The Shape of Hebrews
Understanding the structure of writing can really enhance our understanding of the author's intent, and in this case the message God is trying to convey to us.
Hebrews can be divided into three major sections, or “movements:” 1:1—4:16; 5:1—10:25, and 10:26—13:25. This will be an attempt to address the differences or similarities between each of the sections, the flow of thought which furthers the author’s purpose, and the word of exhortation stemming from that.
Movement 1: Hold Fast our Confession of Superior Revelation from Superior Son of God
Hebrews 1 establishes Jesus as the Son—God Himself. In particular, emphasis is given to Jesus’ superiority to the angels who were messengers of God’s word to Old Testament Israel. There is now a superior message with a fuller revelation of God’s redemptive plan. Jesus is also established as superior to Moses, through whom the Law was given. His message, Himself being the fulfillment of the Law, is therefore superior. Jesus is also superior to Joshua who led the people into the promised land. The promised land which Jesus made a way for all who believe is heaven—the very presence of God. If we do not hold onto these truths, living our lives accordingly, we may not enter this final rest.
Movement 2: Inherit the Promises of God based on Christ’s Perfect Priesthood and Perfect Sacrifice
Jesus is the perfect high priest in the order of Melchizadek. He existed before the levitical priesthood; therefore, His priesthood supersedes the former. His perfect priesthood is perfect because it is eternal and it lasts forever. Because there is a new priesthood there is a new covenant requiring a new sacrifice which Jesus made once for all. His sacrifice was a heavenly sacrifice making a way back into the presence of God for all who will believe. The exhortation is to simply draw near and to hold fast to the promise. This section points out what Christ has done, building on the previous section of who Christ is. The exhortation is the same: to endure in light of this more perfect revelation of truth. Keeping in mind the end of all temporal things with the coming of Christ’s kingdom should call us to live more fervently for the Word of God in true fellowship with other believers. Again, there is a focus on our final destination, as in the first movement.
Movement 3: Experience Triumph Through Faith in the Unchanging, Unshakeable Christ
This section begins in 10:26 with a very firm exhortation. If believers continue to sin willfully, falling away from their confession of faith, they will be judged with unbelievers. However, the author affirms these believers with an encouragement in 10:39 that everything leading up to this point in the letter is completely possible through faith. Chapter 11 highlights several examples of people who have done this from the creation of the world up to the present day. What is required of us now is to look to Jesus, accepting God's discipline, knowing that we are inheriting an unshakeable kingdom from this superior, perfect, unchanging Son of God. What this looks like specifically is to “share in His holiness” (12:10), “pursue…sanctification” (12:14), “show gratitude” to God in awe-filled worship (12:28), love our brothers and sisters in Christ (13:1), and many other things which keep us pure to continually praise our awesome God in word and deed (13:2-25).
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This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!