This letter was apparently written during the mid to late AD 60s, just before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (AD 70), so most of the original disciples of Jesus had already gone to be with the Lord. Yet, there must have been many believers scattered throughout the churches who still remembered them and may even have been converted by their preaching. So when the author says, Remember those who led you, he almost certainly meant the apostolic leaders of the early church. In fact, he already pointed to them in chapter two, verse three when he reminded his readers that after the gospel they had received was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard. In other words, Jesus taught the gospel to His disciples and they taught it to us. Then in the next verse (Heb 2:4) he goes on to say, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, meaning many of us saw with our own eyes God confirm what they preached by doing miracles and sending the gifts of the Spirit. He wants his readers to recognize the spiritual impact made by those apostolic lives. The way they lived and ministered produced great results and therefore should be looked to as a model for later generations. He says, imitate their faith, which means pattern your own lives after theirs. Their faith made them bold and caused them to move in the power of the Holy Spirit and made them willing to suffer and die for Christ.
A. What did he say?
(v 7) Remember the apostles who first preached the Word of God to us. Look at the results that came from the way they lived and ministered and imitate their faith.
(v 8) And dont say to yourselves we cant expect to move in the power of the Spirit as they did. Those things took place over 35 years ago. You most certainly can because Jesus Christ is the source of that power and He doesnt change. What He did while He was on the earth (yesterday) is what He is willing to do now (today) and will continue to make available until He comes again (unto the ages).
B. Why did he need to say this?
Time erodes human will and emotion. We become distracted by competing interests and grow weary. But the struggle is not simply inside us. We face an enemy who aggressively attacks individuals, churches and movements using temptation, division and doctrinal confusion. So revival always has to be revived. It wanes over time. Obviously between AD 32 and AD 68 (the date I think Hebrews was written) this erosion had taken place, at least in this group of churches. So the author challenges them to remember what it was like in the early years after Pentecost and tells them to stir up the life of the Spirit that had once been theirs (Rev 2:5).
C. What was the Apostles conduct and faith?
Lets look at a sample of the apostles ministry recorded in the Book of Acts (Acts 3:1-4:17):
(vs 1-3) Ministry happened during the normal course of daily events
(vs 4, 5) Peter discerned the will of the Lord for this man, though the man himself was not spiritually expectant. As he fixed his gaze on him he was receiving guidance as to what to do.
(v 6) Peter had a gift of faith (1Co 12:9): I dont have money but I do sense the power and will of God.
(v 6) Peter and John didnt pray for the man. Peter spoke a command with authority.
- Where did He learn to do this?
- What made Him believe he could do what Jesus did? (Mt 16:19; Lk 10:17, 18; Jn 14:12; 20:21; Ac 1:8)
(v 7) Peter saw himself raising the man by his hand
- Word of knowledge (see yourself doing something)
- Peters example isnt a formula to follow in every healing, but it is in some. Peter had watched Jesus heal in different ways.
- They didnt do healing by a formula. They were led by the Spirit on a case by case and even moment by moment basis.
- The healing took place as Peter raised him up, so Peter took the risk of looking foolish.
(v 8) The healing was instantaneous in this case
- Some are, most are not. We encourage people to receive ministry repeatedly, to contend for their healing over time. This greatly increases the percentage of those healed.
(vs 10-12) The miracle created an opportunity for the preaching of the gospel.
- The early church did not simply recite a gospel message and try to argue to convince people its true
- They often started with a miracle and then explained that they didnt do the miracle, but God did because of Jesus Christ
(vs 16; 4:4, 7-9,13-18) The gospel was given huge credibility by the indisputable fact that a work of spiritual power has taken place
(vs 4:3, 15-18) Real miracles help produce believers and surprisingly hostile opponents
D. When we look at the apostles, what do we see? People:
Guided by the Spirit
Bold in the face of persecution
Functioning in the gifts of the Spirit
Passionate in prayer and worship
Bringing many to Christ
Each one different from the other
E. Why can we expect Jesus to do the same things today as He did 2,000 years ago?
Through this letter the author of Hebrews has taught us:
The priesthood of Aaron is permanently replaced by the priesthood of the Messiah (Melchizedek)
The covenant made at Sinai is permanently replaced by the New Covenant which is based not on the threat of our blood being shed, but on the once for all sacrifice of Messiahs blood.
Because the resurrected Messiah Jesus constantly intercedes for us (He 7:25), we are never separated from Gods resources: the promises of the New Covenant are ours in every generation. What are the promises?
a) God will open our minds to understand His Word (He 8:10)
b) He will transform our heart so we will want to obey Him (He 8:10)
c) The Holy Spirit will dwell in every believer (He 8:11)
d) God will grant us mercy when we sin (He 8:12)
e) And keep no record of them (He 8:12)
A changed heart
A personal relationship with God
F. How should we respond to the command to imitate the apostles faith?
Accept the truth taught in these verses (He 13:7, 8)
Receive the New Covenant by repentance and faith (Ac 2:38)
Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
- Its one thing to have the Holy Spirit. Its another to yield myself to His presence and welcome Him in.
- We have been given all things in Christ (1Co 3:21, 22; Ro 8:9), but we must receive what Hes given
- We must drink the cup
Stay full of the Spirit
(Charles Finney, Power from on High, pp 9, 10, Christian Literature Crusade, Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania, published 1944)
Let God lead us day by day
Have there been times when you saw yourself doing something and you did it? What happened?
Describe the moment when you knew you received the gift of the Spirit.
Pick one of the promises of the New Covenant listed above and give us an example of how youve seen that promise fulfilled in your life.