Hebrews (Part I)

Hebrews can be divided into two parts:  1. Why we should go on (Ch. 1-10:18) and 2. How to go on (10:19-end).  Alternatively, it can be divided into three parts:  1.  Our SAVIOR is “Better” (Ch. 1-7);  2. Our SALVATION is “Better” (Ch. 8-10:18); and 3. WE should be “better” (10:19-end).  Part one shows that Christ is superior to the angels and to Moses and Aaron, all of which were important in the Old Testament and in any “good” religion.  Part Two shows that the NEW covenant is really new.  Salvation is complete, total (8:12,13).  The word “covenant” has been replaced by “testament”!  Part Three holds up for our example the Old Testament heroes of the faith, saying that we ought to go on beyond them!  Murray finds a neat text for chapters 11-13 in 10:22-24; Ch. 11 – Fullness of Faith; 12 – Patience of Hope; 13 – Labor of Love.

There is interspersed in the argument five solemn warnings:  1. Neglecting (note, not “rejecting”) salvation’s GREATNESS (settling for “less”; 2:1-4).  2. Not entering God’s “rest”.  Israel, out of Egypt, but not in Canaan, which is not a picture of heaven, but of victorious eternal life now (3:7; I Cor 10).  3. Spiritual immaturity; what doesn’t grow, dies (5:11-6:8).  4.  Sinning against better knowledge, deliberately (10:26-39).  5.  Low esteem for one’s spiritual birthright; covenant-breaking (12:15-29).

The great theme of Hebrews is what is variously known as “full salvation”, the deeper or more abundant life, victorious living.  Jesus spoke of “full” joy; more abundant life.  Paul said we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit; he scolded the Corinthians (compare 5:13) for being “half-saved” (I Cor 3:2).  So Hebrews says “Let us leave elementary doctrines and go on to maturity”, “Run the race set before us”.  “Let us” occurs 13 times, “summoning the believer to a higher stage of spiritual perfection.”  The word “better” also occurs 13 times, so that Hebrews is urging us not to settle for the merely good, but covet the best, the most.  This theme is elaborated in such books as Watchman Nee’s, especially “The Normal Christian Life”; Andrew Murray, especially “The Holiest of All” (A commentary on Hebrews); and “How to Live The Victorious Life,” by an “unknown Christian”.

In other words, Hebrews is not a warning against back-sliding, apostasy per se, but the idea that Christianity is a static thing and salvation is a gift like a package, instead of an eternal, infinite, constantly-growing life.  To stand still (by repeating fundamentals like “Jesus saves”) is to fall, just as certainly as a plane or bike will topple and crash if they do not move forward.  Contrary to usual ideas, Hebrews is not warning against going back to Judaism, which would be a false religion.  Paul took care of that idea in Galatians.  And Judaism had been destroyed, or was about to be, with the fall of Jerusalem.  The title to this book, “Hebrews”, is misleading; it is not genuine.  The book is addressed to all Christians.  The error it fights is very common; only within the last few years has the Christian at large come to understand what “full salvation” is all about. When Hebrews talks about all the Old Testament religious customs, it is only using that to show how complete and wonderful the Gospel is, by comparison.  And the sad fact is that many Christians have an Old Testament faith!  No, they do not offer sacrifices, etc.  But they think confession and repentance have to be constantly repeated, as though Christ has to be continually crucified instead of once for all; they have no more assurance of salvation than many Old Testament “saints”; they make much more of Christmas than of Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost.

Now, what IS being saved “to the uttermost”? (7:25)  To what must we press on?  Salvation has a legal, objective, external aspect – justification and the forgiveness of sins.  The Old Testament typified that with its vicarious sacrifices.  Christ’s death on the cross took care of that.  This is where most Christians stop; “Christ died for me.”  But this gives no peace, joy, security, nor change in the believer, except a sort of thankfulness for one’s salvation that is no more permanent than one’s momentary feelings.  In addition to all this, the “more” and “better” of Hebrews is the fact that Christ now lives!  And lives within the believer; this is his sanctification.  This is the “rest” that he is supposed to enter.  (3:7-4:13; 12:1,2)

 

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One thought on “Hebrews (Part I)

  1. veenstrasteph

    Nice! This sermon is rich in meaning. I like the comparison with old Covenant and New Testament. Some Christians live like the old, seeking forgiveness over and over but Jesus was the perfect sacrifice Once and For all. Now we can Grow and apply the riches of the Abundant Life to each day.

    Reply

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