Scholars often divide the Epistle to the Hebrews into two parts. The first, chapters 1-10, teaches on the supremacy of Messiah (chapters 1-8) and the new covenant cut in Messiah’s blood (chapters 8-10). The second part, chapters 10-13, is exhortation on how we are to respond to the truths found in the first part.
Supremacy of Christ
Chapter 1—God the Son is superior over all creation.
Superior to prophets! (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Superior to angels! For it is through God the Son all things are created, and it is by the power of God the Son’s word that all things continue to exist.
But to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right handQuoting Psalm 110:1, Hebrews 1:13 (NRSV)
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
Chapter 2—God the Son took on human form that He might make atonement for all humanity.
Superior in kind! For Jesus is fully God, fully human.
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,Quoting Psalm 8:4-6, Hebrews 2:6-8 (NRSV)
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under their feet.”
Chapter 3—God the Son is greater than any human leader, even Israel’s greatest prophet, priest, and leader.
Superior to Moses! For Moses was merely a servant in the house of God, but Jesus is the Son, and therefore owns the house.
Chapter 4—God the Son’s Sabbath is offered to all, for all may enter the Holy of Holies through Christ!
Superior Sabbath! For the exodus Jesus leads is into an eternally greater promise.
Chapter 5—God the Son is greater than any human priest, for He has been perfected through suffering.
Superior priesthood! For Jesus now lives eternally interceding for His own, empathetic and always available.
“You are my Son,From Psalm 2:7 God the Father to God the Son, Hebrews 5:5 (NRSV)
today I have begotten you”
Chapter 6—God the Son offers greater hope, as this hope is realized in expectant faith.
Superior hope! For it was, and is guaranteed by God who confirmed with an oath the unilateral, unconditional covenant promise made to Abraham and fulfilled in Jesus,
“I will surely bless you and multiply you.”From Genesis 22:17 God to Abraham, Hebrews 6:14 (NRSV)
Chapter 7—God the Son’s priesthood is greater than the Levitical system, which was always finite in its earthliness.
Superior to Aaron! For Jesus’ priesthood comes from the order of Melchizedek, eternal and infinite, appointed personally by God the Father.
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
“The Lord has swornFrom Psalm 110:4 God the Father to God the Son, Hebrews 7:17, 21 (NRSV)
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever’”
Superiority of Covenant
Chapter 8—The new covenant is the fulfillment of God’s great promises and supersedes the old covenant.
Superior in promise!
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant . . . not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors,
I will put my laws in their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
I will remember their sins no more.”From Jeremiah 31:31-34, excerpts in Hebrews 8:8-12 (NRSV)
Chapter 9—The new covenant is ratified in the true heavenly tabernacle, the genuine, authentic, original tabernacle from which the earthly tabernacle’s blueprints and practices were drawn.
Superior in place!
Each symbol in the earthly tabernacle is fulfilled in Christ, and just as the old covenant and earthly tabernacle were sprinkled in the blood of perfect animal sacrifices, so the new covenant and heavenly tabernacle have been sprinkled with the one infinite, eternal and perfect sacrifice, offered by the infinite, eternal and perfect high priest, Jesus Himself.
Chapter 10—The new covenant is cut in the blood of one perfect sacrifice for all eternity, as only One could offer, Jesus the Christ.
Superior in sacrifice!
Jesus offered Himself, once and for all, thus fulfilling the old covenant and establishing the new, better covenant.
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,From Psalm 40:6-8 God the Son to God the Father, Hebrews 10:5-7 (NRSV)
but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”
With a reprise of the prophet Jeremiah’s oracle, the writer concluded this first part of his epistle, saying definitively,
“Where there is forgiveness of these [sins], there is no longer any offering for sin.”Hebrews 10:18 (NRSV)
Approach God in -full assurance- of faith.
This is the turning point, the fulcrum, of the whole Epistle to the Hebrews.
Therefore, [brothers and sisters],
—Since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,
—By the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),
—And since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faithHebrews 10:19-22 (NRSV)
What is the therefore there for?
The writer had now given all the doctrine, the teaching, he felt were the basics so that his readers could now grow up into mature faith.
About this [everything the writer ended up explaining in chapters 1-10] we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God.
You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.Hebrews 5:11-14 (NRSV)
Grow up into maturity.
Now, finally, the writer would be able to begin the course of solid food his audience needed.
Consider what the writer had just conveyed, a few verses before
For by a single offering he [Messiah Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with themQuoting Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 10:14 (NRSV)
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,”
As the verb tenses make clear in the original koine Greek, believers have been made perfect forever (“has perfected for all time”) and yet are being made holy (“are sanctified”).
How does that work?
By making faith our way of life.
It seems right to sit with this for a while. This is every believer’s calling in life.