The Book of Hebrews

The epistle “to the Hebrews” is a “brief word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22).

What is being exhorted?  That we should listen to the voice of the Son of God (see specifically Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:3; 3:7-11, 14-15; 4:7; 5:11; 8:10; 12:25 for the recurrence of this theme).  For this reason, the letter can be regarded as an exposition of, or an elaboration on, this New Testament verse:

Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

For the same reason, the letter to the Hebrews can be regarded as reinforcing this Old Testament verse as well:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, all Scripture is revealed as pointers to Him…that we might listen to Him.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

When the Perfect Comes…

Paul stated as a principle in 1 Corinthians 13 that “when the perfect comes, the partial is done away.”  We see this principle manifest in different ways:  when the kingdom of God came, the church was done way; when the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) came, the stars Moses and the prophets receded into relative obscurity.

Another manifestation of this principle is seen in the completion of the Scriptures.  One of the purposes for which God created the ancient nation of Israel was the preservation of the Scriptures He would create through Moses and the rest of the prophets.  However, once the Jews were dispersed (the Diaspora) and the Scriptures translated into the common language of the world at that time (Greek), and the testimony of the crucified and risen Messiah had been spread throughout the world (Romans 1:8; 16:26; Colossians 1:6), then neither the government of Israel nor the government of the church was necessary to God’s purposes any longer.

In this case, the Scriptures are “the perfect” and organized religion is “the partial.”  Here’s another way of stating what happened:  “extracting the precious from the worthless.”  Hear Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 15:19 Therefore, thus says the LORD,
“If you return, then I will restore you–
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them.

We do not need the traditions of men as promulgated by the organized religions of Judaism and Christianity.  What we do need are the Scriptures in which those traditions are rooted.  In these Scriptures we find the precious and the perfect, having no more need for that which was partial and worthless by comparison.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Inadequacy of the Scriptures

Normally, we would speak of the adequacy of the Scriptures for they are the word of God.  However, is there is sense in which they are inadequate?  Yes.

Here is the sense in which the Bible is inadequate:

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
John 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

The Scriptures are given to us as testimony – a faithful witness – to God.  If we do not then trust God based on what the Scriptures tell us, what good is that?

Jesus goes on to say to those Jews who professed loyalty to the Bible but rejected Jesus:

John 5:45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.
John 5:46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.
John 5:47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Likewise, today many profess as much loyalty to the Scriptures as those Jews did, but they reject Jesus in the Spirit just as those Jews rejected Him in the flesh.

The Spirit of Jesus is omnipresent in this world in which we live.  The purpose of the Scriptures is to make us knowledgeable of, and confident in, this reality.  If, however, we only pay lip service to that reality, then we have not allowed the Bible to fulfill its purpose in our lives…no matter how much we may claim our devotion to it.

Therefore, the Scriptures are inadequate to save us if merely profess loyalty to them rather than trust what they say.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Jesus Is the Bread for Us

John 6:31 “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'”

John 6:51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven;

In the light of these two verses from John, consider now this verse from Matthew:

Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”

“Every word” from God is summed up in Jesus.  In Him we find sustenance.  He is our meditation every day…all day.

Therefore:

John 6:27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

The bread Jesus has given us is Himself:

Ezekiel 34:23 “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.

This point is, of course, the thrust of John 6.  Jesus Himself is able to meet our daily need for spiritual nourishment.  (Our physical nourishment is supplied as a byproduct.)

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

If You Are Going to Meditate the Word, Meditate Jesus

If you are going to meditate the word of God each day, be sure to meditate “The Word.”  (John 1:1; Revelation 19:13).  That is, be sure that you are meditating the word that is Jesus.

No line of the Bible should be read or meditated out of context.  Christ is the context.  Christ is the living word.

The words in your Bible point to Him whom you cannot see but who is nonetheless there.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Luke 1:68

Luke 1:68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,

The Lord has indeed visited us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  And through the life He lived, the death He died, and the resurrection He achieved, He has truly accomplished the redemption of the people He created.

The Lord established a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).  These new heavens give us a place to go when life on earth is over.  During Old Testament days, all the dead went below to Sheol (Hades), but in the new creation there is no more such underworld.  This is the import of Revelation 21:1.  In our day, the dead all rise to heaven (the place He made for us – John 14:2).  Do not be among those who refuse to believe this great accomplishment of His:

Acts 13:40 “Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you:
Acts 13:41 ‘BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH;
FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS,
A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.'”

(The capitalized words are a quotation of Habakkuk 1:5.)

Our redemption is accomplished!  Past tense.  Therefore, let us rejoice in this day that the Lord has made.  There is no need to be afraid of death.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Jeremiah 51:44

Jeremiah 51:44 “I will punish Bel in Babylon,
And I will make what he has swallowed come out of his mouth;
And the nations will no longer stream to him.
Even the wall of Babylon has fallen down!

These words were fulfilled at the Second Coming of Christ when the dead were raised to heaven.  Sheol (Hades) was emptied of its contents, never to have power over humanity again.

Satan was dethroned…and death lost its sting:

Romans 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet…

1 Corinthians 15:55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”

Revelation 18:2 And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!…

The close of the New Testament age marked the time when God brought in a new creation wherein death no longer reigned.  This is the eternal gospel.  This is the eternal age in which we live, and this is the eternal gospel which we believe.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Jeremiah 50:20

Jeremiah 50:20 ‘In those days and at that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘search will be made for the iniquity of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.’

This verse speaks of the New Testament saints who were faithful to the end.  The angel of the Lord had promised Joseph that Mary’s child would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).  Paul wrote that Jesus was indeed purifying a people for His own possession (Titus 2:14).  Paul also wrote that it would be “the remnant” that was saved (Rom 9:27).

The New Testament period was a time of calling faithful Jews and God-fearing Gentiles to the Savior whom God had sent.  Many were called, but few would be chosen (Matthew 22:14; 7:13-14).  For this reason, the apostles’ letters are filled with exhortations to moral rectitude (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:14; 2 Peter 1:2-11).  Paul said that “in the last days difficult times would come” (2 Timothy 3:1).

This is why Jesus warned His disciples to be faithful to the end:

Matthew 24:12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.
Matthew 24:13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

The very last of the last days were particularly difficult (Matthew 24:21).  That’s why those who were faithful through it deserved the special commendation implied by prophecies like Jeremiah 50:20.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Jeremiah 50:6

Jeremiah 50:6 “My people have become lost sheep;
Their shepherds have led them astray.
They have made them turn aside on the mountains;
They have gone along from mountain to hill
And have forgotten their resting place.

Jeremiah was prophesying of New Testament times.  God’s sheep had become lost and Jesus was sent to search for them, saying:

Matthew15:24 …”I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

This also Ezekiel prophesied:

Ezekiel 34:11 For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.

As for a resting place for the sheep, Ezekiel also said:

Ezekiel 34:15 “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD.

Thus God took upon Himself human flesh and became the Good Shepherd who would seek the lost sheep.

The 23rd chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is Jesus’ indictment of the shepherds who “led them astray.”  In the 11th chapter of that same Gospel, Jesus spoke of the rest He would give the lost sheep:

Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

(The capitalized portion of Matthew 11:29 above is a quotation of Jeremiah 6:16.  True and false shepherds is a prophetic theme of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  Of course, Jesus is the true Shepherd…and those two men looked forward to His day.)

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Jeremiah 50:5

Jeremiah 50:5 “They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.

This is just as Isaiah had prophesied:

Isaiah 2:3 And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Thus, both Jeremiah and Isaiah were prophesying what would happen in the New Testament times.  New Testament days were “the last days.”  We live in the new age, which began after that.  This age in which we live is eternal.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Jeremiah 50:4

Jeremiah 50:4 “In those days and at that time,” declares the LORD, “the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the LORD their God they will seek.

This prophecy of Jeremiah’s was fulfilled in New Testament days.  That is, when we see Jews following the prophet from Nazareth, it reveals that they were seeking the one true God and living for Him.  Remember that Jesus said:

John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…

And He also said:

John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

The God of Israel was drawing His true devotees to His Son.  In pursuing the Son, these saints were coming home to the Father.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Hosea 6:7

Hosea 6:7 But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant;
There they have dealt treacherously against Me.

The Old Testament could be described as a history of human beings breaking covenants with God.  This covenant-breaking begins with Adam and is manifested on the broadest scale as described in Israel’s experience in the promised land.  Their apostasies finally led to God vanquishing them from the very land that He had vanquished other sinning nations to originally make room for Israel.

Because of these broken covenants, God took on human flesh that He might establish a perfect covenant between a perfect man and a perfect God.  God thus established both sides of the agreement.  Therefore, Jesus could say on the night before He was to give up His life in sacrifice:

Luke 22:20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.

This is the eternal covenant about which we read in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,

Because God has established both sides of this covenant, it can never be broken.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Isaiah 30:30

Isaiah 30:30 And the LORD will cause His voice of authority to be heard…

Consider the connection between the words above from the Old Testament and the words just below from the New Testament:

Matthew 7:28 …the crowds were amazed at His teaching;
Matthew 7:29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

He who had authority in heaven had it also on earth.  And, after His resurrection, inherited all authority that ever was or would be:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Let us therefore give attention to the One who speaks with this authority!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Isaiah 30:20

Isaiah 30:20 …He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher.

God had taught His people from heaven.  Nevertheless, He gave up the privileges and comforts of heaven to live as one of us – Jesus of Nazareth by name.

Thus the one who spoke the words of Isaiah 30:20 from heaven, spoke these words from earth:

John 13:13 “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.

The One who spoke from heaven was the One who spoke from earth and who now, – because of His resurrection from the dead – speaks from heaven once again.

The Old Testament and New Testament are thus inexticably intertwined.

(Keep in mind always that The Old Testament (that is, the Hebrew Bible) Is About Jesus Christ.)

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Isaiah 25:9

Isaiah 25:9 And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

This is “that day.”  That is, the descendants of Abraham may now say (and have been able to say ever since Jesus Christ accomplished the promised redemption), “This is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.”

The promises of redemption were made

  • some 700 years before Christ to Isaiah (including this verse),
  • some 1,000 years before Christ to David, some 1,500 years before Christ to Moses,
  • some 2,000 years before Christ to Abraham,
  • and some 4,000 years before Christ to Adam and Eve.

God is patient.  And He is faithful.

The wait for the accomplishment of God’s promises was a long wait…but well worth it.  His people can truly “rejoice and be glad in His salvation” – forever.  And “forever” will be infinitely longer than the wait.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Isaiah 25:8

Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken.

Through Jesus Christ, God “swallowed up death for all time.”  This swallowing occurred in the Second Coming of Christ when he brought in the new heavens and new earth.  The dead were raised to heaven and Sheol (Hades) was done away (Revelation 21:1).

For this reason we can all say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) meaning that there is no way to go but up when we die.

Having done away with death, we can now be free from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Humans need no longer bear the reproach of death, for our Maker has redeemed us from it.  Let us therefore live for Him!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Deuteronomy 31:8

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

If we follow Christ it stands to reason that He goes before us.  Indeed, He was the forerunner (Hebrews 6:20) and we run the race that He pioneered for us (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He truly never fails us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5-6).

When following Him, we are walking in His love.  Therefore, we need not “fear or be dismayed” because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Thus the key is to keep the Lord Jesus at our head:

Micah 2:13 “The breaker goes up before them;
They break out, pass through the gate and go out by it.
So their king goes on before them,
And the LORD at their head.”

Truly, The Old Testament (that is, the Hebrew Bible) Is About Jesus Christ.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Deuteronomy 31:7

Deuteronomy 31:7 Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance.

When Jesus was growing up in Nazareth we can imagine His hearing “the call of Moses” as He learned the Scriptures from His earthly parents and from the townsfolk at the synagogue.  (Remember that “Jesus” in Hebrew was “Joshua.”)  As a young Jew, He would have been taught to study and revere the Law of Moses.  For this reason, when He was asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law, He did not hesitate to give an answer.  He had spent the requisite time meditating that Law.  Therefore also He was strong and courageous when it came time to expound it.

The land to which Jesus would lead God’s people was into the new heavens and new earth.  The dead would be raised to heaven and the believing would be raised to resurrection life on earth.  This would be the fulfillment of what God had promised through Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and elsewhere.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

Deuteronomy 21:22 “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,
Deuteronomy 21:23 his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

This passage is a somber foreshadowing of what would happen to the Messiah.  Even though Jesus was crucified by the Romans rather than the Jews, nevertheless this ordinance was followed when Jesus was buried on the day of His crucifixion (i.e. His being “hung on a tree”).  And even though Jesus was a man of honor and not a man of shame, yet He was shamed in His death.  That He bore this shame and did not utter threats against those who treated Him so unfairly is to the eternal glory of God.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Ezekiel 34:24

Ezekiel 34:24 “And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the LORD have spoken.

The days were dark in Israel when God made this promise through Ezekiel.  He was looking forward to the time when He would reign over and in His people as the descendant of David whom He promised.  This that time.  We are those people.

God became man in Jesus of Nazareth that He might lead us out of our sins into His righteousness.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Isaiah 40:8

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.

Who is the one who stands forever but our Lord Jesus Christ. And for this reason He is called “the word of God,” by John (John 1), by Paul (Romans 10 and Titus 1), and by Peter (1 Peter 1 and 2) – but even before all of them by Isaiah (Isaiah 40 and 55).

We are like the grass that withers and the flowers that fade (James 1:10-11).  He is the One who stands forever.  And He stands forever for us!

Truly our God reigns!

Isaiah 52:7 How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

The One who was crucifed reigns supreme!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

2 Samuel 3:17-18

2 Samuel 3:17 Now Abner had consultation with the elders of Israel, saying, “In times past you were seeking for David to be king over you.
2 Samuel 3:18 “Now then, do it! For the LORD has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.'”

O Christian, you have cried out so often for Jesus to be head, for Him to be truly king of the kingdom of God – not in name only, but in actuality.  So now do it!  Make Him king.  Do away with earthly potentates; that is, set aside human spiritual leaders.  Make Jesus alone the authority.

Pastors, drop your authority and simply preach Him who is the only necessary Shepherd.  Only Jesus can save His people.  We cannot.  Therefore, let us stop standing between Him and His people.  Let the people see Him!

Let the cry of Paul and Timothy become yours:

2 Corinthians 4:5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Occupational Hazard of a Christian Preacher

The occupational hazard of a Christian preacher is to read the Bible looking for something to say rather than for something to do.

He who reads the Bible looking for something to do, and does it, will, from that life experience, know what he should say (i.e. preach).

Ezra 7:10 gives the proper sequence: study, practice, teach.  Don’t skip steps and don’t leave out a step.

He who reads the Bible looking for something to say ends up like the Pharisees (Matthew 23:3):  saying things that he is not doing.  Such a man short-circuits Ezra 7:10.  And where there is a short circuit, there is often a shock.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Reading the Bible Is Not a Purely Intellectual Exercise

If reading the Bible were a purely intellectual exercise then all PhD’s would be better able to understand the Bible than all high school graduates.  It’s obvious that this is not the case.

There’s more to reading the Bible than intelligence and education.  There’s a spiritual dimension to it.  Specifically, if your heart is closed off to God, if you’re protective of your earthly pleasures and resistant to authority and discipline, then you’re not going to get as much out of reading the Bible as someone who is the opposite of you in all these ways.

Better to read the Bible with a humble heart – even a childlike heart – than with the great education the world has to offer.  The wisdom of the world does not lead to God.  Understanding of the Scriptures comes not by academic degrees but by fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit of God who inspired the Scriptures in the first place.  If you are not on speaking terms with Him, how can you expect to rightly understand what He has written?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Jewish as the Old Testament

The New Testament documents are as Jewish as the Old Testament documents that preceded them.  Jesus was Jewish.  The Gospels take place in Israel.  The apostles were Jewish.  Yes, the New Testament shows Gentiles being brought into the fold, but it was a fold where the leadership was predominantly Jewish.

We cannot therefore read the New Testament through Gentile eyes and expect to understand it correctly.  The apostles responsible for the New Testament were not trying to write something to replace the Old Testament.  On the contrary, it was to the Old Testament they were constantly referring to, and appealing to, for authority.  The vocabulary of the New Testament writers comes from the Old Testament writers.  The more one studies both testaments the more evidence one finds of this reality.

Sadly and erroneously, many people, whether wittingly or not, approach the Old Testament as if it were for Jews and the New Testament as if it were for Gentiles.  This misses the point of both testaments as taught by Jesus Christ.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

See also:

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Not a Polemic Treatise for Christianity

Skeptics will attack the New Testament as if it were designed to be a polemic treatise for the case of Christianity.  This is holding these documents to an inappropriate standard.  Certainly, the New Testament provides more than adequate reason for faith in Jesus Christ, but it does not do so as an explicit argument against its critics.  On the contrary, these are documents written by various leaders of a movement to various followers in the movement -and at various times and places for various reasons.  We can amass a case for Jesus Christ from these documents, but the documents were not written expressly for this purpose.

Many of the supposed inadequacies that skeptics find in the New Testament are only inadequacies when measured against an expectation of a polemic treatise…or a modern document, or a single document, or a time-capsule document, or as if they were written to a single set of readers.  If we are to properly understand the New Testament documents we must accept these texts on their own terms.  We cannot make them into something they are not.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Documents Were Not Written for a Time Capsule

Some skeptics unknowingly approach the New Testament documents as if they had been written to be stored in a time capsule scheduled to be opened in the early 21st Century.  I say this because such readers stumble over aspects of the documents that are intrinsic to there having been written in a 1st-century Greco-Roman world.

We have no right to expect the New Testament documents to be written in a style with which we’re familiar or to answer every question we modern folks think important.  Rather, we should look for answers to timeless questions in the New Testament documents.  That is, we should look for answers to our questions about life, death, and our ultimately destiny.

The documents of the New Testament and their contents are settled.  They are not going to change.  It is we the readers who are going to have to change if we are to gain the best possible understanding of them.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Not Modern

The New Testament is not comprised of modern writings, nor was it written by modern writers.  The documents therein are rightly called “ancient literature,” coming from the period that historians call “Greco-Roman.”  I say this because many skeptics will reject the New Testament for not being written according to modern conventions, even though they’ll hardly ever frame their objections in such terms because to do so would demonstrate the baselessness of the criticisms.  If such skeptical attitudes were applied to all ancient literature, hardly any of it would pass muster.

The New Testament documents were written in ancient times.  To understand them properly requires that we try, as much as possible, to read them in the context of those ancient times.  The ancients frequently wrote about aspects of a story we don’t care about and didn’t write about aspects of a story we do care about.  More broadly, they wrote history differently than we do.  They didn’t have printing presses and computers; therefore, we shouldn’t expect their writings to follow the writing patterns of our age.

Modern sensibilities and ancient sensibilities are sometimes the same because being human is, well, being human.  Were it not for this, the Bible could hardly have any meaning for us.  Sometimes, however, modern and ancient sensibilities can differ widely.  For this reason, we need to bring this consciousness to our reading of the New Testament.  Otherwise, we won’t appreciate it as we should.  Nor will we receive its grace as we should.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Not Written to a Single Set of Readers

The 27 documents which comprise the New Testament are not all written to the same person or persons.  While they were all written, and apply to, the believing community, some were written to gatherings of believers in different locations.  Some were written to individuals.  Some were written to be circulated among various churches.  Some don’t precisely specify the audience.

Reading the New Testament without allowing for the fact that different documents had different recipients will inhibit understanding of those documents.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.