The situation that the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews found themselves in was dire. They were starting to question if Christianity was really correct. They were becoming discouraged in their commitment. George Guthrie writes, “We see reflected in Hebrews a community of believers who were struggling against spiritual lethargy, which, if not addressed, could lead them to abandoning their Christian confession .” Internal evidence suggests that the letter was sent to Roman Jewish Christians as the Greek used suggests they were “at home in the Hellenistic world ”. The persecution going on in Rome during the late 1st century is well documented. Christianity was not a state sanctioned religion as Judaism was, and some though it may be easier to go back to Judaism to avoid persecution. The tone of the letter shows that they did not fully understand, or grasp everything that Christ had done for them . The letter does not address the group directly, but starts with salvation history. In doing so the writer is laying the foundation as to why they must stand firm and continue to meet together. The latter assumes a Judeo-Christian worldview in the sense that it is reminding the recipients of everything that God has done for their ancestors. From creation the prophets, and to Christ everything is laid out to show that God has fulfilled his promises throughout history.
People today can draw many of the same lessons from the letter as the recipients did. In some parts of the world persecution is extreme, and readers of the letter can draw encouragement and hope in that this has been the plight of Christians since the beginning. For those of us in the United States in tells us to continue to grow in our faith and to not get complacent. The very real issue of apostasy is discussed and this is an issue that churches today are dealing with. We can apply the principles in the letter to defend the faith, look at examples of others who have endured, and to remind us of the tragedy of someone falling from the faith. It is a reminder for the layman and the minister to endure, and make the commitment to become a better disciple.
1. Guthrie, George H. The NIV Application Commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 21.
2. Cockerill, Gareth L. The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 16.
3. Ibid, 16.
4. Guthrie, George H. The NIV Application Commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 21.