Daily Bible Study Tips: Comments on Hebrews
Overview of the General Epistles
Hebrews 7:26-27, 9:24-26
Hebrews 11, The Heroic Faith of Our Ancestors
Comments on James and Jude
Comments on I John 1 and 2
Comments on I John 3 - 5
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Before our vacation up north, I went on-line and made reservations for the entire trip. Half-way through our travels, our schedule changed by one day. I called hotels to make new reservations; that was no problem. Unfortunately, in order to avoid paying twice, I had to "click here" with the on-line folks to cancel my old reservations. What do you notice about that? I couldn't "click" anywhere from a car in western Montana! Even worse, the reservations could only be canceled in advance. After we got back, a very gracious AAA lady spent three days on the phone canceling those reservations!
When I committed my first sin, I made reservations in Hell. I had no way cancel them. Fortunately my gracious High Priest, Jesus Christ, spent three days canceling my old reservations and making me new reservations in Heaven.
One of the neat things about Pastor David's preaching is that he goes through the scripture – often verse by verse – and tells us what it means before he starts to preach about it. He would have gotten along great with the author of Hebrews, who extensively quotes or refers to the Old Testament to illustrate how Jesus fulfills and goes beyond God's previous revelation. In today's passage, the author of Hebrews demonstrates that Jesus is superior to the Levitical priests, who were in charge of Temple worship.
The early Church had a problem. Some of the Jewish converts to Christianity were trying to convince other Christians that while faith in Jesus was all very well and good, it wasn't enough. What you really needed to do, they said, was follow all the laws and traditions of Judaism as well. The point of the Letter to the Hebrews is that Jesus is superior to everything that went before - superior to the angels, superior to the patriarchs, superior to the priesthood, superior to the Temple, superior to the Law, and superior to the sacrifices. Therefore it is not only unnecessary, but even foolish, to go back to or embrace the old laws and traditions. Our readings last week and this week discuss Jesus' superiority to the Levitical priesthood of Judaism.
Hebrews 7:26-27, 9:24-26
Hebrews is a difficult book, especially for those of us who didn't grow up sacrificing goats to expiate our sins. The central message of the book of Hebrews is that Christ is superior to the old system – Christ is superior to angels, superior to the patriarchs, superior to the Temple, and so on. Most modern Christians never participated in the old system, so it's hard for us to appreciate the difference between the old system and faith in Jesus Christ. One part of the old system was that a human priest offered up a sacrificial animal on behalf of the sinner. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ is a superior sacrifice, that is, a better sacrifice for the expiation of sins than any of the animals specified by Moses for the offering.
But there is another, more important difference between the old sacrifice and the new. The animal was offered up by a priest, but Christ offered up himself, for us. Christ is the offering for us. What is our offering for Christ?
Once while we were studying Leviticus in a Bethel class, one of the students asked, "What's the big deal about sin, anyway? Why do they have to keep sacrificing all these animals?" My answer then and now is this. "Sin is serious! Sin is a matter of life and death! MY life! MY death!" When I commit a sin, somebody is going to die. The old sacrificial system that we talked about yesterday thus has a serious drawback from the point of the sinner. It is that every single time I commit a sin, I have to make a separate offering of a living creature, because these poor animals are not able to take away sin perfectly or permanently. The new system is that Jesus offered himself as a perfect, permanent sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
In a related passage, Paul makes the point that most of us would not even offer ourselves up in exchange for a good person, let alone for a sinner like me. Jesus did. See also Ephesians 5:1-2.
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