Friday, September 18, 2015


For the week beginning Sunday September 20, 2015

(A warning against drifting away)
Hebrews 1-2

The book of Hebrews was written to address the issues that some Jewish believers had in making the transition from the Old Testament Levitical system to their newfound freedom in CHRIST JESUS. This book describes in great detail, the superiority of CHRIST to everything in the Old Testament, including the entire priesthood, and, the old animal and plant sacrificial system. It is the only epistle in the New Testament that does not begin like a first-century letter. There is no opening salutation, or prayer, and, because neither the writer, nor the addressee are identified in the opening lines, there has been a polemical assault waged upon this invaluable Christian document for quite some time.
For a long time this letter was attributed to the Apostle Paul, however, more recent scholars have all but disproved the likelihood of him being the author. This is primarily because the Greek style of the book of Hebrews is so greatly different from any of Paul’s other writings. Martin Luther argued that Apollos, a disciple of John the Baptist, was the author, while other scholars have advanced authorship to Priscilla, who, along with her husband, Aquila, was a pioneer in the “House Church” concept that became very popular shortly after the ascension of CHRIST in the early first century.
But perhaps the most compelling argument for authorship favors Barnabas, who was known as “The Enabling Encourager”. Barnabas is the person who introduced Paul to the Church, when he did so, first, to the apostles at Jerusalem in Acts chapter 9, and then later on, to the church at Antioch of Syria, in Acts chapter 11. In fact, Barnabas even traveled for a year with Paul, during Paul’s first missionary journey, but later, fell out with him, over differences involving John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, and the eventual author of the book of Mark.
Tertullian, the great church scholar, Jerome, the author of the Vulgate (the first Latin translation of the Bible), Gregory of Elvira and Filaster (both fourth century writers), all share the opinion that Barnabas is the author. In fact, they all refer to the book of Hebrews as “an epistle by Barnabas”. However, no matter who wrote this invaluable Christian document, it is certain that the author had in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch (the first five books of the bible), and also, the Psalms. The writer also had a distinctively clear understanding of the perspective that was provided by CHRIST JESUS, during HIS three-year earth bound ministry.
The letter of Hebrews, perhaps more than any other writing in scripture, highly exalts the person and works of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. It makes valuable contributions to the doctrinal aspects of JESUS’ priesthood, incarnation, and vicarious sacrifice. It also goes a long ways toward developing an understanding, regarding the relationship between the interpretation of Old Testament Law, and New Testament Faith. It also helps us to understand the “New Covenant” that was ushered in by CHRIST, as it relates to the “Old Covenant” that was given to Moses, by GOD, on Mount Sinai.
Long ago, GOD spoke “many times and in many different ways” (polymeros kai polytropos) to our ancestors, through the prophets. However, today, GOD continuously speaks to us through HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST. “Prototokas” is the word that is used here in chapter 1, verse 2, and later, in verse 6, for the term “SON” in the original Greek writing. Throughout the New Testament, it is a word that is only used in reference to JESUS HIMSELF, and it means, quite simply, “FIRSTBORN”. It is a technical theological term that affirms HIS supreme rank and unique relationship and position in the family of GOD. That is why, even the angels of GOD, worship the SON.
The “right hand” is the traditional place of power and authority in the biblical sense, and so JESUS not only possesses eternal life and existence, by being at the right hand of GOD the FATHER in Heaven, HE also exercises all of the power and authority of Deity. As FIRSTBORN, GOD promised everything to the SON as an inheritance, and through HIM, HE made the universe and everything in it.
In the New Testament Greek, the word used for “brightness” is “apaugasma” (apow-gas-mah), and it is a “brilliance”, “effulgence”, or “light”, which is reflected from one place, or object, to another place or object”. JESUS is the “LIGHT” that wants to shine on all mankind, and gives each of us that light, so that we too, can shine that light on  someone else, making them able to see their way through the darkness that presses to dominate this world. And so, here in Hebrews 1:3, that is the word that is being used by the author to describe JESUS CHRIST in his original Greek rendering.
Also in verse three, the author uses another interesting Greek term to depict JESUS. That term is “charakter” (khar-ak-tare), and it means “express image”. It is from that word that we derive our English word “character”. It is “an exact copy, or representation of”, and, it is like a seal, an impression, or stamp. Here the author attempts to establish the person of JESUS CHRIST as being superior to any other prophet, or intermediary that GOD had sent prior to HIS coming. He also sought to affirm that JESUS is truly “the SON of the living GOD”, and, is the “exact image” of GOD HIMSELF. And so, in JESUS, and through HIS behavior, we are able to see exactly what GOD is like.
In Hebrews 1:4-14, the writer turns his efforts toward proving that JESUS is also superior to angels. In verse 4, he says, in effect, that, JESUS’ superior name serves to add to HIS credentials. In biblical times, a person’s name often summed up who they were. The name “JESUS” means “JEHOVAH is salvation”, and thereby, the very term “SAVIOR” makes HIM eternally superior to any angel, just simply by way of HIS more excellent name.
Verses 13 and 14 serve to remind us of the most important reason why angels should not be the focus of our worship. And that reason being, is that angels are only servants of GOD. Most of them are spirits sent from GOD to care for those who will eventually receive salvation. I say “most of them”, because satan also commands a host of angels. We are told of this fact in both Matthew 25:41, and Jude 1:6.  Therefore, it is JESUS, not angels, WHO should always be the focus of our Faith.
In the final analysis, the true meaning of life is contained in the person of CHRIST JESUS. HE is our “direct access” to GOD the FATHER. However, we must listen closely for the meaning of the truth we have heard about HIM, lest we be in danger of drifting away from the ALMIGHTY GOD HIMSELF. If GOD is able to spin the Universe into orbit, tell the sun where to rise, and the oceans where to stop, then certainly, HE can satisfy our quest for the meaning of our existence, direct our path through this life, and, at one and the same, save our souls and secure us for all eternity through CHRIST JESUS.
In Hebrews chapter 2, verses 1-4, the writer of Hebrews pauses momentarily to give us the first of five warnings that are contained in this letter. The others are in chapters 3-4, 5:11-6:20, 10:19-39, and chapter 12. The warning here in chapter 2 is the most terse of the five, and, is a stern warning against the spiritual immaturity and inertia that the Jews had apparently taken on. It was an attempt by the author to “nip in the bud”, any such shortfalls by the new Christian followers. The words of King Solomon may have been ringing in his head, as they are contained in Proverbs 3:21, where it warns, “My son, do not slip away, but keep my counsel and intent”.
In the Septuagint Greek rendering of Proverbs 3:21, the same Greek word, “pararrhueo” (par-ar-hroo-eh-o), which means, “drift away”, that is used there, is used here in Hebrews 2:1. It means “to let carelessly flow by, or slip away”. Here the author is not just speaking to Christians, but rather, he is speaking to anyone who has heard the word of GOD, concerning the great gift of salvation, and chose to ignore it.
This warning must have also certainly impacted those believers of the old religious system of Judaism, as well as it did the new Christians, particularly those Christians who were considering a return back to Judaism. For the converted Jews, turning back to the old system would require them to neglect their newfound salvation in CHRIST JESUS.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in 1947, give us a glimpse of how the early church had been infiltrated with the false teaching of “angel worship” and “angel domination” in the coming age. The Dead Sea scrolls show that the sectarians of Kirbeth-Qumran believed that the coming age would be marked by the domination of the archangel Michael and his angelic subordinates.
Here in this passage, particularly in verses 5-9, the writer of this letter issues a powerful refute to this point of view. Here he lets us know quite clearly, and quite frankly in verse 5 that the future world will not be controlled by angels, but rather, will be controlled by CHRIST JESUS, WHO was made lower than the angels for a little while, and is now crowned with glory and honor, because HE suffered death for us on a cross at Golgotha. As a result, GOD gave HIM authority over all things, and HE is exalted over all creation.
In the author’s argument, he quotes from Psalm 8:4-6 and notes that the realm of humanity had been below that of the angels, despite the fact that GOD had given man HIS OWN spiritual image, and dominion. JESUS, WHO voluntarily became one of us, tasted death for everyone in the world. And it is only fitting that GOD, WHO made all things, would bring all HIS children into glory higher than the angels, through the suffering of JESUS CHRIST, HIS SON and our SAVIOR.
In doing this, GOD presents JESUS as a perfect leader (in the Greek, “ACHEGOS”), for HIS people. In other words, JESUS is the PIONEER, ORIGINATOR, and CAPTAIN of our salvation. And so now, JESUS makes holy, all those who choose HIM, and, as a result, GOD becomes their FATHER also. JESUS is not ashamed to call those who choose HIM, HIS brothers and sisters, and, HE proclaims the wonder of GOD’s name to each of us in GOD’s presence.
Only as a human born to die, could JESUS break the power of sin and death that was held by satan over mankind. It was the only way that HE could deliver us, who were slaves to sin, and the fear of dying. JESUS did not come as an angel because HE did not come to help the angels. HE came as a man, so that HE could be our merciful and faithful HIGH PRIEST before GOD. Only then, could HE offer HIMSELF as a supreme sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world, once and for all time.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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