Derek Prince - Review and Summary of First 7 Chapters of Hebrews
We're going to begin now with a review of the material that we went through in detail in the previous series of sessions which covered chapters 1 through 7. My review will basically not have much to do with the material on those chapters but I think it's very important that we go back and look at the introductory material. I think we have to refresh our grasp of that in order to be able to go effectively through the remaining chapters. So, if you have your outline, turn to the page which doesn't have any number on it. That's the one following the page that tells you who I am! When you've surmounted the first hurdle and got to know who I am and you can identify me by the picture there, then the next sheet which doesn't have any number The only unnumbered sheet is the one we're going to start at now. We're just going to look through the material there for a moment.
First of all, the method of teaching. I'm going to teach direct from the Greek text with extemporary translation. I do this because Ruth and I have a habit of reading the Bible through together, both Old Testament and New, in such a way that I read the Hebrew if it's the Old Testament, or the Greek if it's the New. I translate it and she follows along with two contemporary versions and we check where the real meaning is. It's rather slow but it's very thorough. At the moment, we're actually in our private readings, working through the gospel of Luke. I'm reading from the Greek, translating as I go, and Ruth is following along in two English versions.
When I finish my translation she reads both versions. At the end of that time, we have a very thorough grasp of what that particular passage was about. We've learned a lot of things just by comparing an extemporary translation with two different English versions. So that's the way we'll be going. I'll be translating from my Greek New Testament, which is this little black leather, bound book, but we'll also be following along in English translations. The two translations which I have used basically to prepare these outlines are the New American Standard, which is here, and the New International Version. I basically go first to the New American Standard because it's a more exact translation than the New International Version, which takes a good many liberties in order to come out with elegant English.
On the other hand, the English of the New International Version is far better than that of the New American Standard and in many ways it says things much more vividly and convincingly. I like to use the two together. That covers the first section there under preliminary explanations. Then our method of study is primarily analytical and I want to point out there are many other valid methods of studying the Bible. This is not the only method. What we do is we read through the text to find out basically two things: What does it actually say? And second, What does it mean? or How does it apply to me or to us? Particularly in this epistle to the Hebrews we need to refer regularly to related or parallel Old Testament passages because Hebrews is written to people whose background is in the Old Testament and it abounds both with quotations and references.
You really cannot grasp the full import of Hebrews until you have looked at the passages referred to in the Old Testament. Another way that I do it, which I have found very fruitful, is to pick out key words representing strands of truth. As you'll see in a moment when we move on in the introduction, I've listed thirteen key words which really, I believe, present the main thrust of the epistle. I've listed each word where it occurs and how many times it occurs. You can look at that list and you can say for sure chapter 9 deals mainly with such-and-such a subject, because that particular word occurs so many times in that chapter. For me, key words are like strands that run through the Scripture and if you get hold of a strand, you can follow it right through the Bible.
Again, translation into English often obscures that because English translators often use more than one English word to translate the same original word. Or, it may be the other way around. For instance, an example comes to my mind. If you take the King James, which is the basic version that most of us are familiar with or were familiar with, where the King James in the New Testament uses the English word gift, there are nine different words in the New Testament. You understand, just the one word gift blurs a lot of distinctions which are there in the original. If you don't happen to know the original languages you can, to some extent, overcome that by using a concordance such as Young's or Strong's, which give you the original words transcribed into English letters.
Unfortunately for English-speaking people, both Hebrew and Greek use a different alphabet from the English alphabet. But, you can get over that. I happen to know both the original languages, both Hebrew and Greek, and I've done a lot of the work for you so that you'll be able to follow these strands through simply by going through the note outlines. Then there are certain structural features. You'd be surprised how many times when you have a list of things the list is seven. It's really... I would almost say... uncanny. Somebody's called that the signature of the Holy Spirit on Scripture. It's another realization that emphasizes the unique character of the Bible.
For instance, I was listening to my own radio broadcast on 'The Love of God' the other day. I discovered something I had forgotten. When Paul describes what love is in 1 Corinthians 13, if you analyze it, he lists seven negative features of love and seven positive features of love. Seven things love does not do and seven things love does do. That is miraculous if you think that he wasn't writing an analytical piece of literature, he was writing a letter probably under tremendous personal pressure and he just sent the letter off and that was it. Through it all the Holy Spirit was working and speaking. I want to look at and actually read Proverbs 2:1-5 because this passage, I believe, states what's required of the student. That means you, in case you didn't know it! Let's look at what you have to contribute in order to receive what God desires you to have.
One of the statements that Jesus made was, 'Take heed how you hear.' He also said, 'Take heed what you hear.' And in that context He said, 'With what measure you measure, it will be measured back to you.' This is eminently true in a Bible study. You need to be careful how and what you hear. What you put in of your own attention and study and effort will determine what you get out. It does not depend solely on the teacher. Proverbs 2:1-5 states four requirements. Of course, this is not limited to the study of Hebrews. This is requirements for studying the Word of God. Each of the first four verses lists a requirement. First one: My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you.
Notice, it's God speaking to his born-again children. This is not for those that don't know God because they don't have the ability to receive what God has. What are the requirements? Receive God's sayings, treasure His commandments. Be open, be receptive and treat the truths, estimate them for what they're worth. They're incredibly precious. Don't treat them like something cheap or commonplace. Treasure them within you. Second verse: make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding...' The requirements there are attentiveness and an inclined heart. I went into that in some detail last year. But an inclined heart indicates humility: being willing to be taught. You're not sitting there judging God putting your stamp of approval on things you agree with and shaking your head at things you don't agree with. That's not the right attitude.
I've preached several times in Holland and I love the Dutch people. If there are any Dutch people here, I hope you'll love me after I've said this. Corrie Ten Boom, of course, who is one of the best known Dutch people today, once remarked to me, and I'm glad she said it before I really went there. She said, 'The trouble with Holland is every Dutchman is his own theologian.' And you couldn't better describe their attitude in one sentence. When I preached I saw them sitting there and they were kind of checking me off. Yes, he was right on that point. I'm not sure about that point. Or, that's not right. They were not sitting there with the thought of, 'Here is God speaking; I must decide what to do.' But it was a kind of abstract, intellectual analysis without commitment to obey. That's not going to get you anywhere.
Believe me, God is always right, you don't have to correct Him. You just have to obey Him. The third requirement: if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; That, I understand to mean, earnest, importune prayer. Prayer is an essential part of coming into the truth of Scripture. Verse 4: if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; And that is real searching and study. Hidden treasure is usually buried somewhere and to get the treasure Jesus said, first of all, you have to buy the field,which is expensive. Secondly, you have to look all through the field until you find what the treasure is. Thirdly, you have to dig the treasure out, which is hard work. What that really speaks about is hard work.
Then there's the reward, verse 5: you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God. There is a reward. I'm just preparing a series of radio messages on the fear of the Lord, and I'm sorry I missed out this Scripture because it really impresses me. To discern the fear of the LORD, and that leads to discovering the knowledge of God. No one can express in words how infinitely precious that is, the knowledge of God. I'm so blessed to see that the fear of the Lord is the key to the knowledge of God. Without the fear of the Lord we can have a lot of intellectual knowledge but true knowledge of God only comes to those who fear the Lord. 'The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him and He will show them His covenant.' God chooses His students, basically, on grounds of character.
Now we're going to go quickly through the next section which begins with the sheet numbered 0/1. We're not going to go into much of it in detail but some of it we are. We won't give any time to the question of the date except to point out it's clear the epistle was written before the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. In other words, it was written when the temple was still standing and the daily sacrifices were still being regularly performed by the Levitical priests. If you don't realize that, you will not be able to understand some of what it says. The author we will not go into. Addressed to certainly to Jewish people. Who or where is not very clear. Its distinctive revelation is Jesus as high priest. It was borne in upon me again today as I was preparing for this session that if we don't keep our eye focused on Jesus and specifically His high priestly ministry, we will not receive the full revelation and blessing that God has.
Jesus is the theme and if we stray away into secondary issues and lose sight of Him, we will not receive all that God intends. The main theme apart from the revelation of Jesus as high priest is indicated by three recurrent words which we'll look at briefly in a moment in the list of key words. Inheritance, rest and perfection. Those words occur at decisive points all through the epistle. The epistle is a forward looking epistle. Its two directions are forward and upward. It keeps us pressing on toward our inheritance and it makes clear that true rest is found only within our inheritance.
One of the great themes of chapter 3 and 4 is how to enter into rest. And one of the keys to understanding that is that rest for God's people is found only in our inheritance. If we do not enter into our inheritance we will never find true rest. Inheritance and rest go together all the way through the epistle. And then the word perfection, which is also translated 'maturity' or 'completion.' That's the goal. Paul said in one of his epistles that he strove that he might present every man perfect in Christ. That's the objective of this writer whether it was Paul or not. It's the perfection of God's people. He has a very hard time because he sees God's people being slothful and stopping short of the mark and not pressing through to perfection.
I'm really convinced that the problem that this writer discerned in the Jewish people to whom he wrote in the first century is one of the major problems of Christians in the twentieth century. It's a failure to press through. It's being content with less than God's purpose and less than God's best. One of the main thrusts of this epistle is to keep stirring God's people up not to stop short. It contains, as we'll see, five of the most solemn warnings that occur anywhere in the Bible, to the people of God. All the warnings are really warnings to people who stop short. More and more, and partly through my study of this epistle, partly through dealing with a lot of different people, I've come to see that in the spiritual life you either go on or you slide back. There's nothing in between. Lots of people backslide not because they intend to but because they're not willing to press onward.
The purpose of the epistle, I chose just one verse in Hebrews 6:18. 'That we may have strong encouragement.' I think God's people need a tremendous amount of encouragement. How many of you would agree that you need encouragement? I'll put my hand up, too. One thing I've said is the Holy Spirit is the encourager of God's people. The very word that's translated 'comforter' or paraclete or whatever word you're used to, means 'encourager.' Let me leave this with you: The Holy Spirit never discourages the people of God. Any voice, any influence, any teaching which has the effect of discouraging you as a Christian is not from the Holy Spirit. And there's a lot of it around. The Greek word that's translated 'encourage' has two related meanings and I'll express them this way: 'to stir up' or 'to cheer up.'
If you're slothful, you need to be stirred up. If you're discouraged, you need to be cheered up. But, the Greek word is the same for both; it's just two different aspects of the same. One of the results of studying this epistle should be that if you are slothful, you'll get stirred up and if you're discouraged, you'll get cheered up. I trust and pray that will be true for every one of us. Let's look at the key words. There are thirteen key words which I've listed. You'll find them at the bottom of Page 0/1 and then going on the top of 0/2. I've divided them up into four groups of three and the first one, the initial one, is, of course, high priest. That's the central revelation. Then there are three related words: promise, oath and covenant; all of which occur frequently in this epistle. They're related to the high priest because it requires a high priest to guarantee the fulfillment of God's promise, God's oath, God's covenant. Without a high priest we cannot receive.
And to establish God's covenant it requires the next three things: offering, sacrifice and blood. Wherever there is sacrifice in the Bible there is blood. Bloodless sacrifice is not accepted with God. Then the response required from us at the top of Page 0/2, three things. Faith, hope and confession. Again, going through the material this time I was impressed by the continual linking together of hope and confession. In other words, unconfessed hope isn't going to do you any good. If you have a scriptural hope it'll only work for you when you confess it, when you state it aloud boldly with your lips. Of course, faith. The great faith chapter out of all the Bible is found in the epistle to the Hebrews. Chapter 11. And then finally we've already said the three objectives are inheritance, rest and perfection.
Let's look at the other distinctive groupings of passages there just to refresh our minds and, as it were, get us in gear when we start the actual study of chapter 8. First of all, I've already said there are five passages containing solemn warnings. I don't know any other book in the whole Bible that has anything that compares with the warnings given in Hebrews. I think we need to bear in mind that they were given to religious people. They weren't given to harlots or drunkards or drug addicts, they were given to very religious people. People with a tremendous spiritual inheritance and a great knowledge of Scripture. If you and I were trying to assess who are the people who ought to be warned, we wouldn't think of them. But that's the people. And, being frank with you, that's the kind of people mostly that we have here tonight. Some of you may not have much religious background, but basically, well over fifty percent of the people here tonight and the people that will hear these tapes are people in that category. They're religious people. They're people with a knowledge of Scripture.
'To whom much is given, of him much shall also be required.' One of the great mistakes of the Jewish people (and it's defined for us in Romans 2) is they assumed that because they knew better than other people what God required they were better than other people. Paul points out to them: on the contrary, it's just the other way around. If you know better than others and don't do it, you're more guilty than all the rest. I've been just making a little study on knowledge and what it does. Mainly because of myself.
One thing Paul says about knowledge, which is undeniably true, is found in 1 Corinthians 8:1: Knowledge puffs up. The more knowledge we have, the greater the temptation to become proud. You've probably heard the different kinds of pride, have you? I'm not sure I can list them, but they all rhyme. Pride of face, that's pride in your personal appearance. Pride of race, you belong to the super race: black, white or in between. Pride of place, your social position. And pride of grace, your religious attainments. And the worst of them all is the last, pride of grace. Let's consider the five things that we're warned against. You'll find the list there on Page 0/2. The first thing is neglect. The second is unbelief. The third is apostasy, deliberately turning away from the truth. The fourth is willfully continuing in sin. And the fifth, coming short of the grace of God, knowing and experiencing God's grace but not responding in the way that He requires.
I see in that the subtlety of Satan. He doesn't start with the big, dramatic, awful thing, but he starts with neglect. Which, apparently, isn't so serious. And neglect leads to unbelief. And in most Christian churches today, unbelief is not even considered sinful. But the writer of Hebrews points out that an unbelieving heart is a sinful heart. Believe me, if we are guilty first of neglect, secondly of unbelief, it's almost inevitable that we'll go the rest of the way and become guilty of the rest. So we surely need to take heed that we are not guilty of neglect, we're not careless. I appreciate the people here tonight. I suppose many of you have made a sacrifice and you're going to put in a good deal of time and a good deal of effort.
I tell you, there are countries in the Third World, or behind the Iron Curtain where people would travel day and night on foot for a couple of days to get to a meeting like this. They would sit six or eight hours on planks or even on an earthen floor to listen to the Word of God. And when the preacher stopped, they'd say, 'We want more.' I've experienced this, I'm not theorizing. I've been in places like that. It is frightening. And here, how much do we really give God of our best? How much of the best of our minds and attention do we give to Him? Are we perhaps without even knowing it guilty of neglect? I think if there's one agent that produces neglect in American Christians, it's television. I'm not against television, but I am convinced that it keeps countless millions of people from God's best.
It's a strange thing. It's tremendously used of God to confront people in America with the gospel. Then it's tremendously used of Satan to prevent them from becoming the kind of people they ought to be. Passages indicating positive practical applications and you'll find there are seven. I think I'll leave it to you to read them, they're still on Page 0/2. Starting at the bottom of that page, passages of comparison and contrast. Again, there are seven. In every one of them the preeminence of Jesus and the New Covenant is set forth as opposed to the Old Covenant. The first comparison explains the superiority of Jesus over angels. The second, of Jesus over Moses. The third, of the priesthood of Melchizedek over the Levitical priesthood. The fourth, of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant. That's the one we'll be looking at later tonight. The fifth, of the heavenly tabernacle over the tabernacle of Moses. The sixth, of the sacrifice of Jesus over the Levitical sacrifices. The seventh, of Mount Zion over Mount Sinai.
I think we need to understand that the writer knew what he was doing. He had to emphasize these points to these Jewish people. There's a Scripture that we read in Luke the other day, Ruth and I, that really impressed us both. It's the end of Luke 5. Verses 37-39. 'And no one puts new wine into old wineskins' [it's Jesus who is speaking]; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.' So, Jesus had to create His own wineskins for the gospel message because the old people steeped in Judaism really could not respond to it. Then He makes this final comment: "No one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'"
Isn't that true of religious people? 'The old is good enough.' Why change? We've done this for centuries. Our fathers did it, everybody did it. This is the way it's done. This wine is good enough, don't offer me the new. Then, going on in our outline on Page 0/3 we have twelve 'let us' passages. We have been through the first five. Each one of those, if you look at them, will give you some kind of idea of the thrust of the gospel. The phrase 'let us' indicates a collective decision by the people of God. Then the occurrence of words. I think I'll let you look through for yourself. Just notice on Page 0/5 that when we look at number 7, blood, it doesn't begin till chapter 9. But, see how many times it occurs in chapter 9 and chapter 10. That gives you an idea of the thrust of those chapters.
I want you to look at seven key passages that focus on Jesus, because God has shown me that if we don't keep our focus on Jesus we won't get the full message. Quickly looking, Hebrews 1:2: in these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son. Notice the phrase 'in the last days' and 'in His Son.' That's the double emphasis of Hebrews. It's urgent and it all centers in the Son of God. Then in Hebrews 2:9: Hebrews 2:9: But we see Him [that's Jesus] crowned with glory and honor. Again, that's the theme of revelation: Jesus crowned with glory and honor. We don't see it with our natural eyes; we see it by the revelation of Scripture. Hebrews 2:17: Therefore He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest . Again, the theme. A merciful and faithful high priest. And then in the next chapter, 3:1: Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. The word consider means 'fix your attention on.'
See, all the way through: never let your attention stray from Jesus. Chapter 4:14: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God Notice again the emphasis. Our great high priest. Jesus, the Son of God. And then in chapter 6:19-20: Hebrews 6:19-20: This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil...' And that's another key phrase in Hebrews: 'within the veil.' See, everything in the Old Covenant was done on the outside of the veil. That's the second curtain of the tabernacle. One of the thrusts of Hebrews is, how do we get inside the veil? Because, only there do we meet with God. Only there do we attain maturity and perfection. Only there do we enter into our true rest and inheritance. We have a great high priest and the writer says in 6:20: where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Notice the emphasis. Jesus, a forerunner and a high priest. Then, lastly, just two passages in chapter 7, the last chapter that we study. Verse 22: 7:22: so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Jesus is the guarantee. It's not exactly a written guarantee, it's a personal guarantee. Finally, a very powerful phrase, the last verse of chapter 7, verse 28: For the law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. That's Jesus: 'a Son made perfect forever.' What tremendously powerful words. The Son of God made perfect, and forever. All that distinguishes Him from the Levitical priesthood and the Old Covenant which was not made through a Son, never made people perfect, did not last forever. But we only fully appreciate the message if we continually return to our focus on Jesus.