Sermon on Hebrews 1,2

Sermon by pastoral intern Wasihun Gutema

Hebrews 1: 1-4, 2; 1-4

I would like to address five important things I have observed.  First, the epistle to the Hebrews begins without formal greetings unlike the other New Testament epistles.  Also, there are neither informal greetings nor a reference to it.

Second, the writer of the epistle is unknown. Except speculations, no one is sure of who authored the epistle.  Oregon, one of the early church fathers, concluded that “only God knows the author of this book.”[1]

Third, the exact date the epistle was written is debated but some assumed that it was written before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD which contributed to the author’s argument of the Supremacy of Christ.  [2]

Fourth, by opening the epistle without greetings, the author jumps to a crucial and hard topic of our generation that God in Christ is the “Absolute and Supreme.” In a culture where tolerance is not a choice, in a culture where your idea is not the only true, in a culture where “truth is subjective and personal,”[3] the author of the epistle clearly states Christ as the final, the absolute and the center of everything. People’s debate or rationalization or trying to disprove cannot take away this.   

Christ is the revealed word. There is no improvement on the revelation of God in Christ.  Christ is the final and ultimate revelation.  Technology or the changing of the world with changing ideologies cannot take away or enhance or add the revelation of Christ. Christ remains unchanged and remains final.

Fifth, the recipients of the epistle were Jewish convertees to Christianity.  As Hebrews 4: 1-4 indicates the writer is not excluding himself/herself from the audiences. She/he is speaking as someone speaking to a believing Christian congregation starting with the pronoun “We.”[4] There are Theologians who say that the pronoun “we” is a reference to church coming intellectual Jewish who were filled with theories but not converted. These are unbelieving Jewish coming to the church. They attend the church. They like the teaching but the teaching is not changing them. It is not transforming them partly because of their choice.  Some people choose not to be transformed, some choose not to be converted but are attracted to the teachings of the church.  The third reference is that the pronoun “we” is a reference to Jewish people who were not attending church nor coming but are followers of the Jewish religion.

Putting Christ at the center, the author clearly argues that Christ is superior to the angles. Christ is superior to the prophets, Moses or any other Old Testament fathers. Also, the author says that God was speaking through these prophets or fathers but now God is speaking through Christ, the ultimate revelation, creator and the final word of God.  It looks like some convertees were drifting from the truth. It looks like some convertees were deviating back from the word and going back to Judaism. It looks as if the word they heard from the beginning is becoming inferior.  To counter this notion, the writer was speaking to them that Christ remains superior. The writer was saying that the word remains superior. Even today this word remains superior. Philosophies, ideologies, understandings or any religious drift is not going to be superior over the word. They may look superior but the word remains eternal and remains superior. What does this word do?

  • It has the power to Create (Hebrews 1: 1-4, John 1:1, Genesis 1:1).
  • It has the power to save (1st Peter 1:23, James 1:21, 1 Cor. 15:1-2)
  • It has the power to cleanse (John 15: 3)
  • It gives life (John 6: 63)
  • It has the power to heal ( Send your word only Matthew 8:8)
  • It has the power to transform/ change (Luke 4:4, John2: 1-5)
  • It has the power to raise (Matthew 5: 41)
  • It has the power to bring taste to a tasteless (John 2: 1ff).
  • It has the power to judge (John 12: 48)

Because the word has all these powers, the writer warns his/her audiences that they should not drift.  He warns that his audiences should not give up on Christ.    He warns that his audiences should not compromise in a world where many voices are heard. He warns that his audiences give attention to what they have heard, Christ the eternal word.  He warns that they should not take the word as cheap. He warns that they should not drift.   He warns that we should not drift from the ultimate truth. George Orwell says that “the further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” As we are living in a society were truth is marginalized, the author wars that we should not drift and back away from speaking even if we are hated.  Even if we are seen as ignorant, even if we are seen as illiterate, traditional or having an unsounding word, the writer is warning us not to drift but stand sticking to the truth of the word. The writer warns that we should not consider we are holding the whole of Christ but grow continuously to the fullness of Christ.

What causes drift?

  • Lack of interest in the word of God
  • Increasing desire to be transformed into the likeness of this world
  • Christ is not coming. Christ is not late but no more coming. It is a waste of time to wait on him any more
  • Ups and downs in life where we are not able to overcome some of the lives challenging questions
  • Glittering ideas of this world

Prevention

  • Anchored in Christ: Be assured that our salvation is certain (Hebrews 6: 18-19). Let us be assured that our hope is nailed to Christ and Christ is not going to fail us because of the length of time.  He is not going to fail us because of the odds we see in this world.  The children of Christ stand firm in the situations of odds and in the situations of the length of time. Time is not in my hand when it comes to eternity. The time measurement of Christ is beyond my thinking. The Lord is not bound to the time that we are living.  Those of you who think that the Lord is delayed or answers to your prayers are delayed, be assured that the Lord is not going to disappoint you.  The Lord answers in his time.  Count on Christ!! Be anchored in the hope he promised
  • Hold on (Matthew 10: 22): Difficulties may come and go. Challenges may come and go. Life threatening situations may encounter us, but hold on to Christ and do not drift away. The Christ that we believe in is the one with us in times of difficulties, challenges and unanswered questions
  • Stick to the word: The word here is the Bible. Digest it and keep your eyes on it. There is life in this word (proverbs 3: 4)

[1] Taken from notes prepared for Theological Education by Extension, Mekane Yesus Seminary, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2001.

[2] Taken from notes prepared for Theological Education by Extension, Mekane Yesus Seminary, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2001.

[3] The pronoun “we”  in this paragraph and the ideas (Christian Jewish, Intellectual Jewish and the Jewish of Judaism followers) are entirely taken from a Master of Arts degree student  at the Oslo Lutheran School of Theology in Norway (October 1, 2015).

[4] The pronoun we in this paragraph and the ideas (Christian Jewish, Intellectual Jewish and the Jewish of Judaism followers) are entirely taken from a Master of Arts degree student  at the Oslo Lutheran School of Theology in Norway (October 1, 2015).

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