By Sam E. Stone
The letter to the Hebrews does not tell us the name of its author. For years Paul was assumed to have written it. Others think Barnabas or Apollos did. Though we cannot be certain of the author, the book was clearly accepted by the early church as part of the Holy Spirit-inspired canon of Scripture. Most Bible students believe it was written before the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in AD 70 since the temple offerings and activities are mentioned throughout the book.
The letter was written to Jewish converts to Christianity, reminding them that Jesus is God’s final revelation and their only hope. This is a needed message for us as well. For the first month of this quarter we will study various aspects of biblical faith taught in the book of Hebrews.
Thomas Hewitt declares, “The sacrifices of the old covenant, though many, were inadequate. Christ’s sacrifice, though one, was fully adequate” (Hebrews 10:1-4).
After clearly demonstrating the superiority of all that Jesus did through the new covenant (1-9), the writer now gives practical applications of these truths. The believer today is able to enter God’s presence, in contrast to those under the old covenant who had no direct access to God. We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice on Calvary made all the difference. The Most Holy Place refers to the innermost area in the Jewish temple. It was separated from the rest of the temple by a large veil or curtain (Exodus 26:31-35). No such barrier exists now between God and his children. By offering himself as the perfect sacrifice, Christ opened the way by which all can approach God.
Since he serves as our eternal high priest before God, we can have complete confidence in his intercession. His priesthood, like that of Melchizedek, is far superior to any other (see Hebrews 6:20—7:4). By offering his blood—the eternal “blood of the covenant” (9:20)—he has made it possible for us to draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings. The cleansing of our conscience by having our bodies washed with pure water suggests both the ritual cleansings of the priests before entering the tabernacle (Leviticus 8:6-23; Exodus 30:9-21) and the washing of Christian baptism (1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16).
Our hope is solid and certain. While some Jewish Christians may have been slipping back into synagogue worship and tradition, true believers can stand their ground with confidence. They are responsible to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. If we really love our brothers and sisters, we will care about them and want to help them. True faith is demonstrated by action (James 2:17, 26).
This is particularly evident in our faithfulness in assembling for worship and service (Acts 2:42). Some feel that “the Day approaching” refers to the Lord’s Day, the weekly assembly of the believers. Others see here a reference to the day of Christ’s return, the final Day of Judgment. Both are appropriate applications. By our faithful anticipation and preparation, we can encourage other Christians to be ready as well.
Deliberate sin is dangerous. Christians can be forgiven of sin when they repent, confess it to God, and ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Psalm 51:2-4). But Christians must resist willful sinning (2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:9). Don Earl Boatman wrote, “The unregenerate man lives in sin and loves it; the regenerate man may lapse into sin, but he loathes it.” In Moses’ day, severe punishment was given to those who sinned “with a high hand,” in open rebellion against God, and in contempt of his government (Deuteronomy 17:2-7).
Hebrews 10:30, 31
If such serious punishment was exacted on sinners in Moses’ day, how much more deserving of punishment are those who reject Christ’s sacrificial death for their sins! What other hope do they have? Where else can they go? Clearly God is the final judge. The author cites Deuteronomy 32:35, 36 as he warns of what lies ahead. “The Lord will judge his people.” Then he adds, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Jesus is our only hope (1 John 2:1, 2). Our challenge is to keep on keeping on. Perseverance is essential!
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.