SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Hebrews 4:14 through 10:39
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” (Hebrews 9:24)
The Book of Hebrews has been regarded by the Church through the ages as a wonderful portrait of Christ as prophet, priest, and king of the New Covenant that was foreshadowed by the Old Covenant (Old Testament Law). The Hebrew believers were under severe persecution, apparently by non-Christian Jews. After accepting and enduring this persecution, it seems they had weakened. While never renouncing Christ, they were at risk of drifting back to the Jewish teachings and customs, many of which had supplanted the Old Covenant.
In this portion of text, the writer emphasized the priestly role of Christ, comparing it with that of the Old Testament priest/king Melchizedek and contrasting it with the Levitical priesthood established in the Old Testament Law. The Jews were well aware that the priestly offices could only be held by descendents of Levi, the great-grandson of Abraham. Christ was descended from the tribe of Judah, making Him ineligible to minister as a priest under the Old Covenant. The writer emphasized that there was an earlier precedent for both priesthood and also the combination of priesthood and kingship. (These two roles were always separated in Israel after they were given a king.) Melchizedek was both king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of God, although the Old Testament presents no record of birth, death or genealogy for him. He blessed Abram, and Abram acknowledged his position by paying him tithes.
The Greek word for mediator is mes-ee-tace and means “one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant.”
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- What was the role of the high priest? What were the priests’ duties? Hebrews 5:1
The high priest was the ultimate mediator for the people as his role included offering sacrifices to God on behalf of the entire Jewish nation. The primary duty of the priests was to offer gifts and sacrifices on behalf of the people. They stood between the person bringing the sacrifice and the receiver of the sacrifice (God) as mediators. These sacrifices were offered for sin, for worship, and for thanksgiving; thus, the sacrificial duties were performed over and over again.
To broaden your students understanding, you may want to briefly summarize the duties of the priests as outlined in Leviticus. God chose Aaron as the first high priest. His descendents were ordained to fulfill the role and duties of the priesthood. Annually, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter the Holiest of All behind a thick veil that separated it from the Holy Place. There he would sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat that was above the Ark of the covenant. This offering was for his own sins and also for the sins of the entire Jewish nation.
- Verses 4:15 and 5:2, 8 show that our High Priest, Jesus, can be touched by our infirmities. Why is this important to us?
These verses point out the fact that, in His humanity, Christ lived, suffered, and died as a man. Because of this, we understand that He can sympathize with us, identify completely with what we are going through, and carry us in our suffering. Knowing we have a sympathetic and understanding High Priest, we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Lead your students to conclude that under the New Covenant, God is striving to have His people come close to Him rather than stay at a distance. Christ is approachable. He offers us grace and mercy in abundance according to our need.
- The writer had begun to develop the priesthood of Christ, but in 5:11, he seemingly felt compelled to insert another warning before continuing. What difficulty did he mention in this verse, and what problems had grown because of it?
The writer refers to the readers as being “dull of hearing.” This phrase is a translation from a compound Greek word which means “sluggish, slow, lazy, or numb.” Dull hearing is marked by apathy or indifference toward the Word, a lack of spiritual discernment, and an inability to teach others. The writer’s desire was that his readers mature in their faith. The time was past for them to be spoon-fed with the basic teachings which they had heard over and over, yet not applied to their lives. Create a list with your class of things that might make people of our day “dull of hearing” concerning God’s Word.
- Hebrews 6:4-8 contains one of the sternest warnings set forth in the Word of God. What danger is the author describing?
This is a warning against apostasy, which implies an entire renunciation of Christianity. Explain to your class that there is a significant difference between backsliding and what is described in these verses. The Bible draws a distinction between backsliding and falling away from God. For the backslider, there is every hope of his restoration if he will repent and renew his vows to the Lord. The Greek phrase translated in verse 6, “if they shall fall away,” would more accurately be rendered, “having fallen away.” For the man who has fallen away from God and has reached the final stage that is depicted in these verses, there is no hope. The word that is translated “fall away” means to “apostatize from,” and implies an entire renunciation of Christianity. The one who has fallen away into a state of apostasy has rejected his only means of access to God and is cut off by the position he has taken.
- Why is our hope in Christ identified in verse 6:19 as an “anchor of the soul”? Why do we need such an anchor?
Our hope as Christians is anchored first in the nature of God himself and His promises, and secondly in the very presence of God, which is now made accessible to all of us through Jesus, our High Priest and the perfect Sacrifice for sin. Have your class share actual storms they have faced in which the hope of the Gospel has proved a secure anchor.
- Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10 each emphasize something “better” or superior in New Covenant over the Old Testament shadow examples. List and give a short explanation for each.
Chapter 7 — Priesthood of Christ (after order of Melchizedek) better than priesthood of Aaron. The priesthood of Christ is superior because He ministers in Heaven rather than on earth and the very order of it is compared to that of Melchizedek, the priest of Salem (Genesis 14:17-24, Psalm 110:4). Abraham paid homage to God through Melchizedek long before the Law was given and hence the Levitical priesthood (Levi being a great-grandson of Abraham) was inferior to that of Melchizedek, and thus, by comparison, to Christ.
Chapter 8 — Covenant of Christ better than covenant with Abraham. A new covenant is alluded to throughout the Old Testament and the author of Hebrews simply reminds his readers of that fact and that this new covenant finds it’s fulfillment in the person of Christ. The first covenant was temporary, written on tables of stone, and sealed with the blood of animals. The New Covenant is eternal, written on our hearts, and sealed with the Blood of Jesus.
Chapter 9 — Sanctuary in Heaven better than earthy sanctuary (Tabernacle/Temple). The Tabernacle in the wilderness and later, the Temple in Jerusalem, were both constructed as places where people could approach God in worship. They were only shadows of the “real” sanctuary that is in Heaven. Jesus emphasized that God was looking for people to worship Him in spirit and truth from their hearts and that this was more important than the location.
Chapter 10 — Sacrifice of Christ better than sacrifices offered under Jewish Law. The sacrifice of Christ was far superior to the animal sacrifices of the Law because it was offered once and for all. There was no need of continuing sacrifices which could not take away sin when the Perfect Sacrifice was given. Help your class to understand that though these four chapters are full of details, the basic premise is always that in Christ we have a better priesthood, covenant, sanctuary, and sacrifice than those of the Old Testament laws. Christ is the fulfillment of the shadowy examples (vs. 8:5) of the Old Testament laws and there is no need to return to them when we have Him.
- Hebrews 10:19-21 summarizes the access we have to God through the superior priesthood of Christ. Verses 22-25 give us three actions we are to take. List them and describe their importance.
Draw near — God expects and invites us to draw near to Him; this is possible now that the veil of separation has been removed by the death of Christ.
Hold fast — We need to hang on to our faith and our confession of Christ without wavering. We must not go back to empty rituals and shadowy examples when we have experienced the reality and fulfillment of Christ. He is faithful to keep us to the end.
Consider one another — While salvation is an individual experience between a person and God, the Gospel happens in community with other believers. We must look beyond ourselves and our needs and encourage others in our families and churches to be examples of Christ’s love. Our actions should be a mirror of His actions in the world, full of love and compassion to the lost.
Hand a piece of paper to each person and ask them to write one way in which they can draw near, hold fast, and consider one another. Have them take this paper and post it in a prominent place at home or in their wallet or purse, so they will be reminded to follow God’s instructions.
- Our confidence should be in the only One that is truly secure — Christ. Verses 10:35-37 instruct us to keep our confidence, patiently do God’s will, and wait in faith for God’s promises to be fulfilled on our behalf. Name specific ways we can follow these instructions.
People are tempted to put their confidence in many things today, money, health, family, government, etc. The Jews were tempted to return their confidence to the rituals and shadowy examples of their Jewish roots rather than continuing in Christ. We can also be tempted to look back rather than to look forward.
Students should be encouraged to understand that knowing the supremacy of Christ and His covenant to meet every human need is foundational to keeping our confidence. Obedience in doing God’s will is an important second step. Patiently waiting in faith for God to fulfill His promises is how we should live on a daily basis. Have your class consider some examples of how God has always come through. Have them consider why sometimes it may seem that God isn’t answering or coming through.
We are privileged to have a great High Priest and Mediator standing between us and God. Since we now have access to God through Christ, we enjoy a close, intimate relationship with Him. We can have confidence that our hope in Christ is an anchor that will hold steadfast and secure through the storms of life and deliver us from this life to an eternity in Heaven with our great High Priest, Christ.