Summary global message from the book of Hebrews
We have just finished the preaching series on Hebrews. Although couched in rich Jewish tradition, the book is very relevant to us, Christians some 2000 years later. The eight sermons in the series were based on selected passages along the writer’s argument in the book, each representing a significant progression in the argument in addressing the issue confronting the Hebrew Christians at the time. They are like the diamonds on a necklace, each one has its particular beauty worthy of appreciation. However, it is also important to see the necklace as a whole, which is the designer’s work of creation. For that reason, I would like to present a summary of the global (overall) message of the book, which would tie together what you have heard from the different preachers in the series.
It is understood that the book was written to Jewish Christians under persecution for their faith because Christianity was outlawed. There was great temptation for them to abandon their Christian identity and return to Judaism, which was legal at that time. Judaism was their culture, was familiar to them and emotionally close to their hearts. It worshiped the same God, although not recognizing Christ as Saviour. They might ask: Is it really worthwhile to be so dogmatic as to insist on the centrality of Christ in their lives, and suffer very real hardship as a consequence? A seemingly small adjustment in their outward expression of their faith would spare them a lot of heartache and suffering.
The message of the epistle is: We must not forsake Christ, even in suffering, because:
1. Christ is God’s supreme revelation. It is through Him that we understand God’s truth, His amazing plan of salvation for us through Christ, that by Christ’s blood the New Covenant has been inaugurated, and that Christ is now our Great High Priest under that better Covenant. By His death Christ has become the new and living way by which we can come before God’s throne of grace. All the religious activities in Judaism were just symbols or “shadows” of what Christ has come to achieve, which is the promised reality. That being the case, a faith that excludes Christ is worthless. If we forsake Christ, we do not have a saving faith, and will miss out on salvation and God’s eternal rest.
2. The adversities around us are very real. We are perhaps facing hunger, beatings, discrimination and fear of mortal danger every day. At the same time, God’s promise of eternal blessing cannot be seen among the prevailing suffering. It is difficult to hold onto hope when there is no discernible evidence of fulfillment of God’s promises. But note that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”, and without faith it is not possible to please God. Just look at the great people of faith in the past, how they held onto their hope firmly despite adversities, even though they did not see the promised outcome at all. They were able to do that because they had faith in the faithful God whom they knew. We too must exercise that faith, and not just live by sight.
3. The fact that we are suffering does not mean that God is out of control or does not care. It could be His way of training and disciplining us as His beloved children. Discipline is for our good and sanctification.
4. For the above reasons, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Many of us are suffering in one way or another; for the sake of Christ or as a result of the fallenness of selves and/or the world. In the former case, the message of Hebrews is clearly directly relevant. In the latter case, we may be facing physical or mental sicknesses, disabilities, ailments of old age, broken relationships, singleness, parenting difficulties, financial hardship, isolation, loneliness, spiritual depression, rejection, emotional wounds and/or struggling against disparate worldly temptations. We may get totally absorbed in our troubles. Christ may seem so far away, His promises so far-removed from our immediate troubles. There is the temptation to find relief and solutions from other quarters, even if they are clearly not biblical. In that situation, the book of Hebrews says to us: Consider who Christ is. He is the worthy object of your faith. Live by faith and not by sight, because without faith it is not possible to please God. The heavenly Father knows your plight. He allows suffering for the purpose of disciplining you, His beloved children. He will see you through these hard times, because He is the one who has initiated and will perfect your faith. Persevere with faith in Him! Stand firm in Him!
據了解，這書卷是寫給正受逼害的猶太基督徒，因為當時基督教被列為非法宗教。他們有可能正考慮放棄基督徒的身份，回到當時合法的猶太教中。猶太教是他們的文化，是他們所熟悉並對之有深厚感情的。猶太教也是敬拜同一位神，雖然不承認基督是救主。他們可能會問:何需如此執著，堅持基督為他們生命的中心，因而要遭受非常切身的苦難? 這真值得嗎？若在他們信仰的表達上作一點外顯上小小的調整, 就可免去很多錐心之苦楚困逼，何樂不為呢?
2. 我們所處周遭的逆境是非常真實的。我們每天或許受饑寒、毆打、歧視和生命危險的恐懼。在重重痛苦中容易叫人失去對神應許的確據。在看不見神履行祂應許的跡象時，我們很難持守盼望。 但我們要明白，「信是對我們所盼望的和我們所看不到的事存有把握確據。」, 而沒有信，就不能得神的喜悅。記念以往的信心偉人，他們如何在逆境中堅持盼望，儘管他們根本看不到盼望的實現。他們之所以能夠這樣做，是因為他們深信信實的神。我們也必須建立這樣的信心，而不是靠眼見而活。
3. 我們受苦的事實並不表示神失控 或不在乎我們。這很可能是祂藉困難鍛練和管教我們，因我們是祂心愛的兒女。祂的管教是為了我們的益處和成聖。
4. 由於上述原因，「放下各樣的重擔, 脫去容易纏累我們的罪, 存心忍耐, 奔那擺在我們前頭的路程, 仰望為我們信心創始成終的耶穌。」。
我們當中的許多人正在不同的情況下經驗某程度的苦; 有為了基督的原故，也有因自我和/或世界的墮落。在前一種情況下，希伯來書的信息顯然是直接相關的。在後一種情況下，我們可能在面對身體或精神的疾病，殘疾，老年的多種毛病，破裂的關係，獨身，培育兒女的困難，經濟困難，受隔離，孤獨，精神抑鬱，受排斥，情感的創傷和/或面對與不同的世俗誘惑鬥爭等等。 我們可能會完全陷入於煩惱之中。基督似乎如此遙遠，祂的承諾似乎如此虛幻。我們因面對的誘惑可能去從其他方面找解脫和解決方案， 即使這些顯然不是合乎聖經的。在這種情況下，希伯來書清楚提醒我們：要深思基督是誰：祂的獨特身分, 祂是超越一切的主。祂是配得我『』深信及倚靠的。憑信心生活而不是憑眼見，因為沒有信就不能得神的喜悦。天父知道你的困境。祂允許我們經驗痛苦是要來管教我們- 祂心愛的兒女。祂信實的應許必保守帶領你面對高低起伏的人生。 堅定完全信靠基督與你同度過這些困難時期，因為祂是你信心創始成終的主。堅守對祂的信！在主裡站立得穩！