Hebrews – Lesson Six

Getting Closer to God

Lesson Aim:       To follow the writer’s style in order to understand how he seeks to restore the confidence of the Hebrew Christians by presenting the priesthood of Jesus Christ on the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood.


From the previous lessons we have a general picture of what was “going on” where this letter was received.  We know why the document was written.  See Heb. 13:22.  The church’s need was to draw nearer to God.  In this lesson we will continue to do our exegesis – the then and there analysis of the Hebrew epistle.  We will follow the style, or train of thought, of the author as he attempts to rebuild the church’s confidence by presenting the glorious priesthood of Jesus Christ.  We want to understand the level of their spiritual condition and then learn the author’s method of drawing them to God by teaching Jesus’ priesthood.  He will teach it again to them with emphasis on the order of Melchizedek.  This gave them an opportunity to rekindle their faith.  Faith comes by hearing God’s word.

Fallen mankind needs the dynamics of a priesthood in order to approach God.  Christians can enter the presence of God only through the priesthood of Jesus.  The better we understand His priesthood the stronger our faith.  The stronger our faith, the more confidence we have to come closer to God (10:19).  The closer we live with God, the better opportunity we have to satisfy our inherent need for glory.  Simultaneously, a Christian’s glory as God’s child satisfies God’s desire for us to glorify Him.  It is this letter’s aim – “bringing many sons to glory,” presently and eternally (2:10).

Christians must feel comfortable in the presence of God in order to enjoy and benefit from our fellowship with Him.  To help us come to God in a bold and comfortable manner the Hebrew author presented Jesus’ priesthood.  Please note the elements of a priesthood:

(1).  High priest.  (2).  Covenant.  (3).  Sin offering.

Element one.  Jesus was called to be high priest on the Melchizedek order by God, Himself (5:5, 6).  In Hebrews two, verses fourteen through eighteen, we understand Jesus learned to be our faithful and merciful high priest while He was incarnate.  He serves the spiritual descendants of Abraham, the church (2:16; Gal 3:26-29).  The author presented His priesthood as a continuing grace of God to have children in His eternal kingdom (2:10, 11; 11:16; 12:5-10).

Element two.  God ordered a new covenant through Jesus’ priesthood.  All covenants incorporate laws (conditions) to accomplish the aim of the one who offers the covenant (8:7-13).  Please note that along with the writing of the laws of life on Christians’ hearts and minds, He offers the forgiveness of our sins.  The laws of eternal life cannot be impressed on a “dirty page.”

Element three.  God’s forgiveness of sins require a sin offering.  Jesus became the sacrifice for sin before He returned to heaven to take His place at the right hand of God to “make operative” His priesthood.  In his opening statement the author stated, “After he (Jesus) provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  (1:3).

Speaking strictly from a theological point of view, the theme of the Hebrew epistle is the priesthood of Jesus with emphasis on the Melchizedek order versus the Levitical order.  However, His priesthood is presented to readers both exegetically and hermeneutically (then and there and here and now) in the context of exhortation.  Exegetically, the exhortation is specific to a spiritual problem in the Hebrew churches of Christ.  In other words, the Holy Spirit reveals to us Christian theology, ethic and practice in the context of solving spiritual problems in the Hebrew epistle.  We need to see the Hebrew Christian’s problem clearly so we can properly understand the Christian theology, ethic and practice the writer presents.  They are what we bring to the here and now.


In Lesson One, we noted the Biblical interpretation rule that we must know what the recipients knew to understand a letter that had been written to them.  In order to understand Hebrews we will need to know about Abraham and how God made promises to him for Christians.  God made promises to Abraham and swore by Himself (6:13).  Christians are the heirs God was so concerned about in that, “He confirmed it (His promises) with an oath.”   6:17.  In fact, to read Hebrews we need a good general understanding of God’s work in the Old Testament.  The author freely quotes the Holy Spirit from Psalms, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

He thought the recipients should have been more knowledgeable about Melchizedek (5:11).  Since that knowledge was “key” to his lesson he enlightened them again about him and his function.  Melchizedek was the king of Salem and priest of God Most High during the time Abraham walked by faith on this earth (Gen. 14:18-20; Heb. 7:1-3).

In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, the author gave Abraham a lot of space among the witnesses who walked by faith (11:8-19).  Before the Hebrew Christians became children of God in the church of Christ, that is, before they were called out of and died to the arrangement God had made for them under the Levitical Priesthood, they had the Old Testament Scriptures as the core of their culture.  See Acts 2:14-41 and Romans 7:1-6.  They were accustomed to hearing about Abraham, Aaron and the Levitical Priesthood; consequently, the author will continue to use his “three item” style in chapters five through twelve.  Following the writer’s style, or train of thought, is another Biblical interpretation rule a Bible student will always need to follow.  All Christians remain disciples (learners and followers); consequently, we need to follow proper study principles.

In the previous lesson, we followed the writer’s train of thought into chapter four where we heard him exhort, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their (Israelites) example of disobedience.”  4:11.  The author then presented the priesthood of Jesus as the only hope for attaining “the rest” God has reserved for His people in heaven (4:14-16).

As we follow the author’s style into 5:1-6 please note:

Item one:  What the recipients knew from their background culture:  They knew God’s high priest must be called by God (5:4).

Item two:  Jesus was called by God; however, not on the same order as Aaron had been called.  After eulogizing Jesus as the Son of God with a quote from Psalms the author said Jesus was called on the Melchizedek order (5:5, 6).

Item three:  His exhortation began in 5:11 and continued through 6:12.  This exhortation was specifically stated.  The church’s educational program had fallen to the elementary level.  Please review Lesson Two.  A student of the Hebrew epistle must read this letter from this point of view; that is, where the recipients were spiritually.

Beginning in the first verse of chapter seven and continuing through chapter ten, verse eighteen the author methodically presented the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  In chapter ten, verse nineteen and through the remainder of the tenth chapter he gave his exhortation in very clear terms.  As we are aware, the author had made three great declarations about Jesus and His priesthood before chapter seven:

2:14-18.  Jesus’ incarnate training course gave the spiritual children of Abraham a merciful and faithful high priest.  The result of Jesus’ death freed us from our slavery to death; consequently, freedom from the power of the devil.

4:14-16.  The resurrected Christ is now functioning as Christians’ high priest.  We can talk to Him about our human situation – our struggles and goals.  He is willing to listen on a 24/7 schedule.

5:1-10.  Because the incarnate Son of God lived in reverent submission to God’s priesthood training during His time “in Adam,” God ordained Him as high priest on the order of Melchizedek.

The writer will continue to use his original three item style into chapter seven. A review of the author’s style as it was presented in the two previous lessons:

Item one.  (What they knew).  He will choose topics from the previous priesthood, topics the recipients were well aware of from their Hebrew culture.

Item two. (What they forgot).  The author will remind them of what they were once enlightened about Jesus’ priesthood is much better, even perfect for their needs to develop as God’s children.

Item Three (Exhortation).  In the following text the author has deviated slightly in his style.  He will follow his regular style by presenting items one and two in relation to each element of Jesus’ priesthood; however, he will not use item three, the exhortation, until after he establishes the three functioning elements of the priesthood.

Chapter 7:1 – 10:18.  Following the writer’s train of thought. 

Item one.  They knew about the Levitical Priesthood (the high priest, the covenant including the laws and the sacrifices 7:11-16, 23, 24; 8:3-9; 9:17, 19-22; 10:11).  This is the topic the writer chose to promote his item two material about how Jesus Christ was more glorious.

Item two.  If the recipients had not been “dull of hearing,” the author could have simply stated Jesus’ priesthood was on the order of Melchizedek.  That fact alone should have been sufficient to remind them of how much greater Jesus’ priesthood stood above the Levitical Priesthood.  A person who is informed about the spiritual nature of Jesus’ priesthood, and at the same time understands it is on the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, will naturally have insight into the nature of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  Since the recipients had become dull in regard to Jesus’ priesthood the writer found it necessary to remind them of its finer points – and he did in our text.

The priesthood of Jesus could not be compared with the Levitical Priesthood, except it had the same three parts.  The writer took each part and compared the weakness of the old covenant with the perfection of the new covenant in chapters seven through ten.  However, the author’s point about the glorious strength of Jesus’ priesthood in relation to the Levitical Priesthood was that it was on a different order, the Melchizedek order.  Read 7:11-22.

Item one.  They knew about the tabernacle and temple sanctuary in Jerusalem (8:3-6; 9:1-7).

Item two.  Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.”  8:1, 2.

Item one.  The recipients knew about the covenant God made with physical Israel when He brought them out of Egypt (8:6-9; 10:16, 17).

Item two.  God offers the spiritual children of Abraham a new covenant.  It establishes a better God/man relationship when accepted by faith.  He will be Christians’ God and they will be His people. (8:10; 2:11-13).  Its aim is to put God’s laws of life on the hearts and minds of Christians (8:10).  The new covenant also has a “forgiveness of sins” clause in it like no other that God had ever offered mankind (8:12).  He will remember our sins no more.  While eating His last Passover supper with His chosen Twelve, Jesus said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Matt. 26:28.

Item one.  The recipients of this epistle knew about the function of priests in the tabernacle and temple in regard to worship and sin offerings.  They also knew it was the blood of bulls, calves and goats that was sacrificed for sins (9:13; 10:3).  They knew how the high priest entered the Most Holy Place once in a year and never without blood as a sin offering.  (9:6-8; 13:11).  See Leviticus 16:1-25.  Every priesthood requires a sacrifice for sin.

Item two.  “When Jesus came as high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.”  9:12, 13.

It was the first time God had offered a covenant where He declared, “For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  8:12.

Let us deviate from our exegesis exercise for a moment and remember the power of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross.  When a person accepts God’s new covenant by faith and repentance and then dies with Jesus in the waters of baptism, he or she will have a clean conscience (9:9, 13, 14).  God is willing to forget a faithful repentant person’s sins.  If the person has faith that God wiped his or her sins from His mind, the result for this person is a clean conscience.  Only the blood of Jesus can remove guilt from a repentant sinner’s conscience – first in the new birth process of baptism and then continually in justification by faith.  See Heb. 10:13, 14; Romans 4:25 – 5:1; I John 1:7.  All Christians have character defects that are sinful; however, because of justification by faith, we enjoy a peaceful relationship with God in Christ (Rom. 5:1).

The most blissful moment of a Christian’s life is when we decide to examine ourselves, although we find defects in ourselves, we still have a clean conscience (II Cor. 13:5).  In this “repentant guilt free state” we can confess our sins to ourselves and God and then begin to improve what is wrong.  We need to be careful to use the word of God as our “plumb line” in our self-examinations.  See I Cor. 4:2-5.

The battle line for mature human beings is between what our conscience judges to be good and evil (from what we have stored in our memory bank from childhood) and our conscious reality – what we are actually thinking, feeling and doing.  Most of our life battles happen between our non conscious self and our conscious self, that is, our state of unawareness and awareness.  People in general are unaware of the reason we do many things in our awareness state.  Jesus was working on that concept for Peter in Matthew 15:10-20.   Our battles are generally not out there as we often expect.  God counts Christians righteous while we work on our imperfections; howbeit, guilt free.  The “world people” who struggle to be good people do their battles with their selves; howbeit, in a guilt ridden environment.  See Rom. 5:21.

Item three.  Exhortation.  See 10:19-39.  Please note we witnessed how the author used items one and two four times (you may find more) before he gave his powerful exhortation “to come nearer to God” via Jesus’ priesthood in verse nineteen.

It should be noted again that these Hebrew Christians who received this letter had fully understood Jesus’ priesthood and the sonship program for them in the earlier days of their Christian lives (10:32).  The author did not tell them things they had not understood and had faith in at one time.  We know this because he said they had been enlightened and we know it because of the sacrificial life they had been willing to live.  See Heb. 10:32-34.  Please review Lesson Three.

Why then did the writer use a three item, or step, approach (style) in this letter?  Why not just tell them, “you are drifting away?”  Why not just preach them a sermon like many Christians hear most every Sunday morning about the dangers of shrinking back and losing our soul salvation?  Why – because they needed to see their problem for themselves.  They needed to build their faith in Jesus from the inside out.  They needed to think and compare what they had been with what they were.  Each member needed to use his or her power of reasoning and then repent from their inside/out self.

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