The Son Superior to Angels

1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but 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. 3The 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. 4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Hebrews 1:1-4

Explanation:

1:1   The book of Hebrews describes in detail how Jesus Christ not only fulfills the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament, but how Jesus Christ is better than everything in the Jewish system of thought.  The Jews accepted the Old Testament, but most of them rejected Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.  The recipients of this letter seem to have been Jewish Christians.  They were well-versed in Scripture, and they had professed faith in Christ.  Whether through doubt, persecution, or false teaching, however, they may have been in danger of giving up their Christian faith and returning to Judaism.  The authorship of this book is uncertain.  Several names have been suggested, including Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Priscilla, and Paul.  Most scholars do not believe that Paul was the author, because the writing style of Hebrews is quite different from that of his letters.  In addition, Paul identified himself in his other letters and appealed to his authority as an apostle, whereas this writer of Hebrews, who never gives his or her name, appeals to eyewitnesses of Jesus' ministry for authority.  Nevertheless, the author of Hebrews evidently knew Paul well.  Hebrews was probably written by one of Paul's close associates who often heard him preach.

1:1, 2   God used many approaches to send his messages to people in Old Testament times.  He spoke to Isaiah in visions (Isaiah 6), to Jacob in a dream (Genesis 28:10-22), and to Abraham and Moses personally (Genesis 18; Exodus 31:18).  Jewish people familiar with these stories would not have found it hard to believe that God was still revealing his will, but it was astonishing for them to think that God had revealed himself by speaking through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the fulfillment and culmination of God's revelation through the centuries.  When we know him, we have all we need to be saved from our sin and to have a perfect relationship with God.

1:2, 3   Not only is Jesus the exact representation of God, but he is God himself--the very God who spoke in Old Testament times.  He is eternal; he worked with the Father in creating the world (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16).  He is the full revelation of God.  You can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ.  Jesus Christ is the complete expression of God in a human body.

1:3   The book of Hebrews links God's saving power with his creative power.  In other words, the power that brought the universe into being and that keeps it operating is the very power that removes (provides purification for) our sins.  How mistaken we would be to ever think that God couldn't forgive us.  No sin is too big for the Ruler of the universe to handle.  He can and will forgive us when we come to him through his Son.  That Jesus sat down means that the work was complete.  Christ's sacrifice was final.

1:4   The name Jesus inherited that is superior is Son of God.  This name given to him by his Father is greater than the names and titles of the angels.  False teachers in many of the early churches taught that God could be approached only through angels.  Instead of worshiping God directly, followers of these heretics revered angels.  Hebrews clearly denounces such teaching as false.  Some thought of Jesus as the highest angel of God.  But Jesus is not a superior angel; and, in any case, angels are not to be worshiped (see Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:1-10).  We should not regard any intermediaries or authorities as greater than Christ.  Jesus is God.  He alone deserves our worship.

5For 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"? 6And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
   "Let all God's angels worship him." 7In speaking of the angels he says,
   "He makes his angels winds,
       his servants flames of fire." 8But about the Son he says,
   "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,
       and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.
    9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
       therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
       by anointing you with the oil of joy." 10He also says,
   "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
       and the heavens are the work of your hands.
    11They will perish, but you remain;
       they will all wear out like a garment.
    12You 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." 13To which of the angels did God ever say,
       "Sit at my right hand
   until I make your enemies
       a footstool for your feet"? 14Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Hebrews 1:5-14

Explanation:

1:5, 6   Jesus is God's firstborn Son.  In Jewish families the firstborn son held the place of highest privilege and responsibility.  The Jewish Christians reading this message would understand that as God's firstborn, Jesus was superior to any created being.

1:10-12   The author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 102:25-27.  In the quotation, he regards God as the speaker and applies the words to the Son, Jesus.  The earth and the heavens rolled up like a robe reveals that the earth is not permanent or indestructible (a position held by many Greek and Roman philosophies).  Jesus' authority is established over all of creation, so we dare not treat any created object or earthly resource as more important than he is.

1:11, 12   Because the readers of Hebrews had experienced the rejection of their fellow Jews, they often felt isolated.  Many were tempted to exchange the changeless Christ for their familiar old faith.  The writer of Hebrews warned them not to do this: Christ is our only security in a changing world.  Whatever may happen in this world, Christ remains forever changeless.  If we trust him, we are absolutely secure, because we stand on the firmest foundation in the universe--Jesus Christ.  A famous hymn captures this truth: On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

1:12   What does it mean that Christ is changeless?  It means that Christ's character will never change.  He persistently shows his love to us.  He is always fair, just, and merciful to us who are so undeserving.  Be thankful that Christ is changeless--he will always help you when you need it and offer forgiveness when you fall.

1:14   Angels are God's messengers, spiritual beings created by God and under his authority (Colossians 1:16).  They have several functions: serving believers (1:14), protecting the helpless (Matthew 18:10), proclaiming God's messages (Revelation 14:6-12), and executing God's judgment (Acts 12:1-23; Revelation 20:1-3).

Warning to Pay Attention

1We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Jesus Made Like His Brothers

5It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6But there is a place where someone has testified:
   "What is man that you are mindful of him,
       the son of man that you care for him?
    7You made him a little lower than the angels;
       you crowned him with glory and honor
        8and put everything under his feet.? In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Hebrews 2:1-9

Explanation:

2:1-3   The author called his readers to pay attention to the truth they had heard so that they wouldn't drift away into false teachings.  Paying careful attention is hard work.  It involves focusing our minds, bodies, and senses.  Listening to Christ means not merely hearing, but also obeying (see James 1:22-25).  We must listen carefully and be ready to carry out his instructions.

2:2, 3   The message spoken by angels refers to the teaching that angels, as messengers for God, had brought the law to Moses (see Galatians 3:19).  A central theme of Hebrews is that Christ is infinitely greater than all other proposed ways to God.  The author was saying that the faith of his Jewish readers was good, but faith must point to Christ.  Just as Christ is greater than angels, so Christ's message is more important than theirs.  No one will escape God's punishment if he or she is indifferent to the salvation offered by Christ.

2:3   Eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry had handed down his teachings to the readers of this book.  These readers were second-generation believers who had not seen Christ in the flesh.  They are like us; we have not seen Jesus personally. We base our belief in Jesus on eyewitness accounts recorded in the Bible.  See John 20:29 for Jesus' encouragement to those who believe without ever having seen him.

2:3   God also testified to it continues the thought from 2:3.  Those who had heard Jesus speak and then had passed on his words also had the truth of their words confirmed by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.  In the book of Acts, miracles and gifts of the Spirit authenticated the gospel wherever it was preached (see Acts 9:31-42; 14:1-20).  Paul, who discussed spiritual gifts in Romans 12, Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4, taught that their purpose is to build up the church, making it strong and mature.  When we see the gifts of the Spirit in an individual or congregation, we know that God is truly present.  As we receive God's gifts, we should thank him for them and put them to use in the church.

2:8, 9  God put Jesus in charge of everything, and Jesus revealed himself to us.  We do not yet see Jesus reigning on earth, but we can picture him in his heavenly glory.  When you are confused by present events and anxious about the future, remember Jesus' true position and authority.  He is Lord of all, and one day he will rule on earth as he does now in heaven.  This truth can give stability to your decisions day by day.

10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says,
   "I will declare your name to my brothers;
       in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." 13And again,
   "I will put my trust in him." And again he says,
   "Here am I, and the children God has given me."
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 2:10-18

Explanation:

2:10   God's grace to us led Christ to his death.  Jesus did not come into the world to gain status or political power, but to suffer and die so that we could have eternal life (bringing many sons to glory).  If it is difficult for us to identify with Christ's servant attitude, perhaps we need to evaluate our own motives.  Are we more interested in power or participation, domination or service, getting or giving?   How was Jesus made perfect through suffering?  Jesus' suffering made him a perfect leader, or pioneer, of our salvation.  Jesus did not need to suffer for his own salvation, because he was God in human form.  His perfect obedience demonstrates that he was the complete sacrifice for us.  Through suffering, Jesus completed the work necessary for our own salvation.  Our suffering can make us more sensitive servants of God.  People who have known pain are able to reach out with compassion to others who hurt.  If you have suffered, ask God how your experience can be used to help others.

2:11-13  We who have been set apart for God's service, cleansed, and made holy by Jesus now have the same Father he has, so he has made us his brothers and sisters.  Various psalms look forward to Christ and his work in the world.  Here the writer quotes a portion of Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm.  Because God has adopted all believers as his children, Jesus calls them his brothers and sisters.

2:14, 15  Jesus had to become human so that he could die and rise again, in order to destroy the devil's power over death.  Only then could Christ deliver those who had lived in constant fear of death, and free them to live for him.  When we belong to God, we need not fear death, because we know that death is only the doorway into eternal life.  Christ's death and resurrection set us free from the fear of death because death has been defeated.  Every person must die, but death is not the end; instead, it is the doorway to a new life.  All who dread death should have the opportunity to know the hope that Christ's victory brings.  How can you share this truth with those close to you?

2:16, 17  In the Old Testament, the high priest was the mediator between God and his people.  His job was to regularly offer animal sacrifices according to the law and to intercede with God for forgiveness for the people's sins.  Jesus Christ is now our high priest.  He came to earth as a human being; therefore, he understands our weaknesses and shows mercy to us.  He has once and for all paid the penalty for our sins by his own sacrificial death, and he can be depended on to restore our broken relationship with God.  We are released from sin's domination over us when we commit ourselves fully to Christ, trusting completely in what he has done for us.

2:18   Knowing that Christ suffered pain and faced temptation helps us face our trials.  Jesus understands our struggles because he faced them as a human being.  We can trust Christ to help us survive suffering and overcome temptation.  When you face trials go to Jesus for strength and patience.  He understands your needs and is able to help.

Jesus Greater Than Moses

1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

Hebrews 3:1-6

Explanation:

3:1  This verse would have been especially meaningful to Jewish Christians.  For Jews, the highest human authority was the high priest.  For Christians, the highest human authorities were God's apostles.  Jesus, God's apostle (meaning one who is sent) and high priest, is the ultimate authority in the church.

3:1-6  The author uses different pictures to explain Jesus' relationship to believers:  he is (1) the apostle of God, to whom we should listen; (2) our high priest, through whom we come to God the Father; and (3) the ruler of God's house, whom we should obey.  The Bible is filled with different names for and pictures of Jesus Christ, and each one reveals something more about his nature and ministry.  What do these images teach you about your relationship with Christ?

3:2, 3   To the Jewish people, Moses was a great hero; he had led their ancestors, the Israelites, from Egyptian bondage to the border of the promised land.  He also had written the first five books of the Old Testament, and he was the prophet through whom God had given the law; therefore, Moses was the greatest prophet in the Scriptures.  But Jesus is worthy of greater honor as the central figure of faith than Moses, who was merely a human servant.  Jesus is more than human; he is God himself.  As Moses led the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, so Christ led us out of sin's slavery.  Why settle for Moses, the author of Hebrews asks, when you can have Jesus Christ, who appointed Moses?

3:5  Moses was faithful to God's calling not only to deliver Israel but also to prepare the way for the Messiah (testifying to what would be said in the future).  All the Old Testament believers also served to prepare the way.  Thus, knowing the Old Testament is the best foundation for understanding the New Testament.  In reading the Old Testament, we see how God used people to accomplish his purposes, how God used events and personalities to illustrate important truths, how, through prophets, God announced the Messiah, and how, through the system of sacrifices, God prepared people to understand the Messiah's work.  If you include the Old Testament in your regular Bible reading, the New Testament will grow clearer and more meaningful to you.

3:6  Because Christ lives in us as believers, we can remain courageous and hopeful to the end.  We are not saved by being steadfast and firm in our faith, but our courage and hope do reveal that our faith is real.  Without this enduring faithfulness, we could easily be blown away by the winds of temptation, false teaching, or persecution.

Warning Against Unbelief

7So, as the Holy Spirit says:
   "Today, if you hear his voice,
        8do not harden your hearts
   as you did in the rebellion,
       during the time of testing in the desert,
    9where your fathers tested and tried me
       and for forty years saw what I did.
    10That is why I was angry with that generation,
       and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray,
       and they have not known my ways.'
    11So I declared on oath in my anger,
       'They shall never enter my rest.' "
12See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15As has just been said:
   "Today, if you hear his voice,
       do not harden your hearts
   as you did in the rebellion."
16Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

3:7-19

Explanation:

3:7-15  In many places, the Bible warns us not to harden our hearts.  This means stubbornly setting ourselves against God so that we are no longer able to turn to him for forgiveness.  The Israelites became hardhearted when they disobeyed God's command to conquer the promised land (here called the rebellion, see Numbers 13; 14; 20; and Psalm 95). Be careful to obey God's Word, and do not allow your heart to become hardened.

3:11  God's rest has several meanings in Scripture:  the seventh day of creation and the weekly Sabbath commemorating it,  the promised land of Canaan, peace with God now because of our relationship with Christ through faith, and our future eternal life with Christ.  All of these meanings were probably familiar to the Jewish Christian readers of Hebrews.

3:12-14   Our hearts turn away from the living God when we stubbornly refuse to believe in him.  If we persist in our unbelief, God will eventually leave us alone in our sin.  But God can give us new hearts, new desires, and new spirits.  To prevent having an unbelieving heart, stay in fellowship with other believers, talk daily about your mutual faith, be aware of the deceitfulness of sin, and encourage each other with love and concern.

3:15-19   The Israelites failed to enter the promised land because they did not believe in God's protection, and they did not believe that God would help them conquer the giants in the land.  So God sent them into the desert to wander for 40 years.  This was an unhappy alternative to the wonderful gift he had planned for them.  Lack of trust in God always prevents us from receiving his best.

A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God

1Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
   "So I declared on oath in my anger,
   'They shall never enter my rest.' " 4And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." 5And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest."
6It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
   "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

Hebrews 4:1-7

Explanation:

4:1-3   Some of the Jewish Christians who received this letter may have been on the verge of turning back from their promised rest in Christ, just as the people in Moses' day had turned back from the promised land.  In both cases, the difficulties of the present moment overshadowed the reality of God's promise, and the people doubted that God would fulfill his promises.  When we trust our own efforts instead of Christ's power, we too are in danger of turning back.  Our own efforts are never adequate; only Christ can see us through.

4:2   The Israelites of Moses' day illustrate a problem facing many who fill our churches today.  They know a great deal about Christ, but they do not know him personally--they don't combine their knowledge with faith.  Let the God News about Christ benefit your life.  Believe in him and then act on what you know.  Trust in Christ and do what he says.

4:4   God rested on the seventh day, not because he was tired, but to indicate the completion of creation.  The world was perfect, and God was well satisfied with it.  This rest is a foretaste of our eternal joy when creation will be renewed and restored, every mark of sin will be removed, and the world will be made perfect again.  Our Sabbath-rest in Christ begins when we trust him to complete his good and perfect work in us.

4:6, 7   God had given the Israelites the opportunity to enter Canaan, but they disobeyed and failed to enter (Numbers 13; 14).  Now God offers us the opportunity to enter his ultimate place of rest--he invites us to come to Christ.  To enter his rest, you must believe that God has this relationship in mind for you; you must stop trying to create it; you must trust in Christ for it; and you must determine to obey him.  Today is the best time to find peace with God.  Tomorrow may be too late.

8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-­edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:8-13

Explanation:

4:8-11   God wants us to enter his rest.  For the Israelites of Moses' time, this rest was the earthy rest to be found in the promised land.  For Christians, it is peace with God now and eternal life on a new earth later.  We do not need to wait for the next life to enjoy God's rest and peace; we may have it daily now!  Our daily rest in the Lord will not end with death, but will become an eternal rest in the place that Christ is preparing for us (John 14:1-4).

4:11   If Jesus has provided for our rest through faith, why must we make every effort to enter that rest?  This is not the struggle of doing good in order to obtain salvation, nor is it a mystical struggle to overcome selfishness.  It refers to making every effort to appreciate and benefit from what God has already provided.  Salvation is not to be taken for granted; to appropriate the gift God offers requires decision and commitment.

4:12   The Word of God is not simply a collection of words from God, a vehicle for communicating ideas; it is a living, life-changing, and dynamic as it works in us.  With the incisiveness of a surgeon's knife, God's Word reveals who we are and what we are not.  It penetrates the core of our moral and spiritual life.  It discerns what is within us, both good and evil.  The demands of God's Word require decisions.  We must not only listen to the Word; we must also let it shape our lives.

4:13  Nothing can be hidden from God.  He knows about everyone, everywhere, and everything about us is wide open to his all-seeing eyes.  God sees all we do and knows all we think.  Even when we are unaware of his presence, he is there.  When we try to hide from him, he sees us.  We can have no secrets from God.  It is comforting to realize that although God knows us intimately, he still loves us.

Jesus the Great High Priest

14Therefore, 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. 15For 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. 16Let 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 4:14-16

Explanation:

4:14   Christ is superior to the priests, and his priesthood is superior to their priesthood.  To the Jews, the high priest was the highest religious authority in the land.  He alone entered the Holy of Holies in the temple once a year to make atonement for the sins of the whole nation (Leviticus 16).  Like the high priest, Jesus mediates between God and us.  As humanity's representative, he assures us of God's forgiveness.  Jesus has more authority than the Jewish high priests because he is truly God and truly man.  Unlike the high priest who could go before God only once a year, Christ is always at God's right hand, interceding for us.  He is always available to hear us when we pray.

4:15   Jesus is like us because he experienced a full range of temptations throughout his life as a human being.  We can be comforted knowing that Jesus faced temptation--he can sympathize with us.  We can be encouraged knowing that Jesus faced temptation without giving in to sin.  He shows us that we do not have to sin when facing the seductive lure of temptation.  Jesus is the only perfect human being who has ever lived.

4:16   Prayer is our approach to God, and we are to come with confidence.  Some Christians approach God meekly with heads hung low, afraid to ask him to meet their needs.  Others pray flippantly, giving little thought to what they say.  Come with reverence because he is your King.  But also come with bold assurance because he is your Friend and Counselor.

1Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.
4No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. 5So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
   "You are my Son;
       today I have become your Father." 6And he says in another place,
   "You are a priest forever,
       in the order of Melchizedek."
7During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:1-10

Explanation:

5:4-6   This chapter stresses both Christ's divine appointment and his humanity.  The writer uses two Old Testament verses to show Christ's divine appointment--Psalms 2:7 and 110:4.  At the time this book was written, the Romans selected the high priest in Jerusalem.  In the Old Testament, however, God chose Aaron, and only Aaron's descendants could be high priests.  Christ, like Aaron, was chosen and called by God.

5:6   Melchizedek was a priest of Salem (now called Jerusalem).  Melchizedek's position is explained in Hebrews 7.

5:7   Jesus was in great agony as he prepared to face death.  Although Jesus cried out to God, asking to be delivered, he was prepared to suffer humiliation, separation from his Father, and death in order to do God's will.  At times we will undergo trials, not because we want to suffer, but because we want to obey God.  Let Jesus' obedience sustain and encourage you in times of trial.  You will be able to face anything if you know that Jesus Christ is with you.   Have you ever felt that God didn't hear your prayers?  Be sure you are praying with reverent submission, willing to do what God wants.  God responds to his obedient children.

5:8   Jesus' human life was not a script that he passively followed.  It was a life that he chose freely.  It was a continuous process of making the will of God the Father his own.  Jesus chose to obey, even though obedience led to suffering and death.  Because Jesus obeyed perfectly, even under great trial, he can help us obey, no matter how difficult obedience seems to be.

5:9   Christ was always morally perfect.  By obeying, he demonstrated his perfection to us, not to God or to himself.  In the Bible, perfection usually means completeness or maturity.  By sharing our experience of suffering, Christ shared our human experience completely.  He is now able to offer eternal salvation to those who obey him.  See Philippians 2:5-11 for Christ's attitude as he took on human form.

Warning Against Falling Away

11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:11-14

Explanation:

5:12, 13   These Jewish Christians were immature.  some of them should have been teaching others, but they had not even applied the basics to their own lives.  They were reluctant to move beyond age-old traditions, established doctrines, and discussion of the basics.  They wouldn't be able to understand the high-priestly role of Christ unless they moved out of their comfortable position, cut some of their Jewish ties, and stopped trying to blend in with their culture.  Commitment to Christ moves people out of their comfort zones.

5:12-14   In order to grow from infant Christians to mature Christians, we must learn discernment.  We must train our consciences, our senses, our minds, and our bodies to distinguish good from evil.  Can you recognize temptation before it traps you?  Can you tell the difference between a correct use of Scripture and a mistaken one?

5:14   Our capacity to feast on deeper knowledge of God (solid food) is determined by our spiritual growth.  Too often we want God's banquet before we are spiritually capable of digesting it.  As you grow in the Lord and put into practice what you have learned, your capacity to understand will also grow.

1Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so.
4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
9Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case--things that accompany salvation. 10God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Hebrews 6:1-12

Explanation:

6:1, 2   Certain elementary teachings are essential for all believers to understand.  Those basics include the importance of faith, the foolishness of trying to be saved by good deeds, the meaning of baptism and spiritual gifts, and the facts of resurrection and eternal life.  To go on to maturity in our understanding, we need to move beyond, but not away from, the elementary teachings to a more complete understanding of the faith.  And this is what the author intends for them to do.  Mature Christians should be teaching new Christians the basics.  Then, acting on what they know, the mature will learn even more from God's Word.

6:3   These Christians needed to move beyond the basics of their faith to an understanding of Christ as the perfect high priest and the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies.  Rather than arguing about the respective merits of Judaism and Christianity, they needed to depend on Christ and live effectively for him.

6:4-6   In the first century, a pagan who investigated Christianity and then went back to paganism made a clean break with the church.  But for Jewish Christians who decided to return to Judaism, the break was less obvious.  Their life-style remained relatively unchanged.  But by deliberately turning away from Christ, they were cutting themselves off from God's forgiveness.  Those who persevere in believing are true saints; those who continue to reject Christ are unbelievers, no matter how well they behave.

6:6   This verse points to the danger of the Hebrew Christians returning to Judaism and thus committing apostasy.  Some apply this verse today to superficial believers who renounce their Christianity, or to unbelievers who come close to salvation and then turn away.  Either way, those who reject Christ will not be saved.  Christ died once and for all.  He will not be crucified again.  Apart from his cross, there is no other possible was of salvation.  However, the author does not indicate that his readers were in danger of renouncing Christ.  He is warning against hardness of heart that would make repentance inconceivable for the sinner.

6:7, 8  Land that produces a good crop receives loving care, but land that produces thorns and thistles has to be burned so the farmer can start over.  An unproductive Christian life falls under God's condemnation.  We are not saved by our deeds or conduct, but what we do is the evidence of our faith.

6:10   It is easy to get discouraged, thinking that God has forgotten us.  But God is never unjust.  He never forgets of overlooks our hard work for him.  Presently you may not be receiving rewards and acclaim, but God knows your efforts of love and ministry.  Let God's love for you and his intimate knowledge of your service for him bolster you as you face disappointment and rejection here on earth.

6:11, 12   Hope keeps the Christian from becoming lazy or feeling bored.  Like an athlete, train hard and run well, remembering the reward that lies ahead (Philippians 3:14).

The Certainty of God's Promise

13When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants." 15And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
16Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:13-20

Explanation:

6:15   Abraham waited patiently--it was 25 years from the time God had promised him a son to Isaac's birth.  Because our trials and temptations are often so intense, they seem to last for an eternity.  Both the Bible and the testimony of mature Christians encourage us to wait for God to act in his timing, even when our needs seem too great to wait any longer.

6:17   God's promises are unchanging and trustworthy because God is unchanging and trustworthy.  When promising Abraham a son, God took an oath in his own name.  The oath was as good as God's name, and God's name was as good as his divine nature.

6:18, 19   These two unchangeable things are God's nature and his promise.  God embodies all truth; therefore, he cannot lie.  Because God is truth, you can be secure in his promises; you don't need to wonder if he will change his plans.  Our hope is secure and immovable, anchored in God, just as a ship anchor holds firmly to the seabed.  To the true seeker who comes to God in belief, God gives an unconditional promise of acceptance.  When you ask God with openness, honesty, and sincerity to save you from your sins, he will do it.  This truth should give you encouragement, assurance, and confidence.

6:19, 20   This curtain hung across the entrance from the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place, the two innermost rooms of the temple.  This curtain prevented anyone from entering, gazing into, or even getting a fleeting glimpse of the interior of the Most Holy Place.  The high priest could enter there only once a year to stand before God's presence and atone for the sins of the entire nation.  But Christ is in God's presence at all times, not just once a year, as the high priest who can continually intercede for us.

 Melchizedek the Priest

1This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." 3Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
4Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people--that is, their brothers--even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. 6This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. 8In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

Hebrews 7:1-10

Explanation:

7:2   The writer of Hebrews uses this story from Genesis 14:18-20 to show that Christ is even greater than Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, and Levi (Abraham's descendant). Therefore, the Jewish priesthood (made up of Levi's descendants) was inferior to Melchizedek's priesthood (a type of Christ's priesthood).

7:3-10   Melchizedek was a priest of God Most High.  He is said to remain a priest forever, because his priesthood has no record of beginning or ending--he was a priest of God in Salem (Jerusalem) long before the nation of Israel and the regular priesthood began.

7:7  The lesser person is blessed by the greater means a person who has the power to bless is always greater than the person that he or she blesses.

Jesus Like Melchizedek

11If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come--one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. 13He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17For it is declared:
   "You are a priest forever,
       in the order of Melchizedek."
18The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
20And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
   "The Lord has sworn
       and will not change his mind:
   'You are a priest forever.' " 22Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.  23Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.

Hebrews 7:11-24

Explanation:

7:11-17   Jesus' high-priestly role was superior to that of any priest of Levi, because the Messiah was a priest of a higher order.  If the Jewish priests and their laws had been able to save people, why would God need to send Christ as a priest, who came not from the tribe of Levi (the priestly tribe), but from the tribe of Judah?  The animal sacrifices had to be repeated, and they offered only temporary forgiveness.  Under the new covenant, the Levitical priesthood was canceled in favor of Christ's role as a high priest.  Because Christ is our high priest, we need to pay attention to him.  No minister, leader, of Christian friend can substitute for Christ's work and his role in our salvation.

7:18, 19  The law was not intended to save people, but to point out sin and to point toward Christ.  Salvation comes through Christ, whose sacrifice brings forgiveness for our sins.  Being ethical, working diligently to help others, and giving to charitable causes are all commendable, but all of our good deeds cannot save us or make us right with God.  There is a better hope.

7:22-24   This better covenant is also called the new covenant of testament.  It is new and better because it allows us to go directly to God through Christ.  We no longer need to rely on sacrificed animals and mediating priests to obtain God's forgiveness.  This new covenant is better because, while all human priests die, Christ lives forever.  Priests and sacrifices could not save people, but Christ truly saves.  You have access to Christ.  He is available to you, but do you go to him with your needs?

25Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Hebrews 7:25-28

Explanation:

7:25   No one can add to what Jesus did to save us.  Our past, present, and future sins are all forgiven, and Jesus is with the Father as a sign that our sins are forgiven.  If you are a Christian, remember that Christ has paid the price for your sins once and for all.  As our high priest, Christ is our advocate, the mediator between us and God.  The Old Testament high priest went before God once a year to plead for the forgiveness of the nation's sins.  Christ makes perpetual intercession before God for us.   Christ's continuous presence in heaven with the Father assures us that our sins have been paid for and forgiven.  This wonderful assurance frees us from guilt and from fear of failure.

7:27   In Old Testament times when animals were sacrificed, they were cut into pieces, the parts were washed, the fat was burned, the blood was sprinkled, and the meat was boiled.  Blood was demanded as atonement for sins and God accepted animal blood to cover the people's sins.  Because of the sacrificial system, the Israelites were generally aware that sin costs someone something and that they themselves were sinful.  Many people take Christ's work on the cross for granted.  They don't realize how costly it was for Jesus to secure our forgiveness.  It cost him his life and painful, temporary separation from his Father.  Because Jesus died once and for all, he brought the sacrificial system to an end.  He forgave sins--past, present, and future.  The Jews sis not need to go back to the old system because Christ, the perfect sacrifice, completed the work of redemption.  You don't have to look for another way to have your sins forgiven--Christ was the final sacrifice for you.

7:28   As we better understand the Jewish sacrificial system, we see that Jesus' death served as the perfect atonement for our sins.  His death brings us eternal life.  How callous, how cold, how stubborn it would be to refuse God's greatest gift.

The High Priest of a New Covenant

1The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
3Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." 6But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

  Hebrews 8:1-6

Explanation:

8:4   Under the old Jewish system, priests were chosen only from the tribe of Levi, and sacrifices were offered daily on the altar for forgiveness of sins.  This system would not have allowed Jesus to be a priest, because he was from the tribe of Judah.  But his perfect sacrifice ended all need for further priests and sacrifices.  The use of the present tense there are already men who offer the gifts, indicates that this book was written before A.D. 70 when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, ending the sacrifices.

8:5   The pattern for the tabernacle built by Moses was given by God.  It was a pattern of the spiritual reality of Christ's sacrifice, and thus it looked forward to the future reality.  There is no tabernacle in heaven of which the earthly one is a copy, but rather the earthly tabernacle was an expression of eternal, theological principles.  Because the temple at Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed, using the worship system there as an example would have had a great impact on this original audience.

7For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8But God found fault with the people and said:
   "The time is coming, declares the Lord,
       when I will make a new covenant
   with the house of Israel
       and with the house of Judah.
    9It will not be like the covenant
       I made with their forefathers
   when I took them by the hand
       to lead them out of Egypt,
   because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
       and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
    10This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
       after that time, declares the Lord.
   I will put my laws in their minds
       and write them on their hearts.
   I will be their God,
       and they will be my people.
    11No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
       or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
   because they will all know me,
       from the least of them to the greatest.
    12For I will forgive their wickedness
       and will remember their sins no more."
13By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

Hebrews 8:7-13

Explanation:

8:8-12   This passage is a quotation of Jeremiah 31:31-34, which compares the new covenant with the old.  The old covenant was the covenant of law between God and Israel.  The new and better way is the covenant of grace--Christ's offer to forgive our sins and bring us to God through his sacrificial death.  This covenant is new in extent--it goes beyond Israel and Judah to include all the Gentile nations.  It is new in application because it is written on our hearts and in our minds.  It offers a new way to forgiveness, not through animal sacrifice but through faith.  Have you entered into this new covenant and begun walking in the better way?

8:10  If our hearts are not changed, following God's rules will be unpleasant and difficult.  We will rebel against being told how to live.  The Holy Spirit, however, gives us new desires, helping us want to obey God (see Philippians 2:12, 13).  With new hearts, we find that serving God is our greatest joy.

8:10, 11  Under God's new covenant, God's law is inside us.  It is no longer an external set of rules and principles.  The Holy Spirit reminds us of Christ's words, activates our consciences, influences our motives and desires, and makes us want to obey.  Now doing God's will is something we desire with all our heart and mind.

Worship in the Earthly Tabernacle

1Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
6When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings--external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

Hebrews 9:1-10

Explanation:

9:5   Cherubim are mighty angels.

9:6-8  The high priest could enter the Most Holy Place; or the inner room, the innermost room of the tabernacle, one day each year to atone for the nation's sins.  The Most Holy Place was a small room that contained the ark of the covenant (a gold-covered chest containing the original stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written, a jar of manna, and Aaron's staff).  The top of the chest served as the atonement cover (the altar) on which the blood would be sprinkled by the high priest on the Day of Atonement.  The Most Holy Place was the most sacred spot on earth for the Jews.  Only the high priest could enter--the other priests and the common people were forbidden to come into the room.  Their only access to God was through the high priest, who would offer a sacrifice and use the animal's blood to atone first for his own sins and then for the people's sins.

The Blood of Christ

11When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
16In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." 21In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Hebrews 9:10-22

Explanation:

9:10   The people had to keep the Old Testament dietary laws and ceremonial cleansing laws until Christ came with God's new and better way.

9:12   This imagery comes from the Day of Atonement rituals described in Leviticus 16.  Redemption refers to the process of paying the price (ransom) to free a slave.  Through his own death, Christ freed us from the slavery of sin forever.

9:12-14   Though you know Christ, you may believe that you have to work hard to make yourself good enough for God.  But rules and rituals have never cleansed people's hearts.  By Jesus' blood alone (1) we have our consciences cleansed, (2) we are freed from death's sting and can live to serve God, and (3) we are freed from sin's power.  If you are carrying a load of guilt because you are finding that you can't be good enough for God, take another look at Jesus' death and what it means for you.  Chris can heal your conscience and deliver you from the frustration of trying to earn God's favor. 

9:13, 14   When the people sacrificed animals, God considered the people's faith and obedience, cleansed them from sin, and made them ceremonially acceptable according to Old Testament law.  But Christ's sacrifice transforms our lives and hearts and makes us clean on the inside.  His sacrifice is infinitely more effective than animal sacrifices.  No barrier of sin or weakness on our part can stifle his forgiveness.

9:15   People in Old Testament times were saved through Christ's sacrifice, although that sacrifice had not yet happened.  In offering unblemished animal sacrifices, they were anticipating Christ's coming and his death for sin.  There was no point in returning to the sacrificial system now that Christ had come and become the final, perfect sacrifice.

9:22   Why does forgiveness require the shedding of blood?  This is no arbitrary decree on the part of a bloodthirsty God, as some have suggested.  There is no greater symbol of life than blood; blood keeps us alive.  Jesus shed his blood-gave his life-for our sins so that we wouldn't have to experience spiritual death, eternal separation from God.  Jesus is the source of life, not death.  He gave his own life to pay our penalty for us so that we might live.  After shedding his blood for us, Christ rose from the grave and proclaimed victory over sin and death.

23It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:23-28

Explanation:

9:23   In a way that we don't fully understand, the earthly tabernacle was a copy and symbol of heavenly realities.  This purification of the heavenly things can best be understood as referring to Christ's spiritual work for us in heaven.

9:24   Among references to priests, tabernacles, sacrifices, and other ideas unfamiliar to us, we come to this description of Christ as our mediator, appearing in God's presence on our behalf.  We can relate to this role and be encouraged by it.  Christ is on our side at God's side.  He is our Lord and Savior.  He is not there to convince or remind God that our sins are forgiven, but to present both our needs and our service for him as an offering.

9:24-28   All people die physically, but Christ died so that we would not have to die spiritually.  We can have wonderful confidence in his saving work for us, doing away with sin-past, present, and future.  He has forgiven our past sin-when he died on the cross, he sacrificed himself once and for all; he has given us the Holy Spirit to help us deal with present sin; he appears for us now in heaven as our high priest; and he promises to return and raise us to eternal life in a world where sin will be banished.

9:26   The end of the ages refers to the time of Christ's coming to earth in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.  Christ ushered in the new era of grace and forgiveness.  We are still living in the end of the ages.  The day of the Lord has begun and will be completed at Christ's return.

Christ's Sacrifice Once for All

1The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
   "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
       but a body you prepared for me;
    6with burnt offerings and sin offerings
       you were not pleased.
    7Then I said, 'Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll--
       I have come to do your will, O God.' " 8First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). 9Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:1-10

Explanation:

10:3   When people gathered for the offering of sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, they were reminded of their sins, and they undoubtedly felt guilty all over again.  What they needed most was forgiveness--the permanent, powerful, sin-destroying forgiveness we have from Christ.  When we confess a sin to him, we need never think of it again.  Christ has forgiven us, and the sin no longer exists.  See 1 John 1:9

10:4   Animal sacrifices could not take away sins; they provided only a temporary way to deal with sin until Jesus came to deal with sin permanently.  How, then, were people forgiven in Old Testament times?  Because Old Testament believers were following God's command to offer sacrifices, he graciously forgave them when, by faith, they made their sacrifices.  Christ's way was superior to the Old Testament way because the old way only pointed to what Christ would do to take away sins.

10:5-10   This quotation is not cited in any other New Testament book.  However, it is a central teaching of the Old Testament that God desires obedience and a right heart, not empty compliance to the sacrificial system.  The writer of Hebrews applies to Christ the words of the psalmist in Psalm 40:6-8.  Christ came to offer his body on the cross for us as a sacrifice that is completely acceptable to God.  God's new and living way for us to please him is not by keeping laws or even by abstaining from sin.  It is by coming to him in faith to be forgiven, and then following him in loving obedience.  The costly sacrifice of an animal's life impressed upon the sinner the seriousness of his or her own sin before God.  Because Jesus shed his own blood for us, his sacrifice is infinitely greater than any Old Testament offering.  Considering the immeasurable gift he gave us, we should respond by giving him our devotion and service.

10:9   Setting aside the first system in order to establish a far better one meant doing away with the system of sacrifices contained in the ceremonial law.  It didn't mean eliminating God's moral law (the Ten Commandments).  The ceremonial law prepared people for Christ's coming.  With Christ's death and resurrection, that system was no longer needed.  And through Christ we can fulfill the moral law as we let him live in us.

11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
15The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
    16"This is the covenant I will make with them
       after that time, says the Lord.
   I will put my laws in their hearts,
       and I will write them on their minds." 17Then he adds:
   "Their sins and lawless acts
       I will remember no more." 18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Hebrews 10:11-18

Explanation:

10:11, 12  Christ's work is contrasted with the work of the Jewish priests.  The priests' work was never finished, so they always had to stand and offer sacrifices; Christ's sacrifice is finished, so he is seated.  The priests repeated the sacrifices often; Christ sacrificed once for all.  The sacrifice system couldn't completely remove sin; Christ's sacrifice effectively cleansed us.

10:12   If the Jewish readers of this book were to return to the old Jewish system, they would be implying that Christ's sacrifice wasn't enough to forgive their sins.   Adding anything to his sacrifice or taking anything from it denies its validity.  Any system to gain salvation through good deeds is essentially rejecting the significance of Christ's death and spurning the Holy Spirit's work.  Beware of anyone who tells you that Christ's sacrifice still leaves you incomplete or that something else is needed to make you acceptable to God.  When we believe in Christ, he makes us completely right with God.  Our loving relationship leads us to follow him in willing obedience and service.  He is pleased with our service; but we cannot be saved by our good deeds.

10:14   We have been made perfect, yet we are being made holy.  Through his death and resurrection, Christ, once and for all, made his believers perfect in God's sight.  At the same time, he is making them holy (progressively cleansed and set apart for his special use) in their daily pilgrimage here.  We should not be surprised, ashamed, or shocked that we still need to grow.  God is not finished with us.  We can encourage this growth process by deliberately applying Scripture to all areas of our lives; by accepting the discipline and guidance Christ provides, and by giving him control of our desires and goals.

10:17   The writer concludes his argument with this powerful statement that God will remember our sins no more.  Christ forgives completely, so there is no need to confess our past sins repeatedly.  As believers, we can be confident that the sins we confess and renounce are forgiven and forgotten.

19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let 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 10:19-25

Explanation:

10:19   The Most Holy Place in the temple was sealed from view by a curtain.  Only the high priest could enter this holy room, and he did so only once a year on the Day of Atonement when he offered the sacrifice for the nation's sins.  But Jesus' death removed the curtain, and all believers may walk into God's presence at any time.

10:22-25    We have significant privileges associated with our new life in Christ: (1) we have personal access to God through Christ and can draw near to him without an elaborate system; (2) we may grow in faith, overcome doubts and questions, and deepen our relationship with God; (3) we may enjoy encouragement from one another; (4) we may worship together.     To neglect Christian meetings is to give up the encouragement and help of other Christians.  We gather together to share our faith and to strengthen one another in the Lord.  As we get closer to the Day when Christ will return, we will face many spiritual struggles, and even times of persecution.  Anti-Christian forces will grow in strength.  Difficulties should never be excuses for missing church services.  Rather, as difficulties arise, we should make an even greater effort to be faithful in attendance.

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37For in just a very little while,
   "He who is coming will come and will not delay.
        38But my righteous one will live by faith.
   And if he shrinks back,
       I will not be pleased with him." 39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Hebrews 10:26-39

Explanation:

10:26   When people deliberately reject Christ's offer of salvation, they reject God's most precious gift.  They ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit, the one who communicates to us God's saving love.  This warning was given to Jewish Christians who were tempted to reject Christ for Judaism, but applies to anyone who rejects Christ for another religion or, having understood Christ's atoning work, deliberately turns away from it (see also Numbers 15:30, 31 and Mark 3:28-30).  The point is that there is no other acceptable sacrifice for sin than the death of Christ on the cross.  If someone deliberately rejects the sacrifice of Christ after clearly understanding the gospel teaching about it, then there is no way for that person to be saved, because God has not provided any other name under heaven by which we can be saved (see Acts 4:12).

10:31   This judgment is for those who have rejected God's mercy.  For those who accept Christ's love and accept his salvation, the coming judgment is no cause for worry.  Being saved through his grace, they have nothing to fear (see 1 John 4:18).

10:32-36   Hebrews encourages believers to persevere in their Christian faith and conduct when facing persecution and pressure.  WE don't usually think of suffering as good for us, but it can build our character and our patience.  During times of great stress, we may feel God's presence more clearly and find help from Christians we never thought would care.  Knowing that Jesus is with us in our suffering and that he will return one day to put an end to all pain, helps us grow in our faith and our relationship with him  (see Romans 5:3-5).

10:35-38   The writer encourages his readers not to abandon their faith in times of persecution, but to show by their endurance that their faith is real.  Faith means resting in what Christ has done for us in the past, but it also means trusting him for what he will do for us in the present and in the future (see Romans 8:12-25; Galatians 3:10-13).

By Faith

1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.
3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:1-6

Explanation:

11:1   Do you remember how you felt when you were very young and your birthday approached?  You were excited and anxious.  You knew you would certainly receive gifts and other special treats.  But some things would be a surprise.  Birthdays combine assurance and anticipation, and so does faith!  Faith is the conviction based on past experience that God's new and fresh surprises will surely be ours.  Two words describe faith:  sure and certain.  These two qualities need a secure beginning and ending point.  The beginning point of faith is believing in God's character--he is who he says.  The end point is believing in God's promises--he will do what he says.  When we believe that God will fulfill his promises even though we don't see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith (see John 20:24-31.

11:3   God called the universe into existence out of nothing; he declared that it was to be, and it was.  Our faith is in the God who created the entire universe by his Word.  God's Word has awesome power.  When he speaks, do you listen and respond?  How can you better prepare yourself to respond to God's Word?

11:4   Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve's first two sons.  Abel offered a sacrifice that pleased God, while Cain's sacrifice was unacceptable.  Abel's sacrifice was more acceptable to God, both because it was a blood sacrifice and, most important, because of Abel's attitude when he offered it.

11:6   Believing that God exists is only the beginning; even the demons believe that much (James 2:19, 20).  God will not settle for mere acknowledgment of his existence.  He wants a personal, dynamic relationship with you that will transform your life.  Those who seek God will find that they are rewarded with his intimate presence.  Sometimes we wonder about the fate of those who haven't heard of Christ and have not even had a Bible to read.  God assures us that all who honestly seek him--who act in faith on the knowledge of God that they possess--will be rewarded.  When you tell others the gospel, encourage them to be honest and diligent in their search for truth.  Those who hear the gospel are responsible for what they have heard (see 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2).

7By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:7-16

Explanation:

11:7  Noah experienced rejection because he was different from his neighbors.  God commanded him to build a huge boat in the middle of ry land, and although God's command seemed foolish, Noah obeyed.  Noah's obedience made him appear strange to his neighbors, just as the new beliefs of Jewish Christians undoubtedly made them stand out.  As you obey God, don't be surprised if others regard you as different.  Your obedience makes their disobedience stand out.  Remember, if God asks you to do something, he will give you the necessary strength to carry out that task.

11:8-10   Abraham's life was filled with faith.  At God's command, he left home and went to another land--obeying without question.  He believed the covenant that God made with him.  In obedience to God, Abraham was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19).  Do not be surprised if God asks you to give up secure, familiar surroundings in order to carry out his will.

11:11, 12   Sarah was Abraham's wife.  They were unable to have children through many years of their marriage.  God promised Abraham a son, but Sarah doubted that she could become pregnant in her old age.  At first she laughed, but afterwards, she believed (Genesis 18).  

11:13   That we are aliens and strangers may be an awareness forced on us by circumstances.  It may come late in life or as the result of difficult times.  But this world is not our home.  We cannot live here forever.  It is best for us not to be so attached to this world's desires and possessions that we can't move out at God's command.

11:13-16   These people of faith died without receiving all that God had promised, but they never lost their vision of heaven (a better country--a heavenly one).  Many Christians become frustrated and defeated because their needs, wants, expectations, and demands are not immediately met when they believe in Christ.  They become impatient and want to quit.  Are you discouraged because the achievement of your goal seems far away?  Take courage from these heroes of faith who lived and died without seeing the fruit of their faith on earth and yet continued to believe.

17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
23By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.

Hebrews 11:17-23

Explanation:

11:17-19   Abraham was willing to give up his son when God commanded him to do so.  God did not let Abraham take Isaac's life, because God had given the command in order to test Abraham's faith.  Instead of taking Abraham's son, God gave Abraham a whole nation of descendants through Isaac.  If you are afraid to trust God with your most prized possession, dream, or person, pay attention to Abraham's example.  Because Abraham was willing to give up everything for God, he received back more than he could have imagined.  What we receive, however, is not always immediate, or in the form of material possessions.  Material things should be among the least satisfying of rewards.  Our best and greatest rewards await us in eternity.

11:20   Isaac was the son who had been promised to Abraham and Sarah in their old age.  It was through Isaac that God fulfilled his promise to eventually give Abraham countless descendants.  Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau.  God chose the younger son, Jacob, through whom to continue the fulfillment of his promise to Abraham.

11:21   Jacob was Isaac's son and Abraham's grandson.  Jacob's sons became the fathers of Israel's twelve tribes.  Even when Jacob (also called Israel) was dying in a strange land, he believed the promise that Abraham's descendants would be like the sand on the seashore and that Israel would become a great nation.  True faith helps us see beyond the grave.

11:22    Joseph, one of Jacob's sons, was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers (Genesis 37).  Eventually, Joseph was sold again, this time to an official of the Pharaoh of Egypt.  Because of Joseph's faithfulness to God, however, he was given a top-ranking position in Egypt.  Although Joseph could have used that position to build a personal empire, he remembered God's promise to Abraham.  After he had been reconciled to his brothers, Joseph brought his family to be near him and requested that his bones be taken to the promised land when the Jews eventually left Egypt (Genesis 50:24, 25).  Faith means trusting god and doing what he wants, regardless of the circumstances or consequences.

11:23   Moses' parents trusted God to protect their son's life.  They were not merely proud parents; they were believers who had faith that God would take care of him.  As a parent, have you trusted God enough to take care of your children?  God has a plan for every person, and your important task is to pray for your children and prepare them to do the work God has planned for them to do.  Faith allows us to entrust even our children to God.

24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
31By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
32And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.

Hebrews 11:24-35

Explanation:

11:24-28   Moses became Israel's greatest leaders, a prophet and a lawgiver.  But when he was born, his people were slaves in Egypt, and the Egyptian officials had ordered that all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed.  Moses was spared, however, and Pharaoh's daughter raised Moses in Pharaoh's own household (Exodus 1; 2).  It took faith for Moses to give up his place in the palace, but he could do it because he saw the fleeting nature of great wealth and prestige.  It is easy to be deceived by the temporary benefits of wealth, popularity, status, and achievement, and to be blind to the long-range benefits of God's kingdom.  Faith helps us look beyond the world's value system to see the eternal values of God's kingdom.

11:31   When Joshua planned the conquest of Jericho, he sent spies to investigate the fortifications of the city.  The spies met Rahab, who had two strikes against her--she was a Gentile and a prostitute.  But she showed that she had faith in God by welcoming the spies and trusting God to spare her and her family when the city was destroyed.  Faith helps us turn around and do what is right regardless of our past or the disapproval of others.

11:32-35   The Old Testament records the lives of the various people who experienced these great victories.  Joshua and Deborah conquered kingdoms (the book of Joshua; Judges 4; 5).  Nehemiah administered justice (the book of Nehemiah).  Daniel was saved from the mouths of lions (Daniel 6).  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were kept from harm in the furious flames of a fiery furnace (Daniel 3).  Elijah escaped the edge of the swords of evil Queen Jezebel's henchmen (1 Kings 19:2).  Hezekiah regained strength after sickness (2 Kings 20).  Gideon was powerful in battle (Judges 7).  A widow's son was brought back to life by the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-37).  We, too, can experience victory through faith in Christ.  Our victories over oppressors may be like those of the Old Testament saints, but more likely, our victories will be directly related to the role God wants us to play.  Even though our bodies deteriorate and die, we will live forever because of Christ.  In the promised resurrection, even death will be defeated and Christ's victory will be made complete.

 36Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- 38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:36-40

Explanation:

11:36-40   These verses summarize the lives of other great men and women of faith.  Some experienced outstanding victories, even over the threat of death.  But others were severely mistreated, tortured, and even killed.  Having a steadfast faith in God does not guarantee a happy, carefree life.  On the contrary, our faith in almost guarantees us some form of abuse from the world.  While we are on earth, we may never see the purposes of our suffering.  But we know that God will keep his promises to us.  Do you believe that God will keep his promises to you?  Many think that pain is the exception in the Christian life.  When suffering occurs, they say, Why me?  They feel as though God deserted them, or perhaps they accuse him of not being as dependable as they thought.  In reality, however, we live in an evil world filled with suffering, even for believers.  But God is still in control.  He allows some Christians to become martyrs for the faith, and he allows others to survive persecution.  Rather than asking Why me? it is much more helpful to ask Why not me?  Our faith and the values of this world are on a collision course.  If we expect pain and suffering to come, we will not be shocked when it hits.  But we can also take comfort in knowing that Jesus also suffered.  He understands our fears, our weaknesses, and our disappointments.  He promised never to leave us, and he intercedes on our behalf.  In times of pain, persecution, or suffering we should trust confidently in Christ.

11:39, 40   Hebrews 11 has been called faith's hall of fame.   No doubt the author surprised his readers by this conclusion: these mighty Jewish heroes did not receive God's total reward, because they died before Christ came.  In God's plan, they and the Christian believers would be rewarded together.  Once again Hebrews shows that Christianity offers a better way than Judaism.

11:40   There is solidarity among believers.  Old and New Testament believers will be glorified together.  Not only are we one in the body of Christ with all those alive, but we are also one with all those who ever lived.  It takes all of us to be perfect in him.

God Disciplines His Sons

1Therefore, 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. 2Let 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. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
   "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
       and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
    6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
       and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:1-11

Explanation:

12:1    This great cloud of witnesses is composed of the people described in chapter 11.  Their faithfulness is a constant encouragement to us.  We do not struggle alone, and we are not the first to struggle with the problems we face.  Others have run the race and won, and their witness stirs us to run and win also.  What an inspiring heritage we have!

12:1-4   The Christian life involves hard work.  It requires us to give up whatever endangers our relationship with God, to run patiently, and to struggle against sin with the power of the Holy Spirit.  To live effectively, we must keep our eyes on Jesus.  We will stumble if we look away from him to stare at ourselves or at the circumstances surrounding us.  We should be running for Christ, not ourselves, and we must always keep him in sight.

12:3   When we face hardship and discouragement, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture.  But we are not alone; there is help.  Many have  already made it through life, enduring far more difficult circumstances than we have experienced.  Suffering is the training ground for Christian maturity.  It develops our patience and makes our final victory sweet.

12:4   These readers were facing difficult times of persecution, but none of them had yet died for their faith.  Because they were still alive, the writer urged them to continue to run their race.  Just as Christ did not give up, neither should they.

12:5-11   Who loves his child more--the father who allows the child to do what will harm him, or the one who corrects, trains, and even punishes the child to help him learn what is right?  It's never pleasant to be corrected and disciplined by God, but his discipline is a sign of his deep love for us.  When God corrects you, see it as proof of his love and ask him what he is trying to teach you.

12:11   We may respond to discipline in several ways: (1) we can accept it with resignation; (2) we can accept it with self-pity, thinking we really don't deserve it; (3) we can be angry and resentful toward God; or (4) we can accept it gratefully, as the appropriate response we owe a loving Father.

12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13"Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Warning Against Refusing God

14Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

Hebrews 12:12-17

Explanation:

12:12,13    God is not only a disciplining parent but also a demanding coach who pushes us to our limits and requires our lives to be disciplined.  Although we may not feel strong enough to push on to victory, we will be able to accomplish it as we follow Christ and draw on his strength.  Then we can use our growing strength to help those around us that are weak and struggling.   The word therefore is a clue that what follows is important!!!  We must not live with only our own survival in mind.  Others will follow our example, and we have a responsibility to them if we are living for Christ, as we claim to be.  Does your example make it easier for others to believe in and follow Christ, and to mature in him?  Or would those who follow you end up confused and misled?

12:14   The readers were familiar with the ceremonial cleansing ritual that prepared them for worship, and they knew that they had to be holy or clean in order to enter the temple.  Sin always blocks our vision of God; so if we want to see God, we must renounce sin and obey him (see Psalm 24:3, 4).  Holiness is coupled with living in peace.  A right relationship with God leads to right relationships with fellow believers.  Although we will not always feel loving towards all other believers, we must pursue peace as we become more Christlike.

12:15   Like a small root that grows into a great tree, bitterness springs up in our hearts and overshadows even our deepest Christian relationships.  A bitter root comes when we allow disappointment to grow into resentment, or when we nurse grudges over past hurts.  Bitterness brings with it jealousy, dissension, and immorality.  When the Holy Spirit fills us, however, he can heal the hurt that causes bitterness.

12:16, 17  Esau's story shows us that mistakes and sins sometimes have lasting consequences (Genesis 25:29-34; 27:36).  Even repentance and forgiveness do not always eliminate sin's consequences.  How often do you make decisions based on what you want now, rather than on what you need in the long run?  Evaluate the long-range effects of your decisions and actions.

18You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." 21The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."
22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25See 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? 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." 27The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our "God is a consuming fire."

Hebrews 12:18-29

Explanation:

12:18-24   What a contrast between the people's terrified approach to God at Mount Sinai and their joyful approach at Mount Zion!  What a difference Jesus has made!  Before Jesus came, God seemed distant and threatening.  After Jesus came, God welcomes us through Christ into his presence.  Accept God's invitation!

12:22    As Christians, we are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem right now; because Christ rules our lives, the Holy Spirit is always with us, and we experience close fellowship with other believers.  The full and ultimate rewards and reality of the heavenly Jerusalem are depicted in Revelation 21.

12:27-29   Eventually the world will crumble, and only God's kingdom will last.  Those who follow Christ are part of this unshakable kingdom, and they will withstand the shaking, sifting, and burning.  When we feel unsure about the future, we can take confidence from these verses.  No matter what happens here, our future is built on a solid foundation that cannot be destroyed;  indeed, build your life on Christ and his unshakable kingdom.  (See Matthew 7:24-29 for the importance of building on a solid foundation).

12:29   There is a big difference between the flame of a candle and the roaring blast of a forest fire.  We cannot even stand near a raging fire.  Even with sophisticated fire-fighting equipment, a consuming fire is often beyond human control.  God is not within our control either.  We cannot force him to do anything for us through our prayers.  He cannot be contained.  Yet, he is a God of compassion.  He has saved us from sin, and he will save us from death.  But everything that is worthless and sinful will be consumed by the fire of his wrath.  Only what is good, dedicated to God, and righteous will remain.

Concluding Exhortations

1Keep on loving each other as brothers. 2Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. 3Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
4Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
   "Never will I leave you;
       never will I forsake you." 6So we say with confidence,
   "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
       What can man do to me?"

Hebrews 13:1-6

Explanation:

13:1-5   Real love for others produces tangible actions: (1) kindness to strangers; (2) empathy for those who are in prison and those who have been mistreated; (3) respect for your marriage vows; and (4) contentment with what you have.  Make sure that your love runs deep enough to affect your hospitality, empathy, fidelity, and contentment.

13:2   Three Old Testament people entertained angels without knowing it: (1) Abraham (Genesis 18:1); (2) Gideon (Judges 6:11; and (3) Manoah (Judges 13:2).  Some people say they cannot be hospitable because their homes are not large enough or nice enough.  But even if you have no more than a table and two chairs in a rented room, there are people who would be grateful to spend time in your home.  Are there visitors to your church with whom you could share a meal?  Do you know single people who would enjoy an evening of conversation?  Is there any way your home could meet the needs of traveling missionaries?  Hospitality simply means making other people feel comfortable and at home.

13:3   We are to have empathy for those in prison, especially for (but not limited to) Christians imprisoned for their faith.  Jesus said that his true followers would represent him as they visit those in prison (Matthew 25:36).

13:5   How can we learn to be content?  Strive to live with less rather than desiring more; give away out of your abundance rather than accumulating more; relish what you have rather than resent what you're missing.  See God's love expressed in what he has provided and remember that money and possessions will all pass away. (See Philippians 4:11 for more on contentment, and 1 John 2:17 for the futility of earthly desires.)

13:5, 6   We become content when we realize God's sufficiency for our needs.  Christians who become materialistic are saying by their actions that God can't take care of them--or at least that he won't take care of them the way they want.  Insecurity can lead to the love of money, whether we are rich or poor.  The only antidote is to trust God to meet all our needs.

 7Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
9Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. 10We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
11The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Hebrews 13:7-14

Explanation:

13:7   If you are a Christian, you owe much to others who have taught you and modeled for you what you needed to know about the gospel and Christian living.  Continue following the good examples of those who have invested themselves in you by investing your life through evangelism, service, and Christian education.

13:8   Though human leaders have much to offer, we must keep our eyes on Christ, our ultimate leader.  Unlike any human leaders, he will never change.  Christ has been and will be the same forever.  In a changing world we can trust our unchanging Lord.

13:9   Apparently some were teaching that keeping the Old Testament ceremonial laws and rituals (such as not eating certain foods) was important to salvation.  But these laws were useless for conquering a person's evil thoughts and desires (Colossians 2:23).  The laws could influence conduct, but they could not change the heart.  Lasting changes in conduct begin when the Holy Spirit lives in each person.

13:13   The Jewish Christians were being ridiculed and persecuted by Jews who didn't believe in Jesus the Messiah.  Most of the book of Hebrews tells them how Christ is greater than the sacrificial system.  Here the writer drives home the point of his lengthy argument:  It may be necessary to leave the camp and suffer with Christ.  To be outside the camp meant to be unclean--in the days of the exodus, those who were ceremonially unclean had to stay outside the camp.  But Jesus suffered humiliation and uncleanness outside the Jerusalem gates on their behalf.  The time had come for Jewish Christians to declare their loyalty to Christ above any other loyalty, to choose to follow the Messiah whatever suffering might entail.  They needed to move outside the safe confinement of their past, their traditions, and their ceremonies to live for Christ.  What holds you back from complete loyalty to Jesus Christ?

13:14   We should not be attached to this world, because all that we are and have here is temporary.  Only our relationship with God and our service to him will last.  Don't store up your treasures here, store them in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

15Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 17Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
18Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
20May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
22Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.
23I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
24Greet all your leaders and all God's people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
25Grace be with you all.

Hebrews 13:15-25

Explanation:

13:15, 16   Since these Jewish Christians, because of their witness to the Messiah, no longer worshiped with other Jews, they should consider praise and acts of service their sacrifices--ones they could offer anywhere, anytime.  This must have reminded them of the prophet Hosea's words,  Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips (Hosea 14:2).  A sacrifice of praise today would include thanking Christ for his sacrifice on the cross and telling others about it.  Acts of kindness and sharing are particularly pleasing to God, even when they go unnoticed by others.

13:17   The task of church leaders is to help people mature in Christ.  Cooperative followers greatly ease the burden of leadership.  Does your conduct give your leaders reason to report joyfully about you?

13:18, 19   The writer recognizes the need for prayer.  Christian leaders are especially vulnerable to criticism from others, pride (if they succeed), depression (if they fail), and Satan's constant efforts to destroy their work for God.  They desperately need our prayers!  For whom should you regularly pray?

13:21   This verse includes two significant results of Christ's death and resurrection.  God works in us to make us the kind of people that would please him, and he equips us to do the kind of work that would please him.  Let God change you from within and then use you to help others.

13:23   We have no record of Timothy's imprisonment, but we know that he had been in prison because it states here that he had been released.

13:24, 25   Hebrews is a call to Christian maturity.  It was addressed to first-century Jewish Christians, but it applies to Christians of any age or background.  Christians maturity means making Christ the beginning and end of our faith.  To grow in maturity, we must center our lives on him, not depending on religious ritual, not falling back into sin, not trusting in ourselves, and not letting anything come between us and Christ.  Christ is sufficient and superior.