Thursday, October 16, 2014

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 16 – The Letter to the Hebrews)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered the Letter to the Hebrews.

Considering the Letter to the Hebrews

Although the specific author, date and audience are unknown, we can understand who they were by the letter itself.
  • About the author
    • Hebrew 2:3: how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him,
    • Hebrew 13:7: Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
    • Hebrew 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.
    • Hebrew 13:19: I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon.
    • Hebrew 13:23: I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you.
  • About the date
    • Hebrew 7:27-28: Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
    • Hebrew 8:3-5: For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
    • Hebrew 9:7-8: but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing.
  • About the audience
    • Hebrew 3:6: Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.
    • Hebrew 4:14: Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
    • Hebrew 5:12: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food;
    • Hebrew 6:4-8: For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.
    • Hebrew 10:22: let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
    • Hebrew 10:25, 35-39: not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet “in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.” But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
    • Hebrew 10:34: For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting.
    • Hebrew 13:3: Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured

It’s difficult to classify Hebrews.

The letter begins with statement of faith. Hebrew 1:1-4: Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 

The letter can be divided into three sections, excluding the beginning and the end.

  • Jesus is superior to all things. (Hebrews 1:5–4:13)
  • Jesus came to earth and returned to heaven to complete the work of salvation. In that way, he functions as the perfect high priest and sacrifice. (Hebrews 4:14–10:18)
  • We need to accept what Jesus has done and hold fast. (Hebrews 10:19–13:17)

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