Summary: Sermon 1 in a study in Hebrews
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” NASB
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” NIV
Before we come to look closely at the opening verses of this letter, let’s get to know some foundational information to build upon.
The letter is written to Jewish believers in Christ, hence the name, The Epistle to the Hebrews. We don’t know where this particular church was located, but as there are some statements in it indicating that the human author knows something of a particular group, we can infer that it was originally sent to one specific congregation of believers. In fact, at least one commentator suggests because of some of the wording in various places, that it may originally have been preached as a sermon.
Scholars place the time of writing before A.D. 70, prior to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, but probably very close. Most agree it would date between A.D. 65-68.
As to its authorship, that has been a source of debate for many years but the bottom line is that no one knows for certain.
We do know that its original source is the Holy Spirit, and for our purposes in this study that is all sufficient.
The purpose of the letter is undeniably to set forth the preeminence of Christ. In fact, some writers have chosen as the key word of the epistle, the word, ‘better’; the reason being that Christ is shown to be better than everything and everyone. He is better than the prophets, better than the angels, He brings a better hope, a better promise, a better sacrifice, promise of a better (heavenly) country, speaks of a better resurrection, a better priesthood, and that is not a complete listing of the ways in which this letter shows Christ to be preeminent over all.
The key verse, since it encapsulates the message of the entire epistle, is chapter 8 verse 1.
“Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens”
I want to give you the final introductory statements from two prolific teachers of the Bible as they entered into their studies on HEBREWS.
The first is from William R. Newell.
“The great object of HEBREWS, then, is to set before these believers’ eyes, CHRIST, the Son of God; the Son of Man; the Great High Priest in Heaven; and to cause them constantly to occupy their thought and worship with God, into Whose presence Christ by His blood has brought them: without the camp: WITHIN THE VEIL!” W.R. Newell, HEBREWS Verse by Verse, Moody Press, Chicago, 1947
The second, from Ray C. Steadman
“These are the ‘things that accompany salvation’ to which he (the writer) refers in Hebrews 6:9. They must all become our daily concern if we are to lay full hold of the ‘better things’ which Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem’s manger introduced. The central thrust of this great letter is summed up in the words of an old hymn:
Rise up, O church of God
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of Kings.”
R.C. Steadman, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, HEBREWS, InterVarsity Press, 1992, (parenthesis mine)
With the same conviction as these men and so many through the centuries who have devoted themselves to magnifying the excellence of Christ to the world, let’s go into this great epistle and ask God to take us higher up and deeper in than we’ve been before.
THE OLD LANGUAGE
The author just jumps right into his narrative here, unlike other epistles to the churches that make some claim to authorship, offer greetings, often invoking the Lord’s grace and blessing on the recipients; a fact which could be cited in an argument for HEBREWS being a sermon that was first preached; in any case, we can get the sense that the writer is focused on his subject and wants to get right to it with no frills.