Meditations in Hebrews 13: 73. The Doctrinal Launch Pads (2)
Heb 13:22 Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.
Platforms of belief: We have started to recap this book looking at what we have called the launch pads or platforms of belief from which the many exhortations in this book come from. In two studies we recapped those exhortations. However the thinking behind them, we said, is equally important and so that is what we are now considering. In the previous chapter we only managed to recap chapters 1 to 4.
Overview: To catch what happens in the next four chapters, a quick overview might help, because whereas we have seen chapters 1 & 2 and then 3 & 4 go together, we are about to embark on a lengthy section (which is interrupted by a pastoral concern in chapters 5 & 6) which goes on for four chapters:
- Chapter 5 mentions a priest, Melchizedek, but the mention of him makes the writer despair that his readers will understand because there is so much immaturity in the church and so chapter 5 digresses onto this concern.
- This continues into chapter 6 and it is only at the end of chapter 6 that Melchizedek is mentioned again.
- The fully theology of him is only opened up in chapter 7.
- The practical outcomes of this are then seen in the beginning of chapter 8 which will lead into a bombshell of theological change
So, let’s now work our way through this overview of chapters 5 to 8 inclusive.
The Priestly Jesus & Pastoral Concerns: Chapter 5 presents Jesus as our eternal high priest, the Son appointed to be high priest after the order of Melchizedek – having no beginning or ending as we see later – but he digresses from this concept (5:11-14), almost despairing, in his concern for them, over the poor level of teaching that the Christians at that time appeared to have taken in. This flowed over into Chapter 6 with a call to leave elementary teaching and grow up (6:1-3).
But then comes a severe teaching (warning) that there cannot be a second repentance (6:4-8), although he is sure that won’t apply to them (6:9) but that is immediately followed by “show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (6:11,12) The implication is that the exhortations flow out of the danger of apostasy that prevents a second repentance. Perhaps to balance this out, this in turn leads into considerations of God’s promises first to Abram and then about Melchizedek that tells us that we, “may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (6:18,19)
Melchizedek, a picture of Jesus: When we enter Chapter 7 we find an exposition focused on Melchizedek, a priest of God of which his beginning and end is unknown. By receiving a tithe from Abraham essentially meant that the subsequent Hebrew family, including the Levites (and thus the Levitical priesthood) were subject to him and this his priesthood was superior to the Levitical priesthood. Thus Jesus brings a superior priesthood in the likeness of Melchizedek (7:1-17). His superiority rests, first on the fact of his indestructible life (7:16), but also on the fact that God made an oath, a promise that this is what Jesus would do (7:18-22) and then on the nature of what he has done, offering himself (7:23-28)
Chapter 8 explanation: So what was the point of all that about Melchizedek? (8:1) It is that WE have a high priest, one who stands between us and God who is utterly different from the priesthood that still existed then and had existed since Moses. That priesthood relied on gifts and a place in which to offer them (the Tabernacle and then the Temple) but Jesus (implied in these verses) was different having offered his own body and had now entered the true ‘Temple of God’ – heaven! (8:1-5)
Recap chapters 5 to 8: Now what is coming is so enormous that we need to take more space on it and will continue this in the next study. So let’s remind ourselves what has been in these chapters 5 through to 8:
- Christ did not simply choose to be a high priest, God appointed him after the order of Melchizedek by a promise (5:1-10)
- (ASIDE) However this is difficult to explain to an immature church (5:11-14)
- So let’s leave elementary teaching (6:1-3)
- A problem (lurking in the background that needs to be addressed) is that (implied) if you do drift away fully you cannot be brought back because of all that means and you can’t have a second repentance after apostasy (6:4-8)
- But surely this isn’t you so be diligent & imitate those pressing on (6:9-12)
- Now picking up on that promise (of 5:5,6), God’s promise to Jesus, as His promise to Abraham, is a sure guarantee, so Jesus IS a Melchizedek-type priest (6:13-20)
- Melchizedek is clearly a picture of Jesus and the Levitical priest is inferior to and subject to Melchizedek’s priesthood and so to Jesus, so Jesus is superior to and over the old Levitical priesthood – and the Law (7:1-17)
- The fact that God promised this by an oath guarantees this (7:18-28)
- The point of all this (implied) is that Jesus is superior to the old priesthood having offered himself once and for all, and is now residing in heaven (8:1-6)
The world-shattering change follows but we’ll consider that again in the next study.