Live in Hope

Explore the Bible Series

October 15, 2006

 

Background Passage: Hebrew 6:13-7:28

Lesson Passage: Hebrews 6:18b-20; 7:15-28

 

Introduction: The author of the Book of Hebrews had a wonderful pastoral heart, and this week’s lesson highlights the great wisdom of this writer.  Last week, you will recall, the lesson passage dealt with the difficult and troubling issue of apostasy.  Sadly, the historical situation, addressed in this book, required a straightforward warning of the dangers of turning away from the gospel of Christ.  No doubt, the original audience felt the sting of the difficult words we studied last week. Thankfully, the sharp words about apostasy (6:4-8) gave way to the high hopes the author had for those who read his exhortation (6:9-12). In our present study, Hebrews explains why the writer has such confidence of “better things concerning you.”

 

The believer’s confidence, in regard to perseverance in the faith, rests in the changeless promises of God and the intercessory work of the Son.  Our current study will open these two themes for careful consideration, and, no doubt, all true children of God will find great consolation in meditating on these truths, great consolation indeed.  Hebrews, in this text, describes hope as an anchor for the soul. Anchors serve one basic purpose; they hold ships secure during times of tempest.  They keep ships from drifting when otherwise the currents and winds would drive the ship off course, perhaps into dangers unimaginable.  Hebrews addressed the concerns of professing believers who risked the danger of drifting away from the gospel of Christ. Sadly, some of these people may have lacked an essential element of saving faith, an anchor to keep them from drifting in the midst of a storm.  The tumult of persecution pummeled their profession, and a few may have meandered into dangerous waters.  Get the picture here.  Many ships may set sail for the coasts of heaven, but only those ships equipped with the anchor of hope will stay the course.  Storms invariably come, and the ships must fix anchor to hold their position until the winds subside.

 

The image of the anchor holds intriguing meaning for believers.  When ships drop anchor, the seamen cannot see where the great iron object rests.  They observe, of course, the point at which the line (or chain) attaches to the ship, and they see the cable descend into the water; nevertheless, they cannot, under normal circumstances, see the ocean’s floor.  However, they do experience the effects of the secured anchor.  The ship remains stable and secure in the furor of the storm, and the sailor knows the ship remains secure because of the weight’s hold on the seabed.  Like sailors, we cannot see the object of our hope.  O, we see him ‘through a glass darkly”, but our security remains mostly unseen. How, then, do we know the anchor holds within the vale?  Well, what effects do you observe in the life of genuine believers?  They remain on course, and do not drift with every billow.  Dear reader, do you have an anchor for your soul?  Find your security in the oath of God and the intercessory work of Christ, and you will stay the course until you reach your final harbor.

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                   Abraham: An Example of Persevering Faith (6:13-20)

A.    The certainty of God’s promises (vv. 13-14 and 17-18)

1.      God’s promise to Abraham (vv. 13-14):  The blessing referred to is found in Genesis 22:16-17.  Here, God promised the patriarch that divine blessing would rest upon Abraham, the blessing, in part, would be fulfilled the multiplying of Abraham’s descendants. The unusual wording of verse fourteen reflects a Hebraism that means, “I will greatly bless and multiply you.”

2.      God’s promise described as an oath (vv. 17-18a): In a human context, an oath is stronger than a promise. Indeed, in courts of law, witnesses do not merely pledge to tell the true; rather, they make a legal agreement by taking an oath. The writer uses an earthly image to drive home his point.  Of course, God’s promises are sufficient because the Lord cannot lie; nevertheless, Hebrews uses the stronger language to emphasize the binding and changeless character of God’s promise.  Men swear by evoking the name of God, but the Lord has no superior by whom he may swear (v. 16).  He, therefore, swears, by his own name, that he will keep his promise. The reliability of God’s promise centers on two immutable things (v. 18).  The context, in my judgment, indicates that the “two immutable things” refers to the immutability of God’s counsel and the conformation of God’s counsel by means of an oath (v. 17).  Several commentators believe the “two things” relate to God’s promise and God’s oath.

B.     Abraham’s response to God’s promise (v. 15):  The Old Testament patriarch believed God, and, despite the passage of time and seemingly insurmountable difficulties, this man of faith endured until he received the fulfillment of God’s promise. 

C.     The believer’s consolation (vv 18b-20): Hope is faith’s “twin sister.”  I don’t want to make too sharp a distinction here, but hope and faith describe two different aspects of the believer’s confidence in God.  Faith looks back on the promises and actions of God.  Ultimately, our faith centers on Christ’s finished redemptive work, and it secures the soul on the promises God has made regarding the Savior’s work for his people.  Faith settles the heart on what Christ had done. Hope, on the other hand, sets its gaze forward.  It anticipates the good things of the Lord.  It lays hold of those things which are to come, those unseen things that will become the sight and experience of the believer in days to come.  Hope, according to our text, is something “set before us”, and it acts as a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul (v. 19).  Where, then, does the unseen anchor hold fast? It is set in the bedrock of Christ’s intercessory work in the Holy Place of Heaven (v. 19).  Christ has entered, as a worthy High Priest, into the holy recesses of the throne room of God.  There he carries out his appointed duties as an heir to the priesthood of Melchizedek (v. 20).

II.                Christ a Priest According to the Order of Melchizedek (7:1-28)

A.    The priesthood of Melchizedek (vv. 1-10)

1.   Melchizedek a king and priest (v. 1a): The ancient king serves as a suitable type of Christ. He ruled as king of Salem, the Hebrew word for “peace.”   Unlike any other figure in the Old Testament, this king also served as a priest for his people; therefore, he both governed and interceded for them. 

2.   Melchizedek’s interaction with Abraham (vv. 1b-3): Genesis 14: 18-24 tells the story of Abraham’s meeting with the king of Salem.  The great patriarch, as he returned from battle with Chedorlaomer, encountered Melchizedek. The king/priest brought bread and wine to Abraham and blessed the patriarch in the name of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18-19). Bible students should interpret verse three carefully.  The text does not mean that Melchizedek was not a human being: rather, the references here reveal that he did not descend from a priestly family such as the Levites.  His priesthood did not depend on lineage; instead, his office was timeless and spiritual. 

3. Four marks of the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood (vv. 4-10):

            a. Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek (vv. 4-5)

            b. Melchizedek blessed Abraham (vv. 6-7)

            c. Melchizedek’s priesthood was spiritual and permanent (v. 8)

            d. Levi, through Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek (vv. 9-10)

B.  Christ, the mediator of a better covenant (11-28): Note the weakness of the Old Covenant as described by these verses (See, in particular, v. 18): the Levitical priesthood was temporary (v. 11 and 23), the legal priesthood made nothing perfect (v. 19), a better hope has come in the priesthood of Christ (vv. 19 and 22).  On the other hand, Christ’s priesthood continues forever (v. 24), he is able to completely save those who come to God through him (v. 25), he lives to make intercession for his people (v. 25b), he perfectly meets the requirements for the priesthood (holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens), he does not need anyone to mediate righteousness for him (v. 27), and he has been perfected forever (v. 28).