NT Chapter Summaries
In some respects, the final chapter of this letter is a series of miscellaneous, unrelated subjects of importance to every Christian.
In other ways, this section merely concludes a lengthy appeal from its author to its original recipients encouraging them to remain faithful to their Savior. And, in delivering his last admonition to them, he reminds them of some of their new covenant obligations.
One of the more interesting passages in this collection of responsibilities is verse 8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” They had already accepted Him as their Savior, obeyed His gospel, and been added to His kingdom.
Verse 14 contrasts the trials and difficulties of this temporary earth life with the joys of the eternal home of the soul on the other side.
Scattered throughout this chapter are further items to remember as disciples. He encourages brotherly love (verse 1). We are not to forget to help strangers (verse 2). We should know that, around the world, there are Christians who are persecuted for no reason except their faith (verse 3). Marriage is an honorable and vital relationship to the success of a nation and the church (verse 4). We must not be covetous people, but trust the Lord to provide for us (verses 5-6).
There is also an emphasis on respecting and obeying our spiritual leaders (verses 7, 17).
Be devoted to God. Trust in Him. Obey His will for your life, which in this age in which we live, is the New Testament.
“Grace be with you all. Amen.”
The Christian life is often portrayed in the New Testament as a race. It is not a 100 meter sprint, however. It is a marathon and so the author encourages us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
The Old Testament heroes of faith mentioned in the previous chapter are described here as the spectators who are cheering us on to successfully complete the course and not to stop short of the finish line.
In order to finish the Christian race victoriously, we must “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” Nothing must cause us to take our eyes and hearts off the goal. In the context, “the sin” (note the singular is used, not the plural) is a lack of faith and trust in God. Remember that the apostle Peter walked on water until he took his eyes off of Jesus. When he lost that focus, he sank.
There are many things we need to “lay aside” because they could cause us to lose our souls. Some of them are sinful things that we need to repent of. Some of them are not sinful, but they take up so much of our attention that we don’t make time to serve the Lord as we should.
The writer, in this chapter, makes the point again that we are not under the Old Law, but are to submit to the New Covenant. He reminds us that we do not “come to” Mount Sinai, “the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire,” to learn how to serve God in the last days. Rather we come to Mount Zion, the physical mountain where Jerusalem is located.
It was in Jerusalem that the gospel, including the death, burial and resurrection of Christ was first preached in its fullness (Acts 2). The Great Commission instructed the apostles to preach the gospel to the whole world, “beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
There are two, very different, kinds of faith.
One is a weak faith, which when it is tested, gives up and draws “back to perdition” (Hebrews 10:39). A weak faith is characterized by a lack of confidence in God and His power.
The other is a strong faith which endures through trials and is shown by obedience to whatever God asks of us. Those with a strong, vibrant faith are the ones “who believe to the saving of the soul.”
Hebrews 11 gives us numerous examples of saving faith. It shows us specific names of Old Testament characters who persevered and how we know of their faith in God by their submission to His will. Each person is qualified by a verb (action word) which tells us what they did. Abel offered; Noah prepared; Abraham obeyed; Isaac and Jacob blessed; Moses refused, chose, forsook and kept.
Other godly people and their righteous obedience to God are left unnamed. We are told of their faith and many of the specifics seem hard to imagine. Some stopped the mouths of lions or quenched the violence of fire. Others were scourged. Still more were stoned, sawn in two (whew!), slain with swords. Some lived in deserts, mountains, dens and caves.
It is said of many of them (and of others we may have known personally) that they were people “of whom the world was not worthy.” They went to their reward with complete faith and trust in God.
Their faithful example provides for us “so great a cloud of witnesses” (12:1). They remind us that anyone who determines to do so can be loyal and devoted to God. If they can serve God faithfully and be saved, so can we.
These first century disciples were encouraged to persevere, to never give up, but to continue to serve the God of heaven. Their struggles are recorded for us in this book to help us keep going.
“I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”
The Old Law, in its entirety, was a “shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things” (verse 1). By its very nature, a shadow (or type) is inferior to the real thing (the fulfillment or anti-type). A picture of a loved one is nice, but the real person is much better.
The animal sacrifices of the Law of Moses were a type, which foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world.
It was stated repeatedly, in the book of Leviticus, that when these sacrifices were offered by a penitent believer, his sins would be forgiven. (See Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7 for examples.) Yet, here in Hebrews, the author states that these sacrifices could never “make those who approach perfect” (verse 1). And that “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (verse 4). It also says that “sacrifices and offering You (God, rh) did not desire” and “in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure” (verses 5-6). How do we reconcile these thoughts?
We do so by understanding the difference between forgiveness and remission.
The forgiveness of the Levitical sacrifices was conditional. This is seen in the phrase, “in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year” (verse 3). The reason animal sacrifices could never take away sins (permanently) is that sin is a rebellion of humanity against God. When people, created in God’s image, violate His will, that sin separates them from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). Human death must occur to atone for that rebellion. Jesus, the perfect combination of humanity and deity, bridged that gap by dying, not for His own sins (because He had none), but for the sins of others (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
God reconciled humanity (made us friends with Him again) through Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament sacrifices were a test to show who was willing to obey God. When Jesus died on the cross, their sins were finally and forever taken away. That’s what remission of sins means. On this side of the cross, because Jesus has now died for the sins of the world (John 1:29), when we repent and are baptized in the name of Christ, we have the (permanent) remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
The earthly tabernacle was a glorious structure. Its beauty is described in Exodus 25-40. It consisted of two sections, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Each section contained important items for Old Testament sacrifices and worship of Jehovah.
Jesus came to establish “the greater and more perfect tabernacle.” This refers to the church, the glorious blood bought body of our Savior. And through the church, we can enter the Holiest of All, which refers to heaven itself.
In the physical tabernacle, priests offered goats and calves as sacrifices to the Lord, as instructed in the Law of Moses. In the spiritual tabernacle (the church), we benefit from the one time for all time blood sacrifice of God’s Son.
When Jesus shed His blood on Calvary’s cross, His death brought the New Covenant into effect, and it is said to have been dedicated with blood. We need to understand that, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.
Verse 15 teaches us that the blood of Christ flowed both ways from the cross. It not only flows toward today to cleanse the obedient from sin, but it also flowed backwards to permanently remove the sins of the faithful under the first covenant. Their sins were forgiven conditionally when various offerings for sin were sacrificed, but it took the blood of Christ, as part of God’s eternal plan for human redemption, to finally and permanently take away their guilt.
The greatness of Christ’s sacrifice is seen in its unique nature. Various Old Testament sacrifices were offered daily, weekly, monthly and annually. The sacrifice of Jesus was a one time event.
When He returns, it will be to bring salvation to the faithful.
What Jesus brought into the world was a new covenant, a better covenant, which contains better promises (verse 6).
Chapters 8-10 are “summary chapters” concerning Christ’s priesthood.
He begins by saying that our High Priest is “seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” This is why He “lives to make intercession” for Christians today (7:25). He is the perfect High Priest.
But the main point of Chapter 8 is to emphasize that the Old Law has been done away with and has been replaced by the New Covenant.
Verses 8-12 quote, in its entirety, the passage from Jeremiah 31:31-34. The Old Testament clearly predicted its own replacement with a new covenant.
There are many passages which tell us the value of studying the Old Testament. See John 5:39, Romans 15:4, and 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11. The Old Testament pointed people to the Messiah. It provides examples of obedience and disobedience to the Lord. It assures us that God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Many of the illustrations and word pictures in the New Testament cannot be understood without a knowledge of the events and people of the Old Testament.
But God’s law for man today is the New Testament, the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). The New Testament tells us how to be saved eternally.
The Old Testament provides a pattern for how to offer sacrifices and observe special days and worship at the tabernacle and temple. The New Testament is our pattern of faithful living and teaches us how to get to heaven.
Melchizedek, the mystery man of the Old Testament, was a “type” of Christ. The Old Testament is filled with types and shadows, which were people, places, events, etc. that foreshadowed the coming realities of the new (and better, verse 22) covenant.
After the insert (5:12-6:20), when he reminds them of first principles, the writer returns to his original discussion, which was the high priesthood of Jesus and the comparison between Christ and Melchizedek.
Melchizedek preceded the Levitical priesthood by many years. This chapter shows us that the priesthood of Melchizedek is far superior to that of Aaron (or Levi). He uses two lines of reasoning to prove this. First, Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham, the father of the Levitical priesthood and second, Melchizedek (the better) blessed Abraham (the lesser).
Of course, Jesus could not be a priest under the Law of Moses, because that covenant specified the tribe of Levi. So for Christ to be a priest, the law had to be changed (verses 11-14).
Some of the Hebrew Christians were considering returning to the Old Law and that would have been an eternally fatal error. The contrast is between “the law of a fleshly commandment” (the old) and “the power of an endless life” (the new).
The Old Covenant was annulled due to weakness and unprofitableness. The New Testament brought in a new hope, a better hope.
Christ is the superior High Priest. Because He lives forever, unlike the Levitical priests, He has “an unchangeable priesthood.” And His current role is to make intercession for the people of God. His “once for all” sacrifice made our salvation possible.
Hebrews 5:12-6:20 is a parenthesis, a brief insert of very important information. The author has brought up Melchizedek and wants to say more, but was struck by the Hebrews’ spiritual immaturity. He addresses that lack of growth in this short section and then returns to Melchizedek in Chapter Seven.
At the end of Chapter 5, the writer contrasted milk with solid food. Here at the beginning of Chapter 6, he points out that those who grow to maturity must leave “the elementary principles” of the gospel, what he calls “the milk” (see also 1 Peter 2:2) and move on to maturity, which includes “solid food” or, as the KJV words it, “strong meat.”
The basic and fundamental first principles of God’s word are vital to the Christian’s life, but we must advance to more difficult and mature subjects as we grow in Christ. Many of the Hebrew Christians had not matured, although they had been disciples of the Lord for some time (5:12).
When a Christian leaves his commitment to Christ behind and falls from the faith, either to the world or to his old way of life in false or outdated religion, he can be difficult to restore. The writer says it is “impossible,” because there is nothing new we can say to that person that he doesn’t already know. Sometimes a reminder of the truth he knows will touch a soft place in his heart and bring him back to God. But if he doesn’t want that, however, it will never happen.
The author reminds these first century followers of Christ that God will never forget the good deeds done for the Lord. He speaks of “your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name” (verse 10). They had sacrificed much and given their all to the Messiah and now were in danger of leaving Him. He tells them they needed to show diligence and patience, and not to become “sluggish” in their service to the Christ.
The only hope of the word is Jesus Christ. Our genuine hope in our Savior is what enables us to persevere to the end.
The compassion of the Levitical high priest toward others came from the priest’s own weaknesses. He had to offer sacrifices first for his own forgiveness and then for the sins of others. These high priests were not self-appointed, but rather were chosen by God, beginning with Aaron, the first high priest of the Mosaical Dispensation.
In the same way, “Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest” (verse 5). Jesus was glorified by God in two distinct ways.
First, He is God’s Son. Verse 5 quotes Psalm 2:7, a well-known Messianic psalm. Jesus was born in the flesh as God’s Son, lived as the chosen Savior of the world (Messiah means “anointed one”) and was raised from death by the power of God.
As the Son of God on earth (God with us – Matthew 1:23), Jesus learned obedience to God through the trials and sufferings He endured. Being perfect (never sinning) through those trials, Christ became “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (verse 9). This brings the impact of salvation down even to us today.
Second, Jesus is “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (verse 6; see also Psalm 110:4). The next few chapters will be devoted to the superiority of “the order of Melchizedek” over “the order of Aaron” (or the sons of Levi – 7:5).
The author pauses, beginning in 5:12, to remind the weak Hebrew disciples that part of their problem was that they had not grown spiritually. They should have grown to the place where they could teach others, but they still did not even understand “the elementary principles of Christ” (6:1).
How can two people hear the same sermon and one is drawn closer to God while the other leaves unaffected by the message? The first listener had faith in God, but the second one did not.
The chapter begins with the word, therefore. This means that these thoughts are a conclusion (or necessary inference) based on what was discussed in the previous chapter (remember that the chapter and verse divisions are man-made). Chapter 3 had emphasized the importance of listening to Christ, not Moses. It also warned of serious consequences for those who reject the word of the Lord through unbelief. The writer does not want these Hebrew Christians to “come short” (verse 1) of heaven, but to “hold fast our confession” (verse 14).
In verses 4-11, he emphasizes that the Promised Land of the Old Testament (and the rest it offered) was not the ultimate rest promised to those who remain faithful to God. Joshua did not provide them with that final rest, although they did conquer the nations of the Promised Land and take possession of it (see Joshua 21:43-45). The final place of rest (Revelation 14:13) is heaven and this ought to be the top priority of every disciple of Christ, to live in such a way that we can live with Him forever.
(By the way, Joshua is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek name, Jesus. Both mean “Savior” – see Matthew 1:21.)
Looking into God’s word can tell us whether we are pleasing to Him or not (verses 12-13).
In verse 14, the author shifts to another comparison between the old and the new. Jesus is our High Priest today and He will be described as superior to the Levitical priests. The Hebrews who were in danger of returning to the Old Law needed to be convinced that everything about Jesus is better.