Hebrews 4 Study Sheet

The following is a simple study sheet that contains a brief outline of the chapter and a few questions that focus on the text. One of the first and most important parts of good Bible study is observation. What does the text say? Until we know what the text says, it is fruitless to try to discover what it means and how it applies. Most of the questions are designed to do little more than help the reader observe the text. There may be an occasional question that asks for deeper meaning or application.

OUTLINE

I. Trust is Crucial (4:1-2)

A. We must be careful not to fall short of our reward (1).

B. To do that, we must combine the hearing of God’s word with complete trust in it (2).

II. The Rest that Remains for the Christian (4:3-10)

A. God has rested from his creative work (3-5).

B. It remains that some are yet to enter his rest (6-10).

III. Warning and Motivation (4:11-16)

A. Be diligent to enter God’s rest (11).

B. Four incentives (12-16)

1. The powerful word of God (12)

2. The all-seeing eye of God (13)

3. Our great high priest (14-15)

4. The power of prayer (16)

QUESTIONS

1.    What is the significance of “therefore” in 4:1?

2.   Who should fear falling short of God’s rest (4:1)?

3.   Why did the good news not profit the Israelites of old (4:2)?

4.   Who will enter God’s rest (4:3)?

5.    What is the rest that yet remains for God’s people (4:9-10)?

6.   Does our entering God’s rest rely, to some extent, on our works? (4:11)?

7.   What characteristics does the writer attribute to the word of God (4:12)?

8.   Because Jesus is our high priest, what should we do (4:14)?

9.   Why is Jesus able to sympathize with us (4:15)?

10. Because Jesus is our high priest, how may we approach God’s throne of grace (4:16)?

APPLICATION

The writer made it clear that even though the ancient Hebrews heard the good news about the Promised Land, it didn’t make any difference because they did not really believe, or trust, in what they heard. Read the following passages: Ezekiel 33:30-33 and James 1:21-25. How do these passages harmonize with Hebrews 4:1-2? What are some concrete ways that you can make sure that you are combining faith with the hearing of the word?

Write down in your own words the significance of the four incentives in Hebrews 4:12-16. How can these things motivate you to greater service?

A Quick List: “Rest” in Hebrews 4

A “Quick List” is exactly what you might think: a simple list of facts taken from a passage of Scripture. These will not contain long explanations, only unadorned observations.

The word “rest” appears ten times in the NASB95 in the first eleven verses of Hebrews 4. Here is a quick list of what we learn about that rest.

  • It is God’s rest (4:1, 3, 5, 10). He began it after the creation week (4:3-4). It involved the cessation of his creative work (4:10).
  • It is for believers (4:3).
  • It is for God’s people (4:9).
  • It involves the cessation of our work (4:10).
  • It is not for the faithless (4:2) or disobedient (4:11).
  • It is not the land of Canaan (4:8).
  • It is a future blessing (4:1, 6, 9, 11).
  • It is possible to fall short of it (4:1, 11).

Self-Examination and the Lord’s Supper

In the troubled Corinthian church, the Lord’s Supper had not been protected from abuse. This mistreatment of the Supper was so serious that Paul bluntly told them that the way they were handling this memorial was actually a despising of the church (1 Cor. 11:22) that invited God’s judgment on them (11:29). As he corrected their practice, he called their attention back to the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper on the night of the Lord’s betrayal (11:23-25). The apostle affirmed that Christians were to use that solemn observance as an opportunity to remember Jesus (11:24-25) and examine themselves (11:28).

I’d like to share with you one way that I focus my mind during this time of remembrance and reflection. It involves considering the wounds that Jesus endured in the process of his death and using them as a guide for assessing my own life.

  • Think about the nailed-scarred hands of Jesus and ask yourself, “What have my hands done this week?” Have your hands been used to sin? Have they been used to serve?
  • Think about the pierced feet of Jesus. Where have your feet taken you this week? Have they taken you to places that you should not have gone? Have they walked in the counsel of the wicked (Psa. 1:1)? Or have they been guided by the light of God’s word (Psa. 119:105)?
  • Think of how the head of Jesus was pierced with thorns, then think about your own head – or more specifically, your mind. What thoughts have occupied your mind this week? Have you brought your thoughts captive to obey Jesus (2 Cor. 10:5)? Or have your thoughts been corrupted by unholiness and lust?
  • Consider how the side of our Lord was pierced, then think about the things that you have kept close to your own side over the past week. What has been important to you? Have you kept the Lord himself as your closest companion? Or did you allow something or someone else to be closer (Matt. 10:37)?
  • Consider how the back of Jesus was beaten without mercy. What about your back? Have you turned your back on Jesus (John 6:66)?

With these questions thoughtfully considered, I will sometimes offer a prayer of confession that ends with praise and worship for the forgiveness that is mine because of what Jesus endured for me. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15)!

Nehemiah: an Unsung Hero

Nehemiah, the ancient wall builder of Jerusalem, often finds himself far down the list of favorite Bible personalities. That’s understandable. There is much to commend the more popular names of Abraham, Paul, David, Peter, or Moses. But Nehemiah deserves to be in the conversation, too. Consider some of his admirable traits.

Compassionate

We are introduced to Nehemiah’s compassion for his people early in the first chapter of the book that bears his name. Though his hands were full being cupbearer to the Persian king (Neh. 1:11), he longed to know the welfare of his kinsman hundreds of miles away. “I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem” (1:2). When he learned of their poverty and “great trouble” (1:3), his response reveals his heart. “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (1:4). Great servants are moved by the circumstances of their fellow man.

Prayerful

Several times in the book of Nehemiah we find references to his prayers: when he was moved by the news of Jerusalem’s broken wall (1:4); when he stood before the Persian king with an open door to request help with the rebuilding of the wall (2:4); when the workers faced ridicule (4:4); and when they discovered an enemy’s plot to disrupt their work (4:9). Other references to his prayers are found in 5:19; 6:9, 14; 9:6-38; 13:14, 22, 29, 31. In the context of every major decision and activity in the book, Nehemiah prayed about it.

Trusting

What undergirded Nehemiah’s work was an unwavering trust that God would bless him as long as he sought God’s glory and lived with proper respect for his will. Note these expressions of faith: “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build” (2:20). “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (4:14). “In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us” (4:20). Great servants do not trust in themselves, but in the God who made them.

Courageous

Nehemiah faced no small amount of opposition to his work. Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 13 attest to that. But Nehemiah did not cower before those who wanted nothing less than the complete destruction of him and his work. One example of his courage in chapter six involved a plot to ruin his reputation and thereby stop the people from following his leadership. His enemies wanted to make him afraid and trick him into entering the temple in violation of the law by having a false prophet convince him that he could only save his life from a murderous plot by hiding in the temple (6:13). Hear his response: “But I said, ‘Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in’” (6:11). A more courageous man would be hard to find. Great servants do not shrink in the presence of difficulty.

Zealous for God’s Glory

This may be Nehemiah’s greatest trait. Three times he encouraged the people to complete the wall of Jerusalem so that their enemies would have no reason to ridicule them as followers of God (2:17; 4:4; 5:9). His desire for success grew out of his desire for upholding the reputation of God. The underlying reason that he wanted Jerusalem to be once more “beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth” (Psa. 48:2) was his desire to see God praised. Great servants are servants who are motivated, not by personal agendas, but by a sincere desire that God be praised, honored, and glorified.

Today’s Christian would do well to emulate the good characteristics of this unsung hero of scripture: compassionate, prayerful, trusting, courageous, and zealous for the glory of God.

Hebrews 3 Study Sheet

The following is a simple study sheet that contains a brief outline of the chapter and a few questions that focus on the text. One of the first and most important parts of good Bible study is observation. What does the text say? Until we know what the text says, it is fruitless to try to discover what it means and how it applies. Most of the questions are designed to do little more than help the reader observe the text. There may be an occasional question that asks for deeper meaning or application.

OUTLINE

I. Jesus is Superior to Moses (3:1-6)

A. Both Moses and Jesus were faithful (3:1-2).

B. But Jesus is worthy of more honor (3:3-6).

1. Just as a builder has more honor than the house he builds (3:3-4)

2. Just as a son has more honor than a servant (3:5-6)

II. A History Lesson (3:7-11)

A. A quotation from Psalm 95:7-11

B. During the wilderness wanderings, the Hebrews developed hard hearts.

III. A Warning (3:12-19)

A. Be careful that you do not develop a hard heart like they did (3:12).

B. Instead, encourage each other and hold fast to Jesus (3:13-14).

C. To develop a hard heart could excite the anger of God and result in a forfeiture of future blessing (3:15-19).

QUESTIONS

1. How does the writer refer to the recipients in 3:1?

2. How does the writer refer to Jesus in 3:1?

3. What characteristic do Jesus and Moses share (3:2)?

4. How does the writer affirm the deity of Jesus in 3:3-4?

5. How do we maintain our place in God’s house according to 3:6? (Hint: note the “if” statement)

6. How does the writer affirm the inspiration of scripture in 3:7?

7. According to 3:12, is it possible to fall away from God?

8. What can consistent encourage prevent (3:13)?

9. A word is repeated in verses 7, 13, and 15 that emphasizes the urgency of listening to God, encouraging each other, and maintaining a soft heart. What word is it?

10. Why were the Hebrews not able to enter the Promised Land (3:19)?

APPLICATION

Most Christians recognize their need to grow (2 Pet. 3:18). Most Christians understand that it’s possible to drift away from the Lord (Heb. 2:1-2). But I wonder how many of us feel a strong sense of urgency to address our spiritual growth. In this chapter, the writer tries to impress on his readers how important it is to address their wavering faith “today” (3:7, 13, 15).

What can you do today to improve your spiritual health? Make a list. Prioritize it. Then invest the time and energy to deepen your relationship with Jesus.

Hebrews 2 Study Sheet

The following is a simple study sheet that contains a brief outline of the chapter and a few questions that focus on the text. One of the first and most important parts of good Bible study is observation. What does the text say? Until we know what the text says, it is fruitless to try to discover what it means and how it applies. Most of the questions are designed to do little more than help the reader observe the text. There may be an occasional question that asks for deeper meaning or application.

OUTLINE

I. A Warning (2:1-4)

A. Pay attention to the words that God has spoken through his Son (2:1).

B. There is no escaping punishment otherwise (2:2-4).

II. Man Lost His Dominion Over Death (2:5-8)

A. In the beginning, God subjected the entire earthly environment to men.

B. But now we do not see everything subject to man.

III. Jesus Came to Fix What Men Broke (2:9-18)

A. Jesus became man to “taste of death” for everyone (2:9-10).

B. Jesus is not ashamed of our fraternal relationship (2:11-13).

C. Jesus became man to destroy the power of Satan, conquer our sin, and help us in our temptations (2:14-18).

QUESTIONS

1. What is the significance of “therefore” or “for this reason” in 2:1?

2. We are to pay close attention to “what we have heard” from whom (2:1)?

3. What is “the word spoken through angels” (2:2)?

4. What makes Christianity “great” (2:3)?

5. What gives New Testament teaching its authority (2:3-4)?

6. Hebrews 2:6-8 quotes what Old Testament passage?

7. Who is the “him” of Hebrews 2:6-8?

8. Over what did man lose his dominion when he was expelled from Eden?

9. What did Jesus do “for everyone” (2:9)?

10. What was the ultimate goal of the suffering of Jesus (2:10)?

11. What two things did Jesus accomplish in his death (2:14-15)?

12. Why was it necessary for Jesus “to be made like his brethren in all things” (2:17)?

APPLICATION

The writer’s warning in 2:1-4 becomes increasingly important when we realize that we can drift from spiritual safety through simple neglect. We do not have to wake up one morning and consciously decide to turn from God in order to lose our salvation. We can lose it a little at a time until we’ve lost it altogether. Think about some spiritual activities that we can find it easy to neglect. How can this neglect be detrimental? What are some ways that we can purposely increase our involvement in these activities?

Carefully read Hebrews 2:9-18 and list every characteristic that the writer attributes to Jesus. How do those characteristics affect your devotion to him?

Hebrews 1 Study Sheet

The following is a simple study sheet that contains a brief outline of the chapter and a few questions that focus on the text. One of the first and most important parts of good Bible study is observation. What does the text say? Until we know what the text says, it is fruitless to try to discover what it means and how it applies. Most of the questions are designed to do little more than help the reader observe the text. There may be an occasional question that asks for deeper meaning or application.

OUTLINE

I. God Has Spoken Through His Son (1:1-3)

A. In the past, God spoke through the prophets (1)

B. In these last days, God has spoken through his Son (2-3)

C. The Son of God possesses all of the characteristics of his father.

D. The Son now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

II. The Son of God is Superior to Angels (1:4-14)

A. No individual angel was ever singled out as “son” like Jesus was (4-5).

B. Angels worship the Son (6).

C. Angels are servants (7, 14); the Son rules an eternal kingdom (8-9, 13).

D. The Son created the earth and will one day destroy it (10-12).

QUESTIONS

  1. How does the writer describe the ways that God previously spoke through the prophets (1:1)?
  2. To what does the phrase “these last days” refer?
  3. There are seven characteristics of Jesus listed in 1:2-3. What are they?
  4. What does it mean to say that Jesus “upholds all things by the word of His power” (1:3)?
  5. What is the significance of being “at the right hand” of God (1:3)?
  6. In what way does the writer say that Jesus is better than the angels (1:4)?
  7. Why might it have been necessary for the writer to show that Jesus was superior to angels?
  8. There are seven different Old Testament quotations in 1:5-13. What are they?
  9. When God said to the Son, “This day have I begotten You,” to what day does He refer (1:5)?
  10. What is the significance of the term “firstborn” in 1:6?
  11. When the writer says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (1:8), of whom is he speaking?
  12. What do angels do (1:14)?

APPLICATION

Because Jesus: (1) is the one through whom God has spoken in these last days, (2) is the heir of God, (3) is the creator of the world, (4) is the radiance of God’s glory, (5) is the exact representation of God’s nature, (6) is the one who cleansed our sins, (7) is seated at God’s right hand, (8) is superior to angels, (9) is God’s Son, (10) is worshiped even by angels, (11) righteously rules an eternal kingdom, (12) will outlast the universe, (13) and sends out angels to do his bidding as they serve on behalf of Christians, then there is NO ONE who deserves our allegiance more than He.

If we were to turn away from Jesus, to whom better could we go? Peter was exactly right when he responded to Jesus’ question, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).

Introduction to Hebrews

First century Christians faced challenges and persecution from many sources, including Jewish ones. These Jewish problems confronted Christians in two ways. One, some Jewish converts to Christianity tried to bind on Gentiles the practice of circumcision and other elements of the Law of Moses as a means of salvation. This is the background of the book of Galatians. Second, there were devout Jews, still loyal to the Law of Moses, who persecuted their Jewish friends and neighbors who had been converted to Christ. They did this in an effort to bring those Jews back into full allegiance to the Law of Moses. This is the setting for the book of Hebrews.

AUTHOR/WRITER

The ultimate source of Hebrews is the Holy Spirit of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5). It is not the purpose of this treatise to detail the evidence that supports that conclusion. But the evidence exists that will lead the objective student to conclude that Hebrews belongs in the Scriptures.

As to the identity of the human writer, the simple and accurate answer is that we do not know. While many believe that the apostle Paul wrote Hebrews, and that conclusion is not without evidence, there is also substantial evidence against Pauline authorship. Some have suggested Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, and others. Had God intended for us to know the name of the writer, he would have made sure that we did. It is enough for us to know that the book is inspired.

DATE

The writer used a lot of ink to prove the point that the Law of Moses and the Levitical system of sacrifices had fulfilled their purposes and been replaced by the Law of Christ, with Jesus now serving as High Priest. One of the most visible signs of that change came in AD 70 when the Roman armies attacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple (Matt. 24:1-35). Had that event already taken place by the time Hebrews was written, there is little doubt that the writer would have included a discussion of it. In addition, the language of the letter, specifically in 8:4 and 10:11, leaves the impression that priests were still offering daily sacrifices in the temple. These two points are the strongest lines of evidence that Hebrews was written prior to AD 70.

But how long before AD 70 was it? All we have from within the letter are vague statements regarding how long the recipients had been Christians. In 5:12, the writer affirms that enough time had elapsed since their conversion that they should have been more mature than they actually were. In 10:32, he encourages them to look back to “the former days” soon after their conversion when they patiently endured persecution. That’s not much material, but when coupled with external evidence, most scholars place the date of writing in 63-64 AD.

RECIPIENTS

The title, “To the Hebrews,” is on many early manuscripts and how the earliest uninspired writers refer to the book. The way the writer refers to the tabernacle, Levitical priesthood, and Jewish history seems to assume that the readers would have been familiar with those things. The emphasis, especially in chapters 8-10, on the superiority of the New Testament over the Old leaves the impression that the writer is trying to convince his readers to accept that superiority. All of those characteristics, added to the many exhortations in Hebrews to remain faithful to Jesus and not go back to the Law of Moses, leads us to the conclusion that the original recipients of the book were Jewish.

Regarding their spiritual condition at the time, they were Christians (1:3; 2:3; 3:14; 10:32), but not new Christians (5:12; 10:32). They were immature (5:12-14; 6:1-3). They had faced persecution in the past (10:32-34) and were facing it at the time the letter was written (12:4). Due to this persecution, they were on the threshold of complete apostasy (3:12-13; 6:10, 12; 12:12-13).

PURPOSE

The writer calls the book a “word of exhortation” (13:22). As stated above, Jewish Christians were facing persecution from their non-Christian, Jewish friends and neighbors. These Jews did not accept that Jesus was Messiah and wanted to eradicate his influence among their kinsmen. The Jewish Christians were weakening under the weight of this persecution (3:13; 5:12; 6:10, 12; 10:32-34; 12:12-13, 16; 13:5). Hebrews contains repeated warnings against apostasy (4:1, 11, 14; 6:11-12; 10:22-25; 12:1, 28; 13:22), perhaps best summarized in 3:12, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.”

OUTLINE

I. The Superiority of the Person of Christ (1:1 – 7:28)

A. Jesus is superior to angels (1:1 – 2:18)

B. Jesus is superior to Moses (3:1 – 4:16)

C. Jesus is superior to the Levitical priests (5:1 – 7:28)

II. The Superiority of the Law of Christ (8:1 – 10:39)

A. A change in priesthood necessitates a change in law (8:1-13)

B. The inferior tabernacle and sacrifices (9:1 – 10:18)

C. The superior sacrifice of Jesus (10:19-39)

III. The Superiority of Christian Living (11:1 – 13:25)

A. Faith defined, described, and illustrated (11:1-40)

B. Christians must endure (12:1-17)

C. Choose: Mount Sinai or Mount Zion (12:18-29)

D. Miscellaneous exhortations and final greetings (13:1-25)

Confidence in Prayer

It is an inexpressible delight to know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has invited us into his heavenly throne room. Though prayer is a marvelous gift from God to us, it is not always easy to do. For the reflective soul, the realization that he is actually coming into the presence of deity can cause uneasiness and trepidation (cf. Isa. 6:5).

Yet, it is comforting to know that God has made it possible for us to approach him in prayer confidently and boldly. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). This confidence is possible because of the divine help accessible to us when we pray.

Picturing the Work of Christ

The Holy Spirit sometimes powerfully conveyed ideas by choosing words that create mental pictures for the reader. The verbal portrait of what happens when Christians pray is thrilling.

Scripture affirms this amazing truth: Jesus lives to serve us. “He always lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). He is our “advocate” (1 John 2:1). And he is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11). He was willing to surrender certain privileges of his divine nature in order to personally identify with us (Heb. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Cor. 15:28) – a concept we may never fully appreciate. And this Jesus ascended from earth to heaven “to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). “In the presence of” translates a Greek phrase meaning “to (before) the face of God” (Alford 181).

Draw this picture in your mind: Jesus is often presented in the New Testament as being “seated” at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:8, et al.) ruling over his kingdom. But when I need His mediation and advocacy in prayer, the writer of Hebrews changes that picture from Jesus being seated at the right hand of God to him standing before the face of God on my behalf – as if he has taken a place standing beside me as I “draw near to the throne of grace.”

Picturing the Work of the Spirit

In addition to the help that Jesus gives, the Holy Spirit is also actively assisting. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). In the Greek text, the word translated “helps” is a compound word in Greek, consisting of three important parts. The root word means “to take hold.” The two prefixes mean, respectively, “together with,” and “against; opposite; or, reciprocally” (Vincent 358; Earle 180-181; Robertson 376). Putting these three component parts together, Wuest explains the meaning this way,

The word speaks of the action of a person coming to another’s aid by taking hold over against that person, of the load he is carrying. The person helping does not take the entire load, but helps the other person in his endeavor (Wuest 140).

Draw this picture in your mind: you are on one end of a heavy weight and the Spirit of God is on the other end, and both of you lift it together. Amazing, isn’t it? When my human weakness manifests itself in not knowing how to express myself to God, the Holy Spirit, who knows my heart because he lives there (Gal. 4:6), steps up and takes the inexpressible groaning of my heart and communicates them to God for me. In that way he “helps” me lift the burden that I cannot lift by myself.

The Whole Picture

The complete picture is mind-blowing. When I prayerfully enter into the throne room of heaven, standing on one side of me (figuratively speaking, of course) is the Holy Spirit saying to the Father, “I have a special relationship with this man. He is struggling to express his innermost feelings and I am here to communicate what he cannot.” On the other side of me is Jesus saying, in essence, “I, too, have a special relationship with him, Father. I’m delighted to call him my brother, and I’m here as his supporter and advocate.” When you and I approach our Father in prayer, we do not do so alone. We are accompanied by Christ Jesus himself and God’s Holy Spirit, each fulfilling special roles of support just for us.

If that does not give us confidence in prayer, what will?

References

Alford, Henry (1976), Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, Vol. 4 Part 1 (Grand Rapids: Guardian Press).

Earle, Ralph (1974, 1986), Word Meanings in the New Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers).

Robertson, A.T. (1931), Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4 (Nashville: Broadman Press).

Vincent, Marvin R. (1888), Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. 1 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers).

Wuest, Kenneth (1973), Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company).