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.