Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hebrews 2:1-4 – Dude, don’t drift!

Hebrews 2:1-4 – Dude, don’t drift!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 24, 2012 AM

Recently, just as there is every year, there have been a lot of people killed boating, kayaking, or canoeing. Often it is because the folks involved did not wear proper safety equipment such as a life jacket. It is easy to be caught in the swift current of a river and be swept away to your death. The same is true spiritually for those who refuse to heed the Word of God. They can get caught in the swift current of life and be swept away to their spiritual deaths!

We live in a day and age whereby everything we involve ourselves in wants to drag us away from our faith in Christ. What may seem so innocent at first can become a major undercurrent ready to pull us under into sin. Let’s discover how and why we should give heed to what Hebrews says and not drift away…

READ: Hebrews 2:1-4

I will never forget many years ago challenging a young man to be careful of his involvement with a certain young lady because it was evident to everyone else around him that she was a poor influence on his life. In fact, they had little in common except he liked her looks and so did she! When I spoke with him, his eyes glazed over and his attention span was reduced to zero. He heard nothing of my warning. I believe the writer of Hebrews was facing a similar situation within some of the early churches. He begins to warn them to not allow themselves to drift away into sin. Perhaps we also need to give heed to what Hebrews teaches “so that we do not drift away.” We begin…

I. By paying attention to what we have heard! (v. 2:1)
  1. “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?” – Jesus (Mark 8:18 NIV)
    1) In most translations we have “therefore” which denotes that since God’s Son is way better than angels “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” So important was the message for the writer that he now pauses to give his readers the first of five dire warnings. (The others are in chapters 3-4; 5:11-6:20; 10:19-39; 12:1-29.) The believer’s attention span should not drift when it concerns spiritual matters of such primary importance! Yet far too often we allow ourselves to become distracted. We float from our church attendance, we coast from our allegiance to the body of Christ, or we waft from our daily devotions! It becomes easier to “go with the flow” of the world than to walk with the Lord of our life! This is why he would later use the “lettuce” sayings: “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart,” “let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,” “let us consider how we may spur one another on,” and “let us not give up meeting together.” (Hebrews 10:22-25) Our lives are to be daily sacrifices to the Lord where we “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but (are) transformed by the renewing of (our) mind.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) Why? Because both Paul and the author of Hebrews understood that it is only then that we “will be able to test and approve what God's will is.” When we allow ourselves to be spiritually distracted we drift into sin and then crash and burn. As James would warn that “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15 NIV) Therefore, we should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away” by paying attention to what we have heard!
  EXAMPLE: In the Disney Pixar movie “Up” there is a character called “Dug.” Dug is a lovable golden mutt living in the wilderness of Paradise Falls as part of a dog pack searching for a rare, flightless bird. Like the rest of his pack, Dug is outfitted with a remarkable high-tech collar that translates his thoughts into speech. But Dug is mocked by the rest of the pack. He is very easily distracted and in mid-sentence he will focus on whatever passes near him. In one particular scene Dug is explaining why he can talk, “My name is ‘Dug’ and I am just met you and I love you! My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master. He made me this collar so I could talk… SQUIRREL!” When I saw this scene I thought, “Wow! That graphically displays a lot of Christians!” We are so easily distracted by the current trend of the world and so easily go with the flow. We should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away” by paying attention to what we have heard!

Some of might whine, “Why should I pay attention? Didn’t God save me and therefore no one can snatch me out of His hand?” As Jamie Hyneman of the TV show “Myth Busters” quips whenever an experiment fails, “Well there’s your problem!” The writer states exactly why we should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away.” We discover that…

II. Because the message is binding whether we believe it or not! (vv. 2:2-4)
  1. “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” – Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:3 NIV)
    1) The author was aware that the message of the Gospel was extremely important. The Apostle Paul would ask, “What, then, was the purpose of the law?” (Galatians 3:19 NIV) The author of Hebrews tells why, “For if the message spoken by angels was binding and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” The answer is, “The Law was essential but this gospel is even more important, therefore, we will not escape!” And, like Paul, who knew “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator,” the writer of Hebrews understood this message was far more critical! How then could anyone “ignore such a great salvation” that did not have to follow a bunch of rules but was based on and established on faith in Christ alone! Later the author would write, “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” (Hebrews 12:25 NIV) He enforces his argument by reminding them that, “God also testified to it (the gospel) by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” More than that, however, “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him!” The author had evidently been one of those who had come to faith in Jesus as the Apostles had shared the gospel! Adam Clarke wrote, “Christ’s preaching was only a beginning of the great proclamation: it was his own Spirit in the apostles and evangelists, the men who heard him preach, that opened the whole mystery of the kingdom of heaven…. and consequently there was no excuse for their unbelief, and no prospect of their escape if they should continue to neglect it!” The same is true for us right now because the message is binding whether we believe it or not! Therefore, we should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away”!
  EXAMPLE: We live in a world where fifteen minutes of fame has become more important than being respectful. Recently there was a bus monitor who was berated by a bunch of boys about her age and appearance. One of them actually video-taped it and put it on YouTube! One psychologist who was asked why “good boys would join in” remarked how they “probably had been bullied” at some point. HOGWASH! Those boys joined in because they are full of sin and live in a sinful world where such actions are lauded and placed on display for everyone to see! I am sure the parents of these Cretans are wondering, “How in-the-world did my son miss the message of respecting other human beings?” It is easy; they ignored it for a moment’s worth of selfish aggrandizement on YouTube! Some of them truly regret it now because what they did has consequences! The rest of the world has now seen them for what they were at that selfish moment. What we say we believe spiritually is forever binding. And this is why Christians should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away”!

Conclusion:

We should give heed to Hebrews and not drift away by paying attention to what we have heard and because the message is binding whether we believe it or not!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hebrews 1:5-14 – Jesus is way better than angels are… the sequel!

Hebrews 1:5-14 – Jesus is way better than angels are… the sequel!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 17, 2012 AM

How do you measure a man? The measure of a man can be different for different folks. Clay Aiken sang, “Would he walk on the water? Would he run through fire? Would he stand before you, when it's down to the wire? Would he give his life up to be all he can? Is that, is that, is that how you measure a man?” Country singer Jack Ingram sang, “Do the best you can do, love many, trust few. Work hard for the money in your hands -- that's the measure of a man.” Sadly, both reflect the world’s view of manhood. Yet when we look at the life of Jesus, a real man’s man, we see something quite different. Jesus’ measure is found in whom he is and what he did, and when we look at these facts we soon discover that Jesus is way better than angels are!

People in the first century were extremely superstitious. They burned incense and candles, put up small shrines to remember their dead, hung carvings or depictions of angels or gods for good luck in their homes or to remind them of the deity they worshiped. You know, kind of like dream-catchers, wind chimes, candles and incense, crosses and paintings, and the roadside shrines for the dead enlightened people use nowadays! In fact, some of these folks were going back to their old way of life instead of following their faith in Christ. The author of Hebrews wanted them to know what the measure of Jesus was, and to understand that he was way better than their superstition and worship of angels. Let’s discover what he says and why…

READ: Hebrews 1:5-14

During my poetic song-writing days I penned a few lines concerning what a father says to his son before he leaves home, “Be it for better or for worse, whether a blessing or a curse, no matter where you walk, no matter where you run, you will always be my son.” While it is rather pathetic poetry, it is true. It is true for us mere mortals and it is true for Jesus Christ as well. Hebrews teaches us that Jesus is way better than angels are, because…

I. Angels are not God’s Son! (Vv. 1:5-6, 13-14)
  1. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV)
    1) Drawing heavily on the witness of Old Testament the writer establishes the uniqueness of the Son. In fact, just using the title of Son, and the privilege it entails, elevates Jesus above all and any comparison with mere angels. The author, using Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14, asks, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’? Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’”? Of course the answer is “none”. The first quotation is directed at David in referring to the fact he would not be able to build the temple, Solomon would. Yet, Solomon for sure did not receive all the blessings God infers here. They would be fulfilled in the future by David’s descendent Jesus. The second reference refers to the Messiah to come. These verses offer an effective rebuttal against any tendency to give excessive prominence to angels. It was known that all of creation, including the angels would adore him. Therefore, “when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him.’” He continues this thought by finishing with a questioning quote from Psalm 110:1, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’”? Satan wanted this position and more but this place of power and prominence is only reserved for God’s own Son Jesus. After all “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” And the answer to this is, “Yes!” Angels serve the redeemed, the children of God, us because of his Son! The only conclusion that anyone could possibly come to is that angels are not God’s Son, only Jesus is!
  EXAMPLE: My father was very practical, pragmatic, and down-to-earth kind of guy. He related that “A car is simply a tool to get me from one place to the next.” He saw his vehicles the same as the wrenches he used to fix them! I find it kind of humorous that some folks, me included, will personalize their cars by giving them human names and characteristics. It is called personification or anthropomorphism. We do it with our cell phones, cartoon characters, stuffed animals, cars and such. As one blogger wrote, “I know it’s true, because my computer tapped me on the shoulder and whispered it in my ear!” While angels are powerful beings sent by God, they are created beings who serve the saints of God! That is what they were created to do, nothing more. No angel will ever sit on the throne of God, only God’s Son can! Jesus is way better than angels are because angels are not God’s Son, only he is!

We do not become angels when we die, angels only do what God asks them to do, and they can never inherit eternal life. Jesus was no angel, he is God’s son. The author of Hebrews continues his comparison of Jesus and angels by reminding his listeners that angels were created to worship and serve their Creator. He makes the case that Jesus is way better than angels are because…

II. God’s Son is not His servant! (Vv. 1:7-9)
  1. “Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.” (Psalms 103:20 NIV)
    1) In a couple of diverse quotations, Hebrews contrasted the servant-nature of the angels and the eternal authority of the royal Son. The author understood the context of Psalm104:4, “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire” suggesting that angels, seraphim, often blended their changeable natures with winds or fire as they performed the tasks God gave them. But in contrast with this variability, the Son’s throne is eternal and unchanging, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” We discover that the quotation from verses 8 and 9 are directly taken from Psalm 45:6-7, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Psalms 45:6-7 NIV) While one can have companions in life, but companions are not actual members of one’s family. My dog Molly is a wonderful companion and while she thinks she is human and a family member she actually is not. The same is true for Jesus and his heavenly companions of angels. Only Jesus was “anointed with the oil of joy!” This reference points to the holiness and obedience of Christ while he walked this earth and to his heavenly kingship! While Jesus has many companions in heaven, they are not God’s Son. Only God’s Son rules and reigns on God’s throne with the scepter of God’s kingdom! As the king is above his personal court attendants so is Jesus above the servant angels who worship around his throne! Jesus is way better than angels are because God’s Son is not His servant!
  EXAMPLE: My father taught my brother and me that it was the duty of every man to be a gentleman around the opposite sex. We were taught to open doors, pull out their chairs, stand when a woman entered a room, to walk on the street-side, and to use polite language. We never wore our hats at the table and removed them when speaking to females. It was what was expected of a man around a woman. We live in a day and age where we think everyone is equal, therefore we can be just as crass and equally ill mannered with all ages and sexes. When we asked my father why we had to do these things, he responded, “It is expected of you. It is your place as a gentleman to mind your manners.” And that was that. While angels are the heavenly companions of Jesus, they are the servants of God. Those that minster before the throne of God are not equal with God’s One and Only Son. They know their place and he knows his. They do what is expected of them period. Jesus is way better than angels are because God’s Son is not His servant!

Now the angels are very wondrous, glorious beings, far more excellent than men are, and the scripture always represents them as superb and powerful creatures. We know of no being but God himself that is higher than the angels are. In fact the Jews believed that the law was ordained by angels and it should be held in high esteem. (Galatians 3:19) However, the comparison between Jesus Christ and the holy angels prove that Jesus is way better than angels are because…

III. God’s Son begins and ends His Father’s work! (Vv. 1:10-12)
  1. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV)
    1) The eternal nature of Jesus is established by the fact that again he created all things, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” (Psalm 102:25) Remember, John wrote concerning Jesus that “He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:2-3 NIV) All of creation, including the serving angels, “will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.” God never wears out, he never changes, and he is eternal. Everything we own, could ever own, will ever own will one day wear out! In fact, every day I am reminded that I am wearing out! And angels, who are created beings, will one day wear out as well! The truth is: that even when the present creation wears out like an old garment and is exchanged for a new one, the Son will remain unchanged. Jesus “will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” The interesting idea is that when the new heaven and earth are created, so too will the ministering spirits, angels, be recreated! Are angels eternal? No, only God is eternal. Jesus was there when the foundations were formed and he will be there to “roll up” all of creation as well! Jesus would tell the Apostle John, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12-13 NIV) Jesus will see salvation finished because he is its author. Peter would say, “Even angels long to look into these things,” (1 Peter 1:12) but they cannot! Jesus is way better than angels are because God’s Son begins and ends His Father’s work!
  EXAMPLE: I never understood what my father did when he went off to work each morning until one day he invited me to join him at his workplace. I joined him at the garage. I found the husky smell of gasoline, oil, and cleanser. Each tool had its place; rags were used then put into a barrel where they were picked up to be cleaned later. People came and went, asking my father’s opinion of what was wrong with their vehicles. What amazed me most was that my father could diagnose a problem, begin to fix it, and finally complete it by making the car run just like new. It remained a mystery until I learned some of my father’s tricks of the trade. Jesus never had to learn the “tricks of the trade” of his Heavenly Father because Jesus is God. “I and the Father are one,” (John 10:30) he related to his followers. Jesus is way better than angels are because God’s Son begins and ends His Father’s work!

Conclusion:
Jesus is way better than angels are because angels are not God’s Son, only he is! Jesus is way better than angels are because God’s Son is not His servant! Jesus is way better than angels are because God’s Son begins and ends His Father’s work!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hebrews 1:1-4 – Jesus is better than angels, the original!

Hebrews 1:1-4 – Jesus is better than angels, the original!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 10, 2012 AM

We live in a day and age whereby everyone is inaccurately taught that they are both unique and special. And while this may true as far as our individuality is concerned, sadly, many of us find out that we are simply not as exceptional as we were led to believe! In fact, most of us are average. This concept of giving honor to anyone for anything has resulted in the tearing down of those who truly deserve recognition for their achievements. Public education often teaches to the lowest common denominator. This has crossed over to the theological realm as well. Spiritual self-help books glut the bookshelves of Christian bookstores and churches focus on spiritual pabulum.

The author of Hebrews does not skimp on theological content. These first four verses are packed full of spiritual depth. In the original Greek it is one sentence and not five or the four as used in the NIV or other translations. Like priceless gems hidden just under the surface, Hebrews contains wonderful theological treasure for those willing to dig a little deeper. Because of what the writer tells us we know that Jesus is better than angels, and his theology in his introduction sets up the entire sermon of Hebrews for us. Let’s dig deeper and discover just what gems these verses contain for us this morning…

READ: Hebrews 1:1-4

Writing used to be an art form. Not the LOL of today’s text messaging. It was an art form not only in how you drew the letters on the page but what you wrote on the page as well. Writing contained style, grace, and beauty. Some have called these first four verses “the most perfect Greek sentence in the New Testament.” They say this not only because of the Greek used but the style and words used as well. They are majestic, poetic, and carry with them the impact of who Jesus is. We discover that…

I. Jesus is better than angels because of what God shared with others about him! (Vv.1-2)
  1. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 NIV)
    1) “In the past” the author notes that “God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” God spoke to us through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and as one writes, “He even spoke through Balaam’s donkey!” That was the past but this is now, this is today, this is when we live, so how has God spoken now? The writer goes on to say, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son!” The message of God is relevant because it is fresh and it is active and living. The Apostle John would testify, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NIV) This is the logos, the “Word” that God spoke to us! These are the “last days” because everything after the ascension of Jesus back into heaven is the last days before he returns again. We are now living in the last days before the return of Jesus. And it is through Jesus that God has spoken his truth, the good news, to us! Interestingly, the author makes a startling statement that it is through Jesus that God “made the universe” and it is Jesus who was “appointed heir of all things”! Jesus not only made everything, he inherits it because of who he is! God reminds us of this fact when he relates to the “conspiring nations” that all his Son has to do is, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” (Psalms 2:8 NIV) Again, this language in Hebrews is also strikingly similar to what John wrote about concerning Jesus, namely that “He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:2-3 NIV) Peter would write, “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:20 NIV) And Paul would wonder, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 NIV) It is not just through the fiery speeches of dusty crusty old time prophets with long beards, itchy woolen robes, and poor teeth that God has spoken to us, he has given us his spoken Word in human form through Jesus himself! “Thus saith the Lord” has now become flesh and dwelt among us! Jesus is better than angels because of what God shared with others about him!
   EXAMPLE: There exists an inherent danger when theology is dumbed-down to the lowest common denominator. We begin to think of Jesus in the basest terms. We begin to bring Jesus down to our level instead of seeing him as he actually is: the creator and inheritor of all things! When we bring Jesus down to our level we begin to make him into our image, we begin to give him our characteristics of immorality, unbridled emotionalism, and dishonesty. We allow the world to see him as just another good man, who while teaching a lot of good things, probably did not do what the Scriptures say he did. The writer of Hebrews will have none of this heresy and intellectual laziness. The world today needs to hear the Word of God as he actually is. Jesus is better than angels because of what God shared with others about him, what do you share with others about Jesus?

I was surprised to learn that most college textbooks, newspapers, and sermons today are written using the intellectual understanding of a seventh grader and not surprisingly, most TV shows are written on a seventh grade language level! Why is that? Is it because we as a society do not rationally challenge ourselves or is it because we have become academically lazy? We discover that…

II. Jesus is better than angels because of who he actually is! (Vv. 3-4)
  1. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:5 NIV)
    1) The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus, “the Son”, is more than just an offspring or image of God. Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being!” Jesus is not a reflection of God, not another god, a man becoming a god, nor simply another celestial being; Jesus is the “resplendent out-beaming of the essential glory of God!” (Clarke) He is the radiance of God’s glory! Jesus’ inherent and exhibited splendor is the same splendor! Jesus is God! How do we know this to be true? Because Jesus is “the exact representation of” God’s “being” of his existence! When we see Jesus, we see God! Jesus would declare, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) The prophet Micah related, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” (Micah 5:4 NIV) In fact, Hebrews tells us that Jesus upholds, maintains, nourishes, and sustains “all things by his powerful word”! God’s Word is Jesus and this word keeps everything there is going! Wow! Paul would say that this “power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:19-21 NIV) Hebrews says, “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Dear child of God, Jesus not only created all things, he saves all of creation as well! He has the majesty and the power to do it! Jesus would say, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18 NIV) And, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28 NIV) Paul rejoiced that “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” because of Jesus! (Romans 8:21) Hebrews magnificently teaches us that Jesus is better than angels because of who he actually is!
   EXAMPLE: It is hard to describe something to someone who has never seen or experienced what you have seen and experienced. Do not believe me, try it! Now add to the mix the spiritual component of God becoming human, living among us, and then dying for our sins, returning to heaven and ruling in all power and authority! Have you ever watched the old Disney cartoon, “The Sword in the Stone”? It is a takeoff of the tale of King Arthur. Merlin turns a ragtag boy into several different animals so he can experience for himself what they experience in a hope that it will teach him about seeing life through another’s perspective. It is another take of the old “walk-a-mile in my shoes” adage. For those who think that God could never relate to their life’s trials and tribulations, God provided himself in Jesus to experience just that. You see, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV) Jesus is better than angels because of who he actually is!

Conclusion:
Jesus is better than angels because of what God shared with others about him and Jesus is better than angles because of who he actually is!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Book of Hebrews: Who, What, When, Where and Why!

The Book of Hebrews: Who, What, When, Where and Why!
Pastor Lee Hemen
June 3, 2012 AM

Author: Although some include the Book of Hebrews among the Apostle Paul's writings, the certain identity of the author remains shrouded in the mist of history. Yet we can make several observations concerning who may have written Hebrews. Many names have been conjectured for the authorship of Hebrews, but the question remains unsolved. The tradition of Pauline authorship is very old and has never been decisively disproved. Missing, however, is Paul's customary salutation common to his letters. In addition, the suggestion that the writer of Hebrews relied upon knowledge and information provided by others who were actual eyewitnesses of Christ Jesus (Hebrews 2:3) makes Pauline authorship doubtful. Some attribute Luke as its writer; others suggest Hebrews may have been written by Apollos or Barnabas. The view that Barnabas wrote Hebrews is also of value. There is reason to think that in the ancient catalog of canonical books found in the Western manuscript called Codex Claremontanus, the Book of Hebrews went under the name of the Epistle of Barnabas. The Greek is more of a classical style, which Paul never used. In fact, the style is more in line with what Luke used. Of course authorship by Barnabas cannot be proved, any more than authorship by Paul can be disproved. Regardless of the human hand that held the pen, the Holy Spirit of God is the divine author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16); therefore, Hebrews speaks with the same authority as the other sixty-five books of the Bible.

Date of Writing: The early church father Clement quoted from the Book of Hebrews in A.D. 95. However, internal evidence such as the fact that Timothy was alive at the time the book was written and the absence of any evidence showing the end of the Old Testament sacrificial system that occurred with Jerusalem's destruction in A.D. 70 indicates the book was written around A.D. 65.

Purpose: The late Dr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute and writer of the best-selling book Kingdom of the Cults, quipped in his usual tongue-in-cheek manner that the Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews. In truth, many of the early Jewish believers were slipping back into the rites and rituals of Judaism in order to escape either the mounting persecution or the pressure of Judiazers. This letter, then, is an exhortation for those believers to continue in the grace of Jesus Christ and not “drift” back into the Law, which no longer could save anyone.

Key Verses:

Hebrews 1:1-2: In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

Hebrews 2:1: We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

Hebrews 2:3: How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation…

Hebrews 4:14-16: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 10:10: And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:25: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 12:1-2: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Summary: The Book of Hebrews addresses three separate groups: believers in Christ, unbelievers who had knowledge of and an intellectual acceptance of the facts of Christ, and unbelievers who were attracted to Christ, but who ultimately rejected Him. It’s important to understand which group is being addressed in which passage. To fail to do so can cause us to draw conclusions inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.

The writer of Hebrews continually makes mention of the superiority of Christ in both His personage and in His ministering work. In the writings of the Old Testament, we understand the rituals and ceremonies of Judaism symbolically pointed to the coming of Messiah. In other words, the rites of Judaism were but shadows of things to come. Hebrews tells us that Christ Jesus is better than any ritual mere religion has to offer. In fact, all the pomp and circumstance of religion pales in comparison to the person, work, and ministry of Christ Jesus. It is the superiority of our Lord Jesus, then, that remains the theme of this eloquently written letter.

Perhaps nowhere in the New Testament does the Old Testament come into focus more than in the Book of Hebrews, which has as its foundation the Levitical priesthood. The writer to the Hebrews constantly compares the inadequacies of the Old Testament sacrificial system to the perfection and completion in Christ. Where the Old Covenant required continual sacrifices and a once-a-year atonement for sin offered by a human priest, the New Covenant provides a once-for-all sacrifice through Christ (Hebrews 10:10) and direct access to the throne of God for all who believe!

Conclusion: Hebrews also gives us encouraging examples of God's “faith heroes” who persevered in spite of great difficulties and adverse circumstances (Hebrews 11). These members of God's Hall of Faith provide overwhelming evidence as to the unconditional surety and absolute reliability of God. Likewise, we can maintain perfect confidence in God's rich promises, regardless of our circumstances, by remembering the faithfulness of God in the lives of His Old Testament saints.

The writer of Hebrews gives ample encouragement to believers, but there are five solemn warnings we must heed. There is the danger of neglect (Hebrews 2:1-4), the danger of unbelief (Hebrews 3:7–4:13), the danger of spiritual immaturity (Hebrews 5:11–6:20), the danger of failing to endure (Hebrews 10:26-39), and the inherent danger of refusing God (Hebrews 12:25-29). And so we find in this crowning masterpiece a great wealth of doctrine, a refreshing spring of encouragement, and a source of sound, practical warnings against slothfulness in our Christian walk, however, there is still more, for in Hebrews we find a magnificently rendered portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ—the Author and Finisher of our great salvation (Hebrews 12:2).

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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. Special thanks to www.GotQuestions.org for a great review of the Book of Hebrews. © Copyright 2002-2012 Got Questions Ministries.