Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hebrews 4-5 Bible Study Lesson

Sunday School class
A. Big themes in Hebrews:
1. Keep in mind that Hebrews is about “Jesus is better than the collective ministry within Judaism.”  Lots of references to others who were like Jesus or seemed to be like Jesus in the past but were not worthy of being the savior:  angels, Moses, high priests, animal sacrifices.  They serve as the baseline for interpretation, but Jesus is the platinum standard
2. Faith mixed with hearing.  The word does not good if not responded to and believed.  Faith that responds to the word heard or read leads one to mighty acts, especially in terms of dealing with persecution, oppression, and rejection. Many of the names listed in Hebrews 11 were victims of persecution. At the same time, many of them did some really stupid and wrong human things (even murder in Moses’ case) but faith was what made the difference
3.  Don’t stop, move forward. 
4.  Persecution (the people in the Hall of Fame were persecuted for the most part in some way.)

B.  Hard to understand.  Hebrews has a lot of beautiful passages that we memorize and quote, but they are in the middle of some hard structures to figure out the connection. Just reading it and understanding the flow is difficult.  The writer seems to change subjects and we have to figure out the connection between verses sometimes.  Never the less it is one of my favorite books to study because of the beautiful Hebrews 11-12 passage; the humanity and Jewishness of Jesus is central; it does cause  us to have to think about issues that we take for granted and question.  The two main ones are about Jesus’ humanity and whether a person can leave the faith.

Hebrews has four passages that have caused headaches for scholars for years.  2:1-4, 3:7-4:16, 5:11-6:20 (the most debated), 10:26-31.  These are called the warning passages.  They all say:  don’t neglect this great salvation by going back into Judaism and to move forward in faith, not staying put.  They also use the word therefore a lot, which means to me that these warnings are tied into what has been said before.

They seem to be asides or tangents to remind the readers not to go astray, backward, back to Judaism.  For us, does this have any relevance?  They are reminders to stay close to the church (do not be a coal separated from the fire) and other Christians and moving forward in the faith because there is no telling where you will end up otherwise. 

Also, I have a personal mission to draw awareness to the persecuted church, and Hebrews does that.   

I.  I want to start with 4:11, although that requires us to dip back into the preceding verses.

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

A.  This points back to verses 1-10, where the writer starts, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest. . . not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”  This is referring to the Israelites not going into the promised land the first time because they didn’t believe God, except for Joshua and Caleb. 

B. Rest.  What kinds of rest are there in the Bible.
God rests at the end of creation.  Rest means cease from labor and completion, not sleep or fatigue.
Israel entered into the land and rested from wilderness travels.
The land was supposed to rest every 7 years.
We rest from our works to depend totally on Christ for salvation, and for some people that realization doesn’t come until long time after their conversion.
Sabbath rest, which is a symbol of many things but we don’t have to legalistically keep it but see it as a blessing. 
When we die we rest from our labors.
The high priest rested after his work. 

Christ gives us rest—Joshua was not the final word.  Verse 9-10:  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.  For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

So, does this rest mean death and heaven?  Or something else?  I believe it is “dependence on Christ” fully, moving forward in faith, and realizing, either slowly or quickly, that our works have nothing to do with his love for us and his salvation.  For some of us this comes at conversion experience, for others later, but it is a rest from your labors.  We are resting from trying to please God with our works and self-righteousness and trusting in Christ alone.  This is daily as well as a one-time thing. 

II.  What does the Bible have to do with this?  The next verse (12-13) seems to come out of nowhere, so what is the relationship?  We can look good on the outside, but the Word of God reveals to us our true hearts and motives, thoughts and intents.  If we are deceiving ourselves, the word will reveal that to us, “if the hearing is mixed with faith.”  God knows us.  These issues about rest are personal, between God and us, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  Have we ever tried to hide our true motives from God, tried to convince ourselves what we wanted was good for others and God’s kingdom but we really knew it was for our glory, our being seen?  What a silly game to play with God. 

This sounds negative, but I think this is positive.  Even being married 33 years, there are some things I can’t be totally “naked” about with my husband because he is just not able to handle them.  God can handle everything.  Since he knows our thoughts and intents, and he uses the Word to reveal those to us, why not come clean?  If what is motivating you is fear, he knows that.  He wants us to confess it “say the same thing as God does” I John 1:9.    

III. Jesus and High priestly ministry

A.  The high priest had certain things going for him.  He was human, so he could have sympathy and empathy.   He was in a vital and important place in Jewish culture.  He was respected, but he was also responsible for getting it right.  Over time, they were not always worthy of their respect (one was in on Jesus’ crucifixion).   Verses 5:1-5 compare the human high priest to Jesus as high priest.  Three things:
1.  The high priest had to offer:
2.  The high priest had weaknesses and sins like others.
3.  The high priest was called  by God.  

Think about hundreds of years of sacrifices, all those animals to remind people how painful their sin was that the death of an animal was needed to pay the price for the debt against God.  Yet it was temporary, not a permanent solution. It pointed to the permanent one. 

B.  v. 15  Jesus was tempted in all points like we are.  How is that true?  What was he tempted to do?

C.  v. 15 Yet without sin.  Could he have sinned?  Differences of opinion.  If he couldn’t have sinned, then it wasn’t a real temptation.  If he could have sinned, how could he have gone on being a holy God?  Jesus got angry at the money changers.  Was that sin?  (In movies he is portrayed as a crazy person).  He came close to despair.   Temptation is not sin.  We don’t need forgiveness for being tempted, but for sinning. 

IV:  What does this mean?  Come boldly before the throne of grace.  Why?  Two reasons: 
A.     He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart, so there is no basis for shame.  You don’t have to hide anything from God.
B.      Second, we have a perfect high priest. 
C.     Boldly doesn’t mean _flippantly, irregularly, lazily.  What
does it mean?

Conclusion:  Poem by Martha Schnell Nicholson, My Advocate

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