A few of us are meeting weekly, a group of God-botherers, to flesh out and discuss together the astounding and surprising Biblical record, and we have leapt from the Kingdom period of 900bc into the New Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews.
This is a passionate letter from an unnamed real person or persons (we have noted all the “we”s in the text) to a real community of Jewish believers in Jesus probably written before 70ad.
Here we find much ‘high Christology’ in our author’s attempt to warn his readers against abandoning Christ and turning back to their previous practices.
There is an amazing thing in this letter: there is no suggestion of any ritual, ceremonial or cultic which might have replaced the Judaism they had left behind, which you will remember, was God’s design for his people and up to that time.
Rather they are called simply to consider Jesus. He is enough, superior, perfect. And called to care for each other.
Though the language and content is different to the apostle Paul’s correspondence to non-Jews, the practices that are encouraged are very similar.
So for example, Like the Pauline letters, this one is addressed not to some church leader but to the whole community. There is no hint here (or anywhere in the whole New Testament) of any clergy class and laity class.
It was critical for these Hebrews to leave behind their familiar, God-given, Old Covenant traditions and hierarchical practices which were now obsolete in Messiah Jesus. The author takes much effort to show convincingly that Jesus and his way, is far superior to Moses and the whole sacrificial and priestly system, now obselete.
Then HOW MUCH MORE critical is it, that we today leave behind all human ideas in our churches. God, in his infallible wisdom has revealed to us in the New Testament that He has a much better, a far superior design to human attempts to worship Him.
Humans have made pagan additions: professional Christians and their trappings, religious CEOs and middle managers, boring, ordered, liturgised, ritualistic ‘worship services’, entertainments, and all those traditions and habits inherited from our forebears, all those cultural substitutions for God’s wisdom that abound everywhere.
We all called to be counter-cultural because of what Jesus has accomplished and deposited for us in his chosen apostles and their writings. We must obey and trust and determine to make him Lord, not only in our personal walk with God, but when we come together, as a body. Otherwise we end up arrogantly determined to continue with human ideas.
Do you think we can improve on the Lord’s great design for corporate life as his people? How appalling. Is that true worship? true acknowledgment of God’s worth?
No. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience is true worship.
Perhaps the greatest shame is the frequent way the Lord Jesus is kind of shut out of the meetings of his people and humans running the show, instead of Christ being the Head of his amazing design, his body, calling the shots, and the Holy Spirit prompting and inspiring the participants to share, edify, bring God’s word, heal, and care.
This wonderful design, which we see in this Letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul in his letters likens to the human body, with many members, each participating freely in the care and edification of one another and in the interests of God and the Body of Christ. Dare we continue to tempt the living God and His amazing grace by not honouring him in humble obedience?
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as they did long ago in the desert wanderings.