Reflections on Hebrews and James
The New Testament teaches us how to read the Old. Hebrews and James are rich in instructions that open up the purpose and meaning of the Books of Moses.
The Unique Contribution of Hebrews
What if the Epistle to the Hebrews were not in our Bibles? Hebrews makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the purpose and meaning of the Old Testament law. In Hebrews we learn how the Aaronic priesthood and the tabernacle and sacrifices were all given to point the Jews (and everyone else) to Jesus Christ. Here we see the glory and majesty of Jesus who is the Creator of the world and the heir of all things. The writer goes on: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).
If this is true, how could anyone doubt that Jesus Christ is superior to angels and Moses? Who could doubt that Christ’s priesthood surpasses the Old Testament priesthood which was a mere shadow of His? He made a once-for-all offering for sin. This makes Him our High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses and saves us to the uttermost as we draw near to God through Him. Jesus lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:22-28). He guarantees for us a better covenant with God than the one Moses had. This covenant cannot fail or be broken. God has secured it Himself by His Son.
Why Believers Cannot Be Lost
I hope your heart thrills as mine does with the promises and declarations of the letter to the Hebrews. All this fills out the deep meaning of Jesus’ cry on the cross “it is finished” (John 19:30). God’s work to redeem all His elect people was complete. It could never be undone or reversed. It cannot fail. You, my believing friend who hear His voice and follow Him as your shepherd, cannot be lost because the Father and the Son hold you securely in their hand. Nothing and no one can snatch you away. You cannot perish. [See John 10:28-29.]
The Exhortations of James
James fills out another important truth for believers: that faith without works is dead or, to put it more positively, true faith is active. Paul makes a strong case that faith alone saves (Romans 3:21ff), but James adds that faith which saves is never without works (James 2:14-26). We are secure in Christ but we should not be complacent because of that security. James exhorts us to live out our faith by showing our love and humility toward others (like the poor, widows, orphans), in our speech and actions, in our enduring trials with patience and joy, in our seeking godly wisdom, in our dealing honestly in business, and in confessing our sins to others. He closes his letter with an exhortation to prayer and to a ministry to those who are spiritually lost (James 5:13-20). James is an exhorter, for sure, but in his exhortation he also reassures us that God gives all good things and He gives them generously whether wisdom, grace, His presence, or exaltation (James 1:5,17;4:6,8,10). And He hears and answers our prayers. Pray confidently and let the faith in your changed heart flow out in good works and wise attitudes.
This week’s reading: Leviticus 1-16.