Hebrews 1:1

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

GOD HAS SPOKEN BY THE PROPHETS

INTRODUCTION:

 

Before getting into the text of Hebrews, let’s consider the Background of Hebrews

 

Hebrews is anonymous, but its authorship has been debated for centuries. In some passages the language of Hebrews resembles the language of Paul (for example, the reference to Timothy in 13:23, Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you); and as a result, some believe that Paul is the author. In addition, references to the writer’s bonds sound like other epistles penned by the Apostle Paul. However, due to other features of the epistle, many have suggested different authors. Conclusive proof is lacking for any of them.

 

One of the problems in believing that Paul wrote Hebrews is seen in a comparison of Hebrews 2:3-4 and Galatians 1:11-12 .

 

Hebrews 2:3-43 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

 

Galatians 1:11-1211 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

Paul states that He did not receive his gospel message from man but that he received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

 

The fact that the writer of Hebrews does not claim direct revelation for his message (as Paul does in Galatians 1:11-12 ) but claims to have had the gospel confirmed unto him with signs and wonders, and with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit by those who heard Christ suggests that Paul did not write Hebrews.

 

Although the writer’s name is not mentioned in the text of Hebrews (and it is, therefore, regarded as anonymous), the readers evidently knew who the writer was as is indicated by Hebrews 13:18-19 , where the author wrote,

 

Hebrews 13:18-19 – (18) Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. (19) But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.

 

How would they pray for him if they did not know who he was? Why would they care about his being restored to them if they did not know who he was? Although the modern reader does not know for certain who wrote Hebrews, the original readers knew exactly who he was and were apparently well acquainted with him. In Hebrews 10:34 , he reminds them that they had compassion on him in his bonds. They knew him well.

 

Hebrews 10:34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

 

Not only did the readers know the identity of the writer, but also he evidently knew the readers personally. In fact, he had to be reasonably well acquainted with them to write what he wrote in Hebrews 6:9-12 ,

 

Hebrews 6:9-12 – (9) But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. (10) For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. (11) And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: (12) That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

 

How would he know about evidences of salvation in their lives without being reasonably well acquainted with them? How would he be acquainted with their work and labor of love in their ministry to the saints, both in the past as well as at the time of the writing of this letter if he did not know them? If he were not acquainted with them, how would he know that not all of them were showing this same diligence but that some were apparently slothful? In Hebrews 10:39 , how did the writer know that neither he nor his readers were of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul without knowing them? The answer is simple: the writer knew these things because he was well acquainted with his readers. He was also well acquainted with the persecution they had endured as a result of their being saved. He wrote in Hebrews 10:32-34 ,

 

Hebrews 10:32-34 – (32) But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; (33) Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. (34) For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling [i.e. plundering, confiscation] of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

 

He also knew their spiritual condition. In Hebrews 5:11-14 he wrote,

 

Hebrews 5:11-14 – (11) Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. (12) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (13) For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. (14) But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

Without having some good acquaintance with them, how could he really say that they are dull of hearing, that they ought to be teachers rather than having need to be taught, and hint that because of lack of use, their senses were not exercised (or trained) to discern both good and evil?

 

Inasmuch as the specific historical context into which Hebrews should be placed is not known and inasmuch as the identity of the writer is not known for certain, Hebrews is difficult to date with accuracy. It seems certain, however, that it would have been written before the destruction of the temple, which occurred in A.D. 70. This appears evident from passages such as Hebrews 10:11 ,

 

Hebrews 10:11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

 

It indicates that the sacrifices were still being offered in the temple at the time of the writing of Hebrews which would have been impossible after the destruction of the temple.

 

Just as the human authorship of Hebrews is uncertain, the exact destination of Hebrews is also uncertain. Some have thought that it was written to Hebrew (i.e. Jewish) Christians in Rome. Others believe it was written to Jewish Christians in Palestine. It was clearly written to a particular community of Hebrew believers which had been undergoing severe persecution, but it is not clear to which specific community of Hebrew believers it was sent. Does they of Italy salute you in Hebrews 13:24 refer to people living in Italy with the author when he wrote Hebrews, suggesting that it is being sent from Italy to some other place; or does it refer to people who were originally from Italy, who happened to be with the writer when he wrote Hebrews, and who were sending greetings to the readers of this epistle? No one knows for certain. Although there is much speculation, certainty is lacking.

 

The occasion of Hebrews was the need to exhort Jews who had professed belief in Jesus as the Messiah to hold fast their profession in difficult times and to go on to maturity in the faith. As a result of severe persecution the readers of this epistle encountered after they had become Christians, some were apparently contemplating abandoning Christianity and returning to Judaism, believing that Christianity was not all that they had expected it to be. Hebrews was written to demonstrate that Christianity is better than and has taken the place of Judaism, i.e. that God’s revelation in Christ is superior to the revelation that came through the Old Testament and has superseded it.

 

The key word in Hebrews is better. Hebrews contains a series of contrasts between the good things of Judaism and the better things of Christ. Christ is better than the prophets, better than the angels, better than Moses, better than Joshua, and better than Aaron; and the New Covenant is better than the Mosaic Covenant.

 

Hebrews consists of a series of comparisons, each of which is followed by a warning and an exhortation as a sort of parenthesis.

 

A summary of Hebrews.

 

God has spoken; therefore, those professing salvation ought to pay attention to what He has said. If they neglect the salvation God has provided, they will not escape eternal punishment in hell. If they have been genuinely saved, they have not neglected this salvation; so this warning has no application to them. In His death Jesus tasted death for every man. Through death He also destroyed the devil and made reconciliation for the sins of the people.

 

The readers should consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of their profession. Collectively, they comprise His house or household if they hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Their continuing to believe is the proof of the genuineness of their salvation. Yet, the recipients of Hebrews are warned to be sure that there is not in any of them an evil, unbelieving heart which would result in their departing from the living God. Again, holding the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end is proof that they have already become partakers of Christ. The readers of Hebrews are reminded of people wandering in the wilderness who were unable to enter the promised land because of their unbelief. The readers are, thereby, warned that they, too, will fail to enter the permanent rest in heaven if they are guilty of unbelief. Therefore, they should make certain that they are really saved.

 

The readers should hold fast their profession and come boldly unto the throne of grace that they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in their times of need, whether the need is for salvation or for Christian living.

 

The readers are spiritually dull and have not trained their senses to discern between good and evil. They need to leave the basic principles of the Messiah and to go on to Christian maturity. They cannot go back to Judaism. They evidence salvation in their lives. They must not be slothful; rather, they must keep going as followers of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Most, if not all, of the readers already have this faith. Just as Abraham did, they will endure things intended by God to produce the patience or endurance they need before the promises are inherited.

 

Perfection comes through the perfect priesthood of Christ rather than through the Levitical priesthood; and Christ has perfected forever those who are sanctified, i.e. those who are saved and set apart for God.

 

The readers are to hold fast their profession of faith and not to abandon Christianity, thereby forsaking the assembling of themselves together. They should not cast away their confidence in Christ. Instead, they have need of patience to endure the trials which will come their way before they receive the completion of their salvation.

 

The readers are not of them who draw back unto perdition but are of those who believe to the saving of the soul; therefore, they must run with patience the race that God has mapped out for them. All believers endure chastening which is intended to produce holiness in their lives, and they should not be surprised at trials they are enduring.

 

The readers have not come to the law but to the heavenly Jerusalem and to Jesus. They should not turn away from Him Who speaks from heaven to return to the law. Of course, they will never do this if they have been genuinely saved.

 

May God make all of the readers perfect in every good work to do His will as God, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, works in them that which is well pleasing in His sight.

We see that –

    I.     GOD SPOKE FORMERLY TO THE FATHERS BY THE PROPHETS - 1:1

 

Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.

 

God is God the Father, as is made clear by the context, and functions as the subject of hath . . . spoken in verse 2. The fact that it is God Who spoke rather than someone else strongly implies that what He has said must be heeded. This is not just any god. He is the God of the universe, the God of the Bible.

 

Who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets refers to God the Father.

 

This entire phrase describes hath . . . spoken in verse 2. It suggests concession in the sense of although God spoke or time in the sense of after God spoke. The tense of spake indicates that its action occurred before the action of hath . . . spoken in verse 2. It further indicates that God operated in a different manner in the past and has now made a change. Thus, there is a contrast between the way God spoke in the past and the way He has spoken at this time. In both cases it is God the Father Who did this speaking. What He said, therefore, is just as inspired and, consequently, just as accurate and authoritative regardless of whether He said it in the past or is saying it in the present. It differs only in its timing and in its fullness or completeness. Jesus is God’s final revelation. There is no other revelation to follow. Furthermore, inasmuch as God the Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture, the older revelations as well as the later ones will always harmonize. Thus, there will always be a unity in the message as well. There can be no contradictions or corrections.

 

Both at sundry times and in divers manners describe spake and indicate how God spoke in time past. Also, they are both in contrast to God’s speaking one time by His Son in verse 2.

Next, we see that –

  II.     GOD SPOKE AT MANY TIMES - 1:1

 

At sundry times suggests in many (or various) parts or in many (or various) parcels. God did not deliver or reveal His entire revelation to any one person at any one time.

 

God revealed a little here and a little there. To gain the complete picture on any one subject which was a part of God’s revealed truth, one would need to study what the entire Bible has to say on that subject. Gradually the body of revealed truth grew; and as a result, later generations had more information available to them than earlier generations.

 

Special revelation is progressive. It must always be remembered that as the revelation God gave progressed from one stage to another, no later revelation ever contradicted any earlier revelation. It simply added to the body of revealed truth which God had previously made known. To each person or group God’s revelation was only in part.

 

I Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

 

God’s revelation is similar to the way one works a puzzle. As the various pieces are put together, the whole picture becomes clearer.

In addition, we see that –

 III.     GOD SPOKE IN MANY WAYS - 1:1

 

In divers manners means in various ways. As one studies the Old Testament, he realizes that God not only used many occasions to speak but that He also used a variety of ways to speak: dreams, visions, directly as the angel of the Lord, directly with an audible voice, Urim and Thummim, storm and thunder, a still small voice, etc.

Furthermore, we see that –

 IV.     GOD SPOKE IN TIME PAST - 1:1

 

In time past is long ago or formerly and refers to the time prior to the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth. It refers to the time covered by the Old Testament Scriptures. It is in contrast to in these last days in verse 2.

Finally, we see that –

   V.     GOD SPOKE UNTO THE FATHERS THROUGH THE PROPHETS - 1:1

 

It was unto the fathers that God the Father spoke long ago in many parts and in many ways and refers to a group or class of people known as the fathers. These fathers were the Israelites and particularly the leaders of the Israelites throughout the Old Testament period. Unto the fathers is in contrast to unto us in verse 2.

 

By the prophets indicates the means God used to speak to the fathers. It was by means of the prophets, through the prophets, or even in the prophets, i.e. in the persons of the prophets.

 

The prophets refers to the entire class or group of people known as prophets. God revealed His messages to the prophets, a little here, and a little there, and in different ways. These prophets were God’s spokesmen. Hence, they had an elevated status in the eyes of the people. Although some were also writers of the Old Testament, others were not. Throughout the Old Testament period God revealed various truths to the prophets; and they in turn spoke God’s messages to the fathers, the leaders of Israel. It might also be able to be said that God was actually dwelling in or indwelling the prophets and that He not only spoke through them or by means of them but that He also spoke in them. God was the speaker, and the prophets were His mouthpieces. By the prophets is in contrast to by his Son in verse 2. The various revelations were also in the prophets in the sense that they were instruments of divine revelation just as Jesus was. God spoke in and through them.

CONCLUSION:

 

In the Book of Hebrews our writer is going to show that:

 

            I.         Christ is superior to angels - 1:4 - 2:18

 

            II.  Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses - 3:1 - 4:13

 

            III. Christ has a more excellent ministry than the levitical priests - 4:14 - 7:28

 

            IV.      Christ is mediator of a better covenant - 8:1 - 10:18

 

            V.  Christ has provided a better way of life: the life of faith - 10:19 - 13:21

 

So, don’t abandon Christ and Christianity in order to return to Judaism. Christ is better. Stay where you are.