Archive for the ‘Hebrews course’ Category

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only one to have kept God’s Will perfectly

August 14, 2021

14 08 2021

Apollos whom I believe wrote this book quotes from the Old Testament:

King David (Hebrews 10;5-7 from Psalm 40; 6 onwards) and Jeremiah the Prophet (Hebrews 10; 16-17 from Jeremiah 31;33).

King David who was one of the ancestors of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Jeremiah the Prophet were two characters that suffered a lot for their faith through the trials that they went through.  Both men had a close walk with God.  Sometimes we need to go through sufferings to reach our final destination.   All the kings of Israel were anointed with oil hence Messiah means the ‘anointed one’.   Jesus’ title of Christ, messiah shows his kingship lineage.  Jesus is the only king that brought the sacrificial system and kingship into one union in his person.   We have already touched on this in earlier blogs.  In verses 5 to 7 God is speaking through king David and in verses 16 to 18 God is speaking through the voice of Jeremiah.   Let us now read from Hebrews 10; 5-18

5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,

“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED,

BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME;

6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.

7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME

(IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME)

TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’”

8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:5-18

Verses 5-11 The Writer then quotes a Psalm that relates to the messiah ps40-6-7.  We can see in the Hebraic parallelism Christ contrasted with the sacrificial system.  However, the key that the Writer uses in this verse is found as the son doing the will of God in verse 9.  Not anyone doing the will of God but namely the Son of God the Christ. In verse 10 the Writer finishes off by stating that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient once and for all.   Let us quote verses 9 and 10 again:

“9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” NASB

There is only one man in the whole of the human race who has not sinned.  There is only one man in the whole of the human race who kept God’s will perfectly.  This Man being fully divine and full human at the same time is the one who has never sinned and kept God’s council perfectly.   The little phrase ‘takes away’ literally means makes an end, kills off (g0337. ἀναιρέω anaireō ; from 303 and 138; to take up, take away, make an end:– Taken from Olive tree software).  The sacrificial Judaic system finds its fulfilment in Christ therefore the sacrificial Old Testament system has become redundant.  Jesus was the main sacrifice and in him we are sanctified.  It is through Jesus offering himself and keeping God’s will perfectly. We see this in the garden of Gethsemane:

“39 And He came out and went, as was His habit, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 Now when He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you do not come into temptation.” 41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 43 [[n]Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground]. 45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you do not come into temptation.”  “(Fromhttps://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2022&version=NASB)

In this passage we see the prayer that shows how far Jesus would go in order to do God’s will.

Reflection

We cannot fulfil God’s will in our own strength.  It is what Jesus has done for us that allows us to come into the presence of God by faith.  There have been serious debates between Roman Catholic and Protestant teachings based on the above text.  As a biblical exegete I’m only interested in making the text clearer for us to understand.  Each person needs to make up their own mind on how to interpret the text in their church situations. All I know is that Jesus died for me once so that it is possible to have eternal life by faith.   As Christians we ought to live in such a way that we love one another and through this, the world can see a sign of the divine in our lives and be convinced that they need to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour.  Jesus is the fulfilment of the law.  The sacrificial system, the Tabernacle, the priesthood all pointed to the work and person of Jesus Christ, and he resides in the true Tabernacle, not a copy.  Everything on earth are mere copies of the real thing.  That does not mean that they were not important; they were important because even as a shadow they pointed to the work and person of Christ.  It was a devastating thing when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 but it is interesting that in historical retrospect that three great religions have a serious claim to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem has always been a Holy Place. 

Jerusalem was the old Salem in which king Melchizedek lived.  Since the time of Abraham though Salem became corrupted and at the time of Joshua the ‘Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem’ was planning to attack Joshua (Joshua 10:1).  He has the same name form as Melchizedek king of Salem.  There are other links in the Psalms for example that link Zion and Salem to Jerusalem for example:

“His tabernacle is in Salem;

His dwelling place also is in Zion. Psalms 76:2”

And then how about this verse:

31 For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD will perform this. 2 Kings 19:31

Dr Katrina Larking at KCL in the Hebrew lectures many years agon once made the point that all the other nations in Palestine such as Moab, Edom and so on did not survive.  The only nation to have survived was Israel.  Perhaps we are seeing God’s plan being worked out somehow. 

Notes

Some Christian theologians in the past have used this verse as a polemic on the Roman Catholic Church to combat the doctrine of transubstantiation. This is an erroneous way to use the text.  The verse is in light of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament not in light of any disagreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants. To be more precise, if you want to follow the argument about transubstantiation that Roman Catholic theologians use, you need to understand Aquinas’ borrowing of Aristotelian metaphysics. Be careful not to fall into the trap of reading something into the text that is not there (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation).   We are interested in exegesis (https://www.britannica.com/topic/exegesis) reading out the meaning that is there in the text, taking into consideration the original readers.

Hebrews chapter 10 verses 1-4; the importance of the law of God

August 6, 2021

Chapter 10 continues with the sacrifice of Christ.  Before we look at the text in more detail Ellingworth gives us an outline up to verse 18.

Note that Ellingworth says of this passage that, ‘The entire passage is a summary of the central teachings of the epistle Page (488).  The passage has been broken down as follows by various scholars:

“v1-4     The importance of the law.

V5-10    The willingness of Christ.

V11-14 Two kinds of priest.

V15-18 The confirmation of scripture. “(The Epistle to the Hebrews; A commentary on the Greek text; page 488 of Ellingworth)

Let us now begin by reading up to verse 18:

One Sacrifice of Christ Is Sufficient

1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,

“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED,

BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME;

6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.

7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME

(IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME)

TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’”

8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:1-18

Verse 1: 1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.

When one read this verse, it is easy to miss a very important point and it cannot be seen in the English translation.  The two key words are shadow and ‘form of things.’  Basically ‘shadow’ and ‘image’.   Apollos uses shadow in two places.  This verse and chapter 8:5:

5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.” Hebrews 8:5

The question that arises is what is the relationship between the shadow and the image?  John Calvin explains the difference here by saying that the painting has two parts.  The first part is the pencil, and the second part is when the paint is added to make the picture even more beautiful.  The pencil mark is still there and is still important although it is no longer visible.  (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries; Hebrews 1 & 2 peter: Eerdmans; page 132).  There is a relationship between the sacrifice of Christ and the yearly sacrifices.  Only the work of Christ can perfect the believer and take away sins.  The Mosaic sacrifices were only a shadow, but they were still important in that they pointed beyond themselves to the true ‘form of things’.  Verse 2 continues to explain what verse 1 just said.   Verse 3 spells it out:

“3 But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins year by year.” NASB

This is quite a hard pill to swallow; ‘a reminder of sins.  A reminder means that a person continually needs to go through the same sacrificial process again and again.

Verses 2-4

“2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” NASB

In these verses the original worshippers under the Old Covenant still had guilty consciences even after the ritual of sacrifice.  He concludes that the blood of animals has limitations as far as conscience is concerned. 

Reflection

Over the centuries there have been people who have wanted to throw the Old Testament away such as Marcion. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcionism) This is a categorical mistake because Christ came not to abandon but to fulfil the law and the Prophets.  The Old Testament will always be important. A shadow still has an object that belongs to it.  In the light of what we have said we are truly blessed that Christ died for us so that we too in Christ can enter heaven itself too. 

Concerning the idea of the conscience  in one of our verses.  Christians are not supposed to run away from the Law.  IN Christ it has been fulfilled.  I now quote some work from my other blog on Bavincks Reformed Ethics:

“Herman Bavinck will not agree with any of this, and he shows us through Holy Scripture how we ought to perceive the moral natural law and indeed God has to be the foundation.  It is God who has spoken and as he says the Church is called to be different to the nations. Let us look at Bavincks Scripture contents.

“(Exod. 20:2). The moral law is acknowledged throughout the whole Bible as God’s law, even by Jesus himself, who explicitly speaks of biblical commandments as God’s commands and words (Matt. 15:4). Therefore, the law cannot be undone, only fulfilled (Matt. 5:17; cf. Rom. 7:23, 27; 8:2).41‘” (page 221):

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Exodus 20:2

4 For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’ Matthew 15:4

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. Matthew 5:17

23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:23-25

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:2 (All these verses have been drawn from Olive Tree Bible software)

Bavinck puts this whole discussion in context:

“When modern thinkers posit an evolutionary origin for biblical law and deny its divine source, they need to be Challenged, as Harless has done: “The law of God in Israel is not the product of a development-process in the people of Israel in which they had gradually become conscious to themselves of what is right and good in the relation, whether of man to man, or man to God. On the contrary, God testifies His will in gradual revelation, in opposition to the spirit predominating amongst the people.” (Page 221)

For Christians the above statement from Bavinck is very important.  God is in control and man thinks he is in control.  Bavinck is not saying that reason is completely bad.  However, as Barth and Bavinck would say faith seeking understanding.  This is how we ought to live.  The man of faith puts his reasons at the feet of Jesus and then he is able to understand the greater picture and not someone looking for something in the pitch black of a storm.

Bavinck finishes the ‘Author section’ by saying:

 “All the relationships between people and God and among his subjects are regulated.43 The source of knowledge of the moral law, therefore, cannot be only our conscience and reason—although they are very valuable—but Holy Scripture in its entirety. This means not only the Pentateuch but also the prophets and the New Testament. The Decalogue is only the summa of the law; the Old and New Testaments are the explanation and commentary.” (From page 222)

Reflection

God created the law, conscience and the world.  Scripture explains to us the facts and as faithful believers we live by these truths.  Those who try to abstract God from the Good (ethics) have to find another base (foundation) and it is generally some form of evolutionary idea that sees things getting better.  We have seen pure reason run into all sorts of problems.  Theology must always use the appropriate tools to come to appropriate conclusions.  We are also dealing with the facts in a scientific way just as much as any scientist this is why Theology is known as the Queen of the sciences.  I don’t believe in using philosophy as a grammar of theology because then the grammar takes over.  It was a good thing that John Calvin dumped Aristotle out of his Institutes.  Let us put Christ first in our live and live by faith.  Ultimately this is the true seat of happiness in the presence of God by the Holy Spirit.”  From https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

Jesus is High Priest in Heaven itself and the once for all sacrifice Hebrews 9

July 30, 2021

Jesus has done much for us and today we will learn how he relates to the earthly Tabernacle and to the sacrificial systems of the Old covenant (Moses).   Let’s begin by Reading Hebrews chapter 9 verses 1-10

1 Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. 3 Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, 4 having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

6 Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, 7 but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, 10 since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.

We came to understand that the tabernacle was a shadow and copy of the original one in heaven.  One might think ‘it is only a shadow.’ I find this amazing because it is better to have a copy than nothing at all.  If the tabernacle was not even a copy, then the theologian would be mythologizing.  The theologian does not do mythology here but science, real God’s knowledge.  Even a copy of something in heaven gives us insight into heaven and its workings.  I think Apollos understood this.   Apollos goes into a description of the earthly tabernacle, even as a shadow it explains to us that without the shedding of blood there cannot be forgiveness of sins.  The tabernacle was pointing beyond itself, but they do show that a High Priest is needed too as a mediator and his sins and the people’s sins needed to be forgiven. 

In verse one we have a key to unlocking some of the secrets of this beautiful book:

  ‘Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary.’

Obviously, the tabernacle he is talking about is Moses Tabernacle. There was the area of the Holy of Holies in which a high priest came only once a year. He had to be invited by God for this honour.   Then of course there was the holy place. At this place, priests were allowed to come, and they didn’t need to fear for their lives. The writer in this verse is actually reminding his readers what they should already know. He is also preparing them for talk about the Christ and preparation for the ‘real tabernacle’ which is in heaven.

In understanding the Holy of Holy the veil is an important symbol which separates heaven and earth (verse 3). The inner tent where the Holy of Holies was, the priest could only enter this once a year. 

Verse 8

. 8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which is a symbol for the present time. NASB

So throughout Judaic history according to Apollos it was a waiting time and preparation.  No Levite priest could enter the real Holy of Holies nevertheless God used this means to educate his people.  Apollos gives a limit to what can happen:

Verse 9

…Accordingly, both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, 10 since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.  NASB

A reformation is a time of correction.  If we think about the real protestant Reformation, it was a time to bring the Church back to a purer Christianity.  Obviously if the Tabernacle was a copy, then there was a real need for heaven to break in and really, in truth save us from sin and our corrupt nature.   This basic summary is what the Holy Spirit has told us (verse 8)

In the previous chapters we have seen aspects of this reformation.  Before we had physical temples but now God is moving in the very spiritual aspects of True Worship.  We also know by whom this is going to come through; Namely the Messiah (Our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ).

Chapter 9 verses 11-28.

With special emphasis on verses 11 and 23.

The writer up to this point has led his readers along the road of what they know and understand. But from this moment he is going to reveal the deeper things of God to the readers.

The readers already knew and believed that the Christ was the king of Israel. When Jesus was crucified, and they wrote “The king of the Jews” as a mark of derision. In other words, from the point of the authorities such as the scribes and the pharisees Jesus was seen as a false king but from the point of view of those who trusted in his name Jesus was and is the real king of Israel. The writer to the Hebrews is writing to those who have faith not to those who don’t have faith. So, let us look at these two verses:

Verse 11

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, he entered through the greater and the more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation”. NASB

Verse 23

“Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (verse 23).

So, at this point the writer makes a jump from the earthly evidence of the tabernacle into heaven itself.  The heavenly sanctuary needs ‘better sacrifices than these.’  It is no accident that Apollos says this. 

Verse 24

So, Christ entered Heaven itself ‘in the presence of God the father’ in the Holy of Holies.  

Verse 25

In light of verse 28 Christ who offered himself as the sacrifice (only once), It is not necessary for Christ to offer himself every year with sacrificed blood of lambs etc.

Verse 26

At these end times ‘completion of the ages’ Christ became the sacrifice on our behalf by himself.  He has been ‘manifested’ revealed (φανερόω / Verb: Perf Mid/Pass Ind 3rd Sing)

The use of this verb ‘manifest, disclose, reveal’ is in the perfect tense.  This verb in this context makes perfect sense because Christ is in heaven itself in which God resides.  It is not possible for any human to cross this divide outside of Christ.  This is not mythology but epistemology.  The shadow and copy of the tabernacle on earth is direct evidence to God’s Sanctuary.  Through Jesus Christ by faith, even though we are still on earth we get a glimpse of what is going on in heaven.  The perfect tense is something that has happened in the past but has consequences today.

Verses 27 & 28

Death is but once and then the judgement, so Christ died once so next time he comes it won’t be referenced to sin but the Judgment as King of Kings.  This is a precursor to what Apollos wants to say about Christ as the Sacrifice.

Reflection

In this chapter we have passed some signposts of faith:

1. There is the heavenly Sanctuary
2. Jesus is the High Priest, and he is always in office mediating for us all the time.
3. Christ was the sacrifice once and the work of sacrifice was completed through the sacrifice of himself.      
1. The Tabernacle is a copy of the real tabernacle
2. There is a high priest, but he has to be changed every year.
3. Gifts and sacrifices are often made but they cannot make anyone perfect.

What does this mean for us?

Jesus has done a lot for us so that we can be taken into heaven.  This invitation is open to everyone.  Jesus is Lord yet he knocks on the door of your heart.  He wants by invitation by the Holy Spirit to come into your life and where there was darkness, he brings light.   We all want to do things our way but where has this brought you?

Broken promises, betrayals, anger and although there are people all around you there is an emptiness that no one can fill.   You cannot even forgive yourself and the road seems to have come to an end.  You have made mistakes along the way, but it does not matter how bad you have been God reaches out to you and offers you his grace in Jesus Christ.  Jesus has done the work on the cross and while he was on the cross he said, ‘It is finished’ (God’s work has been completed).

If you choose God’s way allow Jesus the Lordship in your life.  By the Holy Spirit he will take away you sins, purify you and make you into the person you ought to have been.  This process takes a lifetime but becoming a child of God takes a moment.  

Whether we just took the invitation and confessed Jesus as Lord we need to remember that this book has shown us that although Jesus is the second person of the Trinity:

He was active in the creation with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit

He is greater than the angels

He is greater than Moses

He is King of Kings

He is greater than all the prophets because they all spoke of him

He is the High Priest in heaven itself

He was the real sacrifice once and for all.

The Birth Pangs of a New Religion

July 25, 2021

Hebrews 8 and the incendiary idea that changed the old world forever.

Let us begin by reading Hebrews 8

1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.

A New Covenant

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD,

WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT

WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;

9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS

ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND

TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT;

FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT,

AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.

10 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,

AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS.

AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,

AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN,

AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’

FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME,

FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.

12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES,

AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”

13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8       We have seen then Jesus was from Judah, and this disqualifies him from the Levitical priesthood.  However, this was not a problem because according to the Scriptures his lineage is from the order of Melchizedek.  

Lets look now at the text and dig a little deeper:

Verses 1 and 2

1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. NASB

What I have learned so far in this study is that we have hit some serious Royal Psalms. The Lord of heaven speaks to the earthly kingly Lord.  This is the first time that a king held both offices of priesthood and kingship at the same time. Not only this but he is also the High priest of the genuine, real heavenly tabernacle.  It is the Lord that set this original heavenly Sanctuary

Verses 3 and 4

3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

The job of the High Priest was to offer gifts and sacrifices to the Lord.  As we have already seen earlier if Jesus was on earth he would be disqualified in being any type of high priest in terms of the Law of Moses.  For Apollos this tabernacle which was on earth was only a shadow of the original tabernacle. 

Verse 5

5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.” NASB

Moses had to follow an exact pattern with exact measurements.  Notice that Apollos says the phrase ‘a copy and shadow of heavenly things’.

Verse 6

” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.

A New Covenant NASB

This is a summing up before the evidence.   Jesus priesthood and officiating from a heavenly tabernacle means that Jesus has a greater ministry and compared to the old covenant of Moses from Mt Sinai; he is a Mediator of a better covenant  and better promises.

Verse 7

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.

There were obviously faults with the old covenant because of Jeremiah 31:31.

Verses 8 to 12

8 For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD,

WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT

WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;

9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS

ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND

TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT;

FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT,

AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.

10 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,

AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS.

AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,

AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN,

AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’

FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME,

FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.

12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES,

AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”

In the mount Sinai covenant the laws were written on stone and the people partied and turned their back on God with the creation of a Golden Calf.  This type of disobedience continued throughout the time of the kings and the prophets until they were exiled (both kingdoms; Israel and Judah)

The centre of solution is found in verse 10:

“I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,

AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS.

AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,

AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”

This is a new type of covenant, and it is spiritual in content.  We know this because Jeremiah talked about ‘writing on hearts. The heart the centre of feeling can only be found inside a person and not outside such as stone.

Verse 13

13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8

This is a very harsh statement for the Jewish community because the Sinai Covenant has been superseded with the promised Messiah.

Even though Christendom and Judaism have split a long time ago they are still a cousin religion and we share the same Scriptures.  We can disagree but let us always love our Jewish neighbour and show respect even in our differences.

Digression

There are some serious things being said here. We can see a serious battle of ideas going on in Judaism at this time.  This is a battle for the genuine Judaism and where the centre is to be found. 

Let me spell it out:

Is the centre of the covenant in the first five books of Moses? 

Has the centre moved from Moses to a new centre found within the Psalms and the Prophets? 

The old covenant of Moses has not been disestablished but it has a new centre in the Psalms and the Prophets. 

Within Judaism there was a split, and we see right here in this text where the split is.  This is figuratively speaking incendiary, within the Jewish community that would wipe out much of polytheism in Europe and the birth pangs of Christianity. 

What about the Temple?  My own personal opinion is that if we remember rightly King David was forbidden from building a temple because he was a man of war.  However, he prepared a lot of the ground work for Solomon to build a temple in Jerusalem (The first temple).  God also allowed the rebuilding of the temple when Israel was allowed to come back from their exile.  This was a blessing for the Jewish people.   Sometimes I ask myself the question why God allowed the Temple to be destroyed.  One I do know as a fact that Herod had blood on his hands as he murdered children because he feared he would lose his crown.  He did not have a right to touch the Temple.  I do not know what the modern Jewish community thinks about this, and I would like to know more.

Reflection

We can see a paradigm shift happening in Judaism and through Christ the old world would change forever and never be the same again.  For Christians Jesus is the Messiah and he is King; High Priest and sacrifice offered for our sins.  ‘The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ and by his resurrection we have eternal life.

Looking at Psalm 110 and Hebrews chapter 7

July 13, 2021

Christian Doctrine and the importance of Psalm 110 before looking at the book of Hebrews. Part 1

We will do some background reading on snippets from Psalm 110 before starting Hebrews chapter 7.  The interpretation I am giving to it is a Christological bent to it and this fits in with the book of Hebrews. we will then move on to look at Our Saviour Jesus who is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek and what this means in practice for Christians.

Psalm 110  is very interesting in that we have seen that the messiah has two functions. 

Verse 1

1 The LORD says to my Lord:

“Sit at My right hand

Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” Psalms 110:1

This Psalm is unquestionably a Psalm of David.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus had defeated the Sadducees in argumentation.  The Pharisees heard about this and they came to trick Jesus.  This conversation is below:

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: 42 “What do you think about the [w]Christ? Whose son is He?” They *said to Him, “The son of David.” 43 He *said to them, “Then [x]how does David [y]in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying,

44

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

Until I put Your enemies under Your feet”’?

45 Therefore, if David calls Him ‘Lord,’ [z]how is He his son?” 46 No one was able to offer Him a word in answer, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him any more questions. “(Taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2022&version=NASB)

Obviously, this text originally related to king David, but it also relates to the ‘institution of King David’ as an office. Jesus interprets this literally JHWH (Ha Shem; The Lord) speaks to (ADONAI The lord).  Although David was a Messiah (anointed king) David interpreted it as David’s greater King (Messiah).  For Jewish Christians and gentiles of the time this could be no other than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  For Jesus and the Pharisees this Royal Psalm had a prophetic element.

According to Jewish Law King David was barred from priestly functions of the Aaronic line. Only a priest could make sacrifices.   Although it is tempting to say that King David ‘sacrificed’

Read 2 Samuel 24:18-25. I think it is better to read this that the sacrifice was at the cost of King David’s purse and that the priests actually did the sacrificing.  David followed God’s command for this.  King Saul also did this but he did it outside of the remit of Gods command and the throne was taken from him. Read 2 Samuel 24:18-25

Chrsitopher R Smith wrote:

“This disobedience did lead Saul to usurp a privilege of the priesthood.  As I discuss in this post, by offering these sacrifices, Saul was imitating the Canaanite priest-king model instead of respecting the separation between the kingship and the priesthood that was established in the law of Moses.” (from https://goodquestionblog.com/2014/09/08/why-did-god-reject-saul-for-offering-sacrifices-but-not-david-or-solomon/)

In Psalm 110 it is the first time that kingship and the priesthood could be officiated under one person and it is not in the Aaronic line of priests. As the text says:

4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.” Psalms 110:4 (NASB Olive tree Bible sorftware).

Apollos is correct to point back to Abraham.  In the book of Genesis we read:

17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,

Possessor of heaven and earth;

20 And blessed be God Most High,

Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

He gave him a tenth of all. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.” Genesis 14:17-24 (NASB Olive tree bible software)

After this story we never hear anything of Melchizedek again in the pages of Genesis.  Psalm 110 gives the office of Melchizedek to the Messiah (For Christians, Jesus Christ). 

Stephen Lawson makes the point that in Christ there will be a first time that; “This will be the first time that one person will serve as both priest and king”.

“The Priestly Redemption of Christ (110:4) SUPPORTING IDEA: David declares that Christ will be appointed as a priest by God. 110:4a. The LORD, God the Father, has sworn to himself that he will send his Son into this world to be a priest. This will be the first time that one person will serve as both priest and king. A priest was one who represented the people before God. Yet the people did not choose their own representative. To the contrary, God the Father ordained his chosen leaders to the priesthood. In like manner, Christ is designated by the Father to this redemptive mission. Regarding this appointment of Christ to this saving work, God will not change his mind. His eternal purposes are fixed and unchanging” (Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8; 17:8).  (From Lawson, Steven. Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms 76-150: Volume 12 . B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Enough has been said on Psalm 110.  I would like to revisit Psalm 110 sometime to dig even deeper but for now I think this is enough.  This discussion is open to public dialogue of anyone.  We also need to be sympathetic to Jewish interpretations although possibly we will not agree.

Reflection

Psalm 110 is a Royal Psalm, and it is a Psalm of David.  We need to remember that the priestly functions and kingly functions of the kings of Israel were always separate.  This Psalm takes a strand from Genesis 14 when Abraham after defeating the kings of Israel met Melchizedek and gave thanks and homage to God the Most High.   

Jesus proved to the Pharisees that King David wasn’t talking about himself but about another king (Messiah).  For Christians Jesus has both functions of High Priest and King but not in the Aaronic line but Melchizedek.   This is the first time in Jewish Christian history that one person can hold both offices of priest and king at the same time.

Interpreting Hebrews chapter 712-28 and Jesus’ office of High Priest and King (Messiah) part 2

Let us begin by reading this section first:

11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. 13 For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. 15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of Him,

“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER

ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” Hebrews 7:11-17

Psalm 110 is a main stay of prophecy in the New Testament.  Apollos really brings out what this actually means.  For Judaism the main stay is the law through the Aaronic line and nothing in Judaism has changed this way.  However, Melchizedek as an order of priesthood has been mentioned.  The Psalms and Genesis are Holy Scripture to along with the five books of Moses, so these texts carry tremendous weight.   It is the case that hundreds of priests from Herod’s Temple became obedient to the faith (Acts 6):

“7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

Apollos is starting to state facts about our Lord that he was from ‘Judah’ (a non-priestly tribe).

11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7:11

Apollos is suggesting that perfection could not be found from the Aaronic line of priests.   He points out that there are two orders:

12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. Hebrews 7:12

Laws can ‘change’ if the order changes.  This will become an important point in his discussion.

13 For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. Hebrews 7:13-14

Jesus is not from the Aaronic line. Jesus was descended from Judah, and he has no qualifications for this priesthood of Aaron which Moses spoke about.  Jesus is disqualified from this priesthood.

15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of Him,

“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER

ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” Hebrews 7:15-17

The requirement for the second type of priesthood is an ‘indestructible life= forever’.  Jesus is the only one in the history of humanity that fulfils this criterion.

 18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 20 And inasmuch as it was not without an oath 21 (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him,

“THE LORD HAS SWORN

AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND,

‘YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER’”); Hebrews 7:18-21

Two things are going on here.

For Apollos, In Jesus the emphasis of priesthood has changed.   As far as mainline Judaism is concerned, I can understand why Judaism and Christianity split.  The seeds are right here in this text.  Modern Judaism would see this as apostasy from Judaism because it shifted the priesthood away from Aaron and would be perceived as heresy.   

22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Hebrews 7:22

23 The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, Hebrews 7:23

The Aaronic priesthood was necessary because their posts needed to be changed regularly through death. It was an imperfect arrangement.

24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hebrews 7:24

25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

Jesus has an indestructible life and because of this reason, he is always there interceding on our behalf.

26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:26-28

The most important thing in this section I think is where the writer says:

Obviously, this was a process that started in Babylon with the birth of the synagogues and later with the destruction of the Temple the Aaronic priesthood was as good as dead. 

Reflection

There are a lot of well-intentioned Christians who are hoping that the ‘Third Temple’ of Ezekiel will be built and to celebrate it.  The Third Temple uses the Aaronic priesthood.   I have to say that according to the book of Hebrews Christians have their High Priest in a different priesthood, namely the order of Melchizedek.   Jesus is high priest of an order that is not part of the Aaronic covenant.  The Oath came after the time of the Law (10 commandment) and it overwrites the old Mosaic covenant.  The main points of this section are:

Psalm 110  is very interesting in that we have seen that the messiah has two functions. 

  • As King of Israel
  • As priest

There are two orders:

  • Order of Aaron
  • Order of Melchizedek

Two things are going on here.

  • The law made nothing perfect, and it was time for change.
  • With the change of priesthood comes a new hope.

The new covenant means:

  • This is a new covenant that displaces the old Aaronic priesthood.
  • Jesus is the guarantor of this new covenant.
  • Contrasted to the Aaronic priesthood Jesus’ priesthood is superior as there is no change of post because there is no death.

The most important thing in this section I think is where the writer says:

  • but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a son.
  • Psalm 110 has a prophetic dimension as Jesus said (David in the Spirit said)
  • And an Oath concerning the Son of God that overwrites the Law of Moses to the effect that the Aaronic priesthood is not important anymore.

Jesus is our great High Priest, and his priesthood is based upon the promise found in psalm 110:

4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.” Psalms 110:4

There has been a displacement of the old ways with the new and living way.   Hebrews is also the book of faith. 

Psalm 110 in other places of the New Testament

Psalm 110 is a key text and its influence is everywhere in the new testament.  Here are some proof texts that back up what Apollos says in the book of Hebrews.

Luke 20:42

39 Some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.

41 Then He said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms,

‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,

“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

43 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”’

44 Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?”

45 And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” Luke 20:39-47Acts 2:34

For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand,

64 Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Matthew 26:64

62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Mark 14:62

69 But from now on THE SON OF MAN WILL BE SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND of the power OF GOD.” Luke 22:69

31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31

55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55-56

34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Romans 8:34

20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:20-23

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

Psalm 110:1 (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; Acts 5:31; 7:55–56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1).

Apollos wants us to Stay faithful to Christ, no matter what the situation.

July 9, 2021

Today we will be looking at a chiasmus in Hebrews.  If you do not know what a chiasmus is have a look at this video: Our commentary will be on chapter 6.1-12

Let us begin by reading:

“1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits. 4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

Better Things for You

9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:1-12 NASB (This has been taken from Olive Tree Bible software)

The video link below explains what a chiasmus is. 

(This is third party)

The book of Hebrews is full of small gems. Before I move on, I want to explain that it is possible that we have a chiasm here:

“[7] Warning against falling away (Heb. 5:11-6:12)

      A(5:11-6:3) 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.(5:14)

                      B(6:4-6) 6:6 and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again (6:6)

                      B'(6:7-8) 6:8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is rejected; it will soon be cursed and finally burned. (6:8)

      A'(6:9-12) 6:12 so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises. (6:12)

   A: Wish for growth. B: Person who cannot be saved.” (From http://www.bible.literarystructure.info/bible/58_Hebrews_pericope_e.html#7)

(This is a literary device that was used in the ancient world, and it is also found in the Bible.

So, point A corresponds to point Aand B corresponds to BThis literary form helps to give a particular writing a beautiful structure and according to 村井源    Hajime Murai there are about 17 of these structures in the book of Hebrews.   This shows a serious consistency in the book of Hebrews that might otherwise have been missed out.  I am surprised that some of the commentaries I have looked at miss this type of structure because we not only look at the meaning of words and grammar but also at structure. So how does this help us.  It means that the ethical material of Hebrews continues all the way through to chapter 6 verse 12.)

So in a sense a chiasmus can make the meaning of what is said more forceful.  If I was to paraphrase it:

“Solid food is for the mature so stop being lazy and sluggish.  Those who fall away from the living God are about to be cursed and burned.”

This is pretty strong language! Apollos is not mincing words. It is no accident that this paraenetic material is sandwiched between chapters 5 and 7.  In chapter 5 we have the theme of the obedience of the Son.  It follows naturally that the believers should also follow in the footsteps of their king and Great High Priest.   In this chapter the writer is giving the readers a hard time because he is telling them that they should have progressed in the Christian faith, and they haven’t progressed.

Verses 1 – 3

“1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we shall do, if God permits.”

Apollos gives them a list of things that the Jewish Christian believers should understand and be doing.

Verse 3.  The correct translation is ‘We shall do’ although there is another version that says, ‘We may do’.  Apollos is one who does not mince his words and he is not afraid to state things as they are for me this is a good enough reason to follow ‘we shall do’. The internal evidence gives the readings from Papyri 46 is from AD 200 Alexandrinus is from AD 500.  ‘Shall do’ wins.

(The NASB correctly translates ‘we shall do’ (future plural) This follows papyri 46.  There is another reading though that follows Alexandrinus.   The difference is one letter s + omricon = future tense and s + omega = the aorist plural subjunctive!)

Verses 4 – 8

“4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.”

These verses are hard hitting, and it is aimed at those who turn their back on the Gospel.  I’m sure that Armenians and Calvinists would have a serious disagreement on these verses.  Herman Bavinck gives some useful information in his Reformed Ethics pages 406 and 407 as he writes:

“And third, in their wills and passions, unregenerateness about and fight against their sins (2 Cor. 7:10, “worldly sorrow”); biblical examples include Pharaoh (Exod. 9:27), King Saul (1 Sam. 24:17; 26:21), Felix (Acts 24:25), and Judas (Matt. 27:4). Such people can have a love for virtue, as Balaam did (Num. 22:18; 24:13); think also of men like Cicero and Seneca. They can have some taste of God’s common grace258 (Heb. 6:4–5; Num. 23:10), and even have a desire for grace (the foolish virgins in Jesus’s parable desired oil, Matt. 25:8). If they have a hope for heaven and expect him, they may suffer for Christ (1 Cor. 13:2). They can have the Spirit of God like Balaam (Num. 24:2), prophesy like Saul (1 Sam. 10:11), and, like Judas, cast out devils. Meade enumerates some twenty things that an unregenerate person can have, and Perkins lists about thirty-three. 25” (from page 406)

This is very important because according to these findings both the people of the world and the Christian can have the same types of experience of God’s grace.  Somethings are best left in God’s hands and let God deal with it. Election is a mystery as we were chosen from before the foundation of the world.  Let us also remember that we live the life of faith and if we stay constant, we are the elect.  We are not any better than those who do not accept the Gospel but we can be encouraged that we are living in Christ.

Verses 9 – 12

“9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” NASB

This is in contrast to the unbelief sections. Those who are being faithful to Christ and his Gospel.  I find this very interesting because it follows the same type of pattern as Psalm 95 being worked out in the Church.  We looked at this Psalm earlier and obviously Apollos is living this Psalm and he is expecting the Jewish believers to follow the same pattern.  In these verses I also feel empathy for the readers. 

Reflection

Hebrews chapter 6.1-12 is ethical material as well as being theological.  He is exhorting his readers to stay faithful to Christ.  Obviously if we were to mirror read the text, we would have to think that some of these believers were thinking about quitting the Christian faith and perhaps go back to traditional Judaism.  Let us even in the 21st century take Apollos’ warning seriously and be faithful to Christ even to the end of our time here on earth.

Jesus our Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek

July 3, 2021

Chapter 4. 14 -5.14

Jesus is indeed our great High Priest.  He speaks and mediates on our behalf. As we saw earlier in chapter 4. 14 up to the end of the chapter.

Just to remind you there are two areas in which Apollos prepared the groundwork for chapter 5.

As a reminder these points from verses 14 to 15 sets up the scene for chapter 5

“In verse 14 Apollos sets the scene and reminds his congregation of some facts.  Below in the first list are the heavenly, divine characteristics of our Lord and we are called on holding on to this confession.

1.   Jesus is the Great High Priest.

2.   Jesus entered heaven.

3.   Jesus is the Son of God

4.   We are to hold to our confession.

In verse 15 we have the earthly temporal characteristics of our Lord. That Jesus really understands the problems that we are facing:

1.   We have a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses

2.   Who has been tempted in all things like other believers

3.   Jesus has no sin.” 

So, we have in the two lists above divine and earthly characteristics of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and these points will be worked out in chapter 5 more fully.   Chapter 5 is such a small chapter that it is worth reading all of it:

​“ For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; 2   he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is  beset with weakness; 3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. 4 And no one takes the honour to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.
5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,
YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”;
6 just as He says also in another passage,
“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER
ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”
7  In the days of His flesh,  He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have
their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5 Olive Tree Bible software.

For the believers and Apollos, Jesus was God’s Messiah.  This is an especially important understanding of the nature of Kingship in the Old Testament.  Setting the scene:

The first four verses are an explanatory reminder to the Jewish Christians. The facts show that the person who is to be High Priest is called by God.

His main functions are

  1. The High Priest is to be called by God even as Aaron was.
  2. He deals gently with the ignorant and misguided and he is not any better than they.
  3. One of his main job descriptions is to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people and himself.

In the same way then Jesus did not take this honour on himself, but he was called by God.  Two Psalms are quoted from the Royal Psalms.  These are not any ordinary Psalms.

“ Royal Psalms

The ten so-called Royal Psalms (2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 110; 132; Nordic scholars set the figure higher)’° only form a ‘Gattung’ or ‘type’ insofar as they relate to the so-called ‘Ritual of the King’, and the royal cult at the state sanctuary.  Since they stem from the heritage of the first temple, we must apply to them the liturgical categories of pre-exilic period (as indeed to the other older hymns). They therefore defy any classification which is mainly derived from post-exilic times. Their group identity bears the stamp of the pre-exilic tradition. Sample text: Ps. 2.”  (Taken from Introducing the Psalms; Klaus Seybold; Page 115)

So, then scholars believe that Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 are clearly from the first Temple time, so they are very early.  These Psalms therefore are linked to the rituals performed in the Temple at Jerusalem and shows the close relationship between God and the King.  Psalms 2 and 110 are explicit references to Christ the Anointed One.  You need to remember that all the kings of Israel and Judah were anointed.  It is the title only given to a Royal King of Israel.  This practice was obviously taken over by the British Royal Family! (Note that the Messiah was understood to be the king of Israel. The king was the representative of YHWH on earth.   The commands from heaven were to be carried out here on earth. Note that Apollos sees this present earth only as a shadow of the real thing.) 

So then on the one level Jesus Shared some characteristics of the High priest hood but then Apollos takes us to a completely higher level when it comes to Christ.   The Validation of Christ as a High Priest is found in Psalm 2:

“YOU ARE MY SON,

TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”

And Psalm 110:

“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER

ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”

We have already met Psalm 2  in Hebrew.1 5 In that original place Apollos proved that Jesus was greater than the angels.  In that the writer showed the close bond between the Father and Son that angels could never be part of. 

In this scriptural recipe Apollos is showing that the Son is a High Priest in an order of priesthood that the ordinary High Priests could never share and in fact they were excluded from this High priesthood! Christ is a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.   Generally, the High Priests came from the Line of Aaron so what gives?  We will go into greater depth when we hit chapter 6. 

However at the moment Apollos wants to continue on the Sonship motif as we need to listen very closely to what is being said.  Let us now look at verses 7 through to 10:

“7  In the days of His flesh,  He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. ”

So, the text is basically saying is while Jesus was a human being on earth he prayed a lot and asked for many things.  I especially like John 17 in which Jesus prays for our behalf which is still in effect even for the believers today 2000 years later. Jesus did not only hold a title of Son of God, but he also proved it throughout his life.  Jesus was indeed obedient to the point of death on a cross.  Now because of his life and sacrifice Jesus Christ is indeed the only source for eternal life.  There is no other way.  As we said earlier, Apollos reaffirms that Jesus is a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

So how does all this relate to the believers?

This is an important question because we also need to take seriously what he said!

“11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” NASB

It looks like Apollos is taking the readers back to basics.  What amazes me is that this theology is high theology and I think the readers must have had some serious education on these points.  Comparing his teachings to the ordinary believer in a church today; if what he is saying is ‘milk’ what spiritual food are we then drinking: Water?  

I think that we also need to take chapter 6.1 into account “1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity…  Hebrews 6:1” NASB

Apollos is an excellent teacher as he really knows how to get the readers attention.  On the one hand he says that they need to go back to basics but then in 6.1 he says your now ready to listen to the heavier teachings.  Obviously, this Church really loved Apollos and Timothy 3.23.   

Reflection

This Week I have also been reading some of Acts.  One important question that comes to my mind about these believers is what sort of backgrounds did these believers come from?  Internally to this letter we have serious Jewish topics going on.  This book has tentatively been given an early date:

Could this be a clue to us?

“7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”

Acts 6:7 NASB

Could it be the case that Apollos was talking to some of these priestly converts?

I have no evidence for it, but it is a tantalizing hypothesis.  What I mean to say is that; in this letter we have a high theology. This theology is encased in a full proof argument that I believe needed a highly skilled scholar to compile it.  The content is high theology that I believe may have been aimed at members who had a profession within a priestly class and were interested in this kind of theological material.   On the other hand, it is a great work that all believers throughout the centuries have looked to for comfort.  John Owen is a prime example from the Puritan era.  He wrote a seven-volume set on this small letter and each volume is made up of hundreds of pages!

Reflection

Apollos is writing to a set of believers who are suffering for their faith.  Indeed, my thinking is leading me to think about this particular church to be in Jerusalem rather than in a larger diaspora.  Whatever the case; Apollos shows us the important work Jesus is doing for us as a High Priest and his High Priesthood is higher than the Aaronite priesthood line found in the fertile pages of Genesis and the Psalms.

Why is this important for the believer?

Jesus Loves his Church. He loves us so much that he intercedes on our behalf.  You are not alone.  If this was the Church in Jerusalem, they were to go through the collapse of and sacking of the Jewish temple. Obviously, it is my hypothesis that it were these Christians who suffered so greatly at this time.  The horrific sacking by the Romans and the carrying away of the Temples utensils.   We are now in the 21st century so what is this book telling us.  When I look around the world in prayer, I see much suffering, needless suffering.  The message for the Christian is the same; Have faith; be firm and follow Christ come what may.    How has the Church changed since then?  I see a lack of faith because many believers just want a quick Sunday fix or to see their favourite pastor online.  Whilst looking at these issues I also looked at chapter 13:

19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner. Hebrews 13:19

And

23 Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. Hebrews 13:23

Apollos is going to be ‘restored’ and Timothy is to be ‘released’.  I haven’t made any judgements about these words, but I have to say perhaps they are implying some time of imprisonment.  Isn’t it the case that Christians around the world are suffering from corrupt leaders and this at times can mean more suffering?  So let us remember to pray for our brothers and sisters that we have never met but are undergoing persecution for their faith.  Persecution does not have to be far away as I saw on Twitter  this 11-year-old boy was writing about alms and not arms:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/06/27/11-year-old-boy-reported-prevent-teacher-mishears-alms-arms/

So, my friends be strong in the faith and trust Christ as we are called to live for him.  Next time we will look at Hebrews chapter 6 and are going to have a closer look at how we ought to live material or the paraenetic material.

We all fall on hard times in our lives; spiritually, morally and materially. Jesus is our Great High Priest who cares for you; Let us enter his rest!

June 27, 2021

So, the section we looked at on ‘rest’ has focused on the believers and how they ought to trust Christ.  The thing about Hebrews is that his letter is a magnificent letter that keeps a flow without changing subjects all the time.   Apollos has proved that Jesus is God; he has proven that Jesus is greater than the angels; He has proven that Jesus is greater than Moses.  In this magnificent and beautiful letter, he shows the believers that God has prepared a place for them.  This place is situated in God’s ‘rest’.   He sections we dealt with last time is about how the believer is supposed to live.  He is to live by faith. 

We need to be careful now at chapter 4 verses 8 -16.  Apollos very cleverly is closing the paraenetic trusting material verses 8-13 in relation to the Sabbath rest of God.  He will then begin the introduction of Jesus our great Hight priest section.  Although we need to be aware that Apollos has already mentioned Jesus as High Priest in chapter 3 verse 1.  It is taken as a given that these believers saw Jesus as High priest, but they are in the long run going to be taught the content of what this actually means.  As far as I can see Apollos (if it is him) is one of the greatest theological writers in the New Testament along with Paul and St John the Apostle.   No writer in the New Testament has been able to stick to his material and follow an argument to the end.  This letter is amazing. If you are a student at university; Have you ever thought about how to change from one topic to another topic in one seamless connection?  In these few verses we are going to see this happen.

So let us read:

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:8-16

With Joshua and God’s rest we see the completion of a section.  The Israelites arrived in the promised land. This is a great rest is it not? No!  The history of the Israelites is a warning to all of us, whether we are Jewish or Gentile.  The promised land might of started as a paradise but we know the history of the Judges, Kings and Chronicles.  God’s people kept turning their back on God and the covenant.  They were turning their back on God because of unbelief.  Verse 11 is critical in understanding where Israel went wrong:

” Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”

In our faith we need to be diligent and trust God.  We need to keep Christ our Lord in view every day living according to his and the apostolic teachings in Scripture.

Do we?

Apollos gives us an inkling into the nature of God.  Don’t forget though that Christ mediates for us verses 12 and 13 is a good reminder:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

We need to remember that a characteristic of God is that he is holy, and he sees everything.  It is no accident that all over the world one of the symbols of the judiciary is a sword. 

The form of verses 8 through to thirteen we see a change of subject. It changes from us as subject  to God and Christ as subject.

Having looked at the evidence I still don’t completely understand what the Writer is trying to prove. But one thing is certain when Joshua and David failed to give Israel rest, Jesus as the Messiah did not fail.

In verse 14 Apollos sets the scene and reminds his congregation of some facts.  Below in the first list are the heavenly, divine characteristics of our Lord and we are called on holding on to this confession.

  1. Jesus is the Great High Priest.
  2. Jesus entered heaven.
  3. Jesus is the Son of God
  4. We are to hold to our confession.

In verse 15 we have the earthly temporal characteristics of our Lord. That Jesus really understands the problems that we are facing:

  1. We have a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses
  2. Who has been tempted in all things like other believers
  3. Jesus has no sin.

Here we see Jesus as fully divine and fully human.  Jesus is our Lord, and he loves us and cares for us.  In the natural what is a priest anyway.  An ordinary priest us supposed to mediate on our behalf before God.   Jesus is no ordinary priest.  He is the Great High priest; the genuine High priest from heaven who pleads on our behalf.   This is why we can draw with confidence before God as Apollos says:

“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16” All quotations are from the NASB using Olive Tree software.

Reflection

[Provisional evaluation of chapters 3/7 to 4/16]

Having looked at this text very carefully there are two tensions that run throughout this text.

BELIEF             UNBELIEF

Resting/obeying God.          or   Testing/tempting God.

The Israelites never found the real rest in Israel because they didn’t obey God.  The whole history shows this.  The encouraging thing is that we are called to be diligent and walk by faith.  We are not to look back.  Jesus is the real Great High Priest.  Jesus as God has entered heaven but as a human being, Jesus understands the turmoil we go through on a day-to-day basis.  Apollos then encourages us to draw close to the throne of grace.  In Jesus we find mercy and not the sword.  Verses 14 to 16 gives us a glimpse into what he is going to explain to us next.  Even when we stop here; I feel encouraged.  These believers suffered various forms of persecution.  Apollos gave them advice to walk on through the shadow of the valley of death and to come out on the other side victorious.  Let us keep firm and keep trusting our Lord Jesus through thick and thin.  Our relationship with God is the real thing.  It does not matter what material things we own.  God is bigger than that, in fact these believers had their worldly wealth confiscated.  They had their lively hoods taken from them.  They had worldly security taken from them.   These believers were going through serious troubles, and it would nor surprise me if some of them got martyred.  If you are a believer, perhaps you are going through a hard time at the moment.  Jesus understands you and he cares for you.  Apollos is showing you the way.  Don’t forget to ask God to give you help in these times. Keep on trusting, keep on obeying, keep reading your Bible and stay on the narrow road.  Don’t forget that if you are trusting in Jesus, you are part of the universal church of believers past, present and future. 

The way of faith or your way part 1 Hebrews 4.1-7

June 19, 2021

Hebrews chapter 4

Lets begin by reading Hebrews 4, verses 1 through to 7!

1 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH,

THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; 5 and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.” Hebrews 4:1-7

Verse 1

Therefore (ouv) This takes us to the previous things that were said.  Apollos reminded his readers of the perils of unbelief.  Having the previous in mind and in terms of what was said we ought to understand the phrase ‘let us fear if’.  I liked the way john Calvin put it:

“But the fear which is here recommended is not that which shakes the confidence of faith but such as fills us with such concern that we grow not torpid with indifference. Let us then fear, not that we ought to tremble or to entertain distrust as though uncertain as to the issue, but lest we be unfaithful to God’s grace.

By saying Lest we be disappointed of the promise left us, he intimates that no one comes short of it except he who by rejecting grace has first renounced the promise; for God is so far from repenting to do us good that he ceases not to bestow his gifts except when we despise his calling. The illative therefore, or then means that by the fall of others we are taught humility and watchfulness according to what Paul also says,

“These through unbelief have fallen; be not thou then high minded, but fear.” [67] ^ (Romans 11:20.)”  From https://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/hebrews/4.htm

He goes on to say “while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.”   Verse 1b

Apollos knows that by faith we can enter this ‘rest of God’.  He doesn’t want any of his congregation to not enter it. 

Verse 2 is critical to our understanding of how we enter this rest:

“2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”

The phrase ‘we have had good news preached to us’ in the Greek is one word and it is a perfect tense.  This word is doing a lot of hard work that the message the original readers and the readers of this letter heard the Gospel.  This was an act that happened, but it has eternal consequences.    In this verse we have the ‘they’ and ‘us’.  Apollos is making and showing the big difference between the groups.  They did not unite God’s message with faith, but his present readers are encouraged to unite the message of faith and trusting God.

{

Note: have had good news preached to us = εὐηγγελισμένοι Hebrews 4:2  verbal participle, middle or passive, nominative masculine plural.

}

Verse 3: For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH,

THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world”.

This to me is a wonderful statement, “For we who have believed enter that rest”.   Apollos continues with them in this passage and he contrasts the two groups.  So, we will enter Gods rest because we have trusted God but they will not enter because of unbelief.  Apollos has not added any bones to the word rest yet, but he has used it in terms of those who believe and those who disbelieve.   From this point on, the quality of the word ‘rest’, will start to make more sense. 

Verse 3b and verse 4: I find it interesting that Apollos says God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world.  He then in verse 4 quotes from Genesis 2.2  about God resting from his creative work.  Rest does not mean that God got tired and couldn’t carry on, not at all.  A Jewish text I read translated rest in Genesis 2.2 as abstained from his work.  God set the cosmos up and everything was working perfectly.  Abstained has the idea that God decided and chose to stop at that particular moment.  The word rested in Genesis 2.2 Kalah is in the piel form so the work of creation was 100% perfect completed.

{notes

‘Rested’ in the LXX; Genesis.2.2 is in the  Aorist Active Indicative – 3rd Person Singular.  This happened once. 

In the Hebrew Kalah rested translated here I believe wrongly as ‘ended’ is that in its intensive meaning of the piel; its form takes on a consecutive imperfect.  A consecutive imperfect is always read as a perfect in meaning.  From https://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/2-2.htm

}

‘Abstained’ makes perfect sense because it is God who chose when to put the tools down, yet he is always in control of his creation.  The aorist in the Greek points to this point being a unique action from God’s point of view, and for us who are a part of the creation of God his work has eternal consequences for us, past present and future.

{

side note:

With the Genesis story I hold to the traditional view that Moses is the author of Genesis and I reject the P,J,E interpretation that takes these two chapters to it being written in the exilic period of Babylonia. 

Having said that, we need to remember that the creation stories are seriously important through out the whole of the Old Testament.   From that point of view I agree with Walter Brueggemann that the Jewish people were able to keep their own identities with the use of the Sabbath against all these polytheistic cosmologies that existed in the 6th and 7th centuries.

}

Verses 4 and  5:

 “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; 5 and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.”

The question is why Apollos set these two verses next to each other, Genesis 2.2 and Psalm 95.

I am sure that there are many ways to look at this.  The one thing that stands out is that originally it is ‘God’s rest’  is set up with, ‘Our rest’.   This resting is about our communion with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.      Let us tread on:

Verses 6-7:

Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.” Hebrews 4:6-7

Here we have king David reiterating what God had said from the creation of the world.  Hearing the Gospel and hearing with the ear of faith is the key.  Today does not lose its meaning even for the listeners to the book of Hebrews.  When is today? Today is now! Today is the present and Apollos gives us a choice are going to listen to Jesus Christ the Son of God or are we going to pass it by.

{

Notes

Preliminary remarks

There is a key word in this passage but more importantly this word is first used in Hebrews 3.11. 

The word rest is found in these places: Chapter 3.11; 3.18; 4.1; 4.3; 4.5; 4.8; 4.9; 4.10; 4.11.

As you can see Apollos is putting a lot of weight on this word and then his question is why. 

Having a closer look at the context we see the first time he uses it is the quotation from Psalm 95.

Hebrews 3.11; 3.18; 4.1; 4.3; 4.4 4.5; 4.8; 4.9; 4.10; 4.11

In 3. 11 it is the quotation from Psalm 95

in 3. 18 he interprets this rest that those who disobey will not enter the rest.

4.1 this is a warning for us.

4.3 For us who believe enter the rest.

4.4 This is interesting; he takes the readers back to the creation story when God rested from his works Genesis 2.2

4.8 When the Jews entered Israel by Joshua (according to Apollos)

Joshua did not give them rest even though God kept his promise to Israel and Judah.

}

Reflection on the argument so far

As Christians we are called to walk a life by faith and not in our own strength.   We are to trust our Lord Jesus Christ no matter what.   We are to walk by the Word of God with faith.   God indeed did create the world and the universe, but he also prepared a place for us in his Kingdom.  God’s rest is also our rest, and we need to trust in his promises.  This chapter is not the easiest to understand but when we think of Jesus’ words from Bible gateway:

“14 “Do not let your heart be troubled; [a]believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many [b]rooms; if that were not so, [c]I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

I want to finish by saying that God really loves us and wants the best for us.  How could Jesus say these words if God didn’t love us?

It may be that you haven’t thought about these issues.  I pray that God by the Holy Spirit with show you our Lord Jesus that you come to a place to trust him and make him your Lord.  The Book of Hebrews is certainly the book of faith!

You can also follow my Blog on Herman Bavinck. We are continuing our discussion on the conscience and how the rationalists movement changed the goal posts: https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

The dangers of unbelief in the face of adversity: Hebrews Chapter 3 6-12

June 12, 2021

12 06 2021

The dangers of unbelief.

As we saw in Psalm’s unbelief is the opposite of faith.   God wants a people who will trust him.  Looking at this chapter holistically, it was bad enough to disobey God when Moses was in charge of the people of God.  How much worse it is to be disobedient to the Son of God!  To Apollos, Jesus is greater than Moses therefore the punishment of disobedience will be greater.   It is God who saved Israel from the Egyptians with mighty miracles which were unheard of.    The people of God in that generation were pushing all the wrong buttons.  Out of that generation only Joshua and Caleb made it into the promised land.  God takes pleasure in a people who trust and obey him.   This is a lesson we learned from the Psalm.

Apollos then spells it out to his readers.

“12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”

16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. “Hebrews 3:12-19 NASB

It is so easy for us to take the wider road of pleasure and putting self before God.  In this paraenetic material of exhortation there was a very real danger of some of the believers falling away.  Even before AD 70 both Jews and Christians were being persecuted and if we read this letter very carefully, we can see material pointing to this for example later on before the faith chapter:

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:32-36 NASB

These Jewish Christians were suffering for their faith.  There was a clear danger for them to lose hope.  Apollos was a great pastor!  He was able to draw from the wellsprings of Scripture to encourage them to follow the Lord whatever the outcome.  It is so easy for someone to call themselves a Christian when they live in the lap of luxury with no financial woes.  We need to be reminded today that everything can be swept away in an instant.  Some of these believers to whom Apollos is writing to suffered loss of houses goods and in some situations even life.  This was the reality.  As believers we have a choice, this moment; Do we serve the Lord Jesus, or do we turn our back on all the good things God has done for us?  Jesus Christ, God of God, light of light, becoming full human and a man broke into our human domain and for a season became a human being like all of us.  This was not enough!  We deserved to be judged and to be punished by eternal death for the sins we have committed.  Instead, it was God’s plan to send his son to a hill and be crucified in our place.   The wonder the mystery of this.  Now the door is open for us to enter heaven.

You as the reader of Hebrews like these early believers are called to make a choice. Today if you hear his voice.  As long as it is called today.  Apollos is not mincing words: Today is now.  Today is not yesterday and it is not in the future, it is now.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is no, then good carry on serving him.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is yes keep on worshipping him.  Have you passed the litmus test of faith?

Verse 14 says:  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. NASB

If you haven’t suffered my friend, you might in the future.  Live by faith and live by faith including all the responsibilities as a child of God.  He commands us to love and to live by faith.  If you are living by faith, then where is the fruit of that love?    It wasn’t cheap for God to become a human being and to die on a cross.  Do you have a cheap my friend or is there substance to it.  Many people have lost homes because of war and famine.  As a believer if you have been in a position to help another human being ; what did you do?

I’m not judging, I will be found lacking and it is only by grace that I stand!

You might be suffering and there may be a possibility to turn your back on god’s ways and go to crime.  I’m saying don’t do it.  God loves you my friend and in him, in Christ there is always a way.

Lets look at the text more carefully;

Verse 12-14 are an explanation of the theme found in verse 6, that the believers should stay faithful. It does imply suffering as a consequence of the sin they committed. The mood of verse 12 to 13 move from – to +.  Verse 12 says ‘take care’ the beginning of verse 13 says ‘but encourage…’ 

From a negative point of view verse 12 says that they should keep away from unbelief.  For example the readers may have entertained the idea that perhaps Jesus is not the Christ after all.

From a positive point of view verse 13 says that the readers should encourage each other day by day.  These questions for the readers being of Jewish background are of the highest importance. The answer to the question however is that Jesus is the Christ the true King of Israel. 

Verse 14 has the same feel to it as verse 6. By looking at the key words in both sentences we find the following.

Verse 6 confidence = verse 14 assurance.

“     6 firm       =  “    14 firm.

“     6 end        =  “    14 end.

Obviously if I was going to use the above words then there must have been something that was discouraging me.  In chapter 12/3 the writer does give us a clue to the problem.  Possibly within the Jewish community (and I am convinced there was) there was a Jewish voice that said Jesus was not the Christ but an imposter.  These Jewish Christians were worn down and they were ‘tired’, they were losing heart (12/3b). They were under some type of persecution (verse 4) possibly losing jobs, being rejected by the family and friends.  It does not seem to be the case that any of these believers were being murdered (12/4) for their faith.  More like they were under peer pressure to conform to the standard beliefs of the Jewish community.

chapter 3/15-19 a summary.

Having looked at the situation of these Jewish Christians, the writer quotes a part of the wilderness experiences of Israel (see chapter 3/7-8 from Psalm 95/7). He then explains that the reason why the Jews did not listen was because of unbelief and this was worked out in disobedience. So, Israel did not listen to God. 

Reflection

How can I finish this section of scripture?  What have we learned?  The main lesson I think is that the way of faith is better than the way of unbelief.    Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He came into the world to save us from our sins.  If we turn our back on Jesus, we turn our back on God.  It is that simple.  So let us not shrink from faith ‘now’ but stay firm, lock ourselves away and pray and seek wisdom.  Whether we are suffering or nor not suffering Jesus is always close to us.  It is not a feeling thing, it is an objective reality.