Summary: The failure of legalistic Christians
For the church to stand independently, the Jewish past had to be eliminated, yet its contribution respected. God used two forces to bring about this goal; (1) The book of Hebrews is God’s call to Jewish Christians to leave the temple worship and only follow Christ, (2) the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
B. THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
Author: Luke, Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, etc. Luke probably wrote because (1) use of medical terminology; (2) similar syntax to Luke and Acts; (3) Quoted Greek Old Testament. Paul may have written it because (1) early church, said Paul; (2) knew Old Testament history and Levitical Law; (3) knew Timothy (13:23); (4) sermonic construction.
Probably: Luke wrote in Greek a sermonic construction he had heard many times.
Date: Probably before Paul died 66 A.D. and before Jerusalem was destroyed (70 A.D.).
Recipient: Some early manuscripts included “To the Hebrews.” These were Jewish Christians who were persecuted (10:32) who were going back to temple worship to avoid persecution, or because they “loved” the Old Testament symbolism.
Key word: Better.
Why no addressee?” The Christians in Jerusalem would have rejected the advice of both Luke (a Gentile) and Paul (a turn coat).
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:1-4).
C. THE FAILURE OF LEGALISTIC CHRISTIANS
Believers were guilty of (1) Sacrificing animals, denying the very Messiah they typified; (2) looking to a Priest, denying Jesus, their High Priest; and (3) keeping the religious days and symbols.
D. WHAT WAS BETTER?
1. A new and better message. “God, who at various times and indifferent way, spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophet, hath in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (1:1-2).
2. Better than angels. “. . . His Son . . . having become so much better than the angels” (1:2, 4).
3. Better hope. “The law made nothing perfect . . . there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God” (7:19).
4. Better covenant. “Jesus has become the surety of a better covenant” (7:22).
5. Better promises. “He (Jesus) has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which is established on better promises”(8:6).
6. Better sacrifice. “The things in the heavens should be purified.”
7. Better heavenly home. “Knowing that you have better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (10:34).
8. Better future. “God having provided something better for us” (11:40).
9. Blood is better than sprinkling. “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (12:24).
E. DANGER OF GOING BACK
There was a constant temptation for the Jewish believer to return to the Old Testament ways because of the outward things they saw, i.e., Temple, rituals, pageantry, festivals, etc. They were warned in six passages against going back.
1. Danger of neglect (2:1-4). “We must give the more earnest heed, lest we drift away” (2:1).
a. Because of punishment. Every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.
b. Because of light. “God bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit” (2:4).
2. Danger of unbelief (3:7-19). “Harden not your hearts . . .” (3:8). “Beware brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (3:12).
3. Danger of disobedience (4:11). “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience” (4:11).
4. Danger of regressions (6:4-8). “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (6:4-8).
a. Apostatize then lose.
c. Profession only.
d. Backsliding in Jewish culture.
5. Danger of rejection (10:26-31). “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation . . .” (10:26-27).