“JESUS a better way”, a study of the book of Hebrews
Dr. James C Sutton II
Henry Ford could never imagine the day where cars would be able to park themselves. Just as the Wright brothers could only imagine the day where people will be transported all over the world by the airplane. Now traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast is as easy as driving across town. Progress has always brought about a, “better way”. Even in information, we can investigate a topic in a matter of seconds. There was a time when people stand all day washing clothes on a wash board, but now they spend half the time using washing machines and dryers. All these evolutions in science and technology have tried to create, “a better way” for society. For the most part it is in our DNA to search out and look for and discover a better way and religion, in particular Christianity is the same way.
What if I told you, there was a better way to have a relationship with God. Not only tell you, but what if I showed you in the word of God, by his grace and his mercy God the father decided to give us a better way to enjoy him and feel more secure. It is simple enough and begins at John 3: 16-17.
Over time there has been many philosophical, psychological, spiritual and metaphysical ways that man has devised to relate to God. Some of them are fairly decent in their attempt and some are downright heretical endeavors. This is the difference between having a man centered theology versus a God centered theology.
We need to endeavor to find out how God wants us to relate to him, versus how we want to relate to God. “A better way”, is our whole focus and goal for studying the book of Hebrews. (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25)First we must get some background information and set the contextual stage for our study. The author of Hebrews is unknown. Some people say Paul wrote it others say Peter and some say an Apostle. For the record of this study we do know that this book was inspired by the Holy Spirit. We do know about the context; that the author must have been familiar with the Jewish Christians, (Hebrews) he was writing to. These Hebrews existed outside of Jerusalem, more likely Grece. We will learn that they were evangelized by the apostles and the prophets after the ascension of Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews was written in approximately 65 A.D. The Jerusalem Temple was still in existence, because it was destroyed in 70 A.D. I like to also point out that this text did not include Gentile believers. As we stated many times before, Christianity has always moved forward through friction in many forms. In this letter to the Hebrews it follows the same pattern as before. The authors trying to correct, teach and exhort this group of Jewish Christians to follow, “a better way”. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In Hebrews there are three classifications of people to which the author is writing to. The first are Jewish Christians that have accepted salvation through Jesus Christ, but are trying to mix the Jewish ceremonial laws with the loss of grace. They believe and yet they are more comfortable with a works based faith. Simply put Judaism had become a religion of works, ceremonies and rituals. So the measure of your relationship with God was based upon how well you performed the ceremonies of the temple and was subject to approval by the priest. The only problem was the priest proved to be more sensible at times than the people. (Leviticus 10:1-6 and Hosea 4:9) this group suffered many persecutions by their Jewish community and their families. Because they accepted Christ no one wanted to have anything to do with them. Their immaturity was exposed by the pressure of a false unity based upon old Jewish tradition. The Holy Spirit now writes this letter to strengthen this group of Jewish Christians who are being persecuted on all sides. They were not in a position to lose their salvation, but because of the pressure they were looking for relief from the persecution by looking back. Doesn’t this sound familiar for today. We spend a lot of time in church looking back on yesterday and not moving forward into the great promises of God for today. The fear of tomorrow prevents us from experiencing the great movement of God today. Through Jesus Christ they were given a better way and yet fear and legalism seem to be more palatable to their taste.
The second group are Hebrew Christians who believe intellectually in Christ. It works something like this, they follow Christ but they would not commit to his Lordship or messianic call. Let’s look at the ( Gospel of John 12:43.) Just like then we have nonbelievers who believe in Jesus Christ a man, but again have not accepted salvation through him. (Hebrews 2:1 -4, Hebrews 6:4-5) if a man acknowledges that Jesus is who he says he is and makes a conscious decision not to accept him at that point there is nothing else God can do. (Hebrews 10:26-29, Hebrews 12:15) these are warnings to the Hebrews who have gained the knowledge of Christ but have not accepted him as of yet. This is the most dangerous position as you see in the Scriptures affirmations.
The next group of Hebrews are the straight nonbelievers. At each inhale and exhale they are on the verge of going to hell and never being redeemed. They stay in their old religious ways that do not please God for various reasons. The Holy Spirit in the book of Hebrews is also giving them a clear-cut argument to receive their Messiah Jesus Christ. You have to remember that it was every Jewish person’s desire to have a relationship with God based on the promises of their forefathers Abraham, Moses, Etc... In chapter 9 the Holy Spirit speaks directly to the Jews who have not accepted Christ yet. (Hebrews 9:11-14, 27)
Our goal in the study of this book is to figure out which group of people is the Holy Spirit talking to. With this we may figure out how we may talk to those around us about the superiority of Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is interesting to observe that the same problems the church had 3000 years ago are the same problems we have now. Even though we are not Jews and most of us have little to no understanding of the Jewish practices in Leviticus, we are being bombarded to follow dead works. Thereby hindering access and relationship experiences with the most high God, through Jesus Christ and not the Levitical law. For friends and family members who believe in Jesus Christ the person, but is not accepted him as Lord and Savior we will give them a confident argument to help them cross the line and participate in the joy of knowing God. For those who are outside of the faith totally and don’t know Jesus Christ and are practicing pagan religious rituals such as witchcraft, horiscopes, fortune-telling, necromancy and other forms of divination. They may just be people who have not heard the gospel presented to them correctly and believe they are saved by their good works. It’s our responsibility to help them know the true Messiah Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior.