To The Hebrews

The Epistle to the Hebrews

Cecil N. Wright

  1. God, having spoken at many times and in many ways of old to the fathers by the prophets, in these last days spoke to us by a Son -- a greater Messenger (implied) -- a comparison between THEN and NOW (vs. 1-2).

  2. This Son (a) God appointed heir of all things; (b) through him he made the worlds (aionas, ages); (c) he is the radiance of God's glory and the exact likeness of his Being, (d) and is upholding all things by his powerful word; (e) when he had made purification of sins [a priestly function], he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high [indicative of kingship, sharing the sovereignty of the universe], (f) becoming so much better than the angels stated explicitly, have inherited a more excellent name than they (this thought elaborated in the remainder of Chapter 1 [Cf. Philippians 2:5-11] and its implications discussed in Chapter 2) (vs.2b-4).

  NOTE: The "son" through whom God has now spoken is the "Lord" (2:4), "Jesus" (2:9). The "Apostle and High Priest of our confession" (3:1), and "Christ" (3:6). These and the above are to be elaborated as the text proceeds.

 II. SON GREATER THAN THE ANGELS (1:5 - 2:18).

  1. Facts Supporting That Affirmation (1:5-14): (a) God told no angel, "Thou art my Son" (v.5); (b) When Son came into world, angels commanded to worship him (v.6); (c) God makes his angels spirits (not flesh), and his ministers (the angels) a flame of fire (possibly in sense that God is a consuming fire, 12:29) (v.7) -- who, exalted and mighty though they are, nevertheless worship the Son (which seems to be the implication); (d) The Son called God, has an everlasting kingdom, and is anointed with oil of gladness above his "fellows" (above all other kings, making him "Lord of lords, and King of kings," Revelation 17:14) (vs.8-9); (e) The Son called Lord, and had part in creation of the universe, which will perish, be changed, but he will remain the same and his years not fail (vs.10-12); (f) No angel ever told by God, as was the Son, "Sit thou on my right hand" (v.13; cf. Acts 2:34-36); (g) Angels are all ministering spirits (not rulers), sent forth to do service for the heirs of salvation (v.14).

  2. Implications Involved in Said Affirmation (2:1-18): (a) Need of taking the message spoken through the Son even more seriously than that spoken through angels (as the law of Moses was, Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19) (vs.1-4); (b) The world to come has not been subjected to angels, but to man in the person of the Jesus, his Son, partaker of flesh and blood (not of the nature of angels, and not to help angels) so as to be able to die for his brethren (human beings, with whom he identified himself), overcome death, and deliver them from its bondage, becoming their High Priest and making propitiation for their sins (vs.6-18).

 III. SON GREATER THAN MOSES

 (APOSTLE OF GOD TO ISRAEL, AND A TYPE OF CHRIST) (3:1 - 4:13)

  1. Fact of Superior Greatness (1:1-6): (a) Had a part in building God's house (Israel), Moses did not (vs.1-4); (b) Moses was a faithful servant in God's house, but Christ as a Son over God's house -- "whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end" (vs.5-6).

  2. Exhortations to Meet the Qualifications for Constituting the House of God (3:7 - 4:13); (a) "Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation . . . in the wilderness" (3:7-19); (b) "Let us fear" coming short of the promise of entering into God's rest for his people" (4:1-11) -- for we cannot deceive him with whom we have to do (vs.12-13).

 IV. SON GREATER THAN AARON

 (HIGH PRIEST TO ISRAEL, AND A TYPE OF CHRIST) (4:14 - 6:20).

  1. Greater Qualifications of Christ (4:14 - 5:14); (a) Passed "through the heavens," with immediate access to God, but can be "touched with the feelings of our infirmities," because he had been "tempted like as we are, yet without sin"; hence, we should "approach with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need" (4:14-16); (b) Qualifications of a high priest taken from among men (5:1-4); (c) Christ's qualifications superior, including being a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek (5:5-10) -- difficult to discuss because readers had become "dull of hearing" (vs.11-14).

  2. Exhortations Based Upon the Precarious Condition of Readers (6:1-20); (a) To leave first principles and go on unto perfection (spiritual maturity) (vs.1-3); (b) To avoid apostasy and its certain doom (vs.4-8); (c) To be ‘not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience (makromimetai, long-suffering) inherit the promises" (vs.9-12); (d) To be assured, as was Abraham, by the immutability of God's counsel, so as to have "strong encouragement" and steadfast hope as an "anchor of the soul," reaching beyond the "veil," where Jesus as a forerunner has entered for us, "having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (vs.13-20).

 V. SUPERIORITY OF MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD OVER AARONIC

 (LEVITICAL) PRIESTHOOD (7:1-28).

  1. Ways in Which Melchizedek was Different and Superior (vs.1-25); (a) Melchizedek both king and priest (true of Christ also, but not of Aaron) (vs.1-2); (b) His priesthood not hereditary, and having no recorded beginning of days or end of life, he "abideth a priest continually" as it were, (true of Christ also, but not of Aaron) (v.3); (c) He was greater than Abraham, blessing him ("the less is blessed of the better"), and receiving tithes of him, so that, so to say, Levi (a great-grandson of Abraham and father of Israel's priests) paid tithes to him through Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of the latter (vs.4-10).

  2. Imperfection of the Levitical Priesthood Under Which the Law (of Moses) Had been Received (vs.11-14): (a) Seen in the need for another priest after the order of Melchizedek, and not after the order of Aaron (v.11); Seen in a change of the law, to allow a priest to rise from the tribe of Judah, of which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests (vs.12-14).

  3. Superiority of the Priesthood of Christ After the Order of Melchizedek (vs.15-28): (a) Made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless (akatalutou, indestructible) life (vs.15-17); (b) Brought in a better hope than the law that had been annulled provided, by which we draw near unto God (vs.18-19); (c) Made with an oath whereas the Levitical priesthood was not, and Jesus as Priest became "the surety of a better covenant" (vs.20-22); (d) Provides an unchangeable priesthood, so that the Priest after the new order can save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, whereas the Levitical priests could not, because they were themselves hindered by death from continuing (vs.23-25); (e) Proved and illustrated by Christ's own pure and spotless character, and the perfection of his one offering for the sins of the world (vs.26-28).

 VI. SUPERIORITY OF THE SON'S HIGH-PRIESTLY MINISTRY

(WITH IMAGERY BORROWED FROM RITUAL OF THE GREAT DAY OF ATONEMENT) (8:1-18).

  1. In a superior (Heavenly) Tabernacle (8:1-5).

  2. Under a New and Better Covenant (8:6-13).

  3. Elaborations on the Foregoing (9:1-28): (a) Nature and limitations of first covenant and its ordinances (9:1-10); (b) Greater and more efficacious sacrifice under the New Covenant (9:11-14); (c) Christ, not Moses, the Mediator of the New Covenant (9:15-22); (d) Christ himself, not animals, the perfect sacrifice under the New Covenant (9:23-28).

  4. Reality (Antitype) Now Versus Shadow (Type) Previously (10:1-18): (a) Levitical system (under the law of Moses) contained only a shadow of good things to come, and not fully efficacious (vs.1-4); (b) Christ, the final sacrifice, represents the supreme reality foreshadowed, and the sacrifice of himself is completely efficacious (vs.5-18).

 VII. HORTATORY AND PRACTICAL SECTION BASED ON FOREGOING (10:19 - 13:17).

  1. Exhortation the Draw Near to God Through Christ and Not Apostatize (10:19-39): (a) Draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith (vs.19-22); (b) Hold fast the confession of our faith (v.23); (c) Consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking assembling together (vs.24-25); (d) If we ‘sin willfully after having received the knowledge of the truth," we incur with certainty the vengeance of God (vs. 26-31); (e) But remember your former days, after you were enlightened, how you suffered and sacrificed, and see that you lose not your recompense of reward, persevering in your faith to the saving of the soul rather than shrinking back into perdition (vs.32-39).

  2. The Faith of Past Heroes Held Up as Examples to Imitate (11:1-40); (a) Nature of faith (vs.1-3); (b) Examples of antediluvians: Abel (v.4), Enoch (vs.5-6), Noah (v.7), (c) Faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, and Joseph (vs.8-22); (d) Faith of Moses and the Israelites, also of Rahab (vs.23-31); (e) Other examples of faith (vs. 32-40).

  3. The Example of Jesus (12:1-3): (a) Surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses as the foregoing, let us run with patience (hupomones, steadfastness, perseverance) the race set before us (v.1); (b) Do it looking (aphorontes, looking away) unto Jesus, the author (archegon, chief leader, pioneer) and perfector of our faith, that you not wax weary, fainting in your souls (vs.2-3); (c) hardships and trials of the Christian life are benevolently intended as discipline to mold our characters (vs.4-11).

  4. Further Exhortation to Persevere (12:12-29); (a) Based on the forgoing (vs.12-17); (b) BASED ALSO ON THE TREMENDOUS SUPERIORITY OF OUR EXPERIENCE IN COMING TO GOD AT MOUNT ZION IN THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM THROUGH CHRIST OVER THAT OF COMING TO GOD AT MOUNT SINAI ON EARTH UNDER MOSES (vs.18-29).

  5. Exhortation to Duties of the Christian Life (13:1-17); (a) Social duties -- brotherly love, hospitality, remembrance of those in bonds, marriage held in honor and immorality avoided, freedom from love of money, contentment with what we have (vs.1-6); (b) Religious duties -- remembering former leaders (possibly now dead) and imitating their faith (because Jesus is the same always and expects of us what he expected of them), avoid being carried away by various and strange teachings, be established with grace (through Christ, though it brings reproach) and not with Jewish ritualism, by Christ offer praise to God continually, do good and share what you have, obey them that have the rule over you (tois hegoumenois humon, the leading ones of you) -- your present leaders (vs.7-17).

 VIII. EPISTOLARY CONCLUSION (13:18-25).

  1. Request by Writer -- for prayer of readers, that he might be restored to them the sooner (vs.18-19).

  2. Benediction (vs.20-21).

  3. Personal Messages (vs.22-23): (a) Exhortation to "bear with the word of exhortation" that the writer had just written (v.22); (b) Information that "our brother Timothy hath been set at liberty," with the writer expressing hope of seeing them with him shortly (v.23); (c) Request that readers salute their leaders, and all the saints -- presumably for him (v.24a); (d) The ones of (apo, from, or of) Italy (who presumably are with the writer) salute the readers (v.24b).

  4. Final Benediction (v.25).