I’ve been spending a great deal of time lately studying in the book of Hebrews. And that started me thinking about how seldom we hear discussion or sermons on the book. When was the last time you heard a sermon on Hebrews? I did a quick scan of the sermon archives of some of the celebrity pastors as well as the regulars that pop up on You tube and there is almost nothing about this important book.
What a shame that the Christian church has overlooked the only book in the New Testament that systematically unfolds the importance and ministry of Jesus our great High Priest. The primary reason is probably based upon the misconception that the book of Hebrews is difficult and hard to understand with its many references to Old Testament passages.
Another reason it is not studied as it should be is simply that modern Christianity likes easy things and it takes a bit of work to unravel Hebrews. The third reason swirls around the false notion that it has no real relevancy for us today. In reality that misconception couldn’t be further from the truth because the book is all about what Jesus is doing for us in his role of High Priest.
There are a few themes in Hebrews but the underlying theme that rings true from the first verse of chapter one to the end of the book is the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. He is our great High Priest who is the revealer and mediator of God’s grace to all humanity.
He is superior to angels, Moses, Aaron and the ancient prophets and priests because He is the fulfillment and final revelation of all their teachings. In fact, the words better and superior occur 15 times in Hebrews referring to the new covenant and Jesus our great High Priest.
The Christians to whom the book is written, according to Lane in his commentary on Hebrews 1-8, is probably a small house church somewhere outside of Palestine, maybe even in Rome itself. The church is made up of Jewish Hellenistic believers who have gone through persecution in the past but are unprepared for new hardships. Over the years they have become a bit indifferent and lax in their faith. Hebrews is a call back to worship God and trust in Him regardless of the problems that they are facing or going to face.
While the book of Hebrews is not as difficult to understand as people make it out to be it does require the willingness to do work in the Old Testament. Without reading and studying the many references the writer of Hebrews refers to we will have a difficult time putting everything together. However, if we do take the time to read the verses in the Old Testament, the book of Hebrews opens up very nicely.
There is no going back to their old forms of Judaism for the readers of Hebrews according to the books author. Everything about the Judaic system of sacrifice and offering was suspended and done away with when the true “Lamb of God” came to this world and became our true sacrifice for sin. Jesus is now the central focus of the new covenant living to make intercession for us.
We, as well as the original recipients, must look to Jesus whose atoning death, resurrection and ascension have opened the way into the heavenly sanctuary and into the very presence of God Himself. Even a superficial reading of Hebrews reveals that there are five great warnings about apostasy and rejection of the ministry of Jesus. The author, under inspiration, uses the rebellion of the children of Israel in the wilderness as examples of how people can turn their backs on God and become lost.
For me Hebrews gives great assurance. As I read through the book I draw great confidence that I am safe in the arms of God who loves me unconditionally. Hebrews is not a book about trying harder, being better and working my way into Heaven but instead it is about the finished work of Jesus at Calvary that saves a wretch like me. Now in Heaven He intercedes on my behalf and ministers as a great High Priest rushing to my rescue when I stumble and fall in the darkness of this world.
Jesus isn’t sitting in Heaven keeping track of every sin that we Christians commit. He died that those sins could be forgiven and forgotten. Instead He reaches out to us through the Holy Spirit to allow peace, love and joy to live within our hearts. The door to the heart of God is open and we are all invited in through the substitutionary death of Jesus. We have nothing to fear or be afraid of because Jesus stands as our High Priest interceding as our substitute before all the demands of the law. He fulfills all that I didn’t and couldn’t do.
Am I claiming cheap grace? No, not at all. The death of Jesus was anything but cheap – it cost everything! And from us that death demands a response. It leads us to the foot of the cross where our hearts are transformed from selfishness to loving God with all our hearts and our fellow man as ourselves. Grace is the most powerful concept in the whole world because through that grace we have reconciliation and peace with God our Father. Through Jesus we can come home again.
One of my favorite verses comes from Hebrews, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15, 16
Does that really sound like a God who is spending all His days in Heaven going over the books to see if we are worthy of Heaven? No, a thousand times no! That is God opening His arms wide and welcoming us home.
* Saeed Abedini, an American Pastor, has been in prison in Iran since September 2012 as well as at least 60 more Iranian Christians. Please go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on the persecution of Christians and as always we need to continue praying for these people.