The Twelfth in a Series of Sermons on the Epistle to the Hebrews
As evangelical Christians (in the truest sense of the term) our religion is not tied to holy things, holy people, or holy places. Our religion is centered in very ordinary things including the “means of grace,” material things through which God’s Spirit works to establish and strengthen our relationship with our God who dwells in heaven. These ordinary things include: The ink and paper of the word; the bread, wine, and water of the sacraments; and a functional building in which we assemble for worship. As Christians, we have ministers and are no longer represented by high priests in priestly garments encrusted with jewels who make sacrifices on our behalf. Nor do we sacrifice animals on special altars using vessels of made of precious metals under a cloud of fragrant incense. We need not make pilgrimages to holy places where God is present, and we do not venerate holy people who have earned supposedly, a greater righteousness than the rest of us. All of this is because we live in the new covenant era, and all of those things associated with the old covenant have been rendered obsolete by the coming of Jesus Christ. But those elements associated with the old covenant served a very important purpose in redemptive history, and the author of Hebrews now points us to the heavenly reality which these things were designed to illuminate and illustrate–the eternal high priest and the heavenly temple, the true holy place.
As we continue our series on the book of Hebrews, we now come to chapter nine. If you’ve been with us for any portion of this series, by now it should be clear that the author of Hebrews is relentless in building his case for the superiority of Jesus Christ. Laying out argument upon argument, the author has shown us from the pages from the Old Testament that Jesus Christ is creator of all things and the promised redeemer of God’s people. The author has made a very convincing case that Jesus is superior to angels, to Moses, and to the priests of Israel. Jesus is not only an eternal priest after the order of Melchizadek, but Jesus is the mediator of a new and better covenant.
The reason why the Book of Hebrews is so relentless in building this case is because of the historical circumstances which led to the writing of this letter. The author is writing to a church (likely in Rome or Alexandria) made up of people who are recent converts to Christianity from Judaism. When the members of this church came under persecution from the civil authorities or from the synagogues from which they had departed, many caved in to the pressure and returned to Judaism. The purpose of this letter is show the Jewish converts from the pages of the Old Testament that Jesus is the one in whom the promise to Abraham is fulfilled. Jesus is the eternal high priest who offers a perfect sacrifice (himself) and who always sympathizes with his weak and sinful people. Jesus is that one in whom the types and shadows become reality and fulfillment. And since Jesus is all of these things and more, there is no reason why returning to Judaism is anything but an act of apostasy, a return to the inferior and sadly, serves to invoke the same covenant curses which brought judgment upon that people and nation.
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