introduction to hebrews (2)

B. Religious self-satisfaction:

As all other religions throughout the world, the satisfaction that Judaism brought to the individual was based on the performance of the individual in reference to his obedience to religious rites and rituals. Faith could be based on one’s performance of all the religious rites and rituals that were a part of the religious conglomeration of Judaism. Judaism, therefore, was a religion of self-righteousness. It was a cultic “spiritual narcissism.”

In such a system of religion there is a sense of self-satisfaction because of one’s performance of the religion. Paul later confessed his former attitude in Judaism when he wrote to the Philippians: “Concerning the righteousness that is in law, [I was] blameless” (Ph 3:6). He had formerly boasted that he “advanced in Judaism” (Gl 1:14).

Judaism was subsequently a system of religion that allowed the participants to compete with one another in reference to who was the most righteous by keeping the most rules and works of sanctification. It was a self-fulfilling religion in that it focused the individual on his or her performance. Because it was such a religion, there was a sense of pride in one’s own religiosity. And because there was pride, there was a sense of self-assurance in one’s good deeds.

Herein was the fatal flaw of Judaism, and all similar religions. If one could boast in his own works of righteousness, then there was no need for faith (trust) in God for one’s salvation. In all performance-oriented religions, one believes that his own works of righteous deeds put God in debt to save one eternally. Since many believe that this presumption is supposedly true, then one can boast in his own performance of law and good works. One feels that he can eventually stand in judgment with a sense of accomplishment in good works

Inherent in such systems of religion is competition and intimidation, particularly intimidation. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he was intimidated (Jn 3:1,2). Peter withdrew from the Gentiles in Antioch because he was not living straightforward according to the gospel, but momentarily slipped back into his own Jewish religiosity wherein he was intimidated by those Jews who came up from Jerusalem (Gl 2:11-13). It was this system of intimidation that kept everyone in line with the religious customs of the Jews.

It was this same intimidation that evidently faced some Jewish Christians to whom the Hebrew letter was addressed. They were in the process of bowing to intimidation, and thus turning away from the gospel of King Jesus to the bondage of their former Judaism. If the apostle Peter and Jewish Christians in Antioch were intimidated by the Jewishness of the times, then what would happen if Jewish Christians in great numbers in the first century would also succumb to the same intimidation (See Gl 2:11-13)? The Hebrew writer inscribed this gospel defense in order to turn a great number of Jewish Christians from forsaking the gospel in order to return to Judaism.

[Next in series: February 5]

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