The Logic of the Epistle to the Hebrews

A. The Situation Addressed in the Epistle

1. They were Jewish Christians
2. They had been persecuted
3. The persecution had died down
4. Now that persecution is flaring up again, they are in danger of going back.

B. The Overall Structure

Heb. 1:1-4: “The Father Declares the Ultimate Superiority of the Son by his Session.”
1. He Declares the Superiority of Christ’s Person (1:5-4:13): “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand”
2. He Declares the Superiority of Christ’s Office (4:14-7:28): “Thou art a priest after the order of Melchizedek”
3. He Declares the Superiority of Christ’s Ministration (8:1-10:18): “A priest forever”

C. Exposition of the Logic of the Epistle

1. Introduction:  Heb 1:1-4)
Hebrews: The apostle states that God has finally spoken by his Son, whose person and work is most exalted, not only in creation, but especially in redemption, where we chiefly see him as priest, now seated on the right hand of God.
Psalm 110: “The Lord said unto my Lord”
2. Section 1:  Heb 1:5 – Heb 4:13
Hebrews 1:5-13: The apostle traces from Scripture many of the places in which Messiah is directly addressed by the Lord, thereby showing his superiority over even angels, who are sent to minister, but never told to sit. Notice how in all the quotations, the Father either speaks to the Son or concerning the Son.
Psalm 110: “Thou”
Hebrews 2:6-18: The apostle first assumes the question: “If he had to sit down, where had he been?” He answers by an exposition of Psalm 8, which celebrates the exaltation of the Messiah “above the angels,” after his humiliation “below the angels,” until his foes are made his footstool. Secondly, the apostle addresses why we do not now see everything beneath his feet. He focuses us instead on Jesus, in whom we have the guarantee that the work of the devil has been broken.
Psalm 110: “Sit” and “until thine enemies be made thy footstool”
Hebrews 3:1-6: The apostle now turns to the question: “How could the LORD say that majestic word ‘sit’?” It is because of Christ’s faithfulness in his house, like Moses as servant in the house, that he can now sit as Son over his house.
Psalm 110: “Sit on my right hand”
3. Section 2:  The Priesthood of Christ (4:14-7:28)
After a brief transitional exhortation in 4:14-16 the apostle sets forth Christ’s relationship to the Aaronic priesthood. He assumes the question: How does Christ as priest compare to the priests from Aaron’s line. In 5:1-10 she shows how Christ is similar and yet greater than the Aaronic priests.
Psalm 110:4 “Thou art a priest…”
After some more exhortations in 5:11-6:8, he turns to examine the immutability of the divine oath (6:9-20).
Psalm 110:4 “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent …”
Then he turns to a treatment of the order of Melchisedek (7:1-28), and concludes: “For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore” (7:28).
Psalms 110:4 “…after the order of Melchisedek.”
4. Section 3: The Ministration of Christ (8:1-10:18)
After a transition statement, in which he again quotes Psalm 110:1, he then proceeds to trace the highpriestly work of Christ. He gives a brief tour of the veiled recesses earthly tabernacle, all of which he declares a “shadow” and then points his speech toward the thing which has provided the pattern for this earthly tabernacle, namely, the heavenly. Not only is his a more excellent ministry (8:6a)– it takes shape within a more excellent economy (“the new covenant” [8:6b]). In fact, his ministry makes the first old (8:13), and his ascension into a heavenly tabernacle renders the earthly antiquated, deficient, and writes over it –“condemned.”
The apostle has begun a series of alternations between ministry and covenant, because the superior ministry of Christ can only function within a superior covenant. It is as if he anticipates the objection of his readers: “Christ may have a grander ministry; however, the covenant we are under functioned fine for so many centuries, and who is to say it cannot continue?” The apostle answers this objection as follows: “The very fact that there is a more excellent ministry heralds the existence of a more excellent covenant. And the existence of a more excellent covenant renders the previously operating covenant (or economy of the covenant) as defunct.
This ministry and its corresponding covenant, is however, not only superior; it is also efficacious (9:1-23). Christ ministry is efficacious (1-14); the corresponding covenant is also efficacious (15-23). The perduring problem with the ministry of bulls and goats is unmasked by the repetitive principle. The multiplicity and repetition of ceremonies proclaimed loudly that they were never wholly effective. This, however, is different in the case of Christ. The singularity and spirituality of the sacrifice of Christ proves its eternality and efficacy: “he entered in once in to the holy place having obtained eternal redemption for us” (9:12).
Lest one might think that this ministry and its corresponding covenant are superior, even efficacious, however, perhaps, another such ministry and covenant may emerge, the author next proves the finality of Christ’s ministry and covenant (9:24-10:18): “Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:26). Remember, the apostle says, he has sat down on the right hand of God “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat own on the right hand of God from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (10:12-14). Jeremiah has confirmed this when he announced the new economy and said: “‘Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.’ Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:18). This concludes the logic of the apostle’s argument: “remission” and “no more offering for sin.”
Psalm 110:4: “a Priest forever”

E. Conclusion

Firstly, the author is very concerned to bring forth out of the Scriptures, Ps 110, the revolutionary and sublime truth that it contains. He quotes Psalm 110:1 four times (1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; with Ps 110:4:) and verse 4 seven times (5:6; 6:20; 7:3,11,15,17,21).
Secondly, the movement from person, office, and administration is logical, coherent, and comprehensive. We have here the basic outline of christology and the sole focus of the book is “Christ” and the “total Christ.” The apostle moves from the exalted person of Christ to the exalted work of Christ.
Thirdly, the exposition of doctrine has, as always in the Scriptures, an applicatory Tendenz. The length of the final application, as well as the frequent interspersing of application, and their close relationship to the expository parts of the epistle prove that the doctrine of Christ is to meet the need of the hour – the hardship and temptation facing the Hebrews.
Lastly, the argument of the apostle is a radical one. It sets forth a salvation that is superior, more excellent, eternal, perfect, etc., but it is an only, unique, exclusive salvation. The reality of salvation is perfect. The line, however, is razor sharp. This is the logic of the epistle of the Hebrews. You will sense the immense force. It is torrential. This force we will examine in our next lecture.