In this episode, we continue our introduction to The Book of Hebrews by exploring the term brethren from Hebrews 2. The author certainly seems very familiar with his audience. There is a lot that can be deduced from this reality. Much of Hebrews is centered on encouraging the audience, including each of us, to develop a heart of faith in order to walk in obedience to God. All of our actions have consequences, and if we steward our journey well, committing to faithful obedience, we set up positive consequences in our lives, including eternal fulfillment and glory.
Let me talk about a few other things with respect to the book of Hebrews. We’re setting the context here.
The Writer Is Familiar
Let me show you the degree to which this writer is familiar with the audience. I’m going to propose—and this does not have to be the case—but I’m going to propose that the fact that the author doesn’t name himself is a matter of familiarity.
If I’m writing to you guys, and I’m texting you or writing you an e-mail, I might or might not say my name. Because you already have your thing in my address book or whatever, and I expect it to pop up that you know who I am. If I call you on the phone I might not identify myself because you recognize my voice.
I think that’s part of the reason why this writer doesn’t identify himself, because he’s so familiar.
Let me show you some other things that show how familiar he is. Look at Hebrews 13:18. What does he say to this group he’s writing to?
You’ll see as we go through, the audience never changes. You know sometimes a writer will say, now let me talk to these people. In this case, he’s talking to the same people. The voice never changes. It’s always the same people.
What does he say in Chapter 13 verse 18? “Pray for us.”
Who do you ask to pray for you? Yeah, you ask brothers to pray for you. Would you ask a group of strangers to pray for you? You might. You might. But this is a fairly familiar thing that he says here.
Let’s look at 13:19. What does he say in 13:19? “But I especially urge you to do this that I might be restored to you the sooner.”
What does that imply? Restored?
Fellowship. Yeah, you can’t restore something that hasn’t already been, right?
This is not like a Romans where he says, “I want to come to you for the first time. I’ve always wanted to come to you but I’ve been hindered. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.”
This is “That I might be restored to you sooner. Pray for me that I might be restored to you all the sooner. “
There’s an implication here where there’s not just a superficial familiarity, but there is a real relationship here.
Let’s look at 13:22. “And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I’ve written to you in a few words.”
This is an exhortation that he’s giving these people. It’s not a treatise. It’s not an introduction. He’s exhorting them, and you’ll see as we go through the book, it’s like, remember. You gotta remember. What are you doing? You’re straying from what you already know. You’ve lost your sense of hearing.
There’s continuity involved.
Look at 13:23. “Know that our brother Timothy has been set free with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly.”
What do you see there in that passage? Paul knows Timothy, right? Who else knows Timothy? The Jews that are getting this letter? He doesn’t explain to them who Timothy is.
And what else is implied? He says our brother Timothy has been set free. He was in prison. They already knew about it, right? He doesn’t say, oh by the way, Timothy was put in prison, and he’s been set free. So you knew he was in prison, so now I’m telling you the news that he’s been set free; and, hopefully, we’ll be there together with you soon. You see the familiarity.
Look at Hebrews 5:12. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God.”
What does that tell you about his knowledge of these people?
He’s known them for a long time, right? By this time you ought to be teachers. So there’s an implication that there’s been a pretty long passage of time. And not only that, he knows what their progression has been. You ought to be teachers.
Look at 5:11. “Of whom,” he’s talking about Melchisedec, “We have much to say and hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing.”
Once again we see he’s familiar with their progression, and it’s made a bad turn. You were doing great. You were hearing well. And now you’ve become dull of hearing.
This is why at the end he says bear with this word of exhortation. It’s not all happy talk here in this book.
And then look at 13:1. “Let brotherly love continue.” You’ve been doing brotherly love; keep on doing it.
Now let’s look at 6:10. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown towards his name in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister.”
So Paul is very intimately familiar with what they’ve done in the past and what they’re doing right now.
This book is an exhortation that takes into account their past history, where they are currently, and Paul is trying to reset their course, to reset it to be consistent with the way they’ve done it in the past, and now they’ve veered off.
That’s what Hebrews is about. It’s a word of exhortation.
You see the familiarity.
Now I’m going to ask you a trivia question. You saw Timothy is the only real person we know that’s named. How many books of the Bible did Timothy write?
Well, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:1. So we see “Paul through the will of God and Sosthenes our brother.” So we’ve got Sosthenes, who’s a co-author of 1 Corinthians with Paul.
Look at II Corinthians. He’s got a different co-author. Timothy!
So it’s at least one.
Look at Philippians 1:1. What do you see there? Paul and Timothy. So he’s authored two books!
Look at Colossians. What’s Verse 1 say? “Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God and Timothy, our brother.” There’s three.
Look at 1 Thessalonians. “Paul, Silvanus—” Did you know Silvanus wrote a book of the Bible? “—and Timothy.
Let’s look at II Thessalonians. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.
It’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? Are you starting to wonder which books he didn’t help to write?
Let’s look at Philemon. “Paul a prisoner of Christ Jesus and Timothy our brother.”
Isn’t that amazing? Six books of the Bible.
Not to mention that he’s the main recipient of the two pastoral epistles, I and II Timothy, where Paul is saying, look, I’m about to die. You’ve got to carry the torch. Don’t be afraid of dying! There’s a lot worse things in the world than dying. Being found disqualified, being found unfaithful at the end of your life is vastly worse than any death you can suffer! I don’t mind dying at all. I know there’s laid up for me something in Heaven. I’ve laid up these things. They’re waiting for me. I’m not worried about it; I’m worried about you chickening out because you’re about to see me get killed.
Timothy. The author of six books of the Bible and he’s getting this letter saying, don’t lose the faith! Keep going! Don’t chicken out! Don’t lose those things that you’ve laid up in Heaven, all the gold, silver, precious stones. Don’t turn it into wood, hay, and stubble by chickening out.
So that’s my main case as to why the author of this is Paul. Now, it sounds like Paul. It’s Paul’s message. It’s the same message he gives in Romans and Galatians. He just does it in a very Jewish way.
But if it wasn’t Paul, it’s somebody who’s in that group with Paul and Timothy. And if Paul and Timothy are this tight to have written six books of the Bible along with Silvanus for a couple of them, it’s that group. And it’s got Paul’s DNA in it, in any event.
So, as we go through this book, I’m going to refer to it as being written by Paul because I just think it is. Dr. Anderson thinks it’s Paul as well, which is more credible than me.
So we’ve got Hebrews written by a Hebrew, written to a group of people with whom he’s very familiar, written to people who are Jewish expecting them to continue to be Jewish. Paul writing to his friends and compatriots, along with Timothy.
The last thing we’ll go through is the use of the term brethren.
Let’s just look at Hebrews 2. I’ll read you the basic premise of the whole book here. I want you to notice the word brethren as we go through this. “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we’ve heard.”
Now in Chapter 1, he sets out that in times past, we heard through the prophets and the angels, these messengers, the Word of God in the Old Testament; and everything that it said came true. Everything it said came true. And now we’ve heard from the very Son of God and God himself. First hand.
And those first-hand words were validated by the Holy Spirit. And if these things in the past came true that came through intermediaries, and now these things that are coming to us directly from God himself through the son who’s the heir of all things, then most certainly the things he says are going to be true. So, it was a bad idea to neglect the Word of God in the Old Testament. It’s really a bad idea to neglect the Word of God coming straight from Jesus. That’s the point he’s going to make.
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we’ve heard lest we drift away.”
Drift away from what? The things we’ve heard.
“For if the word spoken through angels—” Old Testament, we’ll see that in Chapter 1 in spades, “—proves steadfast—” and it did. Everything God said in the Old Testament came true.
“And every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.”
So, in this particular case, he’s focusing on rewards for disobedience, but obviously he’s going to talk as we go through this book about rewards for faithfulness too. But that’s what this book is about. It’s about rewards. It’s about consequences of behavior.
It’s not about belonging. These are Jewish believers. There’s no question about who they belong to. They’re in the family of God. The question is what are going to be the consequences of your actions.
So we know in Israel that when Israel disobeyed, what happened to them? They got wacked, right? God told them up front, if you don’t follow me, if you follow idols instead, I’m going to bring in invaders, I’m going to purge you from the land. That’s what’s going to happen to you.
Don’t do it! Sent prophets. You’re getting close. You need to turn!
They killed the prophets, and then the consequence would happen. Over and over.
“If the word spoken through angels proved steadfast and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord—” Jesus, “and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, —” Jesus, “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts.”
So we’re talking about salvation here. And we’re talking about the full extent of salvation.
And what we’re going to see in subsequent weeks is the salvation he’s talking here is the salvation from the fall.
And this next passage, 2:5-11, is a quote from Psalm 8. Psalm 8 tells us what we were designed for. We were designed to rule the earth in perfect harmony with God. And that’s the way we were in the Garden of Eden. And it’s fallen. It’s fallen apart. It’s not happening right now.
But what is happening is Jesus has overcome death. Where did death come in? The Garden of Eden. And death is what broke up what’s supposed to be happening.
And Jesus has overcome death and we’re now to follow him to restore that from which we have been knocked off. That’s what this whole thing is going to start unveiling.
So, in 2:10-11 he says, “For it was fitting for him—” Jesus “for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he and he who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren. Saying ‘I will declare your name to my brethren.’”
So what we’re talking about here is being a brother with Christ.
Look at 2:17. “Therefore in all things he had to be made like his brethren.” He became a person so he could deliver us from death.
And then we get to 3:1, and now we focus on the audience of the book. “Therefore, holy brethren,– ” Now they are hard of hearing holy brethren. They are in the process of drifting away holy brethren. They are in danger of losing the rewards of their confession holy brethren. We’ll see all that. But they’re still holy brethren.
Why? Why are they still holy brethren? They’ve been made holy by the blood of Jesus. Jesus who paid the price once for all. Every sin. They’re all forgiven.
But we still have a choice. And the choice is, what kind of reward are we going to get? Are we going to get the reward for disobedience, or are we going to get the reward for faithfulness?
He’s going to give us a whole bevy of examples, the hall of faith of people who finished to the end. He’s going to talk about Moses who said he esteemed the reproaches of Christ above the treasure of Egypt because he looked to the reward.
“Therefore holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest to that confession, Christ Jesus.”
So we’re talking here to brethren.
Look at 3:12. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living of God.”
You’re holy brethren! Don’t depart from following Jesus! The consequences of that are hideously awful! I’m going to give you all these examples from the Old Testament. They’re for our example today, and they’re still relevant.
That’s what life is about. It’s about obedience and following the example of Jesus, even to death on a cross because the reward is there. Brethren.
Look at Hebrews 10:19. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus, the new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil that is his flesh. And having a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith.”
Go to Jesus when you need help. He’s your high priest. He’ll give you what you need because you’re a holy brethren! You’ve got access because of the blood of Jesus! You’ve been sanctified by the blood of Jesus! Take advantage of it!
What we’ll see is what they’ve been trying to do is use religious observance instead. And as important as religious observance can be to condition the heart, it can also be a hindrance if it’s something you rely on. And that is the problem of our Hebrew recipients of this letter.
Could easily be written to Bible church people.
We tend to rely on religious observance. Quiet times. Devotional life. Bible knowledge. Relationships with other believers. And those things can be incredibly valuable and important to build our hearts of faith so that we can walk in obedience.
But it’s actually having a heart of faith to walk in obedience that’s the big thing. And that comes through entering the veil of the holy place. And that’s available for holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.
So this is the set up for the book of Hebrews.
It’s written by Paul, I’m going to claim. I don’t know that for a fact, but I’m just going to say that. Paul includes Timothy in the orbit. The co-author of six books with Paul, if I counted correctly. They’re very familiar with one another. It’s part of an ongoing conversation it seems. Hebrews were continuing to practice Jewishness. They followed the law. They did temple sacrifice.
You know temple sacrifice is going to be reinaugurated during the Millennial Kingdom, when Jesus comes back to reign again on earth, it’s going to start up again. That’s odd for us Baptist-y kind of people to kind of think about. But it’s going to be a Jewish world.
And so these Jews were continuing to practice all the while the author of this is telling the Gentiles, you don’t need that. If you become a Jew, it’s only because you’re relying on the wrong thing.
This is the exact same message that he’s going to give the Hebrews. It’s fine for you to do this religious observance stuff. Don’t rely on it.
All that stuff is a picture of the real thing, and the real thing is Jesus and Heaven. You can go to your priest. It’s fine. But he’s not the real priest. Jesus is the real priest!
You can have temple sacrifice. It’s fine. It’s a picture of Jesus who’s died once for all.
Don’t rely on that stuff. If you do, then you’re drifting away, and you’re going to lose your reward, which is something unthinkable. Don’t do that!
Follow the example of Jesus who is obedient, even to death, and he sat down at the right hand of God.
This idea of sitting down is going to be a core theme as we go through the book.
And we’re going to see Psalm 110 as a core Psalm. And we’re going to see Psalm 8 as a core Psalm.
And these Messianic Psalms are going to be fulfilled through Jesus. And it’s going to be explained to us in Hebrew 8.
And we’re going to have to get in the weeds a little bit to understand the Jewish perspective that these guys would have grown up understanding because that’s what they were immersed in as children. But as we do, we’re going to keep zooming out and seeing this overall progression.
So, Jewish practice is OK. Paul is OK with it. Paul kept doing it. He’s got these friends. He wants them to follow the right path. He’s not worried about whether they’re Jewish or not; he’s worried about their hearts. He’s worried about their understanding. He’s worried about their hearing.
Why? Because he wants the consequences of their life to be total fulfillment and glory. And the alternative is you miss the opportunity, and you have shame because you didn’t take advantage of the opportunity while it was here.
Book of Hebrews. I think it’s going to be a really, really fascinating study. You’re going to really enjoy it.