Hebrews 1

"God has spoken!" This is the great message of Hebrews. "God has spoken" —so take heed how you respond to His Word. After all, the way we respond to the Word of God is the way we respond to the Son of God, for He is the Living Word. In this first chapter we see Christ's superiority over the prophets and the angels.

I. Christ Is Better Than the Prophets (1:1-3)

A. In His Person.

Christ is the Son of God; the prophets were merely men who were called to be servants. Christ made the worlds (or "framed the ages"), and it is He who upholds the worlds. His Word has power. He spoke the worlds into being, and now His Word controls and sustains our world. Christ is also the Heir of all things. "All things were made by Him and for Him" (Col. 1:16). He is God's sacrifice for the sins of the world. He "purged our sins" by His death on the cross. Now He is seated in glory, as God's King-Priest. His work on earth is completed; He has sat down.

B. In His message.

God's revelations in old times were given "in many portions and in many ways." No prophet received the complete revelation. God spoke through visions, dreams, symbols, and events, as well as through human lips. These revelations pointed to Christ, and He is the final revelation from God. Christ is God's "last Word" to the world. All of OT revelation led up to Christ, God's final and full revelation. Anyone today who boasts of having a "new revelation from God" is deceived. God is not giving revelations today; He is illuminating His once-for-all revelation in Christ.

II. Christ Is Better Than the Angels (1:4-14)

Angels played a vital role in the Jewish religion. The Law was given through the ministry of angels, according to Gal. 3:19, Acts 7:53, and Deut. 33:2 (saints means "holy ones, angels"). If the Jews paid attention to the Law, given through angels, then they ought to give greater heed to the message given by Christ, who is greater than the angels. The author cites seven OT quotations to show Christ's superiority to the angels.

A. Verses 4-5 quote Ps. 2:7 and 2 Sam. 7:14.

As the Heir of all things, Christ has a greater inheritance and thus a greater name. In Ps. 2:7, God the Father calls Christ "My Son," a title He would not give to angels. (In the OT, the angels collectively are termed "sons of God," but this title is not bestowed on them individually.) Psalm 2:7 refers to Christ's resurrection, not His birth at Bethlehem (see Acts 13:33). Christ was "begotten" from the virgin tomb when He was raised from the dead. Colossians 1:18 calls Him "the firstborn from the dead." The second quotation refers to Solomon; read all of 2 Sam. 7 carefully, for the "house" of David comes up again in Hebrews. David wanted to build a house for God, but God decreed that Solomon would do the work. God promised David that He would be a Father to Solomon; and Heb. 1:5 applies this promise to Christ, who is "greater than Solomon" (Matt. 12:42).

B. Verse 6 quotes Ps. 97:7 (or perhaps Deut. 32:43 in the Greek version, called the Septuagint).

This quotation refers to the return of Christ to the earth ("And again, when He brings ..."). Just as the angels worshiped Him at His first coming (Luke 2:8-14), they will worship Him when He returns to reign. Christ is greater than the angels.

C. Verse 7 quotes Ps. 104:4.

The angels are spirits, created by God to be servants. The next quotation shows that Christ is not a servant but a Sovereign.

D. Verses 8-9 quote Ps. 45:6-7.

Psalm 45 is a marriage psalm, picturing Christ and Israel. God clearly states that Christ has a throne, and the Father calls the Son "God." Those who deny the deity of Christ twist these verses to try to prove their point. One version even says, "Thy throne is God. . . ." No, these verses boldly announce the deity of Christ; He is God.

E. Verses 10-12 quote Ps. 102:25-27.

Here, again, Jesus is called "Lord." He is from the beginning the Creator of the universe. Like a worn-out garment, creation will decay and fall to pieces, but Christ will never change. He is "the same, yesterday, today, and forever." Angels are created beings; Christ is the eternal Son.

F. Verse 13 quotes Ps. 110:1.

This is the key psalm in Hebrews, for Ps. 110:4 declares the priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchizedek. Christ is now seated at God's right hand, a Priest-King. Peter quotes this same passage in Acts 2:34. Christ's enemies have not yet bowed before Him, but they will one of these days.

Verse 14 summarizes the place of the angels: they are ministering spirits, not enthroned sons; and their work is to minister to us who are heirs with Christ in His wonderful salvation.

As you review these quotations, you can see the majesty and glory of the Son of God. As v. 4 states, Christ has a more excellent name than the angels because through His suffering and death He acquired a greater inheritance. In His character, work, and ministry Christ stands supreme. Though His glorious kingdom is not seen on earth today, He has still been enthroned as King and will return one day to establish righteousness on this earth.

Hebrews 2

This chapter continues the argument that Christ is superior to the angels. The writer interrupted the argument for an exhortation, the first of five in the book (see Hebrews outline).

I. An Exhortation (2:1-4)

Since the Word spoken by angels was steadfast, then certainly the Word spoken by God's Son would also be steadfast! If in the OT days God dealt with those who disobeyed His Word, then surely He would deal with those who ignored or rejected His Word as given by His Son in the last days!

The danger here is one of drifting through neglect: "lest at any time we should drift from them" is the best translation of v. 1. Note that v. 3 does not say, "How shall sinners escape if they reject" but "How shall we [believers] escape if we neglect. . . ." Spiritual deterioration begins when Christians start to neglect this great salvation. From the admonitions in 10:19-25, it seems that these Jews were guilty of neglecting prayer and united fellowship with God's people. Note 1 Tim. 4:14.

The word disobedience literally means "unwillingness to hear." Saints who will not hear and heed the Word of God are disobedient and will not escape the chastening hand of God. After all, God confirmed His Word through "signs, miracles, and powers" (v. 4, and see Acts 2:22 and 43); this Word is not to be treated lightly! In fact, the word neglect is translated "made light of" in Matt. 22:5.

II. An Explanation (2:5-18)

The writer's argument in chapter 1 that Jesus is better than the angels has raised a new question: "How could Jesus be better when He had a human body? Are not the angels better than He because they had no human bodies to limit them?" This question is answered with an explanation of why Jesus took upon Himself a body of flesh.

A. To be the Last Adam (vv. 5-13).

Nowhere in the Bible does God promise the angels that they will rule in the world to come. God gave Adam the rule over all the earth (Gen. 1:26-31). The writer quotes Ps. 8:4-6 in which God's blessing is repeated from Genesis. God made man a little lower than the angels or, literally, "for a little while lower than God." The suggestion seems to be that Adam and Eve were in a period of probation. They were not created to remain less than God, and had they refused to sin, they would have ultimately shared God's glory in a wonderful way. Satan knew that they would be lower than God only "for a little while," so he hurried and promised them glory ahead of time. Sin came into the human race and robbed Adam of his earthly dominion. He ceased being a king and became a slave. That is why v. 8 says, "But now, we see not yet all things put under him [man]."

What do we see? "We see Jesus!" He is the Last Adam who, by His death and resurrection, undid all the ruin Adam caused when he disobeyed God. For a little while, Christ was lower than the angels, even to the depths of Calvary (Phil. 2:1-12). Christ had to have a body of flesh in order to die for the sins of the world. Men crowned Him with thorns on earth, but now He has been crowned with glory and honor; see 2 Peter 1:17. There is now a new family in the world: Christ is bringing many sons to glory. Adam, through his sin, plunged his descendants into sin and death; Christ now changes Adam's children into the children of God. He is the "Pioneer" (captain) of our salvation, the one who blazes the trail that we might follow. We are His brethren, for we are all of one family, having become partakers of His divine nature and set apart unto God through His death (10:10). Verse 22 of Psalm 22, that Calvary Psalm, is quoted here, speaking of Christ's resurrection. Isaiah 8:17-18 is also quoted.

Isaiah's two sons were signs to the nation: Shear-jashub (Isa. 7:3) means "a remnant shall return"; and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isa. 8:1) means "haste-spoil-hurry-prey." In other words, in the Prophet Isaiah's day there was a faithful remnant that was saved when the nation was judged. These people were "Isaiah's children," so to speak. Likewise, Christ has a family of believers, a remnant among the Jews and Gentiles; they too will be delivered from the wrath to come.

B. To defeat the devil (vv. 14-16).

Death and the fear of death were the consequences of Adam's sin (Gen. 2:17; 3:10). The fear of death has been Satan's strongest weapon. Satan does not have "the power of death" absolutely, since, as we see in Job's case, Satan could do nothing without God's permission (Job 1-2). The word for power in v. 14 means "might" rather than "authority." Satan has might over sinners and darkness (Luke 22:53), but Christ has delivered saints from the power of darkness (Col. 1:12-13). Satan seized this "might of death" to get control over God's creatures; but by His death on the cross, Christ "made inoperative" (destroyed) this power and thus delivered those who were in bondage because of the fear of death. Christ had to have a human body in order to die and thus defeat Satan. See also 1 John 3:8. In v. 16 the writer makes it clear that Christ did not take on Himself the nature of angels, but rather the seed of Abraham. In other words, Christ did not become an angel; He became a man, a Jew. He did not die for angels; He died for humans. Fallen angels can never be saved, but fallen men and women can be saved!

C. To become a sympathetic priest (vv. 17-18).

This is the third reason Christ took on Himself a human body. God knew that His children would need a sympathetic priest to help them in their weaknesses. He permitted His Son to suffer; and through this suffering, He equipped Him for His priestly ministry (v. 10). Christ's person needed no perfecting, since He is God; but as the God-Man, He endured suffering to prepare Himself to meet our needs. He was made flesh at Bethlehem (John 1:14); He was "made like unto His brethren" during His earthly life; and He was "made sin" at the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). Now He is a merciful and faithful High Priest; we can depend on Him! He is able to succor us when we come to Him for aid. The word succor means "to run when called for" and was used of physicians. Christ runs to our aid when we call Him!

This section completes the argument for the superiority of Christ over the angels. The writer has shown that Christ is superior in His person and work and in the name the Father has given Him "above every name." The conclusion is clear: since Christ is superior, we must heed His Word and obey it. We must beware of drifting through neglect.

Hebrews 3

We move now into the third argument for the superiority of Christ: Christ is better than Moses. Of course, Moses was the great hero of the Jewish nation, and for Paul to prove Christ's superiority over Moses was tantamount to proving the superiority of the Christian faith over Judaism. How could these people go back to Judaism when what Christ offered was so much greater than what Moses could offer?

I. Christ Is Greater in His Office (3:1-2)

Moses was primarily a prophet (Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:22), although he did exercise the functions of a priest (Ps. 99:6), and even a king (Deut. 33:4-7). However, Moses was called of God, while Christ was sent by God. Christ is the "Apostle" or "The Sent One" (see John 3:17; 5:36-38; 6:57; 17:3, 8, 21, 23, 25). Christ is also the High Priest, an office that Moses never occupied. Furthermore, Christ's ministry has to do with the "heavenly calling" and not only the earthly calling of Israel. Moses ministered to an earthly people whose calling and promises were primarily earthly; Christ is the Apostle and High Priest of a heavenly people who are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. We might also add that Moses was a prophet of law, while Christ is the Apostle of grace (John 1:17). Moses sinned, while Christ lived a sinless life. No wonder we are told in v. 1 to "consider" or "observe attentively" Jesus Christ!

II. Christ Is Greater in His Ministry (3:3-6)

God states that Moses was faithful (Num. 12:7) as was Christ (3:2), but their ministries part at this point. Moses was a servant; Christ is the Son. Moses served in the house, while Christ is Lord over the house. "The house" means, of course, the household of God, not the temple or the tabernacle. Moses was a servant in Israel, God's OT household; Christ is a Son over God's household, which, today, is the church (Heb. 3:6 and 10:21; also 1 Peter 2:5; 4:17; Eph. 2:19). For an example of the word "house" meaning "people" see 2 Sam. 7:11, where God promised to "build David a house," that is, establish his family and his throne forever.

While Israel was God's earthly household and the church His heavenly household, we need to keep in mind that God's household is always marked by faith. People in OT times were saved by faith just as people are today. It is this continuity of faith that tied together the people of God under both covenants. This is why Gal. 3:7 calls true believers "children of Abraham," for he is the "father of the believing."

Two other matters remain in this contrast between Moses and Christ:

A. Moses was a servant while Christ is the Son.

This statement suggests that the OT ministry was one of bondage and servitude, while Christ's ministry under the New Covenant is one of liberty and joy. The OT Law is termed "a yoke of bondage" (Gal. 2:4; 5:1, and see Acts 15:10). The blessed privileges of sonship that we enjoy in God's household of faith were unknown under the Old Covenant.

B. Moses ministered using symbols, while Christ is the fulfillment of these things.

See 3:5 —"those things which were to be spoken after. ..." In Christ we have the true light shining; in Moses, we are in the shadows. For his readers to go back to Judaism meant to exchange fulfillment for types and shadows!

III. Christ Is Greater in the Rest He Gives (3:7-19)

The word "rest" is used twelve times in chapter 4 but not always with the same meaning. We will study this word in detail in the next chapter, but we must introduce the basic ideas at this point.

The writer uses the nation of Israel as an illustration of spiritual truth (see also 1 Cor. 10:1-13). The Jews were in bondage in Egypt, just as sinners are in bondage in the world. God redeemed Israel by the blood of the lamb, just as He redeems us through the blood of Christ. God promised the Jews a land of blessing, and He has promised to His own a life of blessing, a spiritual inheritance in Christ. But this blessing could come only to those who separated themselves from the world and followed God by faith. So, God took Israel through the Red Sea (separation from Egypt, the world) and led them to the border of Canaan. Deuteronomy 1:2 informs us that this was an eleven-day journey. But at this point, Israel rebelled in unbelief and refused to believe God (Num. 14). Because of this, God judged the entire congregation, excepting Joshua and Caleb, who trusted God and opposed the vote of the people. The Jews had to wander in the wilderness for forty years, a year for each day the spies were in the land. The nation did not enter into the promised rest (Deut. 12:9; see Josh. 1:13-15).

It is here that the writer warns his readers. They had been redeemed by the blood of Christ and set free from the world. Now, like Israel, they had been tempted to go back. To do so meant not entering into the life of fullness and blessing that God had promised them. There are, in chapters 3 and 4, three different rests, all of which are related in God's plan: (1) the rest of salvation (4:3, 10); (2) the rest of victory in the midst of trials, symbolized by the Promised Land of Canaan (4:11); (3) the future eternal rest, the heavenly rest (4:9). We will study these distinctions in detail in the next chapter. The exhortation here is for the people of God to trust Him in spite of difficulties, as did Joshua and Caleb, and move into the promised rest. Please keep in mind that Canaan is not a picture of heaven; it is a symbol of the life of blessing and battles, progress and victory, that we have in Christ as we yield to Him and trust Him. It is that present rest that we have even in the midst of trials and testings. This rest neither Moses nor Joshua could give.

The writer quotes Ps. 95 and reminds the readers of Israel's hardness of heart. You will want to read Ex. 17 as well to see how Israel provoked and tested God when the going got tough. Believers do this today when trials and testings come! And here we have the basic theme of Hebrews: Let us go on to maturity, overcoming the enemy and claiming our inheritance in Christ. Let us cross Jordan (die to the old life, Rom. 6) and claim the present inheritance God has planned for us (Eph. 2:10).

Can this warning in v. 12 apply to believers? Certainly! Unbelief is a besetting sin among Christians, and this unbelief comes from an evil heart that neglects the Word. It is one thing to trust God for salvation, and quite another to surrender our wills and lives to Him for daily guidance and service. Many Christians are still "wandering in the wilderness" of defeat and unbelief; they have been delivered from Egypt, but they have never crossed into Canaan to claim their inheritance in Christ. The Jews were bought by the blood and covered by the cloud, yet most of them died in the wilderness! Is this a matter of "losing salvation"? Of course not! It is a matter of losing one's life of victory and blessing through lack of trust in God. And what causes this evil heart of unbelief? (1) Not hearing God's voice, vv. 7 and 15; and (2) allowing ourselves to be deceived by sin, v. 13.

How important it is to hear the Word of God! If we fail here, we then start to drift from the Word (2:1-4) and then doubt the Word (3:18-19). We refuse the exhortations of those who want to help us (3:13) and go on in stubborn disobedience until we become dull toward the Word (5:11-6:20).

Sin in the life of the believer is deceptive. It begins small, but gradually grows larger. Doubting God in one point can lead to an evil heart of unbelief. Those who press on and hold fast their confidence prove that they are truly saved (3:6, 14) and by doing so avoid God's chastening —and possibly (as with Israel) judgment in this life. Unbelief is a serious thing!

Hebrews 4

This chapter continues the theme of rest that was begun in 3:11. The word "rest" is used in five different senses in this section: (1) God's Sabbath rest of Gen. 2:2 and Heb. 4:4, 10; (2) Canaan, the rest for Israel after wandering for forty years (3:11, etc.); (3) the believer's present salvation rest in Christ (4:3, 10); (4) the overcomer's present rest of victory (4:11); and (5) the future eternal rest in heaven (4:9). God's Sabbath rest is a type of our present rest of salvation, following the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is also a picture of the "eternal Sabbath" of glory. Israel's Canaan rest is similar to the life of victory and blessing we gain as we walk by faith and claim our inheritance in Christ. There are in this chapter four exhortations relating to the life of rest.

I. Let Us Therefore Fear (4:1-8)

God promised rest to the people of Israel, but they failed to enter that rest because of disobedience stemming from unbelief. God has promised a rest for His own today—peace in the midst of trial, victory in spite of seeming impossible problems. This "life of rest" in our spiritual Canaan is called "going on unto perfection (maturity)" in 6:1; "the full assurance of hope" in 6:11; "inheriting the promises" in 6:12. Keep in mind that the readers of Hebrews were going through a time of testing (10:32-39; 12:3-14; 13:13) and were tempted, like Israel of old, to "go back" into the old life. God had promised them a rest of victory, yet they were in danger of falling short of it. God had given them the Word, but they would not "mix it with faith" (4:2) and apply it to their own lives. Again, see the importance of the Word of God in the life of the believer.

The writer's argument runs like this: God has promised a rest to His people (v. 1), but Israel failed to enter that rest (4:6). His promise still stands, because Joshua (v. 8) did not give them this spiritual rest, even though he did lead them into national rest (see Josh. 23:1). Otherwise, David would never have spoken about this rest centuries later in Ps. 95. Conclusion: "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God" (v. 9, NKJV). He relates this rest to God's Sabbath rest (vv. 4, 10); that is, it is a rest of satisfaction, not a rest after exhaustion. God was not tired after creating the worlds; the "rest" of Gen. 2:2 speaks of completion and satisfaction. It is a "Sabbath of the soul." This is the "rest of faith" that Jesus promises in Matt. 11:28-30. The "rest" of Matt. 11:28 is salvation, and it is a gift that we receive by faith. The rest of 11:30 is what we find day by day as we take His yoke and surrender. "Let us therefore fear" (v. 1) is God's warning, for many of His children have failed to enter into this life of rest and victory.

II. Let Us Therefore Labor (4:9-12)

"Labor" here means "give diligence" —let us give diligence to enter into this rest. To "give diligence" is just the opposite of "drifting" (2:1-3). Nobody ever matured in the Christian life by being careless or lazy. Read carefully 2 Peter 1:4-12 and 3:11-18, where Peter three times exhorts believers to be diligent. If we are not diligent, we will repeat the failure of Israel and fail to enter the promised rest and inheritance. (Note, again, that this is not salvation, but victory in the Christian life.)

What is the secret of entering into this rest? The Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 is the answer to every spiritual condition; if we allow the Word to judge us and expose our hearts, then we will not fail to inherit the blessing. Israel rebelled at the Word and would not "hear His voice" (Ps. 95); therefore, they wandered in defeat for forty years. God's Word is a sword (see Rev. 1:16; 2:12-16; 19:13; Eph. 6:17). It pierces the heart (see Acts 5:33 and 7:54, where Israel again refused to yield to the Word). Too many believers fail to hear and heed God's Word and thus rob themselves of blessing. It takes diligence to mature spiritually, and so a believer needs to apply God's Word faithfully.

III. Let Us Hold Fast Our Profession (4:14)

Verse 14 does not say, "Let us hold fast our salvation." The word "profession" here is really "confession —to say the same thing" (3:1; 10:23; 11:13). "Confession" has to do with the believer's testimony of his faith in Christ and his faithfulness to live for Christ and gain the promised blessing. Read 10:34-35. The Jews who wandered in the wilderness had lost their confession even though they were still under the cloud and redeemed from Egypt. What a poor testimony they were of the power of God! God brought them out, but they would not trust Him to bring them in! Their unbelief had robbed them of God's blessing.

This explains why these Jewish readers are reminded of the great "giants of faith" named in chapter 11. All of these people faced difficulties and trials, yet they overcame and maintained a good confession. Hebrews 11:13 states that all of these people "confessed" (same word as 4:14) that they were "strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Before he was taken to heaven, Enoch had a good testimony (11:5). At the end of the chapter, the writer sums it all up by saying, "And these all, having obtained a good report [witness]" (11:39). Where there is faith, there is a good testimony (11:2); where there is unbelief, there is no testimony.

Where does faith come from? "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17, NKJV). Israel in the OT would not hear the Word, and therefore these people had no faith. "Today, when you hear His voice ..." is the warning repeated in 3:7, 15, and 4:7. Christians who hear and heed the Word of God will maintain good confessions and will not lose their testimony before the world.

IV. Let Us Come to the Throne of Grace (4:15-16)

These verses offer proof that the believer cannot lose his salvation. We have a High Priest who knows our temptations and weaknesses, who endured testings that we must endure. When times of testing come, we need but turn to the throne of grace for the help Christ alone can give. The writer will elaborate on this theme in the later chapters, but he puts this exhortation here lest his readers become discouraged and say, "It is impossible for us to go on! We simply do not have what it takes!" Of course we don't! No believer has strength enough to cross Jordan and conquer the enemy! But we have a great High Priest who has mercy and "grace to help in the nick of time!" (That is the literal meaning of v. 16.)

Why does the writer refer to a "throne" at this point? The reference is to Ex. 25:17-22, the golden mercy seat. The ark of the covenant was a wooden chest covered with gold. On top of the ark, Moses put a golden "mercy seat" with a cherub at each end. This mercy seat was God's throne, where He sat in glory and ruled the nation of Israel. But the OT mercy seat was not a throne of grace, since the nation was under a yoke of legal bondage. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Christ is our Mercy Seat ("propitiation" in 1 John 2:2). When we come to Him, we come to a throne of grace, not a throne of judgment; and He meets us, talks to us, and strengthens us.

Read this chapter again, and you will see that it is not warning us against losing our salvation. Rather, it is encouraging us to live in the Word and in prayer, and to let Christ take us into our spiritual Canaan where we will find rest and blessing. Spiritual progress is the result of spiritual discipline.

Hebrews 5

In the first two chapters, the writer has shown that Christ is greater than the prophets and the angels; in chapters 3-4, he has shown that Christ is even greater than Moses. Now he points to Aaron, Israel's first high priest, and proves that Christ is a greater priest than Aaron. If his readers were to abandon Christ for Judaism, they would be exchanging a great High Priest for a lesser high priest. The writer shows that Christ is superior to Aaron in at least three ways.

I. Christ Has a Greater Ordination (5:1, 4-6)

Aaron was taken from among men and elevated to the position of high priest. He passed this honor along to his eldest son, and thus the line continued. Aaron belonged to the tribe of Levi; this tribe was set aside to be the priestly tribe for the nation of Israel.

But Christ's ordination was greater. For one thing, He is not merely man; He is God in the flesh, the Son of God and the Son of Man. He did not selfishly take this honor of the priesthood for Himself. The sons of Korah tried to do this (Num. 16) and died for their sin. No, God Himself ordained His Son. Here the writer quotes from Ps. 110:4, in which the Father ordains the Son into the eternal priestly ministry. He ties this verse to the quotation from Ps. 2:7 in v. 5 because the priestly ministry of Christ is related to His resurrection, and it is the resurrection of Christ that is involved in Ps. 2:7 (Acts 13:33).

The priesthood of Melchizedek is the main theme of Hebrews 7-10, so we need not enter into the details now. You will want to read Gen. 14:17-20 for the background. The whole argument of Heb. 7-10 is that Christ is a greater high priest because His priesthood is of a greater order—it belongs to Melchizedek, not Aaron. The name "Melchizedek" means "king of righteousness"; he was also priest of Salem, which means "peace." Aaron was never a priest-king; but Jesus is both Priest and King. He is a Priest seated on a throne! And His ministry is of peace, the "rest" that was discussed in chapters 3-4.

Christ came from Judah, the kingly tribe, and not from Levi, the priestly tribe. Melchizedek suddenly appears in Gen. 14 and then drops out of the story; there is no listing of his beginning or ending. Thus, he is compared to Christ's eternal Sonship, for He too is "without beginning and ending." Aaron died and had to be replaced; Christ will never die —His priesthood is forever. Aaron was priest over an earthly household, while Christ is Priest over a heavenly people.

II. Christ Has a Greater Sympathy (5:2-3, 7-8)

Not only must the high priest be chosen of God; he must also be sympathetic with the people and be able to help them. Of course, Aaron himself was a mere man and would know personally the weaknesses of his people. In fact, he had to offer sacrifices for himself and his family.

But Christ is better able to enter into the needs and problems of God's people. In vv. 7-8 we are told of the "training" Christ received as He endured suffering while here on earth. Keep in mind that, as God, Christ needed nothing; but as the Man who would one day become High Priest, it was necessary for Him to experience trials and suffering, a theme discussed in 2:10-11. The Jews might look down upon Christ and question His deity because of the suffering He endured. These sufferings, however, are the very mark of His deity. God was preparing His Son to be the sympathetic High Priest of His people. Verse 7 refers to His prayers in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46). Note that Christ did not pray to be saved "from death" but "out of death." He did not pray for the Father to rescue Him from the cross, but to raise Him from the tomb. And this prayer was answered. Certainly Christ was willing and ready to face the cross and to drink of the cup God had poured for Him (John 12:23-34).

Someone may ask, "But can the Son of God really know our trials better than another man would, such as Aaron?" Yes! To begin with, Christ was perfect and experienced each trial totally. He was tested to the full, tasting every temptation men and Satan had to offer. This means that He went beyond anything any mortal man could endure, since most of us give in before a test really gets difficult. A bridge that has endured fifty tons of weight has experienced more testing than one that has felt but two tons.

III. Christ Offered a Greater Sacrifice (5:3, 9-14)

Aaron's main ministry was to offer sacrifices for the nation, especially on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). The priests and Levites would minister to the people during the year, but everyone looked to the high priest on the Day of Atonement, for he alone could enter into the holiest with the blood. First of all, though, he had to offer sacrifices for himself.

Not so with Jesus Christ! Being the sinless Lamb of God, He needed no sacrifices for sin. And the sacrifice He did offer for the people was not that of an animal, but Himself. Moreover, He did not have to repeat this sacrifice; He needed to offer Himself but once, and the matter was settled. How much greater He is than Aaron and his successors! Christ is the "Author of eternal salvation" (v. 9); Aaron could never do this. The blood of bulls and goats only covered sins; Christ's blood took away sin once and for all.

The writer now wanted to enter into a deeper study of the heavenly priesthood of Christ, but he found himself in difficulty. The problem was not that he was a dull preacher or writer, but that he had dull hearers. He wanted to go from milk (the basic things of the Christian life, listed in 6:1-2) to meat (the heavenly priesthood of Christ); but he could not do it unless his readers woke up and grew up. How many Christians there are who live on milk —they recognize the ABCs of the Gospel and Christ's mission on earth — but gain no nourishment from the meat, those things that Christ is now doing in heaven. They know Christ as Savior, but they do not understand what He can do for them as High Priest.

These people had been saved long enough for them to be teaching others, yet they had lapsed into a spiritual "second childhood." Somebody had to teach them again the things they had forgotten. They were "inexperienced" in the Word ("unskillful" in v. 13). We see again the vital role of the Word of God! Our relationship to the Word of God determines our spiritual maturity. These people had drifted from the Word (2:1-3), doubted the Word (chaps. 3-4), and became dull toward the Word. They had not mixed the Word with faith (4:2) and practiced it in their daily lives (5:14). They had not "exercised their spiritual faculties" (5:14) and therefore were growing dull and ineffective in their spiritual lives. Instead of going forward (6:1), they were going backward.

Growing in grace depends on growing in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). The more we know about ourselves and Christ, the better we are able to move forward spiritually. Where are you in your spiritual growth? Are you a babe, still living on milk, wandering in the wilderness of unbelief? Or are you maturing, feeding on the meat of the Word and making it a habit to practice the Word of God?

—Wiersbe Expository Outlines