This article is part of the Why Study the Book? series.
How Should We Understand the Bible?
The Bible is a complicated book.
It is a book containing sixty-six books, which are divided into two books (or testaments). You open its pages and find history, poetry, lament, and letters. Accounts of people and events recorded from different authors, in different times, and in different cultures. And when the majority of Americans think that “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse, it only complicates things further.
As a pastor, my fear is that, even if the people in our churches know some Bible stories, they’re often still missing the Bible’s story.
This is why the book of Hebrews makes a unique contribution to the canon of Scripture. Hebrews shows us that the Bible is not a collection of unrelated stories, but is rather one unified story—the story of redemption through Jesus Christ. Simply put, the book of Hebrews helps us unlock the glorious tapestry of God’s progressive revelation. Hebrews helps us unfold the mystery of seeing Jesus Christ throughout the Old Testament.
Hebrews helps us unfold the mystery of seeing Jesus Christ throughout the Old Testament.
A Key to Understanding the Bible
Hebrews contains thirty-five direct quotations from the Old Testament, along with many allusions and references. With the Old Testament background in mind, the author argues that God’s glory and redemptive plan are finally and most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. In fact, the central motif of Hebrews is “Jesus Christ is better” (the words “better,” “more,” and “greater” appear a total of twenty-five times). I would argue that the glory of God as revealed in Jesus Christ is the gravitational center of the book of Hebrews. When one understands this, things become less complicated and much easier to understand.
In Christ, we see the fulfillment of all the Old Testament hopes and promises, ushering in the long-awaited new covenant age. Throughout Hebrews, we see the superiority of Jesus Christ above all things. Jesus is superior to angelic beings (1:5–2:18). Jesus is superior to Moses (3:1–4:13). Jesus is the superior High Priest (4:14–5:10; 7:1–8:13). Jesus is the superior sacrifice (9:1–10:18).
The Bible is one great story—the story of Jesus. If you don't understand this central truth, you'll miss the point of the Bible.
Now that We Understand, Let Us Respond!
God has spoken. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways” God spoke to his people (Heb. 1:1). But now, in these last days, God has conclusively spoken through Jesus—his beloved Son, the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the world (vv. 2–3), and an exact image of the Father (v. 3). This is glorious theology that changes everything.
The goal of theology is not to grow in abstract knowledge of God, but to better understand what God is doing in history in a way that seeks to join him on his mission through the power of the Spirit.
The author of Hebrews helps us stay focused on how the good news of Jesus Christ leads us to mission, which is a crucial aspect of how we apply the Bible to our lives. The stark warning passages of Hebrews remind us of the call to live faithful and fruitful lives for the glory of God (2:1–4; 3:7–19; 5:11–6:12; 10:26–39; 12:25–29). Central to our endurance in the faith is understanding—understanding that comes from seeing and savoring Jesus Christ as supreme above all things (10:19-12:29).
In the end, we see that the strength of our faith is rooted in the object of our faith. The good news is that God helps those who cannot help themselves. Throughout Hebrews, readers are called to respond to the grace of God in worship, and this call is bolstered by the author’s encouraging words, firm warnings, and contrasting examples. It’s not so complicated after all.
The unfolding storyline of the Bible is that the eternal kingdom of God is a kingdom that cannot be shaken, because it’s rooted in Jesus Christ, who holds all things together.