1. Remember who is receiving this letter
Jewish believers who are being persecuted for their faith are asking: My family has served God for centuries and our form of worship has always been acceptable to God. Why is our Judaism suddenly no longer sufficient? Cant I serve God by simply returning to Judaism and ignoring Jesus? How can you prove that a new revelation has supplanted the traditions of our fathers?
2. Note the authors pattern
The author of Hebrews teaches on topics that were confusing Jewish believers and then in between these teachings turns to warn them against the danger of abandoning Jesus (2:1-4; 3:7-4:16; 5:11-6:20; 10:23-39; 12:15-29; 13:13).
3. What is the authors goal?
The authors goal is to encourage these wavering believers to trust Jesus as their Savior for the rest of their lives (3:6, 14). He challenged them to endure in their faith like Abraham and other great men and women in Israels history (chp 11).
4. What personal fear does this stir in us?
Question: Is it possible for me to fall away from Christ before I die and not end up in heaven?
5. Why is this such a stirring issue?
Answer: Because I dont trust my own strength, discernment or discipline to keep me trusting Christ for the rest of my life. I worry that something will come along (or already has a hold of me) that will drag or lure me away from Him.
A. Does my salvation depend on the strength of my own resolve?
B. I am weak, will temptation overwhelm me?
C. I have been deceived before, how can I be sure I wont be again?
6. Extreme answers have been given to this question
A. Once a person puts their trust in Jesus Christ, it is impossible for them to not go to heaven. Even if they lead a worldly life and totally neglect Him, they will go to heaven. Their only punishment will be that they have no fruit to present Him.
Argument: Can a person whos been born, be unborn
Danger: It breeds a false confidence
Reason: It comforts those who are struggling with sin
B. A persons salvation depends on whether or not they are living a holy life. During seasons or moments when they are sinning, if they were to die at that moment, they would not go to heaven. The only way to be sure is to constantly live a holy life.
Argument: Jesus warned us that we can never know when He will return, so we must live in such a way that we wont be caught doing something wrong.
Danger: It breeds a dependence on my own good works for salvation. It undermines my confidence in Christ to hold on to me.
Reason: The fear of losing ones salvation is used as a whip to drive people into godly behavior.
7. What dangers does Hebrews warn us about?
It warns us of the dangers of:
A. (2:1) Drifting away: subtle compromise
B. (3:12) Falling away: resenting God
C. (4:10) Unwilling to rest: returning to works
D. (4:15, 16) Being overwhelmed by shame: hiding from God
F. (10:35) Throwing away: neglecting spiritual nurture
G. (13:9) Carried away: deceived by false teachers
8. Today lets focus on two of these
A. (2:1-4) Drift away
Like a boat dropping its moorings and drifting away on the tide (gradual, imperceptible movement away which becomes evident only with time).
Subtle compromise in order to deflect criticism or more severe forms of persecution.
Redefining Jesus (the highest angel vs. the Son of God)
Matthew 13:20, 21
Hebrews 2:3 neglect so great a salvation (unconcerned about)
Question: How do I avoid drifting away?
Answer: Decide going in, or at least today, that youre willing to suffer rejection for Jesus (Lk 9:23-26), and then pray for your enemies (Mt 5:43-45).
B. Fall away (3:7-19)
Deliberately abandoning God because weve become bitter.
Warning: Dont be like our fathers who hardened their hearts against God because of the hardships they faced, and died before arriving in the promised land.
Read Psalm 95:6-11
Read Exodus 17:1-7
Like Israel in the wilderness, following Jesus leads us into hardships we must endure. If I allow these to make me bitter toward God, and I persist in refusing to repent, I can become so hard that my faith in Him dies before I do.
(v 13) We are not only deceived into sin, but if after sinning I refuse to repent, I am forced to harden my heart to silence the feelings of guilt.
- Mt 13:22 Deceitfulness of riches
- Ge 3:13 The serpent deceived me
Sin not only hardens us toward God, it hardens us toward His people. Those who call us to repentance, hold a righteous standard and pray for us are seen as self-righteous judges and enemies.
Our friends become our enemies and our enemies become friends.
We call right, wrong and wrong, right.
If people intend to keep sinning this has to happen; if they listen to God or His people theyll have to repent and change. To prevent that they harden their hearts and villainize both God and His people.
Question: How do I avoid falling away?
Answer: (v 10): Learn Gods ways so you dont misunderstand His motives.
Start responding in faith to what He says to you, and youll discover the goodness of God through answered prayer.
A. Have you ever found yourself compromising too much in order to please someone when discussing spiritual matters?
B. Have you ever found yourself growing bitter at God because you felt He was not going to do what He promised? If you are free of that bitterness tell us how you got that out of your heart.