ADAM: LET’S DO A RECAP OF HEBREWS AS HAVING BEEN WRITTEN TO THE HEBREWS
I realize I might sound like a broken record, but I can’t stress the point enough that Hebrews must be understood as having been written specifically to the Jews living at the time the letter was sent out. You see, they would have automatically picked up on the sense of what had been written, as surely as Americans have been conditioned with certain knee-jerk reactions to the mere mention of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Civil War, Civil Rights, Osama Bin Laden, 9-11, Ponzi Schemes, and so on. No doubt, the reactions are mixed. For certain historical reminders might stir animosity and hatred in some, but love and devotion in others. Are you following me?
Adam, let me ask you: Do you think your own perspective of these things differs from that of a non-American?
Now, my own children have told me on many ocassions that I’m not old yet — except on birthdays, with those old-age birthday cards, you know? LOL! It makes them feel better, I suppose, to imagine they’re convincing me that I’m not really that old … however old that may be! Hey, but when my children’s children tell me “Grandpa, you’re not old!”, it kinda emphasizes that fact that I am!
Anyhow, all that to pose another question to you, Adam. While you’re younger than I am, I can only assume that you’ve come to the realization that there is a whole generation of people surrounding you that have a totally different perspective of something as recent as 9-11. Do you think they would have the same vivid memories as you?
Have you ever considered how future generations might regard our time … how the events, contributions, faults and/or reactions of our generation might be expressed in future history books? Do you think it will express your perspective?
Let’s consider the possibility that the perspectives of those Hebrews living during the time this letter was written may have been widely different. Unlike many of us today, the Jews learned their own history from as far back as they could remember, for they were raised within a tightly-controlled religious environment that affected everything they did and thought. That obviously doesn’t mean they all saw things the same way, for there were different factions among them … from pacifist to zealot. In view of this, Adam, should we imagine that all Jews had the same perspective regarding Jesus … and if not, variables reveal themselves in the way the letter of Hebrews was written?
And in view of last week’s audio regarding the Sabbath rest, the Jews at that time would have been fully aware of the sneaky nature of Sabbath keeping. After all, for their whole lives they had been living under a premise of Remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy. I say premise because their leaders had come up with scores of loopholes in order to work around it. Their traditions also caused them to wrongly condemn Jesus for breaking their weekly day of rest. This should suggest that there is no real freedom in living under the Law, for the legal mentality of the natural mind could not even understand the Law itself.
Listen to the words of David in Psalms 95:6-11, while keeping in mind how they would have impacted the Jews who heard the letter of Hebrews.
Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest.
If there is anything the legal mind understands, it is the simple reality that it cannot afford to drop its guard in order to truly rest from its own efforts. Behind all the propaganda of those who proclaim having acheived true freedom apart from Christ, there exists the same mind of bondage that gave rise to the mythological figure known as Sisyphus. He’s the guy who had been condemned to repeatedly roll a huge rock up a hill, only to watch it roll back down before reaching the top. Talk about the futile struggle of the legal mind, eh? You see, whatever the rest of God is, the futile mind of man cannot understand it, for it has not entered it.
Only in Christ does that futility cease, for in Him, those who believed had entered the Sabbath rest.
ADAM: Let’s move on to the end of Hebrews 4.
Hebrews 4:14 (NASB) Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
ADAM: (You can reword this) Is there something different about this statement? It says to hold fast, but it doesn’t start it out with an IF, but a SINCE
I have to wonder if the translators reason for translating the previous Greek word κατέχω as “take hold”, may have been influenced or swayed by the Greek word used here that does actually have a definition that supports a translation of take hold. For the phrase “take hold” in this verse comes from the Greek κρατέω, and it speaks of strength or might, and so its translation of “take hold” seems more warranted.
Interestingly, as you pointed out, there is no IF premise in Hebrews 4:14. Instead, there is a SINCE. Since Jesus had become their high priest they were being encouraged to hang onto or seize that confidence. I’m even wondering if there might be any indication that it might also mean something like finding strength in the hope set before us, and I’ll continue to consider that.
I think it’s notable that two different Greek words were both translated exactly the same in most English translations. I have to wonder why — given their proximity and the probability that English speakers would assume the meanings are exactly the same — I have to wonder why the translators didn’t consider using different phrases to express these two different Greek words. Did any of the scholars who worked on our English translations make an objection? I would find that to be an interesting discussion.
By the way, there is another verse in Hebrews that uses the Greek word κρατέω instead of κατέχω
Hebrews 6:18 (NASB) …so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
Anyhow, the appeal found in Hebrews 3:6, to hold fast our confidence — that is, to hold it in view of or according to the reality of the one who has created this confidence — that appeal was not put forth as an individual thing, but rather as to the house of God that Christ was head of. This is not to suggest that there can be no individual application of it, but that it needs to be understood in view of the unity. If you force this into a proposition that leaves your salvation hanging in the balances because of your fears that you may eventually stop believing, then you’ve missed the whole point. For it’s not about YOU, it’s not about ME, it’s about Christ and his sufficiency. After all, what is our confidence? What is the boast of our hope? Is it not Christ himself? In other words, the iffyness of the proposition has nothing to do with some kind of enduring quality of your faith, it has to do with enduring nature of the confidence itself. According to the mind of our contemporary Christian religion, we have learned to speak of and hang upon our faith (that is, in our believing) as if there were some kind of power in the decision we’ve made for Christ. However, the experience of the Hebrews from the beginning, when Peter stood up and proclaimed how they had killed the deliverer God had sent, testifies to something else. Faith doesn’t speak of itself, it testifies to the one who is worthy. The boast of the Jew’s hope was Christ, the fulfillment of the Law.
if we hold fast … he’s referring to the called out among the Hebrews. Consider the similarity in Romans 11, where Paul considered this idea from another perspective, that is, the perspective of nationalism from the mind of the Gentiles.
Referring to Israel, Paul wrote: “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?” Romans 11:11-24
See, this is another passage that has caused much fear because it keeps getting wrongly forced into an individual perspective, when it should clearly reflect that ongoing tension that existed between Jew and Gentile (or Jew and Greek). After all, why do you think Paul would have inserted a statement such as this:
But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.
Remember that whole thing where Paul was not immediately accepted because of his ministry to the Gentiles? Peter, James and John needed a little convincing that Paul was actually made one of their number by Christ himself.
Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Galatians 2:1-9
I know there’s a lot to consider here, and I’m not going to try to cover it all right now, but the simplicity to understand regarding Paul’s whole discussion in Romans 11 revolves around the attitude of arrogance that’s found in one’s own heritage. This stinky mentality is found all throughout history, and it played a heavy role among the Jews in thinking that Christ belonged only to themselves. That’s what prompted the continued arguments and propaganda regarding the necessity of circumcision for any Gentile who wanted to be saved. Of course, when the Gentile believers began to outnumber the Jewish believers, the attitude found among the Jews began to shift. Paul’s whole argument favors neither Jew nor Gentile … but the goodness of God. For the reality behind all of it is Christ. As the Gentile church adopted the attitude that they were somehow more special than Jews, Paul made it clear that such an attitude has nothing to do with grace, and that would cause the whole house of cards to come tumbling down. It’s not about God taking life away from a believing Gentile, but rather how God could just as easily cut off the grafted branches — that is, Gentiles as a people — as he did the natural branches.
Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 2 Corinthians 4:1-7
Just as the Jews were blinded in regards to the reading of the old covenant because of the veil over their hearts, the Christian community has had the same thing happen by the fleshly perception of the Bible.