Summary: Hebrews: A look at the book. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reading: Hebrews chapter 1 verses 1-3.
• A little boy asked his mum a question;
• “Mum, where did I get my intelligence from?”
• She replied;
• “I guess you got it from your father because I still have mine!”
Many Christians avoid the book of Hebrews
• Because they view it as being too difficult to understand.
• And there are some verses that many of us as preachers wishes were not there.
• But the general message of the book is clear ;
• And there is no reason why you and I should not (1). understand it & (2). profit from it.
• Hebrews is a great book;
• And as we study it, it should enrich our appreciation of Jesus Christ.
Notice: Five things to note regarding the book of Hebrews.
(1). It is a book of evaluation
• The Church that received this letter was primarily made up of converted Jewish people;
• There is not a single reference to Gentiles in the book.
• Nor any mention of problems between Jews and Gentiles;
• Which we find in so many other New Testament letters.
• Jewish Christians were living in ‘no-man’s land’;
• They were rejected by their fellow Jews for not practicing the old religion.
• They were rejected by Gentiles;
• In fact under Nero they became ‘scapegoat’,
• Nero blamed them for all sorts of things especially when in A.D. 64;
• A great fire broke out in Rome which destroyed a large part of the city.
• It is into this hard and complex situation that the writer of this book;
• Pens his advice.
• Question: Who was the writer?
• Answer: No-one knows.
• Tertullian one of the earliest Church fathers;
• Thought that Barnabus wrote it.
• Clement of Alexandria used to think that;
• Paul wrote it in Hebrew and that Luke translated it into Greek.
• St Augustine, Martin Luther & John Calvin were all convinced;
• That the apostle Paul did not write it.
• Luther believed that Apollos (Acts chapter 18 verse 24) wrote it.
• Some scholars have even suggested Aquila & Priscilla wrote it between them (Acts 18:26)
• Origen one of the earliest Church fathers, got it right when he said;
• “Who wrote the letter to the Hebrews only God knows for certain”.
• We might not know who penned it, but we do know who inspired it;
• God the Holy Spirit – Many human writers – only ever one author!
The original readers did know who the writer was:
• e.g. Hebrews chapter 13 verses 18-19:
• The writer asks the Church to pray for them & he hoped to visit them again in the future.
“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honourably in all things. And I urge you all the more to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner”.
• Into this difficult situation, the writer this book ask his readers to evaluate their faith;
• He asks them to reflect on what Jesus Christ had to offer them?
• Because these Christians were going through difficult times;
• And they were being tempted to give up in their faith.
• To quit, to take the easy option of going with popular opinion.
The writer of this letter will address three types of people:
• According to chapter 10 verses 32-34:
• Some of these Christians had been physically assaulted.
• Their homes had been raided and plundered.
• Some had been imprisoned for their faith.
• Others had been ridiculed in public because of their trust in Jesus Christ.
• Many of these Christians had accepted all the adversity;
• Despite the persecution they stood firm.
• Others in the fellowship were ‘keeping their heads down’;
• They presented a low public profile and were also willing to compromise,
• They lived with a ‘all things to all men’ attitude;
• They wanted to remain true to Jesus,
• But at the same time they did not want to experience persecution and trouble.
• So they compromised their beliefs in order to be accepted and therefore not victimized.
• Still others had given up on Christ and gone back to their old ways;
• That is back to the Jewish religion.
• They went back to the safe and familiar;
• And by going back they were welcomed back into the Jewish community;
• And they escaped the maltreatment & discrimination that Christians were experiencing.
• That the writer asked these believers to evaluate their faith;
• To compare what they have in Christ and what they had before they followed Jesus.