Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
This may be taken as the keynote of the Epistle. The Jewish Christians, to whom this Epistle was specifically addressed, owing to the taunts and jeers of their persecutors, were beginning to undervalue their Christian possessions. Therefore the writer rings the changes on the word "better," conceding they had certain things under the Law, but under Grace far "better."
1. Blessings (11:40).
2. Sacrifice (9:23).
3. Blood that Speaks of Better Things (12:24).
4. Hope (7:19).
5. Covenant (8:6; 7:22).
6. Promises (8:6).
7. Substance (10:34).
8. Country (11:16).
9. Resurrection (11:35).
"WE HAVE." Hebrews
The Jewish Christians were being taunted by their unconverted countrymen that through espousing the cause of Christ they had lost everything. The Apostle proves to them that they have only lost the shadow for the substance. The "We have's" of the Apostle must have greatly impressed them. "We have"
1. A Great High Priest (4:14).
2. Such a High Priest (8:1).
3. A Strong Consolation (6:18).
4. A Cheering Hope (6:19).
5. Boldness (10:19).
6. A Better Substance (10:34).
7. An Altar—Christ (13:10).
1. Our Name: Heirs. "Heirs of salvation" (1:14).
2. Our Salvation: Great. "So great salvation" (2:3).
3. Our Peril: How? "How shall we escape? " (2:3). The unanswerable question. What must I do to be lost? Just nothing. No need to reject salvation or treat it with contempt—just neglect it.
4. Our Benefactor: Author. "Captain of their salvation (2:10). Captain means author or originator.
5. Our Destiny: Eternity. "Eternal salvation" (5:9).
6. Our Blessings: Things. "Things that accompany salvation" (6:9).
7. Our Goal: Uttermost. "Saved to the uttermost" (7:25).
8. Our Hope: Without Sin. "Without sin unto salvation" (9:28).
HOW TO PRESENT THE GOSPEL TO JEWS.
Those who are called to evangelize Jews declare that there is no better statement of the Gospel to present to Jews than this Epistle. Let us trace the method of presentation, as seen in this Epistle. We notice first, that the Author here proves to the Jews that the Jesus of Nazareth they put to death on the hated Cross is none other than CHRIST their messiah, the son of God, the Second Person in the blessed Trinity. This is an important point. We cannot but admire the courage and faithfulness of the Apostle, for the Jews then, as now, were prepared to admire much in Jesus', but would not listen to His claim to Deity. Observe how slowly and methodically he declares and proves this.
I. Greater than Prophets. The prophets whom all Jews value, were great, but Jesus was greater than any or all of them (1:1 -3). Why? Jesus is the
1. Origin of all things: "By whom also He made the worlds" (2).
2. Sustainer of all things: "Upholding all things" (3).
3. Glory of all things: "Brightness of His glory" (3).
4. Unique amidst all. Here the writer points out the absolute uniqueness of Jesus. However great were the prophets, none shared Deity, none were the "express image of" God.
II. Greater than Angels. Angels are great beings, but Jesus is greater than any or all of them put together (1:4-14), because:
1. Divine Names are given to Him (1:2, 5, 8, 10).
2. Divine Worship was offered Him (1:6).
3. Divine Nature is announced as His (1:8).
4. Divine Majesty is ascribed to Him (1:8).
5. Divine Anointing bestowed upon Him (1:9).
6. Divine Works are assigned to Him (1:10).
7. Divine Attribute of Immutability (or Permanence, of constant continuity) residing in Him (1:11, 12).
8. Divine Companionship was His—companion of the Most High (1:13).
9. Divine Rule committed to Him (2:5-8).
10. Divine Redemption worked out by Him (2:9-18).
III. Greater than Moses. Moses was very great, but Jesus was, and is, greater. This must have staggered the Jews. But the writer proves this point thus:
1. Moses was only a servant, whereas Jesus was Son of God, and a son is greater than a mere servant (3:5,6).
2. Moses was "in God's House" (3:5), but Jesus "over" God's House'.
3. Yes, more, Moses was only in God's House, but Jesus "over His Own House" (3:5,6).
IV. Greater than Joshua. Joshua was a great leader, but Jesus far greater (4:1-13). Because Jesus renders a more conspicuous service in the bestowal of a Rest far better than the one Joshua (R.V., verse 8) led Israel into. Study verses 5 and 8 in contrast to verse 9.
V. Greater than Aaron. Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, was great, but Jesus greater (5:4-8; compare 7:10-28). How can this be?
1. His Title. Aaron was High Priest, but Jesus called "Great High Priest" (4:14).
2. His Sonship. No high priest ever was called "The Son of God" (4:14). Note, not "a" Son, but "The Son."
3. His Perfect Sympathy. "Touched with the feeling of our infirmities" in a more perfect fashion than any earthly priest (4:15).
4. His Sinlessness. All priests, or high priests, are only sinful men, but even the bitterest enemies of Christ have had to acknowledge His sinlessness (7:26).
5. His Kingship. Jesus is King and Priest, a combination not permitted to any king of Israel or Judah (7:1). (Study Numbers 16:40; 18:7; 2 Chronicles 26:18). He was made Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and Abraham acknowledged Melchizedek to be his superior (7:4-10).
6. His Sphere. Jesus ministers in a far better sanctuary than Aaron or any of his successors (8:1-4; 9:1-15).
WHY JESUS CHRIST CAME DOWN TO THIS WORLD OF OURS. Hebrews 1:3
Much confusion exists in the minds of many men and women as to our Lord's chief errand in coming here to this world of ours. Was He sent into the world
I. To be the Prophet of God? He did come with a message from the Most High, and such a message! It was entirely original and unique. He was and is the (not a) prophet of God, yet that was not His primary mission.
II. To be the Revealer of God? "Show us the Father and it suffices us," said the disciples to our Savior, thus articulating man's agelong hunger and passionate desire. Now Jesus did reveal the Unseen. He declared "He who has seen Me has seen the Father"—marvelous statement. Yet that was not His supreme mission.
III. To be the Ruler of God? He was not only born of the tribe of Judah, but of the family of David, thus of the Davidic line. He entered Jerusalem as King after three and a-half years' ministry. He claimed the Throne of David. But He was rejected. Yet He must ascend that throne by and by. The next king of united Israel must present and prove his descent from David. Only one Person can do this—the Man Christ Jesus. For all genealogical registers were burned at the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple, A.D. 60, and the only descendant of David who can present his genealogy is Jesus, for that has been preserved in perpetuity in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Yet He came to do something very important, before He could reign.
IV. To be the Lamb of God? Yes. Hebrews 1:3 declares the primary work He came to do. This was the work for which He came. He came to be a man and die. Seeing He came to purge our sins, why spend so much time in these early chapters of Hebrews to prove His Deity and His Majesty? Ah, the importance of the work performed is proved by the greatness of the Agent. The more important work of the State is entrusted to the most important servants. When the King entrusts a duty to his own firstborn Prince, all are conscious of the importance of the task.
THE ETERNAL COMPLETENESS AND EFFICACY OF CHRIST'S DEATH. Hebrews 8:12
This is brought out and emphasized many times in this Epistle (7:27; 9:25, 26; 10:1-3), but particularly in association with Hebrews 8:12. The late James Neill, M. A., has so well pointed out that the New Covenant referred to in chapter 8:6-13, begins at a point to which the Old Covenant never for a moment reached. For there was no sacrifice to atone for willful sin under the Old Covenant, with four exceptions only:
1. Willful concealment of knowledge as a witness (Leviticus 5:1).
2. A willful lie (Leviticus 6:2).
3. Perjury (Leviticus 6:2).
4. A sin of impurity (Leviticus 19:20, 22).
As to all else, it is said: "The soul that acts presumptuously... that soul shall be cut off" (Numbers 15:30). That shows the force of David's petition, "You desire not sacrifice, else would I give it" (Psalm 51:16). He is referring to his willful sin, for which no provision had been made. But of this New Covenant, well, it begins at a point where the Old Covenant never reached—the full, free, forgiveness of all sin. Praise the Lord! Hence the force of "The Blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
SAVED TO THE VERY END. Hebrews 7:25
This verse has been called "The Gospel for Saints." But why saints? Sinners need the Gospel, that is universally admitted. But do saints need a Gospel message? Yes; and when the message of "uttermost" is understood, the force of this word is seen. The meaning of the word in the Greek rendered "uttermost" is really "to the very end." "The end"—not end in time but end in place. It is true His salvation is good for both. But we are endeavoring to penetrate into the meaning of this word before us.
Israel was saved from death in Egypt by the sprinkling of the blood, and saved from the power of their enemy when the waters of the Red Sea drowned the pursuing army. But they were not saved "to the uttermost," that is, "to the very end" (as Rotherham renders it) until, after the forty years' wanderings expired, they crossed the Jordan and took possession of the Promised Land. This is a great word. If a redeemed soul has not yet fully entered into his possessions in Christ, and in consequence is not living the life of victory and communion of Beulah land, he has not yet been saved "to the uttermost?"
1. His Ability to Save. "He is able."
2. Whom He Saves. "Them that come."
3. Extent of His Salvation. "To the uttermost," right up to Canaan, that is, the life of fellowship and victory.
4. Period of His Salvation. "To the very end" (r.).
5. Ground of this Salvation. "He ever lives."
6. Character of His Salvation. "Completely" (J.N.D.).
THE ETERNAL FRESHNESS OF CHRIST'S SACRIFICE. Hebrews 10:20
Dr. Chadwick draws attention to the Greek word rendered "New," stating that it is unknown elsewhere in Scripture, and means "newly slain." Thus is declared the perpetual freshness of the offering of Christ. This is further taught in that pregnant sentence in the Revelation, "A Lamb as it had been slain," as if freshly slain. Luther saw this point, and remarked, "It seems but yesterday that Jesus died on the Cross." A modern poet also saw this truth and crystallized it in that line of poetry:
"Dear dying Lamb, Your precious Blood
Shall never lose its power."
DWELLING AT COURT. Hebrews 10:19-22
The Doctrinal part of the Epistle is now ended, and the important application begins. Here we reach the goal. Here we see the child of God at home. That Home is the Holy Place, the very presence of God. "Christianity is a religion of access."
I. The Privilege. "Having therefore liberty" (19, A.V., marg.). The privilege of dwelling in the Secret Place is the fruit of Christ's death. And this privilege is for today, and all our days, for time as well as eternity.
II. The Enablement. "Let us draw near." Observe: "Boldness," associated with "the Blood of Jesus."
III. The Conditions.
1. A True Heart. Heart right with God.
2. "Full Assurance." Faith in full, vigorous, healthy exercise.
3. Good Conscience. Through His Blood we find release from the haunting sense of guilt.
4. Purified Bodies. A dedicated and purified body and a life cleansed from all outward degrading and ignoble habits and practices.
FAITH IN OPERATION. Hebrews 11
This chapter has been called the Westminster Abbey of the Bible. Herein are preserved word-portraits of some members of the family of God in relation to the life of faith.
Have you ever wondered why mention should be made of their faith and not their sins? Why? Obviously because every believer is seen here in the light of chapter 10. They stand in the Covenant of Grace, and are seen as those who have fully accepted the great sacrificial work of the Redeemer, and that means the pardon and blotting out of their sins, never to be remembered again forever. Praise the Lord!
Let us summarize this chapter:
In verse 1 we have the Nature of Faith—that it is not a guess, nor an airy nebulous sort of thing, but "substance," "evidence." In the rest of the chapter we have demonstrated the Possibility of Faith to all classes and grades of individuals, women and men, servants and master, the weak and the strong, the educated and the illiterate.
FAITH. Hebrews 11
1. Description, Substance and Evidence (1).
2. Report, Elders (2).
3. Credence, Creation (3).
4. Worship, Abel (4).
5. Witness, Enoch (5,6).
6. Work, Noah (7).
7. Walk, Abraham (8).
8. Patience, Abraham (9, 10).
9. Willingness, Sarah (11,12).
10. Welcome, Unknown Heroes (13-16).
11. Sacrifice, Abraham (17-19).
12. Triumph, Isaac (20-22).
13. Preservation, Parents of Moses (23).
14. Renunciation, Moses (24-26).
15. Flight, Moses (27).
16. Contagion, "He" then "Them" (28, 29).
17. Exploit, Israel (30).
18. Salvation, Rahab (31).
19. Manifold Activities, Many Saints (32-40).
THE RACE. Hebrews 12:1,2
In the Bible there are various views of life. Here is an athletic one, that of a race. This simile is suggestive.
I. The Race. Speaking of
1. Strenuous effort.
2. Run, not loiter.
3. Changeful life implied, with fresh views.
4. A Progressive life, calling for
II. The Appointment. "Set before us."
III. The Incentive. A cloud of witnesses. We are being watched, at any rate by our Blessed Lord.
IV. The Preparation. "Let us lay aside."
"The Weight"—lawful things, yet things not helpful.
"The Sin"—besetting sin.
V. The Speed. "Let us run," not loiter.
VI. The Spirit. "Run with patience."
VII. The Inspiration. Looking unto Jesus.
VIII. The Goal. The Glory.
Note.—For a more detailed study of this Epistle, see the Author's "The Outlined Hebrews," where there are 118 separate and distinct studies in addition to these.