Believers often talk about open doors and closed doors in the Christian life. Although we are blessed by the idea of the direct guidance of God, often we are confused when a door is soundly shut to our planned agenda. It may even be perceived as personal rejection.
Without a doubt a door has been closed to the Hebrew Christians in the first century. Their plan to return to their old comfortable lives for a period of time to avoid persecution has received a resounding “NO” from the author of Hebrews. This is not a good plan. This door should be closed forever.
Often we say that when God closes one door, he will eventually open another door to a better plan. As the book of Hebrews progresses, a new plan begins to unfold that sounds like a wonderful new life. Of course the persecution is still there and it is not an easy life in some respects. However, the new life is filled with wonderful promises and divine helps. The fact that this door leads to eternal life makes it irresistible.
When Jesus left this earth, He promised that he would never leave His followers or forsake them. It is the role of believers to walk through this new door and learn to appropriate His help and His presence to make their new life successful. It appears that the Hebrew Christians have received abundant instruction to ensure that this new open door will lead to a good life with Christ ever present. They have not been forsaken.
Now the author signs off with confidence that his readers have what it takes to move forward to greater maturity. It is usually not a lack of guidance that trips us up; it is a failure to walk through the door of faith and do what we know to do. We are left with a choice at the end of this book and at the beginning of each new day. Will believers cooperate and grow? God is ever drawing us to the right choice.
The author of Hebrews has developed a logical and thorough presentation of the superiority of the new covenant. As was mentioned in the beginning, this is an early apologetic for the wonderful new life in Christ that was planned before the creation of the world. A final challenge is presented to the readers followed by final greetings.
In this final lesson, after Chapter 13 is closed, we will do a short recap of the entire book to firm up in our minds what the author has developed so expertly. God has developed a magnificent plan – would we have expected anything less from Him??
DAY ONE: HEBREWS AUTHOR ENDS WITH FINAL BLESSING & FOND FAREWELLS.
READ: Hebrews 13:21-22
A. AUTHOR’S BENEDICTION SUMMARIZES BLESSINGS.
The author of Hebrews has now poured out his heart to these persecuted Christians who were about to make a terrible mistake. He makes one final effort to summarize the great new life and the blessings they can expect from their loving God. Here is what has been won for them:
- Peace from God (v. 20)
There will always be turmoil on this earth until Jesus comes again. Jesus prophesied wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6). In addition, the world will hate the followers of Jesus. Even though we are instructed to try to live at peace with all men, it will not always be possible. The peace that Jesus won for believers is peace with God and an internal peace. This is now presented as a parting gift or blessing or benediction that is the greatest blessing any human being could have on earth. The peace that comes from God is eternal and satisfies the deepest longing of the human spirit.
- Resurrection power (v. 20)
The resurrection of Jesus brought about a blessed hope for all believers of their own resurrection. It demonstrated the power of God to bring new life where there was once death. When we are given new life, we enter into the eternal covenant that places us in the family of God forever. This is the anticipation that helps us to endure suffering and sacrifice on this earth. One day we will be resurrected to live in the new city of God (v.14) that will be too beautiful and too wonderful for words. Also, this same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in believers from the moment of their new birth.
- A loving shepherd (v. 20)
As we travel through this life on our way to our new home, we have an attentive shepherd to guide, protect and comfort us. Peter calls him the chief shepherd (I Peter 5:4). He calls Himself the good shepherd (John 10:11). He knows each believer intimately and calls us by name. This relationship is not only endearing, it is vital to our everyday peace and joy.
- Personal equipping (v. 21)
God’s purpose can be accomplished in our lives because our shepherd is the one who equips all believers with gifts, opportunities and calling to do kingdom work (1 Corinthians 12:4-7) What a great privilege it is to be included in building up the body of Christ to prepare believers for service and for life in God’s eternal kingdom.
- Personal maturity (v. 21)
All through the book of Hebrews there has been a call to maturity. It is God’s desire for his children to grow up well so they can move forward to do the work that He has planned for them. His desire for us is to become sanctified by the internal work of the Holy Spirit, the personal prayers of our Lord Jesus, and the supernatural intervention of God so that we are pleasing to a Holy Father. This is a standard that no mere human can attain, but with God believers can rise to a standard that will bring great glory to Himself. We can, at last, do the very thing we were created to do! We can be the glorious creatures He designed us to be!
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
1. According to this passage, what should be the goal of every believer?
2. God works in us to produce a holy character. What should be the result of His work? (Galatians 5:22-23)
3. Which of the victories won for us in the teaching above is most encouraging to you? Why?
4. What can you pray for yourself and other believers that will make this benediction a reality?
DAY TWO: AUTHOR’S PLEA IS FOR A SERIOUS RESPONSE.
READ: Hebrews 13:22
A. THE HEBREW CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO CHOOSE.
The author points out that this letter has been short. Perhaps he feels that it may have seemed abrupt and too impersonal to his readers. However, he has already pointed out the urgency that he feels because of the persecution and the fears he has for their current situation. This is obviously a time for quick action and to-the-point instruction. This is not a time to waste words. We understand this kind of feeling when our own children are facing a grave danger. We sit down with them and get right to the point – warning and pleading with them to take the right course of action.
Now, once again, the author makes a final plea for his readers to seriously consider his words of warning and instruction. There is much at stake as they decide how to respond to this letter. The purpose of knowing is doing.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
1. What was the source of Hezekiah’s success in his early reign as king? (II Chronicles 31:21)
2. What does Paul say was the reason that Jesus was able to complete His work? (Romans 6:16)
3. What was the secret of the good reputation the Romans had developed? (Romans 16:19)
4. What is the great challenge that John gives to us today? (II John 1:6)
5. How faithful are you to quickly obey the words of the New Testament when you learn what is pleasing to God?
DAY THREE: AUTHOR’S FAREWELL REFLECTS A CHRISTIAN BOND.
READ: Hebrews 13:23-25
A. BELIEVERS ARE ENCOURAGED TOWARD GREATER UNITY.
The Christian family is one all over the world. The author assumes that his readers would be concerned about the imprisonment of one of their brothers in Christ. He is pleased to announce that Timothy has been released and may possibly be visiting them soon. What a comfort it must have been in the early days of Christianity to hear the good news of answered prayer and to be able to share stories of God’s grace with fellow believers in other parts of the world.
The author now sends personal greetings to their leaders and all others. He sends greetings from fellow believers in Italy. He concludes with a plea for God to extend divine grace to help them succeed.
B. BELIEVERS NEED A SENSE OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD.
Jesus prayed for unity in the brotherhood in the last hours before his crucifixion. It pleases Him when we love each other and live in harmony. It pleases Him when we encourage each other with personal sharing about what God has done in answer to prayer. It is a great privilege to be a part of this growing family of God – after all this will be our “forever family” in heaven.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
1. What do the following scriptures say about how we are to behave toward one another in the body?
- Romans 12:10
- Romans 12:16
- Romans 13:8
- Romans 14:13
- Romans 15:7
- Romans 15:14
- I Corinthians 1:10
- Galatians 5:13
- Ephesians 4:32
- Ephesians 5:19
- Ephesians 5:21
2. Read Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17:20-26. What impresses you in this prayer?
3. Which of the actions in question one do you need to follow this very week?
4. How often do you pray for greater unity in your church fellowship?
DAY FOUR: AUTHOR’S FINAL WORD IS A PRAYER FOR GRACE.
READ: Hebrews 13:25
A. BELIEVERS NEED GRACE TO SUCCEED.
The epistles in the New Testament usually followed a certain form, as do our letters today. However, it seems that the words in the Bible were never just formality. Every word seems to be carefully chosen to convey an important meaning and reality in the lives of believers as Christianity is being born in the first century. We should never just quickly skip over the words in the salutations or benedictions. There is always something vital to learn in the words that were chosen.
In this letter, the author ends with a prayer for grace to be with each one of the readers. Grace from God is the reason believers are able to survive and succeed in a hostile world. Believers should remember to pray for grace for themselves and everyone on their prayer lists each day. God stands ready and waiting to bless us in countless ways as we move through each challenging day.
Certainly the Hebrew believers needed this grace, and they needed to remember that it was available as they began to move toward maturity.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
1. Look up the meaning of grace in a dictionary.
2. Why do you think God wants us to pray for grace for ourselves and others?
3. How have you experienced God’s grace in your life this week?
4. Will you pray for grace for yourself and one other person every day this week?
DAY FIVE: AUTHOR’S DEFENSE OF CHRISTIANITY IS COMPLETE.
REVIEW — Hebrews Chapters 1-13
A. THE PERFECT HAS COME TO PROVIDE ABUNDANT LIFE.
With the close of Hebrews, the author has completed his CASE FOR CHRISTIANITY. This particular apologetic has closely compared Christianity with Judaism. Other types of apologetics may take a slightly different approach but this comparison provides some valuable information not found elsewhere in Scripture about the High Priestly ministry of Jesus in Heaven at God’s right hand. This comparison also gives us some practical warnings that can apply to discouraged believers in any age. What are the major points that we have covered?
1. The superiority of the person of Christ
Many great leaders and prophets and priests and angels had places of great importance in the religion of the Jews. They served God admirably in their times and places. But their work was only preparatory until the Messiah came.
But now Jesus has come to take God’s plan to the next level. He is the final word, the Son of God, the heir of all things, the creator, very God Himself. He provided the required sacrifice for sin that completely removes the sin and guilt. He upholds all things and has been elevated to the right hand of God to assume a position of divine leadership. He is God’s prophet, priest and king to serve the eternal flock of God.
2. The superiority of the Life in Christ
The secret of the successful life on earth is FAITH. Many people who have gone before have exhibited great faith in the promises of God during the preparation phase of God’s plan. Now that the perfect has come, faith in the redeemer promises greater blessings.
Believers have a permanent high priest who has immediate access to God and has resurrection power to produce in believers a new ability to love and live a righteous, devoted life until He returns to take us to our eternal destiny. Believers have a blessed hope that is unending.
3. Warnings to keep believers on the right path
God is faithful to warn humanity about the dangers that they face in this life. As we faithfully strive to follow His ways, He reveals possible dangers. All through the Old Testament He sent prophets to reveal patterns of behavior that were leading to disaster. In the New Testament He has repeatedly warned about false prophets and the work of the Devil in trying to destroy the plan of God and disarm believers to prove them ineffective. Here are the warnings from Hebrews that are still effective today:
- The danger of drifting away 2:1-3
- The danger of unbelief 3:7 – 4:13
- The danger of chronic immaturity 5:11-13
- The danger of apostasy 6:4-6
- The danger of willful sin. 10:26-31
We have been duly instructed about the beauty of the new life in Christ and the dangers that can cause us to fail to reach our potential. Christianity is a doctrine to be believed, a life to be lived and a gospel to be shared. Let us strive to run the race well.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
1. What word is a theme of the book of Hebrews from the following passages?
- Hebrews 2:10
- Hebrews 5:9
- Hebrews 10:1
- Hebrews 10:14
- Hebrews 11:40
2. Carefully reread the prayer in Hebrews 13:20-21.
3. Pray this prayer for yourself each day this week.
As we close, we can only bow down and thank God for this beautiful book of wise and careful teaching regarding our Lord and Savior. The perfect has come to provide abundant life – it is ours to live if we keep moving toward maturity. As we yield to the Holy Spirit within, God will continue to do his amazing work of transforming us into the image of Christ.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
God will put into us what He wants to get out of us. (Hebrews 13:21)
Allow Him to have His way in your life in the little daily choices to love well and trust mightily. See how He will transform you into the person He created you to be.
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