Thursday, November 20, 2008

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we are looking at the book of Hebrews. Since chapter 1 is short, I've decided to give you some background on this book.

The author does not identify himself, but he was obviously well known to the original recipients. Though for some 1,200 years the book was commonly called "The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews," there was no agreement in the earliest centuries regarding its authorship. But since the Reformation it has been widely recognized that Paul could not have been the writer.

Moreover, the statement, "This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him" (2:3), indicates that the author had neither been with Jesus during his earthly ministry nor received special revelation directly from the risen Lord, as had Paul (Gal 1:11-12).

Hebrews must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, or it would have been mentioned, and the author wouldn't have used the present tense when speaking of the Temple and the priestly activities connected with it.

The letter was addressed primarily to Jewish converts who were familiar with the Old Testament and who were being tempted to revert to Judaism or to Judaize the gospel.

The theme of Hebrews is the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as revealer and as mediator of God's grace.

Chapter 1

In these first five verses we see that all Old Testament writers are now viewed as prophets in that their testimony was preparation for the coming of Christ. The words, "by His Son" is a new and unique category of revelation in contrast to that of the prophets.

The superiority of the Son's revelation is demonstrated by seven great descriptive statements about Him:
1.) Appointed heir of all things
2.) Through whom He made the universe
3.) Radiance of God's glory
4.) Exact representation of His being
5.) Sustaining all things
6.) Provided purification for sins
7.) Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven

And to top it off...He is superior to the angels. Now that is the topper, because to most Jews angels were exalted beings, especially revered because they were involved in giving the law as Sinai, and to the Jews, the law was God's supreme revelation

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Themes Of Hebrews

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today let's explore the theme of the book of Hebrews.

It deals with the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as revealer and as mediator of God's grace. The prologue (1:1-4) presents Christ as God's full and final revelation and it states that Jesus Christ is superior in every respect to the Law. In other words...there would be no others that would surpass the message that Jesus had for the world.

He also far surpassed the limited preliminary revelation given in the Old Testament. The prophecies and promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the "new covenant" (or "new testament"), of which Christ is the mediator.

From the Old Testament itself, Christ is shown to be superior to the ancient prophets, to angels, to Moses (the mediator of the former covenant) and to Aaron and the priestly succession descended from him. Hebrews could be called "the book of better things" since the two Greek words for "better" and "superior" occur 15 times in the letter!

Practical applications of this theme are given throughout the book. The readers are told that there can be no turning back to or continuation in the old Jewish system of sacrifices or regulations, which has been superseded by the unique priesthood of Christ. Some have suggested that these professing Jewish Christians were thinking of merging with a Jewish sect, such as the one at Qumran near the Dead Sea. It has also been suggested that the recipients were from the "large number of priests who became obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7).

The point was that God's people now must look only to him, whose atoning death, resurrection and ascension have opened the way into the true, heavenly sanctuary of God's presence. Resisting temptations to give up the struggle, believers must presevere in the spiritual contest to which they have committed themselves.

Otherwise they may meet with judgment as did the rebellious generation of Israelites in the desert!