February 12 - 18
Assurance and Christ's High-Priestly Ministry
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Heb. 1:2, 5; 4:15, 16; 5:5, 6; 6:13-19; 8:2, 6-12; 9:11-28; 10:19.
MEMORY TEXT: "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who ho come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: The book of Hebrews gives assurance that faith in the risen and interceding Lord brings salvation as a present reality.
EXHORTATIONS TO TASTE THE POWERS OF THE AGE TO COME. As a pastoral letter, Hebrews shows how Messianic Jews can learn from the mistakes of their forefathers who heard the gospel but did not believe it. He urges them to persevere in their faith in Christ until the end in order to enter the promised inheritance. Christian faith brings even more privileges and responsibilities to cherish such a great salvation. A rejection of the gospel is an apostasy from the living God, who has revealed Himself through Jesus. In Christ we are tasting now the powers of the age to come. For our study this week, we will refer to William G. Johnsson's book, Hebrews: Full Assurance for Christians Today (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1994).
We believe that Paul was the author of this important Epistle even though it is anonymous. Ellen White accepts the position that the apostle Paul himself was the author (see The Great Controversy, pp. 347, 411-413, 415, 420, 512). It is beyond question that this book is indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit. May it speak to our hearts this week as we focus on the assurance we have in Jesus our High Priest.
How does Hebrews connect its theological statements with its practical applications? Heb. 2:1; 3:1; 10:19.
The transition from theological discussion to practical application becomes evident in the use of the word therefore. This is also typical in Paul's other writings (see Rom. 5:1; 6:12; 8:1). It indicates that the Christian life is based on and motivated by God's acts in Jesus Christ. The apostolic exhortations are not just good advice, but the necessary fruits of the believer's faith in Christ.
Jesus is the dominant figure throughout the book of Hebrews (see Heb. 1:2, 5; 4:14; 5:5; 8:1; 10:19-22). The book presents several portraits of Him. Describe these portraits in:
"So in Jesus Christians have full assurance. They have access to the heavenly Most Holy Place and a conscience cleansed of sin."—Johnsson, p. 22.
What does it mean that Jesus "by the grace of God" has tasted death "for everyone"? Heb. 2:9, 10; 10:12.
Paul sees Jesus' death not merely as that of a great martyr but as that of the Son of God, whose death was the critical moment of God's gracious act of reconciling humankind to Himself. "He tasted death—not just physical death, but the horror of separation from God, which the Bible calls 'the second death' (Rev. 20:6)."—Johnsson, Hebrews, p. 69. In this God-appointed way Christ became "the author of our salvation"(Heb 2:10).
Contemplate the assuring promise in Hebrews 2:14, 15. Have you by faith in Jesus overcome the fear of death? But what about the fear of dying the trauma, the pain, the temporary separation from loved ones?
What benefit is there for us now that Christ has become our High Priest? Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:14-16; 6:19.
Jesus alone is qualified as our High Priest before God. By experiencing human frailties, temptations, and pain He became qualified to be our Mediator. Hebrews 4:14-16 is one of the most comforting passages in the New Testament. It assures us that our faith is effective because it connects us with the living person of Christ. We do have a powerful and merciful High Priest in heaven. That is the main point of Hebrews (see 8:1). The risen Christ is the guarantor of all His promises (7:22). William Johnsson comments: "At the heart of our religion stands a Man, and His name is Jesus—a Man, but much more, for He is God's Son!"—p. 103.
Compare how Paul in Romans 8:34 describes Christ's work in heaven with how John portrays His work in Revelation 1:12, 13 and 5:6-10.
What is Paul's basic exhortation in Hebrews 4:16?
Christ's aim is not to punish sinners, but to save them by drawing them to Himself through His sacrifice for them (see John 12:32). He can sympathize with human weaknesses, because He "has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet without sin" (4:15). In Christ every believer has received access to the throne of God. "Because we have such a high priest, the doors of heaven's temple swing open wide to welcome us. The command center of the universe no longer holds fear and uncertainty for us—we belong there. We come confidently (King James Version: 'boldly') into the divine presence."—Johnsson, p. 105.
Discuss the significance of the total salvation Christ gives us through His continuous intercession. Heb. 7:25.
The Lord offers us both His forgiving and His keeping grace. He knows we need more than mere amnesty. We need the victorious power of His Spirit in order to overcome our character defects and the many threats to our faith.
How is Jesus' priesthood in heaven of a higher order than Aaron's or that of the Levitical priests? Heb. 5:1-10.
Here is a lesson of great consequence for all who still seek the forgiveness of sins from earthly priests or give glory to human mediators. The first and most fundamental difference between Christ and all others is that God the Father has appointed His one and only Son as equal with God as our Mediator (7:28). This divine ordination is claimed as the fulfillment of two Messianic predictions, in Psalms 2 and 110 (see 5:5, 6). Look up these psalms and read those major promises about the Messiah's work of redemption. No other being in heaven or on earth can share in this high honor and work. In Christ alone are deity and humanity united. The Levitical priests were faint representations of the sinless, divine Mediator. Paul wrote to Timothy that God wants to save "all men" and therefore has appointed "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men" (1 Tim. 2:5, 6, NIV).
How does Paul deal with the common problem of being "slow to learn" spiritual truth? Heb. 5:11; 6:1.
He stimulates sluggish Christian believers to move forward to a mature spiritual understanding, and to "enjoy the full experience of salvation" (6:9, J. B. Phillips).
What is the purpose of his severe warning against an irrevocable apostasy? Heb. 6:4-6.
This difficult passage can be understood best if read with the parallel sections of 10:26-31 and 12:15-17. where the same elements occur as in 6:4-6. The "if" in 6:6 indicates that Paul places before the Jewish Christians a possibility of apostasy rather than an actual situation. He warns them against a deliberate, public rejection of Christ. "Here, we find the strongest words of Christian assurance coupled with the strongest warnings to Christians. But the two go together."—Johnsson, p. 117. The threefold message of Revelation 14 also contains the same strong words of warning after the proclamation of the everlasting gospel.
|As you reflect on Hebrews 6:11, 12, how is your hope made "sure"?|
What twofold assurance has God provided for us, and how is Abraham an example in this respect? Heb. 6:13-15.
Complete: God made a _________ to Abraham and then confirmed it by an ________ . Thus God made His word doubly sure! For Christians, God's Word is made even more sure because of its fulfillment of the Messianic promises in Jesus. Our hope rests on the reality of Messiah Jesus. "Jesus anchors our hopes. His person and His work make our salvation absolutely sure."—Johnsson, p. 119.
What special significance do you find in Hebrews 6:19?
We need to consider the phrase "behind the curtain." or "within the veil" (NASB), in the theological context of chapter 6 and not as a mere item of technical information. The intended message is clear: through the risen Son of God we have now full and free access to the very presence of God, and through Christ's ministry we now enjoy a person-to-person relationship with God. Adventist Bible scholars, therefore, consider this particular phrase as a metaphor for the heavenly sanctuary, from which the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant are dispensed. (See Issues in the Book of Hebrews, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series, vol. 4, F. B. Holbrook, ed. [Biblical Research Institute, 1989]).
Why is Psalm 110:4 so important in the entire letter to the Hebrews? Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:17, 21-24.
Write out Psalm 110:4 and consider each word. It contains the surprising announcement that the Levitical priesthood would be replaced by a more perfect priesthood. Paul claims that Psalm 110 is being fulfilled in the permanent priesthood of Christ in heaven.
This psalm refers to the ancient priest-king in the time of Abraham (see Gen. 14:18-20) in order to announce that a son of the royal house of David would one day become a priest-king forever! Melchizedek becomes a historical prototype of Christ in his double office of priest and king. In this respect he was "like the Son of God" (Heb. 7:3). Paul's main point is to announce that Jesus is a better priest, because He became one in "the power of an indestructible life" (7:16).
|Why is Christ's present priesthood so important to you?|
Why is the "better hope" introduced? Heb. 7:19, 25.
The key point of Jesus' new priestly order is that in Christ "we draw near to God." This is the perfection of Jesus' ministry, which the weak Levitical order did not have (7:18, 19).
Mention four distinctive characteristics that express the superiority of Christ's priesthood in Hebrews 7:20-28.
1. _________________________________ 2. _______________________________
3. __________________________________ 4. _______________________________
"Too often in our times, the fizz has gone out of Christian living. We wander about, groping for a light, when the Light has already come. We debate and argue, when the Truth already has spoken. We seek to please God, when He already has opened the Way."—Johnsson, p. 137.
What does Paul point out as the sum total of the previous chapters? Heb. 8:1, 2.
Notice the ring of certainty: "We do have such a high priest"! This good news should excite us every day. It is an essential part of the gospel just as is the cross of Christ. Our faith must center in a crucified, risen, and interceding Lord. Such a comprehensive faith brings assurance of everlasting salvation!
How does Paul explain the special benefit of Jesus' superior ministry? Heb. 8:6, NIV. What are the "better promises"? Heb. 8:7-12.
The main benefit of the new covenant lies in providing a solution to the sin problem. No longer is there any need for sacrifices for sins (see 8:13; 10:18). The progression of God's plan of salvation from the old to the new covenant is expressed in a change of worship rituals. So we no longer need to enter God's temple through the blood of animals, but by the shed blood of Christ (9:1, 8, 11-14).
|What is the abiding benefit of Christ's shed blood for you today? (See Heb. 9:14, 22.)|
FURTHER STUDY: Study Luke 5:20, 21; Heb. 3:1; 12:2; 13:20, 21; Rom. 8:34; Rev. 1:12, 13; 5:6-10. Read the two chapters in The Great Controversy, entitled "What Is the Sanctuary?" and "In the Holy of Holies."
"The ministration of the priest throughout the year in the first apartment of the sanctuary. 'within the veil' which formed the door and separated the holy place from the outer court, represents the work of ministration upon which Christ entered at His ascension. . . . So did Christ plead His blood before the Father in behalf of sinners, and present before Him also, with the precious fragrance of His own righteousness, the prayers of penitent believers."—The Great Controversy, pp.420, 421.
Another helpful study book by W. G. Johnsson is In Absolute Confidence: The Book of Hebrews Speaks to Our Day (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Pub. Assn., 1979). The more in-depth treatment of some basic texts, such as Hebrews 6:19 and 9:23, is found in Issues in the Book of Hebrews. referred to earlier.
The book of Hebrews still speaks today to all believers in Christ. The religious profile of the early Jewish Christians and the threats to their faith resemble those of believers in our own time. Hebrews, therefore, is an effective exhortation to us to persevere in the faith we have in Christ. Meditating its great themes of salvation, we breathe the atmosphere of heaven and prepare for our eternal home.
SUMMARY: The book of Hebrews is an inspired and authoritative affirmation of Christian faith. It leads us from the foundation truths to a deeper understanding of God's plan of complete salvation through the work of His Son after His ascension to the heavenly sanctuary.
Roman Ebragemov comes from Kazakhstan, part of the Euro-Asia Division and a former republic of the Soviet Union. He is a member of the Dungan race, an ethnic group that dates back to the seventh century, when Arabs intermarried with Chinese. The children of these marriages took their father's religion, Islam, and their mother's language, a dialect of Chinese. Most Dungans remain in China, but five generations ago, Roman's ancestors moved to Kazakhstan.
Roman grew up in a strong Muslim family. Members of his family are priests, and he, too, studied in the Muslim seminary. He has studied the Qu'ran for years and knows it well. But in spite of this, he knew no peace. His spiritual hunger and inquiring mind drove him to search for answers. He decided to compare his religion with Christianity and learn about this God-Man. Jesus.
He met a Protestant pastor, and for two years he attended worship services in both the Christian church and the mosque. During this time he says he felt like a spy. He compared the Bible with the Qu'ran. He found a peace and comfort from studying the Bible that he had not found in following the traditions of Islam.
During this time an Adventist evangelist announced meetings in town. Roman read the brochure and decided to attend. Cautiously he studied the Adventist doctrines. To his joy, he found that Adventist health teachings were very similar to his Muslim beliefs and practices. And he found similarities in teachings about end-time events as well.
Roman surrendered his life to Christ and was baptized. In doing so, he became the first ethnic Dungan to become a Seventh-day Adventist.
He did not make this decision lightly, for he knew that such a decision would mean total separation from his family, who would consider him a traitor to his faith.
Roman changed more than his faith; he changed careers. He had prepared to be a cook and was a talented masseur, but he recently completed studies at Zaoksky. Theological Seminary in Russia. His one desire now is to share the gospel with other Muslims.
Barbara Huff is an administrative secretary in the Euro-Asia Division office in Moscow, Russia.
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