Dr Adrian Ho
Testimony from course on Hebrews conducted by FEBC
The study of the book of Hebrews has been an interesting and enriching experience for me. Doctrinally speaking, I have always struggled to understand the book of Hebrews as it contained doctrines that were difficult to understand. After 13 lectures, I thank God for helping me to have a better grasp of its contents and most importantly, for helping me to learn new spiritual lessons.
Of the many doctrinal truths that I have learnt over the course of this study, there are three which impacted me the most. The first is that the book of Hebrews contains repeated warnings of severe judgement for those who wanted to turn away from faith in Christ and return back to Judaism. The second is that faith is required to enter into heavenly rest. And finally, that the Christ is a wonderful Saviour because He is Prophet, Priest and King.
Warning of Severe Judgement for Rejecting Christ
Until I had taken this course, I had never noticed that the book of Hebrews is replete with warnings, in particular, warning against the danger of falling away from faith in Christ. If we were to receive but one warning from the Lord, it should suffice to awake us out of our stupor. However, to be given multiple warnings within the same epistle surely speaks of a danger so imminent and dangerous that warrants repetition. It is likely that the repeated warnings were necessary because some were previously entrenched in Judaism and the pull to return to the old ways was extremely strong.
The author of the epistle (whom we believe is and internal evidence points to the Apostle Paul) cautioned his fellow Hebrew readers that judgement is certain and inescapable if they were to disregard the gospel message that they had heard that Christ was indeed the Messiah. Hebrews 2:1–3, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”
At a recent church Bible study, we were asked to consider and discuss the following question: What is the danger of being brought up in a Bible-believing church? Many of us, including myself, initially thought that it was a strange question to ask. Shouldn’t we consider it a privilege and a blessing to be in a Bible-believing church? Can there be any danger to be fed with the unadulterated Word of God by ministers who interpreted the Word of God faithfully and reverently? The answer explained by our pastor was an intriguing one. The “danger” is that if any were to reject the doctrines he has learnt and walk away from a Bible-believing church, he would be in grave spiritual danger because he is rejecting the truth. This is in contrast to a person who attended a charismatic church and walked away from that church. In the case of a person who leaves the charismatic church, there is still hope for his salvation because he has not completely rejected the truth of God. There is still a possibility that he can be saved when he is presented with the true Christ and true faith. Hebrews 10:26–27, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
When considering this point, I was reminded of the example of Billy Graham. He was a powerful evangelist who preached a pure gospel when he was young. But in his later years, he compromised and openly said that all roads of faith lead to God. During the course of the lectures, I had the chance to listen to two of Billy Graham’s gospel sermons on YouTube which he preached in the 1950s and 1960s. His messages were powerful and the gospel He presented was pure and unadulterated. He was also a convincing and captivating preacher. And so when I considered how the Apostle Paul warned of how there was no more salvation after rejecting the truth, I could not but help to think of how Billy Graham denied the Lord as the only way of salvation. I was struck by how such a person who appeared to be so firm on the gospel would turn apostate later in life. Likewise, in the book of Hebrews, there were Jewish believers who were considering to leave the Christian faith and return to Judaism. This would be a terrible tragedy as there will be no more hope after rejecting the truth. Instead, there will only be judgment awaiting and the fiery indignation of God’s wrath in hell. Hebrews 10:29, “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
Faith Is Required to Enter into Heavenly Rest
I have always found Hebrews 4 to be quite difficult to understand because of the multiple meanings of the word “rest”. Depending on the immediate context, the word “rest” could refer to either promise-land rest, Sabbath rest, or heavenly rest. The detailed explanation during the lectures has certainly been helpful. In this chapter, I was reminded of the sobering fact that so many Israelites failed to enter the promised land despite being eye-witnesses of the miracles that God had performed in Egypt. After having experienced them first-hand, one would have expected the Israelites to be filled with faith in the Almighty God. They had seen ten terrible plagues being inflicted on Egypt, walked through the Red Sea on dry land, beheld the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea waters, tasted daily manna from heaven, drunk water flowing out of a rock, walked under the shade of a cloud by day and slept under a pillar of fire by night. But yet, they hardened their hearts and tempted the Lord in the wilderness by their repeated murmurings and rebellious speech. The Scripture clearly reveals that despite the privilege of experiencing the miracles first-hand, many Israelites did not have faith. This led to their unbelief of being able to conquer the inhabitants after the evil report of the ten faithless spies at Kadesh Barnea. I therefore found the following verses below from Hebrews particularly sobering in the way it recounted the unbelief and judgment of the Israelites.
Hebrews 3:8–9, “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.” Hebrews 3:19, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 4:1, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Hebrews 4:11, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” Hebrews 4:2, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”
In similar fashion, many of the Jewish people were eye-witnesses of the miraculous deeds performed by the Lord when He was on earth. Even the arch-enemies of Christ, the Sanhedrin, could not deny the authenticity of the miracles, and so they attributed His deeds to the power of Beelzebub, the devil. Despite being the ones with the most knowledge of the Old Testament, they were the ones who orchestrated the Lord’s crucifixion. This tells us that beholding the miraculous with one’s eyes is no guarantee of one’s salvation. Neither is being filled with head knowledge of Scripture of any use except the word be obeyed in faith. This squares with what the author of the book of Hebrews reiterated in Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
The word of the resurrected Lord to doubting Thomas comes to mind. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).
Through the study of the book of Hebrews I have come to appreciate the importance of faith in a Christian’s life and obedience to the Lord. I pray that I will always have the faith to trust the Lord and His word, and not to fall after the same manner of unbelief as the Israelites in the wilderness.
Christ Is a Wonderful Saviour as Prophet, Priest and King
I found the reading assignment to read through the book The Gospels in Unison and to write a paper on “Christ as Prophet, Priest and King in the Gospels” most beneficial. Until this series of lectures, I have never read the Gospels with that perspective in mind. It made me see the life of Christ in a new light. Although it took quite some time to read through the book and to write out the assignment, it was a fruitful exercise that made me realize in a new and refreshing way how great a Saviour we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Firstly, I have come to appreciate how Christ is far greater than all the prophets, including Moses whom the Jews honoured as the greatest prophet of all. Indeed, Moses was a great prophet, for He was meekest of all men, and given the honour to speak face-to-face with God. He was faithful in all his house, as a servant, faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God to the people in the days of the Exodus. However, Christ’s glory far exceeded Moses’. Christ was son over His own house (Heb 3:6), and He speaks not as servant but as a son. The words of the Apostle John ring true when he wrote, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
I have also come to learn how Christ is the Great High Priest who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb 8:1). He has offered up His own body as the perfect sacrifice, once for all, that He might be the Mediator of a better covenant (Heb 8:6). Therefore, I am reminded that whenever I pray, the only reason why I can boldly enter into the holiest to bring my petitions before God is because of the work that Christ has accomplished. He, the Great High Priest, has consecrated a new and living way through the veil by His sacrifice. I must therefore make use of this privilege to come boldly before Almighty God and be more fervent in prayer.
Finally, I am reminded that Christ is the King-Priest and therefore as much as He is my great High Priest, He is also my King. I have to therefore submit to His sovereign will in my life and try my best to obey His laws. As King, He must increase and I as a subject must decrease. I pray that I will always be loyal and faithful to my King so that at the end of my Christian race, I may be able to stand together with the great cloud of witnesses to behold Him face to face who is the Author and Finisher of my salvation. May God help me.
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