The Book of Hebrews
We cannot say with any degree of certainty who wrote the letter to the Hebrews but it was written to a group of 1st century Christians who were in danger of giving up. Times were hard for the Jewish Christians, many of whom had been exposed to fierce persecution. This letter’s primary exhortation is an appeal for endurance. It calls all those Christians who have been severely tested to keep their faith firmly anchored in Christ and to press on to mature Christian stability.
Some of the believers had slipped back into Judaism. They had placed their trust not only in the work of Christ, but in the works of the law. They were abandoning their faith not simply because it was too costly for them to continue, but because they had an inadequate understanding of the uniqueness of Christ. These Christians were attempting to add other things to their faith in Christ and the author is concerned that they are in danger of making Christ secondary to their faith or in turning from Christ altogether. The author’s response to this situation is to point them back to Jesus, to help them see more clearly the greatness of His person and work, and so to feed their faith in Him.
Sometimes we relegate Christ to being little more than the patron of our belief. We call ourselves Christian but we’ve become detached from Him. Sometimes we relegate Him to being a teacher who has left us to work out His teaching. Sometimes we relegate Him to being the example that we are to emulate and follow. Sometimes we relegate Him to the messenger rather than the message and we miss who He really is. That was the tragedy for the Jewish people,
‘He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.’ (John 1:11). They didn’t receive Him because they misunderstood some fundamental things about Him.
This letter was written to address some of these misunderstandings. The author is writing to correct their ignorance of who Christ was and how He completes and fulfils Israel’s history, Israel’s law, Israel’s ceremonial rituals and Israel’s priesthood.
Hebrews 3:1 says,
‘Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.’ And in chapter 12 and verses 1-2 it says,
‘…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…’ (New American Standard Bible). Then in verse 3 it goes on to say,
‘Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’
Fixing our thoughts and our eyes on Jesus, considering who He is will help us to endure and see His central role in our Christian experience.
The most important question in life for any human being to consider is the one Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:15,
“But what about you?”…“Who do you say I am?” That question demands a verdict.
The Book of Hebrews will help us to grow in our understanding of the answer to that question as we look at the supremacy of Christ in divine revelation, and the sufficiency of Christ in Christian experience together in our next series of sermons, ‘Fix your eyes upon Jesus and consider Him’.
As Helen Lemmel wrote in her majestic hymn,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
With love in Jesus’ name,