The problems that have plagued humans from the moment of rebellion against God are that Godís purposes are not (a) what we desire or (b) what we understand.† Because Godís purposes transcend physical desires and understandings, we are continually disappointed with the outcome of service to God.† According to us as we are surrounded by temptations, the rewards of service to God should be immediate and visible.
The book of Hebrews was likely written to Hebrew Christians to encourage them.† These Jewish Christians were convinced that Jesus was the Christ that God promised.† That decision was popular in Acts 2:47 when only Jews and proselytes were Christians.† Seemingly at this time Christianity was considered to be a needed reform movement among the Jewish people (consider Matthew 3:2 and 4:17 with the emphasis both by John and Jesus on repentance).† †However, that view markedly changed in Acts 10 when gentiles became Christians.† Acts 15:1, 5, 6 verify that the focus of Christianity was a major contention among the Jewish people.† The majority of devout Jewish people were not opposed to proselytism (the conversion of gentiles to Judaism), but they did oppose the concept that forgiveness (salvation) apart from proselytism was available to anyone.
The result was that it was increasingly difficult and costly for Jewish people to be devout Christians.† Galatians 2:11-13 verifies that a fearful Peter and the Barnabas who preached to gentiles were not immune to the intense Jewish pressure.† In the beginning of Christianity it was acceptable to be a part of the Christian community and a part of the Jewish community at the same time.† As the church became increasing gentile, that situation became impossible.† When Christianity contained more gentile persons than Jewish persons, Jewish Christians were subjected to enormous pressure to choose between Christianity and life in the Jewish community.† If a Jewish person chose Christianity, he (she) paid enormous prices.†
The Jewish Christians to whom Hebrews was written had been strong Christians.† They had suffered, they had been publicly humiliated, they were not ashamed of Christians arrested for their faith in Jesus, and they had endured the confiscation of property (Hebrews 10:32-34).† However their hardships wore them down.† They no longer associated with other Christians when they met (Hebrews 10:23-25).
The writer of Hebrews encouraged them.† They were not yet outside the fellowship of Christians.† They should not abandon faith in ChristóHebrews 10:35-39 urged them to realize they had too much to lose.
Seemingly, their reasoning followed this line: ďWe are not abandoning God.† We are not abandoning righteous living.† We are abandoning Jesus as the Christ so we can end our horrible opposition.Ē
The entire book of Hebrews declared that abandoning Jesus but remaining with God was not an option.† Jesus was Godís plan, not an accident.† God achieved things in Jesusí life, death, and resurrection that God accomplished in nothing else.† In fact, all that happened in Judaism was just a foretaste of what God would do through Jesus.† Thus, abandoning Jesus was abandoning God.† If Jesus was the culmination of Godís purposes to bring salvation to all people, rejecting Jesus was also rejecting God.
The writerís argument in Hebrews 4 follows this presentation: (Remember, we are discussing the Jewish mindset 2000 years ago.)†  When God created on six days, He rested on the seventh.†  God promised Israel (who had been slaves) they would enter Godís rest when they entered Canaan. † They did not enter that rest because they were a hard-hearted people who resisted God.  The promise of the rest remains for those who place their trust in God.  That rest remains for those who have confidence in what God did through Jesus Christ.  Their need is not fulfilled in abandoning Jesus, but in drawing closer to Jesus.
Their hardships and pain did not prove the rest did not exist.† In fact, Jesus was their helper.† Jesus was their sympathetic high priest. He endured their experiences.† He understood what it was to be tempted.† Because of Jesus, they could come confidently to Godís throne of grace.† They could expect to receive mercy when they were struggling.
The writer confirmed God does NOT want the defeat of the struggling Christian.† He confirmed God has given help to the struggling Christian.† He confirmed that the struggling Christian should expect Godís mercy and grace through Jesus.
Struggles do not prove the absence of Godís presence or concern.† At the foundation level, struggles exist because Satan opposes Godís purposes.
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
1. Give two reasons for problems plaguing humans from the moment of rebellion against God.
2. People think the rewards of service to God should be what?
3. The book of Hebrews was likely written to whom?† Why?
4. When was the decision to be a Jewish Christian popular among the Jews?
5. When did the decision to be a Jewish Christian become unpopular among the Jews?
6. What increasingly was the result?
7. What does Galatians 2:11-13 verify?
8. The Jewish Christians to whom Hebrews was written had been what?
9. What wore them down?
10. What did the writer of Hebrews do?† How?
11. What was likely the reasoning of the recipients of Hebrews?
12. Give the writerís argument in Hebrews 4.† (What did the writer say about the rest?)
13. Because of Jesus, struggling Christians could come how to Godís throne expecting what?
14. What three things did the writer confirm about God?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 12
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