Hebrews: keep calm & carry on (3)

 

Keep-Calm-Carry-OnDuring the winter Bible class quarter where I minister some of our adult classes will study the book of Hebrews on Sunday mornings (Dec. 1 thru Feb. 23). This study is entitled Hebrews: Keep Calm & Carry On. To aid lesson prep, I’m posting ten sets of twenty exercises/questions to research and consider from each major section of Hebrews (as broken down in David A. DeSilva’s work Perseverance in Gratitude). Today’s section is Hebrews 4:14-5:10 and is entitled “Jesus, Our Guarantor of God’s Favor.”

1. A simple contraction (“let’s”) or phrase (“let us”) is often repeated throughout Hebrews. As you read Hebrews, make a list of every instance of such where a word of encouragement immediately follows.

2. We’ve already seen the writer of Hebrews encourage his audience to maintain their grip on Christ (2.1; 3.6,14) and once more we see it again (4.14). How is it someone who has taken hold of Christ could ever let go?

3. What is “the confession” we’re called to hold onto in 4.14?

4. How can it be said that Jesus “was tempted in every way that we are”? (4.15b)

5. Christ can “sympathize” with us (4.15). The word means much more than having merely an emotional or psychological connection, but speaks to Christ “experiencing” what we experience. How does this awareness deepen the significance of the teaching of 4.14-16 for you?

6. What would it look like for a Christian to “draw near to the throne of favor with confidence” (4.16)? By this statement, what are they encouraged to be doing?

7. What’s the difference between “mercy” and “grace” (4.16)?

8. Working solely from 4.15-5.3, create a job description or ministry definition for a high priest.

9. Why do we need a high priest to intercede with God for us? Why can’t we approach God directly without an intermediary? What does it do for you to know that Jesus, as the perfect high priest, is your go-between with God?

10. Israel’s Levitical priests was “able to deal gently with the ignorant and those who are misled since” they were themselves “prone to weakness.” (5.2) What does the OT teach concerning unintentional sins and willful, deliberate sins?

11. All the Aaronic priests were sinners like the rest of humankind (5.3). In strong contrast, Jesus was/is without (4.15). Think back on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and consider how many people, and how many times, he was accused, without foundation, of being a sinner. If the sinless One was greatly misunderstood, how much more might his sinful followers be misunderstood? How does actually work as encouragement to the early Christians?

12. Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted Psalm in the New Testament and vs. 4 of this psalm is quoted here in Heb. 5.5-6. In fact, Ps. 110.4 forms the basis for Heb. 4.14-7.28. So, read and study Ps. 110. How does the original setting and message of Ps. 110 assist you in understanding Heb. 4.14-5.10?

13. In 5.1-4, the writer notes two qualifications a high priest had to meet: (1) they were “taken [selected] from the people” (5.1) and (2) “called by God” (5.4).

14. Do some reading on the Jewish high priesthood in the time of Jesus and the apostles. How is 5.4, among other things, a critical swipe at such?

15. When specifically do we know Jesus Christ “offered prayers and requests with loud cries and tears as his sacrifices to the one who was able to save him from death” and that “he was heard because of his godly devotion?” (5.7) That is, to what scene(s) in the Gospels do the words of 5.7 refer?

16. In what way did God answer Jesus’ prayers and save Jesus from death (5.7)? Should Jesus’ disciples expect more or better blessing than their Lord?

17. How is it that “although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered?” (5.8) That is, how is it that Jesus had to “learn” anything, given that he was the Son of God?

18. What is the connection between our eternal salvation by Jesus and our obedience to him. (5.9)

19. Read everything the Old Testament has to say about the priest named Melchizedek (Genesis 14).

20. The main point section of this section Hebrews (4.14-5.10) is that Jesus is a better high priest than the high priests of the priesthood of Aaron. As you read through Hebrews, make a list of all the matters in which Jesus and Christian faith is portrayed as superior to, better than, or greater than Jewish faith.

Hebrews: keep calm & carry on (1)

 

Keep-Calm-Carry-OnThe winter Bible class quarter where I minister will run on Sunday mornings from Dec. 1 thru Feb. 23 (thirteen weeks). Some of our adult classes will focus on a study of the book of Hebrews during a portion, or all, of that time. The title for our study is Hebrews: Keep Calm & Carry On.

In the interest of aiding advance preparation on the part of both teachers and students, starting today I’ll post twenty exercises/questions to research and consider from each major section of Hebrews.

For the sake of these notes (not the class outline/schedule) I’ll follow David A. DeSilva’s outline in his fine commentary entitled Perseverance in Gratitude. DeSilva discerns ten divisions of thought in Hebrews and so, the postings here will appear as follows:

  • 1.1-2.18 (Oct. 18)  –  Responding to God’s Word & Work in the Son
  • 3.1-4.13 (Oct. 25)  –  The Inexpediency of Distrust
  • 4.14-5.10 (Nov. 1)  –  Jesus, Our Guarantor of God’s Favor
  • 5.11-6.20 (Nov. 8)  –  Honoring God Necessitates Perseverance
  • 7.1-8.13 (Nov. 15)  –  Jesus, the Better Qualified Mediator of God’s Favor
  • 9.1-10.18 (Nov. 22)  –  The Decisive Removal of Sin’s Defilement
  • 10.19-39 (Nov. 29)  –  Draw Near to God and to Each Other
  • 11.1-12.3 (Dec. 6)  –  Faith’s Orientation in the World
  • 12.4-29 (Dec. 13)  –  In Training for the Kingdom
  • 13.1-25 (Dec. 20)  –  Living in Gratitude to God

Here’s a link to Hebrews 1.1-2.18 as rendered by the Common English Bible. When you’ve read the Scriptures there, come back here and use the following exercises and questions as tools to help you mine out the meaning of the text.

1. Hebrews is anonymous; there is no indication in it as to who wrote it. The wording of 2.3 tells us the author was not a direct witness of Christ, but likely had some connection with the ministry of Paul (due to the mention of Timothy in 13.23). With the aid of a study Bible, quality commentary, or reference work, read up on who scholars consider as possible authors.

2. We don’t know exactly to whom Hebrews was written. Perhaps they lived in Italy (cf. 13.24b). The title (“To the Hebrews”) was added long after it was penned. Again, with the aid of a solid reference work, read a bit as to who scholars think could have first received this letter.

3. As you read through Hebrews, make a list of passages that reveal some of what the original audience of Hebrews had gone through in time past as well as what they were currently experiencing. To get you started, consider 2.1; 5.11-6.12; 10.25-39; and 12.12.

4. Strictly speaking, Hebrews is not a “letter,” but a “message of encouragement” or “sermon” (13.22) written in an elegant Greek style. It’s main thrust seems to be to answer the question “Is it worth it to be a Christian?” As you read Hebrews, listen to this sermon with a steady ear for how the author addresses that concern.

5. Using the CEB, note the subtitles marking off the five thought divisions within 1.1-2.18 (1.1-4; 1.5-14; 2.1-4; 2.5-9; 2.10-18). The third section (2.1-4) is the writer’s central point of application; the other four sections either leading up to, or flowing out from, this one. What do the first and last thought divisions have in common (1.1-4 & 2.10-18)? How do the second and fourth (1.5-14 & 2.5-9) complement each other?

6. What does it mean to truly listen to God’s Son, God’s message (1.1-4)? What sort of things make it easy for us not to truly hear him?

7. What does it mean for God to have a “Son?” (1.2a)

8. Compare the wording of 1.3 regarding Jesus with the wording of a contemporary Jewish apocryphal book known as the Wisdom of Solomon 7.26.

9. Make a list of all the specific matters listed in 1.2-4 that are attributed to the Son.

10. Twice in chapter one (1.2,10), emphasis is placed on Christ being greater than all of creation, a creation that will one day be shaken (1.11-12; 12.25-29). What does this say about the nature of Jesus?

11. Why might the author deem it essential to stress Jesus’ superiority to the angels in 1.3-14? What might make this a matter of special importance to the original readers? Make sure 2.2-3 helps inform your answer. How is this superiority of Christ over angels helpful for us to know today?

12. Between 1.5-2.13, at least a dozen passages are quoted from the OT. By means of cross-references, locate each of these OT texts and read the immediate context of each. Also, from what OT book are most of the references taken?

13. With 1.5 in view, when specifically would you say the proclamation of Jesus as God’s Son occurred? Why?

14. The “sermon” we know as “Hebrews” is frequently punctuated with words of warning for Christians not to drift off from, or grow distant to, faith in Christ. The words of 2.1-3a are the first of these warning passages. With 2.1-3a, start a list that you’ll add to as you read through Hebrews, noting each occurrence of a clear, emphatic statement of warning.

15. Consider the implications of the warning statements (like the one in 2.1-3a) and what they have to say about the assurance and certainty of our salvation? Is true that once a person is saved by Christ that it is impossible for them to become lost? Elaborate.

16. What role were miracles, signs, and gifts of the Holy Spirit intended to play (2.3-4)?

17. Read 2.5-9 closely. Was humanity intended to rule over creation? If so, what kept humanity from having complete control? What is God’s solution to the control problem?

18. Did Jesus experience injustice and suffering because creation is totally “out of control” (2.10)? Does the experience of injustice or suffering on the part of Christians act as evidence that their faith and hope in God is in vain? Explain.

19. What does it mean that God “made perfect the pioneer of salvation” (Jesus) through the “experiences of suffering” (2.10)? Was Jesus not “perfect” before those experiences, does the word “perfect” have a different meaning than we normally associate with the word today, or what? What is Jesus “made perfect” for?

20. Answering with the immediate context in view (2.10-18), why is it exactly that Jesus “had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way” (2.17a)?

spring quarter: what does it mean to be civil?

 

The coming spring quarter (Mar. 3 – May 26) in our Sunday morning adult Bible classes at MoSt Church is a question quarter. And so, during the the first two months of the quarter (Mar. 3 – Apr. 28), several of our adult classes will deal with a significant question related to our being Jesus followers. The question is: “What does it mean to be civil?”

Aside from Scripture, I’m providing three resource books for the class teachers to assist them in their preparation. Those three resources are:

All three of these books are quality works I unhesitatingly recommend class members, not just teachers, to read and consider. They are well-written, full of good food for thought.

Now the various classes may follow their own schedules, but the schedule I’ll use in the class I lead (the 20/20 class) will be as follows:

March 3What Civility Is and Is Not

CC; pp. 7-12,18-20; UD; pp. 11-30,44-56

March 10Eight Rules for a Civil Life

CS; pp. 28-44

March 17Rudeness Happens

TCS; pp. 52-82 / CC; pp. 169-170

March 24Put Civility in Your Head

TCS; 34-36 / CC; p. 15-17,35-47,54-59 / UD; pp. 57-79

March 31 (Easter Sunday) – Civil Words Play Well With Others

CC; pp. 48-53,60-73,116-121,136-145

April 7Being Civil = Being Respectful

CC; 13-14,77-80,97-105,146-151

April 14The Body Civil

CC; 81-86,100-105 / UD; pp. 89-107

April 21When You’ve Been Uncivil …

CC; pp. 106-109,152-157

April 28How to Be Civil When …

 TCS; pp.85-158 / UD; pp. 108-121

Again, let me ask you to consider acquiring a copy of one, or more, of these three books and to read the appropriate sections before coming to class each week. Such can only improve the quality of our class discussion, something I look forward to greatly!