God’s Definition of Faith, Hebrews 11

 Having just referred to Habakkuk’s timeless declaration, “The just shall live by faith” (Heb 10:38; Hab 2:3-4), the author now develops the concept of faith. Faith is able to “see” what is invisible; it is a confidence in God that accepts and obeys His word when one’s experience, feelings and desires are to the contrary. Without this quality of faith, “it is impossible to please” God (11:6).  Many were once heavily steeped in their own traditions and rituals as pertaining to the old law (Matt 15:3-9), thus possibly losing the spiritual aspect of worshipping God. The writer now defines faith and demonstrates to his readers that faith has always been a necessary requirement in serving God.

When the author writes about Abraham, and examines the seeds that grew into an ancient and storied nation.  To inherit the land so beloved by Israel, Abraham had to leave his home for an unknown destination and, once there, reside in tents as an outsider (Heb 11:8-9). It was Abraham’s faith, their “father” to whom the promises were made, that accredited him for righteousness (Gen 15:6, Rom 4:1-3).  Abraham’s first demonstration of faith in God was when he was called to leave his home and journey to a place all the while not knowing where he was going (the unseen). For a nation to arise from him, he and his wife faithfully acted in accordance with God’s promises (11:11; Rom 4:19-21). Thus the lives of Abraham and Sarah present an analogy of the Christian endeavor, for we are likewise on a journey and living as sojourners.  Abraham not only had his sights on a tract of land, “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11: 10). Had he been otherwise minded, he would have simply returned to Ur (11:15-16). And if these brethren turn back from God now, they would betray the very ancestor in which they had so much pride. The author here connects faith to the prospect of death, for this is faith’s ultimate challenge.  Regarding God’s command to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, Abraham obeyed “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb 11:19). Another ancestor is cited as parallel to the readers’ predicament.  Just as they had chosen to leave Judaism for Christ and are presently suffering for it, even so Moses chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (11:25). Undeniably, God’s people have done the seemingly impossible, radically changing the face of the world.  Sadly, God has also allowed unimaginable hardship to befall them. Of such “the world was not worthy” (11: 38), and they endured “that they might obtain a better resurrection” (11:35).  This most notable chapter on faith in God is an exhortation which says to all who read, “Others have done it. You can do it, too!” We must aspire to real courageous, steadfast faith.

These great heroes of faith were so firmly convinced of God’s promises that it is  as if they actually saw them with their own eyes {inductive faith} (Jn 8:56) even though they died before there fulfillment.  Because they embraced and sought after God’s promise of a real “homeland” (true tabernacle- heaven), they recognized that they were just foreigners (without the country or jurisdiction) and pilgrims (a wanderer; a traveler) during their stay here on earth.  By the actions of their faith they made it clear that they were seeking a better land a “heavenly country”.  Because of their great faith in Him, God is not ashamed to be called their God. Surely we are not ashamed to be called His children?

Justified Confidence In Christ's Sacrifice, Hebrews 10:1-39

The sacrifices under the old covenant could not purge (cleanse) sin, they just reminded them of their sins, making the consequences of their sin null and postponed, until the real sacrifice of the Lamb of God could take place.  Because it was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. The repetition of the sacrifices is evidence to the author that they were inferior and served as a constant reminder to the Jews that their sins were not adequately dealt with.  As proof of the inadequacy of these sacrifices Psalm 40:6-8 is cited.  

Christ came to do His Father’s will and take away the sins of the world with His own blood.  In doing this, Christ satisfied all the requirements of the law, fulfilling it (Matt 5:17-18), removing the first covenant and establishing the new (second).  Now that sin has been sufficiently purged, man can be sanctified (to purify the soul and set us apart) so that we can now draw near to God. The Hebrew writer now establishes their confidence in Christ and the forgiveness of sin by reminding them of Jeremiah’s prophecy of God’s promise of a new covenant which was inspired by the Holy Spirit (Jer. 31:33,34; see notes ch. 8).  So when our sin is completely forgiven, there is no need for any more sacrifices. For the remainder of this letter, he pleads with them to draw near to God with full confidence, to remain steadfast in this new living way; he encourages spiritual maturity and love, and continues his warning of apostasy. We can now have complete confidence (boldness) in the ability to approach God because Christ has entered the Most Holy place for them, through the veil by His own blood. This ability to finally approach God through His Son’s sacrifice is the “new and living way”, 10:20. What did the veil represent?  When was it removed for us? (see Matt 27:50-51) 

Drawing back from this new covenant is the same as denying Christ, His great sacrifice and indeed God Himself. The writer provides us a familiar quote from Deut. 32:35. God will judge and repay them for their unrighteous deeds.  So our respect to the extent of awe is what helps our boldness in prayer, to be real, without becoming flippant and so casual that we talk to God, as if he is a “buddy”. He is not, but rather He is the Almighty and His Son is King of kings & Lord of lords.  The writer now reminds them of how zealous they were when they first received the truth. He exhorts them to remain patient and steadfast knowing in the end they will receive the promise. Therefore, do not draw back!

The phrase “as you see the day approaching” (10:25) has induced much controversy. It is not the destruction of Jerusalem, even though certainly this would be a calamitous time, but not a particular day and it would be accompanied by definite signs (Mt 24:4-28). Jerusalem’s destruction was between 14 April – 9 September 70AD, with a note from secular historians that the temple  stones were thrown in the streets on the 9th of August 70AD. But the warning about “the day”, is general, it could have reference to the day of judgment. But some object to this explanation on the grounds that no one will “see” that day approaching. But we understand that life is brief and uncertain (Jas 4:13-14), and spiritual maturity brings a sense of urgency. Truly “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11).  So we should take advantage of every opportunity to encourage weaker Christians who are drifting away from the Lord. “The Day” is most likely the Lord’s Day, Sunday, Rev. 1:10. Get ready and stay ready in prayer!

The Best Sacrifice & Tabernacle, Hebrews 9.

The first Tabernacle from Moses was a sanctuary in a physical world, which became a Temple. Primarily and prayerfully sanctifying the spiritual activity & welfare of Hebrews and any proselytized foreigners, see 1st Kings 8:40-43 Isa. 56:7, 60:4-7.  Many things were made of, or overlaid with gold, it was still a man made, temporal structure – a far cry from heaven itself where our present High Priest currently serves. The Nation of Israel had very limited access to the Temple’s inner chamber, “The Holy of Holies”.  Only the high priest could enter, and then only once a year, and “not without blood” (Heb 9:7). These restrictions did more than signify the holiness of God; they indicated “that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing” (9:8). Not even the High Priest could enter without the blood of an animal. How would that make him,  “a human being”, clean? That is, on its own merits, the tabernacle worship “cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience” (9:9).  Spiritual access to heaven, as in full fellowship with God, was unattainable by the laws of Moses. A genuine Israelite should have been aware that ultimate forgiveness was yet in the future, and that in his present time he was granted a favorable position by God’s grace via these “fleshly ordinances.”  How this should have made him long for the “the Lamb of God” to take away his sins!

The nature and accomplishments of Christ Jesus make him “the Mediator of a new covenant” (9:15), a covenant of “better promises” about eternal redemption & inheritance (8:6; 9:12, 15).  But what is it exactly that sets the bloody sacrifice of Jesus apart from all others? It involved the free-will offering of an eternal spirit (9:14).  The blood of animals had nothing to do with free will, the spirit or moral purity.  They were fine physical specimens of no moral significance slaughtered against their own will.  While this satisfied God’s requirements of ritual purification (see, for example, Lev 12), there was no ultimate cleansing of the conscience from transgression.  The blood sacrifice of Jesus, on the other hand, was morally pure & an eternal spirit freely offering Himself for the sins of others. Not only was this offering effective, it was eternally effective – “once for all” (9:12).  This was the ultimate plan of God before the world began – to redeem sinful humanity to Himself by the blood of His Son. This blood would be unique, as biologically, there was no man involved in His conception. The Holy Spirit of God created his blood via the ovum of Mary. An astounding divine and human biological miracle!

The author makes three points to establish the necessity of the death of God’s Son – a huge stumbling block to the Jew.  First, having just described salvation as an “eternal inheritance,” he notes that a will only goes into effect when the testator dies (9:16-17).  This should further help the Jew accept why his Messiah had to die. Secondly, blood has always been associated with the dedication of holy things (9:18-21).  If the Jew could accept at face value the necessity of the Law, the tabernacle and its furnishings being dedicated with blood, could he not see the necessity of the new covenant and the heavenly tabernacle being dedicated with divine blood?  Thirdly, “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (9:22). The penalty for violating God’s law is death, Rom. 3:23 & 5:12.

The very idea of having a need for a Savior to return to earth for ongoing sins, indicates our reality in the Hebrew writer’s mind. Our reality is that the church is the spiritual body of Christ while simultaneously, the resurrected body of Christ sits by the Throne in Heaven, 9:23-28. “While we wait”, means much more than twiddling our thumbs; this waiting involves the body of Christ loving God and serving the lost as the true tabernacle on earth, while we look for his reappearance, 1st Corinthians 1:6-7 & Galatians 6:1-8.

Christ, the Perfect Mediator for the Best Covenant, Hebrews 8.

Being The High Priest and Minister of The True Tabernacle and sitting to the right of the Majestic Throne in Heaven, (v1-2)  means that Christ has been able and worthy to mediate the requests and needs of every soul in submission to Him, forever, since the day when The Spirit of Christ tore the Temple Veil open; breaking entrance between the Holy and Most Holy Place.. Matthew 27:51 & Luke 23:45. He meets our spiritual needs. Can you think of any greater Spiritual Needs than these three? Firstly;The need for forgiveness. Secondly;The need for our prayer to be heard. Thirdly;The need for our praise to be accepted.

Heb. 8:4-5 refer to The Law of Moses in and of itself was “holy and just and good” (Rom 7:12), but the weakness of man was so pervasive and chronic that none could perfectly observe it.  The “fault,” then, was that the Law provided no adequate restitution for violation. The author then offers a quote from Jeremiah 31:31-34 which indicates that the Law, itself, spoke of its own future eclipse by a new covenant (8:8).  This change of covenant was made possible by the faithlessness of the Jews, “because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord” (8:9). God was then freed from any obligation to maintain the first covenant. So since He made Christ the High Priest, he has now obtained a more excellent ministry.  He is now the mediator (intercessor) of this better covenant. Because this new covenant is superior and Christ is its negotiator, it is established on better promises (Gal 3:19, 20). The first covenant could not adequately bring men to God, it was weak and useless (Rom 8:3, Heb 7:18), it could not accomplish its purpose (Acts 13:39), it could not forgive sins (Heb 10:4,11). So, this is the reason for this new and better covenant. 

The global effect Christ has in the Church results in Jesus being known throughout the world as LORD, Heb. 8:10-12. But a Jew was a covenant member by heritage and circumstances of birth.  His “religion” was outward in the sense that he had no choice but to conform to God’s law with the nation. He was a Jew first, then a believer in God. But under the new covenant, God would first “put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts” and then “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (8:10).  Further, “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (8:11). In other words, one must first come to a knowledge of God and learn to appreciate Him; then he can enter a covenant relationship with Him. The sad history of the OT is the Jewish nation plummeting time and time again over the precipice of rebellion, immorality, idolatry and self-will.  All the promises and blessings offered them, could not make them faithful without individual conviction and commitment. The new covenant would begin with the individual, not the group. Did God expect the Law of Moses to be taken into the heart?  See Dueteronomy 6:4-9; 11:18.

The Hebrew writer says that the new covenant was established on “better promises” (Heb 8: 6).  Those promises are, in a word, forgiveness (8:12-13). Real permanent forgiveness, as in contrast to temporary annual and repetitive forgiveness from the annual day of atonement.  This is what the apostles went forth proclaiming to the Jews (Ac 2:38; 3:19, 26; 4:12, etc.). From Jeremiah’s viewpoint the first covenant was already obsolete; it was only a matter of time before it would vanish forever.  As the author indicates in various ways, that time has now come, and will never stop, till Jesus arrives again in Judgment.

Christ is the Perfect King of Righteousness & Peace, Hebrews 7:1-28

To understand Melchizedek is to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ. He does not reveal Himself to those who are spiritually apathetic. Have you ever considered why Jesus was not transfigured in front of the masses? In fact, He didn’t even do it in front of the Twelve. He only took with Him Peter, James, and John to witness this astounding scene! But to the masses, Jesus concealed His glory and spoke in parables, because they were spiritually dull (see Matt. 13:12-15). He only reveals His glory to those with whom He is intimate, and He is only intimate with those whose hearts are humbled before Him. So as we approach these truths about Melchizedek as a type of Christ, we must make sure that our hearts are right before God. We must make some effort in searching to know Him. The only command in our text is, “observe how great this man was” (7:4). The Greek word means to gaze at or discern through careful observation. We get the word “theater” from it. We observe Melchizedek because he is a type of Christ, and we desire to see the beauty and glory of Jesus, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). To see Him as He is, is a transforming experience (1 John 3:2). The author shows that Melchizedek was also greater than the Levitical priests (and the system they represented), in two ways: First, the Levitical priests were mortal, but Melchizedek “lives on” (7:8). Second, Levi, who received tithes, actually paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham, his forefather, when he paid tithes to Melchizedek (7:9-10). We can sum up these points in three ways that show how Melchizedek was a type of Jesus Christ: 

1. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dignity of his person. Everything we know about Melchizedek comes from Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 7. The first text is historical, the second is prophetic, and the third is theological. Melchizedek was the king of Salem (probably Jerusalem, Psa. 76:2) and priest of the Most High God.  “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). He not only imputes and imparts righteousness to others; He is righteous in His very being. He never sinned, nor could any guilt be found in Him. He is the Lamb of God, unblemished and spotless (1 Pet. 1:19). He is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). He did “no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (Isa. 53:9). Jesus is also the king of peace (Eph. 2:14-18). He brings peace between sinners and God, and peace among all that live under His lordship (Rom. 5:1). God did not lay aside His righteousness to make peace with sinners. Rather, He laid our penalty on His righteous substitute, “so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). If you know Jesus Christ as your King of righteousness and peace, you will be growing in righteous behavior and you will be pursuing peace with others (Rom. 14:17, 19).

2. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the derivation and duration of his priesthood. Being a priest in Israel was totally dependent on your family lineage. All priests came from the tribe of Levi. No one else need apply. If you could not establish your family heritage, you were excluded from the priesthood (Neh. 7:61-64). But Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (Heb. 7:3). Yet he was “priest of the Most High God” (7:1).

3. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dispensing of his priesthood. Even though Abraham was God’s chosen man and God promised to bless the nations through him, Melchizedek “blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater” (7:6-7). Scripture uses the term “blessing” in different ways. In one sense, we bless God (Ps. 103:1), which does not imply that we are greater! We bless others by praying for them or rendering kind words or service (Luke 6:28; 1 Pet. 3:9), which is mutual. But here the sense is that of the priestly (Num. 6:22-27) or fatherly (Gen. 27:27; 48:15) blessing, which was not mutual, but superior. Abraham spontaneously recognized that this man represented God Most High, and so he gave him a tenth of his best profit from war as an act of worship and gratitude toward God for granting him victory over the four kings. Levi, who was Abraham’s great-grandson, gave tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham’s tithes, in that he was still in Abraham’s loins when this took place. In Hebrew thought, an ancestor contained in him all of his descendants. Thus Paul argues that when Adam sinned, the entire human race sinned (Rom. 5:12). So here, the author says, “so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes.”  So Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dignity of his person; in the derivation and duration of his priesthood; and, in the dispensing of his priesthood.

Christ The Perfect Mediator, Hebrews 6.

The goal our God gives us is maturity. 6:1, is direction for Christians. The Greek Christians in Corinth are shown what kind of goal God wants for them as well, see 1st Corinthians 2:6, the kind of wisdom Christians are to grow up within is Godly wisdom. The following subjects are basics for Hebrew Christians, but not necessarily for foreign Christians, but even in these elementary subjects like repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection and the judgment, there is wisdom to gain. Simply knowing facts about these fundamentals is not enough. If all we have are facts, we leave ourselves vulnerable to apostasy and false doctrine, because anyone can do various things with facts, but with wisdom, we can do what is right with these facts.

Jesus proclaims in Matthew 19:26, that “WITH” God, all things are possible, but here in 6:3-6, the Hebrews writer states the impossibility for a Christian to repent if they are currently busy “crucifying Christ again”. If a Christian is actively living this kind of life, the Christian can’t be “WITH” God., What is possible is the following: Simply Stop SInning! This cease & desist in sin, or the arresting of sin, is not repentance. If a Christian simply puts the brakes on morally, that is not repentance. Repentance is sorrowfully making the turn around and journeying back to God, to get WITH him. Once you have the brakes on and stop sinning, that will stop us from  living a life that crucifies the Lord all over again. THEN we can possibly find the grace, strength and wisdom to start repenting. For this, we need to pray that God will grant us repentance. 1st Timothy 2:4 & 2nd Timothy 2:25 are great truths for teaching us that we are not expected to repent all on our own! Repentance is not simply a one off act, but rather an entire lifestyle which everyone needs help with. Prayerful effort needed to be put into Simon’s repentance in order for it to be real and effective, Acts 8:22. If we do pray for God to grant people repentance, God might ask us to help them, see Galatians 6:1. Be ready!

The farming illustration in 6:9-12 is a strict warning with no exceptions. If we do not take repentance seriously, Christians can ultimately resign ourselves to hell. This passage makes the phrase “fall away” very literally true for us spiritually, 6:6. God’s commentary on this in Galatians 5:1-4 is showing Christians that once stood firm, loose their stance and drift away from God’s grace. 

Between Genesis 12:2 thru 21:5, there are 25 years in Abraham’s life of searching for a promise to be fulfilled. God is faithful, no matter what happens in your life, rejoice in his faithfulness. God’s true to his word and he explains in 6:18, the two things which prove it: firstly the promise of His Rest (3:1-4:1) and secondly the promise of a mediator in Christ the High Priest, 6:13-20. We can also see the two things as clarifying between a Promise and/or vow, (as in personally from God to Abraham) 6:14 and an Oath (as in globally from Christ to the World) 6:19-20. Some people should learn the difference between a vow (marriage) and an oath (governmental court). Do you trust God to help you stay strong in faithfulness?

Christ, The Perfect High Priest, Hebrews 5:1-14

The Hebrew writer has shown the superiority of Christ over the angels and over Moses.  Before he begins to show how superior Christ is to any other Priesthood, he points out Christ’s compassion in 5:2.  The word “compassion” (metriopatheo) is defined: “To treat with mildness, or moderation, to bear gently with … The idea is that he is not being angered by the faults and ignorance of others …”  To maintain this outlook the high priest needed to remember that “he himself is also beset by weakness”. Jesus desperately wished for a change in circumstances; He petitioned God to alter His will so that He would not have to endure horrific physical and emotional agonies of the cross.  But He also submitted Himself to the will of God: “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Mt 26:39). Jesus did not merely provide salvation but is salvation in a direct, personal sense. Those who obey Him are grafted into the source of life itself, Jesus Christ the mediating High Priest between God and men.

 He now shows how Christ is superior to the Aaronic type of Priesthood.  He reminds them of another type of priesthood, after the manner of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek served as king of Salem, of whom Abraham paid tithes, and served as God’s High Priest (more will be discussed about Melchizedek in chapter 7).  Christ serves as God’s High Priest in this way. He also reminds us of how Christ was made perfect through sufferings (Heb 3:10-the sufferings of Christ made His qualifications to bring men to glory complete or “perfect”).  So now, “having been perfected”, Christ is the “author” of their eternal salvation. He was called by God to be their High Priest forever. Christ’s priesthood is superior to any other. 

  1. From what tribe of Israel did the priest come from (Num 3:5-9, Heb 7:5)?  What tribe was Jesus from (Heb 7:14)?
  1. Why would the Hebrew writer mention Melchizedek here?

      3. How is “devotion” in v7 and “obedience” in v8 seen to be the qualities of a High Priest?

      4. What are the qualities that Jesus has satisfied as a High Priest according to verses 

          Hebrews 4:14 and 5:5-10 ?

The priesthood of Melchizedek, of whom they probably knew very little about or even nothing at all, was difficult to understand because they were not spiritually mature. He scolds them for their spiritual immaturity and calls them slow learners.  They are like newborns who need someone to feed them baby food. They are inexperienced in God’s word of righteousness. By this time they should be mature Christians with the ability to teach others. It would be foolish to blame a six year old for not being as developed mentally and physically as a twelve year old, for natural growth patterns cannot be circumvented.  However, the brethren addressed in Hebrews have failed to mature through a lack of effort: “by this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb 5:12). Instead, they now need to be re-taught the very basics of the gospel – the ABC’s if you will. “Use it or lose it” is the slang expression of what has happened to these brethren. But, for those who are mature and have put their knowledge of God’s word into practice, they are blessed in the ability to discern between truth and  error. Herein is the happiness of living life, instead of living a lie!