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July 6, 2011 / Daniel

The situation behind the book of Hebrews

Runner - Brighton Marathon 2011

Image by Brighton photographer via Flickr

Awhile back, I preached a message on Hebrews 10:19-25. Here’s how I understand the situation that prompted the mysterious book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews was written to a church in crisis.   A church with a dilemma. This church was most likely a pretty small church made-up of twenty-to-thirty people. Not a very big group by today’s standards.

Yet this church had been through a lot. Most of its members had been Christians for a long time.  Many of these people, in their younger years, had faced persecution for Jesus Christ (10:32).  They had their property taken away. They had friends who had been thrown in prison. Some of them had received beatings. Just for following Jesus and being His disciples.

But now several years have passed. And the threat of persecution went away.  They started to relaxed.   They started to get more comfortable.

And then it came back.  Only this time, the threat was much worse.  Things were more intense.  And so even though no one from their church had yet to die for the faith, they knew that martyrdom was a very real possibility (12:4).

This was also a church with a Jewish heritage.  Most of the members still had Jewish friends and family members, who rejected Jesus Christ.  These friends and family members would pressure them.  They would challenge them and say, “Why do you still believe in Jesus?  He was executed as a criminal! Why would anyone want to believe in a crucified criminal?”

The pressure was near overwhelming! It’s not surprising that a few members in the community had left the church.  Not to go to a different church. But because they just couldn’t deal with the pressure. They didn’t want to be persecuted.  It wasn’t fun anymore.

Here’s the choice that people in this church were facing.  On the one hand, they could quit. They could give up. Say enough with this Jesus thing. Leave the Christian community.  Go back to Judaism.   Then the threat of persecution would just magically go away.  Or they could keep on believing in Jesus. They could continue to embrace the Christian community. And as a result, continue to face persecution.

What would you tell someone in that situation? What could you say to help them to continue to believe Jesus? Have you ever had a friend who’s wrestling with some serious doubts about the faith?

As a youth pastor, I’ve spoken with several young people over the years who grew up in church, went through Awana, learned all the right Bible verses, knew all the right things to say, and then they go to college. And their faith hits a brick wall.  Everything that they ever heard growing up is challenged by a professor or by a roommate. And now they just don’t know what to think. What do you tell someone like that?

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