Keep on Swimming. . .

everyday life inside the fishbowl

Completed 14-Week Hebrews Bible Study

I’ve had a couple of ladies ask me for permission to use my Bible study for their own ladies’ studies. One of the ladies is looking into translating the study into Spanish! I’m so excited to share this resource with others!

I have arranged the weekly questions into  a 5-day/week format, making it a little easier to stay on track throughout the week and leaving room to write answers. If you are interested in doing the study, this might be an easier format for you to use, if you are willing to print over 100 pages! 🙂 I hope this is a blessing to you! Here is the pdf: Hebrews Complete Bible Study

I also remembered I had written a hymn text about 18 years ago(!) after having read through Hebrews. I thought I’d share (with some minor edits), as it sums up some of the beautiful truths of Hebrews.

 

“His Throne is Forever”

{December 16, 2002}

 

Made lower than angels, Christ died on a tree.

He suffered through death, then was crowned with glory,

So that through God’s grace He might taste death for me

And loose me from sin and its chains of slav’ry.

 

Alike to His brothers in all things but sin,

Our High Priest is Christ, with great mercy within.

To appease God’s wrath over men and their sin,

Christ suffered and died for all those who know Him.

 

The priests, although many, could not meet God’s goal.

We have greater hope in Christ’s high priestly role.

This hope we do have made to anchor the soul,

Both sure and e’er steadfast and unchangeable!

 

The source of eternal salvation is God.

Be wary when lightly His grace you do trod,

For, though great in mercy, He handles a rod.

Therefore, we do fear in the presence of God.

 

Eternal salvation for us Christ did gain;

And now at God’s right hand forever He reigns.

Drawn near unto God, as His sons we’ll remain,

And ever in heaven will sing this refrain:

 

Refrain:

Christ is God’s Son; His throne is forever;

Heaven may perish, but He will remain.

All hail His name, our mighty Creator

And praise Christ Jesus, who’s always the same.

 

1 Comment »

Final Thoughts from Hebrews

At the end of my questions for Hebrews 13, I encouraged those doing the study to summarize things they learned/deepened their understanding about God and themselves and how they could change. I thought I’d post my summary here.

What struck me was that our response to all that Jesus is (as I’ll note in part below) was summed up in part by our reverent and acceptable worship and service of God. Our works that evidence our faith are part of the means by which we persevere in our faith. The practical commands that are given as being part of our service to God and part of our perseverance in the faith  are things like show hospitality, be generous, care for the imprisoned and mistreated as if it were you imprisoned. I think I’ll write more on some of these ideas later, but I was struck by the “everyday” nature of our perseverance. We don’t always (usually!) persevere by amazing feats of faith in which we stand in lion’s dens. We persevere in doing good to the elderly in our church, teaching others to be faithful, being hospitable to the travelling missionary, writing a check to a struggling family in your church, visiting shut-ins, etc.

This is in part how I plan to apply Hebrews in my life. As I stand amazed that I can enter the presence of God because of the blood of Jesus, my gratefulness, my focus is on him. The values of my life shift as I realize how passing this world is. My love for the Savior is reflected in my love for people. Especially as my youngest is no longer a baby, I am looking forward to expanding my ministry to include more visiting and encouraging those in my circle.

Below are my summary thoughts on Hebrews.

This book has been a celebration of Jesus Christ—we were asked to consider him, to look at him while we endure and finally to give glory to him forever. (I could have listed more, but I chose to focus on the broad, main themes the author presented.)

Consider Jesus:

  • Superior to angels
  • Sitting at God’s right hand
  • Sovereign of everything
  • Founder of salvation
  • Merciful and faithful high priest
  • Superior to Moses and the Old Covenant
  • Obedient Son
  • Perfect Sacrifice
  • Founder and Perfecter of the Faith
  • Enduring completer of the race
  • Unchanging
  • Great Shepherd of the sheep

Looking to Jesus, I should:

  • Pay close attention to what he says
  • Exhort each other to continue in the faith, strengthen those who are weak and tired
  • Fear lest I fail through disobedient faithlessness
  • Live with the mindset that this earth is temporary and heaven is my forever home
  • Strive to persevere and hold fast with confidence
  • Draw near to God (Jesus died for this purpose)
  • Lay aside sin
  • Run with endurance and be strengthened when I get weak and tired
  • Not get tired, weary, and discouraged
  • Strive for peace with everyone
  • Strive for holiness (essential to see God)
  • Not refuse God’s words
  • Be grateful for all God has done, has given me, and has for me
  • Offer God awe-inspired and reverential worship and service
  • Love fellow believers
  • Be hospitable to strangers
  • Care for those imprisoned and mistreated as I would want to be cared for
  • Instead of being covetous, stingy, and greed, be generous
  • Honor marriage
  • Remember former spiritual leaders and imitate their faith
  • Obey and submit to current spiritual leaders in a way that makes it a joy for them to shepherd me
  • Not be led away by strange, unbiblical teachings
  • Be willing to suffer reproach and shame for Christ
  • Do good
  • Pray for others
  • When I am overwhelmed, I should look to Jesus. I can be reminded that God will powerfully and effectively work faith and these works of faith in me through Jesus Christ. His blood is effective for my salvation and my sanctification.

To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.

7 Comments »

Hebrews Bible Study Week 14: Chapter 13 {The Final Chapter!}

This is it! We’ve reached the last chapter in Hebrews. We started the week of Jan 20, and here we are just over 3 months later, nearly finished with the book. I hope you have been as awed as I have at God’s great love for us shown in Jesus, as well as been encouraged to continue to endure in your faith. If you’ve reached the end of the study (whether it’s now, in 5 weeks, or 5 years from now), would you mind just commenting below? There is something very sweet about studying God’s Word together. It would be an encouragement to me and to others to hear from you!

If you came to the end of this study and said something like, “That was nothing special; I could do that on my own,” then I have accomplished my purpose for this online study. Bible study always takes work, but it is not impossible work. I hope you’ve been encouraged and emboldened to embark on your own studies. If you still feel like you’re not quite ready to do your own, I recommend one of the studies by Jen Wilkin. I’ve done her 1st Peter study, read a couple of her books, and listened to her speak.  You can also join in on her current study here. I don’t always agree with Jen, but for the most part, she is a great teacher and teaches straight from the text.

I also have written a few Bible studies for my former ladies group (Colossians, Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus). If you are interested in those, mention something in the comments below. I will also be formatting this Hebrews study into a weekly study with questions for 5 days a week of study.

I will say that studying a narrative like Genesis is very different than studying an epistle. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth is a good book to help you understand the Bible’s different genres. Perhaps I will do another study like this, if people are interested, on Deuteronomy in a few months (I’m finishing up Numbers after this). I’d really like to get to Isaiah in the near future as well, which I admit is a little intimidating, but I know it will be good!

Well, enough of my rambling. . . Let’s finish up Hebrews! Chapter 13 is full of commands, ending with a beautiful benediction (sung at my wedding!) and final greetings. One of the questions I ask is what connection chapter 13 has to the rest of the book. It’s important that we don’t separate these commands from the doctrines that have been so beautifully and powerfully presented. It is the truth of the doctrines that motivate us, that allow us to work out our faith in practical ways. Both faith without works and works without faith are dead. Let us respond to the truth of what we have learned with both humble worship and fervent obedience!

Hebrews 13 Questions and pdf: Hebrews 13 Questions.

1. What should continue?

2. What should not be neglected? Why?

3. Who should be remembered? In what way and why?

4. How should marriage be viewed?

5. What should be undefiled? Why?

6. How should our lives be characterized according to v5? Why?

7. Because God promised to not forsake us, what can we confidently say? (Note the source of the quote.)

a. What is the Lord?

b. Because the above is true, what should our response be?

 8. What is the connection between the command in v5 and the reasons for the command in vv 5-6?

9. Who else should be remembered?

10. What should be considered?

11. After we consider the above, what should we do?

12. What is true about Jesus Christ? (How does this verse fit in with the commands surrounding it?)

13. By what should we not be led away? Why?

14. What strange teachings may have been related to foods do you think? And what benefit does devotion to foods have?

15. What kind of altar do we have? (With what aspect of the Levitical sacrificial system do you think this might be contrasting? Cf. Lev 6:24-30)

16. After the high priest made atonement for sin in the holy places with the blood of the sacrificed animal, what was done with the rest of the animal?

17. The author compares this Day of Atonement sacrifice with Jesus’ (“So also Jesus. . .”). How did Jesus suffer? What do you think this means? Why did he do this?

18. What should be our response? (This answer might help answer the above.)

19. What do we not have here, and what is “here”?

20. Instead, what do we seek?

21. What should we then do through him?

a. Who is “him”?

b. What is the connection (note the “then”) between verses 14-15?

c. What should we offer? How often?

d. A sacrifice of praise to God could also be described how, acc to v15b?

22. What else should not be neglected? Why? What is such generosity considered to be?

23. How should we respond to our spiritual leaders? Why?

24. In obeying and submitting to our spiritual leaders, we allow them to lead how?

25. If spiritual leaders groan in their caring for us, how does that effect us?

26. How do all of these commands in chapter 13 connect with the rest of the book?

27. What request did the author make of his readers in vv 18-19?

28. What was the author’s view of himself and those with him?

29. After asking for prayer for himself, the author closes his letter with a prayer for the Hebrews.

a. How does he describe God? What did God do?

b. How does he describe Jesus?

c. What does he ask that God do for them? (How does the description of what God had already done regarding Jesus bolster what the author is asking God to do for his readers?)

d. For what purpose did the author pray that his readers would be equipped with everything good?

e. What did the author pray that God would work in them all?

f. Through whom would this good work be accomplished in believers?

g. Who would then receive the glory forever?

30. The author appealed that his brothers would do what? Why?

31. What did he want them to know?

32. Whom did he want them to greet?

33. He sent greetings from whom?

34. What did he want to be with them all?

Closing Questions (I encourage you to actually write the answers to these questions out. It will force you to really verbalize the vague feelings and thoughts you have in response to what you’ve learned.)

1. Take a look at your book theme you wrote at the beginning of the study. Was it pretty accurate? Adjust it if you need to.

2. Did you learn anything new about God/Jesus during this study?

3. Was a truth you already knew about God strengthened?

4. Has your appreciation for and worship in response to a certain truth about God deepened?

5. Have you learned something new about yourself? How have you already responded to what you have learned? How should you respond to what you have learned?

6. What are you going to study next? 🙂

 

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

{If you’re just seeing this post and are interested in doing the study, check out the Hebrews Study tab on the right. Head to the Invitation and Instructions posts, then start with week 1.}

4.29. 20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! Below are my notes, which I do not recommend reading until you’ve completed your week’s study on your own. I think I will write one more blog post about my final thoughts on the book, which will include some of my thoughts of application.

13:1-17. Worship and Everyday Life

“Following on from 12:28–29, the passage suggests that an important dimension to our worship is serving others in the way that God directs (16). However, it is also true that we serve God by offering him praise through Jesus Christ, in every area of our lives (15). When the writer turns again to show how Christianity fulfils and replaces the way of worship associated with the tabernacle (10–14), it becomes clear that traditional ways of thinking about ‘religion’ must be radically transformed by the gospel.”[1]

13:1-8. Chapter 13 continues the thoughts of chapter 12. We are to lay aside sin and run with endurance, looking to Jesus who ran before us and knowing that God trains us through difficult things so we may share his holiness. As a result, we ourselves should be strengthened and strengthen others, strive for peace and holiness. We have an approachable God because of Jesus, and we should not ignore their words. Instead we should be grateful for the kingdom he’s given. We should respond with service and worship characterized by reverence and awe, because we see who God is. We should also respond in the following ways outlined here in this chapter:

We should continue to love our brothers, our fellow believers.

We should be hospitable to strangers. I think the author is alluding to the example of Abraham who was very hospitable to strangers who turned out to the Angel of the Lord, accompanied by two angels (cf. Gen 18-19).

We should remember those imprisoned and mistreated as if we were in the same situation and because we are one in Christ. I think the thought here is treat them how you would want to be treated, with compassion and care.

We should honor marriage and be sexually pure, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

We should not love money and instead be content with what we have. Following verses that have just spoken of showing love, hospitality, and care to others, this command would be essential to being able to be generous in this regard. Why should we be content? Because God has said he will never leave or forsake us (cf. Josh 1:5). This truth of God’s not forsaking us gives us confidence to claim the Lord as our Helper, so that we will not fear what man can do to us (cf. Psa 118:6-7).

There is a connection between being content/not loving money with confidence in God’s presence and help/lack of fear of what man can do. People who love money and are discontent are not satisfied with the presence of God. If their satisfaction is not in him, then they are placing their satisfaction and trust in man’s currency. This is never stable (and also indicates that one is living for this present world rather than the next) and can lead to fear. “The secret of such contentment is learning to trust God for what is needed (as the quotations from Dt. 31:6 and Ps. 118:6–7 indicate).”[2]

We are to remember our former spiritual leaders—those who spoke God’s word to us. We are to consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith.

The author reminds his readers that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I had difficulty understanding exactly how this connects to the commands surrounding it. Maybe when we remember our former leaders, sometimes we are disappointed and can be encouraged that Jesus is always the same? Or perhaps that Jesus is always the same, so we shouldn’t be led away, in contrast, by diverse teachings (v9)?

One commentator helped answer my question:

“This verse at first appears unconnected to the context and is so taken by some. However, there is indeed a connection. It can be viewed as providing the grounds for the exhortation to follow in v. 9, or the grounds or reason for the preceding statement in v. 7. It is best to see the verse as transitional, connecting to both v. 7 and v. 9, stating the object of the former leaders’ faith and the grounds for the exhortation in v. 9. Earthly leaders of the church come and go. They live and they die. However, Jesus lives forever, unchanging and unaffected by mortality or anything else that would hinder him from providing leadership, counsel, encouragement, strength, and whatever else might be needed by his people. . . . This verse implies at least three truths: the divinity of Christ; the immutability of Christ; and the constant faithfulness of Christ to his people.”[3]

13:9-10. We should not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, one of which would be the teaching that the heart could be strengthened by food (I’m thinking the belief that OT food laws should be continued), which bring no benefit to those who follow them. Grace, on the other hand, does strengthen the heart.

The OT priests used to be given the meat of most of the sacrifices as their payment for their priestly work (cf. Lev 6:24-30). We, however, have an “altar” from which none may eat. I think this refers to Christ’s death on the cross contrasted with the priestly sacrifices and all the food regulations that went along with it.

“Certain foods, and maybe some kind of ritual meal, were being presented to the readers as helpful for the nourishment of their spiritual lives. Yet, it is by God’s grace, and not rules about food, that our hearts are to be strengthened (cf. Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 8:8; Col. 2:16, 20–23). Food laws are among the ‘external regulations’, now surpassed and outmoded by the work of Christ (9:10). . . . Those Jewish priests who minister at the tabernacle, and who are authorized to benefit from its sacrifices (e.g. Lv. 7:5–6; Nu. 18:9–10), have no right to eat from the altar of the new covenant. They, along with anyone else attached to that way of worship, are pursuing the ‘shadow’ instead of the reality (8:5; 10:1).”[4]

13:11-14. When the high priest burned his day of atonement sacrifice and brought the blood into the Most Holy Place, the carcass of the animal was then brought outside the gate to be burned. Even the one who brings the carcass to be burned must wash his clothes and body before he can re-enter the camp, because of the uncleanness (cf. Lev 16:27-28). Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice of his body was also “outside the gate,” one of uncleanness, shame, and reproach. We need to be willing to share and endure his shame and reproach. We do this by having the right perspective: we seek the city to come, recognizing that earth offers no lasting habitation.

“The death of Jesus marks the end of a whole way of thinking about religion and worship. Christians who have been cleansed and consecrated to God by the sacrifice of Christ must no longer take refuge in holy places and ritual activities but must go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore (13; cf. 12:2–4). For the first readers, this meant breaking decisively with Judaism and identifying with the one who was regarded as cursed because of the manner of his death (cf. Gal. 3:13). The place of Christian service or worship is the uncleanness of the world, where there is unbelief and persecution![5]

13:15-17. Because we have been cleansed by Jesus’ sacrifice, through him we can continually offer sacrifices that are acceptable and pleasing to God (cf. 11:6) in this new covenant: praise to God/lips that acknowledge his name, doing good, and being generous to share what you have.

This mention of generosity in contrast to a discontent love of money in v5 made me think how important these truths are. Generosity recognizes the temporary nature of this life/earth. It recognizes the shame of Christ’s death and a willingness to share it. It recognizes the presence of God and evidences trust and faith in him.

We are also commanded to obey our current spiritual leaders—our pastors, and we are to submit to them because they watch over our souls as those who must give account to God for their watch-care over us. We need to obey and submit to them in such a way that their care for us is a joy and not done with groaning. Those who have a pastor who groans over them have no advantage in his care for them, because they have made it a difficult, painful thing for that shepherd to care for those particular sheep. In other words, make your pastor’s job a joy by not fighting his leadership (as long as he himself if following Christ and scripture); this will be to your advantage.

13:18-25. Personal Messages and Final Blessing

13:18-19. The author asked for prayer, being sure that he and his fellow laborers had a clear conscience and desire to act honorably. He asked them to earnestly pray so that he could be restored to them sooner.

13:20-21. After asking for prayer from them, he prays for them: May the God of peace who raised from the dead the Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip them with everything good to do his will, working in them that which is well-pleasing in God’s sight. This is done through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.

God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead. (I noticed that this is the only mention of the resurrection that I recall in a book that repeatedly talks of the death and ascension of Christ.) That same God equips believers to do God’s will. It’s not an empty promise!

Jesus cares for us as a Shepherd cares for his sheep (cf. 1 Pet 2:25; 5:4). He is both Shepherd and the Lamb who was sacrificed that his shed blood can be the means by which we can be well-pleasing in God’s sight. What is it that God works in us that is well-pleasing? He works faith in us (cf. 11:6) and the works of faith (v16).

This whole book has been about the superiority of Christ, so it is a fitting end to give glory forever and ever to Christ.

13:22-25. His final words are an appeal that they bear with his “hard to explain” (5:11) word of exhortation, which was “brief.” He informs them that Timothy has been released from prison and tells them that he hopes to visit them with him soon. He greets all the leaders and saints. He sent greetings from those in Italy and concluded with a prayer that “Grace be with all of you.”

 

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1352). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Allen, D. L. (2010). Hebrews (p. 612-613). Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group.

[4] Peterson, 1352.

[5] Ibid.

Leave a comment »

Hebrews Bible Study Week 13: Chapter 12

We have reached the penultimate chapter! (I love using that word. 😉 ) I feel like we have just started, yet we are now so near the end. After 10 chapters of fairly hefty doctrine (containing more meat than milk!) and a whole chapter of examples of faith, we have now come to the last two chapters containing heavy application. These applications would lose much of their power, I think, without the doctrine to back it up. For example, how can we truly consider Jesus as the model for our own endurance if we haven’t actually considered him throughout the entire book? What should motivate us to do the right thing, to endure, and to have faith is not simply checking off a to-do list. It should be love for and following the example of a Savior who has done the same. It should be a reverent fear of the God who loves us and holds us accountable.

Here are the questions for the week, and here is the pdf: Chapter 12 Questions.

1. What are we surrounded by? Who/what is that (note the “therefore”)?

2. Since the above is true, what all should we do?

a.  What should we lay aside?

b. How should we run the race set before us?

c. What should be our focus as we run/who should we be looking at?

3. Describe Jesus in relationship to our faith.

4. What did Jesus endure? Why?

5. How did Jesus view the shame of the cross?

6. What was the joy set before Jesus? Where is he now?

7. The author of Hebrews has used the word consider frequently. He urged us to consider Jesus who was a faithful high priest (3:1-2). He urged believers to consider how to stir up each other to love and good works (10:24). In chapter 11, he gave three examples of how OT saints considered: Sarah considered God faithful (v11), Abraham considered that God would be faithful to his promise so he might raise Isaac from the death (v19), and Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt (v26). If you didn’t define the word consider earlier, do so now. In 12:3, who are we to consider?

8. What did Jesus endure?

9. Why should we consider the enduring Jesus?

10. What was not the nature of the Hebrews’ struggle against sin (compared to Christ’s)?

11. What exhortation did the author remind them of?

12. In this context, what do you think is the nature of the “discipline” the Lord gives?

13. Why do they have to endure? In so doing, how is God treating them?

14. An undisciplined son is compared to what?

15. If we respect earthly fathers for their discipline of us, what is the comparison to our relationship to God who disciplines us?

16. Why do earthly fathers discipline their children?

17. Why does God discipline his children?

18. How does all discipline seem in the moment?

19. What does discipline later yield? For whom?

20. Because all of the above is true about the discipline the Lord sends that we must endure, what should be our response (vv 12-13)?

21. How else should we respond (vv 14-17)?

a. What should we strive for?

b. What three things should we see to?

22. Who is given as a negative example of these things? What did he do? What happened in response to his actions, his being a “root of bitterness”?

23. What is the “for” in v18 connecting to?

24. What have we not come to? What do you think this is referring to?

25. What order was given then (at Mount Sinai)?

26. How did Israel as a whole and Moses in particular respond to what they saw and heard?

27. In contrast, where have believers now come, described in several different ways? To whom have believers now come? To what have believers now come?

28. How is the God whom believers come to described?

29. Who do you think are the “spirits of the righteous made perfect”?

30. How is Jesus described to whom believers have come?

31. How is the blood described to which believers come? What does this description mean?

32. What warning is given in v25? Who is speaking (cf. 1:2)?

33. What was the result of those who refused he who warned them on earth? Who was this one warning on earth, do you think?

34. What is the danger if we reject he who warns from heaven? Who is the one warning from heaven?

35. What was the voice of he who warned from earth like?

36. What has he now promised about his warning?

37. What does the phrase “yet once more” indicate? What does this mean?

38. Therefore, what should our response be?

39. Our response should be thus, because God is described how?

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV). 

{If you’re just seeing this post and are interested in starting the study, check out the Hebrews Study tab on the right. Look for the Invitation to join the study and the Instructions, then start with Week 1.}

4.23.20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! I recommend not reading my notes below until you’ve completed your own study of the chapter for your own benefit.

12:1-13: A Call to Endurance

12:1. Because we are surrounded by all these witnesses (from Greek word martys, meaning witness, testifier, martyr; similar to the Greek work martyreō, from which comes “commend” in 11:2, 4, 5, 39)—those who were commended by their testimony of faith—we should also persevere in our faith.

“We are not to picture the great cloud of witnesses in ch. 11 as spectators in an amphitheatre, cheering us on in the race of faith. It is ‘what we see in them, not what they see in us, that is the writer’s main point’ (J. Moffatt, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Clark, 1924], p. 193). They are witnesses (Gk. martyres) of true faith for us because God ‘witnessed’ (Gk. emartyrēthēsan, 11:2, 4–5, 39) to their faith in the pages of the Bible. They demonstrate the nature and possibilities of faith for believers in every generation. As contestants in the race, we are to look to their example for encouragement.”[1]

{My husband preached an excellent message on vv 1-3, with a basic outline that I will share that really helps think through these things: 1. Look around (at the surrounding witnesses who have finished the race—v1a); 2. Look within (at the sin which clings so closely—v1b); 3. Look ahead (at the race set before us—v1c); 4. Look up (at Jesus who endured and finished the race—vv2-3a); 5. Don’t look down (at your tired, weary feet and become faint—v3b)}

We should lay aside every weight—sin which clings so closely. Sin weighs us down and does not help us in our running the marathon of faith and obedience.

We should run with endurance the race set before us.

12:2-4. While we run, we look to Jesus as an example of endurance. He is described as the founder and perfecter of faith. “The word ‘our’ does not occur in the original. Faith in an absolute or general sense is meant (he is ‘the author and perfecter of faith’). Jesus is the perfect example of the faith we are to express. The word translated author (Gk. archēgon, as in 2:10) literally means that he is pioneer or leader in the race of faith. However, the context also suggests that he is the author or initiator of true faith since he opens the way to God and enables us to follow in his footsteps.”[2]

He perfected the faith by enduring the cross and despising the shame (considered the shame of the cross as not important enough to be a concern when compared to something else). Jesus’ suffering was considered nothing compared to the joy of his exaltation in which he sat at God’s right hand.

We should consider Jesus’ enduring hostility from sinners, so we can endure, so we don’t grow weary and faint-hearted. In the Hebrews’ struggle for sin they (and many of us too!) haven’t had to shed blood over it (perhaps indicating that whatever persecution they were then enduring was not “bloody” at the time).

12:5-8. The author reminds them of another exhortation addressed to sons from Prov 3:11-12. All discipline, reproving, and chastisement is evidence of God’s love for his children, thus his children should not be wearied by it nor regard it lightly.

It seems like “discipline” includes the ideas of being chastised/reproved when sin is involved. But it also seems like it involves being trained to endure something difficult—like training to run the race. Every earthly father does this with his children, whether disciplining concerning sin or training a child to learn something difficult to help them grow up into responsible adults. When God does this with us, he is treating us as his children.

Instead of seeing the trials and hardships of life as wearying, pointless, and a sign of God’s lack of concern or love for us, we should recognize them as marks of his claiming us as his children.

12:9-11. When earthly fathers disciplined us as they saw best when we were young, we recognize their love for us and respond with respect. How much more should we correctly respond to our heavenly Father with submission (resulting in life in the end), even when at the moment the discipline is painful. Discipline trains us in righteousness, with the end result being our good—sharing in God’s holiness.

12:12-13. Here is the positive command mirroring the negative in v3 (Don’t be weary or fainthearted). Here, the picture seems to be someone hunched over in exhaustion, walking off-track because they are looking down. The encouragement is to straighten up and look ahead straight toward the goal. “It is a challenge to abandon fear and despair and not become exhausted in the race of faith (cf. Is. 35:3–4). The quotation from Pr. 4:26 (‘Make level paths for your feet’) is a warning about following the way that God has provided, not swerving to the right or left.”[3] Those really struggling need to be especially strengthened so that there can be healing instead of permanent “injury.”

12:14-13:25: Appeals for a God-Honoring Lifestyle

If we are being disciplined for the purpose of sharing in God’s holiness, then we actually need to strive for holiness. Following are practical ways, mixed with more exhortation and encouragement in which to pursue holiness.

12:14-17: A Final Warning Against Failure

12:14. Believers are encouraged to strive for peace and holiness. This striving for a holiness (that God also works in us (v10) is a requirement for seeing God. Those who don’t strive for holiness prove that God has not done a work in our hearts allowing us to share in his holiness.

12:15. Here is another warning that none fail to obtain God’s grace. How could that happen? A “root of bitterness” could spring up among them, cause trouble, and defile many. “Such imagery recalls Dt. 29:18, where Moses warns about the bitterness that can be spread throughout the community of God’s people by one rebellious member.”[4] This would hinder others from enduring the race, the exact opposite of strengthening the lame (vv 12-13).

12:16-17. They are called not to be sexually immoral in their pursuit of holiness. Then Esau is named as a specific example of one who evidence his unholiness by selling his birthright for one meal. He considered the comfort of the moment greater value than God’s promises and future blessings. When he later realized the consequences of his actions and sought blessing, he found no repentace and was rejected.

12:18-29: Responding to the Call of God

12:18-21. Following the author’s exhortation, he includes—as he often has—an encouragement for believers to respond appropriately to the Jesus to whom they are looking. He begins this with a contrast. He describes what coming in to God’s limited presence was like for Israel—but not for us. When they came to Sinai, God had descended to deliver the Covenant (cf. Ex 19ff) and came with darkness, fire, thunder, and lightning. No one, including animals, were to touch the mount on threat of death. Israel begged that they would not have to hear God’s voice speak anymore, and even Moses said that he trembled with fear.

12:22-24. The Israelites’ experience at Mount Sinai in which they begged not to hear God’s spoken voice again is contrasted with believers’ experience today (“But you. . .”).  This is what we have come to:

 1. Mount Zion/the city of the living God/the heavenly Jerusalem. I think this refers to heaven itself, the place where God dwells (cf. Rev 14:1). This is the city to which OT believers were looking to (cf. 11:10, 13-16), and one which we have already come to because it has been guaranteed through Jesus’ work and our ability to draw near (cf. 4:16; 7:25; 10:22; 11:6).

 2. Innumerable angels in festal gathering (cf. Jude 14)

 3. The assembly of the firstborn (Jesus; cf. 1:6) who are enrolled in heaven (all believers who are the “brothers” of Christ; cf. 2:11-13; Eph 2:6-7; Rev 7)

 4. God, the judge of all (cf. 9:27)

 5. The spirits of righteous made perfect (probably saints who have died, like those listed in ch. 11)

 6. Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant

 7. The sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Abel’s shed blood spoke of his righteousness and faith (cf. 11:4) which brought commendation by God. Jesus’ blood speaks of even better things, opening the way of entrance to God and cleansing hearts (cf. 10:19-22).

“The mention of Abel is unexpected since it does not belong to the developed comparison between Sinai and Zion. It may have been suggested by the reference to ‘the spirits of righteous persons’ in the heavenly city (v. 23). Abel was the first in Hebrews 11 to have been explicitly mentioned by God as ‘righteous’, and the author of Hebrews may have intended to draw attention to the whole sweep of redemptive history, from the righteous Abel to the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus.”[5]

12:25-27. Here is another warning that we make sure not to refuse the one speaking (cf. 2:1-4; 4:12-13). Israelites and others who refused to listen to God’s warning when he came to speak to them on earth did not escape (cf. 2:3). How much more will we not escape if we reject His warning coming from heaven. God’s voice shook Sinai (cf. Ex 19:18), but he promised a future shaking of the earth and heavens (cf. Hag 2:6). The author explains that this phrase “yet once more” means that things that are made will be removed, and things not shaken will remain (cf. Psa 102:26). God’s kingdom will remain forever (cf. Dan 2:44).

12:28-29. Those who receive this kingdom should respond with gratefulness and an offering of acceptable worship—defined as being worship with reverence and awe. Why such worship? Because we understand who God is—a consuming fire (cf. Deut 4:24).

“The Greek verb here (latreuein) may also be translated ‘to serve’, as it is in 9:14. Christian worship cannot be restricted to prayer and praise in a congregational context. As ch. 13 illustrates, we are to worship, or serve, God by faithfulness and obedience in every aspect of our lives (note particularly 13:15–16; cf. Rom. 12:1). However, the writer also insists that acceptable worship is characterized by reverence and awe, and supports his challenge with a description of God as a consuming fire. This alludes to Dt. 4:24 (cf. Dt. 9:3; Is. 33:14), where the Israelites were warned not to indulge in idolatry, but to remain faithful to the Lord and to serve him exclusively, lest they provoke him to anger. The certainty of God’s grace must never blind us to the truth that a terrible judgment awaits the apostate.”[6]

 

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1349). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 1350.

[4] Ibid.

[5] O’Brien, P. T. (2010). The Letter to the Hebrews (pp. 490–491). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[6] Peterson, 1351.

 

Leave a comment »

Do Our Words Declare Us to be Innocent or Guilty?

I was reading today through Hebrews 11, and I was struck (again) by the description of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. They never received the promises in their lifetimes, but they had faith in the God who promised. What caught my attention were the verbs.

They “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (11:13).

They were the kind of people who spoke according to the truth that they acknowledged. And their speech showed that they acknowledged that truth: “People who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland” (11:14).

Their desires followed after what they thought about: “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (11:15-16a).

The result: “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (11:16b).

These faithful—though not flawless—believers acknowledged the truth of their temporary pilgrimage on earth. This belief affected their speech. Their speech showed that they truly believed that they were pilgrims in this world striving for the next, abiding one in heaven. Their meditations on this truth caused their desires to line up. God was not ashamed to be called God by such faithful pilgrims.

Recently, I read a Facebook post by a friend (Brenda of petalsfromthebasket.com) who wisely cautioned us to be wary of our speech. In light of our social isolation from one another in this unpredictable but temporary world, she pointed out that we will look back at this time as one when “words were all we had.” This phrase keeps going through my mind.

I couldn’t help but think that this state of words being all we had is really true much (most?) of the time in this age when the majority of our social networking is done online. I have 721 Facebook friends at the time of this writing. Of these friends, I have probably less than 20 whom I see weekly face-to-face. I’m sure many of you see many more people face-to-face, but I would venture a guess that the number of your online followers and friends greatly exceed those with whom you have regular, face-to-face contact.

We are certainly people who are known by our deeds. And the Bible condemns those who speak words that sound like they are full of faith but are not backed up by deeds to go along with them (James 2:14-17).

But most of us don’t see each other’s good deeds. Most of us don’t even hear each other’s actual words. All we see are the words that are posted in Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs, etc.

Sometimes these words are in the form of a post.

Sometimes these words are in the form of a shared meme.

Sometimes these words are in the form of a comment on someone else’s post or meme.

Sometimes the phrases I like, I dislike, I am angry, I am sad, I am wowed are communicated by the simple click of a mouse.

While we are vaguely aware that the things we post only portray part of who we are, we need to remember that for many of us what we post is the only part of us that many see. While we are vaguely aware that social media is not the ideal means of communication, fellowship, and encouragement for believers, it is often the only means we use with many.

When I meet someone and become “friends” on social media, I often scroll through his/her profile to get an idea of who this person is. I actually do the same thing with my own profile when I’ve befriended someone new. I look at what I’ve posted recently to see what perception that person will have of me based only on what they see on Facebook. (They would think that I have cute kids that I homeschool and that I like to write Bible studies, I think. 😉 )

Whether or not it is ideal to draw conclusions about a person solely based on what they’ve posted is pretty much a moot point. We’ve all probably written things we wished we hadn’t. Thankfully there is the edit and delete button (though we know that nothing is really safe once it’s been posted!). I know that love hopes the best in another. I know that perhaps people write or share things that they would never say in person, but the point is that it was said.

And what we say reveals our hearts.

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:34b-37 ESV).

It is sobering to remember that others’ views of us are often formed simply through our social media posts. It is a more sobering thing to think that we will be held accountable for every careless tweet, Facebook post, comment, like, or meme.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14 ESV).

Leave a comment »

Hebrews Bible Study Week 12: Chapter 11

We are nearing the end of our study in Hebrews. Chapter 11 is a very well-known chapter, often called the “Hall of Faith.” It is often perceived as an entity apart from its context, but it is heavily connected with all the theology, warnings, and encouragement behind and the application ahead in chapters 12-13. Again I think it would be a good idea to go back and skim or read through chapter 10 to get the context of chapter 11 in your minds. Because Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice of himself brings God’s full forgiveness, we can draw near to God, persevere, and encourage others to persevere with the hope of eternal life as our reward. To fail to persevere—particularly in suffering—marks a lack of faith. The author is confident of his audience’s persevering faith, and this is where chapter 11 begins.

Hebrews Chapter 11 Questions and pdf: Hebrews 11 Questions

1. Define faith.

2. According to what we’ve already read in Hebrews, what do you think the “things hoped for” are?

3. What did the people of old do by faith?

4. What do we understand by faith?

{Each of these OT examples to follow will practically show how these men and women showed their faith in God, their assurance of their hope in God and his promises. Hopefully these stories of faith are encouraging to you. We often call these men and women “Heroes of the Faith,” but if you are familiar with these stories, you will remember many of their faults, failures, and even acts of faithlessness. Yet, their placement here in the “Hall of Faith” shows that persevering faith in a faithful God—despite many failures and sins along the way—marks them as people whom God is not ashamed to be called their God.}

5. How did Abel show his faith in God?

a. How was Abel commended?

b. How did God show his commendation?

c. How does Abel “still speak”?

 6. How did Enoch show his faith?

a. How was Enoch commended?

b. How did God show his commendation?

 7. What truths about faith are given in v6?

a. What is impossible?

b. The conditions for pleasing God and drawing near to God are the same. One condition uses the term “faith” and the other condition uses the definition of faith. What must one who draws near to God believe?

 8. How did Noah show his faith?

a. What was Noah warned of by God?

b. How did Noah build the ark?

c. For what purpose?

d. In building the ark what did he do?

 9. How did Abraham show his faith?

a. How did Abraham live as he journeyed to the promised land?

b. How are Isaac and Jacob described?

c. What motivated Abraham as he lived in tents as a foreigner?

10. How did Sarah show her faith?

a. What did she receive? When?

b. Her faith was shown in her consideration of God as what?

c. Because Sarah had faith, what came from Abraham (though he was how old?)?

11. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah all died how?

a. They died not having what? (How does this mesh with 6:15??)

b. But they died having what?

c. Acc. to v14, people who speak how make it clear that they are doing what?

d. If they had wanted to—if their mind had been set on it— what could they have done?

e. Instead, what did they desire?

f. Notice all the verbs that are used that describe the way in which they evidenced their faith and their focus while on earth.

g. In response to their faith, what is God’s response? (contrast with 10:38)

12. How did Abraham continue to show his faith?

a. How is Abraham described?

b. Why was Abraham’s offering Isaac such an extreme act of faith?

c. What did Abraham “consider” that God would/could do?

13. What did Isaac do by faith?

14. What did Jacob do by faith?

15. What did Joseph do by faith?

16. What did Moses’ parents do by faith? Why?

17. How did Moses show his faith?

a. What did he refuse?

b. What did he choose?

c. What did he consider?

d. What was he looking to?

e. What motivated his departure from Egypt despite the anger of the king?

f. How did he show his faith in v28?

18. How did Israel show their faith at the outset of their journey to the promised land (v29)? (and what happened to the Egyptians?)

19. How did Israel show their faith at the end of their journey to the promised land (v30)?

20. Here we have the first description of the faith of a (post-Abraham) non-Israelite.

a. How is Rahab described?

b. How did she show her faith?

c. What happened to her?

21. Who else did the author not have time to tell of their acts of faith?

a. The author lists general things done by these and more which evidence their faith. List these out.

b. When some were tortured and refused to accept release, what was their motivation (v35)?

c. The author continues to describe the awful mistreatment of these faithful people. How does he describe them in v38?

22. Despite their commendation through their faith (cf. vv 4-5), what did all these not receive? Why?

23. What was promised to them?

24. What is the something better that God provided for us?

25. What does it mean that “apart from us they should not be made perfect”?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11:6 ESV).

{If you’re just reading this post and interested in starting the study, check out the Hebrews Study tab on the right. Look for the Invitation and Preparation posts, then start with Week 1.}

4.16.20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! Please don’t read my notes until you’ve completed your study if you want the most benefit from your own study.

11:1-12:13: Faith and Endurance

11:1-40: A Celebration of Faith

“In a world where people dismiss faith as ‘wishful thinking’, or simply identify it with the beliefs and practices of a particular religion (e.g. ‘the Muslim faith’), it is good to have a comprehensive picture of the faith that actually pleases God. Hebrews shows the link between faith, hope, obedience and endurance, illustrating that it is more than intellectual assent to certain beliefs. God-honouring faith takes God at his word and lives expectantly and obediently in the present, waiting for him to fulfil his promises. Such faith brings suffering and persecution in various forms.”[1]

11:1-2. Faith is here defined as the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. This faith is what commended God’s people to Him (cf. vv 4, 5, 39). (Commendation comes from the Greek word martyreō: “bear witness, be a witness; testify favorably, speak well (of), approve” [BDAG])

Concerning “things hoped for,” it seems like OT saints (and particularly Israel in regard to some of these promises) hoped in God’s promises of rest, blessing, fruitfulness, and a future Conqueror/King/Messiah. Today, believers hope in the fulfillment of these promises, many of them found in Jesus (cf. 3:6, 14; 6:18-20; 7:19; 10:19-23).

“It is also possible to translate, ‘faith is the substance [hypostasis] of things hoped for’ (av), or ‘faith gives substance to our hopes’ (neb). Such a rendering suggests that what we hope for becomes real and substantial by the exercise of faith. This does not mean that the gospel is true simply because we believe in it! Rather, the reality of what we hope for is confirmed for us in our experience when we live by faith in God’s promises.” [2]

11:3. Faith helps us understand basic truths presented in Scripture, like creation: the word of God—the invisible—created the universe—the visible. “The writer begins where Genesis begins, because faith in God as the Creator of everything that exists is fundamental to the Bible’s view of reality. . . . If God is in control of nature and history, past and present, every generation of believers can trust his promises about the future, no matter what it may cost them.”[3]

11:4-7. The author gives 3 pre-Israel examples of men who lived by faith. They were commended as righteous and thus pleasing to God by their faith.

 1. Abel’s offering of an acceptable sacrifice to God evidenced his faith (cf. Gen 4; Prov 15:8). God accepted his offering to show he was commending Abel as righteous due to his faith. His example still speaks past his death.

 2. Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying, having been commended as having pleased God through his faith (cf. Gen 5:22-24). This example prompts a principle: The ability to please God and draw near to him comes through believing through faith what God has said—He exists and rewards those who seek him. It is impossible to please God apart from this.

 3. Noah had faith to believe God’s warnings about the flood (though initially unseen) and obeyed with reverent fear in building the ark (cf. Gen 6-7). His faith and obedience condemned the world (their lack of faith and obedience), saved his family, and made him and heir of righteousness that comes by faith (cf. Rom 4:13).

11:8-10. Abraham showed his faith by obeying God in going to a place God promised to give him (cf. Gen 12ff). He went without knowing where he was going, to live in the land like a foreigner and in tents like a wanderer, as did his son and grandson who had received the same promises. (He had no established home for himself, Isaac, and Jacob.) Why did he do this? He was looking forward to a city with foundations that God had built. “Waiting for God to provide them with an earthly inheritance, the patriarchs came to realize that this life is not an end in itself but a pilgrimage towards a future that God alone can construct for his people.”[4]

11:11-12. Sarah received power to conceive when she was past fertility age (and when Abraham was so old he was nearly dead) and thus showed her faith. From this unlikely, childless couple came a son through whom innumerable descendants would come. Sarah’s object of her faith was the same as the consideration of her mind: God who promised is faithful.

11:13-16. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah died in faith without receiving what had been promised. During their lifetimes, they never saw the ultimate fulfillment of the promises—Jesus. But they were aware that it was there. Their eyes of faith saw a distant fulfillment (cf. John 8:56). They didn’t receive it but they did the following:

Acknowledged truth: their temporary residence on this earth as strangers and exiles.

Spoke truth: their “pilgrim” speak made it clear that they sought a true homeland, not this earth.

Thought truth: their thoughts were not glued to this earth or else they could have gone back if they wanted.

Desired  what was true: their desires, based on their thought patterns, were for a better, heavenly country.

Therefore, God wasn’t ashamed to be their God and prepared a better city for them (contrast this with the outcome of the faithless in 10:38).

Thoughts of application: In order for us to please God and draw near to him, God must commend/approve us as righteous on the basis of our faith in him. Our faith believes that God exists and rewards those who seek him. Faith considers. It considers God to be faithful (v11) and to keep his promises (v17). Faith considers earthly suffering a greater treasure than earthly riches because the eye is on future reward (v26). We need to be a people who take time to consider.

11:17-19. Abraham also showed his faith when he offered up Isaac (cf. Gen 22) through whom God had planned Abraham’s numerous offspring would come (cf. Gen 21:12). His faith in God was such that he considered that God would be so faithful to his promise that he would even raise Isaac from the dead after he had been sacrificed.

11:20-22. Isaac’s faith was demonstrated by his speaking future blessings based on what God had promised to Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s faith likewise was evidenced by the blessing of his sons and ending his life in worship. Joseph’s faith pointed to the surety of a future event—the Exodus—in which he told Israel to take his bones with him to the promised land.

These were not necessarily extraordinary acts of faith. These men spoke of future events God had promised with surety to their family. Their blessings and speech to their children evidence their faith in God who would surely accomplish his promises. All of these men spoke this way at the end of their lives, without having received these promises themselves, but believing them to be true, and handing that down to the next generation.

11:23-28. Moses’ parents showed their faith by hiding Moses for three months because he was beautiful and they weren’t afraid of the king’s edict to kill all the baby boys (cf. Ex 1). Moses’ faith was evidenced when he was grown up by his choice to not be called Prince but instead to be called an Israelite slave with all its accompanying mistreatment. Sharing mistreatment and reproach with the then-future suffering Christ was greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt. He had this mindset because he was looking at the future reward not the present comfort—despite the fleeting pleasures that sinful lifestyle offered. He left Egypt enduring the king’s anger because he was able to see who the real King was. He continued to evidence his faith by leading the people to recognize their dependence on the saving work of God at Passover (cf. Ex 11-12).

“In this section faith is portrayed as a force sustaining God’s people in times of opposition and affliction, enabling them to overcome fear and temptation and to fulfil his purposes for them. . . . Faith in God is incompatible with fear of hostile forces.”[5]

11:29-31. Israel showed faith at the outset of their wilderness wanderings at the Red Sea (where they crossed on dry ground in faith that God would indeed rescue them, but the Egyptians were drowned; cf. Ex 14) as well as at the outset of the conquering of Canaan when they encircled Jericho for seven days (cf. Josh 6). Rahab—the Canaanite prostitute of Jericho—showed her faith and obedience by helping the Israelite spies (cf. Josh 2; 6).

11:32-38. There was no time for the author to speak of the acts of faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, and others who did the following: conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, and women received their dead back to life.

Many of these were severely mistreated in this life, but they endured because they were confident that they would be (and they were) raised to a better life. They were tortured, mocked, flogged, imprisoned in chains, stoned, sawn in two, killed with the sword, wore animals’ skins, and were destitute, afflicted, mistreated, wandering about homeless in deserts, mountains, dens, and caves. These were people of whom this world was not worthy.

“Images of persecution and imprisonment pile up to convince the first readers of Hebrews that their experience has been one with that of believers in former generations (36–38; cf. 10:32–34), to encourage them to persevere in faith.”[6]

11: 39-40. All of these—despite God commending them for their faith through their great trials and mistreatment—did not receive what was promised in their lifetimes. Instead, God provided something better—referring to Jesus, I think (as he has been the “better” one throughout the whole book). Apart from all the rest who were to believe, these OT believers were not “perfect,” they were not a complete number of those who would believe. There were more to be added to their numbers of those who had faith (cf. Rev 6:11).

“Although they saw the fulfilment of specific promises in this life (e.g. 6:15; 11:11, 33), none of them experienced the blessings of the Messianic era and of the new covenant. In his gracious providence, God had planned something better for us in the sense that their enjoyment of perfection through Jesus Christ would only be together with us. The writer’s point is to stress the enormous privilege of living ‘in these last days’ (1:2).”[7]

“In other words, God provided something better by including us (the readers) with them (Old Testament saints) so that all his people would be made perfect in Christ.”[8]

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1345). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 1347.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 1348.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 1348-1349.

[8] Allen, D. L. (2010). Hebrews (p. 567). Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group.

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

Encouragement for “Crisis Schooling at Home” Moms (or Dads) from a Homeschool Mom

If you have never taught your kids at home before and are suddenly and unexpectedly thrown into a situation in which you have to, I can imagine that would feel very overwhelming. Whether you have one kid or a dozen, it is a challenging thing to do. From what I have seen, it seems like a lot of schools and teachers are working hard to coordinate with the parents to provide lessons and material for the kids; this is a huge blessing, I’m sure.

As you’re probably figuring out by now, however, often the most difficult aspect of “schooling at home” (I say this to include those who are unexpectedly forced to keep their children at home from school as well as those who regularly choose to homeschool using their choice of materials) is not the actual educational material. (Not to say that some material—especially for older students—may not be over ours or our kids’ heads. This is also not to say that some students—especially those with a learning disability—may not have more difficulty learning even simple concepts. I am also sadly aware that some children do not have homes conducive to learning.)

All of my parenthetical disclaimers aside. . . Often the most difficult aspect of schooling at home is managing your kids (along with your own schedule). So, I thought maybe I could share some of the ways I approach homeschooling to be an encouragment to someone.

First of all, you need to have the right mindset as a homeschool mom. People assume things to be true about homeschool moms that are just not always true. For example,

  • I am not naturally a patient person–ask my husband, kids, sisters, parents, and close friends. This is a fruit of the Spirit I pray for regularly, am working on, and am s.l.o.w.l.y seeing growth in. It’s a bonus to me at the end of the day that my kids are still alive and well.

 

  • I am not an elementary education person. In fact, I have no degree in education. I have a bachelors in nursing. In fact {confession time}, I do not enjoying teaching little children anything at all. I would much rather speak to 100 adults than 10 children.

 

  • I never wanted to homeschool. We chose for me to homeschool, because we believed it to be the best choice for our children (considering our options at the time of our oldest starting school).

 

I have come to enjoy and grow into something I would have never thought I could. I now see it as a privilege to teach my own kids, but please do not ever ask me to teach your children (teaching Sunday School to little kids pushes me to my limits already!). Don’t assume that you can’t teach your kids at home because of personality, education, desire, etc.

Second, since most of the people unexpectedly schooling at home do not have to for the most part choose curriculum for their kids (this is huge since there are so many overwhelming options!), the biggest issue is organizing your day.

  • Take the time to figure out your day/week ahead of time. Have a rough idea for when they watch their educational video, when they do this subject or that. Choose harder subjects and material for the time of day when they are most alert. If you have multiple kids, have one kids work on something that is fairly independent, while another gets your or the online teacher’s attention. Other kids can quietly play or do independent work. Then rotate everyone. Breaks are good, but don’t let them get out too much stuff during their break or you will go crazy.

 

  • Keep your schooling area as neat as possible. When you have littles who are doing little to no school like I do, this is really hard to do, but this makes life much easier. (Different personalities can handle different levels of mess, but don’t forget that your kids have different personalities than you do which can handle different levels of noise and mess.)

 

  • Give yourself the flexibility to rearrange your schedule over and over again until you finally figure out what works the best. I’ve had to learn to do this a million times over. Then, when you’ve got something that works, stick with it (if you can, usually by then, something changes again! 😉 ) Also, give your schedule the flexibility. Assume that everything will actually take longer than you think it will. If it doesn’t take as long, you’ve got some bonus time.

 

  • Unless your online program/teacher has your kids on a strict time schedule for watching things or having things due, it’s really quite ok to skip a subject on a rough day. It’s ok to have them go run around the yard in the middle of the math worksheet. It’s ok to not get everything on your academic list done for the day. Just save it for the next time. They will be just fine!

Third, take advantage of this precious time with your kids to teach them character and disciple them. You were likely already doing this in the time you had before and after school with them, and if they’re in a good school the teachers probably try to do this in a group context. But now, you have all the more opportunity to do this every moment of the day (just like in the summer, right?!).

I am reading What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp right now. It’s a book about marriage that has just been spot on. The first book I had read by him was Parenting, the best book I have ever read about parenting. As I’m reading this marriage book, I keep thinking how similar it is to the parenting book he wrote. The reason for this I think is that Tripp prioritizes the “vertical” relationship (between a person and God) as more important and vital to get right over the “horizontal” relationships (between husband/wife and parent/child). His emphasis in the marriage book has been all the little moments between a husband and wife that reveal whether they are serving and loving God most or themselves. As we think rightly about loving and serving God, we act in a more appropriate manner toward our spouses. The same thing goes toward our children. As we love and serve God, and as we view ourselves as sinners in need of God’s grace, we parent our children in all the little moments in a more appropriate way. And as we do that we are teaching them how to respond rightly in all the little moments.

My point here is that as our children spend every waking moment with us (this is hard for all of us—even if we chose to homeschool!), we have all the more opportunity to see and respond to all the little moments. The eyerolls when they have to recite the list of prepositions one more time. The groaning when break time is over and it’s time to get back to history. The anger when they can’t figure out the math problem. The argument over who gets to sharpen their pencils first. The snarky comments between siblings. The screaming between the toddler and the preschooler. All of this on top of our own sinful responses over and over as parents.

To be honest, I’m amazed sometimes that I get any actual schooling done in between all the discipling that happens over here. If we don’t have time for a subject that day because we had a lot of conversation going on about how that small, little moment revealed the sinfulness in someone’s heart (sometimes its mine we’re all talking about!) and how much we need God’s grace and forgiveness and how thankful we are for Jesus Christ, then that’s quite ok.

As hard as this time might be, it’s also full of extra opportunities. Opportunities for us to grow in patience, opportunities to learn about how to be a better teacher and organizer, opportunities to show God’s grace in our kids’ lives by monopolizing all those little moments and transforming them into discipleship opportunities.

There are many more things that could be said about homeschooling. But these are the top three that came to my mind. I’m sure any homeschooling parent would be happy to share his/her advice with you if you ask. I hope these few things I’ve learned and am continuing to learn will be an encouragement to you!

Leave a comment »

Hebrews Bible Study Week 11: Chapter 10

Chapter 10 is another long chapter, but it is going to be another good one. It continues the contrast between the Levitical priesthood and the continual animal sacrifices of the old covenant with Jesus’ priesthood and his once-for-all sacrifice of himself. It might be helpful to read chapters 8-10 altogether once before digging in to chapter 10 just to help you keep the context in mind.

As you read and study, I hope you see the value, beauty, and practicality of studying the rich, deep doctrines of Scripture. This study into the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ and the new covenant compared to the Levitical priesthood has not been a walk in the park. I’ve had to work hard to try to understand some of these things, and I’ve got some unanswered questions ahead for this chapter. BUT, this chapter and the following make abundantly clear that there is a connection between our theology and our walk. We hope, struggle, and endure because of what we know and believe to be true about God. Our response to what we know is vital.

This is exactly the method the author of Hebrews has used with his audience. He starts out in the introduction in chapter 1 summarizing who Jesus Christ is and then sets out to “prove” this throughout the book. Scattered throughout are his warnings and encouragements. He expected his audience be warned and encouraged based on what they were taught or reminded about concerning Christ. May we also continue to be taught, warned, and encouraged as we continue our study!

Here are my questions for Hebrews 10, and here is the pdf: Hebrews 10 Questions.

Hebrews 10 Questions

1. What can the law never do by its same, yearly, continual sacrifices? Why?

2. If the law could make its worshipers perfect, what would the worshipers have done? Because they would have been what?

3. What did these yearly sacrifices remind the worshipers?

4. The yearly sacrifices were necessary because what is impossible?

5. “Consequently” (because animals’ blood cannot take away sins), when Christ came to earth, he said what? (Summarize vv 5-7 in your own words; also note the source of the quotation.)

6. Verses 8-10 go on to explain verses 5-7. What are offered according to the law?

7. Christ’s statement about his coming to do God’s will does what, according to v9?

8. What was God’s will for which Jesus Christ came? What did it accomplish?

9. What does “every priest” daily do, and what does it (not) accomplish?

10. BUT WHEN CHRIST had offered what? What did he do after that? (cf. 1:3b)

11. What is Christ waiting for at the right hand of God? (cf. 1:13; 2:7-8)

12. What had Christ done by offering himself (cf. v10) as a single offering? (Note the tenses of the verbs in v14.)

13. The author again quotes God’s promise of the new covenant. It seems like the truth he wants to emphasize this time is what he “adds” in v17. What truth is that?

14. The author brings to a conclusion the argument he began in v1 with the priests’ continual offering of animals’ blood not bringing final forgiveness of sins. What does he conclude in v18?

{I marked every reference to what the sacrifices could/could not (in the case of the animal sacrifices) do in vv 1-18. All of these terms describe the work of salvation in different ways.}

15. “Since we have” what 2 things in vv 19-21?

16. What are the “holy places” that we can enter? (You’ll have to check cross-references and draw a conclusion.)

{Remember the context of this statement about entering holy places. Chapter 9 had just talked about how only the high priest could go into the Most Holy Place once a year, following all the proper procedures. If you didn’t read about the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, make sure you read it now to understand the gravity of this.}

17. By what do we have confidence to enter the holy places (vv 19-20)?

18. What is the curtain in v 20?

19. What is the new and living way opened for us through Jesus’ death, do you think?

20. Since we have confidence to enter the holy places and since we have a great high priest, what should we do (“Let us. . .” vv 22, 23, 24)?

21. How should we draw near? What is the condition of our hearts (and bodies?)?

22. To what should we hold fast? How? Why?

23. We should consider how to do what?

24. In doing the above, what should we not neglect (although some make this a habit)?

25. In not neglecting the above, what should we be doing, especially as we see the “Day drawing near”?

26. What do you think the “Day” is that is drawing near?

27. Immediately following this encouragement to not neglect to meet together and rather to encourage each other in light of the Day drawing near is a section connected to it by the word “For. . .” For if we what?

28. If we sin deliberately after receiving the truth, what no longer remains?

29. Rather, what can these people expect?

30. Again, we have another comparison in vv 28-29. What is being compared?

31. When one deliberately sins after receiving the truth, what has he done in the terms of v29?

32. What truths does the author remind us of about God that make it a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” for one such as this (vv 30-31)?

33. In contrast, the author asks them to remember what time?

34. After these believers had been “enlightened,” what sufferings did they endure? How did they respond?

35. Why did they respond the way they did?

36. “Therefore” what should they not now do? Why?

37. What do they need? Why?

38. What passage is quoted that backs up the guarantee that they will receive what is promised?

39. How would this passage encourage them to endure?

40. In contrast to one who “shrinks back,” how does the author view himself and his hearers? Not as. . . but as. . . ?

{Try to tie these sections together in your mind. There is a connection between the author’s theological “sermons” about the superiority of Christ/his sacrifice and the practical warnings/encouragement. Jesus’ better sacrifice enables our confident entrance into fellowship with God. We hold fast to what we believe about God and we obey from a heart that has been changed by him. One of the specific applications of obedience is mentioned in the middle of the passage—regularly meeting together with believers for encouragement, followed immediately by a warning that disobedience makes light of Jesus’ sacrifice. This is immediately followed by a reminder of how they had proven faithful and obedient in the midst of suffering in the past and an encouragement to continue to do so. What do you think the current situation may have been and what do you think some were doing/tempted to do? Also, take a look at chapter 11 to see the author’s continued appeal to them by way of listing OT examples of faith in the midst of struggles and sufferings.}

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb 10:12-14 ESV).

{If you’re just seeing this post and are interested in the study, check out the Hebrews Study tab on the right. Start with the invitation and instructions, then you can begin with week 1.}

4.11.20 Updated to Add: Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t completed this week’s study on your own, wait to read my notes until you’ve done so.

10:1-18. The Benefits of the New Covenant

10:1-2. The Law is just a shadow of the good things to come; Jesus is the reality to which the shadow pointed (cf. 9:11) It can’t make perfect those who draw near (cf. 7:11, 19; 9:9). If it could have, worshipers would no longer have been conscious of their sins and would have stopped sacrificing.

10:3-4. So, if the animal sacrifices could not take away sins, what was their purpose? They were a continual reminder of their sins.

“Although the Day of Atonement ritual assured Israel that the Lord could forgive sins, the ceremony had to be repeated year after year. . . . Sin was not dealt with decisively until Jesus died on the cross, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. God required animal sacrifices to teach Israel to look to him for cleansing and to show the need for a penalty to be paid for sin (cf. Lv. 17:11). But it was the destiny of the Messiah to pay that penalty by means of his death and so provide salvation, even for those who sinned in OT times (cf. 9:15).”[1]

10:5-10. Psalm 40:6-8 is here quoted and applied to Christ when he came into the world (at his incarnation; cf 1:6). Vv 8-10 explain the application. God’s ultimate pleasure and desire were not in the sacrifices and offering of the Old Covenant/Law. Instead, God sent Jesus to accomplish God’s will of sanctifying believers (the work done in the hearts of believers as promised in the new covenant—cf. v16) through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all. By this act, God put away the first covenant and established the second.

“The words of Ps. 40:6–8 are attributed to Christ when he came into the world because they find absolute fulfilment in his life. David the psalmist went further than many other OT writers in emphasizing the powerlessness of sacrifices in themselves to please God. . . . The whole system was designed to encourage and make possible the willing self-offering of the people to God, as indicated by the words I have come to do your will, O God. In the body that was prepared for the Son of God, he lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father, culminating in his death as an unblemished sacrifice (cf. 9:14). He came to set aside the ancient sacrificial system and bring about the obedience to God which was always the intention behind the rituals. He found the Father’s will expressed in Scripture.”[2]

10:11-14. When Old Testament priests offered daily sacrifices that could never take away sins, Christ offered FOR ALL TIME a single sacrifice by which he could actually perfect (past tense) FOR ALL TIME those who are being sanctified/made holy (present progressive). The nature of Christ’s single sacrifice as priest being completed is seen in his then sitting down at the right hand of God (cf. 1:3b, 13; 2:7-8; 8:1), waiting to make his enemies his footstool—to fully reveal his role as King (2:5-8).

10:15-18. Again the author quotes part of the New Covenant promise (with the guarantee of the Holy Spirit) that God’s laws are written on the hearts and minds of believers with special emphasis it seems on the aspect of God’s choosing to remember our sins no more. Whereas the purpose of OT sacrifices was to remind Israel of their sins (and thus keep the remembrance of sins continually before God with continual sacrifices), Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice allows for God to not remember our sins any more, bringing full forgiveness and eliminating the need for any more offerings.

Before moving on the next section, here is another chart comparing the Old Covenant/Law with the New Covenant/Jesus.

Old Covenant/Law New Covenant/Jesus
Shadow of good things to come (8:5) Reality of the good things (9:11)
Repeated animal sacrifices yearly Jesus offered himself once for all
Sacrifices can never perfect those who draw near, but only remind of sin Jesus’ sacrifice can perfect, cleanse, sanctify, take away sins, and God will forgive/remember sins no more
Cannot perfect the conscience (9:9) Perfects/cleanses conscience (v22; 9:14)
Worshipers draw somewhat near with fear (12:11, 21) Worshipers draw near with confidence and full assurance of faith
Death for those who set the law aside Much worse judgment for ignoring/profaning Jesus

10:19-39. A Call to Hold Fast

10:19-21. Remember way back in chapter 5 that the author introduced Jesus as a high priest, then stated that he had much to say about it (which he did!), but then said it was too hard for them? Well, he pushed them toward maturity and explained it all in chapters 7-10, and he here summarizes these truths for them: We have confidence to enter the holy places because we have a great priest in Jesus who offered his own blood for us.

Chapter 6:19-20 had spoken of our hope that “enters into the inner place behind the curtain. . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” After Jesus’ sacrifice of himself for our sins and his resurrection, Jesus was exalted into heaven to stand in the presence of God (“the inner place behind the curtain”), offering his blood to God on behalf of our sins. Our hope and our confidence is in Jesus’ blood. We can follow Jesus into God’s presence with confidence. Just as the curtain was what the OT priests went through to enter into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place, Jesus’ death is how we enter into God’s presence.

10:22-25. Our entrance into God’s presence is with confidence, with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, with an unwavering hope in the faithful God who promises these things. Our bodies being washed with pure water is perhaps language that shows (in terms of OT cleansing rituals) the completeness and effectiveness of God’s saving work (and perhaps points to baptism as an outward symbol of this heart cleansing? Cf. 1 Pet 3:21).

The author asks for three responses (“Let us. . .”) to the saving, interceding work of Jesus:

 1. Draw near (to God) with our now-clean hearts by Jesus’ blood with confidence and faith.

 2. Hold fast without wavering to our confession of hope, because God is faithful.

 3. Consider how to stir up other believers to love and good works by. . .

a. Not neglecting to meet together with each other (as some were). “The writer uses a term for their meeting (Gk. episynagōgē, ‘assembly’) that is parallel in sense to ‘church’ and suggests a formal gathering of some kind. A few of their number are in the habit of neglecting this responsibility. The warning about apostasy that follows (26–39) implies that people who deliberately and persistently abandon the fellowship of Christian believers are in danger of abandoning the Lord himself!”[3]

b. Encouraging one another, especially in light of the Day (of judgment; cf. vv 27-31; 1 Cor 3:13) coming near. “As in 3:13, such encouragement is best understood as involving a form of exhortation based on Scripture, following the writer’s own example in his ‘word of exhortation’ (13:22). The urgency of this is underlined by an allusion to the nearness of Christ’s return and the final judgment (and all the more as you see the Day approaching).”[4]

10:26-28. “For” in v26 seems to connect this deliberate sinning after having received truth (cf. 6:4; 2 Pet 2:20-21) to the specific sin of habitually not meeting with God’s people.

“It would be a mistake to think that this merely referred to the sinful behaviour which is sadly evident in all of our lives. The context and the parallel with previous passages indicate that the writer has on view the specific sin of apostasy or continuing rejection of Christ. If, through the gospel, people have received the knowledge of the truth and then turn their backs on that truth, no sacrifice for sins is left. There is no alternative way of forgiveness and acceptance with God apart from the death of his Son. To abandon that once-for-all sacrifice for sins is to abandon all hope of salvation.”[5]

The result of this refusal to obey:

 1. There is no sacrifice/forgiveness of sins for them (cf. 6:6)

 2. Rather, they should expect judgment (2:3; 12:25) and fury of fire (cf. Isa 26:11; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; 2 Thess 1:8) to consume the adversaries. Their punishment if that of God’s enemies.

 3. If even under the OT law, those who willfully disobeyed were killed (cf. Deut 17:2-6), how much worse will be those who spurn Christ?

10:29-31. There is much worse punishment for those who claimed to be sanctified by the blood of Christ and have then rejected him, because their rejection actually tramples underfoot the Son of God (cf. 6:6—crucifying him again and holding him up to contempt), profanes the blood of the covenant, and outrages the Spirit of grace. The author quotes Deut 32:35-36, which says that God is the one who takes vengeance and will judge. He concludes that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

10:32-34. The author uses this fear of judgment for those who don’t persevere as well as remembering their past perseverance during suffering to encourage them on to continued obedience in the midst of difficulty. He tells them to remember the time after they first became believers, when they endured through suffering—public exposure to reproach and afflictions themselves or just being partnered with those being treated that way. Their response during that suffering marked their obedience and their confident hope and faith. Their responses included compassion on those in imprisoned and joyful acceptance of the plundering of their property. Why did they do this? They knew that they had a better, abiding possession waiting for them (cf. 1 Pet 1:4).

“They knew that Jesus had made it possible for them to inherit better and lasting possessions (cf. 13:14) and this controlled their thinking about the present and its values.”[6]

10:35-36. So now, they should continue to hang tight on to their confidence which has great reward (that future, abiding, better possession). Just as they endured then, they should now endure (perhaps that meant in part meeting together despite religious persecution? Cf v25). Persevering endurance brings reward (while quitting in disobedience brings judgment).

10:37-39. The author quotes from Hab 2:3-4 (and perhaps some of Isa 26:20) to speak of one coming in a little while—the implication is that Christ will come to judge (cf. vv 25, 30-31). If one “shrinks back” from his profession of faith, God has no pleasure in him. Those who shrink back and with whom God has no pleasure are destroyed. Yet, the author is confident that he and his readers are not those who shrink back, but rather are those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Note also the “hook word” faith, introducing the next section on faith.

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1343). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 1345.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Leave a comment »

How to Lead a Bible Study, Part 3

To conclude my notes about how to lead a Ladies’ Bible Study (LBS), I will discuss what factors are often true about the audience, as well as some practical considerations. You can view Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

What is true about the audience in a LBS?

 1. You will likely have a mixture of personalities, ages, education levels, marriage/children statuses, and spiritual growth levels.

 2. You may have a range of responses from those who indiscriminately eat up whatever you/the material says all the way to someone who likes to disagree/question everything you/the material says. I have found that there are often 1-2 on each end of the spectrum, and in the middle are women who are willing to read and listen with some level of discernment.

 3. Women tend to overall be more emotional and interpersonal (in general). Many women do not like to disagree with someone or like to be disagreed with/told they are wrong (although there are some who enjoy doing that!). What often is felt in being asked/told a clarifying question/comment is “I don’t like you” when all that is being said is “I’m not sure that your comment lines up with Scripture.”

 4. Women—in general—like to talk. Sometimes women will talk forever about a specific subject or they will talk about what they think to the exclusion (or minimization) of what the Bible says.

 5. I have noticed that many women feel intimidated to study Scripture on their own. They feel like the material is too hard. They think deep study is only for pastors and scholars. They are more comfortable with practical, easy-reading books, rather than meaty Scriptural studies.

 6. It is impossible to please everyone in your audience.

What are some practical issues to consider as you think about a LBS?

Who will teach/lead the study?

 1. The teacher needs to have the characteristics we discussed earlier. Whether the study is a specific book of the Bible or a book on a biblical topic, the leader of a study needs to be well-versed at least to some degree in her Bible. She at least needs to be willing to spend the time to improve her Bible knowledge. Questions or comments can be made by the audience that reveal a misunderstanding of Scripture in an off-topic area, and the leader needs to be able to recognize and address these issues (whether at the moment or in a private setting).

 2. The teacher needs to be able to have the time to prepare and study. If the only one able and qualified to teach a study has a bunch of young children at home or has other commitments that would not allow for adequate time to study, perhaps the study should be put off to another time. Also, if the ladies are obeying Titus 2:3–5, the relationships between the older and younger women would theoretically be meeting this need in the meantime. A formal LBS would be a bonus.

 3. A teacher/leader needs to be kind and gracious, but she also needs to be firm. She needs to be willing and able to correct outright untruths, guide unaware mistruths, and direct conversations that drift off-topic.

When will you have the study?

You will have to know your both your teacher’s schedule, your church schedule, and your audience’s average schedule to determine what will work best. Many women either work or have children, so these factors must be taken into account.

What will be the frequency of the study?

I think this depends on multiple factors. What kind of study are you doing? Is it a book of the Bible that will lose momentum if you don’t keep moving and meet weekly? Are your ladies so busy with church and other activities that once a month is preferable? Are your ladies overall slow or quick learners? Will they be overwhelmed with too much in a shorter amount of time or are they hungrily lapping it up?

Will you provide childcare?

I think this is always a bonus and help, but it is often not possible. Often the people who attend a study are the people who are already involved in many aspects of the church. By default, these ladies may end up also providing childcare unless babysitters are found or fathers are able to help watch their own children. Maybe the LBS attendees could rotate who takes care of the children. Whatever you do, make sure you follow the nursery guidelines of your church.

Where will you hold the study?

If the Bible study is a formal church function, I find it more helpful to have the study in a church building if possible. There tends to be a subtle mindset difference in a church building setting, as opposed to someone’s home (I’ve seen it!). But if it is at a home, try to keep everyone together at the dining room table or some kind of setting that keeps everyone close together and allows for laying out their Bibles and taking notes. I have found that ladies are more comfortable to speak in an informal setting, for better or for worse.

What is the objective of the study?

 1. If the objective is study, then the “fellowship” aspect needs to be emphasized at another time.

 2. Another thought is whether the study would like to broaden itself to include unbelievers, making the study also evangelistic. One would have to think through questions an unbeliever might have when approaching the study.

So let’s say that your pastor asks you to lead a Ladies’ Bible Study in your church. You’ve never led a study before, but you enjoy studying, and you think you’d enjoy teaching/leading. What do you do?

 1. Choose your content ahead of time. If this is your first study, choose a book that you have read before or a smaller book of the Bible you have studied before. Discuss your choice/material with the pastoral leadership.

 2. Decide whether you are going to give “homework” for your study. Homework is any level of outside work that you expect the participants to put in outside of the discussion/teaching time. This can be as simple as reading the chapter/Bible passage or it can be as involved as spending several days a week answering questions. I am personally a huge fan of homework. The more personal effort the student puts into studying the passage for herself, the more beneficial the study will be to her. There are several factors to consider when you assign homework.

a. Some people just will not do it. They either hate homework or say they don’t have time for it.

b. Personally, I don’t like to do homework unless it lines up with my personal Bible study. Because my personal Bible study is usually very in-depth, I don’t like to do more than one at a time. So just reading something is nice in that case. Also, not all homework is created equal.

c. Unfortunately, it seems that many (not all) people who complain about homework are not doing any in-depth Bible study on their own anyway. So, to be blunt, their complaint is probably more due to laziness. (I am not referring to women who actually do not have time due to a newborn baby, health issues, etc.)

d. I like to make it clear that ladies will benefit much more greatly from a study if they work at understanding and answering questions. It will aid in their contributions in the discussion and to their own personal understanding. But I also do not require people to do homework to be a part of the study, nor do I shame or embarrass those who don’t do it. (Although it tends to be rather obvious who has actually studied the material.)

e. Make sure any questions you ask are understandable. They should neither insult the intelligence of your ladies nor overwhelm them too much. (Being a little overwhelmed is part of learning, however. I think pushing them to think is a good thing, though unpopular.)

 3. As you study, write out good discussion questions that you plan on asking.

a. Lots of “Sunday School” type questions are annoying to many and feel insulting (e.g., Who were Isaac’s sons? What was Isaac’s wife named?) Having a handful of these questions can be helpful for someone who wants to answer questions, but doesn’t like to answer questions that don’t have a “right” answer. But–having too many questions like this stunts discussion and many (like me!) refuse to answer these questions that have obvious answers.

b. A good discussion question is an “open-ended” question; it requires more than a yes/no or one-word answer. It may not necessarily have a “right” answer. I often follow up someone’s answer with another question: “Why do you think/say that?” This helps to force people to give a biblical answer rather than an answer based simply off of what they think.

c. Good discussion questions are key to a good group discussion. Hardly anyone likes to hear the teacher talk the whole time (I have been told that!). People often enjoy the interaction (which is why I think homework is so important). Others can offer good discussion questions too. But a teacher must have the ability to divert discussions that get off-topic.

 4. Decide how you will deal with prayer requests, fellowship time, snacks, etc. Unfortunately fellowship and prayer requests can take too much of the study time if the purpose is primarily study. Perhaps one way to aid in praying for each other without taking time away from study/discussion is to write requests down at/before the study and then email them to all the ladies. Here are a couple of suggestions for how you might structure your schedule:

a. Sunday School: 9:00 to 10:00 AM

      • 9:00–9:15 – prayer requests/fellowship/snacks
      • 9:15–10:00 – Bible study (start on time to make the most of it!)

b. Saturday morning: 9:00 to 11:00 AM – fellowship will tend to take a little bit longer on non-Sundays since people have not already said hello as they would when arriving at church on a Sunday

      • 9:00–9:30 – prayer requests/fellowship/snacks
      • 9:30–10:45 – Bible study
      • 10:45–11:00 – wrap-up

I hope this has been a help to someone who is considering leading a Ladies’ Bible Study. I have enjoyed very much studying for, writing, and leading ladies’ studies and count it a privilege to do so. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them in the comments section!

Leave a comment »

Hebrews Bible Study Week 10: Chapter 9

I hope you have been so encouraged by the truths we have been studying in Hebrews. No matter what the circumstances that the Lord has placed in our lives, the bedrock truths of the gospel–God’s great love and mercy to us through Jesus–are enough. Sometimes those truths are all we can cling to.

The promises of the new covenant in chapter 8 are a treasure.

“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. . . They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Heb 8:10-12 ESV).

During this time of crisis, most of us are socializing with others/broadcasting our thoughts to each other solely by means of various social networks. I hope that when others remember us believers during this time, they would think of us as people whose hearts and minds have God’s words written on them (evidenced by the words we speak and write), whose allegiance is to the God who claims us as his people, and who are merciful to others as God has been merciful to us in our great sinfulness.

Chapter 9 is quite a bit longer than chapter 8 was, so there are a lot more questions. Don’t be overwhelmed; just take it one section at a time! Here are my questions, and here is the pdf: Hebrews Chapter 9 Questions.

Hebrews Chapter 9 Questions

1. The first part of the chapter describes aspects of the old covenant, particularly what acc. to 9:1?

2. 9:1-5 describe the tent (or tabernacle). In verse 5b the author clarified that he could not speak in detail of these things. If you want to read in more detail, you can check out your cross-references and/or you can read Exodus 25-27, 30.

3. What was in the first section of the tabernacle? What was this section called?

4. A second curtain separated the first section from the second. What was this second section called? What was in this section?

5. How often did the priests go into the first section, and what did they do there (cf. Lev 6:8ff-7)?

6. This daily entry into the holy place by the priests is contrasted with entry into the second section, the Most Holy Place. Who was allowed into this second section? How often? What did he bring with him and for what purpose did he bring it? (I highly recommend reading Leviticus 16, explaining in greater detail this once-a-year offering of atonement.)

7. According to 9:8, what does the Holy Spirit indicate by this? (And what is “this”?)

8. What is symbolic for the present age?

9. To what is “this arrangement” referring (v9)?

10. What can gifts and offered sacrifices not do?

11. Rather, these gifts, offerings, and “regulations for worship” (v1) are simply what, according to v10?

12. What is the time of reformation?

13. Note the “But” in v11. The author has spent the first half of the chapter describing the earthly tent and the priests’/high priests’ duties, and he now contrasts this with what high priest and what tent?

14. Describe Christ acc. to v11.

15. Christ came through the “greater and more perfect tent.” Describe this tent. To what do you think this tent refers (check out the cross-references!)?

16. Christ as high priest entered where once for all?

17. Christ entered the holy places not by what (as the Levitical high priests did)? But by what?

18. What did Christ’s offering of his own blood do?

19. Concerning this eternal redemption (“For…”), if the blood and ashes of animals could sanctify and purify the flesh, “how much more” will the blood of Christ do what?

20. Acc. to v14, how did Christ offer himself?

21. Therefore, Christ is what? To what does the “therefore” refer?

22. For what purpose is Jesus the mediator of a new covenant?

23. What do those who are called receive? What is the condition for receiving it?

24. What else does that death do for the called?

25. Speaking in general about wills, what must be established? Why?

26. Since all wills require a death to become effective, how was even the first covenant inaugurated?

27. Summarize the rituals that Moses performed both after the law had been given and read to the people (vv 19-20; cf. Ex 24:3-8) and also to purify the tent and all its vessels (v 21; cf. Ex 29:12, 36; Lev 8:15, 19; 16:14, 16).

28. What was true about almost everything under the law?

29. What is necessary for forgiveness of sins?

30. If shed blood was necessary for forgiveness and purification for the copies of the heavenly things (tabernacle and old covenant worship rituals), than how would the heavenly things be purified (v 23)?

31. Jump ahead to v 25—what did the high priests do every year in the Most Holy place?

32. All the questions that follow point out how Christ’s sacrifice of himself is a better sacrifice than any offered under the old covenant.

33. Where has Christ entered? (Here’s another question to dig a little deeper. . . If Christ has always been in heaven except for the 33 years or so that he was on earth, his entrance into heaven referred to here occurred when? [cf. Heb 1:3b])

34. Why has Christ entered into heaven?

35. If Christ had offered himself repeatedly—as the high priests yearly offered their atonement sacrifices—what would be true of him?

36. Instead, what has Jesus done? Why? By what means?

37. What is appointed for man?

38. Vv 27-28 are making a comparison. The surety of mankind’s dying and then facing judgment is compared to the surety of what concerning Christ?

39. What did Christ do the first time he came?

40. What will Christ do the second time he comes?

 

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:24-26 ESV).

 

{If you’re just seeing this post and are interested in doing the study, check out the Hebrews Study category on the right. You can read the invitation and preparation studies, then start with week 1 of the study with an overview.}

4.3.20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! As always, I recommend not reading my notes until you’ve done your own study to get the most out of your study.

9:1-10. Limitations of the Old Covenant

9:1-5. These verses briefly describe the “earthly place of holiness”/tent/tabernacle

1st section/Holy Place: contained the lampstand, table, and bread of the Presence

2nd section behind the curtain/Most Holy Place: contained the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant, holding manna, Aaron’s budding staff, and the tables of the covenant. Covering the top of the ark was the mercy seat with the cherubim overshadowing it (this was the place where God would meet with them; cf Ex 25:17-22).

9:6-7. These verses briefly touch on some of the “regulations for worship”

The priests regularly went into the 1st section/Holy Place to perform their daily duties. They priest served as the representatives for the people of Israel in meeting with God.

The high priest was only allowed to enter the 2nd section/Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement (if he entered at any other time he’d die; cf. Lev 16). He would kill a bull (then take incense in before the mercy seat so the incense smoke would cover where God’s presence manifested itself in the cloud so that he wouldn’t die), and then sprinkle the blood in front of the mercy seat (first for his own sins and then the sins of the people).

9:8-10. Explanation of how this old covenant was limited.

The Holy Spirit showed that the way into the holy places isn’t yet opened as long as the 1st section/Holy Place is still standing. He shows this “by this”—referring perhaps to the need for the yearly atonement sacrifice by the high priest?? This 1st section—in which the priests regularly bring gifts/sacrifices and perform all the food/drink/washing regulations—is symbolic for the present age. None of these regulations and sacrifices can “perfect the conscience of the worshiper.” These things are all required “until the time of reformation.”

I think the present age referred to is the time in which the old covenant was still in place (before the “reformation”–Christ’s inauguration of the new covenant); cf. 8:13. The continued need to follow all the rules and ceremonies that took place in the first part of the tabernacle that were ineffectual to perfect the conscience and the limited access to God even by the priests highlight the limitations of the old covenant.

The first tabernacle [first section] normally describes the outer tent of Israel’s earthly sanctuary. However, here the expression is apparently used to refer to the whole system of sacrifice and priestly ministry associated with the tabernacle and the temple. So the outer tent is an illustration (Gk. parabolē) for the present time. At a literal level, the outer tent obscured the way into the second tent. At a symbolic level, the tabernacle and all its ritual stood in the way of direct and permanent access to God. In certain respects the law foreshadowed and prepared for the ministry of Christ. But when the new covenant was inaugurated, the inadequacies of the old covenant cult became glaringly obvious. A particular weakness of the worship of that earthly sanctuary is then emphasized. Gifts and sacrifices were offered which were (lit.) ‘not able to perfect the worshipper with respect to conscience’ (‘to perfect’, as in 10:1; cf. 10:14; 11:40; 12:23). The rituals actually left the participants feeling guilty for their sins (10:2), because they were externally oriented regulations (10, lit. ‘fleshly ordinances’). They were imposed until the time of the new order, until ‘Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here’ (11). The ability of Christ to cleanse the conscience is stressed in 9:14 and 10:22. With this removal of the burden of guilt, liberating us to serve God with confidence and gratitude (9:14; 12:28), Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant is fulfilled.”[1]

9:11-28. Redemption Through Christ’s Death and Exaltation

9:11-12. “BUT WHEN CHRIST. . .” The first 10 verses are now contrasted with Christ’s appearance as high priest. He came through the “greater and more perfect tent not made with hands”—heaven; cf. v24; 8:2.

I’ve always thought the “direction” of Christ’s appearing as high priest was toward us on earth. But Christ’s appearance through the real tent is his appearance before God in heaven after he had been to earth to live (perfecting obedience; cf. 5:8-9) and then to offer as a priest to God his own blood once for all to secure eternal redemption for believers. This ascension into heaven (cf. 4:14) and appearing before God and being exalted to God’s right hand occurred after he had made purification for sins (1:3b).

The way into the holy places that “is not yet opened” under the old covenant (v8), Christ has entered once for all—not with animals’ blood, but with his own.

9:13-14. If animals’ blood could sanctify and purify the flesh, how much more will Christ’s unblemished sacrifice and blood offered through the Holy Spirit to God (all members of the trinity involved in redemption!) purify the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. One of the weaknesses of the old covenant was that it could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper (v9), but here Christ’s blood is fully able to (cf 10:22).

Jesus’ death and blood. . .

    • Secures eternal redemption (12)
    • Purifies worshipers’ consciences from dead works to serve God (14)
    • Eternally redeems believers from transgressions (15)
    • Guarantees the called receive the promised eternal inheritance (15)

“These rituals were for the benefit of those who were ceremonially unclean, to sanctify them by making them outwardly clean (lit. ‘for the purification of the flesh’). Those who were defiled could be restored to fellowship with God in the sense that they were able to participate again in the worship of the community. The fundamental truth that blood ‘purifies’ and ‘sanctifies’, even if only at a ceremonial level, provides the basis for the How much more argument that follows. The blood of Christ is a way of speaking about his death as a sacrifice for sins. This was uniquely effective because he offered himself unblemished to God. Once again the writer alludes to Jesus’ life of perfect obedience to the Father, culminating in the cross (cf. 5:7–9; 7:26–27; 10:10). Through the eternal Spirit most likely refers to the power of the Holy Spirit upholding and maintaining him (cf. Is. 42:1). . . . The purpose of cleansing in the OT was that the people might be consecrated again to God’s service. The new covenant promise of a renewed ‘heart’, based on a decisive forgiveness of sins (Je. 31:33–34), is echoed in v 14. Only the cleansing provided by Christ can set us free to serve the living God in the way that Jeremiah predicted. The nature of this ‘service’ or ‘worship’ (Gk. latreuein) will be discussed in connection with 12:28.”[2]

9:15. “Therefore” (because Jesus’ blood can secure eternal redemption and purify our consciences. . . ) Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant, SO those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance SINCE a death has occurred that redeems (to buy back) them from since committed under the old covenant.

“Just as the old covenant promised the land of Canaan as an inheritance for God’s people, so the covenant inaugurated by Christ opens the way to an eternal inheritance. This is equivalent to ‘the world to come’ (2:5), the ‘Sabbath-rest for the people of God’ (4:9), ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’ (12:22) and other such descriptions of our destiny as Christians. Jesus has opened the way to his inheritance for us by dealing with the sin that keeps us from drawing near to God.”[3]

“Jesus’ sacrifice is retrospective in its effect and is valid for all who trusted God for the forgiveness of their sins in ancient Israel (cf. 11:40). But we also know that, by the grace of God, he tasted death ‘for everyone’ (2:9) and he is able to save all who ‘come to God through him’ (7:25).”[4]

9:16-22. Wills in general need to establish the death of the one who wrote it, going into effect only after his death (v17). Even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood, requiring the death of an animal(s). The author gives an example of Moses’ sprinkling of blood at the ratification ceremony after Moses read the Law to the people at Sinai (vv 18-20; cf. Ex 24:1-8). He also notes that the tabernacle and all the articles in it required a purification by blood (v21). Almost everything in the old covenant was purified by blood, leading up to the following principle: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (v22).

“Although blood was largely used for ceremonial cleansing (13), these rituals pointed to the more profound needs of God’s people for release from the power and penalty of sin.”[5]

9:23-24. If the copies of the heavenly things—the Old Covenant and the Tabernacle—required a sacrifice, than the heavenly reality requires a better sacrifice—Jesus Christ. Christ entered not the tabernacle, but the presence of God in heaven. He stands before God as a high priest on our behalf (just as the OT priests entered the tabernacle on behalf of Israel).

“When the writer says the heavenly things themselves needed to be purified with better sacrifices than these, he can hardly mean that heaven is defiled by human sin, otherwise God would have to leave it! However, he may be suggesting that the sacrifice of Christ had cosmic significance, removing a barrier to fellowship with God that existed at the level of ultimate reality and not simply in human hearts.”[6]

9:25-28. Christ does not suffer repeatedly, offering yearly sacrifices. He appeared before God once—to finally and forever put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as men all die once then are judged, so Christ died once to bear many people’s sins. Then, Jesus will appear a second time—not to deal with sin—but to save those who eagerly wait for him.

Jesus’ “appearance signals the end of the ages, the time of fulfilment or the last days (cf. 1:2). The purpose of his coming was to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself (26). Put another way, it was to take away the sins of many people (28, lit. ‘to bear the sins of many’; cf. Is. 53:12). So there has been a final settlement of the problem of sin by the action of Jesus at one point in human history and this gives a solemn significance to the present. There is ‘a fearful expectation of judgment’ for those who spurn the Son of God and his sacrifice (10:26–31). But for those who trust in him and eagerly await his second coming, there is the prospect of salvation—rescue from judgment and the enjoyment of the promised eternal inheritance (15).”[7]

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1340). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid., 1341.

[3] Ibid., 1341-1342.

[4] Ibid., 1341.

[5] Ibid., 1342.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

Leave a comment »