Have you ever had anyone say to you – “You need to grow up”? That can be a hard thing to hear. Yet immaturity is such a debilitating problem that we need to pay close attention when it is said to us. It can also be a risky thing to say to someone else. People may be offended and turn their anger toward us. For that reason we may be reluctant to ever confront a Christian who is an eternal “babe in Christ.” Yet, love compels us to help each other.
The author of Hebrews loved his people enough to confront them with their spiritual immaturity. Perhaps we need to do that for fellow Christians more often. When we see people who are stuck in infancy in their Christian walk to the extent that they are miserable and can’t enjoy the wonderful privileges and promises of our life in Christ – it is not insulting but a loving challenge to encourage them to grow. If we would just grow in the Lord we would see the joys that God wants us to have.
The immature Hebrew Christians were obviously miserable – in a crisis of great doubt. For some of them, their growth had stopped and they wondered:
- Do I go on into Christianity?
- Do I go back to Judaism?
- Is the Christian life really worth it – with all of this persecution?
- Do I really want to fight the battles?
They believed it was an acceptable option to go back into Judaism for a time and then at some later date they could return to their Christianity.
I suppose we all have had periods of doubt. When we look in scripture and read about great answers to prayer and all of the glories of the abundant life, and we don’t see that same reality in our lives – we wonder what is wrong.
We may even come to the point of questioning – I wonder if I have ever really been saved. So the author of Hebrews waxes eloquent. Not only is Christianity God’s final and only answer to sin and salvation – Christianity is better in every way – if we go on to maturity!
We can enter Christ’s rest and be assured of salvation and enjoy all of the benefits of a HIGH PRIEST who has all power. We can have an anchor that will keep us steady – if only we can grow up well.
- How do we become mature?
- How do we tap into the power of our high priest?
- How can we have assurance that we are really saved?
This lesson will begin to answer these deep questions.
The author has already established:
- Jesus is the perfect spokesman (prophet). As SON OF GOD He is higher than the Old Testament prophets and the angels who gave the law to Moses. He has perfect and complete knowledge. We are advised to LISTEN TO HIM.
- Jesus is the perfect human – He regained dominion over the earth and sin and Satan and death by his sinless life and death. The Kingdom was given to Him. He is now crowned with glory and honor.
- Jesus is the perfect ruler – better than Moses & Joshua – He brought permanent spiritual rest. He is our eternal King.
Now, we learn that Jesus is the perfect high priest – better than Aaron and his descendants.
DAY ONE: HEBREWS PRESENTS OUR PERFECT HIGH PRIEST.
READ: Hebrews 5
A. JESUS SERVES US FROM HEAVEN.
Chapter 4 ended with the introduction of our GREAT high priest. He is both God and man. As a man, he has returned to the very presence of God in a human body. He is at the very right hand of God and ministers in a heavenly tabernacle.
By calling Jesus a high priest two problems are immediately introduced to Jewish readers:
- Jesus was of the tribe of Judah. Under the Law of Moses, all priestly duties were reserved exclusively to the members of the tribe of Levi and the family line of Aaron. Jesus’ family line was carefully documented to prove that He was from the royal family of David who was from the tribe of Judah. He could not be in the line of the Aaronic priesthood. According to the Law of Moses, Jesus could not be a priest.
- No person could hold both offices of priest and king. These offices were to be kept strictly separate according to the Law of Moses. These Hebrew Christians would never have imagined a royal high priest until this point in time.
If Jesus is a high priest, then the author must show that He is ordained by God – which he will do as we proceed into chapter five.
B. JESUS STANDS READY TO HELP AT ALL TIMES.
First, we will go back to the challenge that is offered after Jesus is introduced as our GREAT high priest. We are told to boldly draw near to the throne of grace so that we can get the help we need in hard times. (4:16)
In times of persecution, there is no need to go into hiding or go back to Jerusalem and go through the motions of Judaism. There is no need to give up and compromise our faith. This would bring reproach to Christ. There is no need to go into hiding or become a closet Christian. Jesus understands our weaknesses and temptations. In hard times we can pray – come right into the throne room (into the presence of God) and present our problems to the one who has the wisdom to know the right course and the power to help us deal with whatever comes into our lives.
In times of temptation, there is no need to become fearful and compromise our faith. In situations when Christians are put down or made fun of, what do you do? We often have a great opportunity to hold fast our confession, but we need help.
- Jesus experienced ridicule and rejection and harsh criticism. He understands our weaknesses and fears and temptations.
- He is ever ready to send help and to give creative solutions.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- Describe the invitation to pray in Philippians 4:6.
- What are other elements of prayer besides personal requests?
- How does praise build confidence in our Heavenly Father?
- What do you think it means to “approach” or “draw near” the throne of grace?
- Begin to keep a prayer journal with specific requests and answers to build greater faith in prayer.
DAY TWO: THE CONCEPT OF PRIESTHOOD IS DESCRIBED.
READ: Hebrews 5:1-4
A. GOD GAVE THE PREREQUISITES FOR PRIESTHOOD.
God instituted the Jewish priesthood in Exodus 28. Aaron (brother of Moses) was a Levite who was anointed as the first high priest. His sons and descendants were to succeed him perpetually.
What was the role of a high priest?
- He was the mediator between sinful man and Holy God. He connected people to God through the sacrifices and offerings.
- He served in the earthly tabernacle that was patterned after the heavenly tabernacle to help prepare humanity for the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.
What were the qualifications for the Aaronic priesthood?
- The priest needed to be a man (fellow human being) – to act in the interests of other men (or on behalf of other men). He was not an angel who couldn’t relate to human problems. (Hebrews 5:1)
- He had to be a member of a specific order that had a system of gifts and offerings. The Law of Moses provided this order. (5:1)
- The human priest was to be sympathetic because he had the same temptations as other human beings. He could deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward. The ignorant were those who had not yet learned the Law and how it is interpreted in specific cases. The wayward are those who have strayed and need to be brought back into the right way. (5:2)
- He had to offer sacrifices for himself. God requires clean vessels for service.
- He needed to be appointed by God – to serve God’s interests.
B. GOD DESIGNED THE PRIESTHOOD TO BENEFIT MAN.
God intended that the system of sacrifices and the presence of a qualified high priest would be a great benefit to the chosen people. All human beings need help and forgiveness as we move through life in these fleshly bodies with all of the temptations of the world. The wisdom of God is evident in His setting up of a ceremonial system in which man is able to (1) make peace with God when we have gone astray — with sin offerings and (2) to give thanks to God at other times — with peace offerings.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What do we do today when we are made aware of sin? (I John 1:9)
- What do we bring to sacrifice today? (Romans 12:1)
- What is meant by “a sacrifice of praise?” (Hebrews 13:15)
4. List 5 attributes of God that are worthy of praise. Express your praise in your prayer time this week.
5. How often do you confess your sins?
DAY THREE: JESUS’ PRIESTHOOD IS DEFENDED.
READ: Hebrews 5:5-10
A. THE AUTHOR PRESENTS JESUS’ QUALIFICATIONS FOR PRIESTHOOD.
The author of Hebrews now demonstrates that Jesus is qualified to be a high priest by demonstrating that He fulfilled four requirements.
- He was divinely appointed (Hebrews 5: 5-6). This is proved by two quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures:
- Psalm 2:7 emphasized that only the Son of God could serve as this kind of heavenly priest/king.
- Psalm 110:4 emphasizes the divine appointment itself. Jesus was appointed a permanent priest after the order of Melchizedek. This priest/king predated the Law and the setting up of the Aaronic priesthood.
- Jesus was a man (fellow human being) as his prayers with crying and tears clearly show.
- He was compassionate (even asking forgiveness for those who were present at his crucifixion). He learned obedience through his suffering, so he can help those who are in a place of suffering.
- Jesus functions after a priestly order – that of Melchizedek. Jesus offered a sacrifice that was perfect for eternal salvation and thus eliminated the need for a continual sacrifice.
B. SO JESUS QUALIFIES AS OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST.
What an incredible position we are in. Whatever trial or temptation comes into our lives, we can take it to the creator of the universe. We will find mercy and grace to help. Picture yourself entering the heavenly tabernacle and finding yourself face to face with God the Father and God the Son:
- We present our case;
- We are given help—the right course of action.
- It may be power to go through something hard,
- It may be grace to overcome some temptation,
- It may be mercy to have the problem removed,
- It may be wisdom to handle the problem wisely.
Whatever answer we receive, it will be sufficient. Do we take advantage of this great resource, or do we take our problems somewhere else and spread the misery?
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What did Jesus model in hard times in his life? (Hebrews 5: 7)
- How do we know prayer was a vital part of his life? (Matthew 14:23)
- List some qualities of Jesus’ prayer life from the following scriptures:
- Luke 6:12-13
- Luke 11:1
- Luke 18:1
- Luke 22:44
4. Where is your special place to go to “labor” in prayer?
5. How effective would you say your prayers are?
DAYS FOUR & FIVE: A THIRD WARNING IS GIVEN.
READ: Hebrews 5:11-14
A. THE AUTHOR PRESENTS THE PROBLEM OF IMMATURITY.
There is much more to say about the order of Melchizedek and the author will address it again in chapter 7. But he feels the readers are not ready to investigate such a difficult doctrine because of their spiritual immaturity. His concern is that they will not understand what he is about to say because of their failure to mature in the faith, so He must stop and give the third warning.
It is not easy to be chastised about our neglect of the most important duties of our faith. We would prefer to hear praise and compliments. In his epistles Paul usually found something to praise before he began the correction and instruction part of his epistles. However, there is no time to waste in this situation. There is an urgency brought about by the current hardships and temptations. So the author jumps right in to define the problem.
- The Hebrew Christians have become dull of hearing. Their obligation as believers is to maintain a keen interest in things they are being taught. As they compare their new teachings with the teachings and prophecies and pictures in the Old Testament, they develop a deeper and deeper understanding of Christ and his ministry. But they seemed to have stopped listening.
- It is not a lack of time that accounts for their immaturity. They have been believers for a long enough period to be teachers, but instead they seem to have gone backwards. They need to start over with the basics. There is no growth.
- They have even lost what little they knew because they have not put their knowledge into practice to become well trained in the fundamentals. It seems that we lose what we know if we don’t use it.
- The milk represents the basics of the Scriptures. The meat represents advanced Biblical doctrine and its application to the issues of our spiritual lives so we can make responsible decisions. When we practice these decisions, we then know by experience what is good and evil.
B. THE SOLUTION INVOLVES KNOWLEDGE AND APPLICATION.
These Hebrew Christians needed a course in remedial Christianity – back to the basics. They not only couldn’t help others, they couldn’t even help themselves. They didn’t know right from wrong – they had no discernment. We will never mature if we don’t take time to study and to learn how to apply what we know. There is a pattern given in scripture:
- We grow in knowledge – transform your mind. (Romans 12:2)
- We learn application of knowledge – prove what is good and acceptable to the Lord. (Romans 12:2)
- We develop a pattern of changed lives – become a new creation or a mature believer. (II Corinthians. 5:17)
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What are some ways we can listen carefully when God’s word is being taught?
- How would you describe Bible study as compared to Bible reading?
- For what were the Bereans commended in Acts 17:10-12?
4. What progress in spiritual maturity have you made since beginning this in-depth study of Hebrews?
There is no shortcut to growth in our Christian life. We must make a commitment to rightly divide the word of God so we won’t be vulnerable to false prophets and to fear – and so we won’t be chronically immature. Not knowing good from evil puts us in a highly vulnerable position and renders us useless in helping others. Regarding Bible study, we have to show up in order to grow up. Being spoon-fed is not enough.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
A mature Christian exudes peace and joy and radiates warmth to everyone around. (Romans 14:17-18)
Pick out one chapter in a gospel and dig deeply (read it several times and then think for a while about the content). Find five facts you have not noticed before. Begin to grow in knowledge.
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