Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hebrews' Message to the World and Church

Hoare, Edward. “Epistle to the Hebrews: Its Message to the World, and to the Church of Our Own Time.” Pages 309-13 in The Official Report of the Church Congress, Held at Wolverhampton, on October 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th, 1887. Edited by C. Dunkley. London: Bembrose, 1887.

Edward Hoare (1812-1894) was Vicar of Holy Trinity, Tunbridge Wells (1853-1894) and Hon. Canon of Canterbury. He was apparently known as the “Protestant pontiff of Tunbridge Wells.” A biography of his life can be found here.

There is no direct message to the world, since the epistle is addressed to those who had come out of the world. What does Hebrews say about the world?
1) It was created by Jesus (2:2).
2) It is now being upheld by Him (1:3).
3) It is about to be shaken, or removed by Him (12:27).
4) He has provided for His people a kingdom which cannot be shaken. The message to the world then could be that people should not seek their security in this world, but in Christ.

The message to the church: no local church is addressed, but it is addressed to Jewish Christians who were tempted to lapse back into the Jewish faith. What then is the message for the church?
1) We should not be disheartened if we encounter people who are tempted to return to the bondage from which they once appeared to have been delivered. If people were tempted to relapse into Judaism in apostolic times, we should not be surprised if we find the same attitude in our day and age.
2) We should not leave this tendency alone, but we should vigorously oppose it.
3) This tendency should be opposed with the careful, argumentative exposition of the word of God, even as the author of Hebrews did.
4) If we wish to see men established in the truth, we must direct their attention to the great realities, and not merely the framework, of the gospel. For example, in one passage he mentions the church, but he does not mention its organization–its bishops, priests, or deacons–but it is described as “the Church of the first-born which are written in heaven” (12:23). “The new birth, and the name written in the book of life, these were the distinctive realities by which alone the Church was described” (311). Moreover, he does not emphasize the sacraments, but points them to the sacrificial death of Christ.
5) The message of the epistle is that the sum and substance of all reality is in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Christ is the fulfiller and fulfillment of all the types and prophecies. The perfection of Christ is brought out in connection with his priesthood, sacrifice, and covenant: a) the successional Aaronic priesthood is now replaced by the unsuccessional priesthood of Christ; Christ’s priesthood is eternal; b) the numerous and repetitious sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood is now replaced by the one, perfect sacrifice of Christ; and c) Christ is the mediator of a better covenant which is based on better promises–holiness, fellowship with God, knowledge of the Lord Himself, and forgiveness of sins.

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