I received some feedback from yesterday's post — good questions
— which make me realize that many people reading this are still trapped in
chains of legalistic works-righteous faith and asceticism. I wanted to continue the thought from
Video available here: http://youtu.be/BxMgzOgUbW0
I think the problem is the way in which many have been
falsely taught to read their Bibles.
Snip a verse here, snip a verse there, combine them, and make a new
Bible with new meaning.
Having been taught under arguably the one of the most
legalistic sect of the "Message of the Hour," I find the book of Hebrews to be
filled with very profound statements.
It's actually a refreshing change, living my life by the words of the Apostle
Paul, and the book of Hebrews is a book that I personally can relate to.
Because of the power in the statements in this book, you
will find several single verses that you are familiar with, repeated to solidly
back statements during sermons that sometimes have very little to do with the
meaning behind those words. And you may
even find some entire chapters that you are familiar with. Hebrews is a well-studied book by many
people. The words are powerful. It was the message of faith to the Jews, those
once bound by Mosaic Law, and the writing is a very clear and very concise
message that describes Christ as the new High Priest.
No longer were the children of God to look to a man as their
The book of Hebrews is different than some of the other
letters to the church. The Apostle Paul
typically wrote his letters with a salutation, and the title line, "To The
Hebrews" is not found in some of the earliest manuscripts. While many still believe that Paul wrote this
letter to the Hebrews, there is a growing understanding that this may not be
the case. It is very possible that this
was one of Paul's sermons, transcribed by Luke, and used to spread the Good
News that Christ was our new High Priest.
As the early church grew, lifting up leaders into excessive
power was a common problem, just as it is today. The people were so accustomed to having high
priests — even those who were involved in pagan worship. They had grown with the tradition of serving
their gods through the filter of men, and felt it comforting to lift men into
great power and spiritual authority. As
we all have experienced at one time or another, having a physical face to
associate with God makes God seem more alive and real to us.
But this was not the way God intended after His work on the
The "book" of Hebrews is not a "book" at all. Long before printing presses and cover
bindings, these letters were written on scrolls. They were not indexed with chapters, not counted
as lines or verses. The Book of Hebrews
was really the Scroll of Hebrews, a single letter written to the early church
to describe our new High Priest.
And while the words are very powerful, so much that they are
quoted in several sermons, you will find that they are not NEARLY so powerful
as when they are read together as they were intended: One single letter to the church.
This single scroll addresses many issues found in churches
today. When separated, these chapters do
not relay the same instruction to the church.
But when combined, you will find that many churches today — especially
cult churches — have fallen into grave error.
The Jews were not the only ones that practiced asceticism,
or the idea that you can become more "holy" by the pleasurable things that you
desire but avoid for your god. Pagan
worship infiltrated the early church to create Gnosticism. Gnosis is the idea that the material world
was created by the evil forces: Satan's Eden.
Those who practiced Gnosticism believed that they had spiritual
"enlightenment" by knowing the "mysteries," and therefore abstained from any
sort of pleasure this world had to offer.
But the Jews were bound by the Mosaic Law. This Law not only created a similar
works-righteous faith, but it came with severe punishment for failure.
The Children of Israel were familiar with the worship of
Baal. Living in Egypt, walking side by
side with Egyptians involved with pyramid worship of the sun god, Ra, Isis,
Osiris, and more, they were familiar with Egyptian custom. And it affected them to the point of their
When Moses returned from the mountain, having met God face
to face, the people were not satisfied to simply believe God for their
protection and salvation. Following the
example of the Egyptian worship, the Children of Israel begged Moses to go BACK
up the mountain and ask God what THEY must do to secure protection and
Moses returned with the Law.
Throughout time, the Old Testament describes how men and
women tried to save themselves. A
righteous man would be born, realize that people had fallen into idolatry, tear
down the idols that were worshipped, and God would bless him. But over time, even those righteous men would
fall. It sounds very simple to us:
"Don't worship those wooden or stone things over there, they aren't gods!"
But it wasn't that easy.
In a spiritual sense, we have the same exact thing today, and future
generations will rise, looking back at us and ask themselves: Why do they worship EVENTS in history? Why did they think that following a MAN had
anything to do with their salvation?
Didn't they read the book of Hebrews?
The Children of Israel had the same exact problem. Moses was their great spiritual leader. He didn't have photographs that looked like
halos or clouds, but he was the "great one" that spoke directly to God. He brought the Mosaic Law, the code that they
lived by. Moses was the closest thing to
God, and he was their mediator between God and man.
The Book of Hebrews breaks them from falling into worship of
a man, starting in the third chapter:
holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle
and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him,
just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house. For Jesus has been counted
worthy of MORE glory than Mosesâ€”as much MORE glory as the builder of a house
has more honor than the house itself.
(For every house is built by someone, but the builder of ALL THINGS is
God.) Now Moses was faithful in all
God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken
later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we
are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in
Works were necessary.
The Mosaic Law was necessary. Any
house that is built is built by works.
If you do not labor, your lumber and brick will lay in stacks never
Chapter 4 of Hebrews assures the people that this work was
not in vain. Their devotion towards
building the house, the Body of Christ, had value. But at some point, you rest in your
When you build a house for your family, long hours are spent
in the hot sun laboring to make the walls and roof. Once the foundation is set, the walls are
raised, and the roof has covered, the labor does not stop there. The inside must be finished and the house
must be made livable. It is a tremendous
undertaking to construct a house, but when you are finished, you rest. You don't finish the house and continually
labor — there is nothing more to do. You
ENJOY the house!
Chapter 4 reminds us that this rest is deserved. And it is not considered "unholy" to rest
from the works-righteous faith that the Jews once knew. The chapter reminds the people that even on
the seventh day of building the earth, God rested!
And rest is very important.
The chapter also reminds us that the work was already finished from
BEFORE the foundation of the world. Yet
But this part of the chapter is VERY IMPORTANT to
understand. In works-righteous faith,
you must save yourself. If you try to
uphold PART of the Mosaic Law, but do not uphold the REST of the Mosaic Law,
then you deserve the over three hundred punishments of that Law.
The Mosaic Law came with a reward of three hundred blessings
if the people kept ALL of the Law, and three hundred curses if the people
failed ANY PART of that Law.
I hear many pastors today, quoting the Mosaic Law in order
to enforce "godliness over worldliness," yet NONE of them will stone their
children when they disobey. NONE of them
wash their hands in brass basins before entering church. There are more Laws that they breach than
Chapter 4 BEGS us to enter God's rest from works-righteous
faith. It was not for Joshua's time,
Joshua was building the house. It was
not for the people before them, it was here, it was now, It was Christ!
And those who did not enter it, those who remained in works
righteous faith, will fall to the same disobedience that is described in the
For if Joshua
had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the
people of God, for whoever has entered
God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore
strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of
But at the end of the chapter, it sets up the very
foundation for the entire scroll of Hebrews:
Since then we
have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of
God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is
unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been
tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to
the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time
This thought is continued in chapter five, describing how
Christ was now our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. It tells us how the high priests offered
small sacrifices on our behalf, but Christ bore the pain on our behalf. He paid the penalty and BECAME the sacrifice.
It's funny, because in Chapter 5, the writer realizes that
people will one day stop reading this scroll in its entirety. It is almost as if the writer can peer into
the future, how they will ignore this new High Priest so that they can set up
"Super Apostles" or "Prophets," or "Seventh Church Age Messengers."
The writer gives this warning:
About this we
have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be
teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not
solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of
righteousness, since he is a child. But
solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant
practice to distinguish good from
evil. Therefore let us leave the
elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a
foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about baptisms, the
laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Look at what we have today!
Super apostles, prophets, and more telling us that THEY have a better
way! You must baptize this way, you must
believe there is NOT an eternal hell!
Hebrews chapters 5-6 CONDEMNS this!
The end of Chapter six reminds us of God's everlasting
covenant with Abraham, and denies this "little bride theology" that the
Gnostics were spreading. This promise
was not for a small number that could be counted. God's promise to Abraham was a promise that
his people would be as the sands of the sea.
"For when God
made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he
swore by himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you." And thus Abraham, having patiently waited,
obtained the promise. For people swear
by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is
final for confirmation. So when God
desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable
character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two
unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled
for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before
us. We have this as a sure and steadfast
anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
Chapter 7 is where it starts getting good. After establishing that we do not need men as
our "spiritual leaders," after establishing that Christ is the new High Priest,
after establishing that the people had finally deserved rest, the writer starts
to build confidence that we will still have salvation in our rest from
The Old Covenant of Law had failed. It was useless towards salvation, and time
after time in the Old Testament we have examples of its failure. The people still sinned, and the High Priests
offered sacrifice for their continual sin.
Blood was required.
For on the one
hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness
(for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is
introduced, through which we draw near to God.
And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests
were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by
the one who said to him:
"The Lord has
sworn and will not change his mind, 'You
are a priest forever.' [Not just
until some 'Seventh Church Age'] This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better
covenant. The former priests were many
in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but
he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the
uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make
intercession for them.
For it was
indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent,
unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to
offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the
people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
The scroll continues, describing the New Covenant and
comparing it to the weakness of the Old Covenant. But starting in chapter 10, we find the
fundamental element described that is missing in many churches today,
especially those that practice works-righteous Christianity.
The Pentecostal movement taught preachers to break down
their congregations in order to increase the numbers at the alter calls. The sermons are designed to point fingers at
every single possible sin that every single member of their congregations could
have possibly committed during the course of the week. Then, pretending to wipe a tear from their
eye with a starched handkerchief, they say, "Now if you have sin in your lives,
don't let this day pass. What if this is
your last day on earth. What if you get
in an automobile accident on the way home, what if you suddenly fall from a
heart attack. Don't let this be your
last day without repenting â€¦ IN FRONT OF ME"
In other words: "Don't trust in your salvation. Don't trust in the work that Christ did for
you on the cross. Don't accept THAT by
faith, accept THIS TIME RIGHT NOW as your ticket to salvation!"
But starting in Hebrews chapter 10, the writer does the
EXACT OPPOSITE. The faith of the church
is built up.
Listen to these powerful words:
brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of
Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain,
that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of
God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our
hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure
water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who
promised is faithful. And let us
consider how to stir up one another
to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the
habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day
Immediately after this paragraph, there is one single verse
that is SNIPPED out of context, MISUSED AND ABUSED, and all in the name of
Pentecost. To this day, and even after
the Pentecostal movement has fizzled out, preachers around the WORLD preach
this single verse into the ground, not realizing just how badly they have taken
it out of context:
For if we go on
sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no
longer remains a sacrifice for sins —Hebrews 10:26
But read the entire chapter in context. Read the chapters before it and after
At the end of that chapter, the writer describes how that we
are NOT under that same category, and then goes on to describe how faith in
Jesus Christ is the key to salvation — not works!
"But we ARE NOT OF THOSE those who
shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls." — Hebrews 10:39
After describing the many examples of how faith prevailed in
the Old Testament, all throughout Hebrews chapter 11, the writer tells us how
to secure that faith: With witnesses.
Many of you will be familiar with this chapter, and will
have read this paragraph. But unless you
apply it to the entire rest of the scroll, this paragraph has very little
value. This is the paragraph that ties
everything together, the seal that binds us under the Blood of Jesus Christ.
since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside
every weight, and sin which clings so
closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that
was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the
right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so
that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point
of shedding your blood.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ are our witnesses. We no longer need to be burdened with this
sin that plagues us daily. NONE of us
have endured our sin until we have died for it — ONLY Christ has been able to
achieve this. We sin daily. We are unworthy.
But we are not to be burdened down by the weight of
sin. The weight that the writer says
"clings to us." Christ is the perfecter
of our faith, the One who shed His blood so that we don't even have to worry
Hebrews is an AWESOME book if you have been bound by
legalistic, works-righteous faith. Read
it! Understand it! Believe it!
It's the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News that Christ has taken
away our sins! Our new High Priest has
given His own life so that we can be part of His Body! Now, we can strive to be more like Him,
without worrying about our shortcomings!
Spread it! It's the
Gospel of Jesus Christ.