Hebrews - Faith Works...

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On Sept 9th we begin a new preaching series called ‘Faith Works’ based around the letter to the Hebrews. 


We’re asking all the housegroups to join in a church-wide bible study of Hebrews as we feel it’s a word for our church at this time.


For this series there won’t be detailed Housegroup study notes, instead we’re asking you to use a very good book written by the former Bishop of Durham Tom Wright to help inform your bible study.  We’ll be supplying a copy of the book to each housegroup leader before the end of August. 


The book, called ‘Hebrews for Everyone’,  is easy to read and alongside the weekly sermons should help groups to understand, study, and apply the writings to the Hebrews to our everyday Christian lives.


Each week as we explore a different part of Hebrews we’ll suggest groups read a relevant chapter or two of Hebrews for Everyone to inform bible study and discussion. 


The programme is outlined below, and underneath this you’ll find a short introduction to the book that we call ‘Hebrews’.



Sept 9th: God has Spoken, pay attention!  Heb 1:1-2:4, Heb 4:12

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 1-13)


Sept 16th: Choose belief.  Heb 3:7-19

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 26-30)


Sept 23rd: (Harvest Sunday)  Rest is promised.  Heb 4:1-11

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 34-38)


Sept 30th: Through the Great High Priest.  Heb4:14-5:10

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 42-51)


Oct 7th:  Don’t slip.  Heb 5:11-6:12

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 51-64)


Oct 14th: (Mission Sunday) 


Oct 21st: Melchizedek who, what, where?  Heb 7:1-10

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 68-73)


Oct 28th: Shadows of reality.  Heb 9:1-14, Heb 10:1-18

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 89-114)


Nov 4th: Persevere in life.  Heb 13:1-18

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 167-181)


Nov 11th:  (Remembrance Sunday) Hero’s of faith.  Heb 11:8-28

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 130-143)


Nov 18th: Persevere in hardship.  Heb 12:1-13

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 147-163)


Nov 25th:  Just Persevere. Heb 10:19-39

(Hebrews for Everyone pgs 114-126)




Introduction to Hebrews:


Of all the books of the New Testament, the epistle to the Hebrews stands out as both strange and fascinating.  It has a unique content and displays a literary style quite different from the other epistles.  It is a book of elaborate theological argument, much of which is based on a deeply rooted familiarity with the Old Testament and the ritual observances of Judaism. 


Although often called the ‘Letter to the Hebrews’ it is not infact a letter, nor for that matter is it strictly speaking an epistle.  It bears the hallmarks of a sermon, rabbinical in design and Christian in content, designed to be heard rather than read.  For this reason I suggest that the passage for study is read aloud in your housegroup – perhaps as though it were being delivered as part of a sermon?


Who wrote Hebrews?


It is not possible to say who wrote Hebrews.  Luke, Clement of Rome, Apollos, Barnabas, Priscilla & Acquilla, have all been suggested as authors but no conclusive evidence exists.  Two things are certain; firstly that it was not written by Paul, and secondly that it was written before 96AD when Clement quotes the epistle in a letter. 


Who were the original recipients of Hebrews?


It is possible to suggest with some degree of confidence that the original recipients of the letter were Jewish Christians from a non-conformist Jewish sect – a group from outside of the mainstream rabbinical tradition. 


They were Hellenists, Jewish by birth but steeped in Greek culture and language.  It is likely that they used a Greek translation of the Old Testament, and that they had only theoretical knowledge of the ancient sacrificial rituals of Judaism rather than first hand experience.


They had never seen or heard Jesus in person, but had heard of him from those who had, and it seems certain that they had first hand experience of persecution from the early days of their Christian life, but not yet to the point of martydom, as the writer makes clear.


Why was Hebrews written?


In common with all biblical authors, the writer of the epistle is not writing in a vacuum; he is addressing a real and urgent pastoral problem.  Perhaps the following summary is helpful:  It seems that the Christians to whom he writes are exhausted.  Tired of serving the world, tired of worship, tired of Christian education, tired of being marginalized, tired of spiritual struggle, and even tired of Jesus. 


The threat, to quote Thomas G Long is “not that they are charging off in the wrong direction; they do not have enough energy to charge off anywhere…worn down and worn out, they might drop their end of the rope and drift away…”


The author has a deep concern for his addresses whom he believes to be in great spiritual danger and he rises to great heights in his concern to address the grave danger of giving up on the life of faith. 


As we study this book…


Perhaps we can see ourselves in this picture?  Maybe the words written to the un-named group of first century Jewish Christians will inspire and challenge us to hold fast to our faith, to remain active, to keep on believing and keep on following Christ. 


As we embark on this series we’ll spend some time exploring the way in which the New Testament writers use the Old Testament.  We’ll look at some obscure and often confusing questions; who on earth is Melchizedek? What’s the relevance of the Jewish rituals in the New Testament, post Christ era?  And we’ll encourage one another to hold fast, to persevere, and to not lose hope. 

Simon Butler, 09/09/2012