Hebrews – Lesson Three

Don’t Throw Away Your Confidence

Lesson Aim:       To continue our historical analysis of the Hebrew letter in order to complete our list of “specific problems” of the recipients.


The Scriptures, Hebrews 10:32-39 and 12:1-13, contain some specific statements about the Christians’ spiritual weaknesses who received this document.  There are specific statements made in these texts and we will want to add them to our “specific list.”  The Hebrew Christians had developed some serious weaknesses they did not have at an earlier date.  The writer encourages them to “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light.”  Heb. 10:32.  We understand a considerable amount of time had passed between “the earlier days” and the time this document was written.  From our previous lesson we learned they had enough time to become teachers even though they had failed.  It does not appear that this was an analysis of all of the members of this church, or churches.  It did include the majority of those members who had been there in those earlier days and were still there.


Before we start our search for the specific problems of the Hebrew Christians at the time the letter was written, let us read again 10:32-34 and try to grasp the picture the author has presented of those brothers and sisters in Christ in the earlier days. Let us take time to marvel at how their faith and confidence was manifested.

1.      When they suffered they stood their ground. Bearing their tribulations became a contest to them.

2.      Sometimes they were publicly exposed to insult and persecution.

3.      At other times they stood by others who experienced the same treatment.

4.      They had sympathized with Christians who were in prison. (KJV. “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds.”)

5.      Even though their property had been confiscated, they rejoiced in this tribulation.  Heb. 10:32-34.

6.      They had struggled against sin but they had not suffered to “the point of shedding blood.”  12:4.

Let us try to put ourselves where the Hebrew Christians stood after they had first been enlightened in order to better understand the author’s exhortation to them later, when he said, “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”  10:35.  Their specific problem, so stated by the author, was “you need to persevere.”  10:36.  At the time of the writing of this letter they had run out of, or they were running low on, patience.  We need to put that on our “specific problem” list and get back to it later.

If we were able to put ourselves with them in those earlier days, we would be able to feel their confidence.  Of course, we might ask ourselves, “Could we have felt good about ourselves and even rejoiced, if the Roman government had confiscated our family milk cow?”  Then we might ask, “How could they have stood that kind of treatment?”  Some would surely say, only fools would rejoice during a situation of that nature.  So what possessed them?

To offer an understandable answer, we need to ask, what was taught to them at the time they received the light?  It would have had something to do with eternal possessions because the author said their faith, a prime factor in their enlightenment, perceived a better possession than the one confiscated.  10:34, 38.  They could still be joyous when they lost, perhaps their house, because they had faith, like Abraham.   Remember, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Heb. 11:1.  Their faith said, “God had prepared a city for them.  They saw a city that God designed and built.  It had an eternal foundation.”  (Heb. 11:10).

Some of us might feel their faith was radical (radical comes from the Latin word “radix,” meaning root, essential).  So actually their faith was very fundamental to the way God created mankind.  Everybody wants security.  To many of us our possessions are our security – thus the more durable our possession, the more “security value.”  So for them in those earlier days, it was just a matter of how to “hang onto” the best possession.  We would all rejoice to lose a “couple of bucks” if we had faith that in the way we lost them, that act, itself, would assure us of a lot more bucks.

In those earlier days they had confidence that God was not ashamed to be called their God and so they were looking for better possessions than which had been confiscated (Heb. 11:16).  They were not fools at all.  In those earlier days, life was simple, – “believe and be saved.”  Heb. 10:39.  One thing that “being saved” meant to them was better possessions in heaven than they had here on earth.

Now we can understand why they could rejoice, even when they lost their earthly possessions, but how about those abuses and insults and that prison time?  How can a “positive twist” be put on that kind of treatment?  Well, at least we are told their abuse didn’t lead to the shedding of their blood.

Some people might argue, if God is so powerful and He was happy to be called their God, then why let them be “kicked around” by sinners?  There is only one practical answer to this question.  They identified as sons of God.  Identity always plays a key role in a person’s confidence.  The more assured we are of our identity, the more confidence we have to practice self-control.  Our level of identity can not get any higher, or more secure, than a son of God (Gal. 4:4-6).

We need to think about the message they heard when they first “saw the light” – back when they were confident and patient.  Please read Hebrews 12:5-13.  The gospel they were converted by, and to, offered them all of the great blessings we find in this Hebrew letter.  It offered them a kingdom which could not be shaken (Heb 12:28).  It offered them membership in a church, like no other – the heavenly Jerusalem!  Read Heb. 12:22-24.  We could go on and on but to understand their problem, we need to know that in the beginning they were told that they could be sons of God.  This was the message preached to them before they were Christians.  Sonship was a part of God’s new covenant that He offered to them (Heb. 8:10-12; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:3-6).  God’s desire to have human beings as His children in His eternal kingdom with eternal life qualities was His secret wisdom for our glory before He created the world and mankind (I Cor. 2:6-9).

In those earlier days, like their faithful forefathers, they knew God was not ashamed to be called their God (11:16).  They thought of Jesus as “family” and they believed He was not ashamed to call them brothers (Heb. 2:11).  They knew, by accepting the new covenant, they would be able to conform to the image of Jesus Christ, the perfect Son.  They knew they were not just called sons of God by grace only.  They knew sonship came by accepting the new covenant and Jesus as High Priest and His sacrifice for their sins.  Their faith, and obedience to their faith, was how they were born again.  They also knew that after they had peace with God by their new birth and justification by faith they would need to be developed as sons of God by the discipline of tribulations.  See Rom. 4:25-5:5 and Heb. 12:4-13.

Still, some people, even some Christians may question, “What does identity as a son of God have to do with being publicly exposed to insult and put in jail?”  Well, why are parents so particular about naming their child and coaching them to identify with it and then connecting their given name with the family name?  Identity is a basic foundation of life but it must be learned.  Please note, these Hebrew church members knew and accepted hardships as discipline for their development as legitimate sons (12:7, 8).  They also knew this program of discipline would give them a harvest of righteousness and peace (12:11).  When they were insulted, slandered, robbed of their property and thrown in prison, they knew these things could serve as God’s discipline for their spiritual growth (12:10).  They could be joyous in training – just like an athlete striving to attain a gold medal at the Olympics.  The Hebrews had faith; therefore, they were confident and patience in those earlier days.  Hardship as discipline is God’s training program, and without it, there is no “son of God” program at all.  Christians learn our new identity by God’s tribulation program and the grace of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Their need for glory is what motivated their earlier behavior.  God, in His wisdom, created within all people a need for glory (I Cor. 2:7).  The gospel that was preached to convert these Hebrews offered them a hope of satisfying their inherent need for glory.  God’s scheme for Christians to grow spiritually in the likeness of Jesus, when accepted by faith, will satisfy our need for glory.  At the same time it will glorify God, as our Father, by being obedient children.  The Hebrew Christians had accepted it and had begun God’s discipline course, the Christian race. In His church they had started to attain their proper identity as sons of God.  They had begun to let God write His laws of life on their hearts and minds (8:10).  They had begun to bear witness with themselves that they were sons of God and the Holy Spirit also bore witness with them (Rom. 8:16).  In this “discipline by tribulations” scheme they were conforming to the character and personality of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).  This is the essence of eternal life.  In Jesus is life, but it must be formed in Christians for us to have eternal life (John 1:4-12; Gal. 4:19).

However, at the time this letter was written the Hebrew Christians had “forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons.”  Heb. 12:5.  This was not a suggestive, or maybe, problem.  The author said, “And you have forgotten.”  This is why the writer was exhorting them not to throw away their confidence (10:35).  Having developed a “weak faith” identity as sons of God they were in great danger of losing their confidence.  Having a lesser degree of confidence may have caused them to “grow weary and lose heart.”  12:3.

The road to degradation goes like this: Low level of Bible education – weaker faith – less confidence – then no patience (10:36); consequently, they became “drop outs” of God’s sonship training.  Since confidence requires faith and faith requires the hearing of God’s word, we could conclude that these Hebrew Christians were in a lot of trouble, because they were “slow to learn.”  However, as Bible students, it is not our business to come to these kinds of conclusions at this point in our study.

We must finish our historical analysis so we can develop our own accurate hypothesis about what was going on where this letter was received.  From the specific data we have acquired from the author so far, we can definitely say they had become dull as students and they had forgotten, or lost sight of, their identity as sons.  The author strongly suggests that they were no longer willing to endure discipline by those hardships in which they once rejoiced.

The development of our own hypothesis is essential to raising our level of learning to a higher spiritual and intellectual level.  In Lesson One, we learned that Bible readers have a tendency to make the Scriptures say what we already believe.  To overcome this human problem we must do good historical and literary analysis.  From the author’s specific statements we have begun to develop our hypothesis about what was going on with the recipients where the letter was received.  As we continue our research we will find several “suggestive problems” and perhaps some more “specific problems.”  We will use this information to adjust our hypothesis, or we may decide we are mistaken in our hypothesis.  If so, we must be willing to “throw it out,” and start over with our historical analysis.

Developing a hypothesis is a way of thinking on the abstract level.  Most young children can only think about what they see.  Their thinking is on the concrete level, that is, they need to see what they are thinking about.  Christians must rise above the “children” level of thinking (5:13).  Some people are too lazy to think, so they let others do it for them.  The Hebrew Christians may have been suffering from this type of a problem (Heb. 6:1-3, 12).

Even now we can bridge the hermeneutical gap by asking, what do the Scriptures we have heard in our study in this lesson mean to us?  They should be as clear to us as they were to them.  We believe the divine author was able to communicate to them in a clear and simple way.  Did we hear God in these Scriptures say to us, “The bottom line is, I want you as My sons in My kingdom forever; consequently, I will discipline you with hardships according to your needs – not too much, not too little, but like a loving earthly father?”  Read again Heb. 12:4-13.

In our next lesson we will seek a clearer and broader view of the problems on our “specific list.”  We want to know the depth of their problems.  To accomplish this task, we will look for “suggestive problems.”

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