E.F. Hutton was one of the most respected financial firms in the United States during the latter part of the 20th century. It was known for being cutting edge and innovative including it’s iconic marketing campaigns. The slogan “when E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” became a cultural touchstone. It is even more important for believers that when God speaks, we listen!
The writer of Hebrews opens their letter with the clear declaration that although God spoke to man in the past through His prophets, He was changing His method of communications. God was doing a new thing. God would now speak through His Son, Jesus Christ.
This new way was the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Jesus offered a more excellent, effectual, and eternal way of providing salvation to mankind. In the progression of Hebrews, the writer proves that Jesus is superior to angels, a High Priest superior to Melchizedek, and the Mediator of a superior covenant (The New Covenant).
Warnings along the way
The warnings through Hebrews 10 attempted to address the spiritual erosion of the believers in receipt of this letter. Their behaviors constituted real dangers that could seriously damage their ability to serve and remain faithful to Christianity. They included negligence, unbelief, spiritual immaturity, and drawing back.
Their actions, once viewed as exemplary, were now approaching indifference. This resulted in several reminders to the readers concerning their ministry responsibilities in outreach (Heb. 13:1-2, 16), teaching (Heb. 5:11-13), and worship (Heb. 10:25).
Are we experiencing warnings along our Christian walk? Have we become lax in our commitment to our spiritual giftedness? Are we sloppy in our worship and praise? Are we negligent in our service to the Lord, regardless of how small or large it might be? Has our witness become “silent” for fear of rejection or reprisals? Are we indifferent to the needs of our community and fellow man?
A Call to Faithfulness and Endurance
In Hebrews 11 the writer exhorts their readers to faithfulness and endurance. They connect with their audience by sharing the experience of the heroes of Old Testament history.
The writer first spends time sharing the importance of faith. Its value and worth can be summarized in that faith is:(1) based on confident convictions, (2) certainty about unseen hopes and realities, and (3) is honorable, in that the saints were commended for it. (Heb. 11:1-2)
Since the readers are presented with “so great a cloud of witnesses” who demonstrated faith and endurance, they can also be expected to do the same (Heb. 12:1).
The final warning
The author concludes the basic argument of this epistle (the excellency of Jesus Christ) with a final admonition and warning (Heb. 12:25-29). The warning points to the danger of refusing God.
This final warning cautions against apostasy or behaviors which may lead in that direction. This was discussed in earlier warnings to the readers who were in danger of “falling away” (Heb. 6:4-8) and “drawing back” (Heb. 26-39). Although they had initially accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ, they were still in danger of “turning away” (apostrepha) from or rejecting God’s new way of relating to His people.
We are receiving a kingdom
The author, knowing the tendency of their readers to spiritual weakness, uses Old Testament examples and contrasts to warn their readers to “see to it that they do not refuse Him who speaks” (v. 25). The warning is this. If the Israelites did not escape God’s wrath as He spoke on earth, how much worse the punishment would be as God speaks from heaven? (Heb. 12:25)
God sent His Son Jesus to speak for Him (Heb. 1:2). More importantly, Jesus would provide a “more excellent way” to God through His substitutional death and sacrifice. The power of sin would finally be broken. Jewish sacrifices and offerings were temporary. They could never offer the promises and privileges of the Gospel. Jesus offered the power of heaven and the permanence of eternity in Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:26-27).
The writer closes this warning with a message of hope. The message is this–believers were “receiving a kingdom which could not be shaken” (Heb. 12:28). The verb receiving is in present tense meaning the action is a “fact of reality occurring in actual time”, historically and remaining even into the present. This meant believers were part of God’s kingdom that would never change and were partakers of His generous grace (Heb. 3:14).
Within this new community “believers are to serve God with reverence and godly fear” (CSB, awe). A believer who departs from God’s magnificent privileges invites God’s retribution (Heb. 12:29; Heb. 10:29).
The Message of Hebrew for the 21st Century
The warnings contained in Hebrews are also appropriate for believers today. Especially if we desire to remain faithful to the gospel and hope to persevere during this period of history when our faith is constantly under fire.
There are many factors which threaten our ability to “hold fast” our profession of faith (Heb. 10:23). Many are “heart-issues”.
- The hardened heart. Our refusal to accept the teaching and guidance of God’s Word. “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Heb. 3:15)
- The darkened heart. Our continuance in sinful behavior although delivered by Jesus Christ. “If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sin.” (Heb. 10:26)
- The misguided heart. Our lack of wisdom and truth needed to discern right from wrong. “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:12-13)
- The divided heart. Our lack of faithfulness resulting in the choice of the world over God. “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents.” (Heb. 13:9)
Be not discouraged by the admonitions of Hebrews. Its writer has also included many promises for believers that desire Christ and choose to serve in the kingdom of God. These promises are built on the excellency of Jesus Christ–the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). They are the “more excellent way” (Heb. 5:9; 6:19; 7:19; 7:22; 8:1-2,10). God is still speaking. Are we listening?