We give credit to the apostle Paul as the choice of the Holy Spirit to inscribe the words of the Hebrew epistle. Because of his religious background, and ministry to the Gentiles, we conclude that the Spirit could have made no better choice. Paul, formerly Saul, was well seasoned in the religion of the Jews. He would eventually write the following statement in another epistle that was inscribed before the one at hand: “I advanced in Judaism above many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Gl 1:14).
Though a graduate with high honors from the school of the Pharisees, Paul experienced the frustrations of the Jewish religious heritage that had been handed to him by his forefathers and was taught to him by his professors. He eventually came to realize “that a man is not justified by works of law, but by the faith of Christ Jesus [who gave Himself for our justification]” (Gl 2:16). Paul realized that there was no power in the self-sanctifying works of a self-proclaimed righteousness that was inherent in the religion that came from his Jewish forefathers (See Rm 10:1-3). He, and thousands of other Jews like him at the time, believed in King Jesus in order that they might receive the justification that comes only through the incarnational blood of the Son of God.
A. The fifth defense of the gospel:
Before the document of Hebrews was written, two epistles had been added to the canon of Scriptures through the pen of Paul that dealt with the foundation upon which Hebrews was written. Both Romans and Galatians set forth arguments that were not only given by the inspiration of the Spirit, but were simply logical deductions of honest believers. Paul persuasively argued in these two letters that it is simply not possible for any man to live without sin in reference to any law, whether from God or man. This fact is axiomatic. It is axiomatic because its truth is self-evident. We are human, and because we are human, and weak, we cannot keep any law perfectly.
However, the religion of Judaism sought to make it so, that is, justification through perfect law-keeping. In order to accomplish this humanly impossible feat, the religious leaders of Judaism throughout the centuries were obsessed with adding legal guards around those laws that they deemed essential in order to be a faithful Jew. For example, they surrounded the Sabbath with a host of trivial rules that one must keep in order to guarantee that he or she did not break the Sabbath. In their thinking, if one kept the trivial laws, he would be guaranteed not to sin against the primary commandment of the Sabbath law. One could stumble in reference to violating the surrounding trivial rules in reference to the Sabbath, but would still be perfect in reference to the Sabbath. Unfortunately, the trivial laws (traditions) became as important as the original Sabbath law (See Mk 7:1-9).
If there were any infractions of one’s efforts to keep any ritual of Judaism, then the religious leaders embedded within their theology a system of self-sanctification. They believed that they could supposedly cleanse themselves when they were stained with sin against their added rites and rituals. The subsequent system of self-sanctification led to a religion of self-righteousness (Rm 10:1-3).
[Next in series: February 3]