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Studies in Hebrews

Check out these various studies in Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:19-39

The four steps in the I.D.E.A. Bible study method is designed to show what is a truly good idea and what is not. This is counseling, and in Heb. 10:19-39 the inspired author counseled the Hebrews against turning from the Messiah because of persecution (10:32). He showed that apostasy was a very bad idea for many reasons, one of which is that they would not be able to avoid trouble by turning back (10:28-30). Continuing to live by faith was the way to go (10:38-39).

Hebrews 1:1-4

How would you describe the first four verses in the Book of Hebrews? The summary chart below answers this question, including with descriptive lines about the recipients and purpose of the Letter. Do you agree with the various points make?

The introduction to Hebrews is deeply theological and centered on God's Son. Since many Jews wrongly believed that the Messiah would be a mere man and therefore less glorious than the angels, most of chapter one is devoted to showing from Scripture that the Son is far above angels. His surpassing excellence was shown in two ways. First, as the Creator and Sustainer of all things (1:2-3) the Messiah always was far greater than the angels. Second, though in the incarnation he was made lower than the angels as a man on earth for a time in order to suffer for our sins (1:3, 2:9-10), he rose from the dead and returned to the place of authority in heaven where he is once again far above the angels (1:4, , 2:7-8, Phil. 2:9-11).

The main application of chapter one, including of the formal introduction in 1:1-4, is found in 2:1-3. The Jewish readers who believed in biblical inspiration (1:1-2) and creation (1:2-3) were to take the person, word, and work of the Son seriously lest they drift away (2:1) from what they knew and lose out on salvation. So as a whole, 1:1-2:9 is an extended warning to Hebrews who were close to being saved through the Messiah but also dangerously close to apostasy. (Also see 6:4-6 and 10:29.)

A Model Introduction
For modern readers, even knowledgable Christians, the first four verses in Hebrews are difficult. Yet for the first Hebrew readers, they were totally on-target. The fathers, the prophets, creation, divine glory, purging from sin, the right hand of God, inheritance, and angels were all familiar topics. Better still, the many biblical quotes regarding angels and the Son in the rest of the chapter fit perfectly with the introduction.
    In light of this, the similarities and differences between Heb. 1:1-4 and John's introduction in John 1:1-18 are important to note. Compiling a two column chart listing the similarities and differences would be a wonderful exercise. Why, for instance, is creation mentioned in both? Why are the starting points so different, however? Thirdly, why did both authors avoid mentioning themselves?

Describe It Yourself
Describing a passage or chapter yourself is far better than blindly following someone else's description. The cards and lists in the Describe-It-Yourself materials that were used in the chart above are great tools to use for this purpose. Though it is easier to do descriptive studies in narrative passages, the chart above shows that they can be profitably done in the Epistles as well.

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Psalm 110 and Hebrews 1:13, etc.

Beginning in Heb. 1:13, Psalm 110 is cited often in the book. This first reference is to Messiah's greatness and authority as being far greater than that of angels, a theme which continues in chapter two.

Most of the quotes from and allusions to Psalm 110 in Hebrews, however, concern Christ being similar to Melchizedek who was both a priest and a king (Gen. 14:18-20, Heb. 5:6-10, 6:20, 7:1-3, and 7:14-28). Again the superiority of the Messiah is stressed, this time as compared to Levitical priests including Levitical high priests all of whom were sinful and died. The everlasting nature of Christ's priesthood is much better.

In addition, it is important to notice that there are two other references to Psalm 110 in the New Testament, in Matt. 22:43-45 and Acts 2:33-35. Both of these were in evangelizing Jews. Considering this, it seems that the many references to Psalm 110 in Hebrews are all in large measure probably related to Jewish evangelism. The author of Hebrews was at the very least warning those who turn away from the Messiah will as a result be without a true High Priest.

Moreover, the many usages of Psalm 110 in the New Testament, which are always in Jewish contexts, probably indicate that the Psalm was well known and popular among the Jews at the time, including those who first read the Book of Hebrews. Most likely, the main reason for the popularity was because the Psalm refers to the future triumph of the Messiah and God's righteousness over sinful Gentile rulers. The victory over enemies in Psalm 110:1 and Hebrew 1:13, was wrongly applied to the hope of victory of the Romans who ruled at that time. The victory referred to in Psalm 110 will be the final victory of the Lord over all nations (Psalm 110:5-7).

The worksheet below is for more detailed studies in Psalm 110. Many of the points made above are included.

Hebrews 11 and the Bible Top 55

The author of Hebrews shows what well-known people in the Bible who lived by faith believed and did. Ten of the Bible Top 55 are shown to be active, by-faith people in this chapter. The two most prominent of these are Abraham (11:8-12, 17-19) and Moses (11:23-29). By faith they both did as the Lord willed rather than turn back in any way. They went forward by faith rather than quit despite persecution and the lack of full assurance (11:8, 17-18, 24, 38).

Moreover, Abraham and Moses followed the Lord personally rather than remaining with the unbelievers around them in Ur (11:8) and Egypt (11:27). Noah (11:7) and Rehab (11:31) also clearly left unbelievers behind. There is a strong emphasis on personal faith in chapters ten and eleven. So chapter 11 lends support to the personal, anti-apostasy counseling in chapter ten. -- Of course, there is also a new fellowship of believers (10:23-25, 33-34, 11:20-21, 25, 12:1) which replaces the old connections with the lost.

Above all, like the history of Israel and the lives of Abraham and Moses, Hebrews chapter 11 is directional, chronological, and forward moving. So it is not just about faith in general. It is about future-oriented faith, even though the testimonies of various important characters from the past are cited as evidence for such.

Hebrews 11 and Genuine Faith

Hebrews chapter 11 is obviously about faith, but as this chart shows. there are some aspects of biblical faith which are not as obvious as others. For instance, verse three is the only verse in the chapter about God as the Creator. Yet, this is foundational. So it is mentioned early in the chapter. The miracles set forth later, such as the birth of Isaac (11:11-12), are possible because there is a Creator who cares about his people. Likewise, the term "sin" does not appear in the chapter, but the sins of unbelief and apostasy are clearly seen (10:39, 11:15, 12:1-4). Moreover, Jesus is not directly mentioned by name in chapter 11, but he is the Creator in verse three (See John 1:3.) and typically represented by Isaac in verses 17 through 19.

Through much of the chapter the endurance of Old Testament believers are set forth as examples for the Jewish readers who were being persecuted for Christ. Biblical endurance involves more than just being patient.

As in the Gospel of John, the personal faith of individuals is stressed in Hebrews chapter 11 because each Hebrew believer needed to stand firm against pressure from the unbelieving nation. Yet, the collective faith of true believes is also mentioned a few times (11:29-30), since there is wonderful fellowship in Christ.

Hebrews 11 is full of contrasts.

There is much contrast in Hebrews chapter 11, the first being between Abel and Cain (11:4). There is also an implied contrast between Enoch who pleased God by faith and most of his generation who did not (11:5). The dwelling in tents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob contrasts with their entry into the heavenly city (11:8-10, 15-16). The safe crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites contrasts with the drowning of the Egyptians (11:29). By faith, Rehab did not perish with others in Jericho (11:31). Near the end of the chapter in verse 38, God declares that the world was unworthy of the ministry of his servants. Finally, there is contrast between the position of  believers who lived before the coming of the Son and those in the church age (11:39-40). This is reminiscent of the contrast drawn at the beginning of the Letter, in 1:1-2.

In all of these contrasts, the author showed his readers that the only truly biblical and Hebrew thing to do was to choose to suffer in the present age with God's people rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season and perish in the end (11:24-26).

Hebrew 11 and Psalm 105

There is much about Abraham and Moses and Hebrew history in both Hebrews chapter 11 and Psalm 105. Yet these two chapters are also very different. In Hebrews, the by-faith actions of the patriarchs are stressed, but in Psalm 105, God's actions and provisions are the focus. The psalmist called upon God's people to make the Lord's wondrous works known (Psalm 105:1-3), but the author of Hebrews primarily set forth examples of biblical living. Thus, human responsibility is stressed in Hebrews chapter 11, though this stress is perhaps more clearly stated at the end of chapter ten and in the early verses of chapter 12.

Though God is, of course, present in Hebrews chapter 11, especially at the beginning of the chapter regarding creation (11:3), for the most part His work is behind the scene and not directly stated. Not directly stating that God gave victory to the various Judges (11:32-33) is an example of this. Because of this, the need for people to make right, by-faith decision is more clearly seen in Hebrews 11 than in Psalm 105. Abel, Abraham, Moses, and others in the chapter made good choices. So too should the readers of the Book of Hebrews (10:36-39).

Hebrew 11 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Whereas Hebrews chapter 11 is about various Hebrews—and a few Gentiles—who pleased God by faith (10:38, 11:6, 14-16), the first 13 verses in First Corinthians chapter ten are about Hebrews in the wilderness who did not please God because of their unbelief and idolatry. The thematic relationship evident in these two passages may help show that Paul is the author of Hebrews as well as Corinthians. In both cases, these historical happenings were written for our learning (1 Cor. 10:11). Thankfully, there is much more written about those who pleased God than about those who did not.

Hebrews 13 (a devotional)

The key terms and phrases on remembering and not forgetting appear four times in Hebrews chapter 13, more than in any other passage in the New Testament.

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

The author commanded his Hebrew readers to not forget to entertain strangers and reminded them that some in the past, such as Abraham and Sarah in Gen. 18:1-3, had entertained angels (13:2). In this, he may have called for remembering a specific command in Scripture (perhaps Deut. 10:19 in the Old Testament and / or Rom. 12:13 in the New Testament) with the memory of a hospitality story or stories. Linking all these biblical memories make the command stronger.

The command to remember prisoners in 13:3 may be based on what the Lord Jesus taught in Mat. 25:36, or the command may simply mean to not forget to help believers who are prisoners. The reference to being in the body (and subject to pain) in 13:3b supports this view. So the remembering in 13:3 seems to have more to do with continuing to do good in the present than with remember the past. The same is true in 13:7 and 13:16 as well.

Hebrews 13:3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also. . . . 13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. . . . . 13:16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 

The second half of 13:16 implies that temple sacrifices and the temple itself would soon be gone, but the first half of the verse shows that doing good and supporting the Lord's work in material ways will continue to please God (13:15-16). Things were about to change greatly (13:14). What had not changed and would not change was God's will for his people to do good and support his work, though the giving would cease to be at the temple.

Moreover, the goodness of the Lord Jesus was and is the same forever (13:8). In line with this, the God 101 list shows that God did good in creation and that ALL his works, past, present, and future are good. Therefore we also, who have been saved by grace, should not forget to continue to do good (13:16) even though some things in life change greatly. Though we all fail in doing so, HE will still complete his good work in us (13:21).


© 2021 by Jon F. Mahar, Hakusan City, Japan