Archive | August, 2015

7 Warnings to Christians – Part 1

August 30, 2015

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The Lists of Hebrews
A Study of the book of Hebrews
Lesson 4 Part 1
Lesson Text: Hebrews 2:1-4, Hebrews 3:7 – 4:16


As I have mentioned many times through the course of this lesson, the Christians the Hebrews writer was addressing were backsliding.

Persecutions were discouraging them and the Judaizers were doing their best to pollute the New Covenant with aspects from the old law. Combine those things with basic human weaknesses and they had the perfect conditions for slacking off from their pursuit of the prize.

Do you believe Christians are still slipping away in today’s world?

Is the situation better or worse than it was when the Hebrews letter was written?

Five times in the text of Hebrews, the writer digresses from the main text to give some specific warnings to the Christians he is addressing. There are other warnings in the text where the transition isn’t as abrupt, but they address issues that are just as important as the “traditional” five warnings. In this lesson we will take a look at these warnings.

If we believe Christians are really slipping away…

If we want to prevent ourselves from slipping away…

…it is our duty to fix it!

We skipped over the text related to the warnings in the earlier lessons so we can draw them out all at once. In our discussion, we will see how they applied to the Christians addressed in the letter.

Most importantly we will see how they apply to us. I suggest through this lesson that these warnings are where we should start looking to complete our duty.

Key Warnings For Christians

As much as they are warnings, what follows are the building blocks of faith. Faith is much, much more than an acknowledgment (or a “worldview” as many in society want to say.) We cannot simply ask Christ into our hearts and continue on about our business as if nothing is different.

As we cover each of these items in more detail, consider whether we are testing them in the way we go about our day to day activities. As we will soon find out in the text, God will have a lot to say about how we tested him at the judgment.

  1. Pay closer attention (Hebrews 2:1-4) We should be more diligent in our Bible study. Anything that is neglected becomes old and useless faster than the things we use and protect. Neglect of our Bible study causes us to drift away
  2. Care for your beliefs (Hebrews 3:7-4:7) The lure of innovative worship and doctrine, or refusing to leave something old and familiar when the truth is before us will cause us to fall.
  3. Enter the rest (Hebrews 4:7-13) Following the word of God takes a lot of work and focus. Whether or not we take it on, we will be exposed by it.
  4. Work toward maturity (Hebrews 5:11-6:20) It is just as fatal to our salvation to do nothing as it is to commit outright sins. You see, doing nothing is an active decision and is therefore a sinful act
  5. There are no more sacrifices (Hebrews 10:26-29) The last and greatest sacrifice has been made for us. If we refuse to honor that through obedience, there is nothing more that can be done
  6. Listen to the voice of heaven (Hebrews 12:25-29) God always acted as promised based on the words of his prophets, how much more sure is it that he will act upon the words delivered by his own Son?
  7. Avoid strange doctrine (Hebrews 13:9-15) Any doctrine that does not come from Christ is strange or foreign. It doesn’t matter if we grew up with it or our best friend taught it to us. Stick to the Bible.

These building blocks are required for strong churches, families and individuals. When properly applied, they make the rest of God’s word easy to follow and a joy to be a part of.

Pay Attention

Imagine a sailor pilots his boat neatly and safely along side a pier.

That sailor feels great to be home. He is finally safe from the storms that came over him during his voyage. He certainly feels entitled to relax and rest from the challenges of getting that boat to his destination.

What if our sailor went to bed that night without doing anything else, because he was sure he would be enjoying the comforts of being in port in the morning? Where would he actually find himself when he awakened? Guess what…

Our sailor never tied his boat to the pier!

He allowed his boat to drift back to sea while he slept. Worse, if he got too far out, it could take a long time to find his way back to a point where he could get his bearing.

We are very much like our sailor when it comes to being prone to drift around (Hebrews 2:1-4) When we neglect the very things that give us salvation, we quickly run out of things that can help us.

If we make our way to Christ, but fail to anchor ourselves to him through neglect, we will drift away. Our soul is subject to the tide and currents of life and a strong bond to Christ is required to maintain salvation.

When our great naval vessels are in port and tied to the pier, a primary responsibility of the watchmen is to go check the mooring lines. Typically every four hours!

That is the same kind of diligence that the Hebrews writer warned his readers to have. As we continue to look at the warnings in Hebrews, this will be the common theme.

Be diligent and do not neglect your salvation!

Care For Your Beliefs and Get into Heaven

Do you test God?

If you know he wants you to do something, and you do not do it, You are testing God!

Worse – It is an indication of disbelief!

What jumps out at you as you read these verses?

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.'” (Hebrews 3:7-11 ESV)

These verses remind us what happened to the children of Israel:

  1. God spoke to his children
  2. They hardened their hearts and were not moved by God’s demonstrations
  3. God gave them forty years to get right
  4. God felt tested by disobedience and discontentment
  5. God was provoked and gave up on them
  6. They never got to the promised land

The Hebrews writer wanted his audience to know their backsliding was leading them down the same path that Israel took. When we fail to obey God, when we demonstrate unbelief in this way, we are allowing evil to creep into our hearts.

Hebrews 3:12 says the opposite of what too many people teach. Unlike what many claiming to follow Christ try to tell us…

We can fall away!

Read it for yourself:

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

The evil that lurks within disbelief will chip away at our salvation. Just like the children of Israel, our entry into the rest will be blocked if we are provoking God.

So how do we care for our beliefs?

First, we have to get ourselves in the presence of other believers. (Hebrews 3:13-19)

Here are the writer’s exact words:

Do not harden your hearts

What is going to harden your heart – A group of fellow believers or a group of doubters?

What we hear has a powerful influence on us.

  • If we spend a lot of time with negative people, our own words will become negative as we listen to theirs.
  • When we hear ourselves say loving things to our spouses, our marriage bonds become stronger.
  • When we repeat things others say enough times, we tend to start treating those things as fact, even if we never did the research.

Being united with other Christians works just like being in an army. If that army is cohesive and following the same plan, the many individuals become a powerful unit able to accomplish much more than the simple sum of what each one has to offer.

Second, we need to remain fearful. (Hebrews 4:1-5)

Fear is not a bad thing to have!

  • Fear makes sure we look both ways before we cross the street.
  • Fear keeps us from walking too close to the edge
  • Fear causes our senses to remain sharp and on the lookout

A healthy dose of the fear of God will keep us faithful! And the writer wanted his readers to know that kind of fear will get you into heaven. The sharp senses that the fear of God gives us will keep our ears open and cause us to us to take the actions of belief when we hear him speak.

Third, we have to strive to enter heaven (Hebrews 4:6-13)

There is no occasion for coasting on our journey to heaven. Like the children of Israel who fell into the sands of the desert, we will fall away if we quit working for it. The lack of effort and urgency will cause the unbelief to slip in.

Maybe without us even noticing it!

When we stay on top of our beliefs, when we feed them and care for them, we will notice when we are are in danger of provoking God. God’s word is very powerful in this regard. We use Hebrews 4:12-13 so much that it is almost cliche’, but make no mistake – When we study and study and study and become really familiar with it, God’s word will expose our every weakness.

Fixing those weaknesses is the work we are responsible for.

Continue to part 2

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8 Ways Christ was like Melchizedek

August 8, 2015

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The Lists of Hebrews
A Study of the book of Hebrews
Lesson 3
Hebrews 7-8

In the Lesson 2, 6 Ways Christ is Better, we briefly noted that Christ was better than the Levites. This was a direct hit on the reader’s thinking since they were either actively returning to Judaism or at least strongly considering it.

The writer confronts them in Hebrews 7 with a full discussion comparing Christ, Melchizedek, a great high priest and the Levites, the Jewish priests. After he makes his arguments, any reader that wanted to be a true son of Abraham had to stop and think seriously about what they were really doing.

Priest of the most High God

In Genesis 14:18-20, we have only a precious few lines of information about Melchizedek. He comes on the scene after Abram has had to gather his men and go rescue Lot and his family from some kings out of the north.


The geography of Genesis 14


Genesis 14 is fascinating reading about the battle. Take some time to read it during this study for the excellent context it provides.

What the Hebrews writer wants his readers to see is that seemingly out of nowhere, Melchizedek appears and does three things:

  1. He brings bread and wine (an image of the Lord’s Supper?)
  2. He blesses Abram
  3. He accepts a tenth of the spoils from Abram

That’s it. Melchizedek fades into the background as Abram and the King of Sodom sort out the disposition of the rest of the people and property.


Psalm 110: 4

Melchizedek is mentioned once more in the Old Testament. If you remember from Lesson 2, Psalm 110:1-2 was quoted during the writer’s comparison of Christ to the angels. We established there that this was God talking to Christ (“The LORD says to my Lord…” Psalm 110:1) God’s promise to Christ in verse 4 (Psalm 110:4) is to make him a priest after the order of Melchizedek. According to Adam Clark, in his commentary on this verse, there is a lot of responsibility attached to the priest (or the head) of the family during the patriarchal times.

  1. He was an instructor of the family or tribe over which he presided.
  2. He offered sacrifices for the sins of the people, to reconcile them to God, and give them access to his presence.
  3. He was their mediator, and interceded for them.

Until the Hebrews writer brought it up in the letter, the full meaning of this Psalm may not have been fully understood!

“The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek,” an oil by Dieric Bouts the Elder – 1464-1467

Hebrews 7

Using the Old Testament information and Hebrews 7, we can know some interesting and relevant things about Melchizedek. The whole argument for Christ’s priesthood rests on their understanding of what he says in these verses. From all of our references we have about him, here are the eight things we know about Melchizedek:

  1. Melchizedek means king of righteousness (v2)
  2. King of Salem means king of peace (v2)
  3. Melchizedek was both a king and priest (v1, 3)
  4. Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham (v4)
  5. Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine (Genesis 14:18)
  6. He blessed Abraham (v2, Genesis 14:19)
  7. Melchizedek’s service included the Gentiles
  8. Melchizedek’s birth, death, ancestry and descendants has no Scriptural record.

Through these reminders, the writer has built a case for the greatness of Melchizedek. So great that in Hebrews 7:6-7 he is bold enough to declare him even greater than Abraham – The one with the promise and the seed of Israel!

The Big Question

If you will allow me to paraphrase Hebrews 7:11, the writer hits them where it hurts. He is basically asking them, “If where you are returning is so great – if it is so perfect, why did there need to be another priest to come along that is an awful lot like this Melchizedek?

“Since there is a change in the priesthood, there then must be a change in the law! (v12) Not only that, Christ was not even a descendant of that flawed priesthood. (V13-14) Christ was appointed from the highest of powers. A power who always was and always will be. Sort of like Melchizedek.”

The writer then goes on to list the other problems with the Levitical priesthood. Imagine how this must have felt to have the thing they always knew picked apart. The priesthood:

  1. …was useless. (v18-19) Nothing was made perfect by the law. Remember the writer has already argued that Christ brought us to a perfect salvation. (Hebrews 2)
  2. …was without an oath. (v20-22) The priest were born into their job – whether they wanted it or not, whether they were really qualified. God swore that Christ would be a priest forever
  3. … did not live forever. (v23-25) There was a whole tribe of priests because they eventually died and had to be replaced. Christ provides a permanent and perfect salvation for us.
  4. …had to make daily sacrifices. (v26-27) Christ sacrificed himself as the once and for all offering for us.

The Law appointed members to the Levitical priesthood despite their weaknesses as people, but the oath of God appointed perfection that lasts forever (v28)

The Point of All This

So how do all of these arguments add up?

When chapter 8 opens, the writer seems to be saying, “Look, we have the best of the best already…”

  1. He sits at the right hand of God (v1)
  2. He is a minister of the true tent set up by God (v2)
  3. The priests on earth are only a shadow of the heavenly things (v 3-5)

Christianity is a better covenant mediated by a better ministry…

…and better promises…

…and it was something they were supposed to be looking for the whole time.

Finally, he quotes some Scripture from Jeremiah 31:31-34. God had been telling his people that a new covenant was coming. I wonder if they had heard this for so long they quit really paying attention to it?

As you read through Hebrew 8:8-12, think about how wonderful God’s plan was from the very beginning and how privileged we are to be a part of it! God gave us a way to become one of his people and to be rid of our sins to the point that he forgets them completely. This covenant is so good that the old will vanish away. (v13)

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6 Ways Christ is Better (pt 2)

August 2, 2015

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The Lists of Hebrews
A Study of the book of Hebrews
Lesson 2, Part 2
Hebrews 4:14-5:10, Hebrews 9:1-10:39


Last week, in part 1 of this lesson, we discussed the Hebrews writer’s comparison of Christ to angels and the way those things contributed to the foundation of our salvation. From there we compared and contrasted Moses with Christ, and explored how the writer gave his audience a better understanding of Christ through their knowledge of Moses. If you haven’t read it yet, take a few minutes and get caught up.

In part 2, we continue to explore the devices of the Old Law and haw they foreshadowed things to come. Of course, we also see how Hebrews proves the Christian era implementation of those things were the fulfillment of the prophesies the Jews were waiting for through their generations.

The Greatest High Priest

The office of high priest held a lot of power under the Old Law. Man’s intrinsic desire to be important probably amplified that power beyond what God intended. With all of Christ’s credentials previously studied, the Hebrews writer intended to show that Jesus was an even better high priest. (Hebrews 4:14-5:10) Christians in essence were going to be making a trade down to the priesthood of Aaron if they left the church.

The High Priests of the tabernacle merely passed through the veils in the execution of their duties. Christ is introduced as a better high priest because be passed “through the heavens” – another well-known idea for the Hebrews audience that rings true. (Hebrews 4:14) This was similar language to what Paul had been using in reference to Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:10) He went into the ultimate Holy of Holies to get forgiveness of our sins – and he is still there performing that duty through grace!

What a great reason for them to “hold fast” to their confession of Christ! (v14b) We have a high priest that understands us and our temptations. We have a high priest that conquered death and can liberally extend grace to those of us who could not. (v15-16)

The writer reminds the audience what the standard for becoming high priest was:

  • He was taken from among men (Hebrews 5:1)
  • He was appointed by God to act on behalf of men (v2)
  • He was compassionate of those he represented (v2)
  • He needed possession of adequate sacrifice (v3, Leviticus 4:3-12)
  • He avoid personal honor from the office (4)


The high priest ultimately became highly visible and took on some not so spiritual qualities:

  • The personal enrichment so they could afford finer things
  • The influence they held – even over the Romans
  • The judge and ruler over the Jews since there was no king

No wonder the priesthood of Aaron was so enticing!

Christ was so much better in so many ways. He even had to go back to the time before Abraham knew of the promise to draw a suitable earthly comparison.

In order to reconcile the qualifications to the priesthood with his argument that Christ is a better high priest, the writer returns to Psalm 110. He used Psalm 110:1-2 to argue Christ’s universal kingship and then quotes Psalm 110:4 to compare his priesthood to Melchizedek’s. (Hebrews 5:6) This might have been the first time the Psalm 110 prophesy was fully understood!

Melchizedek is covered in an upcoming lesson when we will look closely at the Hebrews writer’s treatment of him. For now, the writer concludes the argument with stating that Christ is the “source of eternal salvation.” (Hebrews 5:9)

Better than the Levites

The audience of the Hebrews letter was thinking about returning to Judaism. The writer confronts them in Hebrews 7 with a full discussion of Melchizedek. Any reader that wanted to be a true son of Abraham had to stop and give this a second look.

With just three verses in Genesis 14:18-20 and another sentence in Psalm 110:4, the Jews might not have given this a lot of attention. Once the writer reveals Melchizedek as the highest of priests, a priest that is also a king, the Jews could now accept Christ as a high priest. In fact his priesthood was even better than the Levitical priesthood.

A Better Sacrifice

Having established that Christ is the better high priest, the Hebrews writer needed to show that his offering was better as well. Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 explain the transition from the imperfect sacrifices to the perfect “once and for all” sacrifice offered by Christ’s blood.

When you take a few minutes to read Hebrews 9, you get an excellent summary of the rituals of the Jewish priests.

Under the Old Law, the high priest needed to enter the Holy of Holies or the most holy place to sprinkle the blood sacrifice. This was the sacrifice for all of the unintentional sins of the priests and the people. (Hebrews 9:7) To make it more difficult, they could only go once a year and they had to do it every year.

The offerings did nothing for the worshipper’s conscience. It also didn’t totally grant forgiveness for their sins. Had they been guilty of skipping the annual sacrifice, they would have been held accountable for all of those previous sins! Christ as our better high priest and mediator of a better covenant, (Hebrews 9:15) is essentially in the eternal holy place with the once and for all sacrifice of his own blood shed of behalf of us for our sins.

Through the sacrifice of Christ’s blood, we have the privilege of permanent forgiveness of sins. Once forgiven, we have no more need for any offering for the sin. In fact God goes a step further than people will normally go… He remembers our sin no more! (Hebrews 10:17)

A Better Covenant

I think I’ve heard the phrase “forgive and forget” all my life. I have heard it a number of times in church as if it is a Biblical principle we are supposed to be following. The Bible never really says we are supposed to forgive and forget in so many words, but it does talk about forgiveness a number of times. We are to:

  • forgive so the Father will forgive us (Matthew 6:14)
  • be kind tenderhearted and forgiving to one another just like we were through Christ (Ephesians 4:32)
  • forgive unrepentant enemies (Matthew 5:44)

Jesus even used the parable of the unforgiving servant to teach us the lengths we are to go through to be forgiving. (Matthew 18:21-35)

The forgetting part just isn’t in our human nature though, is it? Remembering what someone did to us might be a way of gauging the amount of trust we can offer them. Even though we can carry on as if the sin against us never happened, the hurt it caused can often take a lifetime to heal.

Maybe the term “forgive and forget” came into use by people who were working hard to be like Christ. When Christ died on the cross, he sealed a new and better covenant for us. (Hebrews 7:24) This is a covenant that does not remember our sins once we repent. (Hebrews 8:12 quoting Jerimiah 31:34) Think for a moment how huge that is. God will forget a forgiven sin ever happened!

The marvelous thing about this covenant is that it was not given only to the Jews. It was given to all that get into Christ. (Galatians 3:29) Through our becoming a Christian, we are added to the rolls of Abraham’s children and become beneficiaries of God’s promise.


The Hebrews writer compares Christ to several key points of the Old Law, dismantling them one by one to demonstrate why they are not only no longer needed, but why they have been superseded. As we continue our study of Hebrews, continuing to familiarize ourselves with the traditions and laws of the Jews will not only help us understand where the writer was coming from, but help us understand the New Testament a lot better.


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