Much like Paul’s Epistles, Hebrews has a “Dogma” section (Christian belief) followed by an application section “Pragma” on how we live because of what we believe. Just like Jewish Christians, we can also burnout if we do the right things for the wrong reason or without clear reason. The author of Hebrews here is urging people with a number of “let us” invitations. The audience, Jewish Christians, started well (Heb 6:10), but now face discouragement, trials, perhaps social isolation and other pressures of daily life. The part-2 of our study focuses on these encouragements which urges believers with both warnings and encouragements.
The practice of Christian walk
After reminding the Jewish believers with key words such as “better”, “greater” and “How much more” to describe the Christian walk compared to Judiasm’s practices and rituals, the author now asks the believers to excel in their faith. Christian faith involves joyful obedience and a willingness to endure trials as they – So “Let us”
Be diligent to enter God provided rest
Heb 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (11) Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.This promised rest is a reminder that this rest is greater than Joshua’s entry into promised land. A rest, that beyond physical rest that comes from abundance of “milk and honey” but one that leads us into joyful worship (the call as seen in Psalm 95). Anyone who enters this rest also reset from their labor (v.10)
Approach Jesus our new High Priest with confidence
Heb 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus our new High Priest has done great things (passed through the heavens), yet also is extremely approachable – not on a set time (festivals and holidays), but at anytime giving us entry to the “throne of grace” to obtain mercy and find grace.
Move on maturity beyond rituals
Heb 6:1,2 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
We spent a bit of time on what is this “maturity model”? how can it go beyond our beliefs? The author is urging believers to not make their Christianity just like what they did Judaism. Just like Jewish Christians (and early Judaism), we can quickly turn baptism, laying of hands, even teaching of resurrection and judgement into a “ritual.” This leads to a passive execution of “traditions” or “exercises” (ascetic) while loosing its power. This can even happen to our “quiet time”, as we make it all ritualistic. However, true faith constantly engages both body, mind and soul (heart) in worship and thus avoids “Familiarity breeds contempt” and leads us to – next topic.
“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Hearts sprinkled and bodies washed
Heb 10: 19-22: Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
There are a few “let us” statements here – “draw near”, “hold fast”, “consider/stir up one another.” The author connects these actions of a Christian as being enabled by boldness that comes from faith and the communal exhortation that comes from fellowship. The verse 24 is quoted appropriately by many pastors as the see their congregation “forsake” local fellowship and do not see “the day approaching”
Lay aside every weight
Heb 12: 1,2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. .. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
The call for Christine discipleship involves laying aside “every weight” and “sin.” It is presumed that “every weight” is not necessarily sin, it may even be good. But when God calls you to lay it aside, it is time to drop our fancy suit and get comfortable shoes so we can “run with endurance” and with joy. Don’t forget to have grace without with your discipleship that gives joy to your godly fear.
Lets us find Jesus “outside the camp”
Heb 13:12,13 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. This sin offering symbolism is deep for a Jew. While we look for God in the “Most Holy”, he is actually there in the most unholy place to think of. He is “outside the camp” suffering for the downtrodden, lonely, oppressed, weak and neglected. What Jewish people saw as “blemish” is where Christians find Jesus. We approach him there in a strange way offering “sacrifice of praise” to the one outside the camp. The emblem and the story of the Cross is not one of power or success, but of love, sacrifice and praise
“The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.” – another great Bonhoeffer quote.