Friday, September 30, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday October 2, 2016

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(GOD’s Word reveals who JESUS is)
(Hebrews 1)

   The book of Hebrews was written to address the issues that some Jewish believers had in making the transition from the Old Testament Levitical system to their newfound freedom in CHRIST JESUS. This book describes in great detail, the superiority of CHRIST to everything in the Old Testament, including the entire priesthood, and, the old animal and plant sacrificial system.
    This extremely doctrinal letter to the Hebrews is the only epistle in the New Testament that does not begin like a first-century letter. There is no opening salutation, or prayer, and, because neither the writer, nor the addressee are identified in the opening lines, there has been a polemical assault waged upon this invaluable Christian document for quite some time.
    For a long time this letter was attributed to the Apostle Paul, however, more recent scholars have all but disproved the likelihood of him being the author. This is primarily because the Greek style of the book of Hebrews is so greatly different from any of Paul’s other writings. Martin Luther argued that Apollos, a disciple of John the Baptist, was the author, while other scholars have advanced authorship to Priscilla, who, along with her husband, Aquila, was a pioneer in the “House Church” concept that became very popular shortly after the ascension of CHRIST, back into Heaven, in the early first century.
    But perhaps the most compelling argument for authorship favors Barnabas, who was known as “The Enabling Encourager”. Barnabas is the person who introduced Paul to the Church, when he did so, first, to the apostles at Jerusalem in Acts chapter 9, and then later on, to the church at Antioch of Syria, in Acts chapter 11. In fact, Barnabas even traveled for a year with Paul, during Paul’s first missionary journey, but later, fell out with him, over differences involving John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, and the eventual author of the book of Mark.
    Tertullian, the great church scholar, Jerome, the author of the Vulgate (the first Latin translation of the Bible), Gregory of Elvira and Filaster (both fourth century writers), all share the opinion that Barnabas is the author. In fact, they all refer to the book of Hebrews as “an epistle by Barnabas”.
    However, no matter who wrote this invaluable Christian document, it is certain that the author had in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch (the first five books of the bible), and also, the Psalms. The writer also had a distinctively clear understanding of the perspective that was provided by CHRIST JESUS, during HIS three-year earth-bound ministry.
    The letter of Hebrews, perhaps more than any other writing in scripture, highly exalts the person and works of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. It makes valuable contributions to the doctrinal aspects of JESUS’ priesthood, incarnation, and vicarious sacrifice. It also goes a long ways toward developing an understanding, regarding the relationship between the interpretation of Old Testament Law, and New Testament Faith. It helps us to understand the “New Covenant” that was ushered in by CHRIST, as it relates to the “Old Covenant” that was given to Moses, by GOD, on Mount Sinai.
    Long ago, GOD spoke “many times and in many different ways” (polymeros kai polytropos) to our ancestors, through the prophets. However, today, GOD continuously speaks to us through HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST. “Prototokas” is the word that is used here in chapter 1, verse 2, and later, in verse 6, for the term “SON” in the original Greek writing. Throughout the New Testament, it is a word that is only used in reference to JESUS HIMSELF, and it means, quite simply, “FIRSTBORN”. It is a technical theological term that affirms HIS supreme rank and unique relationship and position in the family of GOD. That is why, even the angels of GOD, worship the SON.
    The “right hand” is the traditional place of power and authority in the biblical sense, and so JESUS not only possesses eternal life and existence, by being at the right hand of GOD the FATHER in Heaven, HE also exercises all of the “power and authority” (“exocea”) of Deity. As FIRSTBORN, GOD promised everything to the SON as an inheritance, and through HIM, HE made the universe and everything in it.
    In the New Testament Greek, the word used for “brightness” is “apaugasma” (apow-gas-mah), and it is a “brilliance”, “effulgence”, or “light”, which is reflected from one place, or object, to another place or object”. JESUS is the “LIGHT” that wants to shine on all mankind, and gives each of us that light, so that we too, can shine that light on  someone else, making them able to see their way through the darkness that presses to dominate this world. And so, here in Hebrews 1:3, that is the word that is being used by the author to describe JESUS CHRIST in his original Greek rendering.
    Also in verse three, the author uses another interesting Greek term to depict JESUS. That term is “charakter” (khar-ak-tare), and it means “express image”. It is from that word that we derive our English word “character”. It is “an exact copy, or representation of”, and, “it is like a seal, an impression, or stamp”. Here the author attempts to establish the person of JESUS CHRIST as being superior to any other prophet, or intermediary that GOD had sent prior to HIS coming. He also sought to affirm that JESUS is truly “the SON of the living GOD”, and, is the “exact image” of GOD HIMSELF. And so, in JESUS,  through HIS behavior, not HIS physical appearance (GOD is SPIRIT and does not have a physical image), we are able to see exactly what GOD is like.
    In Hebrews 1:4-14, the writer turns his efforts toward proving that JESUS is also superior to angels. In verse 4, he says, in effect, that, JESUS’ superior name serves to add to HIS credentials. In biblical times, a person’s name often summed up who they were. The name “JESUS” means “JEHOVAH is salvation”, and thereby, the very term “SAVIOR” makes HIM eternally superior to any angel, just simply by way of HIS more excellent name.
    Verses 13 and 14 serve to remind us of the most important reason why angels should not be the focus of our worship. And that reason being, is that angels are only servants of GOD. Most of them are spirits sent from GOD to care for those who will eventually receive salvation. I say “most of them”, because satan also commands a host of angels. We are told of this fact in both Matthew 25:41, and Jude 1:6.  Therefore, it is JESUS, not angels, WHO should always be the focus of our Faith.
    In the final analysis, the true meaning of life is contained in the person of CHRIST JESUS. HE is our “direct access” to GOD the FATHER. However, we must listen closely for the meaning of the truth we have heard about HIM, lest we be in danger of drifting away from the ALMIGHTY GOD HIMSELF. If GOD is able to spin the Universe into orbit, tell the sun where to rise, and the oceans where to stop, then certainly, HE can satisfy our quest for the meaning of our existence, direct our path through this life, and, at one and the same, save our souls and secure us for all eternity through CHRIST JESUS.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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