inheritance – superior to that of angels.

 

  • A series of warnings & exhortations to the Hebrew believers.
    • As a Pastor & Shepherd of the Flock the writer cautioned them to maintain the principles of their faith as they grew spiritually, Sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
    • In his final greetings, the writer indicates – Hebrews 12:22,

22: I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation,

    • These were designed, I believe, to stir the readers into action & are found throughout the text. Those exhortations are given in the form of six warnings or cautions against (we will not look in detail tonight but will be listed in the notes),
      • Drifting from “what we have heard” (Hebrews 2:1– 4) 
      • Disbelieving the “voice” of God (Hebrews 3:7– 14) 
      • Degenerating from “the basic principles of the oracles of God” (Hebrews 5:11– 6: 20) 
      • Despising “the knowledge of the truth” (Hebrews 10:26– 39)
      • Devaluing “the grace of God” (Hebrews12:15– 17)
      • Departing from him “who is speaking” (Hebrews 12:25– 29)  

 

  • Use of the word ‘Therefore’.
    • I like the French term ‘mai qui’ – yes but – and in the past had great fun using it in negotiations with French colleagues.
    • Perhaps a more positive term is ‘mai donc qui’ – yes but therefore!!  
    • In scripture, the word ‘therefore’ is,
      • Often used in bridging a fundamental fact of the Gospel (Good News) with its application for the believer.
      • Best illustrated by our earlier reading Hebrews 10:19.

19: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

    • In my version of scripture this section is headed ‘The Full Assurance of Faith’ – the key message being conveyed to believers
    • Time does not permit us this evening but we could devote a whole sermon (or two) examining the truths in these verses,
    • They are fundamental to the message of Faith – thru the work & the Superior High Priestly role of Jesus – this is what the writer is conveying to the believers in the epistle to the Hebrews.

19: “confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus”,

20: “by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain”,

21: “since we have a great priest over the house of God”,

22: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience”.

  • This is the fundamental message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to believers - He is our new & perfect High Priest thru whom we have our sins forgiven & have a direct access to the Throne of God.
  • The believers now have a more perfect covenant relationship than that which Old Testament believers had with God – who had relied on regular sacrifices performed by human priests.

 

  • The great chapter of Faith (Hebrews 11) citing the examples of OT Saints.
    • Having set out their Superior position this chapter was intended to encourage the believers to maintain their faith & hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
      • As it has subsequently with Christian believer thru the ages.
      • In Hebrews 10: 23, the believers are encouraged to,

23: “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering”,

  • Note the definition of faith Hebrew 11:1,

1; Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

  • In Hebrews 11: 3 we have one of the ultimate facts of our faith & is something not normally associated with these verses,

3: By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

  •  In encouraging the believers to ‘hold fast in this hope (or faith) the writer supports it by referring to faith of various Old Testament persons & events which would be familiar to the Hebrew readers. 
    • The first 29 verses of the chapter are a list people & events reminding the believers of the early days of the Israel nation.
    • In Hebrews 11:32 we have a list of names without specific acts or events. 
    • The chapter ends by saying. Hebrews 11: 39 & 40.

39: And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 

40: since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

    • Again, provides a comparison with the Old Testament & the more perfect gospel of the New Testament – with the better covenant. 

 

  • Finally, the believers are encouraged to ‘run with perseverance the race before them’.
    • Hebrews 12:1 & 2 -  which again begins with the word ’Therefore’.

1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 

2: looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising b the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

    • Encouraged by these Old Testament witnesses of Faith the believers should lay aside all that is holding them back.
    • Persevere in their faith focusing on Jesus, all he has done & provided to enable them (and us) to ‘run the race’ 

 

  1. Application & Encouragement to both Hebrew & Gentile believers.

This epistle encourages us, together with the Hebrew believers, to,

  • Worship Our God who keeps His promises.
  • Hold fast & persevere in our more Superior Faith.
  • Recognise that all of scripture, Old & New Testament, confirms this.
  • Remain anchored in our faith thru Jesus Christ, Gods Son.
  • Recognise Jesus as our perfect High priest, who thru his perfect sacrifice,
    • Has cleansed us from our sins.
    • Provided direct access thru him to the Throne of God. 
    • Enables us to have a Faith, far Superior to what we have left for his sake.

My prayer tonight is that this message can be a reminder, as well as an encouragement, to us all in our faith & daily walk with Jesus.

If there is anybody here who wishes to discuss this more or who has not made that commitment of faith, then I believe Graham, other members of the leadership here at West Street or myself would be very happy to do so.

 

  1. Hebrews: Outline for a Future Study.

The book of Hebrews focuses on the Superiority of, 

  • Jesus Christ’s Position. (Hebrews 1:1 – 4:13).
  • Jesus Christ’s Priesthood. (Hebrews 4:14 – 7:28)
  • Jesus Christ’s Priestly Ministry. (Hebrews 8:1 –10:18)
  • The Believers Privileges. (Hebrews 10:19 – 12:29)
  • The Christian’s Behaviour. (Hebrews 13:1 – 21)

 

Benediction: (Hebrews 13:20 & 21).

20: Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 

21: equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.