Partners with Christ
Philippe R. Sterling
Aim to be Christ’s partner in the life to come.
Authorship: The Book of Hebrews is an anonymous work. Numerous suggestions have been given as to who wrote the book. No clear consensus has emerged concerning who the writer was. Perhaps the best suggestion was articulated by Origen when he wrote, “As to who actually wrote the epistle, God knows the truth of the matter.” Hebrews seems to fit the description of one of its puzzling characters: “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (7:3). Because the writer desired anonymity, it seems best to let his wishes stand.
Audience: The traditional title “To the Hebrews” is first encountered toward the end of the second century. The document lacks the usual epistolary opening. Nowhere does it tell us that the original readers were Hebrews, nor does it tell us where they lived. The book’s argument suggests believers of Jewish background who were being tempted to lapse back to their Judaism.
Date: The writer said that he and those to whom he wrote had come to faith in Jesus Christ through the preaching of others who had heard Jesus (2:3-4). The original readers had been Christians for an extended period of time (5:12). The reference to Timothy's release from imprisonment (13:23) dates the book in his lifetime. The imprisonment of Christians seems to have been a well-known fact of life (10:34; 13:3). This was true after Nero launched an empire-wide persecution in A.D. 64. All of these factors when taken together seem to point to a writing date near A.D. 68-69.
Genre: The writer/speaker describes his work as “a word of exhortation” (13:22). He alternates exposition with exhortation. The expositional material serves the exhortative purpose of the whole book. Hebrews is much more a sermon than a typical letter, although it is also a letter. It does not begin as letters normally do. There is no identification of author or addressees, and no opening salutation. It is more typical of speech than of writing. Indications of this are the references to speaking and hearing (2:5; 5:11; 8:1; 9:5; 11:32). It ends as a letter, with personal information, greetings, a doxology, and a benediction. We could call Hebrews a written sermon sent to a Christian community facing a serious issue of defection from Christ to exhort them to remain faithful to Christ that they might share in His glorious reign in the world to come.
Literary Structure and Content
I. Prologue: God has climactically spoken to us through His Son, the Heir of all things (1:1-4).
A. Opening Statement: God has finally and fully spoken through His Son (1:1-2a).
B. The Sovereign Son: Seven phrases describe the person and work of the Sovereign Son (1:2b-3).
1. He is the appointed heir of all things.
2. He made the world.
3. He uniquely manifests God’s glory.
4. He embodies God’s essence.
5. He upholds all that exists.
6. He made the sacrifice of atonement for the removal of sin.
7. He has been exalted to sit at God’s right hand sharing His sovereign authority (allusion to Psalm 110:1).
C. Transitional Statement: The Son is supreme over angels (1:4).
II. Part 1 – The Supremacy of the Person of Christ: Jesus is God’s exalted King-Son leading other sons to glory
(1:5 to 4:16).
A. Greater than the Angels: To God’s kingly Son and His fellow-heirs, not to angels, belong a triumphant
eternal reign (1:5 to 2:18).
1. Catena: A chain of seven Old Testament quotations supports the point of the supremacy of the Son
over angels (1:5-13).
a. Psalm 2:7 – Jesus is the unique Son of the Father.
b. 2 Samuel 7:14 – Jesus is the Messianic Son of David.
c. Deuteronomy 32:43 (LXX) – God calls the angels to worship the Son whom He has sent into the world.
d. Psalm 104:4 – The angels are servants.
e. Psalm 45:6-7 – The Son is God. God refers to the Son as God. The Son is elevated above
f. Psalm 102:25-27 – The Son’s role in creation puts Him alongside of God and separates Him from
g. Psalm 110:1 – The Son reigns with God at His right hand.
2. The Role of Angels: The angels are commissioned servants for the sake of those who will inherit
3. First Warning – Don’t drift away from Christ’s Word: Neglect of our salvation-hope is perilous. It
brings discipline in this world and the loss of reward or inheritance in the world to come (2:1-4).
4. The Leader of our Salvation: In His humanity, the Heir of all things has become fully suited to the needs
of His fellow heirs (2:5-18).
B. Entering His Rest: As partners of the Son, we must acquire our salvation-rest by a persevering faith (3:1
1. Call: We are invited to be partakers in the Son’s priestly house through our persevering faith (3:1-6).
2. Second Warning – Don’t disbelieve Christ’s Word: We enter into our salvation-rest by believing the word
of Christ and receiving grace to help in time of need (3:7 to 4:16).
a. Peril of Disbelief: Rejection of Christ’s word is more serious than rejection of Moses’ word and will keep
us from entering into our promised inheritance of reigning with Christ (3:7-19).
b. Entrance into Rest: We enter into our salvation-rest by believing God’s word through Christ (4:1-13).
c. Application and Transitional Statement: We hold fast our confession by drawing near to the throne
of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help from our great High Priest Jesus (4:14-16).
III. Part 2 – The Superiority of the Priesthood of Christ: Jesus is God’s exalted Priest-Son able to aid His brethren
(5:1 to 10:39).
A. The Son’s Melchizedekian Priesthood: The superiority of our Lord’s Melchizedekian priesthood over the
Levitical priesthood is the anchor of our salvation-hope (5:1 to 7:28).
1. The Son’s Priestly Role: God’s Kingly-Son is fully suited to His priestly role (5:1-10).
a. The Qualifications of the High Priest: The high priest must have a human nature, human compassion
and divine appointment (5:1-4).
b. The Qualifications of Christ: Jesus was divinely installed as High Priest forever according to the order
of Melchizedek after He had been perfectly equipped by the sufferings and trials of life to be our High
2. Third Warning – Don’t defect from Christ’s Word: Avoid the danger of defection by a persevering
progress toward spiritual maturity (5:11 to 6:20).
a. The Problem of Immaturity: Beware of relapsing into a state of spiritual infancy through dullness
of hearing (5:11-13).
b. The Remedy: Press on to spiritual maturity (6:1-20).
1) The Need for Progress: Press on beyond the elementary teachings about the Christ (6:1-2).
2) The Danger of an Irremediable Fall: Beware of backsliding to a state where repentance
becomes impossible (6:3-8).
3) The Call to a Persevering Faith: Anchor to the hope set before us by being imitators of those such
as Abraham who through faith and patience inherit the promises (6:9-20).
3. The Melchizedekian Priesthood: The Lord’s superior Melchizedekian priesthood is our anchoring hope
a. Type of Christ: Melchizedek prefigured Jesus in his name and title, office, and lack of priestly
b. Greater than Levitical Priests: Melchizedek is great because Abraham gave him a tithe; he
blessed Abraham; he eternally lives on, while the Levitical priests were dying men; and Levi paid him
a tithe (7:4-10).
c. Better Hope: Since the Levitical priesthood could not bring perfection, God called for a new
priesthood which would give a better hope and enable us to draw near to Him (7:11-20).
d. Superior Priesthood: The Melchizedekian priesthood of God’s Son is superior to Aaron’s because it
was confirmed by an oath; it is permanent because of Jesus’ eternality; it is better in character because
of Jesus’ sinlessness; and it is efficacious (7:20-28).
B. The Son’s New Covenant Priestly Service: The superiority of the Son’s New Covenant service is the basis for
a worshipper’s confidence and acceptance (8:1 to 10:39).
1. Introduction to Jesus’ New Covenant Ministry: Jesus serves in a better sanctuary and mediates a
better covenant (8:1-13).
a. The True Tabernacle: Jesus performs His priestly work in the true Tabernacle in Heaven which
is associated with a better covenant established on better promises (8:1-6).
b. The New Covenant: The better covenant is the new covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34
which renders obsolete the first covenant made with Israel at Sinai (8:7-13).
2. Explanation of Jesus’ New Covenant Priestly Ministry: Jesus is superior in His New Covenant functions
(9:1 to 10:18).
a. The Earthly and Heavenly Sanctuaries: Jesus serves the true tabernacle of God in heaven, not an
earthly sanctuary (9:1-14).
b. The Old and New Covenants: Jesus’ death has ratified a new and everlasting covenant so that those
who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (9:15-22).
c. The Old and New Sacrifices: Jesus’ one sacrifice, unlike the annual sacrifices of the Day of Atonement,
is truly effective and provides ongoing forgiveness of sins (9:23 to 10:18).
3. Warning and Encouragement: Our steadfast faith, hope, and love deters divine retribution in this life
and results in great reward in the life to come (10:19-39).
a. Basic Admonition: Come before God with full assurance of faith and gather together to encourage
one another (10:19-25).
1) Two Great Privileges: We have access to God by the blood of Christ and we have a great High
2) Three Solemn Duties: Draw near to God with full assurance of faith, hold fast the confession of
your hope, and stir up one another to love and good deeds by gathering together and encouraging
each other (22-25).
b. Fourth Warning – Don’t go on sinning willfully against Christ’s Word: Expect God’s family judgment
for continuing to sin willfully against the truth (10:26-31).
c. Encouragement: Anticipate great reward for steadfast faith (10:32-39)
IV. Part 3 – The Persevering Faith of the Partners of Christ: We maintain our partnership with God’s exalted
King-Priest through our persevering faith (11:1 to 12:29).
A. Persevering Faith and God’s Approval: Faith is the indispensable basis of all effective spiritual living (11:1-40).
1. The Nature of Faith: Faith is grounded on God’s Word and gains God’s approval (11:1-3).
2. The Approval of Faith: The life of faith receives approval and reward from God (11:4-16).
3. The Triumph of Faith: The life of faith triumphs over all experiences of life through it may not always
be rewarded in this life (11:17-40).
B. Persevering Faith and God’s Discipline: Our new covenant relationship with God’s exalted King-Priest
should motivate us to faithful perseverance under divine discipline (12:1-29).
1. Running the Race: Run your race with endurance looking to Christ (12:1-3).
2. Enduring Discipline: Endure and learn from God’s discipline (12:4-13).
3. Fifth Warning – Don’t refuse Him who is speaking: Render to God an acceptable service with reverence
and awe to avoid judgment in this life and loss of inheritance in the life to come (12:14-29).
V. Epilogue: Offer to God an acceptable service relying on the grace of Jesus Christ (13:1-25).
A. Concluding Instructions: Serve God acceptably in social and spiritual areas (13:1-19).
1. Social Instructions: Love the brethren, honor marriage, be content (1-6).
2. Spiritual Instructions: Submit to spiritual leadership and offer spiritual sacrifices (7-19).
B. Benediction: May God through Jesus equip you to do that which is pleasing in His sight (13:20-21).
C. Closing: Heed this brief exhortation in fellowship with God’s people and reliance on God’s grace (13:22-25).
Theological Reflection and Application
Jesus the exalted Son is our sympathetic High Priest who has gone before us and enables us to enter into the promise of our inheritance. If we rely upon His grace and mercy and persevere in faith to the end, we will receive the inheritance of reigning with Him in the world to come. Aim to be Christ’s partner in the life to come.
Note these applications:
- God has spoken through the Son. Are you listening?
- Don’t drift. Listen and obey.
- Be part of the band of brothers with Christ as leader.
- Call on your Priest!
- Move on to maturity.
- Overcome spiritual sluggishness.
- We need each other to get through the challenges of the Christian life. Some assembly is required!
- Be steadfast in faith that you might receive a rich reward.
- Run with endurance the race marked out for you.
- Rely on grace.