The Christian-Hebrew epistles, those epistles written to believers of Hebrew origin, set themselves apart from the church epistles in that they are not written to Christians of Gentile origin. Instead, they are written to those believers who continued as legal citizens of Judea and chose to continue according to Judean law, law based, fundamentally, on the Old Testament. For this reason, the Christian-Hebrew Epistles have a distinctly Hebrew character.
The seven church epistles, Romans through II Thessalonians, are written to the church of God and are meant for every believer whether or not he or she was of Gentile or Hebrew background. As in Romans 1:7:
To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All of the Church Epistles are addressed to every believer. “To all that be in Rome” is similar to a mailing address. It is where the letter is sent, the P.O. Box, while “beloved of God” and “called saints” is to whom the application of the truths in the letter apply. On the other hand, the Christian-Hebrew epistles are not written directly to the entire church. For instance, James 1:1 shows that James is written to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad:
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
Hebrews 1:1-2 is also written to the children of those to whom the Old Testament was written:
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;
I Peter 1:1, like James, is written to the “strangers” or non-Gentiles scattered among the nations:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia
Beyond to whom these epistles are addressed, the Hebrew-Christian epistles are also connected by common topics or threads. For instance, revelation concerning Cain and Able appear in Hebrews, I John, and Jude, and truths concerning Noah appear in Hebrews, and in I, & II Peter, but these topics don’t appear in the church epistles at all. Additionally, when both the church epistles and the Christian-Hebrew epistles cover the same topics, the Christian-Hebrew epistles often reveal these truths with a distinctly Hebrew character.
The church epistles were for all, but being a first century believer from the nation of Israel also involved ties of biblical citizenship, language, kinship, history and culture. Because of this, the Christian-Hebrew epistles can teach the new realities of having Christ in terms of the legal citizenship and religious observances relevant to first century Israel. This gives those epistles written to the twelve tribes scattered abroad a distinctively Hebrew character. The Hebrew character of the Christian-Hebrew epistles flows from to whom the epistles are addressed.
For example, we can be Americans and born-again or English and born-again. Why should an American stop enjoying the American holiday of Thanksgiving simply because he or she has become a saint? In Israel, for born-again believers, the question of Holy Days or holidays was even more intense. Romans 14:5-6 explains the correct way to handle all of this in the church:
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.
Now, when an American believer enjoys Thanksgiving, hopefully he or she is also calling to remembrance the spiritual background of the holiday. In turn, the Christian-Hebrew epistles make known the spiritual reasons for the Hebrew observances of first century, and, when they do, they display magnificent New Testament truths.
One example of a distinctly Hebrew character is in the revelation of the mystery of the one body as the temple or dwelling place of God. The law of Israel was specifically related to the Old Testament promise of Jerusalem being the dwelling place, the legal mailing address, of the Most High God. During the age of the kingdom of heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ was the temple, the dwelling place of God in Israel (John 2:19-21). Even though the revelation would not be completely revealed and written down for more than a decade, on the Day of Pentecost, the born-again believers became the temple, or dwelling place of God. How, then, was a saint who was also a citizen of Israel to think of traditional temple worship?
Hebrews and I Peter, speak very plainly about the realities of Christ within in relationship to the temple. One of those realities involves access to God. In Ephesians 2:18 the great reality of our access to the Heavenly Father is made known:
For through him [Christ] we both [Jews and Gentiles] have [direct, personal, and complete] access [prosagoge] by one Spirit unto the Father.
This great equality between Jew and Gentile, slaves and free men, men and women, our individual access to God, is proclaimed in the church epistles three times. In the second, in Romans 5, it is not fully revealed, but is simply called “the grace wherein we stand”:
By whom [Christ] also we [who believe] have access [prosagoge] by faith into this grace wherein we stand…
The third proclamation, in Ephesians 3:12, of the grace of God in Christ that allows us direct access to our Father, emphasizes the complete openness or fearless boldness available to us in Christ:
In whom [Christ] we have boldness [openness and freedom of speech] and access [prosagoge] with confidence [we can trust Him with everything] by [through and because of] the faith [the completed work of believing] of him [Christ Jesus our Lord]
In each verse our access is through Christ. Ephesians 3:12 declares that we can have complete openness and confidence with God because of the Christ’s completed work of believing. We have direct access to Him, the One who moves heaven and earth. We can come to Him freely with everything in our heart and know He hears us.
In Hebrews 4:15-16 the believer’s access to the Father is also described in the context of the completed work of Jesus Christ. However, this description is given a Hebrew character, for our savior is named as the great high priest after the order of Melchisedec:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly [the adjective form of parrhesia from Eph. 3:12] unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 10:19-20 then makes known the full revelation of the believer’s access to the Father through Christ in Old Testament language:
Having therefore, brethren, boldness [parrhesia] to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
Ephesians 2:14-18 proclaims the beginning of our access to God, as Gentiles, by the demolition of the Old Testament wall of the Gentiles that separated us forever from the inner workings of the sanctuary. In this analogy the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile is broken down in Christ. However, in the Christian-Hebrew epistles that analogy is completed. Our access to the Father is compared to priestly access through the veil of the temple into the holy of holies, the innermost part of the tabernacle where the light of God dwelled on earth between the cherubim. The truth of the veil being rent from top to bottom is made known in the gospels (Mark 15:38), and the removing of the veil of Moses is made known in II Corinthians 3, but, in Hebrews 10:19-20, because of the needs of the Hebrew saints, the truth is made especially plain. Our lord’s flesh is put for the price he paid to make a new and living way for us to come before our Heavenly Father with complete confidence. Until our savior paid the price of redemption with his own flesh, the veil remained.
The accuracy of God’s word is perfect. The order of the words is perfect. The context of the scripture is perfect. The previous uses of the words in the Bible are perfect. His words are “pure words, tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6). Not one word is given by the Father that doesn’t have purpose. By God’s grace, Part II of The Hebrew Character of the Christian-Hebrew epistles will pick up with several more truths of the church as His dwelling place. These are truths revealed in the Church Epistles and in the Christian-Hebrew epistles of Hebrews and I Peter.
by Ren Manetti