Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jesus and the sacrifices of Hebrews 10

The Law was merely a shadow because it was incapable of showing God’s perfection. According to George Guthrie, “That it constitutes a ‘shadow’ suggests that the earthly system mimics enough of the original to point God’s people to greater heavenly realities. Nevertheless, by its perpetual need for new sacrifices, it demonstrates its inadequacy.”[1] When the author of Hebrews speaks of the good things to come, he was speaking in regards to Christ coming, he was just referencing the Law and something better was coming.
Just as almost everything else the author has been saying the OT sacrifices of animals was ultimately pointing believers to the ultimate sacrifice that would be made by Jesus Christ himself once for all. These animal sacrifices would be made for the purification, but they were unable to remove sins. Guthrie informs us that, “In Hebrews 10:4, as in the Romans passage, the idea of ‘removing’ sin speaks of the burden sin placed on the worshipers conscience being lifted in a decisive, perpetually effective cleansing, which establishes one’s status before God. These animal sacrifices had to be made daily all day long for the people whether it was a pair of doves, or bulls and goats. The sacrifice Christ made was a one-time deal; his death far surpasses that of any other creature.
Guthrie list four comparisons between the Levitical priesthood and Christ high-priest status. 1) Under the law sacrifices were offered daily; In Christ it was offered once for all time. 2) The priest stood when offering the sacrifice; Jesus sat down after his work was completed. 3) Under the law multiple sacrifices were offered again and again; in Christ one sacrifice. 4) no matter how many times sacrifices were offered they never could takeaway sins; Christ accomplished perfection of those whom the sacrifice was offered.[2] Hebrews 10:14 refers to the elect those who would call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. The word speaks of new covenant people as having been made whole or complete.[3] By Jesus being the ultimate sacrifice we should not willing sin so easily. While the nation of Israel has its customs of sacrifice it costs them something, to whereas all we are asked for is obedience to the Gospel.  Even if we have never been Jews our new life that has been bought and paid for in the death of Jesus should hold more appeal to us and keep us from longing for our old way of life.

[1] George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary-Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998)326.
[2] Ibid., 328.
[3] Ibid., 329.

The Priesthood of Hebrews 8

Contrast the priesthood of Jesus with that of the priests under the old covenant as shown in Hebrews 8:1–13. In what sense is the worship of the old covenant a shadow or copy of the heavenly sanctuary? What are the differences between the ministry obtained by Christ and the ministry of earthly priests? What does the heavenly priesthood of Jesus provide that the old priesthood could not? In what sense is the old covenant becoming obsolete? How would you relate this material to Christian life today?

            This is not the authors’ first time pointing out the inadequacies of the old lifestyle his hearers used to adhere to. In chapter four he makes similar points. Richard Phillips points out that, “Earthly priest can share our suffering, but cannot transcend it; while they are able to sympathize with our weakness, they are likewise under sin’s ruthless grip.”[1] Being human without any divine nature the earthly priest have to also make a sacrifice for their own sins and it will never be completed.

            The sense in which the temple/tabernacle is a shadow or copy of the heavenly sanctuary as Guthrie says, “The old covenant tabernacle[2], sanctioned as it was by God, can only be seen as an imperfect copy of the real thing, since human beings constructed it.” Phillips goes even farther when he says, “Verse 3 reminds us that a priest must have a sacrifice to enter the sanctuary; since Jesus is in the true sanctuary of heaven his perfect sacrifice has been received and accepted so as perfectly to establish his priestly ministry.”[3]

            Something of interest can be found in verse one when the author makes a simple statement of Christ being seated. There is a direct contrast here between Christ and the Levitical priesthood that never sat down during their duty, because there were no seats and they were not invited to do such. [4]When Christ sits down it shows how he has completed the work that has been set before him and no longer has to make continual sacrifices the same way earthly priest had to. With Christ coming and fulfilling the old covenant he establishes the new and the old is no longer needed, therefore becoming obsolete. Guthrie says it like this, “Thus here in Hebrews 8:13 the writer speaks of the old covenant as having gotten beyond its time of usefulness. When he states that “what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear,” he speaks of the first covenants complete demise as inevitable.”[5]

            This material can be related to the Christian life today in many different forms. We can examine it and understand that we have come from a system that was originally performed by men and could have been considered performance based.  However, we have a priest who also speaks on our behalf because he was our perfect sacrifice. By him being our propitiation we can receive that forgiveness and live our lives holy unto him.

[1] Richard D.Phillips, Hebrews: Reformed Expository Commentary. (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2006)268.
[2] George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary-Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998)280.
[3] Phillips, Hebrews., 268.
[4] Ibid., 270.
[5] Guthrie. Hebrews., 282.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A look at Messiah in the Psalms

This work by Richard P. Belcher Jr. has to be one of the best works this author has read in a very long while. He treats the Scripture with an awe and respect that sometimes can seem to be lacking in Christian commentator circles.  One aspect that is highly appreciated about this work is that while its used on a seminarian level, it is still accessible to the average reader.
Belcher has an approach that many people may have never even thought to consider; after he lays out the first several introductory chapters he gets in to the wealth of knowledge of interpretation he has.  He spends the first three chapters covering interpretive issues, and different approaches to messianic psalms, the third chapter focuses primarily on the Christological approach to the Psalms. For those of us new to this method of reading the Psalms Belcher opens up a whole new world to us,; he uses chapters four through six to show how Christ can be seen even when not directly pointed to. He calls these psalms, psalms of orientation, disorientation and new orientation.
After teaching the reader how to see Christ in words they may have never thought of, he takes the concluding three chapters of the book (like a good Presbyterian with a three point sermon) and shows the reader where Christ is spoken directly of.  Chapter seven is about the royal psalms that speak of the king, and the ultimate king Jesus. The eighth chapter is what everyone has been waiting for, the direct messianic psalms that leave no question whether or not Jesus is meant to be revealed or heard in the psalm. In the final chapter everything is tied together and we can now understand how Christ can be found in the Psalms even when there seems to be no allusion to him.
Before the reader leaves the first chapter, he has been encouraged to read the psalms not just looking for Jesus but in doing proper exegesis. It is important to remember that the way the Psalms are found are not how they were written, because the Psalms of Moses would come long before the Psalms of David. Belcher says, “The structure of the Psalms has significance for the meaning of the individual psalms and reflects the concerns of those who edited the Psalter.”[1]
In chapter two he argues against the thought that none of the Psalms could be messianic which is a view some have taken. He argues, “The view that none of the psalms are Messianic would seem to run into a problem because the New Testament looks back to the psalms and understands them as being fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.”[2] While Belcher says, “The New Testament implies that all Psalms have a relationship to Jesus Christ.”[3] There are other scholars who would say that not every Psalm directly or even indirectly points to Jesus. Craig Broyles for example says that Psalm 88 complains of life long suffering and would be inappropriate to Jesus.[4]
If all a person does is take a casual glance at the table of contents they would be confused reading about orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. Upon reading the actual material it was easier to understand while it could still possibly use better categorization. One of his strongest chapters was on the Royal Psalms as they are commonly referred to. It was in this section that his writing truly began to flourish and shine especially his commentary on Psalm 45.
Analysis of Psalm 45
When teaching upon this Psalm this side of the cross, I can see no way not to preach it with a typological emphasis. According to Willem A. VanGemeren, “Because of the theological significance of the wedding and the Davidic king within God’s order of life in Israel and Judah, the wedding song takes on typological significance.”[5] And while it is easy for the modern day reader to get caught up in the typological view, the historical context must always be kept in view. Belcher emphasizes, “Thus it would appear that this psalm is rooted in a particular, historical royal wedding.”[6]
There is one major thing that stands out in the middle of a Psalm that is focused on the king and less on God; the reference to the Lord in verse six needs a closer look. The word used here for Lord is elohim instead of Yahweh, and is part of the Elohistic Psalter.[7] There are some who try and deny that this is referenced to the Lord himself and point that this is about the Davidic king. Broyles offers us a great solution, “we should realize that once this verse is applied to Jesus Christ the son of David (as in Heb 1:8-9), the problem of human and divine identity disappears.
We should have no problem seeing the body of believers as the bride of Christ because the Apostles did not have that problem; even some of the prophets were speaking of the bride of Christ before he came. In reading of Rev 21:2 there it is noted of the change and the readying of a bride. Paul speaks to his followers and tells them, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.[8]
Analysis of Psalm 22
            How does Psalm 22 speak of the Messiah? For anyone who has read the accounts of the crucifixion the words in the very first of this psalm should sound rather familiar. David at the time of writing this psalm was going through a trial of his own. There are some scholars that will try and say there should only be messianic meaning taking from this Psalm while others will say it has both. One way the psalm can be understood is viewing the suffering of the individual in Psalm 22 as suffering a type of suffering similar to Christ’s own.[9] As we read through the rest of the psalm it should be recommended to read it as a prophecy and not a typology. A typology is more of an analogous style of understanding; while prophecy in this sense is something that points ahead to what is coming.
            If we examine verses twelve through eighteen we can see even more clearly the prophetic nature of this psalm. When we focus so much on the Christological nature of the psalm we can sometimes miss other aspects of it. For example in verse fifteen it speaks of being laid in the dust of death; Broyles points out, “The one who sapped him of life and made him vulnerable to ferocious attack is God himself.”[10] However, if   we understand this verse in light of Christ and the way he surrendered himself to the father, and that God was ultimately in control. The only thing left to consider is whether or not David knew he was writing about the end of the life of the Savior and ultimate Davidic king.
            This has been a great work to read to gain an even greater understanding of Christ. It is so easy to think that the only way to learn about Jesus is to read the NT over and over, he is on every page of the Bible even if in just a whisper. David Murray has a work out entitled Jesus on Every Page it would be an excellent compliment to this work. If you are looking for a way to enjoy the Psalms and go deeper I would recommend this book to a new believer all the way up to a seasoned veteran follower of Jesus.


Belcher Jr., Richard P. The Messiah and the Psalms. Glasgow: Mentor, 2006.
Broyles, Craig C. Understanding the Bible Commentay Series- Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.
VanGemeren, Willem A. Expositors Bible Commentary-Psalms . Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 5. 12 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.

[1] Richard P.Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms. (Glasgow: Mentor, 2006)17.
[2] Ibid., 23.
[3] Ibid., 30.
[4] Craig C.Broyles, Understanding the Bible Commentay Series- Psalms. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999)120.

[5] Willem A.VanGemeren, Expositors Bible Commentary-Psalms . Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 5. 12 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991)343.
[6] Belcher., Messiah, 129.
[7] Broyles., Psalms., 207.
[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
[9] Belcher., Messiah., 167.
[10] Broyles., Psalms., 118.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review of Four Views of the Warning Passages in Hebrews

            In the last several years, there has been a trend of books that have come out covering several different perspectives on some pretty divisive issues; baptism, eschatology and so forth. This book while called four views almost represents five views, because in Bateman’s introduction he cannot help but present his own view on the text. The work itself covers four major positions both the classical views of Arminianism (Grant R. Osborne) and Calvinism (Buist M. Fanning), along with a Wesleyan Arminian (Gareth L. Cockerill) view, and a modified reformed perspective (Randall C. Gleason).
            For each position there is a well-respected scholar who argues his position and each also has the chance to refute the other positions mentioned in the book in another short article. By the end of the book each author has offered us close to 75-100 pages of their view on these passages of Scripture.  While there are four major voices that are heard throughout this work we cannot forget about the General Editor Herbert W. Bateman, and the man who has the final word George H. Guthrie.
            Right now you may be asking yourself “What are warning passages, and why are they such a big deal?” According to Bateman “… the warning passages clearly force us to address the issue of assurance and the doctrine of eternal security…. The biblical theologians who contributed to this book believe that the recipients are true believers.”[1] These are going to be some of the major areas this review is going to be focusing upon.  While there are four views expressed in this work, it is this author’s intention to focus on the classical views.

The Classic Arminian View
            Osborne starts his discussion on the warning passages by first drawing a line in the sand in regards to the classic Arminian view verses the classic Calvinist perspective. Once he has established his a priori he moves into his understanding of some of the most controversial verses found in the NT. One topic that is of great importance to Osborne and the other authors as well is whether or not the recipients of the letter are truly followers of Christ or not. For example Osborne says, “This fits well the descriptions above; indeed, it is hard to see this language as fitting those who are members of the church but not actually saved. Such strong depictions can hardly describe such people—they must be actual believers.”[2]
            Another area he seems to concentrate on for a period of time is the greater to lesser argument that can be found throughout the book of Hebrews; he makes it a point to show the areas of similarity and difference between the OT and the NT. In one reference to these differences Osborne states, “What they are disregarding is “so great a salvation,” meaning “so much greater” than the Torah.”[3]
            The greatest concern of the book and for anyone no matter what angle you chose to look at this from is the thought of apostasy. He feels that there is the chance for those who have made a profession of faith could actually tergiversate from the faith they have claimed to be their own. According to Osborne, “While the promise remains, the danger is quit real, for some might fail to receive the promise due to unbelief.”[4] In a section from pages 111-116 he tackles what he calls the central passage of the whole argument Hebrews 6:4-8. Osborne also calls this the “strongest warning passage in Scripture.”[5] If all we had to go on was Osborne’s point of view he makes a very strong argument, however, we have other author’s to consider and that is what we will do now.
The Classic Reformed (Calvinist) View
            Even though Buist M. Fanning’s section is called the classical reformed view there would be some that may disagree, so let’s get that out in the open from the start.  There is much to be appreciated from his view and the way he approached the topic as a whole. Fanning did not address each section one piece at a time but rather he addressed it topic by topic in an effort to “synthesize” the material. Fanning’s very first sentence lets the reader know that this is not going to be an easy process, but one to be taken seriously. He says, “In most Reformed circles the warnings of Hebrews requires a “solution,” because they seem to go against our larger doctrinal stance regarding security of salvation.”[6]
            Unlike some of his counterparts in this work Fanning wants us to view the whole theology of the work, and not piece by piece; therefore forcing us to have to find ways that synthesize the material to make sense as an entire literary piece (or sermon in this case).  He says, “The warning passages in Hebrews are best approached by considering the interpretation of four or five elements or themes they all have in common.”[7]  As any first year Bible student would tell you this is a proper way to do exegesis, Fanning makes an excellent point when he says, “What is to be avoided at all cost is a firm decision about the sense of one passage or one element in isolation, which is then imposed upon all the others.”[8]
            Just as Osborne, Fanning feels that it is vital to determine the status of the audience to whom the pastor of Hebrews is writing. It is my understanding (which could be wrong) that Fanning feels that these are not true Christians. One line of argument that is made is “Jesus’ eternal priesthood is said to provide complete and lasting security for his people.”[9] It should be noted that there are some very important grammatical observations that need to be kept in mind when reading all of the warning passages.  Several of them when dealing with the falling away and apostasy are predominantly written in the third person, while the exhortations are frequently written in the first and second person.[10]Fanning in his final summation says, “…those who repudiate Christ thereby give evidence that they have never partaken in the benefits of Christ’s cleansing sacrifice….”[11]

            This work as a whole is very well executed, but is at points very in accessible to people who have no background in the original languages.  The book itself could have been much shorter had the introduction been scaled back 80 pages seems a little excessive for an introduction in my opinion. For someone working on an exegetical work on the warning passages this book could very easy be an invaluable tool. But as mentioned previously by Fanning we should not enter into this without the willingness to review all the material before making a snap judgment.
While I personally do not agree with Osborne’s view there are some things that can be taken away from his essay. Such as, “In Hebrews, in fact, there are two antidotes to apostasy: the vertical side, the confession of our hope before God; and the horizontal side, the involvement of community in the life of the individual believer.”[12]He also focuses on one specific section that speaks of the lack of motivation where the pastor ultimately calls the hearers lazy, sluggish, dull, dim witted or just plain negligent.[13]
Fanning near the beginning of his essay makes a statement that gave me a greater respect for an author whom I honestly had never heard of. He says, “In the process I want to be held accountable to handle the biblical text responsibly and to focus on the issues and not pursue personal or belittling attacks.”[14]

For me Fanning offers the best reasoning and gives us a well-rounded approach to show that just as people in a church today could be unbelievers the same was possible in the ancient church the pastor was writing to. I have no qualms in saying that I am a full five point Calvinist and in reading this work I was challenged by the different points of view, but ultimately the presentation made by Fanning was the best presented. Even though he admitted there were challenges to how his point of view worked he offered a clear and well arguable points to substantiate it. This is a work easily recommended to someone who is struggling with the topics covered: apostasy, eternal security and so much more.


Bateman, Herebert W. ed., and et. al, . Four Views on the Warining Passages in Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2007.

[1] Herebert W.Bateman IV, ed., and et. al, . Four Views on the Warining Passages in Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2007)24.

[2] Ibid., 90.
[3] Ibid., 93
[4] Ibid., 103.
[5] Ibid., 114.
[6] Ibid., 172.
[7] Ibid., 175.
[8] Ibid., 176.
[9] Ibid., 198.
[10] Ibid., 192.
[11] Ibid., 219.
[12] Ibid., 99.
[13] Ibid., 108.
[14] Ibid., 174-75.