Nov. 4. High Priesthood of Christ Summarized

Heb. 8:1-13

At this point in his letter, the writer to the Hebrews summarized the High Priesthood of Christ. He depicted the tabernacle and the temple as earthly types of the true tabernacle, God’s spiritual kingdom erected by God and not by man.

It consisted of the outer court with the altar of burnt offering and a bronze laver; the holy place with the table of showbread, the golden lamp stand and the altar of incense and the Most Holy containing the Ark of the Covenant.

The outer court may be described as the world and as one passes by the altar of Christ’s sacrifice and is washed in baptism at the laver, he enters the holy place, the church. Inside the holy place, the lamp stand gives the light of God’s word, the Bible; one partakes of the showbread as the body of Christ and offers up his prayers at the altar of incense.

Christ has entered the Most Holy place, heaven and is seated at the right hand of God carrying out His ministry of mediating a better covenant between God and man. At the judgment, faithful Christians will also enter the Most Holy to be with God forever.

The writer continued his explanation of the superiority of Christ to Moses by quoting a prophecy of Jeremiah which promised a new and better covenant to come. He stated, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.” The old covenant is obsolete and is superseded by the new.

Under the old covenant, man’s sins were remembered each year, but one of the promises of the new covenant allows complete forgiveness to those who obey.

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Nov. 3. Order of Melchizedek Explained; Priesthood of Christ Superior to Mosaic Priesthood

Heb. 7:1-28

Following his rebuke of the Hebrews, the writer explained Melchizedek. As Abraham was returning home following a battle with four kings who had captured his nephew Lot, he was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem [(Jerusalem) king of peace].

Melchizedek was an unusual priest in that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.” The genealogy of the Levitical Priesthood began with Levi and continued through his lineage until Christ. Melchizedek’s parents were unknown; he had no priestly parentage or genealogy; he had neither predecessors nor successors.

In keeping with the main theme of the letter to the Hebrews which explained and stressed the superiority of the gospel of Christ and His Priesthood to the Law of Moses and the priesthood of the tribe of Levi, the writer related the event at which Abraham had paid tithes to Melchizedek. He had also blessed Abraham at that time.

Since one paid tithes to someone greater than himself and was also blessed by a greater individual, Melchizedek was then shown to be superior to Abraham. Therefore, he was superior to the priestly tribe of Levi, who as descendants of Abraham also, in effect paid tithes to Melchizedek on that occasion.

The Hebrews writer concluded that since Christ was a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, if they followed Him, they would have a superior High Priest to those of the Levitical Tribe.

With the beginning of a new High Priest, it was necessary to have a change in the law. It had served its purpose of preparing the way for Christ. The Hebrews letter explained that Christians are subject to that new law instead of the old Law of Moses and its priesthood.

As Melchizedek had no priestly genealogy, also Jesus’ earthly descent was from Judah, who had no connection to the priesthood of Levi. He was prophesied to be a son of David, “a Rod from the stem of Jesse” (David’s father) who descended from Judah.

The Hebrews writer pointed out other areas of superiority of Christ’s Priesthood to that of the Old Testament. He had become a High Priest with an oath from God. No oaths had been performed for priests under the old law.

There were many high priests under the Law of Moses because of the deaths of those who served. The Priesthood of Christ will never end for He lives forever as an unchangeable Priest. He is always present to intercede to God for man.

Men continue to be sinners. The Levitical high priests were required to offer sacrifices for their own sins daily in order to properly approach God for the sins of the people. Christ, who had no sins offered Himself up once for the sins of all mankind when He was crucified on the cross. Men receive forgiveness through the saving power of that blood when they faithfully submit to baptism for the remission or cleansing of their sins.

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Nov. 2. Responsibility of new Christians to Grow

Heb. 5:12-6:20

At this point in his letter, the Hebrews writer paused in his explanation of Christ and the priesthood to criticize them for their lack of growth and maturity regarding spiritual matters. The explanation of the Priesthood of Christ as it related to Melchizedek is somewhat complicated. It was necessary to remind them of their weakness and cause them to concentrate more deeply upon these facts. They had been Christians long enough that they should have been teaching others the same things that were being explained to them at that time.

When a person is reborn as a Christian, he is a babe in Christ. He must be fed spiritual milk first and as he grows as a Christian, he becomes able to digest solid food or understand spiritual meat. The Hebrews had not advanced in their spiritual maturity beyond the need for the milk of first principles.

As a child begins elementary school, he learns “The ABCs” and how to count. It is necessary to build upon this newly acquired knowledge of the English language and mathematics and to progress to advanced application of these first principles of secular education. Likewise, according to the Hebrews writer, it is necessary for Christians to build upon their initial faith and obedience to an advanced application of these first principles to their spiritual development.

The Hebrews writer warned his readers of the dangers of turning their backs on Christ. He stated that if they fall away and completely reject Christ, they crucify the Son of God again and it is impossible for them to be renewed and be saved from their sins. They would have committed the “Unpardonable Sin.”

After warning the Hebrews of the dangers of falling away, the writer explained that he was confident that they would continue in the good works that they had done and not be guilty of rejecting their salvation. He reminded them of the oath that God, who cannot lie had sworn to Abraham regarding His promise of blessing and multiplying him. God kept that promise and He will continue to keep His promise to save his faithful Christian children. Christians have the hope of salvation through Jesus, the “High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

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Nov. 1. Jesus, Our High Priest

Heb. 4:14-5:11

The Hebrews writer used many writings and events of the Old Testament to explain the relationship between the Jewish law and Christ and His church. Probably the most profound of these is the mission of Christ as it related to the work of the High Priest.

An important aspect of the Law of Moses revolved around the regular worship of God. He required the sacrifice of various animals, fouls and grains for the sins of the people. The priests, who were descendants of the tribe of Levi, were responsible for the administration of these offerings.

God instructed the Israelites to construct a tabernacle to be used as a meeting place for worship. The tabernacle which was a physical type of the spiritual church was to be built exactly according to God’s plans and specifications. There were to be NO variations. Later, Solomon built the temple which replaced the tabernacle.

In addition to the priests who were responsible for the everyday activities of the tabernacle, there was one high priest. One of his duties was to enter the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle once each year to offer a sin offering of blood for the people’s sins.

Jesus had been referred to earlier in the letter as a High Priest who had lived as a man and could sympathize with the frailties of man. At this point in his letter the writer turned his attention to Jesus the High Priest who, “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” and is in heaven in the presence of God for us. It is the responsibility of man to accept His grace and mercy in order to receive the blessings of complete forgiveness and entrance into God’s rest. Christians can be confident of entering His rest.

The writer reminded the Hebrews of the responsibilities of the high priest under the Mosaic Law. Since the high priest was a man with the same weaknesses as other men, it was necessary for him to offer a blood sacrifice for himself prior to offering for the people. It was not necessary for Christ to offer a sacrifice for His own sins because He had none.

The office of high priest was not a political appointment nor did men assume the position. The high priests under the Law of Moses were descendants of Aaron. Their appointments were temporary and made by God. Christ was appointed by God under the New Testament to become the High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. His earthly descent was through the Tribe of Judah instead of the Tribe of Levi.

Since He had lived among men in total obedience to God, Christ was perfect to be an eternal High Priest. “He became the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”

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Oct 31. Goal of Christians: “Rest” in Heaven

Heb. 4:1-13

As God rested on the seventh day after He had created the heavens and earth and all that are in them, so shall faithful Christians have a rest at the end of their labors on this earth. The Hebrews were admonished to fear or be aware that they must remain faithful in their obedience to assure that they would not come short of that rest and be eternally lost.

“Today” is an important time in the lives of all men. The writer quoted David as he related a passage from the Psalms; “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

The present is the only time one is assured. If obedience is delayed until “tomorrow,” it could well be too late and God’s rest would be forfeited forever just as it was for the Israelites who sinned in the desert. One may think that he can “sneak into heaven under God’s radar,” but the Hebrews were informed that, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

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Oct. 30. God Demands Faithful Obedience

Heb. 3:1-19

As the writer of Hebrews continued his explanation of the superiority of Christ over Moses, he pointed out that Moses was indeed faithful as a servant in God’s house (The nation of Israel). God had given him a mission to execute and he was faithful in accomplishing that ministry. Christ, however, as a Son in His own house (the church which He built) had a greater mission and He was faithful to the Father in that work.

The Hebrews were reminded of the unfaithfulness of their fathers who were freed from Egyptian bondage many centuries earlier. They had been disobedient to God and He caused them to wander in the wilderness forty years until all but two over sixty years of age had died. He then allowed the remnant to enter His rest (Land of Canaan).

God who does not change demanded strict obedience from the Israelites in the wilderness. Christians need to be encouraged daily to remain faithful. The writer warned the Hebrews that if they hardened their hearts and departed from God, they could expect the same wrath from Him. Likewise, if they remained true to God, they would be allowed to enter the rest (heaven) that He has prepared for His children. Only those who refuse to believe and obey will be denied entrance to the heavenly home.

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Oct. 29. Christ and His Law Superior to Moses and his Law

Heb. 2:1-18

Therefore, due to the superiority of Christ and His authority over humanity and all heavenly beings, it is very important that man abides by His teachings and commands.

The author indicated that it is easy to drift with the current of sin into destruction. He cited examples of punishment against sinners during the old law and implied that one who neglects the salvation offered through the superior Gospel of Christ also has no hope of escape. God had even given miracles and special gifts to the apostles to confirm the gospel as superior to the Law of Moses.

Much detail was given to show the Hebrew Christians how Christ and His church represented the natural flow of God’s plan to replace the Law of Moses. One can understand from a careful study of the Old Testament how Moses was a type of Christ; his law represented a type of Christ’s law and that the Children of Israel (Jews) were a type of the church of Christ.

The Hebrews writer pointed out that Jesus became a little lower than the angels and came to earth and lived as a man. It was God’s plan that Christ should suffer a physical death for man. This was explained in more detail later in the letter.

Jesus came to destroy Satan and to deliver man who was captive to Satan. Those whom He sanctifies (cleans and sets apart from the world) become sons of God and brothers of Christ. Through suffering pain, humiliation and temptations as a man, He learned firsthand how to be a merciful High Priest, Judge and Savior of man.

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Oct. 28. Christ, Superior to Angels Is our Authority

Heb. 1:1-14

The writer to the Hebrews began his letter without any introduction, telling them that God had dealt with His people in various ways through the prophets in the past. That had all changed since the establishment of the church at the beginning of the “last days.” His Son, Christ had divine authority to be His Spokesman.

Christ was qualified to speak for God because He was the heir of all things; through Him God made the worlds; made in God’s image, He reflected God’s glory; gave Himself for the sins of man; and is seated at the right hand of God.

Even though angels are powerful beings as they serve in the work of God, they cannot compare to the majesty of Christ. The Hebrews writer quoted various Old Testament Scriptures as he pointed out the superiority of Christ to angels.

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Oct. 27. Letter to the Hebrews

The letter to the Hebrews was as the title suggests written to Jewish Christians. It contains many admonitions for them to accept Christ as the Messiah and His law as being superior to the Law of Moses. Christ and the church are compared/contrasted with Moses and the Children of Israel.

It is not known who authored this letter, but several individuals have been suggested as possible writers. Some of those mentioned are Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Clement, Mark, Aquila and Priscilla. Many of the writers of the second and third centuries concluded for various reasons that the author of Hebrews was the Apostle Paul. A detailed discussion of this subject is recorded in New Testament Commentary on Hebrews by R. Milligan, pp. 5-18.

Several historians have agreed that the epistle to the Hebrews was written from Rome in A.D. 63 about the time that Paul was released from prison.

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Oct. 26. Luke Writes Acts of the Apostles, History of the Church

The writer of The Acts of the Apostles (Acts) does not identify himself. As one reads Acts and Paul’s epistles, it becomes evident from various references to Luke that he indeed did write Acts. He probably wrote this account from Rome about A.D. 63.

Acts contains the events of approximately the first thirty years of the church. The question, “What must I do to be saved?” is answered. One learns how the church with the apostles guided by the Holy Spirit was able to grow rapidly even in the face of fierce persecution.

Luke began his history of the early church with Jesus being assembled with His apostles in Jerusalem shortly before His ascension on Mount Olivet. He described the events surrounding the establishment of the church on the Day of Pentecost ten days later.

As the church began a rapid growth, Luke related the preaching and miracles performed by the apostles. He described the enduring fortitude and faith of the apostles and of the newly converted Christians as they faced persecutions by the unbelievers.

One of those persecutors was Saul of Tarsus. Luke described the events that led to Saul’s conversion and how that he later became the apostle Paul, who in turn was also persecuted.

The gospel was preached first to Jews, but later Peter was sent to Cornelius, a Gentile army officer. After having the gospel explained to him, he and his household became the first Gentile converts.

A major portion of Acts centered on the travels of Paul and his companions as they went about on various missionary journeys. They were responsible for establishing a great number of churches in the various cities they visited.

Luke ended his account of Acts with Paul as a prisoner being permitted to live in his own rented house—but always chained to a guard. He said that Paul lived two years under those conditions. He had the freedom to write and to receive, “All who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”

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Oct. 25. Final Exhortations and Thanks from Paul

Phil. 4:2-23

Paul gave final exhortations to various individuals as he began to end his letter. Some were named and others were only referred to generally. He urged unity and support for the workers of the church, “Whose names are in the Book of Life.”

The Book of Life is mentioned various times in the Scriptures as containing the names of God’s children. We must conduct ourselves in a manner to assure that our names are entered and do not become blotted from that Book.

Christians have great reason to be happy. They are in the Lord and are entitled to all of the blessings and benefits of that relationship. The avenue of prayer allows them to have instant access to God for fulfilling all of their needs. Requests to God must be accompanied with thanksgiving for previous blessings.

The apostle’s concluding admonition to the Philippians was to meditate on a summary of Christian duties (Whatever things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue and praiseworthy). Corrupt thoughts defile the mind. Good thoughts make one pure. If one will follow these, he can be assured that his name will indeed remain in the Book of Life.

In addition to the gift of aid that Epaphroditus had delivered to Paul in the Roman prison, the Philippian church had aided him on other occasions. He had a special feeling of affection for the Philippians because of their faith and generosity toward him.

Paul pointed out as he thanked them that he had been in states of plenty and of need and had learned to adjust to whatever state that he was in. He said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The aid that the Philippians had sent Paul was a great blessing to him, but it was also a blessing to them. They were able to bear fruit as they participated in his work. (“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”) Their gift was “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

Paul closed his letter with personal greetings and invoked the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to all of the saints in Christ Jesus. He also sent greetings from the Christians with him in Rome, including members of Caesar’s household who had been converted to Christ.

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Oct. 24. Retiring as Christian not a Feasible Option

Phil. 3:12-4:1

The Christian life requires constant service. One cannot assume that he has completed his task as long as he is physically and mentally able to perform. Paul with all of his accomplishments stated that his work was not complete. He continued to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” In the Christian race one must not look backward at previous mistakes, losses or accomplishments, but must charge ahead toward a victorious finish.

Paul humbly encouraged the Philippians to follow his example of faithful service. He pointed out that there were those who were self-centered with their minds set on earthly things. Those false teachers had become enemies of the cross of Christ.

The citizenship of Christians is in heaven where all will receive a new spiritual body to replace the fleshly body. No one knows how the new body will appear, but it will be immortal and glorious without pain, sorrow or decay and it will be like the body of Christ.

In view of the ultimate reward in heaven, Paul urged the Philippians to remain faithful in their obedience to the Lord. It is tragic for someone to live a long faithful Christian life and in later years to fall from the faith and miss the reward.

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Oct. 23. Paul Denounces Judaizing False Teachers

Phil. 3:1-11

Paul was constantly aware of the problems caused by false teachers. The Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs, but he referred to the Judaizing teachers as dogs. He reminded the Philippians that the fleshly demands of the Jewish law were useless under the law of Christ. Spiritual circumcision was of the heart instead of the flesh as practiced by the Jews.

Jews placed a high value on the deeds of the flesh. If anyone was qualified to boast in the Jewish flesh, it was Paul. He stated that he was “circumcised the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

All of the elite fleshly qualities of an upper-class Jew with their prestige and honors were counted as garbage by Paul. They were lost as he lived the Christian life, but nothing can compare with one’s eternal salvation with Christ.

According to Paul, man cannot expect to gain eternal life through his own righteousness or that of the law of Moses. Eternal salvation is through faith in Christ which leads one to do the things that Christ has commanded even if he must suffer persecutions.

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Oct. 22. Philippians Taught Humility and Personal Responsibility

Phil. 2:1-30

As he continued his plea for unity among the Philippians, Paul appealed to their sense of humility. Christians have a common bond with God, the Father; Christ, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These are three distinct individuals, but are united as one and the Holy Spirit guided him as he wrote this letter.

Paul wrote that there is no place in a Christian’s life for selfishness and conceit. These attitudes are the very foundation of division. God is tender and compassionate. Humility causes Christians to exercise those same characteristics toward others. He urged them to seek the well-being of others instead of always demanding their own ways.

Examples are great teachers and Paul used the ultimate example of humility by reminding the Philippians of the life of Christ. Even though He was equal with God, Christ took upon himself the likeness of man and became a servant to lead man back to God. His humility and love led Him to give His life in the most shameful of deaths, on the cross for mankind.

Christ has been exalted in heaven. Every person that is living or has lived or will live in the future will bow his knee in worship at His name and will confess that He is Jesus Christ the Lord. For those who refuse to confess the name of Christ until after death, it will be too late. Their fate will have already been sealed.

Paul instructed the Philippian church to continue to obey his teaching even in his absence. He pointed out that it is the responsibility of each Christian to do the things necessary for his own salvation. No one can obey for another.

The Christian life is sometimes difficult to follow because of the temptations and persecutions that occur. Paul encouraged the Philippians to press on without complaining or questioning God. Even though the flesh may suffer, the mind or spirit must press on and shine as a light in a dark world. The final reward will come at the judgment with the salvation of the faithful. If necessary, he was ready and willing to be offered as a sacrifice for the Philippians (and all of the church).

Paul was anxious to know of the condition of the church at Philippi. Timothy was his right-hand man during his imprisonment in Rome and he was like a son in this relationship. Several years earlier, he had visited Thessalonica and Corinth for Paul. Because of his dependability, Paul determined to send him as soon as he knew more about his own fate even though he thought that he would be able to see them soon.

Paul’s later letters indicate that he was indeed released from prison in Rome and had some time to preach before being arrested again and sentenced to death in Rome.

Epaphroditus, the messenger from Philippi who had delivered their gift of aid to Paul had been deathly sick. Since he had recovered sufficiently to return home, Paul was sending him back to complete his recovery. It is highly likely that he carried this epistle with him as well.

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Oct. 21. Christian’s Life/Death Win/Win Situation

Phil. 1:19-30

Paul was confident that he would be released from prison soon and would have the opportunity to personally visit the Philippians. His mind and heart were prepared for whatever course he faced. If his life were to end, he was confident of a home in heaven away from the troubles and trials of earth. However, if he were permitted to continue to live, there would be many more opportunities to bear spiritual fruit for the Lord. He was confident that he would, indeed be released and return to Philippi to contribute to their work.

The Philippians were encouraged whether Paul returned or not, to remain faithful and united in the gospel of Christ. He urged them to be of one spirit and one mind in their faith of the gospel and not to fear persecution from their enemies.

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