And that brings us to:
H E B R E W S
The New Testament can be divided into the following categories:
The Gospels (4 books – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
History (1 book – Acts)
The Pauline Epistles (13 books – Romans – Philemon)
The General Epistles (8 books – Hebrews – Jude)
The Revelation (1-book – Revelation)
The term “General Epistles” is used to identify letters intended for widespread circulation among Christians rather than letters delivered originally to a specific church or individual.
The book of Hebrews is not included in the Pauline Epistles list because the author is unknown. There are many who believe that Paul wrote this very important part of our New Testaments, but his name is nowhere assigned to this work in the book itself. The KJV adds, without justification,“The Epistle of Paul,” to the title of this book. That title is not found in the oldest manuscripts. It is not necessary for an apostle’s name to be attached to an epistle to prove that it is inspired. The content of this epistle proves that it is inspired. This is an extremely important part of the New Testament. It was clearly written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. because of the nature of this book this event would have certainly been mentioned if it had already taken place.
It is called the “Book of Hebrews” because it is clearly addressed to Jewish Christians of the first century. The context of the book make it clear that the recipients of this book had been converted to Christ some time ago (Heb. 3:1, 12; 6:9), and yet they were immature in the Faith (Heb. 5:11-14), after their conversion they had endured suffering for Christ (Heb. 10:32-34), and as a result of their suffering they were now growing weary (Heb. 10:35-38), they were in danger of apostasy (falling away)(Heb. 3:12-12).
The theme of the book of Hebrews is the superiority of Jesus and the New Covenant over the Jewish system under the Old Covenant.
After the church was established on Pentecost the church grew by leaps and bounds among the Jewish community. For about ten years the church was comprised almost exclusively of Jews. Persecution then came upon the church which caused Jewish Christians to be spread all over the world (Acts 8). The tone in the book of Hebrews indicates that by the writing of this book (my guess is in the 60’s A.D.) the Jewish Christians were beginning to hide their Christian beliefs and practices to avoid persecution. When Nero began to persecute the church Jews were spared persecution if they were practicing Judaism. Evidently some Jewish Christians were hiding behind the practice of Judaism to avoid persecution.
Hebrews was written to demonstrate that it is impossible to be justified with God in a religion, even a previously God given religion, if it does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Messiah and obey Him. Speaking of Jesus the Hebrew writer said:
9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,
Important teachings in Hebrews include: The doctrine of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, The Biblical significance of blood Sacrifice, The wages of Sin, The concept of Atonement, the value of studying the Old Testament today.
The Hebrew writer begins by showing the supremacy of Christ over all that the Old Covenant has to offer, His Priesthood is superior to the order of Melchizedek and Aaron, Christ performs the role of priest from His heavenly sanctuary with a better sacrifice for sin, therefore Christians have very special privileges before God which can be forfeited by apostasy. Hebrews ends with a call to commitment to Christ. This book is one of the most eloquent and systematic defenses of Christianity ever written.
And that bring us to:
J A M E S
James is one of the most practical and needed New Testament books for a Twenty-First Christian to study today. It contains a stinging rebuke of wordiness that our world needs to hear:
4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
The author of this book was James, the Lord’s brother. Although James did not believe in Jesus’ claims about His Messiahship early in His ministry (John 7:3-5) , Jesus appeared to James after his resurrection and thereby removed his doubts (1 Cor. 15:7, Acts. 12:17). James because a leader in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13ff). Paul referred to him as one of the “pillars” of the church at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9).
The recipients of this book were:
1:1 ¶ James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
The reference to the 12 tribes does not mean that James is writing exclusively to Jewish Christians only. In the New Testament the 12 Tribes represents all of God’s people in a covenant relationship to Him in His church. Consider Paul’s view of Israel in Galatians:
16* And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
The “Israel of God” today is the church of Christ which is comprised of both Jew and Gentile, those who have been obedient to God and have been added to His church.
Many scholars believe that this is one of the earliest books of the New Testament, likely written about
Important teachings in James include: The purpose of Trials, how to gain Patience, the acquisition of Wisdom, Dealing with Riches and Temptation, warnings about the Tongue, Pure Religion, Faith and Works, warnings against Worldliness.
James begins by telling the Jewish Christians who are scattered because of persecution that their trials will accomplish something good in their lives. Perseverance is the way to overcome, God blesses those who endure, when temptation comes it is not from God, while the Christians may be tempted in many ways a correct response is to accept the Word of God and demonstrate one’s faith by his works.