Find out who the book was written to or about, then read the book.
I love the fact that my Bible has several introductory pages for each Book or Letter in the Bible. Information provided includes author, date, purpose, theme, the person or group who was the recipient of the original letter, and much more information. Maybe your Bible does this also. I find this information more than just interesting. I find it very helpful in understanding the Bible book.
For this blog, I would like to look at the first few verses of Hebrews, chapter eight. Some Hebrew converts were having trouble leaving behind the religion that their families had devoted themselves to for generations. It was not uncommon for Jewish converts to attend services as usual in their local synagogue on Saturday, and meet with their Christian brothers and sisters on Sunday. Paul, although his main focus was spreading the Good News among the Gentiles, does address this problem, especially in his letter to the Galatians. When I read the introduction to Hebrews, my Bible tells me the recipient of the letter was “primarily Jewish converts who were familiar with the Old Testament and were being tempted to revert to Judaism or to Judaize the gospel.” So, when we read in Hebrews we can understand the verbiage used by the author. So let’s look at the first few verses of chapter eight.
“The 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, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (Hebrews 8: 1-2) The author is writing in such a way that his original recipients (Jewish converts) could understand. Sitting at the right hand of God would be clearly understood that He was higher than any priest, angel, etc. He is there permanently. He “sat down”. He does not come and go making sacrifices and leaving like the priest did in the Holy of Holy’s. His sacrifice is sufficient for all time! The author of Hebrews has already shown that Jesus is far superior to any High Priest they would know, but in the next few verses, he will point out other differences demonstrating the superiority of Jesus to any Levitical high priest. Every high priest had to offer gifts and sacrifices continually. “Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sin, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.” (Hebrews 7: 27) While the tabernacle in Jerusalem, where the Levitical high priests served, was directed by God it was built by men. It is a copy of the true tabernacle in Heaven where Jesus sits.
“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs (Levitical high priests) as the covenant of which He is the mediator is superior to the old one and it is founded on a better promise.” (Hebrews 8: 6) The new covenant that Jesus mediates over is greater than the covenant received by Moses on Mt. Sinai. The new covenant is based on spiritual and eternal blessings. The law punishes, Jesus saves. When Moses came down Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments he found the people engaged in idol worship. “Then he (Moses) said to them, ‘this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: each man strap a sword to his side, go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother, friend and neighbor.’ The Levites did as Moses commanded and about three thousand of the people died.” (Exodus 32: 27-28) At Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter addressed the crowd. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2: 41)
The new covenant is superior to the old. How? It will be written on their hearts. (vs. 10) They will not have to teach. (vs. 11) Sins will be forgiven. (vs. 12) So was the old covenant a mistake? Certainly not! The fault was not in the law, but in the failure of the people. (vs. 8) “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8: 1-2)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.