Return to Study Guide for Hebrews – by Debbie Parnakian
The Answer is Jesus; Hebrews 1:1-4
Overview of Hebrews
Study by Debbie Parnakian
- Background on Hebrews
- Outline of Hebrews
- Hebrews 1:1‑4 “The Son is Superior”
Here’s a story from a Coast Guard officer: While standing watch in the Coast Guard station in New York, I got a call from the Navy in a nearby city. They had lost contact with one of their planes and needed the Coast Guard to send an aircraft to find it. I asked the man where the Navy aircraft had last been spotted so we would know where to search. “I can’t tell you,” the Navy man said. “That’s classified.”
Ever feel that way when you read some parts of the Bible? How about Hebrews? Does it feel “classified” to you–someone must know what it means, but you sure don’t? Did you read Hebrews all in one sitting as our homework suggested? I did it in 2 sittings and you know what? It scared me! High Priests, angels, Melchizedek, the relationship of the Son to the Father….yikes!
If you are like me, all you want to do is read the Bible, learn more about God, learn more about how to obey God and then go out and obey. Then we start reading about Melchizedek and we want to run away!
Warren Wiersbe says, “Many people have avoided the Epistle to the Hebrews and, consequently, have robbed themselves of practical spiritual help. Some have avoided this book because they are “afraid of it.” The “Warnings” in Hebrews have made them uneasy. Others have avoided this book because they think it is “too difficult” for the average Bible student. To be sure, there are some profound truths in Hebrews, and no preacher (and I might add Teaching Director) would dare to claim that he (or she) knows them all! But the general message of the book is clear and there is no reason why you and I should not understand and profit from it.”
One of the reasons we are studying Hebrews this year is that I’ve never studied it before! Not in-depth, anyway. I want to read it and understand it better. And since you are here this morning, my guess is that you want to also.
A pastor was giving the children’s message during church. For this part of the service, he would gather all the children around him and give a brief lesson before dismissing them for children’s church. On this particular Sunday, he was using squirrels for an object lesson on industry and preparation. He started out by saying, “I’m going to describe something, and I
want you to raise your hand when you know what it is.” The children nodded eagerly. “This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)…” No hands went up. “And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)…” The children were looking at each other, but still no hands raised. “And it jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it’s excited (pause)…” Finally one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor breathed a sigh of relief and called on him. “Well…,” said the boy, “I know the answer must be Jesus … but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!”
Ladies–The answer must be Jesus. That is the theme of Hebrews. The answer must be Jesus.
The general outline for the book of Hebrews comes from Warren Wiersbe. In the next 18 weeks we will be pulling apart Hebrews verse by verse. So here’s some background you will want to know before studying. First, as quiz…
What do these people have in common? Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Pricilla & Aquila, Clemet of Rome, and JohnMark. They all have been suggested as the author of Hebrews! This week’s commentary goes into detail about this. The real author? The Holy Spirit, of course! The whole book of Hebrews points to Christ and that’s what the Holy Spirit does.
Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians, possibly because they were returning to the old traditions. They were leaving Christianity for Judaism. Our commentary goes into the reasons for this. READ YOUR COMMENTARY!! Gentile Christians would not know what the author was talking about when he mentioned the sacrifices or high priests. The Jewish Christians were being persecuted and they were not growing in their faith–and if you are not growing, what happens? No one just stands still. If you are not growing in Christ you are falling away. There isn’t any neutral ground. So there was a real possibility that these Jewish Christians would go back to being just Jewish and abandon Christ. They were also second-generation Christians, meaning they did not see or hear Jesus personally, but became Christians through those disciples who did. Maybe they were questioning the truth of the gospel.
Hebrews was written shortly before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which was in 70 AD. We know this because the writer of Hebrews doesn’t mention the destruction and also describes the sacrifices. Once the temple was destroyed, there were no sacrifices since they could only be done in the temple. So it is thought to have been written between 60 and 70 AD.
There are several key verses: 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Or 13:15 “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess His name.” or 10:38 “But my righteous one will live by faith…” Which is from Habakkuk 2:3. Which goes along with Galatians 3:11, which also references the Habakkuk verse. There are lots of other “key” verses….we should see what we think is the key verse when we are through studying this book.
Some words show up over and over in Hebrews. The Greek word for “superior” or “better” is used 13 times as the writer shows the superiority of Jesus over all things and God’s salvation through Jesus as superior to the Law. Another word that is repeated is “perfect”, which is used 14 times. It means perfect standing before God.
Chapters 1-6 Superior Person
7-10 Superior Priesthood
11-13 Superior Faith
Warren Wiersbe’s outline all goes back to one person….and the answer is Jesus. In Galatians we talked about how our faith in God’s grace is sufficient to save us from our sins. Hebrews talks about how that is done–through Jesus.
Jesus is the Superior Person. There will be no doubt about all aspects of Jesus’ superiority by the end of this study. Even the first 4 verses that we study today will allow us to see a little of why eventually every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
Chapters 7-10 will talk about the Superior Priesthood. I know–we’re not very familiar with all that the priesthood represents in the Old Testament. That’s why we’re studying this–we will learn–and “we” includes ME.
Chapters 11-13 talk about Superior Faith. This is the practical part of the book. This is similar to Galatians where the first part gives the theology and the second part asks the question, “Now, what are you going to do about it?” In a nice way, of course! We’ll look at the faith of some Old Testament people who were not perfect, mind you, but considered faithful to the Lord. We’ll be encouraged to grow in our faith and our obedience.
In the meantime, the answer is Jesus. When we are discouraged, when we are yelled at, when things don’t go our way, when those we love hurt us, when the world looks as if it is going absolutely crazy….the answer is Jesus.
Open your Bibles to Hebrews 1
The first 4 verses of Hebrews are all about Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews is reminding the Jewish Christians (and us!) right at the beginning that God spoke to the Jews many times and in a variety of ways. Sometimes the Spirit spoke directly to God’s servants; sometimes angels appeared and spoke to someone; sometimes it was the pre-incarnate Christ (Jesus coming as the Angel of God, as He did to Abraham in Genesis 18); sometimes just as wisdom that could only be God-given (Solomon’s wisdom was from God as an answer to his prayer); sometimes putting words in the mouths of prophets; sometimes in dreams or visions. So God did speak to the Jews all through their history.
BUT now God has spoken through His Son. Actually, the original Greek phrase leaves out “through His”. So the phrase is really “God spoke to us in Son” Think about it. It’s like saying “God spoke to us in English, or in Spanish”. God spoke to us in Son. Jesus, the Son of God, completely said all that God needed to say to us. The author of Hebrews goes on to say how and why Jesus completely said it all, but if you meditate on this phrase alone, it will speak to you about why Jesus is the answer. “God spoke to us in Son”.
Verses 2 to 4 go on to explain part of why God spoke to us “in Son”. I can’t go into a lot
of detail concerning each one of the eight thoughts, but most of them you can understand at face value and each one is incredible unto itself.
- He was appointed Heir of all things–this phrase makes it sound as if Jesus was less than God the Father because God the Father makes Jesus an heir, but throughout Scripture, Jesus and the Father are considered equal.
- They are both God. God the Father and God the Son and of course, God the Holy Spirit. Do we understand this? I certainly don’t. I just read a book by a Christian astro-physicist about different dimensions that have been proven scientifically and how God can operate in so many more dimensions than our 4. Although I can’t explain most of the details in the book, I certainly have a better understanding that God is far and above anything we could imagine. William R. Newell in his commentary says that The Father and the Son are both Deity and are equal but the Son willingly does the will of the Father and the Father willingly exalts the Son. Ephesians 1:10b states that in the fulfillment of time, all things in heaven and on earth will be brought together under one Head, even Christ.
- Oh, and by the way, we are fellow-heirs with Christ…remember Galatians 4:7? We are no longer a bond-servant but a son and if a son, then an heir through God.
- He made the universe–Colossians 1:16 says “For by Him (Jesus) all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him”. Jesus is the Person of God that created everything–the universe, stars, earth and all that is on it and in it…you get the idea.
- He is the radiance of God’s glory. John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God.” Colossians 2:9 states, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” It’s impossible to separate Christ’s glory from God’s glory. Radiance of God’s glory brings to mind the Shekinah glory, which was God’s glory as He dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the temple. Jesus radiated God’s glory because He was God and He came to earth.
- He is the exact representation of His being –Literally, this verse says that Jesus Christ is “the exact representation of the very substance of God” Jesus was the only One who could say in truth that , “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)
- He sustains all things by His powerful Word Colossians 1:17 “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” This just doesn’t mean He threw everything together and walked away. It means that even this very second, Jesus is holding things together. Jesus is holding YOU together. Yeah, He is. Comforted? I am…. Psalms 119:90-91 says “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; You established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve You.”
- He provided purification for sins–notice that it says “sins”, not the generic “sin”. That means your sins and my sins and everyone sins. Specific sins. All our specific sins. We learned in Galatians that God’s grace is sufficient and God’s grace is the crucifixion. Jesus died for our sins. We accept that by faith. We are cleansed. Just that should have us on our faces before the Lord, thanking Him for what He did. How can we think of disobeying Him when He has taken our sins away–oh yeah, we’ve got our human nature to contend with.
- He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven–the word “Majesty” is used in Scripture only of the majesty, the greatness of God. There is no other greatness. There are 3 other times in Hebrews that the author talks about Jesus sitting down on the right hand of God. We’ll study those verses in later weeks. But the reason the author spoke of sitting down on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven is confusing. One commentary said that Jesus humbled Himself for us and became a man and was obedient, even unto death on the cross. He died, rose from the dead and as 100% God and now 100% man, He was seated at the right hand of the Majesty. It had nothing to do with His being God, it had to do with His becoming man.
- He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs–Here’s the first instance of the use of the word “superior” or “better”. This is confusing. How could Jesus become “better”. He was always God, always was perfect. The author of Hebrews is not implying that Jesus was less, then became better. Again, for a short time, Jesus, the Son of God, humbled Himself and became a man. For a little while He was lower than the angels, but not for long–just long enough to redeem us and then He returned to the rightful place as God, the Son, in heaven.
Still confused? Yeah, me too. Remember, we aren’t here to lose ourselves in theological discussions. We could, but we just don’t have time. And is that really why we study the Word of God? I want to understand more of God so that I can worship Him better and obey Him better. William Newell speaks of the time in England, during the reign of King Edward VII, when he had his first visit to London. It was about the time when “favored persons” were being “received” by the king. He noticed the conduct of those Americans who were preparing to be “received at court,” …their un-tiring daily study of the proper attire, address, and every detail they thought would be important. His heart sank at the contrasting heed-less-ness of these same people towards their God, and towards the Son in Whom He has now “spoken”. Are we worshiping God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Are we daily studying what we are to do to obey Him–proper attire, every detail, etc.?
And remember….If we ever have a question……the answer must be Jesus.
Return to Study Guide for Hebrews – by Debbie Parnakian