I’ve renamed the “Themes of…” series; it’s now named “Bible Study.” In my short series on Ruth and Jonah, the study picked up on a theme and traced it through the entire book. That works well for short books but a longer book like Hebrews requires a more systematic approach. So while there may still be “theme” studies interspersed, this series will approach Hebrews as a verse-by-verse study.
As in the other studies, this one will be focused on understanding a passage in light of the entire Scripture, and applying it to our lives. I would be honored if you joined me in this study of Hebrews.
What Is It?
There are many different kinds of writing in the New Testament: poetry, stories, biography, genealogy, and more. Hebrews is an “epistle,” or an “occasional letter.” That just means it’s a letter written to a specific group at a specific place.
While Hebrews is a letter, the style of writing in that letter most resembles a sermon. There are several points, each with a theological discussion and an application. We’ll break it down a bit more in the next study.
Who is the Author?
The letter to the Hebrews does not have the name of its author in the text of the letter itself. As a result, the question of the author of Hebrews has been asked for millennia. Hebrews itself wasn’t as quickly accepted by the broad church into the canon of scripture (our accepted list of scripture books) because no one was quite sure who the author was. Ultimately, it was accepted on the strength of its orthodoxy, how early it was written, and its connections with the apostolic circle such as Timothy. Although probably not written by Paul, like Luke, the author of Hebrews works in their circle.
We do have some hints...
Consider the Culture 🎨
Is a false teacher only someone who teaches false doctrine with their lips? Or can it include those who teach false doctrine with their lives?
Though the details of the stories vary, all were men who had the “right” doctrinal content in their books and sermons. Yet they had been denying Christ and leading people astray with their actions long before their failures were publicly known. These pastor-teachers confessed Christ with their mouths but denied him with their bodies. They were (and are) a different kind of false teacher: heretics of the heart.
I think that McGowin is right, and this is something we have overlooked. We learn as much, and arguably more, from watching people's lives than we do from the words they speak. The famous phrase, "walk the walk, don't just talk the talk" is both helpful and true.
Should that apply to those who seek to teach the Word of God? If their lives are not marked by Christlikeness, then even if they believe the right doctrinal statements, should we continue to give them platforms?
Jude encourages us to confront ungodly and licentious living. The emphasis on practice continues through the rest of the short epistle, adding further details about false teachers’ denial of the faith. They “defile the flesh, reject authority,” and participate in “deeds of ungodliness” (vv. 8, 15). Also, they “are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage” (v. 16).
In short, the false teachers Jude warns against are denying Christ not necessarily through their doctrine but through their behavior.
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Challenge Your Brain 🧠
Top 10 Christian vs. Atheist Debates Everyone Should Watch | Capturing Christianity with Cameron Bertuzzi 📽 →
The title for this one is pretty self-explanatory. These are the top 10 Christian/Atheist debates that I think everyone should watch.
I’ve seen most of this diverse list of debates and enjoyed most of them as well. If any pique your interest, follow the links in the description.
Living This Christian Life 🤴👸
Our world seems to get more and more chaotic with every passing day. One week in 2021 feels like I’m on a rollercoaster of emotions and the ride just won’t stop. I can feel joy and happiness in the morning, but by the end of the day, life and the world around me weigh me down. It can leave me feeling so lonely and empty, like there’s no way things can get better.
And that’s where the Psalms come in. I started really meditating on a few Psalms each day, and I can truly say these short chapters have changed my perspective on life over the years. I have this idea set so deeply in my heart that if we all read more Psalms, the world would be a better place — a place where we understand one another more, a place where we fight less and love more, a place where we are able to laugh and cry with friends in the same conversation.
Brown gives us three reasons reading the Psalms will help your relationship with God right now:
- Psalms help us speak to God
- Psalms encourage us to be honest with God and ourselves
- Psalms don’t follow a neatly packed narrative
A part of my morning rituals involves reading the Psalms, and there is often something surprising in that reading. I have found that reading a few lines, pondering them, then praying through them has helped my quest to be transparent and honest with God in prayer. David and the other Psalmists hid nothing from God, and it’s fascinating that God brought that deep humanness into his Word.
Even if that doesn’t work for you (though I recommend trying it), Brown’s article may give you other ideas to incorporate into your prayer life.
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Read and Reflect 📖
Continuing in the theme of the Psalms, this is an interesting article from Olansky recommending that we read the news through the lens of the Psalms.
Just “another day, another horror”? Thankfully, the Bible offers a better approach to the constant stream of bad news coming at us today. Four psalms in particular have helped me wade into the brokenness of the news without drowning.
- Don’t occupy yourself with news (Psalm 131)
- Realize where your only hope lies (Psalm 73)
- Keep up with God’s news above man’s (Psalm 92)
- Observe the testimony of depravity (Psalm 19)
Keep reading for how these four Psalms can point us to Christ instead of the news. Or perhaps, how to process the news in light of the greatness of Christ and his promises.
The Psalms are a powerful, underused tool for the Christian life.
Explore the Scriptures 📖
In this 40-minute interview, Dr. Jay Sklar, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Seminary and the author of a commentary on Leviticus, talks about various issues in Leviticus. Leviticus is a difficult book for Christians because it shows us just how foreign the worldview of the ancient Israelites was. Purity laws, blood rituals, and more all conspire to make this book difficult to understand. I appreciated Dr. Sklar’s way of helping us understand this difficult book.
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Listen and Learn 🎧
This project from the BibleProject team traces the theme of Generosity through the Old Testament. The early discussion of Eve’s differing reactions to the birth of Cain and Seth just about blew my mind.
Tim and John then move through the story of Cain and Abel, the story of Babel, the story of Abraham, and the story of Israel and the promised land. God’s generosity to these different people is the running theme in their conversations.
- Generosity Theme Video | BibleProject 📽
- Generosity Podcast Series | BibleProject 🎧
- Generosity: What Are We Missing? | Erin Vroom with Steven Atkinson 📃
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
We Must Reckon with Past Injustice to Forge a Better Future - A Review of ‘Wilmington’s Lie’ by David Zucchino | Ansley Quiros 📃 →
No doubt, it can be painful to revisit tragic episodes from the past. It can be disquieting to have our illusions of righteousness shattered. But it is necessary. We are so often like the disciples who, after listening to Jesus teach, balked: “This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?” (John 6:60). Despite the difficulty of Jesus’s words, there was life in hearing the truth. There still is.
David Zucchino’s masterful Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy (winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize) tells the story of political and racial tensions in Wilmington, North Carolina, over a century ago. Though a contained case study, these events offer broader insight into how the promises of Reconstruction gave way to Jim Crow.
I read (most of) the book 📚 on the recommendation of this review. Heart-rending history that I’ve never once heard. It’s a riveting, almost unbelievable story. I found a copy through my library.
For many Americans, the progression from emancipation’s triumph to Jim Crow’s suffocation is baffling. And no wonder. Too often, America’s racial history is taught as though the evils of slavery were solved by Lincoln’s soaring rhetoric, reemerging (after the Gilded Age and World War I usually) just in time for Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. to overcome. But to understand the story, and to understand our country, we must examine the years between the Civil War and the civil-rights movement. Wilmington’s Lie reveals how deception and violence entrenched white supremacy within political and economic institutions and prevented the multiracial democracy that remains America’s promise.
Read the review, and if you want to dive deeper into an often untold story of American history, buy the book or do what I did and patron your local library.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
— Matthew 5:27-28 (CSB)