Hebrews – Lesson Eight

Without Holiness No One Will See the Lord

Lesson Aim:  To complete the exegesis of the Hebrew document.


The following is a review of the author’s style in his letter to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 1:4 – 2:16:

Step one.  Angels.  What the Hebrew Christians knew from their culture.  They knew the message spoken by angels was binding (2:2).

Step two.  Jesus is greater.  Since Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has been given the throne of God’s kingdom, He is greater than angels.  He should be heard and obeyed.  See chapter one.

Step three.  Exhortation:  “Pay more careful attention.” 2:1-4.

Hebrews 3:1 – 15:

Step one.  Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house.

Step two.  “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house.” 3:6.

Step three.  Exhortation.  “Hold onto courage and hope.” 3:6-15.

Hebrews 3:16 – 4:16.

Step one.  The Hebrew Christians knew God had promised a rest for His people.

Step two.  The rest is still available through Jesus Christ.

Step three.  Exhortation.  “Be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” 4:1, 2, 11.

Hebrews 5:1 – 6:20.

Step one.  They knew every high priest must be called by God.  5:4.

Step two.  Jesus was called by God; however, on the order of Melchizedek.  5:5; 6:20.

Step three.  Exhortation.  “We do not want you to become lazy.”  See 5:10 – 6:12.

Hebrews 7:1 – 10:18.

Step one.  They knew about the order of the Levitical priesthood.

a.  They knew about the sanctuary in the temple where the high priest approached the throne of God.

b.  They knew about the old covenant given at Sinai.

c.  They knew about the animal sacrifice for sin.

Step two.  Jesus was called on the order of the Melchizedek priesthood.

a.  Jesus serves in the true tabernacle in heaven.

b.  God’s new covenant develops sons of God by putting His law of life into Christians’ hearts and minds.

c.  Jesus entered the Most Holy Place for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

Step three.  Exhortation.  10:19-39.  “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”

Hebrews 11:1 – 12:13.

Step one.  They knew about the “great cloud of witnesses” listed in chapter eleven and how they suffered because they lived by faith in God’s promises.

Step two.  “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.  God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Heb.11:39, 40.

Step three.  Exhortation.  12:1-13.  My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.  Heb. 12:5, 6.


Please review “Item three – Exhortation” from our previous lesson.  It was noted that the author’s exhortations following chapter eleven could be broken down into three segments.  We considered the first segment at the end of the previous lesson.

The second exhortation is found in 12:14-17.  In his exhortation the author chose Esau, a character they knew well, to exhort them “to live in peace with all men and to be holy; (for) without holiness no one will see the Lord.”  12:14.  This may suggest the Hebrew Christians were in danger of living unholy lives because they were not developing as sons of God.  Unholy living in this case meant:

a.  The bitterness of their minds and hearts would disrupt peace in their lives within and outside the church family.

b.  They would practice sexual immoral activity.

c.  They could become godless, or profane people.  A person like Esau would sell his or her soul for a piece of bread.  The sad point is that Esau could not repent.

They needed to see a lot more of the Lord than they were seeing and a lot less of the world.

The third exhortation is found in 12:18-28.  Please note how the author is still maintaining his style of calling the recipients’ minds to a scene they knew about before they had become Christians.

Item one:  They knew about the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments.  12:18-21. Moses had said, “I am trembling with fear.”  12:21.

Item two:   What they may have forgotten.  12:22-24. We will want to read this block of Scripture line by line.  It is a composite picture of all the teachings the writer has presented in this great document.  Each of these graces has become a reality for Christians because of Jesus’ kingship and priesthood. His priesthood functions on the Melchizedek order.

Item three:  Exhortation, or friendly warning:  12:25-28.  The author has come full circle in his letter by stating, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.”

They knew about Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments (12:18, 22; Exo. 19:10-23).  He reminded them that Jesus offers a much more peaceful and glorious relationship with God.  (12:22, 23).  Again, we see the exhortational warning, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks” (from heaven).  12:25.  God shook the earth then, but the next time He will shake every thing that can be shaken.  However, as members of the church of the firstborn, “We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”  (12:28).  Christians are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of God; however, we come “with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  12:29.  God is not mean but He can be dangerous.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount this is how we should pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it in heaven.”  Matt. 6:9, 10.  One way we receive the kingdom is when we let God write His laws on our hearts and minds.  The result is that we conform to the image of Jesus because they are the laws of life, as in eternal life.  These laws are found in the nature of Jesus (Rom. 8:29).  In this manner we are being re-socialized from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  See Acts 26:18; Col. 1:10-13.  Our relationship to God in His kingdom is now family (sons and daughters, II Cor. 6:18) and it will be sons eternally.  See Heb. 2:10-13 and 12:5-8.

The author may be connecting the recipients back to 2:2-4 in 12::25.  The Jews knew the message spoken by angels was binding.  The Lord is speaking to the Hebrew Christians from heaven in this letter – and to us today.  We really need to listen.

The following are some of the author’s “let us” statements.  They may serve as a review.  We will use this list to help us “fill out” our hypothesis about how to read this document.

  1. Let us be careful that none of us be found to have fallen short of it (the rest, 4:1).
  2. Let us make every effort to enter that rest (4:11).
  3. Let us hold firmly to the faith we possess (4:14).
  4. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence (4:16).
  5. Let us leave the elementary teachings (6:1).
  6. Let us draw near to God (10:22).
  7. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess (10:23).
  8. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (10:24).
  9. Let us not give up meeting together (10:25).
  10. Let us encourage one another (10.25).
  11. Let us throw off everything that hinders (12:1).
  12. Let us run with perseverance the race (12:1).
  13. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus (12:2).
  14. Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe    (12:28).

Did the author think they had the foregoing problems?  If so, it would cause us to think this letter was written to bring Christians closer to God; to help us “walk our talk; to cause us to contemplate and plan programs for the church in order for her to practice love and good deeds; to cause us to meet regularly and to encourage one another.

We have understood from the author’s suggestive statements they may have been drifting because they were not giving close attention to God’s word (2:1).  They may have been suffering from a sinful unbelieving heart because the message they heard at the time of this writing was not being mixed with faith (3:12-14; 4:2).  Since this thinking is in harmony with several of the foregoing “let us” statements, our hypothesis about the seriousness of their spiritual condition may be correct.  Some members may have been in danger of loosing their salvation.  This letter was written to “turn them around.”

If the following statements were addressing their personal problems, then this letter was written to meet an emergency for some of the church members.  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,”  (10:26).  They knew, “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  (10:28).  The author appealed to their power to reason when he ask, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot….”  (10:29).  And then he warns, “The Lord will judge His people.”  (10:30).  Please note, throughout this document the author’s “punch line” was directed to their, and our, power to reason.

If indeed, some had become willful sinners after they had attained a certain level of spiritual growth, they may not have been able to repent (6:4-6).  They may have had Esau’s problem (12:16, 17).  However, the author followed his declaration in chapter six with, “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case – things that accompany salvation.”  (6:9).  It is possible to be in a non-repentant attitude; however, this letter appears to have been addressed to Christians who could still repent.  Some of them may have had a need to repent of their willful sin.  Others may have been “dull of hearing” and drifting toward that dangerous level.  If this hypothesis is correct then this letter had the burden of addressing their situation and it did.  For every problem we include in our hypotheses, we should be able to find a solution in the letter.

In our exegesis of chapters one through twelve all of the specific and suggestive problems appear to have been in the category of spiritual growth; consequently, all of the exhortations have been given to encourage spiritual growth.

There are several more exhorting statements in chapter thirteen and we should not neglect them.  Since they are presented in a different format than the content in the previous chapters, they may be viewed as general exhortations.  Amidst the general exhortations for spiritual growth, we find two more “let us” statements.  They may suggest a doctrinal problem:

15.  Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp (13:13).

16.  Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise (13:15).

Indeed, some of the Hebrew Christians may have had a tendency to turn back to the old covenant God gave to Moses.  Judaism, a false doctrine in relation to the Levitical priesthood, was not mentioned in this document.  The foregoing “let us” statements and a warning, “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” should cause us to put a doctrinal problem on our suggestive list.  (13:9).  We can now consider all the items on both our suggestive list and specific list to decide the perspective from which we will read Hebrews.

The hypothesis of the writer of these lessons is that we need to read this great epistle in a very personal way.  It is addressing the spiritual degradation of Christians “then and there” and “here and now.”  Note how far they had come down in their spiritual zeal from the time they were first enlightened and the time this letter was written (10:32-34).  A great spiritual loss may result by reading this document from the wrong point of view.  The Hebrew Christians may have had a doctrinal problem but it was minor in relation to their spiritual growth problems.  Remember, each reader of the Bible is at the same time an interpreter; therefore, each of us must make our own hypothesis.

This concludes our quest to understand what was going on where the document we call Hebrews was received.  Consequently, we have been able to understand what the author said to the Hebrew Christian’s spiritual weaknesses and strengths.  Because we followed the author’s style and knew what the recipients knew about the Old Testament, we were able to understand the depth of their situation.  We did good exegesis.  We now understand the “then and there” situation.

This will help us maintain good control over our declarations about the meaning of these Scriptures from God.  The doctrines and principles of life we learn should become our faith.  We can apply the meaning (hermeneutics) of these doctrines and principles to our present situation.  We have divine guidance to enlighten our daily lives.

Please understand we have not finished our study of Hebrews, we have only prepared ourselves to read the letter for ourselves.  We can now hear the Holy Spirit speak to us through this great document.

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