We are beginning an online Bible study blog, for the purpose of strengthening the faith of Christians. We start with the Epistle of Hebrews, because it seems to be the most relevant New Testament book as we address issues facing the modern day church.
Researcher George Barna reveals that while 69% of American adults identify as “Christian,” only six percent actually have a biblical worldview. “These findings,” says Barna, “show that Americans are not taking obedience to Jesus seriously. Nor are they reading their Bibles, or attending church services.”
“Too often,” he says, “it seems, people who are simply religious, or regular churchgoers, or perhaps people who want a certain reputation or image, embrace the label ‘Christian,’ regardless of their spiritual life and intentions. ’Christian’ has become…a generic term rather than a name that reflects a deep commitment to passionately pursuing and being like Jesus Christ.”
The persons addressed in the book of Hebrews were in the mental and spiritual condition common to every age of the Christian Church,
- a condition of languor and weariness
- of disappointed expectations
- of deferred hopes
- of conscious failure
- of practical unbelief
Robert Gormacki, in his commentary on Hebrews, says the recipients were…
- believers [it is not written to bring people to faith—but to strengthen us in our faith].
- immature [they were baby Christians, who needed a lot of spiritual care and admonition—and spanking?].
- wavering in their faith [drifting away with the changing tides].
- well known to the writer [he knew their potential for serving the Lord Jesus—as well as their propensity to fail].
- and residing in house churches either in Rome or in Israel.
The writer uses five warning passages in Hebrews as motivation for change. Each one warns us of the danger of apostasy from a different angle. We will cover each one in more detail later, but for now, they are:
- The danger of drifting away from the truth (2:1). It pictures a ship dragging its anchor. The tides of our age can draw us away from our Christian moorings. We need to keep standing firm in the faith (cf. Colossians 1:23 – “…if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”).
- The danger of disbelief (3:12). Disbelief results in heart-hardening (3:13). We need to keep on believing, rather than ceasing to believe (cf. Luke 17:3 – “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”).
- The danger of immaturity (5:12). When we fail to put truth into practice, we won’t remain in the same spiritual condition. We will regress. We need to keep on growing (cf. 2 Pet. 3:18 – But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…”).
- The danger of willful sinning (10:26-27). If we abandon confidence in the ability of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of His life to produce a desired or intended result—our salvation and moral sanctification– there is no other sacrifice that can protect us from God’s judgment on us [discipline]. We need to keep submitting to God (cf. Rom. 6:16 – “Do you not know that the one to whom you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of that same one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?“).
- The danger of unresponsiveness (12:25). The message of this letter demands a positive response. If we do not respond positively, we will lose part of our heavenly reward—but not our salvation (12:17). We need to faithfully continue obeying God (cf. Titus 3:8 – “This statement is trustworthy; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and beneficial…”).
As we study the book of Hebrews, let’s examine ourselves, and make sure we are standing firm in the faith, holding to the Word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ [Revelation 1:2].