What Hebrews Means to Me

Just finished recording another session with Steve Baugh on Hebrews. This episode covered Hebrews 7:18–28. This is the fourth season and we’re approaching our 100th episode. In that time we’ve discussed many things, including a lot of Scripture, but this is the first time we’ve sat down to work through a book of Scripture.

All of Scripture is relevant, of course, but Hebrews seems particularly relevant right now in a variety of ways. For one thing it shows us at length how the New Testament church read the Hebrew and Aramaic scriptures (the Old Testament in the broad sense). It’s likely that Hebrews was an oration, even a sermon. If so, then we have some idea, beyond the brief sketches in Acts, of how the apostolic circle preached God’s Word. Hebrews also gives us a clear idea of how the apostles understood the history of redemption.

The book also clearly reveals the nature of God’s holiness and how it should stimulate us to reverent worship. As the worship wars continue we would all do well to reckon with what Hebrews says to us about the nature and centrality of public worship in the Christian life. Would the writer to the Hebrews be comfortable in our worship services?

I think I can speak for Steve when I say that we were both struck again by the way the pastor to this Jewish Christian congregation, which was tempted to turn its back on Christ and to go back to Moses, uses and understands the biblical covenants. One of the great questions among evangelicals is that of continuity and discontinuity between the old and new covenants and Hebrews speaks to that directly. According to Hebrews, the great discontinuity in redemptive history is between Moses, who represents the old, “weak” and “inferior” covenant and the new, superior, perfect, covenant. The strong contrast in Hebrews is not between Christ and Abraham but between Christ and Moses. If our evangelical friends could grasp the different roles of Abraham and Moses in redemptive history it would produce a revolution in their practice.

I can’t summarize the whole episode but just to make one more brief comment. After going through Hebrews again and seeing its clear focus on the once-for-all finished character of Christ’s obedience, death, and resurrection for us and that in contrast to the many mediators and repeated (and imperfect) offerings by the Old Covenant priesthood, it would seem that those Dispensationalists who continue to look for a re-institution of the sacrificial system and those who’ve gone to “Rome Sweet Home” must do so only after jettisoning or ignoring Hebrews. It is a very strong rock for the Reformation doctrine of the sufficiency not only of Christ’s finished work but also of the Scriptures as God’s Word. Hebrews knows nothing of continued memorial (or propitiatory) sacrifices.

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  1. I’ve also wondered how the dispensationalists (which are my own roots) manage to avoid the teaching of Hebrews. There may be some ‘difficult’ passages but the end of the sacrificial system – once for all time – is clear.

    • As have I. It’s utterly insane. The sacrificial system, now that Christ has died and risen, is an abomination to the Lord. Who would want to go back to it even if it weren’t?

      And then you get these arguments like, “Surely the Jews need a ceremony to remember Christ by?” and I think, “So who first celebrated the Lord’s Supper? Chopped liver?”

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