Saturday, August 24, 2013

Who Were the Recipients of the Book of Hebrews?

Just like the author of the book of Hebrews the exact recipients are not actually known; so all we can do is speculate and attempt to make intelligent guesses. Cockerill acknowledges that, “The members of the congregation to which Hebrews is addressed were obviously well versed in the OT and had been followers of Jesus for some time (2:1-4; 5:11-14).”[1] When paying close attention to the text we realize that the recipients of Hebrews were becoming very weary in their daily living due to the persecution that they were experiencing. Pretty much every commentator believes that this work is written not to a large church, but to a small home church possibly located in Rome[2]. There are some who feel that it may be written still to a home church but in Palestine, Ephesus or even Corinth.
            We have no clear way of knowing if those in the congregation were Jewish Christians or Gentile believers. Either way they were still facing some pretty harsh troubles. According to George Guthrie, “…Nero’s rising threat to the church accounts for the feat of death and the waning of commitment indicated in Hebrews.”[3] Not only were these believers facing all of these things from the Roman government they also had to deal with consistently public  harassment, imprisonment, and the confiscation of property, but not to the point of being martyred.[4] The letter exhorts them to trust in the great High Priest whom they have in heaven in the form of Jesus Christ. 
            The basic worldview of the letter to the Hebrews is one the is Christocentric, meaning that the way they see the world should ultimately be through Christ and what has been accomplished for us. Just as the recipients of Hebrews were becoming anxious and growing weary we have to remember that there is no trial we cannot face with Christ on our side. Cockerill adds, “This High Priest is also the “Pioneer” (12:2) through whom they can be certain of entering God’s future promised “rest,” the eternal “City” that has always been the destiny of the people of God (11:8-10, 13-16; 12:22-24).”[5] We can apply this to our lives by understanding that we have someone who stands before the Father to plead on our behalf; while knowing that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and by being such should be honored by us as his people living honorable and sacrificial lives.

[1] Gareth Lee  Cockerill,. The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Edermans Publishing Co., 2012)16.

[2] George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary-Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998)21.
[3] Ibid., 22-23.
[4] Cockerill. Hebrews., 17.
[5] Ibid., 17.

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