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Introduction to Hebrews

June 24, 2018 Speaker: Gibson Largent Series: Hebrews

Passage: Hebrews 10:32–39, Jeremiah 2:13

The secret to a greater understanding of the book of Hebrews is knowing the culture of the primary audience*. The author (we don't know who wrote Hebrews) is writing to a closed Jewish community that consisted of at least three groups:

The "Letter to the Hebrews" has as it’s primary audience:

  1. Hebrew Christians. They experienced persecution and suffering from their former Jewish countrymen and also by Gentiles. They were struggling with the temptation to go back to traditional Judaism. They were hung up on temple worship, priests, and torah. “They were in danger of going back into the patterns of Judaism.”
  2. Hebrew non-Christians who are intellectually convinced. “Do you know those kind? People who know the truth, but have never committed themselves to it. You've met many people like that haven't you. Who've heard the truth of Jesus Christ, they believe it, they're intellectually convinced that Christ is indeed who he claimed to be but they're not willing to make a commitment of faith to him. People who know the truth but have never committed themselves to it.” (John MacArthur, Hebrews introduction,
  3. Hebrew non-Christians who are not convinced. (9:11-15; 9:27-28). These are people who are Hebrew by culture and have mixed in with this Hebrew Christian fellowship. They are not Christians at all. They are connected to this group primarily based on their ethnic background as Jewish people living in a Roman city.

The secret to understanding the book of Hebrews: understand the author's primary audience and their culture. To miss the group to whom he speaks is to miss the point of Hebrews. 

*(some introductory material from this sermon came from a John MacArthur sermon from 1971, Hebrews introduction,

Hebrews 10:32–39

[32] But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, [33] sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. [34] For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. [35] Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. [36] For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

[37] For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; [38] but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 

[39] But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (ESV)