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Encounters with GodThe Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the HEBREWS
By Henry Blackaby Richard Blackaby Thomas Blackaby Melvin Blackaby Norman Blackaby
Thomas Nelson, Inc.Copyright © 2008 Henry Blackaby Richard Blackaby Thomas Blackaby Melvin Blackaby Norman Blackaby
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLesson #1
JESUS, THE HEIR OF ALL THINGS
Heir: the right, by law, to receive property, position, or title from another after that person dies
B Bible Focus
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they....
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him (Heb. 1:1–4,2:8).
The writer of Hebrews opened his message with two tremendous truths. First, God speaks both to create and to uphold what He has created. This truth is embodied fully in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Word of God.
The Jewish people had worshiped God as Creator for thousands of years prior to the birth of Jesus. They had a firm understanding that God had spoken the universe into existence and that His ongoing word allowed the universe to exist and remain in balance.
They also readily believed that God had spoken His divine will to chosen prophets, who in turn spoke God's word to the Israelites. The Jews believed strongly that the prophets were highly privileged in knowing the secret counsels of God: "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secrets to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3). It was through the prophetic word that God established or created His will among His people, and upheld or maintained His commandments and principles as absolute truth.
It was a new concept for the Jews, however, to regard Jesus as the incarnate Word of God—the second member of the Trinity who was the active agent of God's creation. It was the Word of God that proclaimed, "Let there be...." It was the Word of God who, at His death by crucifixion, said, "It is finished." In the mind and hearts of the apostles and all who followed Him as disciples, Jesus was established as the "first and last," the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and ending of all God desired to create and maintain as truth. Jesus is presented throughout the New Testament as the firstborn of God's new spiritual creation.
As the incarnate Word of God, Jesus is far superior to a prophet. The full impact of His message was not bound to words or to dramatic action, as were the messages of the ancient prophets. His message was embodied by a life that was a full and complete revelation of God's glory and the fullness of God's character.
It is by believing in Jesus as God's Son that a person is re-created or born again as a new spiritual creature. It is by following Jesus and serving Him as Lord that a person maintains a close relationship with God and matures spiritually.
God's Word is powerful beyond our imagining or understanding. And because the Holy Spirit of God indwells the Christian, our words spoken in the name of Jesus take on a spiritual dimension to create and uphold what is right, pure, good, and true.
The second main truth in these opening sentences of Hebrews conveys the concept that He who creates, owns. Christ Jesus, the Word present at the creation of all things in the natural world, owns the natural world. During His earthly ministry, Jesus displayed on numerous occasions His power over nature, from the multiplication of loaves and fishes, to walking on water, to commanding storms to cease, to healing disease. He displayed His spiritual ownership of all things through His command over demons, the devil, and death and, ultimately, in His own atoning death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Those of us who believe in Christ's death on our behalf and who have received Jesus as Savior are owned by Christ—we belong to Him forever. All things are in subjection to Him. He is the owner and heir of all that He has created, possesses, and maintains!
How does this impact us today?
There are countless people, including many in the church, who question whether God speaks to mankind. The writer of Hebrews would respond, "God's greatest message continues to be the one embodied in Christ Jesus—who bore fully the glory of God's image." The real question is not whether God speaks but whether we are listening to what God is saying to us in Christ.
What is God speaking to you today about who Christ is, who you are in Christ, and what God desires to say to the world through your life in Christ? Are you allowing Christ to create in you His own character likeness?
There are also many people who are troubled by the idea that, as Christians, they no longer have any right of ownership over themselves. We live in a society that calls to each of us, "Be your own person." God's Word, in sharp contrast, calls upon us to "be Christ's person" and to reflect Him to the world.
Do you have any qualms about being owned by Christ Jesus?
A Application for Today
"What did you get?" the children asked their father eagerly when he returned from a meeting at the family attorney's office where the meeting had been one in which the will of an unmarried aunt was read.
The father gathered the family around him and said, "Let me share with you what her will says. As you know, I have two sisters and two first cousins. All five of us were there, and she left something to each of us."
"Aunt Bea noted that Sally had always extended great kindness to her, and she stated in her will that she wanted five thousand dollars to be given in Sally's name to a local charity that is known for acts of kindness. She said, 'Acts of kindness should go on.'
"Aunt Bea noted that Brenda has always been filled with interesting conversation, and in later years had come to read to Aunt Bea when her eyesight failed. She stated in the will that that she wanted five thousand dollars to be given in Brenda's name to a particular school. She said, 'Learning is important and should continue.'
"Aunt Bea noted that she hadn't seen Fred and Gary for many years, and she realized they had been busy working and providing for their families. She stated in her will that she wanted them each to be given what amounted to two days paid vacation from their jobs so they might spend some time with their children who now live out of state."
"But what about you, Dad," the children asked eagerly. "Aunt Bea wrote that she appreciated the times we visited her as a family and prayed with her and shared with her what God was doing in our lives. She admired greatly our involvement in the church and our going as a family on short-term missions trips through the church. She left the rest of her estate to our church as a trust set up in her name and mine. The trust is to provide scholarships for youth mission trips."
The children seemed disappointed. "So you didn't get anything," one of the boys finally said.
"To the contrary!" Dad replied. "I don't see it that way at all! Aunt Bea gave me her blessing and an opportunity to be a blessing. There's no greater inheritance I could have received from her!"
How would you have felt if you had been one of Aunt Bea's heirs?
Hebrews states that Jesus is the heir of all that belongs to God the Father. What is it that Jesus inherited?
As a Christian, you are part of Jesus' inheritance! What did Jesus get when He inherited you?
S Supplementary scriptures to Consider
The apostle Paul taught that because we belong to Christ and we are indwelled by His Holy Spirit, we are joint heirs with Christ:
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8:16-17).
What do you believe you have inherited as a "child of God" and "joint heir with Christ"?
Is there anything that you believe Christ has inherited that you have not inherited jointly with Him? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians about Christ's authority over all things:
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in what which is to come.
And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:15–23).
What does the phrase "riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" mean to you? Do you fully regard yourself as a saint in line to receive the riches of glory of His inheritance?
Are there things in your personal life that you do not believe are fully subject to Christ? If so, what do you believe God desires for you to do? What do you believe He has promised to do on your behalf?
The apostle Paul also wrote to the Galatians about being an heir of God through Christ:
If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.... When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Gal. 3:29, 4:4–7).
Is there a difference in being owned by God as a slave and being owned by God as a son?
A Roman centurion sought out Jesus to ask that Jesus heal his servant who was paralyzed and "dreadfully tormented." Jesus agreed to accompany the centurion back to his dwelling place.
The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard it, He marveled and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you. I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" ... Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same hour" (Matt. 8:8–10, 13).
What did Jesus create by His words in this passage of scripture? What did He create by His words at other times in His earthly ministry?
Does Jesus still speak today from His position at the right hand of the Father? Is His message the same from heaven as it was on this earth?
In what ways do you struggle with believing that God may be speaking words from heaven today for your healing or blessing, or for the healing or blessing of someone you love?
How do we hear Jesus speaking to us, "As you have believed, so let it be done for you"?
I Introspection and Implications
1. In what ways is it important to you as you pray to believe that Jesus is the rightfully appointed "heir of all things" and that all things are in subjection to Him? Can a person pray effectively and expectantly without believing that Jesus has authority over all aspects of the material and spiritual realms?
2. In what ways is it important to your personal faith in Christ to believe that Jesus is the "brightness of [God the Father's] glory and the express image of His person"?
3. The Hebrew word for glory, kabod, means "heavy in weight." To give someone glory was to give him great honor, to consider that the substance of His being had supreme value. The Greek word is doxa, which means to give an opinion or an estimate, an honor that comes from a high opinion of others. In what way do you seek to give God glory?
C Communicating the Good News
A significant number of people in our world today believe that Jesus was a prophet but not the Son of God. They believe He was an excellent man and good moral teacher, but not divine, and not the Savior. How do you respond to those who hold such opinions?
How important is the supremacy of Christ to our presentation of the gospel message? In what ways is the supremacy of Christ central to all evangelism? Consider these questions:
If Christ Jesus is not the Way, why should he even be considered to be a way (John 14:6)?
In what ways does the Bible present the truth that Jesus is superior to all other men who ever lived?
Why is Jesus more than just another martyr for a good cause?
Chapter TwoLesson #2
JESUS, OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR
Captain: leader with formal command Propitiation: the force of reconciliation or appeasement
B Bible Focus
We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings....
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Heb. 2:9–10, 14–18).
The death of Jesus on the cross was a suffering death. That fact was problematic for both the Jews and the Greeks. Glory and suffering were regarded as the opposite ends of a spectrum. If Jesus reflected the brightness of God's glory, how could He suffer? How could God's grace include a cruel and dishonorable form of death? Indeed, how could the suffering of death be crowned with glory and honor? How could the captain of our salvation be made perfect through suffering?
In addressing such questions, the writer of Hebrews summed up his rationale with one word: propitiation.
The pagan Greeks and Romans had a concept of propitiation as a bribe for a deity. That is not the biblical use of the word! This Bible word refers to a sacrifice that satisfies God's standard for justice and his requirement for turning away His wrath, which our sin rightfully incurs. The Jews knew that the price of sin was death and separation from God. This teaching is throughout the Old Testament and was stated by the apostle Paul clearly in his letter to the Romans: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life" (Rom. 6:23).
For the sin of mankind to be forgiven and relationship to be fully restored between God and mankind, God required a perfect sacrifice—a sinless, guileless sacrifice—and this could only be satisfied fully by the sacrifice of Himself, His Son Jesus. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Hebrews states that it is for this very purpose of being propitiation that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels—a human being. God identified with mankind fully—but without sin–in order to die on man's behalf, so that mankind might identify fully with Him and live forever.
Excerpted from Encounters with God by Henry Blackaby Richard Blackaby Thomas Blackaby Melvin Blackaby Norman Blackaby Copyright © 2008 by Henry Blackaby Richard Blackaby Thomas Blackaby Melvin Blackaby Norman Blackaby. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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