By Dr. Lawrence Butler, the Bridge Church, Pembroke.
The lesson today is another examination of the Book of Hebrews. It is an attempt provide understanding of the purpose of the letter, and not an exposition of the material itself.
If the reader grasps the underlying foundation of purpose, the book becomes much clearer and easy to understand. This epistle is an invaluable teaching tool on the relation of the Old Testament Law to the role of Jesus Christ in the plan of salvation.
The first Christians at Jerusalem regarded themselves as still being a part of the religious heritage of Israel, probably more so than that of being Christians.
They saw Christianity as an extension of Judaism.
They were very slow to realize the true concept of Christ being the Savior of the world and not just the Messiah for Israel. Even when the early church was scattered abroad because of Jewish persecution, and the gospel was preached to the Samaritans (Acts 8), it was seen as something unexpected and unusual. When Peter spoke to Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, it was only after divine intervention and revelation, and that made the occurrence much more acceptable (Acts 10). Otherwise, Peter probably would not have gone. As time passed and such miraculous events brought new converts to Christ, Jews began to accept them, but the terms of admission were still unsettled. The most difficult division the early church had to find a way through was this particular issue.
What were the terms of admission to the church for Gentiles?
The Apostle Paul stood firm that the principle of Christianity did not rest upon the works of the Law, but rather on faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The way of salvation was independent of the Law, the temple, the sacrifices and the priesthood.
When the Epistle of Hebrews was written, the city of Jerusalem and the temple may have still been in existence, but were soon coming to an end. When the city was destroyed, along with the temple and priesthood method of worshipping, Christians must not lose faith. Israel must not fail to enter into the new “promised land” (the rest given by God, Hebrews 4:1-5), lest they suffer the same fate as their forefathers who failed to enter into Canaan.
The time had come for a complete and final severance from the old way of worshipping God.
It was now time to release the former way, which was only provisional, and to accept the glorious good news of the gospel which is not constrained by race, gender, ethnicity or border. The gospel is for whosoever will, Christ is our High Priest!