New Testament Week 45: “Jesus the Author and Finisher of Our Faith” – Hebrews 7-13

The last seven chapters of Hebrews are some of the meatiest chapters in the New Testament. This is where the clearest statements are made regarding the transition from the old covenant with God (Law of Moses) and the new covenant through Jesus Christ. It is also the most detailed sermon we have on faith in the New Testament. I highly recommend spending time reading and studying these chapters more slowly than some of the other epistles. There is so much good stuff to think about.

One other thing before we jump in. When I started the endeavor to write study helps for the New Testament readings for the year, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It has been a lot of work. It has also really helped me as a person and as a disciple of Christ. Being a better disciple was the goal I was searching for and I hope these lessons have helped with that goal. I have had many changes in my heart and mind about my life and what I want from it from this effort and I hope you find the same things.

CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 44 – Hebrews 7-13

Focus:
– Jesus Christ’s gospel, atonement, and resurrection has replaced the old covenant through the Law of Moses.

– Faith is the source of power and peace for disciples of Jesus Christ.

– Disciples who have faith in Jesus Christ, must be examples to non-believers and endure to the end.

Context and Timeline:
– Melchizedek – King of Salem, type shadow for Jesus Christ, High Priesthood is named after him as he was the head of the Priesthood at the time of Abraham.

– Abraham – Patriarch of the eventual house of Israel. The source of the Abrahamic Covenant which was partially included in the Law of Moses and perfected with Jesus Christ.

– Priesthood – Levitical priesthood was passed down through the lineage of Levi. They were the servants of the tabernacle and officiated in all the ordinances and rituals of the tabernacle and temple. Melchizedek priesthood is the higher priesthood and is not limited to lineage. It is bestowed by the power and gift of God and has authority over the Levitical priesthood.

– Jesus was a descendant of the tribe of Judah, which did not have right to the Levitical priesthood but did have the power of the Melchizedek.

– In Chapter 8 the author quotes from Jeremiah 31:31-34. It is the longest quotation of Old Testament in New Testament. It is also a clear prophecy and statement that the new covenant of Jesus Christ was promised to come eventually, and the old covenant was only given because at the time it was because it was all the people were prepared to handle.

– Tabernacle and Temples had three main sections. The Courtyard, where many of the sacrifices, washings, and day to day ordinances and rituals took place. The Holy Place which could only be entered by priests where more holy and important ordinances were performed (menorah, altar of incense, table of the shewbread). The final section was the Holy of Holies which was only entered by the High Priest one day per year on the Day of Atonement and the room represented the throne of God and where God dwelt on the earth.

– There is a theme and mentioned law anciently called the law of the Testator. It basically says that if the person giving his testimony is also killed for that testimony the efficacy is so much greater. In this instance Jesus is the Testator, but there are other examples like Paul, Abinadi, Joseph Smith, etc.

– The Law of Moses and many other commandments and practices of old were types and shadows of the future coming of Jesus Christ and his final sacrifice.

– There were many laws within the Law of Moses in which the penalty for breaking the law was death.

– The author takes the most foundational stories from the Old Testament to prove the point of faith as the foundation for discipleship rather than the Law. He goes from one foundational prophet to the next until Jesus Christ.

– The only part of Hebrews that is like a letter is the last few verses and in some ways it feels like a form letter in which this was sent to multiple groups and areas and tailored to each group and delivered with missionaries who would preach its message.

History around Epistle:
Hebrews has the most contested authorship in the New Testament. The earliest manuscripts have Hebrews directly after Romans, which would suggest the belief that Paul was the author. There are many reasons people feel the book is the work of Paul as well, but there is just as much evidence to suggest that it is not the work of Paul. It also seems likely that the book was written before 70 AD, when the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem, as that would have likely been mentioned in the chapters discussing the temple. The fact that Hebrews has the same principles and ideas about Jesus Christ that the four gospels contain, it seems possible this was a missionary tract that was compiled by many different leaders of the church around the time the gospels were being written.

Hebrews also discusses Melchizedek and the higher priesthood in ways that no other ancient scripture does and so it has particular value to Latter-day Saints.

Doctrinal Teachings:

  • Priesthood (Chapters 7)
    • Melchizedek and Jesus Christ are types for each other.
    • The Melchizedek Priesthood was above and had more authority than the Levitical.
      • The Melchizedek was not limited to lineage.
    • Abraham even respected the Melchizedek Priesthood and Abraham was the pinnacle of righteousness to Hebrews.
    • Perfection was not possible through Levitical Priesthood.
    • Jesus is the High Priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood and holds the keys and authority of salvation.
  • The New Covenant (Chapters 8-10)
    • The Law was a preparation for the new covenant. All of the ordinances, sacrifices, and the temple rituals were to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ and the new covenant.
    • Jesus’s final and infinite sacrifice perfected the covenants and bridged the gulf between us and God.
    • Jesus is the mediator and He alone decides our fate as he appeased the demands of the Father.
    • The Law was a type but was not reality. The way we enter the presence of God is through the blood of Jesus Christ and not the blood of animal sacrifices.
    • Loving and encouraging each other to do good works will make our life in Christ more fulfilling.
      • If we come to Jesus Christ and reject him by willfully rebelling, then the fury of God’s fire will come to us at some point.
  • Faith (Chapter 11)
    • Faith is being confident in the things we hope for and being convinced of things we haven’t seen with our own eyes.
    • The world was created, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the walls of Jericho falling were based and built upon faith. Faith is the power of being God’s tool.
      • There are many other stories of faith, more than can be stated, but the point is that faith is the source of all of the scripture’s power. All of these people were different, their experiences were different and what united them was the power they received through their faith.
    • Those who came before us will only be perfected through us and because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. That is the foundation of our faith.
  • Jesus Christ and Being a Disciple (Chapters 12-13)
    • The foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ. He is the architect of the building. The witnesses of Jesus Christ are the builders of the building.
    • We are children and our trials, temptations, and difficulties are to help us grow and learn to rely on the Lord.
    • Christian Life is centered around – Faith in Jesus Christ, Brotherly Love, Hospitality, Succoring those in need and afflicted, Marriage, Moral behavior, Being free from the love of money, Being content with the things we have been given, Supporting those who lead and spread the gospel.
    • Do not fall away to strange teachings, instead ground our lives in the grace of Jesus Christ.
    • Jesus Christ is eternal, and we can rely on Him and His purposes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever in His purpose and His desire to see us inherit Eternal Life.
    • Pray for and support your leaders, they are not perfect, but they are trying.

Key Moment or Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-2
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

This scripture encapsulates the power of a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is so easy to feel like everyone around us is so close to Jesus Christ and is so certain in their testimonies, but that can be weight on our shoulders if we are less certain. It is also easy to think everyone else is so sinless and we can feel the weight of our own sins. This can make us separate ourselves from those witnesses and even from the Lord.

The truth is that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, which means that he took all that upon him so that we can lay aside our sins or our doubt and move along the path at our own pace. When the scripture says “let us run with patience the race that is before us” he is saying we all have a different race to run, a path to follow, and life to deal with. So with Jesus Christ as our teammate we can lay aside the weight of sin and the weight of comparison with others and just deal the race ahead of us with Him by our side.

This point of view brings freedom and grace and makes it so much easier to experience and feel God in our lives because we can love and connect with others instead of separating from them.

Final Thoughts:
Next week is the Epistle of James. It is one of my favorites in the New Testament. It is short but packed with so much great advice. You can tell that James was a minister to real people as his words are so personal and important.