The letter to the Hebrews was written to a particular church what was made up of converts from Judaism. Because they were members of a what was regarded as new religion, these Christians faced persecution from the Roman authorities and they were ostracized by the Jewish community. Life was hard and they wondered if they had made the right decision. Maybe we should abandon our faith in Jesus? That is the question that is being addressed.
Hebrews is a letter encouraging these Christians, and ourselves, to keep on keeping on.
What is this church encouraged to do and not do as they endured persecution? List out the commands to you see in verses 1 – 16.
The central theme of this letter is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law and rituals.. In verse 11 we see yet another example. How is Jesus’ crucifixion compared to the Old Testament sacrifices? Why are they encouraged to share in Jesus’ shame? What hope is held out for them? (verse 14).
Some final exhortations about leadership in the church as the letter draws to a close. Why should leaders be submitted to and prayed for?
The final prayer and blessing (verses 20-21). It is said that God the Father originates his plans, God the Son carries them out, and God the Holy Spirit supplies the power. How do you see this ‘Trinity’ pattern work itself out in this closing prayer? What is God being asked to do?
Lest we forget that this is a personal letter that has preserved for our benefit, Hebrews ends with some personal greetings.
After having spent the first half of the letter to the Romans describing the love and grace of God given to us in Jesus Christ, Paul now describes the life of love we are to live in response to God’s love.
What does it mean for us to worship in response to what God has done for us in Christ? What pattern don’t we conform to anymore? How do we live this new life?
In what ways are we called to see ourselves differently?
What image does Paul use to describe the church? Where do we, as individuals, fit into that picture? How is this a change from the way we normally see ourselves? What determines our role in the church or as Paul describes it, “the body of Christ”?
If you boiled down Jesus’ way of life or his ethical teaching it would boil down to two commands: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. If you reduced it to one word, that word would be ‘love’. Paul in these verses fleshes out for us Jesus’ vision of love. What does love look like within the church (verses 9-13)? How are we to express love to those outside the church. (verse 14-21)? Which challenges you more?
How are Christians called to relate to the governments they live under? Why? Do you think this includes corrupt and oppressive governments? Think about the government the Roman Christians lived under.
How does Paul summarize the second half of the Ten Commandments (Romans 13:9-10)? What are we to do as we wait for the return of Jesus (this is what Paul means by ‘the night is almost over the day is almost here’)? Should we spend time speculating about when Jesus is coming or is God calling us to do something else?
In a church there are going to be some people who have stronger faith and others who have weaker faith. For Paul, strong faith is related to a better understanding of Jesus, the gospel, and how it is lived out. In this chapter, those with stronger faith understood that there is no problem with eating meat or that the special holidays from Judaism no longer needed to be honored. But those of weaker faith had not yet come to that level of wisdom. So what do you do if there is a difference of opinion? How are those of strong faith to treat those of weak faith? Why?
What freedom has Paul chosen not to exercise? Why? For what purpose are we sometimes called to give up our rights and freedoms?
1 Timothy 3:14-4:10
1 Timothy is a letter from Paul to Timothy, Paul’s “son in the faith”. Timothy was a young missionary who was personally mentored by Paul. He traveled with Paul planting churches across the Roman Empire. At the time this letter was written, Timothy is now on his own. Paul continues to guide him through letters such as this one. “I am writing these instructions so that … you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household …” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
What is the foundational truth upon which the church is built? ‘He’ in verse 16 is Jesus. His appearance = Jesus’ birth. His vindication = resurrection. “Taken up in glory” = Jesus’ ascension to heaven.
What challenges will the church face? In the Roman Empire, the dominant intellectual force was the remnants of Greek philosophy. The Greeks taught the physical world was evil while the spiritual world was good. These ideas began to filter their way into the church. Since the physical world was evil, some Christian teachers taught against marriage and indulging in certain foods. These pleasures were marked as ‘worldly’ and therefore evil. Does Paul agree with the Greeks? Is the physical world good or bad? Why or why not? How does Paul compare being spiritual to physical training? How are they similar? How are they different?