Are you convinced?? The author of Hebrews has presented a lengthy and thorough case for Christ as the new and better hope. He wanted the Hebrew Christians to understand the choices they faced as he painstakingly compared the Old Covenant with the New Covenant.
This reminded me of a popular television show entitled “Extreme Makeover.” The builders on the show take an old, inadequate house and replace it with a beautiful new structure that fully meets the needs of the people who will live there. Often at the end of the show we see the pictures of the old house and the new house– the contrast is stunning.
Likewise, we want to end up with two vivid pictures in our minds from the book of Hebrews.
- The old sacrificial system is inadequate and has served its purpose.
It is earthly and temporary. Picture the scene in JERUSALEM with mortal men offering animals in continual sacrifices – yet the access to God is closed.
- The new is perfect, beautiful and peaceful.
It is heavenly and eternal. Picture the scene in HEAVEN with immortal Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father because the sacrifice for sin has been completed. The road to God is fully open. The high priest is powerful and compassionate. He is able to impart perfection to His own. He ever lives to make intercession on behalf of believers. He never retires or dies or forgets his promises.
Now we need to know what this means in the lives of the first century Hebrew believers and what it means in our lives today. Keep the pictures in your mind as we find out.
DAYS ONE & TWO: HEBREW BELIEVERS ARE CALLED TO MOVE FORWARD.
READ: Hebrews 10:19-25
A. THE ROAD TO GOD IS WIDE OPEN.
Jesus has opened up the “new and living way” (super highway) to God. The Jewish nation had an introduction to this by the rending of the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. (Matthew 27:50-51) This symbolized the opening of the door to the very presence of God. What has never been available to the people before is now wide open. But what does this mean? How do we know what to do?
The other new reality is our great high priest who can intervene in the things that we ask. We have an advocate in heaven who can help us in our weaknesses. His humanity enables us to relate to Him in a practical way.
B. BELIEVERS ARE GIVEN FOUR INSTRUCTIONS.
Now that we have a new system, what are the instructions that we need to hear? The author gives four new exhortations to help the Hebrew Christians to move toward maturity.
- Draw near to God in full assurance.
- They are encouraged to exercise their faith fully. They are to leave the old ceremonies and sacrifices and put their full faith in Jesus Christ. He has paid the price and paved the way. Now they must trust that He has opened the way through the curtain into the very presence of God.
- They need not be afraid that God’s holiness will consume them. They have been cleansed by the blood of Christ.
- To refuse to come directly to God is an insult to Christ and shows actual unbelief. They can approach the throne and talk with the creator of the universe. He is ready and waiting for this sweet communion. When we refuse to come to Him, we cut ourselves off from the blessing He is waiting to give.
- Hold unswervingly to the hope they profess.
- Their hope is that Jesus is the Messiah. They must remain faithful to this truth and not become distracted with doctrinal fads or false teachings.
- They need to speak often of their position as God’s forgiven children blessed by all that He has done for us. A simple witness of the gospel and the new joy it brings is powerful.
- Encourage fellow believers to love and good deeds.
- Instead of competition and power struggles, jealousies and fighting, they are encouraged to bring out the best in each other. Even though they are now in the Kingdom of God and have entered His rest, they are not to sit down and do nothing.
- They are to encourage each other to glorify God by loving like God loves. “They will know we are Christians by our love.” ( 13:35)
- They are to constantly encourage each other to do the work of the Kingdom. Believers have spiritual gifts to serve in the body of Christ. They need to be exercised in fruitful service.
- Keep on meeting together
- If believers are going to help each other, they must assemble together on a regular basis. There has always been a tendency for some to give up attendance at worship services and fellowship meetings. This ignores the fact that we need each other.
- God did not call us to stand alone. The church family was always His plan. We are to build each other up so we will be prepared to meet the world and the challenges hurled at us by unbelievers. This is especially true as the time of judgment approaches. The battle will become even more intense. We are to develop this habit of meeting together now so we will be ready.
- In dry times we desperately need each other; in the best of times we draw strength from reaffirmation of our faith.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What do the following scriptures say about the importance of love for each other?
- John 15:12
- Romans 5:5
- Romans 12:9-10
- Romans 13:8
- Galatians 5:13
- Ephesians 4:2
- Ephesians 4:16
- What happens when we refuse to “draw near to God” in prayer? (James 4:2)
3. Read I Corinthians 13 to remind yourself of the properties of love.
4. Encouragement is a vital part of our lives together as believers. Do you make it your goal to encourage someone each time you meet together as a church fellowship? Who do you know who needs encouragement?
DAY THREE: HEBREW BELIEVERS ARE GIVEN THE FOURTH WARNING.
READ: Hebrews 10:26-31
A. WRONG CHOICE LEADS TO GRAVE DANGER.
This fourth warning is very serious and the author uses hard words to reveal the consequences of the choice to become a willful, deliberate sinner. If these Hebrew Christians willfully choose to temporarily reject their New Covenant and go back to the Old Covenant, they are doomed to a fiery death.
If they join forces with those who have rejected Jesus Christ, they will place themselves in the same danger as unbelievers in Jerusalem who have committed the unpardonable sin of deliberately rejecting Christ after having full knowledge. There is no earthly sacrifice for their sins. The Old Testament animal sacrifices are no longer effective and will soon be impossible. There will be no hope for the people who depend on animal sacrifices to provide even a temporary forgiveness.
The Hebrew Christians will experience the same kind of punishment as willful sinners received under the Law of Moses. There will be physical death at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (10:28-29). Many will be burned alive in the fiery death that will come at the hands of the Romans. This death is much worse than the merciful and quick death by stoning that is proscribed in the Law of Moses. There will be loss of reward (10:35-36).
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. To deliberately take yourself out of the place of protection and blessing puts you in grave physical and spiritual danger.
B. WRONG CHOICE INSULTS THE LIVING GOD
The author states three things that are true of any person who deliberately turns away after having professed faith in Jesus as the savior.
- They have trampled the Son of God under foot.
- They have treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant.
- They have insulted the Holy Spirit of grace.
Who would do this kind of thing? Either someone who was never a true believer but only professed to be a Christian, or Jewish believers who were trying to escape persecution by temporarily pretending they are not Christians. The author of Hebrews puts his audience in the latter category as he calls them back to their true faith.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What was the result of deliberate sin under the Mosaic Law? (Hebrews 10:28)
- The New Covenant is superior. What does deliberate sin call for under this system? (Hebrews 12:6)
- How does this judgment compare with the punishment mentioned in I Corinthians 11:28-32?
- Examine yourself closely. Is there any place where you are denying Christ and subjecting yourself to God’s discipline or placing yourself in danger?
- In what area are you tempted to willfully or deliberately sin?
DAYS FOUR & FIVE: HEBREW BELIEVERS ARE REMINDED OF FORMER FAITH.
READ: Hebrews 10:32-39
A. BELIEVERS FORMERLY SUFFERED PERSECUTION.
Now we take another look at what the scripture means when it says that Christ learned obedience through suffering. It is relatively easy to remain faithful when there is little or no cost. We have enjoyed lives of little persecution in America for many years. The real test of our faith comes when the opposition or persecution becomes intense. Will we stand? Will we be like Christ who remained obedient when the suffering became intense – both physical and emotional suffering? Will we become closet Christians or will we openly deny Christ in certain situations?
The Hebrew Christians experienced rather severe persecution when they first became believers.
- They were publicly exposed to insults and persecution (v.33)
- They stood united with others who were being persecuted.
- They sympathized with those who were imprisoned for their faith.
- They joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property.
B. BELIEVERS FORMERLY SUFFERED JOYFULLY.
Often people begin a new journey with great excitement and zeal. This was true of these discouraged believers. They knew that their suffering was only temporary because they had their eyes on the goal. This life is not their permanent home and this suffering will be rewarded and this new venture has a glorious eternal ending with the savior in heaven. The key is where you put your focus. If we focus on our circumstances, we will become disillusioned; if we focus on our destiny, we will remain zealous and have great peace and joy. It is all about focus. Jesus modeled this kind of focus when He went to the cross. (Hebrews 12:2)
C. BELIEVERS ARE REMINDED OF THE VALUE OF STANDING FIRM.
To maintain their confidence they are told to remember the goal. In a little while Jesus is coming back, and will richly reward the faithful. There are two categories of people:
- Righteous ones who shrink back (verse 38) in persecution and take themselves out of God’s will and God’s protection. They will suffer loss – in this case loss of life and loss of reward.
- Those who will persevere and live by faith and experience the blessings that accompany Christian suffering (the approval of God and the promises of God)
The author assures the readers that they are in the second category. The just will live by faith!
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What does Paul say about the value of Christian suffering? (Romans 5:3-5)
- How did the apostles react to suffering? (Acts 5:41)
- What is one byproduct to suffering? (I Thessalonians 1:6-7)
- What is another byproduct? (2 Thessalonians 1:12)
- Why was suffering necessary for Paul? (2 Timothy 2:8-10)
- According to Peter, what does suffering reveal? (1 Peter 19:21)
- How should I react in suffering? (I Peter 4:12-19)
- List your current suffering and pray daily for grace to keep your focus.
The author of Hebrews has painted a beautiful picture of the riches in Christ that can now be enjoyed by all believers. We have 24/7 access to our GREAT HIGH PRIEST who is able to help us at all times. He is powerful and compassionate and ever lives to make intercession for us. It seems incomprehensible that we would willingly take ourselves out of this heavenly aura and place ourselves in positions of danger – just because we are fearful or uncomfortable. The goal is so great that it is worth any temporary suffering that we can imagine.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
The best that God has to offer is freely available – but only to those who persevere and live by faith.
When any kind of Christian suffering comes this week — stop, remember the big picture and the final goal, pray for grace to stand firm.
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