Archive for the ‘Hebrews’ Category

Hebrews 13

Hebrews 13 wraps up this book and ends with a set of instructions on how we should live as Christ Followers:

  • Let brotherly love continue
  • Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares
  • Remember those who are in prison….and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body
  • Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled
  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have
  • Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God
  • Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith
  • Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings
  • Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name
  • Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have
  • Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.

It is a very detailed list of how we should live.

The list is long and varied, covering relationships and people from every interaction we have.  The instructions cover those close to us, as well as strangers and those in prison.  The direction is all about how we live, and how we treat those in our patch.  The underlying principle is love.  God loves everyone around us, and through these verses we are given specific actions we can take to live out that love to those we touch.  There are warnings and there are actions.  But the key is that God’s given us some prescriptive guidance on how to live a life pleasing to Him.

This chapter also contains one of the most powerful truths in all of scripture.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever….we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me”? There are every few things in this world that are absolute certainties, but Jesus is exactly that.  We can know with confidence what He will be like today and tomorrow – exactly the same as He was yesterday.  There may not be any other things that carries the certainty that knowing Jesus.  And not only is He the same, He is our helper.  He is with us.  He has sent the Holy Spirit to minister in us and through us.  We can know it as truth!

The writer ends with a powerful benediction.  “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, 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”.  God has a plan for us.  He will equip us to do His will.  We don’t need to try and do it on our own, because we can’t.  We merely need to align with His will and allow Him to use us.  That’s how we glorify God.  That’s how we serve our Lord and Savior as Christ Followers.

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 has the author continuing to talk about faith.  He begins the chapter with the word “therefore” which always should be a clue that we need to remember why it is there for.  He has just given us the list of the faith hall of fame and recalled the great people of scripture who have lived out an amazing journey of faith.  “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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,  who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”.

Jesus is our ultimate example.  God’s given us many examples in the Bible of people who have lived a life filled with faith.  Our choices are not always between right and wrong, but between something that may hinder us and something else that may not.  Sin can certainly derail our walk with Christ, but often it is the choice between good and best.  We let good things keep us from doing the best things with our time.  We need to stay the course and continue to train for and run the race, following the example of Jesus who did exactly that.  He chose God’s plan, even if it wasn’t the easy way.

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood”.  Life isn’t easy.  We are under constant attack and pressure to make poor choices and rebel against God’s will and ways.  But our struggle is nothing like what Jesus faced.  We haven’t dealt with the pain and suffering martyrs endure.  We merely need to resist sin and walk in obedience with Christ.  God has our best interest at heart.  “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives”.  He is going to work to keep us on course.

Discipline is never fun, but “he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness”.  That is God’s plan for every one of us as Christ Followers – to help us become like Jesus – holy and righteous in His sight.  “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”.  We may go through seasons of life where God works to bring us into alignment with His will.  Those will not be pleasant, but are so important.  “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no  “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal”.  Life is a high stakes game that impacts eternity.  We need to remember that God’s desire is for us to experience His grace and mercy and be prepared to spend eternity with Him.  That means living His way, not ours.

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11 is the faith hall of fame.  This chapter, like none other in the Bible, tells us not only what faith is, but gives us dozens of examples of how people lived out their lives for faith.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.  Faith is believing and having conviction of what you know to be true.  Faith is needed for what we can’t see and can’t touch.  God cares about our faith. Faith is a belief beyond reason but not in contradiction to reason or against reason.  It is essential for us to receive what God has for our future and eternity.  “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth”.

The writer goes on to give us many examples of faith in this listing.  They all begin with by faith….

  • we understand that the universe was created by the word of God
  • Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous
  • Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death
  • Noah, being warned by God concerning….constructed an ark
  • Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place  that he was to receive as an inheritance
  • Abraham went to live in the land of promise
  • Sarah herself received power to conceive
  • Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac
  • Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau
  • Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph
  • Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones
  • Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents
  • Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter
  • Moses left Egypt
  • Moses kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood
  • the people crossed the Red Sea
  • the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days
  • Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient

What a list of folks who lived out faith on a daily basis.  They set the example for us.  It’s a pretty high bar to achieve.

Does faith matter?  The author makes it pretty clear it absolutely does.  “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”.  The writer to the Hebrews doesn’t say that it is difficult to please God without faith. He says that it is impossible.  This is the basic faith required of anyone who seeks God. We must believe that He is who He says He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. We must believe that God is there, and that He will reveal Himself to our seeking hearts.  That’s the key to faith.  To know God and to know He loves us and rewards us for our faith in Him.

But wait, there’s more.  The writer goes on to give us even more examples of those who belong in the faith hall of fame.  “For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight”.  Faith is powerful and has the ability to change the course of history if we live it in our life.  These people demonstrated faith in big ways.  But it is just as powerful in the day to day aspects of life.  Faith is foundational to our success in walking with Jesus!

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 continues to provide us understanding about the saving grace of Jesus.  “Behold, I have come to do your will. He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”.  Sin has always been in the world since Adam and Eve first committed it in the Garden, but until Christ it could only be dealt with through regular sacrifice.  Jesus changed all that with the New Covenant where His blood took care of sin once and for all.  His death gave victory over death for all eternity and sets us free from the penalty of sin.

It was different in that the sacrifice Christ made was once and for all.  “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet”.  Jesus was different from every sacrifice prior.  It was one and done.  “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”.  Complete atonement and eternal in nature.  “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds….I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more”.  Here is the difference from the Old Covenant where sins were forgiven for a time, but not for eternity like Christ offers us through grace.

God writes His laws on our hearts and minds.  When we come to know Jesus, it will change us.  We are no longer bound by the law, but our heart is changed and we want to live a life pleasing to God.  “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near 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”.  The first thing that happens when we have a relationship with Jesus is that we want to draw near to God.

But the writer goes on to tell us a couple other things that happen.  “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful”.  Second, we have hope, unwavering hope, in God’s promises.  And finally, we are told that we are part of the body of Christ and being with God’s people (the church) is important.  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”.  Being a Christ Follower is not a solo event.  We are part of His body here on earth and need to surround ourselves with like minded followers.

Should Jesus change us when we become a Christ Follower?  Absolutely without a doubt.  “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries….The Lord will judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.  Becoming a believer does not give us a ticket to sin and live however we want.  If we are truly saved, we will choose to live in a way that aligns with God’s will.  It doesn’t mean we’ll never fall short because all of us will, but it does mean we won’t make continual choices to disobey God and His standards.  Being a Christ Follower means we live a changed life based on loving and serving God and His Son.  It means we choose differently than the world.  God hates sin.  We cannot just blatently live in it without consequence.

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9 compares the old covenant with the new.  Much of this book relates to the covenants and the role of High Priest, through which Jesus fulfilled both completely.  The author begins in this chapter with a review of the old covenant and explains what the High Priest did during those days.  It was the relationship between God and man for generations.  But things all changed with Christ. The old ways were set aside and the new put into place for eternity.  “But when Christ appeared as a high priest….he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption”.

Everything changed with Jesus.  There is no longer a need for daily and annual sacrifices.  There is no need for a continual shedding of blood.  Jesus took care of all of it for eternity.  “The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God”.  His shed blood eternally fixes our sin problem if we receive God’s gift of grace through His death on the cross.  “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant”.

Jesus is the enforcer of the New Covenant.  He mediates on behalf of all who call Him Savior and Lord and gives us eternal life.  There was a reason why He had to go to the cross, because “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus carried our sins to the cross and shed His own blood to cover the price to earn forgiveness for eternity.  He paid it all.  And then He went on to make sure we were secure.  “For Christ has entered, not into holy places  made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf”.  He is in heaven as our mediator and intercessor.  He assures our salvation for eternity!

That’s what Jesus did for us.  “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”.  Jesus took something that was very transactional under the old covenant and satisfied it once and for all through the end of time. But along with putting the New Covenant in place with a ‘paid in full’ status, He also promises to return and save us.  He’s coming again.  Our sin has been dealt with.  Now He’ll come to gather us to Himself and eternity! “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him”.  Praise God for a love that not only deals with our sin but brings us to Himself!

Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8 has the writer again talking about Jesus as High Priest.  “We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.  One key thing to remember is that we have a high priest – and His name is Jesus.  He ministers for us from a position of all authority in heaven.  The tabernacle and the temple of the Old Covenant had beautiful furnishings, but no place for the priests to sit down, because their work was never finished. The work of Jesus is finished – He is seated in heaven!

Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises”.  The convenant God made with Abraham was amazingly good, but what Jesus offers is even better.  It is a covenant of grace, not works, which is guaranteed for us by God the Father through the shed blood of Christ that covers complete forgiveness of sin.  “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second”.  Guzik shares an overview of covenants through God’s redemptive history.

  1. There is an eternal covenant between the members of the Godhead that made possible the salvation of man (Hebrews 13:20).
  2. God’s redemptive plan was continued through the covenant He made with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).
  3. The Mosaic covenant was another step in God’s redemptive plan (Exodus 24:3-8).
  4. The Davidic covenant was yet another step in God’s redemptive plan (2 Samuel 7:1-16).
  5. But the redemptive plan of God was fulfilled in the New Covenant (Luke 22:14-20).

God had a plan to create a new and once for all covenenant through Jesus.  “For he finds fault with them when he says:  Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt”.  While the earlier covenants were good, they still were based on works which is where mankind has always failed.  God had a plan for a new way, a once for all way to deal with sin and seal eternal life for all who would receive the gift of grace He offered freely through Jesus.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and  write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”.  This covenant is based on a relationship, not merely how someone was born.  It is based on receiving a gift from the Creator, and making it my own.  Jesus provides freedom from the penalty of sin, something that all the prior covenants failed to do.  They were still dependent on man doing things.  Now, at this very time and place, God offers us a covenant based on what Jesus has already done on our behalf. All we have to do is receive it and make it our own through a personal relationship with the giver of the gift.  If we do, scripture promises “I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more”.  What a Savior.  What a Lord!

Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7 has the writer continuing to talk about Jesus as High Priest.  Jewish Christians would have been very interested in Jesus as their High Priest, but would have had a significant objection to the idea. He just wasn’t qualified according to their expectations.  This is because Jesus did not come from the priestly tribe (the tribe of Levi) or the priestly family (the family of Aaron).  He just wasn’t up to their standards.  They were struggling with with the truth of the gospel. These intellectual hang-ups were keeping them from continuing on to maturity in Jesus.

So the writer focuses on Jesus by admitting He wasn’t really aligned with their expectations.  But that doesn’t mean Jesus wasn’t High Priest.  “This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life”.  Jesus has changed the rules of the game.  He didn’t have to be a Levite from the family of Aaron.  He was qualified by being God’s Son – one who conquered death and had eternal life.

That’s the High priest we have now.  “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, You are a priest forever. This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant”.  The law is valuable as it shows us God’s perfect standard, but it was not ultimately intended to be the basis of a man’s walk with God. It is a relationship with Jesus that matters. He alone is the way to eternal life. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them”.  Jesus is our intercessor.  He is our Savior.

Jesus is the perfect High Priest.  “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens”.  Jesus set a new standard.  He was the perfect answer to the problem of sin.  He is the solution to the law.  “For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever”.  Jesus is the answer.  He is the only answer.  And each of us needs to determine our response to God’s offer to cleanse our sin through the power of His shed blood.

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 has the writer talking about faith in Christ and the foundation of our hope.  He continues on the path that we need to mature in our knowledge and understanding as Christ Followers.  “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who 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, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt”. Faith in Christ is an everlasting thing.  If we chose to walk away, it is nearly impossible to regain it again.

What we do with Jesus is one of the greatest questions we’ll ever answer.  He is the only way to eternal life.  There is no second path.  Yet some can’t make that jump from running their own life to letting Christ have the wheel.  When we receive Christ as Savior, we also take Him as Lord.  The two go hand in hand.  He comes into our life and produces good fruit if we let Him, but if we refuse to allow Him to be Lord of our life, we can quickly revert to our old ways and miss the power of His grace in our life.  “For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed,  and its end is to be burned”.  Blessing awaits us if we merely let Jesus do a work in us.

Good works don’t save us.  Only the shed blood of Christ can do that through a personal relationship with us.  But one of the outgrowths of receiving Him as Savior and Lord is that we will serve Him.  The writer reminds us “we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises”.  Blessing lies ahead if we cling to the Savior and follow Him as Lord.

Abraham is our example.  “And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise”.  He walked with God and received all that God had for him in God’s time.  Jesus is our rock and the source of blessing for our lives today.  “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever”.  Jesus is already interceding on our behalf.  He’s paid the price and provided us eternal life.  We simply need to receive His gift and walk in obedience with Him straight to eternity!

Hebrews 5

Hebrews 5 addresses the truth around the role of High Priest and in particular how Jesus fits into that holy role and order.  The job of a high priest was to deal with sin.  “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins”.  They have a very important job – to be the mediator between God and sinful man.  God appointed many to this role, but Jesus was called by God to be the complete fulfillment of High Priest.  “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God”.

So even though Jesus was the Son of God, He didn’t just waltz in and declare Himself High Priest.  “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, You are my Son, today I have begotten you….You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek”.  God had a plan for Christ, and He appointed Him to be the final High Priest that would deal with sin once and for all.  But it wasn’t easy and without sacrifice.  Jesus paid the price.  “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered”.  Jesus came to earth as a baby, grew to be a young man, and lived through the trials and temptations of life before suffering an agonizing death on the Cross.

But then things changed.  He overcame death and became the fulfillment of God’s plan for grace and mercy for all mankind.  On our own, not one of us is good enough to make it into heaven.  God’s standards are far too high.  But through the shed blood of Jesus, we can receive God’s gift of grace and have His perfection imputed to us through faith, so we can stand before God perfect just as Christ was.  “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest “.  Jesus is the answer to our sin problem.  He is the only answer.  But we have to make the choice to receive Him and the grace God offers through Him.

God’s expectation is that we grow in our faith and become mature Christ Followers.  Maturity should happen as we walk with Jesus.  Unfortunately it doesn’t happen via osmosis, we have to work for it.  The writer here expresses a lack of growth on the part of the Hebrews.  “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles….You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil”.  Are you growing in your walk with Jesus?  That’s what should happen to each of us as Christ Followers.  It isn’t automatic.  We have to do the work of spending time in the Word, in prayer, and in relationship with Him.  Are you making that investment?

Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4 reveals God plan for His world.  “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened”.  God sent us the Good News through His Son Jesus Christ.  But man didn’t receive that Good News and as a result “They shall not enter my rest although his works were finished from the foundation of the world”.  God has prepared a way, but it is up to us to receive it.  He doesn’t force us to believe, nor to obey, but He also won’t force salvation upon us.  We can choose not to receive His grace.

Not all roads lead to heaven.  In fact, there is only one, Jesus Christ.  It begins with receiving and believing and must result in a changed life.  Not perfection or sinless, but obedient in heart.  We can’t truly receive Christ without a change in our heart which will drive us to obedience.  Works don’t save us, but they validate our relationship with the Savior.  “Those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience”,  It’s not about earning salvation, it’s about living a changed life with Jesus at the helm.  “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”.  Jesus will change our heart.

The writer then shared the importance of God’s Word.  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thought and intentions of the heart”.  God’s Word is  our offensive weapon in the battle with evil.  It is how we stand against the enemy.  Jesus showed us that when He was tempted by Satan three times.  Each time, He quoted scripture.  The enemy can’t deal with truth.  But the Word also is the source of God’s standards.  Each of us will stand before Him and have to give account.  “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”.  Are you ready for that examination?  Do you know what God expects?

We’re all going to fail the heavenly entrance exam on our own.  We are sinners, plain and simple, and that does not meet God’s requirement.  So we need a plan B which is actually God’s Plan A – Jesus Christ.  “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Jesus is the way.  He’s been here and lived life and won the victory over death.  He is our Savior and our Lord.  Through Him we can stand confidently before God.  But we have to receive God’s gift of grace and make it our own.  Are you ready?

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