Partakers In Christ

Introduction to Hebrews………….Hebrews Lesson 1

Heb 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Author: Today most theologians and preachers refer to the letter to the Hebrews as strictly “Hebrews” or the “Epistle to the Hebrews”. However, the early church identified the epistle as “The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews”. The early church leaders’ belief that the apostle Paul was the author is the reason it was placed in the epistles after the first thirteen “Pauline Epistles” and before the seven “General Epistles” by James, Peter, John, and Jude.

Paul was considered as the author from the 1st century until the 15th century, about 1500 years. However, during the “Reformation”, several key reformers questioned the authorship of Paul because the structure of “The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews” did not contain Paul’s usual introduction which usually 1) identified Paul as the author, 2) named the intended audience, and 3) introduced the purpose of the letter. Also, some of the reformers believed that one could interpret Hebrews to be in conflict with their interpretation of Paul’s epistles.

Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
1Co 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

Purpose: Instead of introducing the writer and audience. Hebrews starts with the purpose statement in Heb 1:1-4 which several Bible versions such as the “King James Version” show as one long sentence.

Heb 1:1-4 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, [2] Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; [3] Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; [4] Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

This one sentence above made up of four verses establishes the method of God’s revelation and contrast between the Old and New Testament (v1-2). It also announces the theme in verses 3-4 as “Son of God”, who was introduced in verse 2 as the creator, heir, and sustainer of all things, plus was in the image of God, purged our sins, and sits at the right hand of God. Verse 4 establishes that the proof of these statements will be established by a series of comparisons “by the prophets” with “this revelation through the Son” which will show all cases the superiority, “better than” the revelation by the prophets. In fact, this not a series of comparisons but a series of completions, because Jesus said He came not to abolish the Old Testament but to fulfill (complete) it.

Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (niv)

The author of Hebrews, as well as the authors of all the New Testament, saw the revelation through Christ the son of God to be the fulfillment of the revelation by the prophets. The revelation by the prophets, the Old Testament was the basis for the Jewish faith and the revelation by the Son, the New Testament was the basis of Christianity. The unity of both of God’s revelations, Old and New Testament is accomplished by Heb 1:3, Christ and His crucifixion!

Heb 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Some of these perceived differences in interpretation are still being debated even today. For example, the following five recent Theological concepts will shed some light on this subject (debate).

Redemptive Theology
Progressive Coventantalism
New Perspective of Paul

Christocentric

Covenantal Nomism

Audience: The initial audience for Hebrews is not identified until the third chapter, Heb 3:1.

Heb 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

The title chosen by the early church “The Epistle of Apostle Paul to the Hebrews” implies that the audience were the Hebrews. However, a key question was the epistle Hebrews addressing the physical or spiritual Hebrews? The original usage of the name Hebrews was the physical descendants of Abraham. However, Paul in his epistle to the Galatians describes the believers in Christ are spiritual Hebrews, the church.

Gen 14:13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew,

Gal 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Therefore, it appears that the epistle of the apostle Paul to the Hebrews was written to the New Testament church (spiritual Hebrews), both Jews and Gentiles.

Most Bible scholars say that “The Epistle of Apostle Paul to the Hebrews” has four primary purposes: 1) to warn the readers the danger of unbelief, 2) to encourage Christians to endure, and not to abandon their faith in Christ, 3) to show how the New Covenant through Christ is “superior” (fulfills) the Old Covenant revealed by the prophets. (4) to show that Christianity is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies, promises, and typology.

Jesus says: Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Many Bible scholars say there is no book in the Bible more Christocentric than Hebrews, it exalts the person and works of Christ. The first four chapters of Hebrews focus is the “Superiority of the Person of Christ” in revelation, redemption, reigning, plus superior to the prophets, angels, people, and Moses.

These first four chapters is considered the first of three major divisions of the epistle. The first division is called “The Superiority of the Person and Purpose of Christ”.

I. “The Superiority of the Person and Purpose of Christ” and is divided it into two segments:

  1. Apostle – Christ the Superior Messenger (chapters 1-2)
  2. High Priest – Christ the Superior Message (chapters 3-4)

Heb 3:1 ends with the challenge for us to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus“.

The overall theme of Hebrews is the comparison of the old, Mosaic Covenant presented through the prophets with the New Covenant instituted by Christ. Hebrews initiate this in the first three verses of chapter one. In fact, as we study Hebrews, we will discover that the revelation through the Son, Jesus Christ is actually a fulfillment of the revelation through the prophets (Mt 5:17 above).

Heb 1:1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.[3] The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Hebrews is not focusing on the comparison of the Old Testament revelation from the prophets and the New Testament revelation through Christ, but on the fact that the New Testament (revelation through Christ) is “superior to” and actually fulfills (completes) all the prophecy, promises and typology (types) of the Old Testament.

Because the name Hebrews can mean both or either a physical group such as physical descendants (Israel) of Abraham and spiritual descendants (church) of Abraham. A Christian church member physically can be a Jew or Gentile, but spiritually “must be a partaker of Christ”. Therefore, understanding the warnings in Hebrews about required endurance and caution about holding fast is very important to the “spiritual Hebrew, the church”.

Heb 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Many theologians believe that a person cannot understand the New Testament without an understanding of the Old Testament, much like a person most learn addition before they can do multiplication. The prophecies on the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah were written (spoken of) by the Old Testament Prophets and fulfilled in the New Testament by Christ (Heb 2:2). In fact, the Bible which contains both the Old and New Testament is one story “the Apostle and High Priest, the Christ” of Heb 3:1.

As we look at how Jesus is “better than”, “superior to” and even a “completion of” these Old Testament references, we will see Hebrews 1:1-2 is more than just a comparison, but showing the New Testament is a “completion of” in that these Old Testament places, events, and people are in many times a foreshadowing (type) of New Testament places, events, and people (typology).

“Endurance and “holding fast” are used as synonyms. Paul has several warnings that question our position in Christ in his other epistles as well as in the epistle of Hebrews. The epistle of Hebrews has five warnings. Two of which are in these first four chapters.

In 1 Cor 10:1-11 Paul describes the “provocation” event referenced in Hebrews chapter 3 and Psalm 95. Just as Hebrews and Psalms use this provocation so does John in chapter 3 below.

Paul’s example in 1 Cor chapter 10 inserts a warning in verse 12 “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”. In 2Co 13:5 Paul inserts another warning, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

The above warnings as well as verses such as Hebrews 3:6 have either a stated or implied condition of status, IF.

There is a simple “IF-Then” logic block that is fundamental in a computer decision process.

If statements are logical blocks used within programming. They are conditional statements that tell a computer what to do with certain information.

IF statements essentially mean: ‘IF something is true, THEN “DO” something, otherwise “DO” something else.’

Heb 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end

The “IF-Then” logic applied to Hebrews 3:6 has the following results:

IF we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (if true), then (DO) we are of God’s house (a statement)! However, IF we “DO Not” hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end, then we are not of God’s house.

Based on the fact that the epistle of Hebrews first shows the revelation by Christ is superior to that of the prophets, and then uses key aspects of “Temple Worship” from the revelation of the prophets (Old Testament) to compare/contrast with the revelation of how New Testament worship is superior. Christ says that New Testament worship fulfills or completes the revelation from the prophets (Old Testament). (see Mat 5:17 above)

The first three verses of Hebrews tell us that God spoke (revealed Himself) through the prophets and in the last days has revealed Himself through His Son Christ which resulted in providing purification for sins. This purification process is what is referred to in Hebrews 3:6.

Just as the author of Hebrews chose to use the example of the provocation in the wilderness as the key example for the IF-DO example of “partakers of the heavenly calling, John uses the same wilderness experience for John 3:14-18

Heb 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

John 3:14-18 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[fn] [15] that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[fn] [16] For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.[17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.[18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Just as we looked at the logic of the IF-DO concept of Hebrews 3:6, we do the same for John 3:14-18.

If we read the account in the wilderness we will see IF a person (anyone)looked at the bronze serpent with faith they lived, so “anyone” who looks like Christ in faith (described in Hebrews 3:6) will have eternal life, a true partaker.

The words “world” and “whoever” mean available to anyone and everyone. This is a choice of the individual. If a person is bitten by the serpent (Satan) and does not look with faith at the bronze serpent (cross) they are condemned already!

All are bitten by the serpent: Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God desires all to be saved!

Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

1Ti 2:3-4 This is good, and pleases God our Savior,[4] who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

1Jo 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Hebrews is a key book in showing the unity of the Old and New Testament as one message about Jesus and Him crucified!

Paul: 1Co 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Time: The time of writing is assumed to be before the Temple worship system was abolished physically with the destruction of the Temple in around 70AD. Jesus and the worship system of Christianity is a spiritual worship system based upon Christ and His crucifixion that has replaced the earthly tabernacle/Tremple!

Under the Mosaic covenant revealed by the Old Testament prophets, God’s presence dwelled with the ark of the covenant in the innermost chamber of the tabernacle or temple, called the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place. The Old Testament high priest could enter that room once per year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). When Jesus was crucified, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies tore from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). Jesus is the New Testament high priest, yet we also have access (view) into the Holy of Holies from the “Holy Place” as we serve as Priests.

Under the Old Testament system priest were required to enter the Holy Place daily. We the partakers of Christ are priest! We are to enter God’s Holy Place daily!

Therefore, we are REQUIRED to come daily into the Holy place. Because the veil has been ripped that puts us before the “throne of grace”!

1Pe 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

As we study “The apostle Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews” let us keep our eyes on Jesus!

Heb 12:1-2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, [2] Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Most theologians say that Hebrews 1:1 is speaking of God’s revelation through the Old Testament prophets and verse 2 is referring to the New Testament revelation through Christ. Although most agree that Heb 1:1-2 refer to the Old and New Testament they do not agree on the intent of the author. Is it to be interpreted literally to show that the revelation through Christ is just better or superior or do we interpret them as an allegory (typology) where the revelation through the prophets is a picture or type that is fulfilled or completed in the New Testament.

Viewing the comparisons of Hebrews as typology instead of a literal comparison results in sufficient differences in interpretation in some key doctrines. A key event of the Old Testament “wilderness experience” referenced in Hebrews chapter 3 is one of the most important concepts of New Testament theology. This “Provocation” (rebellion and disobedience/sin) of Israel in the wilderness led the forty years the Hebrews spent in the wilderness after crossing the Red Sea. But it is more to remember that the punishment was much more than 40 years, the key punishment was that all that God held responsible, those above 20, except Caleb and Joshua lost the privilege of entering the “Promised Land”.

The Wilderness is a Time of Testing. Everyone has a key wilderness experience even Jesus who spent 40 days in the wilderness as a personal test. Understanding the power of Jesus’ response with the Old Testament scriptures of “it is written” to counter each test of Satan is critical in our ability to enter God’s Rest!

The wilderness is a place of purification/sanctification. When Israel passed through the Red Sea they had exited Egypt, now God had to get Egypt out of Israel. That is true for the “partakers of Christ”. Jesus as our “Passover” has gotten us out of the bondage/penalty of sin, and justification, now in the wilderness, we must die to our sin nature (sanctification) in order to enter the Promised Land, God’s permanent rest in heaven.

Hebrews uses Israel’s wilderness allegory (typology) and the Old Testament worship system to warn the church that we could face the same consequences of Israel and die without entering God’s Rest. The warning goes further in the fact of a more server punishment awaits those who break the “better covenant”, the New Covenant”.

Just as Israel had to go through the wilderness to reach God’s Rest, the promised land so does the church. The wilderness leads to New Life, God’s Rest. We must pass through the wilderness in order to reach God’s Rest. The wilderness for the Christian is a time of testing.

Did the New Testament writers rely upon the Old Testament promises, prophecies, and typology to show that Christ was the promised Messiah that was fulfilled (completed) in Heb 1:3, or is the epistle to the Hebrews only contrast to show Christ is better? Your decision on this question determines your interpretation and application of “Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews”.

In one aspect of life, each of us “who are “partakers of the heavenly calling, holy brethren, who are professors of Christ” must hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end”. We must be possessors of Christ in order to enter God’s Rest!

“The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews” is written to every generation of partakers of Christ, those “whose house are we”, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

This study of Hebrews will encourage you to examine yourself to see if you are of the faith!

2 Cor 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (niv)

Is “Whose house are we” a statement or a question?

Heb 3:6 But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.[fn]

Heb 4:6 So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God.

Hebrews 4:6 states that God’s rest is still there for us in the wilderness, but warns us to learn from the failures of Israel who were the first to hear the good news, the promise of God’s rest, the Promised Land, heaven.

The study of Hebrews has an emphasis on continuing in the faith. In the book of Hebrews faith is not a forensic (intellectual) position (justification by faith), but a faithful life to the end. Is eternal fellowship with God an initial faith response or a “continuing faith response?” Hebrews clearly states the mandate of a “continuing faith response”. The Christian life is viewed from the end, not the beginning!

This is not meant to imply works-oriented salvation, but a works-oriented confirmation. Faith is the evidence, not the mechanism (which is grace). Believers are not saved by good works but unto good works. Good Works are not the means of salvation, but the result of salvation. Godly, faithful, daily Christlikeness is not something we do, but who we are in Him. If there is no change, and or changing life of faith, there is no evidence of our salvation, no security for the believer. Only God knows the heart and the circumstances. Assurance is meant to be a companion in a life of faith, not an initial theological assertion devoid of lifestyle evidence.

Hebrews is filled with warnings against falling away (“shrinking back”), or returning to our old life prior to the profession.

Heb 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Peter, James, and the letters of I and II John emphasize the ongoing responsibilities of the New Covenant and assert that security is daily, confirmed by a changed and changing life. The author of Hebrews, emphasizing a life of faithfulness (Heb chapter 11), asserts security from an end-of-life perspective.

Assurance is never the goal, but the by-product of active faith in the promises of God.

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the reality[fn] of what is hoped for, the proof[fn] of what is not seen. (csb)
Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.(KJV)

The substance is the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists of, and which has a tangible, solid presence: The proof is evidence or argument establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement

Chapter 11 of Hebrews starts with the verse above and then mentions many examples of faith that were presented by the prophets in God’s revelation through the prophets. Many of these examples are keys to New Testament revelations through Christ. One of these is Abraham.

Abraham known as the “father of New Testament faith”.

Heb 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.[9] By faith, he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:[10] For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Heb 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, [18] Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: [19] Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

When Abraham was called he went, when he was told to go an offer Isaac, he obeyed!

A recent discussion on Paul’s teaching on the subject being in agreement with Hebrews is an early church concept of salvation supported by the early church until the leaders of the Reformation established another. This new concept is called the “The New Perspective of Paul” really is just a return to how Paul’s epistles were interpreted prior to the Reformation.

New Perspective of Paul vs the Old Perspective by the Reformers is somewhat like the debate in the current culture around “freedom of choice”. In other words, the choice of words presents a “picture” of something that is not truly addressing the issue. First of all, the “New perspective of Paul” is not a New Perspective, it is the perspective of the early church until the reformation (the 1500s). It is a discussion of the question, “What point is salvation determined?” Is it determined at the time of a “person’s profession” or “possessing Christ the end of their life”? Is faithfulness required for salvation?

The Reformers came up with the slogan “Faith alone” which to many implies a person’s life after profession is not taken into consideration at the judgment. This is based upon interpreting Eph 2:8-9 as a complete definition of salvation. Yet verse 10 says that “good works” should be an output of true faith. This is the basis of the New perspective of Paul returning to the “prior” Old interpretation and not the “NEW” old established in the 15th century by the reformers.

The “New Perspective of Paul” says there are two points of God’s assessment one at initial justification (Eph 2:8-9) and the other at the judgment (Eph 2:10).

Eph 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:[9] Not of works, lest any man should boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Link to Next Lesson

Visits: 23

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *