Teachings of Hebrews on the thorny issue of Apostasy

September 3, 2021

30 08 2021

When we looked at the last section verses 19-25 Apollos was speaking positively to those who believe.  In verses 26-31 Apollos is speaking to those who hold the confession but have decided to wilfully keep on sinning.

As a bonus we are also going to touch on the authorship of Hebrews and some indicators why only Apollos from all of the candidates of the New Testament could have written this magnificent book.

Christ or Judgment

26 For if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Hebrews 10:26-39

When we turn to action (ethics)we need to remember that this was a Christian community.  Before we look at this section it is good just to reflect on what Apollos has taught us along the way.  The important theme is faith.  As believers in Christ, we are called to live ‘in Him’.  The writer has already spoken of the two ways when the people of God under Moses walked through the Wilderness and so often, they chose the way of unbelief.  Only Joshua and Caleb out of that whole generation made it into the promised land with their descendants of course.  The special ingredient was faith.  We are warned not to continue turning our backs on Christ wilfully and continue living as though Christ’s work on the cross meant nothing.   Apollos is correct to remind us that we shouldn’t take our Lord’s sacrifice for granted. Be careful my friends.   If you’re not a believer yet, this does not concern you because from the theological stance you haven’t come into a covenant relationship with Christ although the invitation is always open and there is no force.  Christ knocks at the door of your heart, and he invites you to dine with him into eternity.

Verse 26

26 For if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

Obviously, all Christians sin but this is aimed at the apostates.  Those who completely turn their backs on Christ.  It is also a rejection of the death of Christ on the cross.  Apostates have only themselves to blame.

Verse 27-31

27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Apollos begins quoting from the great Isaiah.  Then he is reminding his readers of the legal aspects of judgement under the law of Moses.  It only took two or three witnesses to condemn a fellow Israelite to death. Apollos seems to be quoting from Isaiah:

11 O LORD, Your hand is lifted up, yet they do not see it.

They see Your zeal for the people and are put to shame;

Indeed, fire will devour Your enemies. Isaiah 26:11

Apollos gets very graphic about the role the apostates play with the atoning work of Christ. Trampling the sacrifice of Christ is a sin that will never be forgiven as it is a sin against the Holy Spirit. 

Notes

The Holy Spirit is very active in the Book of Hebrews.  In the majority of places in Hebrews, the Holy Spirit is referred to as ‘Holy Spirit’.  In two places however he is referred to as the ‘Eternal Spirit’ (9.14) and the Spirit of Grace (10.29).  Apollos definitely had a strong belief in the work of the Holy Spirit.  In the Acts of the Apostles, we find Apollos with other disciples being taught about the Holy Spirit (Acts 18:24 – 19:10).  In the passage below we see Apollos and other disciples being taught about the Holy Spirit.  As in many churches around the world today there are ecstatic experiences going on linked to the person of the Holy Spirit.  You might come to a different conclusion to me but at least have a read of the passage below:

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Paul at Ephesus

1 It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus and found some disciples. 2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7 There were in all about twelve men.

8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 18:24 – 19:10 NASB

The notes give us some incredible information about Apollos.  In fact, after the problems were sorted out in Corinth, there is a tradition that he returned and became a leader there.   

Verse 30-31

We see Pauline influence on Apollos as well with the quote ‘vengeance is mine’:

35 ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,

In due time their foot will slip;

For the day of their calamity is near,

And the impending things are hastening upon them.’ Deuteronomy 32:35

It is also quoted by Saint Paul:

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 NASB

God will judge the Apostate, we are called to show love to everyone:

31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

Reflection

God created us and he sent his only Son into the world to make it possible for us to find peace with God.  Unfortunately, there are those who pretend to be Christians but actually do it for other ulterior motives.  Apollos shows us that the person who tramples the works of Christ into the ground have sinned against the Holy Spirit… Could this be the unforgivable sin?  Apollos did not mince words here. 

Indicators of Authorship

For me, reading about Apollos and what he learned about the Holy Spirit from other believers including Saint Paul; If Apollos was the author of the book of Hebrews I would expect to see a strong pneumatology withing Hebrews.  There is a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit in the book of Hebrews.  It can at times seems veiled for examples:

  1. ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ Hebrews 2.4
  2. ‘The Holy Spirit says’ Hebrews 3.7
  3. ‘Partakers of the Holy Spirit’ Hebrews 6.4
  4. 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will Hebrews 2:4
  5. ‘the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying’ Hebrews 10:15

The Holy Spirit is ‘personal’ in the book of Hebrews.  This is a high theology of God.  A person gives gifts; a person speaks; persons share with others; language and signs belong to personal communication.  There are those who say that Hebrews was influenced by Philo but this is nonsense.  Obviously, Apollos may have used philonic language but Apollos says the opposite.  The Puritans proved that Hebrews is a complete refutation of Philo’s teachings!

https://www.apuritansmind.com/apologetics/the-author-of-hebrews-philo-and-the-doctrine-of-the-logos-by-dr-c-matthew-mcmahon/

Remember that Philo was working from Alexandria the greatest learning centre of the ancient world and he died in the ad 40’s! Certainly, Apollos being a ‘learned man’ would have learned about this branch of Judaism.  What we have learned about Apollos and why he is an excellent candidate for the writer of Hebrews.

  1. The writer to the Hebrews had a strong pneumatology so did Apollos
  2. The writer to the Hebrews was eloquent in Alexandrian Greek so was Apollos.
  3. The book of Hebrews is a refutation of Philo’s teachings, only Apollos from the New Testament could have done this because he was a learned man from ‘Alexandria’.
  4. The opening verses in the book of Hebrews is some of the best Greek, ancient or modern, only a person with the calibre of Apollos could have written it. Paul although educated does not match the standard (sorry but it is true).

These then are some reasons why I am convinced that Apollos wrote it.   I’m sure there are a lot more. 

Next time we will look at verses 32-39.  We move away from the Apostates, and we begin the run up to one of the greatest chapters in the Bible on the topic of faith.  These Christians were suffering persecution, but Apollos will bring the believers out of the valley and to the mountain top of Faith where we can see over the horizon into heaven itself. 

Life in the Spirit; Walking the Christian walk in the Valleys and the Mountain tops.

August 29, 2021

We have seen that Christ was the real high priest from Heaven itself and also Christ was the perfect sacrifice once and for all.  For these reasons we have a new and living way in Christ.  The tabernacle on earth was only ever a copy and shadow of the real one in heaven. As a digression we will first encouragement from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics:

“Only the Triune God has life in himself; all creaturely life is derived from and dependent upon God. While the drive for self-preservation characterizes all vegetative and sentient life, the spiritual life is characterized by love for God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit Its fundamental principle is not found within the natural life but first arises through denial, self-crucifixion, renunciation, and loss of our soul. Love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and fruit of the Spirit, gives stature and form to the spiritual life.” Reformed Ethics; Book 2 and chapter 7; page 239; By Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt)

This is a great encouragement from Herman Bavinck.  In this life we are always facing various trials and at the end even death itself.  My friend’s God is at work, and he cares for your soul.  In Christ by faith, we can grasp eternal life through the work of Christ.  In Christ we have fulness of life.   Bavinck in the first opening pages looks at St Pauls writings but here too in Apollos’ writings we find this encouraging theme.

Before continuing to our main theme let us read our main text from Hebrews 10. 19-25:

A New and Living Way

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

When we read the book of Hebrews, we get great encouragement. Did you know that these Christians were really suffering for their faith?  We know what happened to the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. It was pulled down and those Jewish slaves were sent to the Corinthian Canal to build it. Obviously, it was a failed venture until 1853.  Some set the book in Rome however we know the book was probably written before AD 70 and my theory is that it was written in Jerusalem.  We know that many priests were becoming Christians in the Jerusalem Temple.  I would venture to say that these Jewish Christians were being abused by the local Jewish and Roman authorities.  Many of these believers that Apollos is referring to were losing land and property and were being put in prison.  This is persecution my friends.  The believers mentioned in the book of Hebrews are a great encouragement to us alive today.  When we suffer for our faith like they did they stayed firm in the faith.  

From what we have read we have seen Jesus as the Lamb of God.  It is Jesus who died on the cross but by faith we have great ‘confidence’.  This is faith language and we do not enter any temple on earth my friends we enter the Holy Place in heaven itself by the blood of Jesus:

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,

This is the true march of faith.  We are walking and getting closer to the great faith chapter 11.  We are not there yet.  However, we ought to know why we have this great confidence.  It is what Jesus has done for us.

We are not there yet but Apollos furnishes more morsels of spiritual food for our hearts.  ‘By a new and living way’:

20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

 Heaven itself through the work of Christ has broken through the heavens into our space and time.  We have the original Great High Priest over our souls.  The second Person of the Trinity.  The One who took on a body and died so that we might have eternal life.  In these verses we have the proof and evidence my brothers and sisters if only we ‘believe’ and trust our Lord Jesus fully.

Apollos has already covered this ground in this verse already earlier on in the book where he says:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful:

We saw from Psalm 95 that the people of God grumbled against God and Moses.  We don’t have to be that way my friends.  Sometimes we need to go through the hardships no matter what.  There may be a price to pay.  It maybe we will lose friends, be falsely accused for something we didn’t do.  It may be that we are thrown in prison for our faith.  Let us stay faithful to the Lord Jesus even if we are condemned.  Jesus is our Lord, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and helper.  Our home is already prepared in heaven for us.

As Bavinck would say Faith is the root and works are the fruit.  Apollos is grounded in reality my friends.  He takes the believers into heaven itself and then he brings them down to the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross.  In light of what God has done, we are called to love our neighbour.  From that perspective these verses are important:

24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

With the verses above we are encouraged to live as a family of God.  We are not to forsake assembling (but it is not a command).  Some Christians live away from civilization and they cannot attend for certain reasons.  It may be that the person has physical movements of moving around.  Let us not forget that our God is a God of love, and we ought to reciprocate our lord Jesus’ example.

We also have a firm hope in these verses where it says,” and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” For Christians there is the great expectation of our Lord Jesus coming back for his church.  Here we see a small glimpse of this truth.  We ought to have the same attitude as these believers as we are called to hope for the return of Christ. 

Reflection

Faith and Christian action are always linked.  Apollos (Whom I believe wrote this work of beautiful divine theological reality art) Explained to us what Jesus had done for us through his person and his actions.  Jesus went through many sufferings so in the same way we ought to follow the confession of our faith in Christ.  We are literally a new creation of God inside out as he has written his laws on our hearts.  In Christ we too will enter heaven itself.  It is not a fun thing to go to prison for something you did not do.  Jesus understands this as he was a prisoner too even as the chief priests and soldiers came to arrest him while it was still dark.  The work on the cross has been completed after Jesus cried out on the cross “It is finished”. 

Next time Jesus comes, He will not come as a servant but as the King of all kings. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us of this by saying “…all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10. 25”

The day of Christ’s second coming draws near.  Let us take stock and fall on our knees and pray how we can be more like Christ.  There is no whip my friend, only love. 

You can also follow my other blog as Herman Bavinck the master theologian gives us the vocabulary for Life in the Spirit: https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

God is Going to write His Laws on the tablet of our hearts through the work of Our Lord Jesus Christ Hebrews 10. 11-18

August 21, 2021

19 08 2021

Let us begin by reading Hebrews 10. 11-18:

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 10:11-18 NASB (Olive Tree Bible Software)

Introduction

We need to remember the context of Hebrews.  When talking about the priesthood and sacrifice it is in context of the Tabernacle and the Old Testament.  John Calvin starts like this too.  Later on, he talks about the Papacy and how the Mass breaks the rule of ‘once for all’ sacrifice of Christ.  This text has got nothing to do with the Papists.  It has everything to do with what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has done for us.  I’m not interested in polemics, but I am interested in what God has to say to us today in the 21st century. 

Verses 11-14

Looking at verses 11 -14 again:

“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.”

Verses 11-12

These sacrifices for the people of God were done on a daily basis by the ministering priests.  The main point here is that these offerings could never take away sins.  This is contrasted with what Jesus has done for us.  His ‘sacrifice’ happened once!  After the sacrifice of Jesus, the act was completed for ever.

Verse 13

The beginning of Psalm 110 verse 1 starts with the Divine Trinitarian speech; ‘The Lord says to my Lord’ is omitted here.  Apollos already covered this ground earlier in the book of Hebrews.  Sitting at the right hand of God the Father is a privileged position.  Only the Son can sit here because it is his rightful place.  All the enemies of Christ will be made subject to Christ.

Verse 14

“14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” NASB

14 ‘Perfected’ used about Christ is to be seen in a negative light as far as the Old Testament law is concerned. The work of Christ brings an end in history for any need of sacrifice after Christ.  The job has been done!  Calvin would translate this verse a little differently using dynamic equivalence.  In verse fourteen where it says ‘perfected’,(perfect, indicative active), he prefers ‘consecrated’ because in the same verse ‘sanctified’ is used.  When something is sanctified, it is no longer for common use but only for God’s use. 

Verse 15

“15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, NASB.”

 The third Person of the Trinity is very important to Apollos and actually for many parts of the New Testament.  The Holy Spirit reveals God’s own heart to us, and we need to be more attentive to the prophetic voice of the Holy Spirit who as well as being our Comforter is also our teacher.

Verses 16-18

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 10:11-18 NASB (Olive Tree Bible Software)

Once the Writer has proven his case, he is upbeat by quoting Jer. 31. 33-34.  At this point he is moving away from looking at the works of Christ and looking at the effects of Christ’s work. Namely the benefits that the Jewish Christians have coming from the work of Christ.  Hence the benefits for all Christians for all time.

We often here these verse quoted in Church or by believers for their encouragement they give.  Actually, when I think about Jesus’ teachings these are not mediocre prophetic words.  Firstly, it is the Holy Spirit Who spoke these words to us. This means that these words should be taken very seriously indeed. 

A note on The Holy Spirit the third person of the Trinity.

In chapter one we saw the relationship of the Father and the Son, and it is true that the main thrust of the letter is about the Son. The writer however at times touches on the person and work of the Holy Spirit as witness to the Son.

There are those that would only understand the Holy Spirit in impersonal terms. We need to be careful of not understanding the Holy

Spirit as only a power, although we can see the attribute of power working through Him.  You can also see the Holy Spirit speaking in chapters 2,4 / 3,7 / 6,4 / 9,8 / 9,14 /10,15 /10,29    As well as these verses closer scrutiny of the prophecies may show that there are also other verses in which the Holy Spirit is speaking as ‘He’.       

Chapter 4,3 Just as He has said.  8,8 is another case in point He says… in light of 9,8. 

2,4 In this verse we hear about ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his own will’

3,7 Here the Holy Spirit is giving a prophetic speech.

6,4 In verses 4 and 5 we see the disciples spoken of as partakers of the Holy Spirit (third person of the Trinity) and have tasted the word of God (reference to the Father The second person of the trinity).

9,8 The Holy Spirit is giving ‘signs’ in the old covenant.

9,14 This verse refers to all three persons of the Trinity) Here the work of Christ is met through the agency of the Holy Spirit as a gift to the Father.

10,15 Here the Holy Spirit is a witness.

10,29 Here it says that the Holy Spirit can be insulted. i.e., We can only speak of a person being insulted not a power.

The Holy Spirit in relation to the Father and the Son. I would argue that the Writer of Hebrews has an implicit theology of the Holy Trinity, and it becomes explicit in 9,14

From the above argument I have proven that the Holy Spirit needs to be understood in personal terms, just as he is referred in other parts of scripture, such as the speech of Jesus in John 14,16-31. In reality however when Looking at John 14 you can see the workings of the complete Trinity if you also take into account verses 7-15.

Reflection

About our salvific situation before a Holy God

I want to begin at verses 16-17. God says that he will give us a new heart. This is very serious indeed.  The standards that God has for us is higher than that of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  These people my friends kept the law perfectly, but I have to explain that the standard Jesus sets is even higher than theirs.  If they kept the law perfectly you might ask, then how can I stand of any chance of getting into heaven? 

That is the main point; in your own strength it is impossible to get to heaven. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus gave us the key when he said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’.  I know that I am going on a tangent but before returning to Hebrews we need to think about our Lords sayings in Matthew 5,6, and 7 in his Sermon on the Mount.  If you try to fulfil the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount my friends, you will fall flat on your face.  For me these have been written to show how helpless we are before a Holy God.  One needs to come to a place in your heart and confess that you are destitute and in complete need of God’s Help.  ‘Poor in Spirit’ is no accidental formula.  It is intended to disarm us.  The Pharisees kept the law perfectly (they thought), but they failed to comply with what ‘has not been written’ as Bavinck would explain to us.  Later on, in the book of Acts many priests did in fact follow the way of Christ.  

Returning to verses 17-18 then, the Holy Spirit needs to change our heart.  Unless we come to a place of repentance (‘poor in spirit’) we would not be able to have a new heart.  This is God’s process.

The work Jesus has done for us.

We have now seen that Jesus is our perfect high Priest and our king sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.  He is also the one who died for us so that we can have eternal life.   As Paul says, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10.9-10 NASB

Indeed this is our confession that Jesus has been raised from the dead and because of this we will one day be also raised from the dead.

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.