All the Bible, Every Book: Hebrews
Jesus is Better
Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The nine General Epistles point to the person and work of the resurrected Christ. They encourage Christians to cling to Him and exhort them to serve Him faithfully because He is the only source of life. Written primarily to persecuted Jewish Christians, the truths apply to every believer from every culture and in every age of church history.
In A.D. 64 Nero initiated a cruel and comprehensive persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. It was costly to follow Jesus, but it was especially demanding for Jewish converts to follow their Messiah-Savior. Somewhere in the empire there was a discouraged home church composed primarily of Jewish converts who were being tempted to stop following Jesus as His devoted disciples and return to the practices of Judaism. I don’t believe they were abandoning their faith. They were simply reasoning that following Jesus was too costly. Some of them were reversing their course in life and returning to Judaism to avoid persecution. They were believers (3:1), and had been for quite some time (2:3-4; 5:12).
A church leader and companion of Timothy (13:23), who they knew well, sent them this letter. His purpose is clear: To encourage them to rest in Jesus because He is better than any alternative (4:14-16). And resting in Him, they will persevere in following Jesus rather than turning from Christianity to Judaism (12:1-2). Hebrews is more of a sermon in written form than a letter. The message is summed up in the use of the word “better” (1:4; 6:9; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 50; 12:24). Jesus is better than any and every alternative. Therefore, press on to maturity in Him. “The destiny of the Lord Jesus is precisely to rule oikoumene (2:5) and those who adhere faithfully to him will share in that rule (cf. 12:28). They must therefore hold fast to their Christian profession. (Zane Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, s.v. “Hebrews,” p. 780) Every Christian, whether Jew or Gentile, is tempted to return to their former life because it seems following Jesus is just too hard. The writer of Hebrews destroys that reasoning with this compelling message:
Hebrews: Don’t quit. Rest in Jesus because He is better than every alternative.
Hebrews great contribution to the Bible is its revelation of the present priestly ministry of Christ Jesus on behalf of His church.
I. The writer embeds five warning passages into his presentation of the superiority of Christ to encourage suffering Christians to hold fast to their Christian confession and follow Him.
A. The Superiority of Christ—God’s King-Son (1:1-4:16): Jesus is better than any leader because He is God’s Son and we should not neglect the rescue He has secured for His people. He is also better because He is the perfected “Trailblazer” (archegos, “leader,” “originator,” “captain,” “founder,” “pioneer,” 2:10; 12:2) of our deliverance who perfectly identifies with our plight as humans. Therefore we should endeavor to rest in Him by coming to His throne of grace for our every need.
B. The Superiority of Christ—God’s Priest-Son (5:1-10:39): Jesus is better than any representative before God because He is a compassionate fellow-sufferer, called by God and fully qualified to secure our rescue as the high priest of the order of Melchizedek. Therefore we should grow up in our faith to avoid His discipline. His priesthood is superior because it is based on a superior covenant. Therefore we should draw near to God in Him rather than sinning willfully, but persevere in the encouragement of His final sacrifice for sin.
C. The Response to Our Superior Christ (11:1-13:25): Following the examples of heroes of the Scriptures, we should trust in God because that is the only way to please Him. The way we trust in Him now is to keep our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, rather than turning away from following Him. Devote yourself to Him and love His people!
II. HEBREWS AND YOU: This epistle was written to every believer who is thinking, “My life would have been better if I had never met Jesus. It’s just too hard to follow Him!” The writer of Hebrews exposes the lie of that conclusion by reminding us of the greatness of Jesus and what’s at stake if we turn from Him. He is better than any alternative, and turning away from Him always brings loss to Christians. Not loss of salvation, but the forfeiture of all that your redeemed heart longs for.
A. Following Jesus is better than any alternative. The revelation of God in Christ Jesus is greater than the greatest revelation to humanity. Jesus is superior to the revelation of the Law through angels, the revelation of the human prophets, and the revelation of the rituals of the Old Covenant. Jesus is the ultimate revelation from God who is sufficient to meet every human need and who has secured the final victory for His people.
When you think your life would be easier if you walked away from Jesus, think about the One you’re walking away from! You’re never going to meet anyone better than Jesus. No one is more powerful and no one loves you more.
B. Followers of Jesus must learn to rest in Him. The requirement of God is to respond to His revelation by faith. Faith is a choice to surrender to God’s care and guidance in spite of the circumstances of life. It isn’t simply an intellectual exercise; it is a rest in His goodness and love.
When you think your life would be easier if you walked away from Jesus, think about why you’re so exhausted and discouraged. Jesus never meant for you to do the work of following Him. He always planned for you to be empowered to follow Him as you trust in Him. You’re never going to hear Jesus say, “Hey, you didn’t work hard enough!” But you are going to hear Jesus say, “Hey, you didn’t trust me enough to relax and let me love you through this.”
C. Followers of Jesus must fear the loss of turning away from Him. The warning of God to Christians is that there’s something to lose—something real, something valuable, something you really want. That warning isn’t against the loss of eternal life, but the loss of the quality of your personal experience of eternal life. Christians who turn from Jesus invite divine discipline, lose intimacy with Him and His people in this world, and lose reward in the world to come.
When you think your life would be easier if you walked away from Jesus, think about what you’re giving up. You are believing the lie of this world that there is happiness apart from Christ. So whatever you’re grousing about “giving up”—money, travel, surface relationships, esteem, acclaim—is, in the finality of eternity, worthless. What you really want is all that Jesus is offering those who belong to Him and persevere in following Him, even when it costs … and it always does!