Bible Study: Hebrews Part 2 — Structure

What can the outline and structure of Hebrews tell us about the message of this letter?

Bible Study: Hebrews Part 2 — Structure
Photo by Kaleidico / Unsplash

Originally published in Issue #29 on October 15, 2021

In part 1, we discussed a brief overview of Hebrews. We asked questions like who was the author, who was it written to, and why was it written.

In this study, I want to ask a different overview question: what can we learn about Hebrews from its broad structure and outline? I’ve looked at numerous scholars’ outlines of the structure of Hebrews and while there’s some disagreement about how Hebrews should be organized, I think a rough outline is fairly clear.

  1. Introduction (1:1-4)
  2. Jesus is superior to the angels (Chapters 1–2)
  3. Jesus is superior to the Old Covenant (Chapters 3–10)
    1. Jesus is superior to Moses & the promised land (Chapters 3-4)
    2. Jesus is superior to the priests & temple system (Chapters 5-7)
    3. Jesus is superior to temple sacrifices (Chapters 8-10)
  4. Remain faithful to Jesus and receive the promises He earned for us (Chapters 11-13)

In each of these main sections, the author of Hebrews has a complex set of ideas with both theology and application to how Christians should live. That’s because Hebrews is, at its heart, a sermon.

Based on the theology and application that the author of Hebrews is teaching, it seems likely that these Jewish Christians are struggling with believing that Jesus is better than the Jewish temple system. The believers were probably under some sort of persecution and were considering going back to their Jewish roots.

The author of Hebrews gives them a powerful sermon showing that everything in the Jewish scriptures finds fulfillment in Jesus. Everything in the Jewish scriptures, every prophet, every priest, ever sacrifice points to Jesus. Jesus is better than anything they could be tempted to go back to.  Therefore, the Jewish believers need to resist sin, resist rejecting the only way of salvation in Jesus, and hold tight to the hope of the promises which were anticipated in the Jewish scriptures and purchased by Jesus.

As we go through Hebrews, we should hold that outline and purpose in mind to better understand how each chapter and verse fits with the author’s, and God’s, ultimate purpose of this sermon-letter.


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