Hebrews: Christians Need Encouragement Just As Much As Correction

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…

Hebrews 3:1

Persecution was the reason behind the writing of the book of Hebrews.  During the early years of the church, Christians of Hebrew nationality were severely persecuted by their fellow Israelites.  They endured public reproach and affliction, and even had their property taken from them due to their faith that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (Hebrews 10:32-34).  Thus, Satan had an opening to tempt them to fall away from the Christian faith and return to Judaism.  God inspired the writer of Hebrews to write to these Jewish Christians and exhort them to “not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (10:35). 

The book of Hebrews is basically God laying out the case as to why Jesus and his religion is ultimately superior to Judaism and thus worth any persecution or trials that would come in this life.  As chapter 3 begins he now shows Christ’s superiority over the prophet the Jews rightly held in highest esteem: Moses.  Yet before he makes that case, he brings out an equally important point (3:1).  Notice how the writer calls these Hebrew Christians “holy brethren” and reminds them that they “share in a heavenly calling.”  All Christians, including all who preach and teach God’s Word, must take note of this. 

God was dealing with people who were being tempted to abandon the faith.  He wanted them to both know the right path and walk on it.  So, he did not only teach them information they needed to know and rebuke them for any wrongdoing they had committed.  He also inspired the Hebrew writer to let them know that they were “holy,” set apart, special.  He had not forgotten that he was addressing people who had been set apart by what Jesus had gone through on that cross.  He was talking to those who had received forgiveness through the blood of the Son of God himself (Colossians 1:14), and he wanted them to know that he recognized that important fact.  He made sure to remind them that they were “brethren,” part of God’s family, part of the most holy bond shared by Deity and all his children.  The church is “the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15), made up of God’s adopted children (Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15)…the very people to whom the Hebrew writer was speaking.  He wanted them to remember that they were called by God himself (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:14), and all of them “share” in that calling.  They all – both he and they, as well as all of us who have been baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-5) – have “citizenship (which) is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

I am reminded of how Paul communicated with the church at Corinth.  Any perusal of 1-2 Corinthians would make it very clear in short order that Corinth was a church that had a lot of problems and a lot of sin in her ranks.  God inspired Paul to rebuke them quite a lot in both of his letters…but that’s not all God inspired Paul to say to them.  He inspired Paul to both encourage and rebuke Corinth in a balanced way.  In addition to the many rebukes, some of which were scathing, Paul spoke of them and to them in positive, encouraging ways very similar to the writer of Hebrews (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2-9; 3:9, 17, 21; 4:14-15; 6:9-11; 11:2; 12:12-27; 15:50-58; 16:19-20, 23-24; 2 Corinthians 1:2-7, 11, 24; 2:4; 3:2-3; 4:12-15; 5:20; 6:1, 11-13; 7:1-2, 8-11, 13-16; 8:7, 10-11, 24; 9:2-15; 10:1-2, 15; 11:3, 11, 28; 12:15, 19; 13:7, 9, 11-14). 

Christians, especially those among you who preach and teach God’s Word, take note of the example set by the Hebrew writer and Paul.  Satan targets all of us every day.  We need to be exhorted to stay on the right path and admonished when we unrepentantly give into sin.  Yet we also need to be reminded that God loves us, there is good in us, and we are part of something wonderful and much bigger and grander than anything we could imagine!  That, taken alongside any teaching and admonishment which we equally need, will motivate those of us with honest hearts to stay the course and keep the faith!

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