I have recently begun preaching a series through the book of Hebrews. This is not an easy undertaking, as I recognize that Hebrews is considered one of the most difficult books in the New Testament. However, it is the direction toward which I felt God leading me. The challenge of it will keep me on my toes, as I desire to be faithful to the message that God has given to His people. It is a difficult book, but is is also an amazing book. Along with the difficult passages to interpret, it also contains some of the clearest passages in Scripture on God’s preservation of His people, and on the high priestly ministry of Christ.
As I began the study, I reviewed and considered my opinion regarding the human author of Hebrews. I was prepared to spend 15 or so minutes discussing possible authors, and the reason for my own thoughts on the subject. However, as I continued studying the issue, I came to a completely different conclusion.
As you read each of the epistles, they begin with a greeting from the human author (recognizing, of course, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit resting squarely underneath each). For example:
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, -Romans 1:1
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. -James 1:1
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: -II Peter 1:1
The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. -III John 1:1
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. -Jude 1:1
Get the picture? It’s the same for each of these epistles (and most of the others). But, when we come to the epistle to the Hebrews, the pattern seems to be different:
God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Why would God see fit to change the format from other epistles, and, on top of that, not clearly indicate from whose pen these words flowed? I believe the answer is very simple: the format is the same!
The truth is that nothing in God’s Word is done arbitrarily. Many times we may not understand God’s reason for the way something is expressed, but we must come to this Book with the presupposition that it has very definite purpose and meaning. The introduction to the book of Hebrews is no different. In this case, I believe that God is simply emphasizing the fact that He wrote the book! The message is spoken clearly in the first few lines. It is simply that God hath spoken by His Son. The theme is then developed that He is better than the angels, and as such, we must pay attention to His Word. All of the warnings in this book flow from that truth. All of the exhortations given are true because He hath spoken by His Son.
Therefore, we see that the familiar pattern for the epistles has not changed. God simply emphasizes divine authorship in a special way with the opening phrases of this wonderful letter.
When I came to this realization, I put aside my opinions concerning the human author. I still have an opinion, but I no longer think it matters! I was ready to argue it, and perhaps I still will, but it is not the issue to focus on. Rather, let us remember that God wrote the book, and it is for this reason—not the supposed authorship of Paul, or Apollos, or Luke, or whoever else you may think penned it—that we must read it, study it, memorize it, mediate on it, and heed it. May God illumine us with His Holy Spirit to understand His word and obey it!