Hebrews - Lesson 15

Hebrews 8:1-6

This is a transitional passage linking the ideas of appointment of Jesus as high priest and the superior offering of Jesus. The structure of the tabernacle and the sacrificial system illustrates God's desire for relationship with people.

Lesson 15
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Hebrews 8:1-6

Hebrews 8:1-6

I. Review

II. Superior offering

A. Heb 8:1-2

B. Heb 8:3-6

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Class Resources
  • Hebrews was written to give strong encouragement for those who were struggling in the Christian life, not primarily for the purpose of being a theological treatise for future generations. The main message of the author of Hebrews is, "God speaks effectively to us through Jesus."

  • The purpose of Hebrews is to encourage those who are faltering spiritually to endure in the faith. The author does this by exhorting people to put into practice his Christological teaching. Your endurance in the Christian life is going to be in direct proportion to the clarity with which you see Jesus and what he has accomplished on your behalf. The image you have of who Jesus was and why he came have radical implications for how you live and preach.

  • The Son is superior to the angels by virtue of his unique relationship to the father, by virtue of the inferior status of the angels, and by his exalted position as the Lord and creator of the universe.

  • The writer includes a section on exhortation in Hebrews 2:1-4 in the middle of a section in which he is emphasizing the position of the Son in relation to the angels. Jesus is superior to angels, those who rejected the law given through the angels were punished under the old covenant, those who reject the word of salvation given through the son deserve greater punishment. 

  • The purpose of Hebrews 2:5-9 is a transition between the superiority of Jesus and the incarnation. The process the author uses is the quotation of Psalm 8.

  • The author of Hebrews focuses on the incarnation because he plans to show that Jesus is a high priest. When it says that Jesus was “perfected through suffering,” it was a path that Jesus had to travel all the way through to get to the point where he was all that the Father designed for him to be in terms of the author of our salvation. We have hope because Jesus has liberated us from the fear of death.

  • The first extended block of exhortation in Hebrews. The purpose is to focus on the faithfulness of Jesus. The process is comparing Jesus to Moses.

  • Having a hard heart means to set your will against the Lord’s will. An unbelieving heart means that you are refusing to think that God’s ways are the right ways. The result is that you turn away from the living God. It comes from a pattern of life that turns a deaf ear to God’s word.

  • The author of Hebrews emphasizes the promise of rest for the people of God. He cites the example of God resting in Genesis 2:2 in contrast to Psalm 95.

  • The concept of the word of God in the first century is a force or dynamic power, not just a word printed on a page. The word convicts of sin which means it moves us in life to different perspectives and ways of living. It reaches inside of us and sorts us out. Hebrews 4:14-16 is a warning passage.

  • The center point of the exhortation. In chapter 5, the author identifies the hearers’ problem as a lack of spiritual maturity. They are spiritually sluggish and have lost perspective on basic Christian teaching. 

  • The Hebrews 6:4-8 is a warning about the consequences of rejecting Jesus.

  • The middle section of Hebrews focuses on Jesus as high priest. Hebrews 6:13-20 is both exhortation to persevere in the faith looking to Abraham as an example, and a transition back to a discussion of Christology focusing on Melchizedek.

  • Jesus is a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews continues where he left off in 5:10 by first arguing for the superiority of Melchizedek by reflecting on Old Testament passages that mention him.

  • This is a transitional passage linking the ideas of appointment of Jesus as high priest and the superior offering of Jesus.

  • The new covenant is superior to the old covenant.

  • The structure of the tabernacle shows that we could not get into God's presence on our own.

  • Christ’s offering superior to the offerings of the old covenant. It is the day of atonement offering made once for all time so all our sins are dealt with and we may enter the presence of God.

  • It is encouraging to realize how decisively your sins have been dealt with by the sacrifice of Christ. When you sin, you need to agree with God that it is sin and it has already been dealt with by Christ. If I am in covenant with Christ, I am not guilty before God. Jesus’ work as high priest is what allows me to come into God’s presence.

  • “Let us draw near,” “Let us hold fast,” “Let us consider.” We should live in community in such a way that we are stirring up so that the end result is that we are doing good works in the context of love. We should not forsake assembling. We should stir each other up to love and good works. These should both happen “in light of” the return of Jesus. It is important to learn theology in community.

  • If we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer a sacrifice for sin. It’s referring someone who continues to reject the gospel. Contrasts the righteous who live by faith and the wicked who reject God by quoting Isaiah 26:20-21 and Habbakkuk 2:3-4.

  • Two literary devices used in Hebrews chapter 11 are the author’s use of “by faith” repeatedly for emphasis and the “example list” used for exhortation, not exposition. It encourages people to action by using overwhelming evidence. They were successful in spite of the difficulties they faced as marginalized people. Faith is not leaping out against the evidence. It is standing confidently based on what God has revealed to be true.

  • We look at Jesus in his exaltation to see his position as the superior high priest and thereby gives us stability, and in his incarnation because we follow his example of endurance. In a normal father-son relationship, the father disciplines the son. As children, we respected our earthly fathers. The goal of discipline is to produce holiness.

  • The author draws theological strands together to give a theological exhortation in a unique form to emphasize the power and blessings of the new covenant. A new covenant community is characterized by the active presence of God, joy and grace. The chapter finishes with a warning passage.

  • The essence of the community won’t change over time because Christ doesn’t change. As we are building bridges of communication to people in the culture, we are called to be distinct from the culture. The distinctness should not come from cultural trappings, but from identifying with Jesus and the gospel over and against the world system.

As Dr. Guthrie interacts with each verse, he explores not only the meaning of the text, but how we apply the theology of the text in our daily lives and ministries.

Course: Hebrews

Lecture: Hebrews 8:1-6


Hebrews 8:1-6

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and
sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

I. Review

We want to look at the second half of this great center section of the Book of Hebrews. Let’s walk through the bigger picture. We have the introduction in 1:1-4 and then we have two main movements of Christology: Christ in relation to the angels and the Son as superior to the angels. In 1:5-14, the
superiority is shown in a lessor to greater point’; in 2:1-4 where Jesus is great than the angels. So, we need to pay even greater attention to the Word of salvation which is given through the Son than rather than the Law of the old covenant. The argument says that if a person rejected the law that was delivered to angels, how much greater punishment is deserved by those who turn away from the Word of salvation. It was spoken by the Lord; it was delivered to us by those who could confirm that word and God bore witness to the validity of the Gospel by signs and wonders. In 2:5-9, you have a transition because Psalm 8 has both elements of exhortation and incarnation. In 2:10-18, you have the Son lower than the angels. The Son had to become human in order to die and in doing so he became our high priest and a final offering. So, the first great movement of Christology is the Son in relation to the angels. Then the author goes into a string of exhortation passages in 3:1-6 showing a comparison with Moses. In 3:7-19, you have the negative example of the wilderness wanders playing off of Psalm 95 with a lack of faith because of disobedience. So, we have disobedience and unbelief tied together. Afterwards, you have the positive promise in chapter 4 that tells us there is a Sabbath rest that we can still enter into. The basis of all of this is from Psalm 95 and Genesis 2:2 as to this rest that they weren’t allowed to enter into. This rest wasn’t the promise land because the Psalms continued to talk about that for years after they had entered the promise land. I think what the author is talking about here, is a Day of Atonement rest. We saw that the Day of Atonement was a Sabbath of Sabbaths rest. This was something that was very special, a high Sabbath if you will and very unique. We cease from our own works in the Sabbath rest of the Atonement even as we are striving to make sure that we are participating in that new covenant atonement.

The author comes to the great center section in 4:14-16 with the opening of the most important inclusio of the book; since we have a great priest let us hold fast and draw near. This section also has two movements. This center section is on the Son in relation to the sacrificial system and the first main
movement is the appointment of the Son as high priest. That has an introduction in 5:1-10 which has an Old Testament institution in 7:1-10 where he talks about the superiority of Melchizedek to the Levitical priest and then the superiority of Jesus to that in 7:11-28. Then you have a digression in the middle of that in 5:11-6:20. The basic point of the digression is a confrontation in regards to the lack of maturity. In doing so, he gives them a very harsh warning in 6:4-8 and mitigates that warning by softening it through expressing confidence in them. In 6:13-20, we said that was transitional in going back to the discussion of Melchizedek. Two points here: you are priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Psalm 110:4 says that the Lord has sworn and will not change his mind. This was an oath making up the two points. So, this great center section 7:1-28 is focusing on the appointment of Christ. We are going to have another transition in chapter 8 to the other half of the Christology in this center section.

II. Superior Offering

A. Hebrews 8:1-2.

1 κεφάλαιον δε (But the total sum) επί (upon) τοις (the things) λεγομένοις (being spoken is,) τοιούτον (such) έχομεν (we have) αρχιερέα (a chief priest,) ος (one who) εκάθισεν (sat) εν (at) δεξιά (the right) του (of the) θρόνου (throne) της (of the) μεγαλωσύνης (greatness) εν (in) τοις (the) ουρανοίς (heavens,)
2 των (of the) αγίων (holies) λειτουργός (a minister,) και (and) της (of the) σκηνής (tent) της αληθινής (true,) ην (which) έπηξεν (pitched) ο (the) κύριος (Lord,) και (and) ουκ (not) άνθρωπος (man.)

So, the first half of the center section discussed the appointment. The second half is on the superior offering of the appointed high priest. The very first word (κεφάλαιον δε) is translated the main point or head of what we have been saying. This is that we have such a high priest who has sat at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens. What we are dealing with here in 8:1 – 2 is the purpose; it is a transition between these two main blocks on the appointment and the superior offering of Jesus as high priest. When he talks about this high priest, he has another allusion to Psalm 110:1. He started with this psalm in the introduction in chapter 1:3; he quotes it at 1:13 and now he is alluding to it again at this critical center point of this Christology of high priesthood. Psalm 110:1 functions in his moving of the discussion back to the heavenly realm. He already begins foreshadowing this at the end of chapter 7 or moving in this direction by mentioning the heavenly ministry of Christ. Here, he is transitioning and using this psalm to move back to the heavenly sphere. We have been focusing on the incarnation back at the end of chapter 2 and one of the main points about the appointment is that a high priest is taken among human beings and appointed. The focus is still on the incarnation to an extent, however now, it is moving back to the heavenly realm. One of his main points says that Jesus’ offering was superior in part because of where he ended being in the heavenly holy of holies. It is an offering that he takes into heaven itself into the very presence of God. We will see this in these first verses of chapter 8. The author is looking back in regards to this main point, in that we have such a high priest. Verse 2 describes him as a minister in the true tabernacle, the heavenly tabernacle that is the eternal tabernacle; the one that will always last. So, the main thing here in these two verses; they are a transitional unit that is making a transition from the appointment of the Son to the ministry of the Son and his offering.

B. Hebrews 8:3-6

3 πας γαρ (For every) αρχιερεύς (chief priest) εις (for) το (the) προσφέρειν (offering) δώρά τε (both gifts) και (and) θυσίας (sacrifices) καθίσταται (is ordained.) όθεν (Whereupon) αναγκαίον (it is important) έχειν (to have) τι (something) και (even) τούτον (this one) ο (which) προσενέγκη (he should offer.)
4 ει μεν γαρ (For if indeed) ην (he was) επί (upon) γης (the earth,) ουδ΄ αν ην (not even would he be) ιερεύς (a priest,) όντων (there being) των (the) ιερέων (priests) των (of the ones) προσφερόντων (offering) κατά (according to) τον (the) νόμον (law) τα (the) δώρα (gifts;)
5 οίτινες (the ones who) υποδείγματι (the example) και (and) σκιά (shadow) λατρεύουσι (serve) των (of the) επουρανίων (heavenly things,) καθώς (as) κεχρημάτισται Μωϋσης (Moses was divinely instructed,) μέλλων (being about) επιτελείν (to complete) την (the) σκηνήν (tent.) όρα γαρ (For see,) φησι (says he,) ποιήσεις (you shall make) πάντα (all things) κατά (according to) τον (the) τύπον (model) τον δειχθέντα (having been shown) σοι (to you) εν (on) τω (the) όρει (mountain.)
6 νυνί δε (But now) διαφορωτέρας (a more diverse) τέτευχε (2 he has attained) λειτουργίας (ministration,) όσω (in as much as) και (also) κρείττονός (of a better) εστι (he is) διαθήκης (covenant) μεσίτης (mediator,) ήτις (which) επί  (upon) κρείττοσιν (better) επαγγελίαις (promises) νενομοθέτηται (is established.)

This passage is an introduction to this span on the uniqueness on the ministry of Jesus. We are not moving to a focus on the ministry on Christ. The purpose and process of this passage includes the introduction to this section from 8:3 to 10:18 on the superior offering of our high priest. It is the offering of Christ that is the underscore here. We saw that 8:3 is parallel with chapter 5:1. It is almost the same statement. He repeats the same thing that said in chapter 5:1 when he was introducing the appointment of his Son as the high priest. Now, he introduces the superior offering of that appointed high priest; he again says that every high priest is appointed and this one also had to have something to offer. If you are going to be a high priest, the point of your ministry ultimately is to bring sacrifice on behave of the people of God. This is what the high priest did; they were the intercessor that facilitated this relationship between God and people by working out the sacrificial system. It was by living that out, being a minister who was constantly going into the tabernacle. Think about what the tabernacle and the sacrificial system say to us about God’s desire for relationship with us. We will have this played out over the next few passages which we are going to look at. So, what are some things this tells us about God and God’s desire for a relationship with us? Well, he wants a relationship with us but it must be on his terms. The tabernacle established a way for one to enter the presence of God. So, one aspect of the sacrificial system with the high priesthood, God wants us to have a relationship with him. This in itself is incredible where the God of the universe who spoke into existence the literal universe with all of the galaxies and stars and planets and the expanse of it is unthinkable to imagine and relate to. This is the God of the universe with all of his power; he wants to know you and me, face to face. This is something we just can’t comprehend. So, God is inviting us into his presence.

This sacrificial setup also tells of his blood sacrifice on the cross with an underscoring of God’s holiness. The sacrificial idea is that sin always has a price. In Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God; it says that our sins are costly. So, biblically, we have God bringing this together to make the point that relationship is affected by sin and so it has to be dealt with for a relationship to be what it should be. God has set up a way for the sin to be paid for rather than us trying to pay for it in different ways. In the structure of the tabernacle and the sacrificial system, you have God inviting us into his presence. It also has a keep out sign because entering into his presence is on his terms. In this passage and introduction, notice the emphasis beginning in verse 4; there is the shift where the focus is on the heavenly realm. One of the things here that set Jesus apart in his priesthood, his priestly ministry is not being played out on earth but instead it is being played out in the heavenly realm. He is picking up on some of those themes that he has already mentioned in chapter 7. In going back to that allusion in 8:1 to Psalm 110:1, he is doing his priesthood in heaven because of his sitting down at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realm. That is the location of his priesthood. One of the distinctions that he will make between the earthly priests and the heavenly priests; his ministry is a heavenly ministry. In verse 5, he says that the place where these people serve on earth is not the ultimately thing that God had in mind. He says that the tabernacle on earth was simply a sketch. He is using language and terminology of a sketch and shadow, both Greek terms are used in the Platonism of this era.

Some scholars think that Hebrews is oriented toward more of a Platonic understanding of things. I don’t think that this is the best read on this. Ronald Williams back in the 60s did a monograph on the Platonic lack of language that you find in Hebrews. There is supposedly a lot of vocabulary that is built up between Philo and Hebrews but Hebrews uses a different terminology with a different world view. Lincoln Hurst says that there is language that is used in terms of apocalyptic Judaism which had the same kind of idea or distinction between heaven and earth. In apocalyptic Judaism you have heaven breaking into earth; it isn’t just about what happens at the end of the age. Recently, studies have shown that apocalyptic ideas have to do with breaking of heaven into earth in different ways. So, for example, Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration is an apocalyptic dynamic. You have the bright light and people falling to the ground and being afraid; you have the heavenly voice which includes all aspects of apocalyptic dynamics. Another such event was Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road. The main thing that distinguishes apocalyptic Judaism from Platonism, not only is there a vertical movement between heaven and earth; you also have horizontal movement from past, present and future. In other words, history is going somewhere in it going to combinate in what God has ultimately intending to do in and with this world. In apocalyptic Judaism you had the heavenly temple and the heavenly sanctuary which is a reality and dynamic in the heavenly realm which is moving along. This involves the heavenly Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation in chapter 21:1-22:5. At the end of the age, you have the heavenly Jerusalem coming down to earth and the dwelling place of God will be among people. It is like as if history is moving along and then at the end of the age, you have the heavenly Jerusalem. We are not going to need the sun’s light and we will know God face to face. By the way, I think the primary theme of the Bible is the presence of God; this certainly includes the holiness of God and the story is about getting back into the presence of God.

So, you have this heavenly Jerusalem that is coming down and in Galatians 4:26 Paul talks about the Jerusalem that is above. The passage here focusses on Moses in verse 5 that is being quoted here; the focus is on an Old Testament context. He says that Moses was looking into the heavenly realm and that
the tabernacle on earth is patterned after what Moses saw in the heavenly realm. The translation of the NET Bible says that the earthly tabernacle was just a sketch; a blueprint of the greater reality which is in the heavenly realm. So, the earthly had it place for a time until God would accomplish something that
would be more eternal and more lasting. That greater reality would be something that is made by the hands of God, not by the hands of human beings. In verse 6, Jesus has attained a superior ministry because he is mediating a covenant that is based on better promises; that is they will last being eternal.