Hebrews 8:1-13

1Now the main point of what we are saying is this: that we have a high priest who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2a holy minister in the true tent set up by the Lord, not man. 3For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices, for which reason it is necessary for this one to have something to offer. 4Now if he were on the earth, he would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5They serve a symbol and sketch of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned when he erected the tent, “See to it that you do everything according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain.” 6Now he has attained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is ordained on better promises. 7For if the first had been faultless, then there would have been no occasion for the second. 8For he finds fault with them, saying, “Behold: the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 9not according to the old covenant, which I made with their forefathers in the days when I took hold of their hand and led them out of Egypt, because they did not remain in my covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law in their minds and will write it in their hears, and I will be their God and they will be my people. 11And they will not teach each his fellow citizen and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because everyone will know me, from the least to the greatest among them. 12And I will be merciful to their wrongdoings and will remember their sins no more.” In speaking of a new covenant, he declares the first obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and old is vanishing.

Jesus is the superior high priest, then. He is superior to the order of Aaron, set down by the strictures of the law. Therefore, the covenant he mediates is better than the law. That was always the case, and God designed it that way. He knew all along that the old covenant would merely “teach” the pattern of the new. Now that the new has come, the old has been set aside as obsolete. This means that he has dealt effectively with our sins, once and for all. This is the good news of the gospel, made possible by a better high priest, better lawgiver, better law, better covenant.

Hebrews 7:1-28

1For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him. 2And to him Abraham apportioned a tithe of all. He is first, by translation, king of righteousness, then also king of Salem—that is, king of peace, 3without father or mother or genealogy, not having beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains priest without interruption. 4See how great this one is, to whom the patriarch Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils. 5And those descendants of Levi who received the priesthood have a commandment to receive the tithe from the people according to the Law; these are their brothers, although they also proceed from the loins of Abraham. 6But this one who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. 7And it is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8In one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. 9One might say that Levi, who received tithes, gave them through Abraham. 10For he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. 11Now if perfection through the Levitical priesthood were possible (for the people received the Law under it), what further need was there for another priest to arise from the order of Melchizedek rather than one from Aaron? 12For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is by necessity a change in the law too. 13For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to a different tribe, from whom no one had ever officiated at the altar. 14For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, and Moses didn’t say anything about priests from that tribe. 15This becomes even more clear when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16who became such not on the basis of a fleshly command but according to the power of an indestructible life. 17For it is testified that “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 18For on the one hand a previous command is set aside [annulled] because of its weakness and uselessness 19(for the law made nothing perfect), but a better hope is introduced through we draw near [cf. “offering” of Leviticus] to God. 20And it was not without an oath, for those who previously became priests were made such without an oath, 21but this one was made through an oath by one who said to him, “The Lord has sworn, and does not change his mind: you are a priest forever.” 22This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23The priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing 24but he holds his priesthood permanently because he continues forever. 25Therefore, he is able to save for all time those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for us. 26For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest—pious, innocent, holy—separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens. 27He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices first for his own sins and then those of the people, for he has offered himself once for always. 28For the law appoints men in their weaknesses to be high priests, but the word of the oath (which came after the law) appoints a Son who has been made “perfect” forever.

The author’s contention thus far is that Jesus is superior to angels and superior to Moses and the Law. Now he makes the argument that Jesus is even superior to the Aaronic priesthood, which had been established by the law. The priests of Aaron existed because of the rule of law, but long before Aaron there had been a high priest in Genesis 14 who was named Melchizedek. This guy was a priest of the Most High; there is nothing known about his origins or his family, so he “appears” eternal in that sense, though the author does not mean this literally. Abraham clearly shows God reverence through his reverence of Melchizedek, so the Old Testament seems to show a priesthood order that predates Aaron and is BETTER and more powerful than Aaron’s. It is THIS order of priest in which the author places Jesus: he is the Son of God, and the Creator of the world. Unlike the other priests, he was sinless. Unlike them, he doesn’t have to make a continuous habit of offering sacrifices to God. He offered himself once for all time, and that will never stop “working.” In fact, he is always interceding for us—the work of a true high priest.

The book of Leviticus employs the Hebrew word for “offering,” which is “to draw near.” To offer something to God is to draw near to him. Because of Jesus’ offering, we can draw near to God through him. And he never stops praying for us to the Father, at all times and in all seasons. He is the best high priest ever.

Are you still trying to be good on your own? Are you growing tired of the roller coaster ride of emotions in which you stop and start serving the Lord because you are still trying to “draw near” him on your own terms? Jesus is a way better high priest than you. Trust him instead of yourself today.

Hebrews 6:13-20

13For when God promised Abraham, since he had no greater name than his own, he swore by himself, 14saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16For people swear by a greater name than their own, and in all disputes an oath is the final confirmation. 17So when God wanted to show to the heirs of the promise the unchanging nature of his resolve, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge might have a stronger encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19We have this as a secure and steadfast anchor of the soul, and enter into the inner place behind the curtain, 20where Jesus has gone as forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest after the order of Melchizedek forever.

When God makes a promise, you can take it to the bank. And not only does he want you to know that, he encourages you in your time of doubt so that you can remember that he doesn’t lie and is powerful enough to do what he has said.

Hebrews 5:11-6:12

11About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you are dull of hearing. 12For you ought to be teachers because of the time, but have need for someone to teach you the basic principles of the oracles of God and have need for milk and not solid food. 13For everyone who partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, since he is an infant. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have had their faculties trained to distinguish good from evil. 6 1Therefore, leaving the basics of Christ, let us move on toward maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance of dead works and faith in God, 2the teaching about baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment to come. 3And we will do these things, if God permits. 4For it is impossible, for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the sayings of God and the powers of the age to come, 6but who have fallen away, to again renew toward repentance; they are crucifying in themselves the Son of God and holding him in contempt. 7For the earth that has drunk the rain that has often fallen on it and produced plants that are suitable for the sake of those for whom it has been cultivated, has received a blessing from God.  8But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is burning. 9Even though we speak like this, brothers, we are convinced concerning you of better things, of having salvation. 10For God is not unjust to forget your works and the love you have shown to his name, serving the saints as you still do. 11But we desire that each of you show diligence for the full assurance of the hope until the end, 12in order that you might not be sluggish and lazy, but be imitators of those who through faith and steadfastness inherit the promise.

The author of Hebrews now straight-up chides his audience for not growing past infancy. By now, they ought to have been teachers, not passive receivers of the word of righteousness. They are like a baby that just lies there and needs a bottle, rather than a young man or woman capable of more. He demonstrates that “infancy” has to do with one’s ability and willingness to “ingest” the teachings of righteousness. If a person sits through a class and doesn’t internalize these things and allow them to change his life, then he remains in infancy. If a person sits passively in a church service and listens to a pastor preaching the word but does not allow himself to be altered by it, he remains in infancy. He is not “ingesting” the solid food of the gospel, but is lying passively, hoping to just be a lazy consumer. Twice in this passage, the author employs words that mean “lazy” or “sluggish” to describe the person who doesn’t grow spiritually into maturity. It’s rather like a piece of land that gets plenty of rain but still produces only thorns—such land is worthless, and fit for only burning. Like Jesus did in John 15, this author basically calls the unproductive Christian worthless because of the constancy of his infancy. The author offers a word of encouragement to the audience regarding their love for God and their service to the saints: God doesn’t ignore that stuff. But when they refuse to grow—when they refuse to “ingest” the word healthily and grow out of milk and toward the solid food of doctrinal growth, they are actually ignoring the Son of God. In fact, they are “crucifying” him within their own spiritual lives. They have received what God has freely given them, but have demonstrated complete laziness toward spiritual growth. This IS holding the Son of God in contempt. After all, it is through faith AND steadfastness (μακροθυμίας) that a believer inherits the promise. A believer is expected—is COMMANDED—to grow.

The American evangelical Christian surely cannot read this passage and remain unconvicted of his own sloth. Every pastor in this culture can surely attest to the percentages of people who sit passively in pews and chairs and listen to sermons but walk away unchanged. How many of us sit in classes, listen to messages, and partake of the Lord’s Table—but refuse to be diligent about our own spiritual growth. The author has already associated spiritual growth with the fellowship of the saints (the gathering of the local church). But here in America, we think we can do it all by ourselves and on our own terms. We are rebellious and lazy. Little wonder there are so many infants in our pews—often, infants who have been going to church for decades. In my own denomination, we are so starved for true preaching of the Word that we don’t even know we’re starving. Most classical Pentecostals can only stomach milk because that’s all they’ve been given. They don’t know how to process true doctrinal growth because their pastors have been so busy being “relevant” and “visitor-friendly” that they have failed to preach the solid word, and the congregants have failed to grow doctrinally.

None of us wants to be considered worthless. Yet both Jesus and the author of Hebrews described those who refuse to allow themselves to be changed by gospel teaching with this word. Search yourself today and ask yourself honestly: am I ready to be changed by the preaching I hear on Sunday? Am I ready to be changed by the teaching of solid doctrine? Am I ready to ingest more of the Word than a mere verse or two?

Hebrews 4:14-5:10

14Having therefore a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to the confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in every way tempted like us, but without sin. 16Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness in order that we might receive mercy and find grace in time of need. 5 1For every priest taken from among man is appointed on behalf of man in relation to God, in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward, because he himself is beset by weakness. 3And because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as those of the people. 4And he does not take this honor to himself, but is called of God, just as Aaron was. 5Christ also did not exalt himself to become high priest, but he who spoke to him, “You are my Son; Today I have begotten you.” 6Just as also in another place he says, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” 7who in the days of his flesh offered prayers and supplications to him who was able to save him from death, with loud cries and tears, and was heard because of his reverence. 8Although a son, he learned obedience through suffering 9and, completed, became the source of eternal salvation to all who are obedient to him, 10having been designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus was appointed by God to be our high priest, and in taking on human flesh he became sympathetic to our weaknesses in the most intimate way possible. It is because of this love and sympathy that he is able to deal gently with our weaknesses, our ignorance, and our waywardness. And his priesthood, which is offered on our behalf, is of a much more superior order than Aaron’s—Jesus’s priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek (the author will go into more detail about this in the next section), so it is better and of a permanent nature.

It is overwhelming to think of how Christ loved me so much that he offered himself completely for me to stand in my stead in the place of judgment. He has dealt gently with me with regard to my weaknesses, my ignorance and my waywardness. Moreover, he has put me in a position, as a pastor, in which I am to offer myself continuously on behalf of his people—I am to pray constantly, to sacrifice for them, to love them, and to deal gently with their weaknesses, ignorance, and waywardness just like he did for me. The thought of this is simply overwhelming. How great is God’s mercy, and how brilliant his plan to communicate and extend that mercy to a hardheaded, prideful man like myself!

Hebrews 4:1-13

1Therefore since the promise of entering into his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you seem to fall short. 2For the gospel was proclaimed to us just as to them, but they did not benefit from the word they heard; they were not united in faith with those who heard. 3For we who have believed have entered into rest, just as it said, “As I swore in my wrath, they will not enter into my rest,” although the works were done from the foundation of the cosmos. 4For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day, saying, “And God rested in the seventh day from all his works,” 5and again in this: “They will not enter into my rest.” 6Since then there remains for some to enter it, and those who previously had the gospel preached to them did not enter by disobedience, 7again he designates a certain day, “Today,” saying through David much later just as it was said before: “Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken about a later day. 9So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10For whoever enters into his rest also rests from his works just as God also rested from his own. 11Let us make every effort, then, to enter into that rest, so that none may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And there is no creature hidden from before him, but all are naked and laid bare in his eyes, to whom we will give an account.

The author has arrived at a startling observation: it is possible to receive the gospel and end up not benefiting from it. It is possible to begin the journey and not complete it. It is possible to leave Egypt and head for the Promised Land but fall in the desert. It is possible to BECOME disobedient after you have decided to obey. This is why there is a warning to not harden your heart—because every moment is an opportunity to become even more faithful to God or to allow your own thoughts and anxieties to distance you from him. There is such a thing as an “ultimate Sabbath;” a rest to which we’re headed if we believe and act in that belief. So our efforts should be to ensure that all of us locally are able to complete that journey. Since it’s possible for us to fall from allowing our hearts to wane into apathy and disobedience, we need one another to make sure that doesn’t happen. The assembly that God called together back then is the same as today: he wants his people to gather physically for the purposes of standing together against the enemy of disobedience. After all, we will give an account to him.

It is possible to receive the gospel and start the journey, but through the lack of fellowship and encouragement from others fall into disobedience. We cannot carry on by ourselves. This is why the “online church” approach failed during the COVID crisis; it was an arrogant attempt on the part of humanity to push back against God’s command. When the local church gathers, she shares Jesus’ table and encourages one another and is helped by it. You simply can’t do that digitally like people tend to think. We must make every effort to push and pull all of our brothers and sisters in the local church along the journey; mutual encouragement and daily upholding of their arms in this struggle is what is called for here. And you are not exempt: you are incapable of finishing this journey, too, without the church. God always provides a way of salvation, but when we decide that we can achieve it another way we always fail.

Pray for your church today. Go to church on Sunday. If you don’t have one, get one. The American idea that “you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian” is complete and utter rubbish. Whoever said that didn’t read Hebrews, to be sure. Go to church, so that you may grow spiritually into the encourager and helper you were called to be.

Hebrews 3:7-19

7Therefore as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you would hear his voice, 8do not harden your hearts as in the revolt on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9when your fathers put me to the test in the trial and saw my works 10for forty years; therefore I was angry with this generation and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they do not know my ways.’ 11So I swore in my wrath, ‘They will not enter into my rest.’” 12Beware, brothers, lest some of you have evil, unbelieving hearts that lead to apostasy from the living God. 13But encourage one another each day as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deception of sin. 14For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold fast steadfastly to the professed obligation until the end. 15In the saying: “Today if you would hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the revolt.” 16For who were those who heard and were disobedient? Were they not all who came out of Egypt by Moses? 17And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not the sinners whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did he swear that they would not enter into his rest except those who were disobedient? 19So we see that not all were able to enter because of disbelief.

The author of Hebrews has argued for the superiority of Christ to the angels, and now is in the middle of his contention that Christ is greater than Moses as well. As part of this premise, he points out that the very ones chosen for liberation from Egypt revolted from God by their own choice. He cites Old Testament scripture to describe this choice as a “hardening of the heart.” The heart, or the affections, burns hotly at the moment of commitment, but over time grows cold and listless. It must be regularly encouraged and upheld, and this is done in community. That’s why the author commands his audience to encourage one another daily—in order to prevent the type of heart that eventually abandons God entirely. The heart that is allowed to lapse into this state of listlessness and apathy is really an “unbelieving” heart; that is, it is the heart that doesn’t truly accept God at his word about the nature of sin and salvation. Because of such a hardening, disbelief is a state into which a believer may fall by not receiving the encouragement of the fellowship.

One of the major subthemes of this book will be the significance of the local church for the protection and growth of its members. It’s that critical that Christians be with one another—it is literally the only way that the Bible gives for Christians to keep their hearts “believing.” The American idea that a Christian can maintain his own internal belief without others is unbiblical and foreign to historic Christianity, but it is extremely popular here with Protestant evangelicals. This is why the early Church Father Cyprian said that “whoever has God for his Father must take the Church for his mother,” and argued that there is no salvation apart from the church. It is not that the gift of salvation originates in the church; rather, God continually saves the individual through the assembly of the local church. He always has (see: Joshua, Judges, and the rest of the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament) and he always will. We need daily encouragement from one another. We need each other much more than we think.

Whom are you encouraging today?

Hebrews 3:1-6

1Therefore, holy brothers who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2who was faithful to the one who appointed him just as Moses was faithful in his whole house. 3For he is worthy of more glory than Moses, as much as the builder is worthy of more honor than the house. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of all things. 5And Moses was faithful in his whole house as a servant who is to speak of the testimony. 6But Christ is faithful over his house as a son, and we are his house, if only we hold fast to confidence and boasting in hope.

The author has made an argument that Christ is superior to angels in chapters 1 and 2. Now he turns his attention to Moses, a revered figure to the Hebrews. He casts Moses as one who was a faithful servant in God’s house. After all, it was Moses who communicated God’s design for the tabernacle to his people and oversaw its construction and establishment. He received a great deal of honor from God’s people because of his faithfulness as a servant in that house. How much more honor, then, would Christ be due for being a faithful servant in God’s house of the church! The key principle at work here is that, in God’s universe, there is honor in being a faithful servant. This concept would have been foreign to the Greco-Roman culture at large, and the Jewish audience of this book would have known that. In the broader world, there was honor to the conquering hero, not the servant. But in God’s world, being a faithful servant was worth honor.

God doesn’t change. We are all called to be faithful servants in his house, and he honors that commitment. You are hard-wired to serve someone, whether or not you recognize it. You will serve yourself—which is really serving the devil—or you will serve God. Spiritual growth is when you grow into faithful service. Honor is due the one who is a faithful servant.

Are you a faithful servant in God’s house today?

Hebrews 2:5-18

5For it was not to angels that he subordinated the world to come, concerning what we said. 6But somewhere, someone testified, saying, “What is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man that you care for him? 7You have made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor, 8and subordinated all things under his feet. Now in subordinating everything to him, he left nothing independent. But at present, we do not see all things in subjection to him. 9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor through the suffering of death, who by the grace of God might taste death for everyone. 10For it is fitting for him, for whom and through whom are all things, that in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation mature. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have one . That is why he is not ashamed to call them his brothers, 12saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to you” 13and again, “I will put my trust in him,” and again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given me.” 14Since, therefore, the children share in the blood and flesh, and he likewise partook of them in order that through death he might destroy the one who has power of death (this is the devil), 15and deliver those who through fear of death are all their lives enslaved. 16For surely it is not angels with whom he is concerned, but he is concerned with the descendants of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made to resemble in every way his brothers, in order to become the merciful and faithful high priest begore God to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

The author now moves to sum up his argument that Christ is superior to the angels. He points out that when God took on human flesh, he was able to identify with man on every level. He disregarded what was good for him personally to do what was good for mankind, whom he had created. So the Creator was lowering himself for the good of the creation. It was a stunning moment in history—there has never been another one like it. In so doing, God was no longer simply “God” the sovereign (from the human perspective) but also a brother to mankind, since Jesus is fully God. In so doing, he delivered mankind from the curse of sin and death.

Christ’s act of service was done for your benefit. His own status was already worthy of so much honor—being the Creator himself—but by lowering himself and dwelling among us and becoming one of us, he effected our salvation. He was able to take our place on the altar of sacrifice (the place we rightly belong) because he put his own desires aside and made our rescue his priority.

Christ is superior to the angels and all of the powers of darkness. In what ways are you recognizing and treating him as superior in your own life?

Hebrews 2:1-4

1Because of this, we must especially pay attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2For since the message of the angels became binding and every transgression and disobedience received just retribution, 3how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared to us at first through the Lord but confirmed by those who heard, 4God testifying by signs and wonders and various miracles and distributions of the Holy Spirit according to his will.

The first message of salvation was preached by God himself. He promised mankind in Eden that he would fix the sin problem that they had created. He corroborated his own message with signs and wonder and miracles and the distribution of various gifts of the Spirit. Then that message was confirmed by people who heard it. The author of Hebrews is specifically referring to the fact that Jesus was the preacher of the gospel, and his message was confirmed by the disciples who heard it. So history repeated itself. In every case, the message comes from the Creator himself—God Almighty, the Most High. Ignore him at your own peril. The Old Testament already points to the fact that ignoring angels and their messages resulted in judgment. How much worse will it be if you neglect what the Lord is bringing?

Even now, the Lord is bringing salvation to you. He is bringing rescue from your sin, your disease, your habitual transgression, your emotional stasis. He is even now bringing rescue from yourself. The easiest thing in the world is to go about your business without giving him a thought—to bury yourself in your own emotional state and disregard him. What a terrible mistake that would be! You have been given a very important gift right now: the time and place to hear him and follow his word. Will you neglect that today?