The first two things we would typically do when beginning a study of a book of the Bible is identify the writer and the audience he was addressing. That’s usually easy to do by reading the first paragraph or two. Sometimes we need to add historical context in order to understanding what was happening in the lives of the intended audience. I’m going to try to keep this introduction short and get into Hebrews chapter 1 instead of dedicated a post to it. I don’t know who wrote Hebrews. If you believe the Apostle Paul wrote Hebrews, I’m not going to argue with you. As a well-studied and passionate Pharisee he would have certainly had the background into the Old Covenant. We also see numerous examples in his epistles that relate the ministry of Christ to the Old Testament examples, descriptions of Jesus and Adam as types of first men, and exhortations that that the grace that comes through Jesus Christ is superior to the Law. If you do not believe that Paul wrote Hebrews then I will not argue with you either. In the 13 New Testament epistles written by Paul he clearly identifies himself as the author and the writer of Hebrews is left anonymous. That would be a divergence from his usual style. I will not engage in any debate over the authorship of Hebrews but will defer a statement many Christians would do well to adopt and apply to a variety of topics: the Bible doesn’t speak to that. If it were important for us to know then God would not have allowed that detail to be lost to history. As far as identifying the audience is concerned it is more than suggested by the title. Hebrews is addressed to Jewish believers that have accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah and offers evidence that this was always God’s plan. Continue reading
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. –1 Thessalonians 5:7-11
The Old Testament prophets had three different types of messages. Most people think of prophets as predicting future events but that’s only one thing they did. The prophet was the spokesperson for God when he had a message for Israel. Sometimes the prophet brought a message of warning. Jeremiah and Jonah offer examples. “This is what you are doing, this is what God wants you to do. It’s not too late to repent.” Sometimes Israel heeded those warnings, often they did not. Sometimes the prophet brought a word of encouragement. “You are a doing a good job, keep up the good work.” Some days are harder than others and we need to be reminded that our help comes from the Lord.
Sometimes Paul talks about running the race that is set before us. At other times he speaks of pressing toward the mark. Sometimes the race is hard and we don’t run as much as we lean into it and strain. The path is uphill and into the wind. The world gives us enough to push against we certainly don’t need to make things hard on each other. I’ve been in church my whole life and I’ll be honest with you: sometimes church people are the worst. Paul tells us in 1 Thes. 5 to encourage one another. Build one another up. Sometimes we just need a pat on the back and an “atta boy” or “atta girl” to remind us we are not alone. God is always with us but we as believers need to bear one another’s burdens as well. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
I am about to start a sermon series on the book of Hebrews, and will endeavor to share those messages here. Hebrews ties together the Old and New Testaments by showing how Jesus is carrying forward into the church age the work started by God among the Hebrew people. Written to a Jewish audience, the letter to the Hebrews strives to prove that Christianity is the continuation of Judaism, and not something else entirely. If you have ever questioned why a Christian should read or study the Old Testament, this book will be an eye-opener. Quite simply, most of what God was doing in the Old Testament was meant to help us understand the work of Christ in the New. Continue reading
“History repeats itself” is actually a terrible misquote. It leads students to ask questions like “If history repeats itself, why do I have to learn it the first time?” No, the actually quote is “Those who do not learn history (the past) are condemned to repeat it.” Google George Santayana. The point is that if we learn from history, we can avoid making the same mistakes. Here’s an example of New Testament people not learning their Old Testament history. Continue reading