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Lesson 18: Hebrews - Part 2
Lesson 18: Hebrews - Part 2
I’m Carl Laney and it’s my privilege to give you this introduction to the New Testament and today we look at Part 2 of our study of the Book of Hebrews. In Hebrews Chapters 8-13 we find the work of Christ is superior in every way to anything that the Old Testament offered. We had looked in our previous lesson in Chapter 1-7 that Christ is better than prophets, he’s better than angels, he’s better than Moses and he’s better than Aaron.
I. THE SUPERIOR WORK OF CHRIST, 8:1-10:18
Now the author focuses our attention on the superior work of Christ. He is a minister in a better sanctuary. He’s a mediator of a better covenant. He’s a priest of the better tabernacle and he’s the offeror of a better sacrifice. Notice how often that word better appears. It is used, again and again, in the Book of Hebrews to emphasize that Jesus is better than anything the Old Testament offered. The problem of the readers in the Book of Hebrews was their tendency to drift. Instead of moving ahead in their Christian life and growing in their maturity, they had a tendency to drift back into the Old Testament promises and traditions and rituals which were very colorful and exciting to watch instead of accepting the fact that Jesus fulfilled all that and moving ahead in their encounter and growth in him.
A. Minister in a Better Sanctuary, 8:1-5
So, the writer now focuses our attention that Jesus is a minister in a better sanctuary. He focuses on the fact that Jesus ministered in a heavenly sanctuary, whereas the priests of the Levitical Order minister in an earthly sanctuary. Jesus discharged his ministry in a heavenly sanctuary, the earthly sanctuary is said to be a mere copy and a shadow of the original. Now I’ve have had the privilege of restoring two military Jeeps and when I look for Jeep parts I always look for original parts. Original parts are so much more valuable than replica parts. What is being emphasized here is that Jesus did his ministry in the original tabernacle, the one in heaven whereas Aaron and his sons did their ministry in the early tabernacle, which is a mere copy, a replica of the heavenly tabernacle. He mentions this in verse 5, that the earthly priests serve a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things. Just as Moses was warned, when he was about to erect the tabernacle and he quotes from the Old Testament here, he says, “see that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown to you on the mountain.” Moses must have seen something when he was up on Mt. Sinai that God said here’s what the tabernacle is like in heaven, now you make a copy like this down on earth. Well, which is the better? Obviously, the heavenly tabernacle is superior, the earthly tabernacle is a mere copy. We see that Jesus offers a better sacrifice in that heavenly tabernacle for every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, it’s necessary that this high priest, Jesus, has something to offer. He is a minister in a better sanctuary. His offering wasn’t just of a lamb or a goat, his offering is himself. He ministers in a better sanctuary and he has a better sacrifice, the sacrifice of himself.
B. Mediator of a Better Covenant, 8:6-13
He continues in 8:6 to show that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant. Now the Old Testament covenant promised blessings for obedience. And that was a good thing as the people obeyed they would be blessed, they would be blessed with prosperity in the land and protection from their enemies and good health and good crops. The Old Testament promised physical blessings for obedience but provided no power for those Old Testament believers to obey. The New Covenant, on the other hand, promises unconditional blessings, the blessing of regeneration and the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. And the New Covenant provides an empowerment, the internal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives to enable us to live out the implications of scriptures. He tells us that we have a mediator of a better Covenant, verse 6, “he has obtained a more excellent ministry in that he is also the mediator of a better covenant.” It has been enacted on better promises. The perfect tense in verse 6, has been enacted, indicates that this covenant is in force and it came in force based upon Jesus shed blood at the cross. The New Covenant has been enacted. This is an unconditional covenant; the promises are better because they are unconditional. The Old Testament said, “if you obey me, you will be blessed.” But the New Covenant says, “I will bless you.” See the difference there. The Old Covenant, “if you obey I will bless you.” The New Covenant, “I will bless you.” There is a major difference there.
Now if the Old Covenant had been faultless there would have been no reason to have it replaced. But it wasn’t faultless and the problem we’re told, in verses 7-9, is that it didn’t have the power to resolve the sin issue in a full and final way. The Old Covenant could take care of sins temporarily, but it couldn’t resolve the sin issue that humanity encountered when Adam sinned, it couldn’t resolve the sin issue in a full and final way.
Now the writer of Hebrews tells us about this covenant, this New Covenant. We’ve got a mediator in Jesus who is the mediator of a better covenant. We discover in Hebrews 8:10-12 the longest Old Testament quotation in the New Testament, good trivia question. Ask your friends, “What’s the longest Old Testament quotation in the New Testament.” It’s from Jerimiah 31:31-34 and it’s quoted here by the writer of Hebrews. The longest Old Testament quotation. So, I think that kid of highlights the importance of this quotation, it’s the longest quotation. It’s focuses on the provisions of the New Covenant. What are these provisions? “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts.” You know the Old Covenant Law was written on tablets of stone and you could read it, but it wasn’t internalized. The New Covenant Law is written into our mind and written into our heart, that’s the internalization of the New Covenant Law. That gives us a greater motivation and ability to obey it.
We also have under the New Covenant a renewed relationship with God, “I will be there God and they shall be my people.” Now this is mentioned under the Old Covenant, “I will be their God and they will be my people,” but the problem was Israel broke that Covenant and God says through the prophet Hosea, “you are not my people and I am not your God because you’ve gone off and worshipped idols.” But here we find that that Covenant relationship is renewed and now he is able to say, “you are my people and I am your God,” based upon the New Covenant. As we confess sour sins and accept Jesus as our Savior we are brought into his family. We become his children, he becomes our God, we become members of his family. There’s also a provision, in verse 11, of a universal knowledge of God among believers, “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me.” Now there were prophets who spoke for God in the Old Testament, Ezra was a great teacher and expositor of the Word of God, but here he’s saying there is a provision made under the New Covenant where people, who are believers, will know their God. And that provision comes through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 1 John tells us of this ministry of the Holy Spirit. He says, “We don’t need any false teacher to try to instruct us because we have the anointing by the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things,” As we study the Word of God and listen to sermons we have the internal teacher, the Holy Spirit, who can help us discern what is true and what is not and to embrace that which is true. We have the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit indwelling us.
Finally, he mentions that we have the final forgiveness of sins, “I will be merciful to their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more.” WOW! Isn’t that Good News? 1 John 1:9 tells us, “that if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” All these provisions that are mentioned in Jeremiah 31, these provisions of the New Covenant, find their ultimate fulfillment in he New Testament. In fact, the New Testament actually means, “The New Covenant.” That’s the second half of our Bible, the New Covenant and it shows how important this theme is in the Book of Hebrews and throughout the Bible. Notice what he says in verse 13 when said a “new covenant,” he made the first obsolete. Whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Way back about 1981 I bought a computer. It was my first computer, it was an Osborne computer. Some of you might remember the Osborne Computer. It was said to be transportable. It weighed 35 pounds, so you wouldn’t want to transport it too far. It came with a little tiny monitor, about a six-inch monitor that burned out after about three months so people who bought the Osborne also bought a larger monitor that they would put on their desk. That was my first computer. I paid $2,000 for that computer and I was so excited about it. I wrote several books using that computer. It didn’t have enough memory to have a spell checker internally in the system so when you wanted to spell check you had to take out the disk that you were writing on, put in another disk that would spell check it for you, have it spell checked, take out the spell checker and then put in your disk that you were writing on. Well the Osborne became obsolete. When my son graduated from high school we bought him a new laptop computer that had 10 times, probably 20 times as much computing power as that old Osborne. Well that Osborne eventually was replaced by the Osborne Executive and lots of my colleagues bought the Osborne Executive and then other computers came along. Today the old Osborne I had become obsolete. You wouldn’t want to buy an Osborne I, unless you had a museum of old computers. It’s become obsolete. That’s what the writer is saying about the Old Covenant, you don’t need to go back to that Old Covenant. What you need to focus on is the provision of the New Covenant. We have in Jesus the Mediator of a better covenant. So, don’t spend all of your time focusing on that Old Covenant. It had some great lessons and principles and pointed to Jesus, focus your attention on the New Covenant. Don’t drift back to the old ways.
C. Priest of a Better Tabernacle, 9:1-12
Jesus is the minister in a better sanctuary. He’s the mediator of a better covenant and he’s the priest in a better tabernacle. He talks, in 9:1-5, about the earthly sanctuary but he points out and he points out the temporal ritual in that earthly sanctuary. The problem is that earthly only provided limited access to God and limited effectiveness in the sacrifices. The High Priest had access, he was the only one who could go before God into that Holy of Holies. He could only do it once a year. There was limited access and it was limited to once a year event. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant that were performed in this earthly sanctuary provided for ceremonial cleansings, but could not cleanse the conscience. They could cleanse the body of defilement, but they couldn’t cleanse the conscience of defilement. So, these Old Testament sacrifices in the earthly sanctuary had limited efficacious. But what Jesus did, the writers says, 9:11, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Notice the word eternal there, it didn’t have to be repeated. The Day of Atonement had to be repeated again and again by the High Priest. But this is an eternal redemption. It’s a perfect sacrifice made with Jesus’ own blood and it provided an eternal redemption.
D. Offerer of a Better Sacrifice, 9:13-10:18
He’s mentioned the sacrifice that Jesus made in this better sanctuary, but he wants to elaborate on that in verses 9:13 through 10:18, Jesus is the offeror of a better sacrifice. The animal sacrifices, the writer says, could cleanse the flesh, notice verse 13, For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Again, notice that contrast, animal sacrifices they could cleanse the flesh but the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross can cleanse the conscience. How much better is this New Covenant sacrifice than what was offered by the priests under the Old Covenant system.
Now he explains why Christ’s death was necessary. Why was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross? In verses 15-22 he explains that it was necessary in order to inaugurate the New Covenant. Back in Exodus 24 we find that there was a sacrifice that inaugurated the Old Covenant, and now we have to have a sacrifice that inaugurates the New. The writer of Hebrews is making a little play on words here between covenant and the word last will and testament. You know what a will is, I have a will in a metal filing cabinet in my basement and that will, will give instructions to my decedents and to family as to things that I would have take place with regard to my estate. But you know that will has no legal standing until I die, but when I die, that will, will become a legal document, that will determine what will happen to my assets. As with a last will and testament it’s not in effect until someone dies so the New Covenant couldn’t be in effect until Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant shed his bleed and died. By his death the New Covenant is put into effect.
Now the High Priests of Israel had to offer their sacrifices again, and again, and again. But notice the words that are used to describe the sacrifice of Jesus. It’s emphasized by the writer of Hebrews that it’s a once for all sacrifice. It’s for all time, verse 12. He perfected for all time, verse 14. Again, in verse 18 no longer is there any offering for sin. Jesus is the full and final sacrifice. When he comes a second time it won’t be to bear sins again, as he did at his first coming, he will come the second time to take the redeemed to himself.
Now animal sacrifices were inadequate the writer of Hebrews says. Why where they inadequate? Chapter 10:1 they failed to protect the worshipper. They ultimately failed to remove sin and guilt. Notice what he says in 10:4, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” So, what did Old Testament sacrifices accomplish? Well, they expressed the faith that the Old Testament worshippers had in God’s provision. And God looked down on those sacrifices and he said, “I see that you’ve obeyed me, and you offered these animals by faith. I am going to accept you on the basis of faith knowing that the blood of bulls and goats will never quench my wrath but on the basis of faith I will accept you until the full and final sacrifice, made by son Jesus, is offered and that will finally propitiate my wrath on sin.” That’s how God looked at the Old Testament sacrifices. God looked at those Old Testament sacrifices and he said, “They’ll never do, they’ll never satisfy my wrath,” but the full and final sacrifice in the person of Jesus was pleasing to God. That’s what’s emphasized in Chapter 10:12, “but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. You know, you’ll never find a High Priest in the Old Testament sitting down on the job. That’s because his job is never done. He always has more sacrifices to offer, he always has to come back the next year on the Day of Atonement to offer another sacrifice. Jesus, on the other hand, offered his sacrifice and he sat down. He sat down because his work was finished. The full and final sacrifice had been offered.
Verse 18 is the grand conclusion to this doctrinal section of Hebrews, Chapter 1:1 through 10:18 and he says in verse 18, “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” What is the practical application of that truth for us? Well, it means that we can rest in the finished work of Christ. It means that we can enjoy freedom from guilt and future punishment. It means we don’t have to confess our sins again, and again, and again because Jesus has forgiven us of our sins, he’s buried them in the deepest sea. It means that we don’t have to linger at the cross. Now don’t misunderstand me here, it’s important for us as believers to appreciate what happened on the cross. But I think the writer of Hebrews is saying, “Don’t linger at the cross,” and what the cross meant in terms of the completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Instead celebrate the victory. The victory is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. He died and rose again. Now live out the victory. Don’t linger at the cross, morbid and looking to try restart your Christian life. In other words, he says press on, press on to maturity. Live out the victory that Jesus accomplished for us through the cross.
II. THE SUPERIOR LIFE OF FAITH, 10:19-13:34
A. The Confidence of Faith, 10:19-39
Now in Chapter 10:19 we move on to the practical application of this Book. Here we learn something about the confidence that we can have as believers based upon the finished work of Christ. Since Christ is the final sacrifice for sin we can have confidence to come before God and stand in his presence. I love this image of this cat walking before these 15 or 20 German Shepherd dogs, now that’s a cat with confidence. I don’t know what that cat is thinking but that cat has confidence. That’s the kind of confidence we can have as we stand in the presence of God, not on the basis of our own righteousness but on the basis of the very righteousness of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins, who satisfied God’s wrath and he ever lives to intercede in our behalf. That is the kind of confidence that the Hebrews wants us to enjoy.
This begins what I believe is kind of the salad section of the Book of Hebrews. As you notice in verse 22, “Let us draw near.” Verse 23, “Let us hold fast.” And in verse 24, “Let us consider.” There’s a lot of let us in this section, I call it the salad section of Hebrews. So, on the basis of all that Jesus has done, let us press on, let us live with confidence in what Jesus has accomplished for us.
Now, another warning passage, Chapter 10:25-31. This warning is the most severe yet, and it’s led many interpreters to be confused as to who this book is addressing, and whether believers can lose their salvation or whether maybe these warnings are to unbelievers. Remember our hermeneutics, remember the guiding principles that will help us with these warning passages. Who are the readers? It’s pretty clear from the context of the book that these are believers. Even as you look at this immediate warning it’s addressed to those, verse 29, whom he has sanctified. Would he have said of an unbeliever? The Lord will judge his people, would that be said of an unbeliever? His people? Remember the former days after being enlightened, would that be said of God’s people? Of unbelievers? Well, it seems to me like he’s talking here once again about believers. What he’s saying here in this passage, “if there is severe warning for God’s people under the Old Covenant and severe discipline for them under the Old Covenant, how much more severe will God be with those who have received greater privileges and greater opportunity and greater insight and understanding through the New Covenant. There is accountability before God and God will deal with his people. So, don’t minimize Christ’s sacrifice by reverting to the Old Testament ritual. Don’t minimize Christ’s sacrifice by glorifying in the Old Testament laws and traditions. Focus on Jesus, what he has accomplished and press on to maturity. That’s what the writer wants us to remember here. Greater privilege means greater responsibility. So, don’t take that great privilege for granted, and keep on tracking with Jesus. Keep on focusing on your encounter with him not merely on what the Old Testament promised. And this is a pretty severe warning that God will judge his people. And yet even at the end of this warning he says in verse 35, “therefore do not throw away your confidence,” be confident. Be confident in what Jesus has accomplished. Don’t go back and try to redo it again. Be confident in Christ.
B. The Examples of Faith, 11
As we move into this next section we’re in Chapter 11 which is this great hall of faith. George Mueller has said “the beginning of anxiety is the end of faith and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” That’s a good description of what faith does. but what is faith? The writer of Hebrews tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the confident expectation of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Things that we haven’t seen. we accept on the basis of faith. We haven’t seen God’s creation of the earth. but we believe that the Bible records that. We haven’t seen the death, burial. and resurrection of Jesus but we believe the Bible faithfully records that. We act on the basis of faith; the confident expectation of what God has revealed. Faith enables us to treat things that are spiritual as reality and the unseen things as reality. So, what can faith accomplish? He goes on to say that faith, first of all gains God’s approval. God approves faith, he really likes faith. When he says something, and we believe it, God is pleased by that. And it’s through faith that we understand spiritual truth, verse 3, “by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God. So that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” He’s talking about creation. It’s by faith that we accept the fact of Gen. 1 and 2 and that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth and he accomplished this creation as he revealed in scripture.
Faith enables us to come to God, verse 6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe [first of all] that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Note the process there, first believe that God exists, and then that God rewards those who seek him. Those who seek him will in deed find him.
The writer of Hebrews now proceeds to introduce these heroes of the faith in verses 4-38. He tells us that all these people gained God’s approval through faith. If they gained God’s approval through faith certainly the same applies to us. As he comes to the conclusion of this great testimony, he points out that these people who had faith didn’t receive in their lifetimes the things that were promised. Didn’t receive all that was promised concerning the Messiah and his salvation and what he would do as the full and final sacrifice. But God was preparing something better that couldn’t be realized until Jesus came. So, they believed the promises of God and anticipated that God would fulfill his promise, but it didn’t come in their lifetime which means there’s something in the future, something in the future for these people and also for us. Faith gives us hope and confidence about the future.
C. The Endurance of Faith, 12
But it’s not easy to live the life of faith, and so in Chapter 12 he talks about running the race of life and enduring life as a person of faith. This is a great image of running a race and he tells us, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” You know there’s different kinds of races. My children when they were little they ran the Portland Marathon Fun Run which was a little 2-mile run, and all my kids ran that race in their youth. Then they progressed to the 5-mile run that was also a part of the Portland Marathon Events. I ran the Marathon. Well, there’s a difference between a fun run 2-miler and the full marathon. What the writer of Hebrews is trying to say is that the race of life is an ultra-marathon. It’s not just the 26.2-mile race, it’s an ultra-marathon. It’s the race of life. So, he says, “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who for the joy set before him endured the cross despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” You know some people in a race do grow weary, I’ve been there. the term “hit the wall” is a term that runners use to describe a situation where they feel like their feet are in concrete and they’re wondering why they’re running this race, and all they want to do is sit down and eat a hamburger. That usually happens about mile 18 when they “hit the wall.” What does a person need when they hit the wall in a marathon? Well, they need fluids and we are running the race of life we need to draw deeply from the well of living water that Jesus offers his people. They also need fluids, they need food and Jesus offers us the bread of life and the truth of his word to nourish us. They need focus. He says, “fixing your eyes on Jesus.” Fixing your eyes on the finish line of a marathon is one way to keep going. because why do people run a marathon? That’s to cross the finish line and keeping focused on the finish line will help you get there. Then, people need encouragement by their friends. That’s why we need to live in community where other people can help us when we grow weary and struggle in our Christian life.
We come now to the fifth warning passage which is in Chapter 12:25-29 and this final warning urges readers to think seriously about the importance of heeding what God has spoken. Once again, we find the principle in verse 25 that the grater the privilege the greater the responsibility. “See to it that you do not refuse him who is speaking.” God is speaking to us through his Word. “For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned on earth much less will we escape who turn away from him who warns form Heaven.” God held the Israelites accountable for his law which was given on earth at Mt. Sinai and they were accountable for that and some died in the wilderness because they did not trust and obey God. And if they were held accountable for the law that was given to them from Mt. Sinai we also will be held accountable for the prophetic word that is come to us from Heaven and delivered to us by Jesus. So, once again there is a final warning here in the Book of Hebrews.
D. The Workings of Faith, 13
Chapter 13 focuses on the workings of faith. At the end of the letter the author turns some practical matters, love the brethren he encourages. Love the brethren, let the love of the brethren continue. Don’t neglect hospitality. Verse 3 remember prisoners, these are the prisoners who are arrested and charged with witnessing and proclaiming the Word of God, so remember them and visit them in their imprisonment. Maintain moral purity, verse 4. Marriage is to be held in honor by all and the marriage bed is to be undefiled. Fornicators and adulterers God will judge, he will hold them accountable and discipline them. Maintain moral purity. Then he says in verse 5, “be content with Gods provision, find contentment be sure your character is free form the love of money, being content with what you have.” In verses 7-9 he encourages the readers to follow their spiritual leaders and those of us that are spiritual leaders should be a good example for others to follow. The ultimate spiritual leader of course is Jesus Christ, verse 8 and 9. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and we would ultimately want to follow him.
As the writer of Hebrews concludes we wonder what sacrifices are left for us. Since the Old Testament Sacrifices anticipated the work of Christ and since Christ is the full and final sacrifice are there any sacrifices left for us to offer. Certainly, there are and the writer highlights these and says that we can offer, verse 15, a sacrifice of praise through him continual offer a sacrifice of praise to God that is the fruit of lips who give thanks. Publicly acknowledge his name and do not neglect doing good and sharing with such sacrifices God is pleased. God is pleased with the sacrifice of praise. God is pleased with the sacrifice of good works. God is pleased with the sacrifice of sharing. So even though Christ is the full and final sacrifice there are sacrifices that we can make as we follow Jesus.
So, what’s this letter all about? Well there’s a lot of questions about this letter but one thing we can conclude it’s about moving on. It’s about moving on from infancy to maturity. It’s exhortations that are designed to keep us traveling in our Christian life and to focus on Jesus and to look for him daily and to seek to encounter him daily in our Christian life. Don’t linger in the shadows of all the Old Testament system offered. Recognize what Christ has done for you on the cross as the basis for moving on to maturity. Celebrating the victory that he has accomplished and experiencing a vital encounter with Jesus Christ. That’s what the Book of Hebrews is about.