The Book of Hebrews

God's Story in Scripture  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:56
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Overview Sermon of the book



Living in the United States, we are in an environment where we have choices everywhere. We can choose where to shop, what to buy - often from among a variety of options, we can choose where to live (even in the age of COVID, some people are finding they can keep their jobs and choose to live far away from them). We can choose schools, colleges, and more. We can even choose our own utility providers.
These choices can be overwhelming. How do I choose? Do I go with the best price? Do I go with the best value? Do I go with the best quality? Often we have multiple choices in each of those categories.
When it comes to religion, we seem to have a plethora of choices ranging from atheistic secularism, to pantheistic options, new age mysticism, and monotheistic options. Even in Christian circles you have the reformed and the non-reformed, charismatic, pentecostal, holiness, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, non-denominational, and on and on.
Frankly, even in baptist circles there are a variety of flavors to choose from.
Again, how do you choose?
In some ways, choosing a church is a bit like choosing something at a store - you have to go with what’s available and with the one that lines up most closely with your convictions.
But choosing a religion or a faith is more complicated. Some might say we can choose any and they are all equally good - but they fail to take into account the differences and contradictions that exist among the religions - all roads don’t lead to the same place.
As Christians, we would say that rather than choosing Christ, we respond to his choosing us. And yet, as if the joy and honor of being chosen by God was not enough, we are constantly bombarded with pressures that lead us away from our faith.
In her new book entitled The Secular Creed, Rebecca McLaughlin says...
“For most Westerners today, the alternative to Christianity isn't another religion. For all the contemporary interest in meditation, yoga, and what we see as ancient eastern wisdom, few are looking for a full embrace of Buddhist or Hindu ethics. Radical Islam's association with violence and oppression of women tend not to appeal. And while Jewish religious and cultural practices are deeply precious even to avowedly atheist Jews, few curious gentiles find themselves in shul. For a growing proportion of people in the west, not identifying with any particular religion but retaining beliefs about human equality has felt like a safe place to land. After all, people reason, religion has done more harm than good and things like universal human rights, racial justice, and care for the poor are self-evident truths.”
(p. 20).
All that to say, most Christians who wander from the faith are more likely to wander into the category of “nones” or non-affiliated than they are to identify with something other than Christianity. Essentially, we’re at risk of returning to our secular roots.
The threat that we face today is not unlike the threat that faced first century Jewish Christians who were the likely intended audience of the book of Hebrews.


Like most books of the Bible, we don’t know whom the Holy Spirit inspired to write the book of Hebrews. The human author never identifies himself or his audience. Internal cues can help us to see that the audience was likely Jewish background believers who had been believers for along time and yet had not matured sufficiently to withstand some ongoing persecution they were experiencing.
These Jewish background believers were being pressured and pulled to return to observance of the Old Testament law.
In response to those pressures, the writer of Hebrews lays out this treatise as a means of helping them understand why Jesus is better; why Jesus is superior to all of the former ways. As the author lays out his systematic arguments toward the supremacy of Jesus, he does so with several warnings, but also with the aim of encouraging these believers to remain faithful - even in the face of persecution - a good encouragement for us.

Jesus is better than than the prophets and angels (Heb. 1-2)

Right from the outset of this book, the author makes a firm argument for the supremacy of Jesus. He doesn’t introduce himself as many of the other writers of the Epistles do. Instead he acknowledges this truth...
Hebrews 1:1 ESV
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
and then follows that up with this bold assertion...
Hebrews 1:2–4 ESV
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
And then, after making this statement about the supremacy of the Son (Jesus) and his inherent qualities, the author uses a series of OT quotations as a means of supporting his premise that Jesus is better than the prophets and the angels.
It is interesting that the author references prophets in verse 1 and then argues Jesus supremacy over angels in the rest of the chapter. Why this distinction? Why the two?
Well, the prophets were spokesmen for God. These were people who would proclaim the truths of God to God’s people. Jewish tradition states that the prophets received their words from angels. So, in their line of thinking you have a multiple step process -
The underlying argument for the writer of Hebrews is that since the Son is God who became human, He is and speaks the very word of God.
Now, just because the things that were spoken of old came through prophets and angels, does not mean that the word was unreliable or inaccurate. He is simply stating that Jesus as THE Word of God is better - therefore, we should obey what he says.
Which brings us to the first warning. Throughout the book, the author presents several warnings as markers. We find this first warning the opening verses of chapter 2.
Warning: (Heb. 2:1-4)
Hebrews 2:1–4 ESV
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
He is basically saying, “you tried to obey the words of the angels and prophets, which proved to be reliable, do even more to obey the Words of the Son - Jesus”
One of the things that makes Jesus better than the angels and prophets is that he is God - even as we saw in the opening verses, “he is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature” (1:3). But beyond that, because Jesus took on human flesh, because he became like us in physical nature - therefore taking on the image of God, which gives him dominion over this world - just as God gave that to us as humans.
Hebrews 2:5–9 ESV
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
So, because the Word we hear from Jesus is better than the words we heard from the prophets and angels - we should listen and obey him all the more.
(possible illustration about their situation - nature of persecution).
So, not only do we see that Jesus is better than the prophets and angels, but in chapters 3-4 we find that...

Jesus is better than Moses and the Promised Land (Heb. 3:1-4:13)

For most Jews, Moses is an important figure. He was the one who led the people out of the bondage in Egypt. He was the one who preached the laws of God to them. He was the one who organized them in their religious practices.
Again, just as he acknowledged the significant contribution of the angels and prophets, the writer of Hebrews acknowledges that Moses was a man who was worthy of honor, but Jesus is worthy of more honor.
Hebrews 3:1–6 ESV
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
Moses led the people of Israel in the wilderness up to the edge of the promised land - but because of his rebellion and the people’s rebellion, not all were able to go in. As good as Moses was, he was still fallen and unable to complete the journey. Joshua, the man who followed after Moses ultimately brought the next generation of Israelites into the promised land.
Jesus, on the other hand, is able to bring us into the promised eternal rest.
Hebrews 4:2 ESV
For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
He continues later on.
Hebrews 4:8–12 ESV
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
I think the point that the writer is getting at is that Jesus, the living Word of God, is able to fully bring us into the promised eternal rest or eternal sabbath - our promised land. Because of that, we should persevere and obey. Which leads us to the warning in this section. There is an extended warning.
Warning: (Heb. 3:7-4:7)
We could summarize the warning in this way -
Don’t rebel against Jesus the way that the people of Israel rebelled in the wilderness. Encourage one another to avoid being deceived by sin.
Jesus is better than the prophets and angels, he is better than Moses and the promised land, in the next section, we get to see that...

Jesus is better than the priests - even Melchizedek (Heb. 4:14-7:28)

In the Jewish religious system, Priests came from the tribe of Levi. They were appointed to serve and to offer sacrifices. The Levitical Priests would have to offer up sacrifices for themselves to atone for their sin, before they could offer sacrifices for the people. These priests would have to offer sacrifices daily and at certain yearly religious festivals. By their nature, they were unable to offer atonement that would stick eternally. Beyond that, they were human and would ultimately die - rendering everything they did to be temporary.
In the book of Genesis, Abraham has an encounter with a man named Melchizedek. He was a priest-king in Jerusalem. He is unique because his genealogy and heritage are unknown. He’s not an Israelite. He is simply his own man - a priest and a king.
So the writer of Hebrews talks about Jesus as being the perfect high priest - sinless. He does not have to offer a sacrifice for his own sin, because he is without sin.
Hebrews 5:9–10 ESV
And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
He is in the oder of Melchizedek because while he has an earthly heritage, he is not confined by the Jewish tribal limitations - because he is God. In fact, his human heritage is from the tribe of Judah - the royal line - and not the Levitical line.
He is also eternal - so his offering of a sacrifice is sufficient once and for all.
Hebrews 7:21–24 ESV
but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’ ” This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
But, as with the other sections, there is a warning.
Warning: Hebrews 5:11-6:20
In the warning, the writer chides the readers/hearers for being spiritually immature and simplistic. Even though they had been believers for quite a long time, they were refusing to mature and grow. So he shares this admonition:
Hebrews 6:1–2 ESV
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
The intended audience of this letter was moving back toward a works based salvation - a salvation that is based on Jesus+law. That is not the salvation we have through Jesus Christ. We’ve been covering this over the last couple of weeks in Kid’s Connection as the kids have wrestled with the balance of salvation by faith alone and then living a life of good, godly works in response.
Tim Mackie from the Bible Project summarizes the warning in this way:
“To reject Jesus is to reject ones only chance at reconciliation with God.”
So we’ve seen that Jesus is better in so many ways. There is one other way that the writer of Hebrews elevates the supremacy of Jesus Christ - noting that...

Jesus is better than the sacrifices and the covenant (Heb. 8-10)

Because Jesus is already the better priest, he is able to offer better sacrifices. One of the lines of argument that the writer presents here is that the earthly temple and tabernacle are a shadow of what is in heaven. Because Jesus is from heaven, he is not working with shadows, but with the original.
Hebrews 8:1–2 ESV
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.
Rather than offering daily and yearly sacrifices, Jesus offered his life once and for all and then sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. He finished his work for all eternity and then initiated a new covenant. That covenant is something that we will celebrate next week as we take the Lord’s Supper together.
Hebrews 9:11–15 ESV
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
The writer continues...
Hebrews 10:11–14 ESV
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Because Jesus Christ - the perfect word, the better Moses, the perfect high priest, eternal sacrifice and initiator of an eternal covenant, we get to boldly come before God’s through. We get to enter into his presence. We get direct access to God (Heb. 10:19ff). There is now no division between us and God.
In response to that, the writer of Hebrews has yet another warning...
Warning: Hebrews 10:26-31
Essentially he is saying in these verses - now that you know what Christ has done for you, don’t reject him, don’t rely on your own righteousness or fulfillment of the law - trust in him and then live by faith.
So, let me ask you, what are you basing your hope in salvation upon? Is it in your deeds? Is it in some cosmic scale of right vs. wrong? Is it in your church attendance?
If your hope for salvation is in anything other than Jesus Christ, then your hope is misplaced. He saw us in our sin. Rather than offering a sacrifice to pay for his sin and then one to pay for ours over and over again, Jesus offered his life as the perfect “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and made atonement for our sin for eternity. To have access to that we simply must receive it by faith. He loves you. He died for you. Will you turn and trust him? Will you then live a godly life in response?
Tim Mackie summarizes all that has been covered so far in this way:
“Jesus is God’s Word, the hope for a new creation, the eternal priest and the perfect sacrifice.”
which brings us to the final section of the book which basically says...

Because Jesus is better, we should follow the example of others and remain faithful (Heb. 11-13)

As the writer of Hebrews wraps up his treatise, he leaves us with some big reminders:
Walk by faith (Heb. 11) - as those who have gone before us have done
Persevere in difficulty - (Heb. 12) - we are following Jesus’ example as well - he is the leader of a kingdom that will not be shaken.
Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:28–29 ESV
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Live sacrificially in community (Heb. 13) - we’ve said this before, life as a Christian should be markedly different than those of non-Christians. It’s not just our weekly schedule - carving out time for Church each week.
Hebrews 13:1–5 ESV
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
As the book of Hebrews closes, the writer concludes with several more encouragements and commands that tie in together.


As we close, let’s think briefly about the context. The initial audience of this book was a group of believers who had been believers for a long time, and yet in the face of persecution, were turning back toward their old way of thinking and believing. In response to their temptation to return to the legalism of the Old Covenant, the writer of Hebrews lays out a clear argument elevating the supremacy of Christ - showing why Jesus is better:
He’s better than the prophets and angels - He is the Word of God
He’s better than Moses and the promised land - He is our hope for a new creation and an eternal rest
He’s better than the priests - he is our eternal priest
He’s better than the sacrifices of the old covenant - he is the perfect sacrifice - fulfilling the old covenant and initiating a new covenant.
In our current environment, we also run the risk of persecution. We run the risk of being tempted to fall away - to fall into our former way of thinking - to falling into the world’s pattern. In light of the message of Hebrews:
Jesus is better than the changing messages of today - he is the timeless and unchanging word of God
Jesus is better than any leader today and any false utopian hope - he is fashioning a new creation and provides us true hope in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is better than than the changing standards and the shame of cancel culture today - he is the same yesterday today and forever (Heb. 13:8)
Jesus is better than the inconsistencies of today’s way of life - he laid down his life, so that we might die to ourselves and live for God’s glorious kingdom in community.
Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Remain faithful, God will not abandon us!
Let’s pray
Memory Verse: Hebrews 1:3-4
Hebrews 1:3–4 ESV
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Crossway Bibles. The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008.
deSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Dever, Mark the Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005
Gromacki, Robert G. New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1974.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims. Austin, TX: The Gospel Coalition, 2021.
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