Part One built a necessary foundation for this series on the reasons for the writing of the book of Hebrews. It came about as a reaction to significant misunderstandings within the package of doctrines that many who claim to be Christian believe the New Covenant teaches. A central theme of these misunderstandings could be stated as, “God’s moral laws are done away.”
They erroneously claim that Christians are not under the strict necessity of keeping God’s commandments to be saved, therefore the Christian is essentially free to choose which ones he will observe. That is a dangerous belief! An individual’s carnal nature can easily invent a justification that sets him free to devise his own god according to his desires.
A second careless misunderstanding is that the New Covenant, about which the epistle to the Hebrewsis particularly concerned, provides authority to do away with our responsibility to keep the commandments. It does no such thing.
A third misunderstanding is that, under the Old Covenant, a person was saved by his keeping of the commandments. This has never occurred even once in mankind’s sinful history! God has forever and always granted salvation to human beings by His merciful grace through faith.
As early as the seventh century BC, during the lifetime of the prophet Jeremiah, God assured humanity that He had prepared a new covenant, which was ready to be presented and ratified between God and men. The specific time of its institution was not revealed then, only that He would make it with a reunited Israel and Judah. However, the Bible shows that God did not wait for physical Israel and Judah’s reunification into one nation, but instead, He introduced the New Covenant into the Christian church as a precursor agreement through and under Jesus Christ as the church began. This was part of God’s Plan, and He is continuing to use its standards to prepare a people within the present-day church to fulfill its operations under Jesus Christ when Israel and Judah reunite after His return (Revelation 14:1-5).
The New Testament teaches that the Temple sacrifices and ceremonies commanded under the Old Covenant are indeed set aside. But God’s setting aside of the ceremonial focus, as explored and expounded in the epistle to the Hebrews, does not automatically do away with any other laws dealing with public and private behavior relating to loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.
God’s institution of the New Covenant within the church has been a more intimate and effective guide for producing higher-quality relationships with Him and His Family than the Old Covenant. When combined with His appointment of Jesus Christ as our spiritual High Priest, this system features a personal, anytime, all-the-time relationship with Him that enhances the creation of the spiritual characteristics that God desires in His children. These elements allow us access to God that those under the Old Covenant did not have. We can approach Him anytime through Christ!
Much of the book of Hebrews is, according to chapter 8, focused on Jesus Christ’s qualifications for fulfilling His responsibilities within the spiritual process that God has instituted under the New Covenant. Jesus Himself teaches us about our vital need of Him in John 15:4-6:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
The close intimacy of the relationship with Jesus Christ that the New Covenant provides for us makes it extremely valuable to us. In turn, our spiritual relationship with the Father and Son influences our life’s activities. His role is to assist us in making good spiritual use of the gifts God has made available to us when we accepted the New Covenant (Romans 5:1-5). Our goal now is to bring glory to God by yielding to His creative genius and power as we live our lives, being formed into Christ’s character image. Jesus Christ never sinned. It is this quality of righteous living that honors the Father. Thus, we are called to walk in the steps of our Savior. Peter writes in I Peter 2:21-22, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.’”
The New Covenant does not abolish the Ten Commandments at all. Jesus’ life proves that. We are to follow what He did. God’s appointment of Jesus Christ as High Priest to aid us and His institution of a more effective system for preparing us for His Kingdom removed the typical Temple system of animal sacrifices and ceremonies. He replaced them with the far superior personal, individual, and spiritual attentions of Jesus Christ. At the same time, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus raises our behavioral responsibilities, teaching us to keep the commandments in their spirit. This elevated standard makes them more refining and restraining than they are in the mere letter.
The Author of Hebrews
It will be helpful to address some particulars about the epistle to the Hebrews before plunging into the specifics of the instruction itself. For instance, only God knows for certain who wrote it. Whatever God’s reasons might be, He does not require that we know this fact, so we are left to speculate. Unlike nearly every other human author of a portion of the Bible, this author fails to identify himself explicitly. It really does not matter since God Himself, as the Inspirer of the human author, is the real author (