Hebrews (part 4)
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The author of Hebrews concludes by exhorting people to put into practice the theological truths he has just explained.
Flow Assignment Hebrews 7:20-28
F. A better sacrifice 9:1-10:18
III. Concluding Exhortations 10:19-13:25 (point IV in Dr. Schreiner's outline)
Lecture 22: Hebrews Part 4
This is the 22nd lecture in the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)
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In Part 4 the author of Hebrews concludes by exhorting people to put into practice the theological truths he has just explained.
Flow Assignment Hebrews 7:20-28
Of course verse 21 is talking about Jesus who would be a priest forever and thus a guarantor of a better covenant than in the old covenant. The latter part of verse 21, ‘the Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, you are a priest forever,’ is the direct object of the sentence according to the lecturer. So verses 20 and 22 are related. Verse 23 doesn’t have a key word except for because and then 24b has ‘but’ and ‘on the other hand.’ Again, ‘because’ is a key word in verse 24 and then 25a we have ‘therefore’ another key word introducing the proposition. This is a great resurrection text, just like verses 23-25. Verse 26 begins with ‘for’ which is a key word and then a series of descriptions: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Verse 27a has a relative pronoun and then 27b a key word, because’ along with 27c having ‘when’ as a key word, when he offered up himself. We have a ‘for’ in 28a, a key word; for the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made ‘perfect forever.’ The ‘but’ is a key word that introduces ‘the word of the oath.’ There are lots of key words in this well-structured section of Hebrews.
F. A Better Sacrifice 9:11-10:18 (continued)
Here, it is talking about the sacrifice of Jesus. He is a greater high priest, and so he is greater than the angels who gave the Mosaic Law. Jesus is greater than Moses who was the mediator of that Law. Jesus is a greater priest than the Levitical priest so why are you thinking of going back to Judaism, the writer asked the people. Why are you thinking of leaving Jesus. Of course today people don’t think of leaving the Lord for Levitical reasons but they do leave Jesus to go back to their old life. Hebrews tells us of all the advantages of sticking with Jesus. He says in 9:11 that Jesus is the High Priest of the good things to come. In regards to the tent; it’s just a way of talking about God’s presence. So you have the tent or tabernacle on earth that represents the heavenly tabernacle but in regards to this heavenly tabernacle, there is no tent; it is not literal. The holy place is actually God’s presence; there is not a holy place in heaven; it is God’s presence. He took his own blood into God’s presence for the sacrifice. Verse 13, he argues that the Old Testament sacrifices were symbolic of outward fleshly cleansing. There is a more spiritual and deep cleansing needed and that’s accomplished by Christ. How much more will the blood of Christ who offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. So Christ’s sacrifice is better because it purifies who we really are, an internal cleansing and not just an external cleansing.
In verses 15 – 32, I think he is talking about the covenant we received. A covenant must be inaugurated with blood or death. That is how a covenant is sealed and so he talks about this in Exodus 24. That first covenant with Israel is sealed with blood and so too is Christ’s sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. But wait, didn’t some of the grain offering provide atonement in the Old Testament? So how can it say that without the shedding of blood when grain was used at one time? Well, the regular pattern was forgiveness through blood sacrifices. But wait, Hebrews is arguing that these animal sacrifices don’t ultimately forgive sins anyway. There is only one way for sins to be forgiven and that is through the blood of Christ. There is no contradiction here. He is saying that in the Old Testament, you have blood sacrifices of which there is nothing mystical. Blood reminds us of the specificity of death. Verse 23 continues the argument that the rituals were cleansed with animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are better. When he is talking about the heavenly things, he is not talking about anything literal. He is just drawing parallels. There are no heavenly things that require blood to be put on them. He is just saying that those Old Testament sacrifices are a symbol. Christ has entered into heaven itself, not copies of any earthly made things. Christ has entered into God’s very presence on our behalf. Some people, especially Roman Catholics have tried to take this literally. So the high priest entered the Holy of Hollies once a year with the blood of bulls and goats, but Jesus offered one definitive sacrifice (verse 26). With Jesus, you don’t need a repetition with the sacrifice. It happened once with Jesus at the end of age, that is, when Jesus died. It was one definitive sacrifice to put away sins forever. So why do you want to return to these Levitical sacrifices that is required to repeat over and over again.
And so we have verse 27, ‘and just as it is appointed for one man to die and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.’ However, you don’t get more than once chance; life is one time and the choices we make have eternal significance. Christ will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. His work is done and now we are waiting on the second coming.
In chapter 10, so was the law and sacrifices a bad thing? They were a good thing; but they were only a shadow of what was to come and Jesus became the very image, not a shadow and this image partakes of the reality. The shadow only points to the image. So the Old Testament sacrifices were good but temporary and their purposes were to point to something better. They were inherently imperfect because they did it year after year never making people perfect. If the Old Testament sacrifices made people perfect, they would have ceased being offers. If Old Testament sacrifices forgave sin, then what does this mean? Was this all that was needed for the forgiveness of sin? If this is so, Christ died for nothing. We can only say that they forgave sin in so far that they pointed to Christ. So in and of themselves, Old Testament sacrifices couldn’t forgive sins. The argument here is they could not have and never will. This is why he says in verse 4, that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. So ultimately, animal sacrifices do not and will not take away sins. It just can’t happen. So we have a reference to Psalm 40 now. When Christ came into the world, he didn’t come to offer sacrifices but to offer himself.
We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. This sacrifice as said above is definitive and final. In verse 11, we have a series of contrasts with the priest standing and Jesus sitting. Then we have the priest repeating and Jesus doing it once, a single sacrifice for sin and then sat down at the right hand of God. It is not all finished; Jesus is waiting until the end, not until his enemies are to be made a footstool for his feet. So it is finished because this one offering he perfected those being sanctified. This is a great promise! We don’t need anything else. He quotes Jeremiah 31 by saying, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ There is not further need for Levitical sacrifices so why do you want to return to something that never worked?
III. Concluding Exhortations 10:19-13:25
So he has proved that Jesus is the final definitive sacrifice and starting 10:19 he concludes his preaching. We now have conference to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. In the Old Testament, it was only the high priest who could go once a year into the presence of God but now, we can go anytime. We can draw near every day to God. Our hearts have been cleansed by Christ’s blood, along with our bodies. We are clean before God and thus enter his presence. You couldn’t do this in the same way in the Old Testament. John the Baptist could never have entered the Holy of Hollies but we can and even a greater Holy of Hollies than John the Baptist ever dreamed of. We have privileges that John the Baptist never had because we can enter God’s present every day and even every minute because of the blood of Jesus. Verse 23; let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. So don’t let go of the Christian faith; don’t let go of the only hope you have. So then, we need to encourage one another to love and good works. And how do we do this in church? Some were neglecting to meet with one another because they were falling away and they were worried about persecution. Meet with one another and encourage one another, the writer is saying. If anyone stops fellowshipping with believers and isolating themselves, it is telling. This can sometimes be used legalistically; you must be in church so many times a week. That’s not the point even though valuable; Hebrews is talking to those pulling away from the fellowship and committing apostasy and thus falling away from God.
Now we have the fourth big warning. If we sin willingly; this is apostasy. This can easily start by drifting away, slowly. In the Old Testament, we had unintentional sins, then intentional sins. Even these sins were forgivable, I think. So apostasy is falling away, turning away from the Gospel. If we do this, there is no longer a sacrifice for sins. This means that there is no forgiveness. If you turn away from Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for sins, then there is no forgiveness. If you turn away from the only forgiveness that is offered, then you will not be forgiven. And what is the prospect if you do this; there is the fury of fire that will consume the adversary, which is hell. To turn away from Jesus is a frightening thing! In turning away, you are stepping on Jesus and you are insulting the spirit of grace. This is eternal judgement.