I. Holding Fast and Praying Boldly (Ch. 4:14-16)
A. "Preacher" returns to 'parabola of salvation'. Has discussed this twice previously for different reasons.
1. Ch. 1:1-4 - purpose was to give congregants confidence that God was in-charge despite the appearance of chaos going on all around them.
2. Ch. 2:5-18 - purpose was to give congregants hope. Jesus is able to help those who are being tested because he has 'been there, done that'.
3. This third time his goal is to encourage his congregants to engage in bold, even audacious prayer (4:16 - "approach the throne of grace with boldness").
B. Confident Prayer
1. Not a matter of technique
2. Built upon how we perceive our relationship with God
3. "...bold prayer is an expression of theological trust; the practice of prayer rests on what we believe about God and God's relationship to us." (Long p. 64)
4. Must approach God in prayer with awe. Humans (because of our sinful nature) are unworthy to approach God. It is only because of Jesus' sacrifice that we are able to do so. Jesus is our "great high priest" who opens up the way to God.
II. Jesus and the Job Description of High Priest (Ch. 5:1-10)
A. Three Provisions for Job of High Priest - "Preacher" shows how Jesus is superior in all 3 areas.
1. The Function of the High Priest
2. The Person of the High Priest
3. The Appointment of the High Priest
B. The Function of the High Priest
1. Function as mediator between God and man.
2. Function as messenger of salvation.
3. Jesus greater than human, levitical priests in two ways
a. Not just mediator (presenting peoples sacrifices) for salvation, he offered himself as the source of salvation
b. Old human priests had to keep going back to alter...new sins required new sacrifices to be made. In contrast the salvation provided by Jesus' high priesthood is eternal.
C. The Person of the High Priest
1. In addition to liturgical duties also serves as pastor
2. "Preacher" shows Jesus is superior as pastor. "Jesus, like the old priests, was fully human, but unlike them his humanity did not erode into despair, loss of faith, and sin." Thus, Jesus knows the pain of being human and "is compassionate toward those who have lost sight of the truth that they are God's very own children." (Long p. 68)
D. The Appointment of the High Priest
1. High Priests do not 'volunteer' for the postion. Rather, are called by God.
2. Likewise, Jesus was called by God to not only be our High Priest but also to be his Son.
3. Jesus appointment as High Priest was not for a lifetime, but forever.
III. The Preacher as Crafty Teacher (Ch. 5:11 - Ch. 6:12)
A. Too Dull to Get It (5:11-14)
1. Tells them they are like babes, too immature to understand deeper christological lessons
2. Doesn't really mean it, just trying to motivate them to rise to the challenge.
B. No Turning Back (6:1-8)
1. To advance one must move beyond basic teachings about Christ
a. Need for Repentance and Faith
b. Meaning of Baptism
c. Laying on of Hands
d. Promise of the Resurrection
e. Final Judgement
2. Only Two Directions - Forward or Backward
a. Forward - maturing becoming deeper in faith
b. Backward - lazy. can easily succumb to temptation and be pulled away from Christ's promise.
3. Then makes scary statement. Possible to lose salvation by backsliding.
a. Long suggests the "Preacher" is expressing a practical frustration in ministry (people who fall away are not likely to return) vs. an absolute claim that God's grace has limits.
C. Prize Students (6:9-12)
1. Whereas at the beginning of the section he was chastizing them for being immature and dull in their faith, now just a few verses later he is praising them for being prize students.
a. The "Preacher" wants to supply encouragment
b. Encourages them to be "imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (6:12)
2. Begs two questions
a. Who are they to imitate?
b. What are the promises?
3. Imitate Whom?
a. Abraham, or
b. Whole host of people who have been faithful to God's calling throughout history
c. Their own contemporaries who are leading a faithful life
d. Long thinks the "Preacher" means all of the above
4. What Promises?
a. Specific promises...a great and blessed nation, or land flowing with milk and honey, or
b. More general promise..."Follow the path of obedience and faith and I will bring you to a place of rest and joy."
IV. The Sure and Steady Promises of God (Ch. 6:13-20)
A. God Swears (6:13-18)
1. Passage based on old oral tradition of oath taking.
2. Ultimate guarranty one was telling the truth was to make an oath in Yahwey's name.
3. Hebrew law condoned this practice (Deut. 6:13)
4. God has promised and sworn an oath on his own name. Double guarranty.
B. Hope: The Anchor of the Soul (6:19-20)
1. Christian hope is anchored by God's promise and oath, the unshakeable reliability of God.
Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible – The Letter to the Hebrews. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002
Harrison, Everett F. Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2008
Long, Thomas G. Hebrews, Interpretation – A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997