HEBREWS 1-3 The next few weeks I’ll be teaching from an old commentary I wrote a few years back [2007-8]- The notes at the bottom of the chapters- and post- are new [as well as the videos].
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NEW NOTE- In the study of the bible- there are debates about who wrote the letters of the New Testament.
In the field of higher criticism- it gets a bit silly at times.
I just finished an on line course from a respected scholar out of Yale university.
He taught from the higher criticism perspective- I enjoyed the course- though I did not agree with lots of his conclusions.
At one point he questioned whether Paul wrote the middle chapter of one of the letters attributed to Paul.
Yet he did believe the first- and last chapters were by Paul.
For the most part- we believe that the letters in the bible- that say in them ‘written by Paul’ are from Paul [or Peter, James, Etc.].
But- Hebrews leaves the authors name out- so some debate who wrote it.
Tertullian- an early church father [2/3rd century] attributed it to Barnabus- Paul’s companion that we read about in the book of Acts-
For about 1500 years- till the time of the Reformation- most Christian scholars attributed it to Paul.
Hebrews is written in a high form of Greek [which is another way we determine who wrote the letters- tough this is not always accurate.
Many say John the apostle did not write Revelation- because the form of Greek used is much lower than the other writings of John- yet- there is internal witness that John [the apostle] wrote it.
In John’s writings [gospel- 1st, 2nd and 3rd John] he speaks about Jesus as the Word [Logos] and this theme is seen in Revelation too].
So- while we don’t know for sure- I personally stick with the authorship of Paul the apostle.
I have been wanting to overview this book for a long time. I believe there are a lot of misconceptions from Hebrews. Often time’s modern translations take older books of the Bible and want to make them relevant for our day. This can be both good and bad.
I like the message Bible, but for in depth study it doesn’t really work. There are certain things that must be interpreted in context of the time and place when the book was written. Hebrews is one of the most important New Testament books to ‘read in context’. I wont go over every verse in this short commentary, I will hit the high points of various chapters and try to show you what I mean by ‘reading it in context’.
I believe it is possible that this book was Paul’s ‘open letter’ to the first century Jewish community, this is quite possibly why it goes unsigned. The ‘Judaizers’ had so polluted the minds of their fellow Jews against Paul ‘he speaks against Moses and our law’ type thing, that if Paul signed this letter, there would be little chance that the intended audience would read it!
If you read a book on auto mechanics, and tried to make it relevant for the human body, it wouldn’t work. For instance if you spoke on the engine of a car, and then tried to ‘translate’ that and equate it with the human heart, you would have problems. But if you left it in context and then applied the concept of maintenance and the need for clean fuel lines, and then applied it to the human need for clean arteries, well then that would be OK.
So I believe when we read Hebrews, and don’t try to make it ‘fit’ Gentile believers, then it works. You still get great principles from the ‘manual’, but you understand that it is not speaking directly to the Gentile church. God bless you guys, I hope you get something from it. John.
NEW NOTES AT END OF CHAPTER-
‘God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. Many years ago when I was going to a fundamental Baptist Church, they would interpret this passage in a ‘cessationist’ way. They would say because God says in the past he spoke by prophets, but now by his Son. That this means he doesn’t speak thru Prophets any more. The Prophets here are Old Testament voices. In Ephesians it says after Jesus ascended up on high he gave gifts unto men, some Apostles, some Prophets, etc. The fact that Jesus made Prophets after the ascension teaches us that there were to be a whole new class of New Testament Prophets that were different from the old. I find it strange to believe that Jesus would create a whole new class of gifts, and then take them away as soon as the Bible is complete. Why would Paul give instruction in the New Testament on how Prophets would operate [Corinthians] and then to say ‘as soon as this letter is canonized with the others, all this instruction will be useless’ it just doesn’t seem right.
The reason Paul is saying in the past God used Prophets, but today his Son. Paul is showing that the Jewish Old testament was a real communication from God to man. But in this dispensation of Grace, God is speaking the realities that the Prophets were looking to. Paul is saying ‘thank God for the Old Jewish books and law, they point to something, his name is Jesus’! The Prophets [Old Testament] served a purpose; they brought us from the shadows to the present time [1st century] now lets move on into the reality. Now you must see and hear the Son in these last days. ‘Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person…when he by himself purged our sins SAT DOWN on the right hand of the majesty on high’ here we are at the beginning stages of themes that we will see later in the letter. The significance of Jesus ‘sitting down’ will be contrasted with the Old testament priests ‘standing up’. Paul [for the record I think Paul wrote this letter, from here on I will probably just refer to the writer as Paul] will teach that the ‘standing up’ of the Levitical Priests represented an ‘incomplete priesthood’ the reason Jesus sat down was because there would be no more sacrifice, and no more priesthood made up of many priests who would die year after year. This doesn’t mean there would be no more New Testament priests as believers, but that there would be no more Old Testament system. Paul will find spiritual truths like this all thru out the Old Testament.
Some theologians feel that Paul is a little too loose with these free comparisons that he seems to ‘pull out of the hat’, for the believer who holds to the canon of scripture, it is the Word of God. ‘Being made so much better than the angels…but unto the Son he saith “thy throne O God is forever and ever, a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy Kingdom”. Here Paul introduces another theme that will be seen thru out this letter. The superiority of Jesus over angels. Why is this important? Most believers know that Jesus is greater than angels, don’t they? Here we see why context is important to understand this letter. In Jewish tradition it is believed that the law was given to Moses by God thru the mediation of angels. Some say ‘well, we don’t use Jewish tradition, we use scripture’. First, Paul used anything he could to win the argument. Second, if we believe Hebrews is an inspired book, then when we read later on that the law given thru angels received a recompense if broken, then right here you have scripture [Hebrews] testifying that God did use angels to ‘transmit’ the law to some degree. Now, why is it important for gentiles to see this? Well it really isn’t! But it is vital for a first century Jew to see it. If Paul can show that Jesus is greater than the angels, then he is beginning to make the argument that the New Covenant is greater than the Old.
Here is the context. Moses law is highly revered in the first century Jewish community, so here Paul says ‘how much better is the law/word given to us from Gods Son’. Since Jesus is much better than the angels, therefore pay closer attention to the words spoken thru Gods Son, he is greater than the angels! ‘But to which of the angels said he “sit at my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool” we end chapter one with the theme of Jesus being better than the angels, yet in chapter 2 something funny happens, Paul will make the argument of Jesus being “a little lower than the angels” lets see what this means.
NEW NOTES- 4-2015
We see God having created all things thru Christ ‘the express image of his person- by whom also he made the worlds’.
Jesus is called the WORD of God in scripture- the Greek word- for ‘word’ is Logos.
We read in the bible that God made all things- but also that Christ made all things-
Is this a contradiction?
For the first 3-4 centuries of Christianity- as you study the early church councils-
The early church struggled over how to view the relationships between God and Jesus
These debates raged- and at times each side viewed the other as Heretics.
I think it was a mistake to be so quick to judge those as heretics- who were having difficulty in expressing in finite words- the great mystery of God and Christ.
In Genesis we read that God spoke all things into existence- so- here we see God’s Word- Logos [Christ] as being the instrumental cause of creation.
In John chapter one we read that Jesus was the Word- in the beginning- who was with God- and was God.
I’ll try and simplify it [not an easy task to say the least].
God- who is Spirit- spoke- and this expression of God- his Word- is also referred to as Christ-
Christ/Jesus is the Word of God made flesh- and it is thru his humanity [incarnation] that we do indeed see God in ‘the flesh’-
Yes- by Him- all things were made.
We see a theme in chapter 1- that will run thru the whole letter-
HE SAT DOWN- In Hebrews we are seeing the superiority of the New Covenant over the old- and there will be many comparisons to show how the Old Covenant- priests- sacrifices- the law itself- was less than what we get in the New Covenant-
And the reality that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God- shows us that he was the last- and final High Priest- and the whole system of Priests under the law are now done.
We will read that the Old Testament priests stood [signifying that there work was ongoing- meaning they would have to keep offering sacrifices that could never put away sin].
But Jesus- after he offered himself- sat down.
All thru this letter we will see these comparisons-
LOTS OF QUOTES- We also see a lot of quotes from the Psalms in this letter- just like we saw in the Romans study.
There is a debate over whether or not Paul wrote the letter- I think he did.
One of the reasons is the author of Hebrews does the same thing as Paul in the other letters- lots of cross references from the Old Testament books- and it just seems to me to have the same flavor as Paul’s other letters.
Psalms 2, 104, 45, etc.
NEW NOTES AT BOTTOM
.HOW SHOULD WE INTERPRET SCRIPTURE?
.PSLAMS, ISAIAH ‘REVEALED’ THRU CHRIST
‘Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at anytime we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation that was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by them that heard him’. Now, we see the contrast. If the word spoken ‘by angels’ [law] was so strict in judgment, then how much more will God hold responsible those who reject the word spoken by the Son [gospel], being he is so much better than the angels? This is the theme taught in chapter one. That’s why chapter 2 starts with ‘therefore’ he is saying because of all this truth of the superiority of Jesus to angels, don’t reject the word of the Son! Also now we begin to see context. The ‘not neglecting so great salvation’ is really speaking to Israel [Hebrews]. It is not telling believers not to neglect salvation or they will be lost, it is telling first century Israel if you reject/neglect this true gospel of Jesus as Messiah, then YOU will be lost.
Many of the verses thru out this study will begin to make a lot of sense when taken in context. We will do much more of this in the coming chapters. ‘Thou madest him a little lower than the angels, thou crownest him with glory’ ‘thou hast put all things under his feet’ ‘we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man’. Now we see the doctrine of Jesus being made lower than the angels. Does this contradict chapter one? No! He was first made ‘lower’ [became a man and humbled himself more than any other man-Philippians] and for this reason God gave him the highest position at his right hand. He was made lower so he could ‘taste death for every man’ here Paul gets right into the central message of the gospel, that he will spend the rest of this letter explaining. He realizes that 1st century Israel must transition into the death and resurrection of Jesus. He doesn’t take the common evangelical approach to Israel, which seems to defend and extol her on a regular basis. Paul sees her ‘lost ness’ and makes every effort to bring her into the gospel. Jesus died for EVERY man, Israel, so you too must transition into this one new man that he desires to create.
‘For as much than as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also likewise took part of the same, that thru death he might DESTROY him who had the power of death, that is the devil: and deliver them who thru fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage’ did you know that Jesus already destroyed the devil? The greatest act of deliverance and redemption that will ever take place, already took place! Evangelicals can be notorious for looking to the 2nd coming as an ‘escape hatch’. Sometimes the 2nd coming is looked to as the event that ‘destroys the devil’ sorry, but he has already been destroyed. Now there definitely will be a future aspect to his final judgment, but its inevitability is sealed by the fact of the death and resurrection of the Son of God!
These verses also say that Jesus delivered us from him who had the power of death, that is the devil. Jesus taught in the gospels that God had the power to take life or spare it. Fear God. Then how can the devil have ‘the power of death’. The devil has used death as a ‘sword of Damocles’ over the heads of people. He works thru intimidation. How many people live their whole lives in fear of getting cancer, or some other disease? They often go to extreme lengths to do all they can to avoid death. This type of self survival can be obsessive. People will run back and forth on hopes of escaping some sickness. The devil often accuses people ‘you have this sickness’ or ‘you might get it’. He had ‘power’ thru deception. He knew man did sin, and one of the prices for sin was death. So the enemy constantly accuses the saints. And one of his main weapons is ‘you will die because of what you did’. Jesus dealt with this ultimate fear thru tasting death himself and coming thru the other side. This is why Peter was so eager to go thru death after he saw Jesus do it. Peter was such a chicken before, that he would deny he even knew Jesus, to a girl, just to save his skin. After the resurrection, it was all over! They were convinced that death had no more power over them. They would die someday, but it wasn’t the final curtain.
‘Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people, for in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to help them that are tempted’ One of the other reasons why Jesus took on flesh was so he could empathize with man. Paul wrote the Corinthians and told them that the things that they suffered were for a purpose. The purpose was that after they went thru stuff, God would show them comfort. They then would be able to comfort others with the same comfort that God showed them. Later in Hebrews we also read that every priest taken from men had infirmity. Therefore he could identify with man.
We will also read that Jesus was in all points tempted like us. So here we see that Jesus incarnation allowed him to identify with man and to be faithful to have compassion and understanding with mans weakness. Often times in Christianity you will have well meaning ministers give up on the addict. A lot of times you hear ‘well, if they were serious about God they would do right’ or ‘if they only made a quality decision at the altar’ and things of this nature. Often times those who have not been thru addiction cannot really understand the life of a person who will steal from his own family, go to prison, lose everything he has ever earned. And then get out after 10 years and do it all again! Jesus had compassion because he walked in our shoes. He knew the terrible draw of sin and temptation, and he asks us to come to him for help because he knows what the struggles are like.
Psalms 8, 22. Isaiah 8- Notice how the author freely quotes from Psalms and Isaiah- just like we saw in the book of Romans-
Notice how the writer applies the quotes to Jesus himself ‘I will sing praises to you in the midst of the congregation’ ‘made a little lower than the angels’ etc.
I just finished another course- by a Yale university scholar-
He taught from the ‘historical criticism’ view of scripture.
This type of reading of the bible arose out of the German universities in the late19th- early 20th centuries.
It had some good aspects to it- but in many ways it was an unfair criticism [taking apart] of the biblical authors.
I mention that to say when we see the New Testament writers interpreting these Old Testament scriptures in this way- Those of us who believe the bible to be the inspired Word of God.
Then we don’t see it as a ‘miss-reading’. For instance- critics say that some of these verses are not speaking of Christ- now- that may be true in the general sense- when the Jews first read these verses from the Old Testament.
But we- Christians- see it as God revealing the true fulfillment of these prophecies- in Psalms and Isaiah.
So- the critics will note that these verses applied in a general way- and not to Christ.
But the believer sees it as God using the writers of the New Testament- under inspiration- as revealing to us how the Old Testament is now being fully revealed thru Christ.
Psalm 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalm 8:5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Psalm 8:6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
Psalm 22:22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
Isaiah 8:18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
TRUE SABBATH REST.
‘Wherefore HOLY BRETHREN, partakers of the heavenly calling’ I want to submit to you that these terms found thru out Hebrews are really speaking of the privileged position of the 1st century Jew before his final rejection of Messiah as a nation. Most times we read these verses and debate whether it is speaking of someone who is ‘saved’ or not. Later we will see this in chapter 6 ‘those who were once enlightened and partakers of the Holy Ghost’ all these terms can apply to Israel as Gods peculiar people and chosen nation. I feel Paul is still addressing them this way because they are still in a transition stage in the 1st century. There is still hope that they will receive Messiah as a nation. All these terms are referring to Israel as being Gods special people who came for a special purpose. Ultimately they will not live up to this calling [yet!] because they will reject Jesus as a nation, though there will be a remnant of Jews who will believe. So as we read thru out Hebrews we will look at all these privileged expressions as speaking of Israel as Gods special nation.
This will clear up the arguments that many believers have over portions of this letter. ‘Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus…and Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things that would come later…but Christ as a Son over his own house WHO’S HOUSE ARE WE if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm unto the end’ a main theme from Paul is to compare Moses and Jesus. Paul will take lots of Old testament verses and quote them in this letter. I believe more than any other New Testament letter. He quotes them freely, not even giving the chapter and verse, he says ‘somewhere it is said’ and then goes right into it. Sort of like what I do on my blog! The point is Paul is seeing so many shadows of the Old Testament fulfilled thru Christ that his mind is exploding in revelation. It is almost like he can’t stop proving this point. Jesus is seen all thru out the Old Testament and Paul is obsessed with showing this to the first century Jew, his own cultural family. He says in Romans that he would be cursed himself if he knew it would open the eyes of his nation. Paul also reveals that Israel can become this house, if she ‘holds on to the end’. We will read stuff like this a lot in Hebrews. This causes some to read the letter as in if Paul were writing Christians.
Jesus taught in John 15 that the branches would be cut off that would not bring fruit. Paul also said that Israel, the natural branches, were cut off so we [gentiles] would be grafted in. These terms of ‘holding on, staying steadfast’ can be applied to Israel in the sense that Paul is pleading ‘you have a few thousand year history with God. God has sent you prophets and anointed your kings with his Spirit [by the way this is why in chapter 6 it will say those who were once enlightened by the Spirit and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost- no other nation on earth had the Spirit of God actively administrating their government like Israel- the argument isn’t whether it’s talking about people who were ‘truly saved’ or not!] you, Israel, have been walking with him for a long time, DON’T FALL AWAY NOW!’ So in context the ‘holding on’ can describe the transition stage. Don’t fall away after all these years of waiting for Messiah as a national hope and promise. You will see Paul use this argument in Acts when he says ‘you guys are accusing me of heresy, and I am just preaching the fulfillment of the promise that our fathers have been waiting for, for over thousands of years’.
‘Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost says, today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted me and saw my works FORTY YEARS… so I sware in my wrath they shall not enter into my rest’ Now, a common theme is to teach that Christians cant get the promised land because they don’t have faith. It is taught that Israel in the wilderness are a type of believers and to get the promise you must believe. While all this can be true, this is not the context in Hebrews. Paul is trying to get Israel to BELIEVE in Christ for righteousness, as opposed to her trying to work for it [Romans 9-10].
Paul sees the story of Israel not entering into the Promised Land as an example of the danger of not entering into the new covenant by failing to believe in Jesus and be justified by faith. He will later do this in chapter 11, the great faith chapter. He will show Israel how all of her Patriarchs received A GOOD REPORT [justified] by faith. I will explain it when I get there. So keep in mind that Israel in the wilderness is a type of Israel in the first century, and Paul is trying to tell them ‘just like our fore fathers couldn’t get into the promised land because of UNBELIEF, so too you are in danger of stumbling over the righteousness of God which is by faith, not of works!’ I also find it interesting that Paul includes the 40 year period of judgment. It was around 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus until the destruction of the temple in AD 70.
It was a prophetic sign, a sort of probationary period for Israel as a nation. It was like God said ‘40 years are now up, the temple is going to be destroyed just like my Son said, those who haven’t moved on and made the transition into the ‘new temple’ are now being judged’. Israel hasn’t had true temple worship since! ‘Wherefore the Holy Ghost saith, today if you will hear his voice harden not your hearts [as opposed to the voice of Moses which is the law] as in the provocation, the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me and saw my works FORTY years…so I sware in my wrath they shall not enter into my rest, take heed brethren [fellow Jews] lest there be in any of you AN EVIL HEART OF UNBELIEF IN DEPARTING FROM THE LIVING GOD’ We are going to enter a theme that speaks of Israel not entering Gods true rest because of unbelief, not because of a lack of works [law].
The apostle will begin to use the story of Joshua entering into the Promised Land as a story of Jesus [which the Old Testament translation of Joshua means Jesus] and his offering true rest [grace] to 1st century Israel. The fact is the only ones who entered in were the ones who believed. The unbelievers [all the adults except for Joshua and Caleb] all died out over a 40 year period in the wilderness. Just like many of the first century Jews would reject Messiah for 40 years until the destruction of their temple. Jesus said we must become like little children to inherit Gods Kingdom. The children of the older generation entered into the Promised Land, the parents died. Why did they die Paul? Was it because they didn’t have the law or do ‘works’? NO! They died because of unbelief. Paul is stressing that the 1st century Jew is also in danger of ‘not entering into rest [grace] because of unbelief’. We often read these verses applying them to Christians, which is OK. But when you read them in context, then you see the real meaning. This will help later when we read others passages. We wont argue over Arminian or Calvinistic interpretations of stuff, we will see that neither one is right as it pertains to certain portions of this letter. ‘And to whom sware he that they should not enter into rest, but to them THAT BELIEVED NOT, SO WE SEE THAT THEY COULD NOT ENETR IN BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF’ Do you see the significance of this argument? Brilliant Paul is using all of these well known Old Testament stories to convince Israel that they must believe [justification by faith] in order to ‘inherit the land’ [the promise of eternal life]. This is the whole context of Hebrews. That’s why when modern preachers use all these verses to say you must believe to get material things, that they are way off the mark. It is true that faith does obtain things. And when we believe God for healing and finances and answers to prayer that it is vital to believe. But so many modern teachers have taught these promises as getting stuff, while in context you begin to see the true meaning.
Once again we the writer freely quoting- and ‘interpreting’ this passage from Psalms- and showing that the sin that prevented Israel form obtaining rest- was UNBELIEF.
Why is this so important?
If you remember the Romans teaching I did last- Paul stresses that the righteousness of God comes by faith- not of works ‘lest any man should boast’.
So- this letter to the Hebrews [Jewish people] is intended to show them the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old.
And the way you obtain the benefits of the New Covenant [redemption] is thru faith.
The passage from Psalms recounts the history of the Jewish people- and those who did not ‘get in’ [Promised Land] were those who did not have faith.
We also read how Paul teaches that the Promised Land spoken of was still a future event/place-
Paul uses Psalms again and says ‘If Joshua gave them the rest [Canaan- book of Joshua] then God would not have spoken of another day’.
Here Paul says the true day ‘of rest’ also referred to as the true Sabbath day [age of grace- not an actual day] is fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah- and just like God ‘rested the 7th day from all his works’- so we too can rest from our works [the law] and also enter into rest- thru the ‘new Joshua’ [Jesus].
Psalm 95:7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
Psalm 95:8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
Psalm 95:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
Psalm 95:10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
Psalm 95:11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
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