Hebrews—written by Christians, to Christians, and for Christians—is loaded with spiritual truth accessible to any believer looking to grasp the importance of faith. Penned at a politically unstable time, Hebrews targets believers tempted to abandon their faith and slip back into the rules and regulations of Judaism.
In our politically unstable day of "wars and rumors of wars" (Mark13:7), we can all understand the quest for stability. But there is only one source of rock solid security.
There was a time for rules and sacrifices. Then Christ came as the perfect, spotless Lamb to atone for sin once and for all. Respected pastor Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe will show you that by focusing on the reality of the unseen first, an overwhelming desire for intimate friendship with God will follow.
About the Author
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe (1929–2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago from 1971 to 1978. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular BE series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). His writing will impact generations to come.
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LIVE BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT
By Warren W. Wiersbe
David C. CookCopyright © 1982 Warren W. Wiersbe
All rights reserved.
Is Anybody Listening?
A man from Leeds, England, visited his doctor to have his hearing checked. The doctor removed the man's hearing aid, and the patient's hearing immediately improved! He had been wearing the device in the wrong ear for over twenty years!
I once asked a pastor friend, "Do you have a deaf ministry in your church?" He replied, "There are times when I think the whole church needs a deaf ministry—they just don't seem to hear me."
There is a difference between listening and really hearing. Jesus often cried, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" This statement suggests that it takes more than physical ears to hear the voice of God. It also requires a receptive heart. "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb. 3:7–8).
Many people have avoided the epistle to the Hebrews and, consequently, have robbed themselves of practical spiritual help. Some have avoided this book because they are afraid of it. The "warnings" in Hebrews have made them uneasy. Others have avoided this book because they think it is "too difficult" for the average Bible student. To be sure, there are some profound truths in Hebrews, and no preacher or teacher would dare to claim that he knows them all! But the general message of the book is clear and there is no reason why you and I should not understand and profit from it.
Perhaps the best way to begin our study is to notice five characteristics of the epistle to the Hebrews.
1. It Is a Book of Evaluation
The word better is used thirteen times in this book as the writer shows the superiority of Jesus Christ and His salvation over the Hebrew system of religion. Christ is "better than the angels" (Heb. 1:4). He brought in "a better hope" (Heb. 7:19) because He is the mediator of "a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Heb. 8:6).
Another word that is repeated in this book is perfect; in the original Greek it is used fourteen times. It means "a perfect standing before God." This perfection could never be accomplished by the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:11) or by the law (Heb. 7:19), nor could the blood of animal sacrifices achieve it (Heb. 10:1). Jesus Christ gave Himself as one offering for sin, and by this He has "perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).
So the writer was contrasting the Old Testament system of law with the New Testament ministry of grace. He was making it clear that the Jewish religious system was temporary and that it could not bring in the eternal "better things" that are found in Jesus Christ.
Eternal is a third word that is important to the message of Hebrews. Christ is the "author of eternal salvation" (Heb. 5:9). Through His death, He "obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12), and He shares with believers "the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:15). His throne is forever (Heb. 1:8) and He is a priest forever (Heb. 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21). "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8).
When you combine these three important words, you discover that Jesus Christ and the Christian life He gives us are better because these blessings are eternal and they give us a perfect standing before God. The religious system under the Mosaic law was imperfect because it could not accomplish a once-for-all redemption that was eternal.
But why did the writer ask his readers to evaluate their faith and what Jesus Christ had to offer them? Because they were going through difficult times and were being tempted to go back to the Jewish religion. The temple was still standing when this book was written, and all the priestly ceremonies were still being carried on daily. How easy it would have been for these Jewish believers to escape persecution by going back into the old Mosaic system that they had known before.
These people were second-generation believers, having been won to Christ by those who had known Jesus Christ during His ministry on earth (Heb. 2:3). They were true believers (Heb. 3:1) and not mere professors. They had been persecuted because of their faith (Heb. 10:32–34; 12:4; 13:13–14), and yet they had faithfully ministered to the needs of others who had suffered (Heb. 6:10). But they were being seduced by teachers of false doctrine (Heb. 13:9), and they were in danger of forgetting the true Word that their first leaders, now dead, had taught them (Heb. 13:7).
The tragic thing about these believers is that they were at a standstill spiritually and in danger of going backward (Heb. 5:12ff.). Some of them had even forsaken the regular worship services (Heb. 10:25) and were not making spiritual progress (Heb. 6:1). In the Christian life, if you do not go forward, you go backward; there is no permanent standing still.
"How can you go back into your former religion?" the writer asked them. "Just take time to evaluate what you have in Jesus Christ. He is better than anything you ever had under the law."
The book of Hebrews exalts the person and the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When you realize all that you have in and through Him, you have no desire for anyone else or anything else!
2. It Is a Book of Exhortation
The writer called this epistle "the word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22). The Greek word translated "exhortation" simply means "encouragement." It is translated "comfort" in Romans 15:4, and "consolation" in 2 Corinthians 1:5–7; 7:7. This word is related to the Greek word translated "Comforter" in John 14:16, referring to the Holy Spirit. The epistle to the Hebrews was not written to frighten people, but to encourage people. We are commanded to "encourage one another daily" (Heb. 3:13 NIV). It reminds us that we have "strong encouragement" in Jesus Christ (Heb. 6:18 NASB).
At this point we must answer the usual question: "But what about those five terrible warnings found in Hebrews?"
To begin with, these five passages are not really "warnings." Three basic words are translated "warn" in the New Testament, and the only one used in Hebrews is translated "admonished" in Hebrews 8:5 (where it refers to Moses) and "spake" in Hebrews 12:25. Only in Hebrews 11:7 is it translated "warned," where it refers to Noah "being warned of God." I think that the best description of the five so-called warning passages is the one given in Hebrews 13:22—"exhortation" (KJV), or "encouragement" (AB). This does not minimize the seriousness of these five sections of the book, but it does help us grasp their purpose: to encourage us to trust God and heed His Word.
The epistle to the Hebrews opens with an important declaration: "God ... has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb. 1:1–2 NASB). Near the close of the book, the writer states, "See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking" (Heb. 12:25 NASB). In other words, the theme of Hebrews seems to be "God has spoken; we have His Word. What are we doing about it?"
With this truth in mind, we can now better understand the significance of those five "problem passages" in Hebrews. Each of these passages encourages us to heed God's Word ("God ... has spoken") by pointing out the sad spiritual consequences that result if we do not. Let me list these passages for you and explain their sequence in the book of Hebrews. I think you will see how they all hang together and present one message: Heed God's Word.
Drifting from the Word—2:1–4 (neglect)
Doubting the Word—3:7—4:13 (hard heart)
Dullness toward the Word—5:11—6:20 (sluggishness)
Despising the Word—10:26–39 (willfulness)
Defying the Word—12:14–29 (refusing to hear)
If we do not listen to God's Word and really hear it, we will start to drift. Neglect always leads to drifting, in things material and physical as well as spiritual. As we drift from the Word, we start to doubt the Word, because faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). We start to get hard hearts, and this leads to spiritual sluggishness, which produces dullness toward the Word. We become "dull of hearing"—lazy listeners! This leads to a despiteful attitude toward the Word to the extent that we willfully disobey God, and this gradually develops into a defiant attitude—we almost "dare" God to do anything!
Now what does God do while this spiritual regression is going on? He keeps speaking to us, encouraging us to get back to the Word. If we fail to listen and obey, then He begins to chasten us. This chastening process is the theme of Hebrews 12, the climactic chapter in the epistle. "The Lord shall judge his people" (Heb. 10:30). God does not allow His children to become "spoiled brats" by permitting them to willfully defy His Word. He always chastens in love.
These five exhortations are addressed to people who are truly born again. Their purpose is to get the readers to pay close attention to God's Word. While there is some stern language in some of these passages, it is my understanding that none of these exhortations "threatens" the reader by suggesting that he may "lose his salvation." If he persists in defying God's Word, he may lose his life ("Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" [Heb. 12:9]). The inference is that if we do not submit, we might die. "There is a sin unto death" (1 John 5:16). But if the epistle to the Hebrews teaches anything, it teaches the assurance of eternal life in a living High Priest who can never die (Heb. 7:22–28).
Some students try to explain away the "problem" of "losing your salvation" or "apostasy" by claiming that the readers were not truly born again, but were only "professors" of Christian faith. However, the way the writer addresses them would eliminate that approach; for he called them "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" (Heb. 3:1). He told them that they had a High Priest in heaven (Heb. 4:14), which he would not have written if they were lost. They had been "made partakers of the Holy Ghost" (Heb. 6:4). The admonitions in Hebrews 10:19–25 would be meaningless if addressed to unsaved people.
The epistle to the Hebrews is a book of evaluation, proving that Jesus Christ is better than anything the law of Moses has to offer. The epistle is also a book of exhortation, urging its readers to hear and heed the Word of God, lest they regress spiritually and experience the chastening hand of God.
3. It Is a Book of Examination
As you study this book, you will find yourself asking: "What am I really trusting? Am I trusting the Word of God, or am I trusting the things of this world that are shaking and ready to fall away?"
This letter was written to believers at a strategic time in history. The temple was still standing and the sacrifices were still being offered. But in a few years, both the city and the temple would be destroyed. The Jewish nation would be scattered, and this would include Jewish believers in Jesus Christ. The ages were colliding! God was "shaking" the order of things (Heb. 12:25–29). He wanted His people to have their feet on the solid foundation of faith; He did not want them to trust in things that would vanish.
I believe that the church today is living in similar circumstances. Everything around us is shaking and changing. People are discovering that they have been depending on the "scaffolding" and not on the solid foundation. Even God's people have gotten so caught up in this world's system that their confidence is not in the Lord, but in money, buildings, programs, and other passing material things. As God continues to "shake" society, the scaffolding will fall away, and God's people will discover that their only confidence must be in the Word of God.
God wants our hearts to be "established with grace" (Heb. 13:9). That word established is used, in one form or another, eight times in Hebrews. It means "to be solidly grounded, to stand firm on your feet." It carries the idea of strength, reliability, confirmation, permanence. This, I think, is the key message of Hebrews: "You can be secure while everything around you is falling apart!" We have a "kingdom which cannot be moved" (Heb. 12:28). God's Word is steadfast (Heb. 2:2) and so is the hope we have in Him (Heb. 6:19).
Of course, there is no security for a person who has never trusted Jesus Christ as his own Savior from sin. Nor is there security to those who have made a "lip profession" but whose lives do not give evidence of true salvation (Matt. 7:21–27; Titus 1:16). Christ saves "to the uttermost" (i.e., "eternally") only those who have come to God through faith in Him (Heb. 7:25).
I like to tell congregations the story about the conductor who got on the train, began to take tickets, and told the first passenger whose ticket he took, "Sir, you're on the wrong train." When he looked at the next ticket, he told that passenger the same thing.
"But the brakeman told me to get on this train," the passenger protested.
"I'll double-check," said the conductor. He did and discovered that he was on the wrong train!
I fear there are many people who have a false faith, who have not really heard and heeded God's Word. Sometimes they are so busy telling everybody else what to do that they fail to examine their own situations. The epistle to the Hebrews is a book of examination: it helps you discover where your faith really is.
4. It Is a Book of Expectation
The focus in this book is on the future. The writer informs us that he is speaking about "the world to come" (Heb. 2:5), a time when believers will reign with Christ. Jesus Christ is "heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2) and we share the "promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:15). Like the patriarchs lauded in Hebrews 11, we are looking for that future city of God (Heb. 11:10–16, 26).
Like these great men and women of faith, we today should be "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb. 11:13). This is one reason why God is shaking everything around us. He wants us to turn loose from the things of this world and stop depending on them. He wants us to center our attention on the world to come. This does not mean that we become so heavenly minded that we're no earthly good. Rather it means that we "hang loose" as far as this world is concerned, and start living for the eternal values of the world to come.
Abraham and Lot, his nephew, illustrate these two different attitudes (Gen. 13—14). Abraham was a wealthy man who could have lived in an expensive house in any location that he chose. But he was first of all God's servant, a pilgrim and a stranger, and this meant living in tents. Lot chose to abandon the pilgrim life and move into the evil city of Sodom. Which of these two men had true security? It would appear that Lot was safer in the city than Abraham was in his tents on the plain. But Lot became a prisoner of war! And Abraham had to rescue him.
Instead of heeding God's warning, Lot went back into the city, and when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot lost everything (Gen. 19). Lot was a saved man (2 Peter 2:7), but he trusted in the things of this world instead of trusting the Word of God. Lot forfeited the permanent because he depended on and lived for the immediate.
Martyred missionary Jim Elliot said it best: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
You and I as God's children have been promised a future reward. As with Abraham and Moses of old, the decisions we make today will determine the rewards tomorrow. More than this, our decisions should be motivated by the expectation of receiving rewards. Abraham obeyed God because "he looked for a city" (Heb. 11:10). Moses forsook the treasures and the pleasures of Egypt because "he had respect unto the recompense of the reward" (Heb. 11:26). These great men and women (Heb. 11:31, 35) of faith "lived in the future tense" and thus were able to overcome the temptations of the world and the flesh.
In fact, it was this same attitude of faith that carried our Lord Jesus Christ through the agony of the cross: "Jesus ... for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). The emphasis in the epistle to the Hebrews is "Don't live for what the world will promise you today! Live for what God has promised you in the future! Be a stranger and a pilgrim on this earth! Walk by faith, not by sight!"
This letter is not a diet for "spiritual babes" who want to be spoon-fed and coddled (Heb. 5:11–14). In this letter you will find "strong meat" that demands some "spiritual molars" for chewing and enjoying. The emphasis in Hebrews is not on what Christ did on the earth (the "milk"), but what He is now doing in heaven (the "meat" of the Word). He is the Great High Priest who enables us by giving us grace (Heb. 4:14–16). He is also the Great Shepherd of the sheep who equips us to do His will (Heb. 13:20–21). He is working in us to accomplish His purposes. What a thrill it is for us to be a part of such a marvelous ministry!
Dr. A. W. Tozer used to remind us, "Every man must choose his world." True believers have "tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world [age] to come" (Heb. 6:5); this should mean we have no interest in or appetite for the present sinful world system. Abraham chose the right world and became the father of the faithful. Lot chose the wrong world and became the father of the enemies of God's people (Gen. 19:30–38). Abraham became the friend of God (2 Chron. 20:7), but Lot became the friend of the world—and lost everything. Lot was "saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:15) and lost his reward.
Excerpted from BE CONFIDENT by Warren W. Wiersbe. Copyright © 1982 Warren W. Wiersbe. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Big Idea: An Introduction to Be Confident by Ken Baugh,
A Word from the Author,
1. Is Anybody Listening? (Hebrews 1:1–3),
2. Greater Than Angels (Hebrews 1:4—2:18),
3. Greater Than Moses (Hebrews 3:1—4:13),
4. Greater Than Aaron the High Priest (Hebrews 4:14—5:10),
5. Pilgrims Should Make Progress (Hebrews 5:11—6:20),
6. Mysterious Melchizedek (Hebrews 7),
7. The Better Covenant (Hebrews 8),
8. The Superior Sanctuary (Hebrews 9),
9. The Superior Sacrifice (Hebrews 10),
10. Faith—the Greatest Power in the World (Hebrews 11),
11. Stay in the Running! (Hebrews 12),
12. Pardon Me, Your Faith Is Showing (Hebrews 13),
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Open your heart to listen!
Hebrews — “Be Confident!” Reading Warren Wiersbe, I understand how my kids feel when I glance into a closet and pull out the basketball they “can’t find.” It was there all along, but they just didn’t see it. In his writing Dr. Wiersbe pulls outlines and alliteration out of Scripture — rather than imposing them upon the text — and I realize, too, that it was there all the time. I just hadn’t seen it. There’s a class on Hebrews in my future, and since I have a profound respect for that book [Shall we be honest and just admit that I’m intimidated by it?], I’m beginning my studying early with Warren Wiersbe’s Be Confident (part of the “Be Series” with over four million books in print). Dr. Wiersbe calls me out on my uneasiness and offers reassurance that Hebrews has a clear message, and “there is no reason why you and I should not understand and profit from it.” He got me started on that positive train of thought with his overview of five characteristics of the epistle to the Hebrews: 1.It Is a Book of Evaluation — Using the word “better” thirteen times, the word “perfect” fourteen times, and emphasizing Christ’s eternal nature, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes that “Jesus Christ and the Christian life He gives us are better because these blessings are eternal and they give us a perfect standing before God.” 2.It Is a Book of Exhortation — We’re not to be intimidated by the warnings in Hebrews, but to be formed by them in our devotion to God’s Word. 3.It Is a Book of Examination — Using the word “established” eight times in Hebrews, the author reveals that the only secure foundation for life is faith based on God’s Word. Hebrews asks, “In what are you trusting?” 4.It Is a Book of Expectation — Focused on the future, Hebrews turns the believer’s eyes to the world which is to come. As A.W. Tozer said, “Every man must choose his world.” 5.It Is a Book of Exaltation — Jesus is superior to the prophets both in His person and in His work. He is God’s final revelation. I see now that for all the very same reasons that Hebrews is a challenging book to read and to study, it is likewise an important book to understand and to apply. Be Confident strikes a lovely balance between formal, outlined structure and informal, anecdotal accounts. In addition to stories based on historical figures, Dr. Wiersbe shares from his years of pastoral and counseling ministry. Unraveling the mysterious Melchizedek, rightly revealing that the “five terrible warnings” found in Hebrews are truly for exhortation and encouragement, and always demonstrating scriptural reasons for confidence in living the Christian life, Be Confident is a resource for teachers as well as a reference for questions that arise in personal study. A thorough study of the book of Hebrews is an invitation to enter fresh heights (and depths) of worship as we ponder Christ, His superior person, and His superior priesthood. This book was provided by David C Cook in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”