- Understand the general background of Matthew, Hebrews, and Jude
- Comprehend the flow of the content of Matthew, Hebrews, and Jude
- Interact with the theology of Matthew, Hebrews, and Jude
- Review the theological considerations of Matthew, Hebrews, and Jude
Matthew was the new converts manual[ref]Craig Kenner. Matthew. Back Cover. “Drawing on its use as a teaching or discipleship manual, Craig Keener expounds Matthew as a discipleship manual for believers today.” [/ref] of the early ecclesiae teaching, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus was the new Moses for the new Israel, the ecclesiae. Hebrews showed its readers/hearers that Jesus was superior to everything and everyone. Finally, Jude told his audience that they should be aware of the consequence of false doctrine. In each of these Second Testament books, we will follow this pattern: First, we will review the book’s background. Then, we will overview its content. Finally, we will consider its theology.
Where We Are Going
A Quick Look at Matthew
A Theological Glance at Matthew
A Quick Look at Hebrews
A Theological Glance at Hebrews
A Quick Look at Jude
A Theological Glance at Jude
Ladd. New Testament Theology, pp 617-633.
During the first years after the resurrection of Jesus, thousands of new followers of Jesus were born into the ecclesiae and many new ecclesiae started. One of these was the ecclesiae in Antioch in Syria (Acts 1.19). The result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit there was that many new Jesus followers began their new life with Jesus (Acts 11.21). Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem when news arrived about the move of God in the ecclesiae at Antioch. By himself, he was not able to handle the influx of all these new followers of Jesus. He sought out Saul in his hometown of Tarsus and brought him back to Antioch to help with the task of training these new Jesus followers.
During the following years, the ecclesiae at Antioch kept bringing new people to faith in Jesus. Two decades after the birth of this ecclesiae, Matthew wrote his book to provide material for the ongoing stream of new Jesus followers. He wanted these people to understand about Jesus, the new Moses for the new Israel, the ecclesiae.
After the conclusion of his book, he furnishes a clue about his intention. He told the story of the command of Jesus: for his disciples to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them. Matthew took the teaching part of this story to heart. He produced a book to help new Jesus followers and not-so-new followers to understand who Jesus was and how to walk out their newfound faith in their Christian life.
To demonstrate to his readership that Jesus was really the new Moses for the new Israel, the ecclesiae, he used subtle but very obvious comparisons between Moses and Jesus. He told the story about the attempted murder of Jesus by killing all the infants under the age of two (Exodus 1.22 compared with Matthew 2.16). When Matthew presents Jesus teaching on the mount, it is a comparison to Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai. In Luke, Jesus delivers the same sermon on a plane. The most obvious comparison is the five teaching books in which Matthew structures his book. The outline below demonstrates how he did this. The goal of Moses in his five books: to train the children of Israel. Matthew’s goal: to train new Jesus followers.
A Quick Look At Matthew
Matthew breaks his book into five purposeful, smaller books, each beginning with a phrase similar to, “When Jesus had finished saying these things.” (Matt. 7.28, 11.1, 1053, 19.1, 26.1). As a training manual, each of Matthew’s internal books is made up of a narrative section and an instruction section. [ref]Craig Keener, Bible Background Commentary, 45.[/ref]
Birth and Infancy Matthew 1.1-2.23
It is important to have roots. Matthew provided a story of the roots for the followership of his readers. He showed the genealogy of Jesus as a display of the history of salvation for the Hebrew nation. It had its peaks and valleys and Jesus was the highest pinnacle in the nation.
He compared Jesus and Moses. Matthew provided some information that Luke does not provide, like the account of the Virgin Birth, which is one of the five great events that made up the life of Jesus. For Matthew, Jesus is the new Moses for the new Israel. He arranges his material to demonstrate how the teaching of Jesus is the replacement for the teaching of Moses.
Narrative: Invitation to Kingdom Life Matthew 3.1-4.25
The kingdom of God (his rule in one’s life) calls one to commit. Matthew’s first narrative shows Jesus proclaiming the rule of God in the lives of people through his teaching, preaching, and healing ministry.
Instruction: The Kingdom Way of Life–The Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5.1-7.29
These are three of the most powerful teaching sections in Scripture. In them, Jesus confirms for those new followers of Jesus that there is a fundamental change in life when a decision to follow him is made. He confirms how his words and works fulfill and update the Law of the First Testament (see Matthew 5.17-48). He taught about giving, prayer, fasting, planning for the future, worry, judging, and the difference between being wise or foolish.
Narrative: The Works of the Kingdom Matthew 8.1-9.38
The healing ministry of Jesus is the focus of the narrative section of Book Two. The most natural thing for Jesus to do was to bring the rule of God from heaven and demonstrate it on earth. Jesus healed leprosy, individuals who were paralyzed, a fever-stricken mother-in-law, demonized people, raised the dead, and healed a blind and dumb person. The section ends with a call for everyone to go into the world and take the same message and works of healing to those for whom the enemy had executed destruction.
Instruction: How To Have Authority Matthew 10.1-11.1
Jesus took his disciples aside and gave them the authority to do what he had just demonstrated as demonstrated by Matthew in the previous section. He gave them instructions about the topic of authority in the context of their mission.
Narrative: What the kingdom Is NOT Like Matthew 11.2-12.50
Matthew begins Book Three by telling his readership what the kingdom of God is not like. To understand what is real, one often needs to understand what is counterfeit.
Instruction: What the Kingdom Is Like: The Parables of the Kingdom Matthew 13.1-53.
Parables are pictorial ways of illustrating truth. Jesus told several parables about the kingdom/Rule of God. The Sower demonstrates how the Rule of God will grow even though Satan may be its foe. The parable of the Weeds instructed his followers about the present and future of the kingdom. When reading this section, keep in mind the idea of the kingdom/rule of God and keep asking yourself what these parables pictorially tell you about God’s rule.
Narrative: Suffering, Miracles, Conflict Matthew 13.54-17.27
This narrative section intends to show new followers of Jesus that they will suffer and have conflict in the world because they have chosen to follow Jesus. The message of the section is that it is okay to suffer and have conflict in one’s life.
Instruction: On Becoming Humble and Forgiving Matthew 18.1-35
Matthew teaches about humility and forgiveness in the midst of applying the kingdom of God to life.
Narrative: The Old Age and the Age to Come Matthew 19.1-23.39
In the final book, Matthew showed new believers how the old age and the new age will collide in the practice of Christianity. The new age of the rule of God had already begun in the works and words of Jesus.
Instruction: The Future Kingdom Matthew 24.1-25.46
Jesus did not leave new followers in darkness about the future. Matthew shares his thoughts in this final instruction section. The predominant question of the first century was no doubt the same as it is today among the followers of Jesus. How is everything going to work out? What Jesus told these first hearers, and remember Matthew wrote for these first readers, was different from what the popular belief about the coming of the Messiah was. The main thrust of this section is not to tell believers when he is returning, but to exhort them to be in a state of preparedness for his return. When Jesus will return is not disclosed in Scripture, regardless of how many newspapers one reads and so-called modern prophets assigns to prophetic fulfillment. The goal for believers is to be prepared not to know when the return of Jesus will occur.
Death, Resurrection, Final Instructions Matthew 26.1-28.20
The training manual of Matthew ends with the powerful stories about the death, resurrection and final instructions that Jesus gave his followers. These stories are profound because they are the events that secured our salvation.
A Theological Glance At Matthew
Connection to the First Testament
While not the first Second Testament book that was written, Matthew stands at the beginning of the Second Testament record as the bridge from the First to the Second. He is fond of quoting First Testament Scripture as being fulfilled in Jesus. How he used Scripture in the quote-fulfillment scheme has led modern readers to the belief that they can just pick out any First Testament passage and make it a fulfillment passage of the First found in the Second. One must remember that Matthew was inspired by the Holy Spirit. His ability to quote and designate as fulfilled was a function of inspiration. Today, we are not inspired in this sense. We do have the illumination of the Holy Spirit who will help us be open to the proper interpretation of Scripture and keep us from running headlong into a belief that would cause us harm. The fulfillment motif helps the reader understand that the Second Testament is grounded in the First Testament. It actually may be difficult to understand some of the Second Testament’s theology without having some experience with understanding the First Testament. The fulfillment motif also gives authority to the First Testament for those who are interpreting the Second Testament. It has almost become the usual practice among Jesus followers to discount large sections of the First Testament, thereby bringing its authority into question. Finally, this fulfillment motif brings meaning and continuity to salvation history. What God began after the fall of humankind now finds its fulfillment in the life and ministry of Jesus and his body, the ecclesiae.
God still demands righteousness. Matthew’s training course presented to the ecclesiae wants Jesus followers to understand this theological point. He does so by teaching about knowing and keeping the covenant. First, he told Jesus followers who they were (Matt. 5.1-16). Then, he told them what the substance of the law was. It was knowing and doing its precepts (Matt. 5.17-20). Next, he told his readers how they should keep the precepts (Matt. 5.21-6.23). Finally, he told them why followers of Jesus should live according to the covenant’s precepts (Matt. 7.1ff.).
Matthew is the only Gospel author who mentioned the ecclesiae as part of his story. Of course, others, like Paul, address letters to ecclesiae in certain geographic areas. However, Matthew mentions the ecclesiae two times. The first time (Matthew 16.13-20) is in the context of Peter’s confession which is the rock on which the church is built. The second time it is concerning discipline in the ecclesiae (Matt. 16.18). He called the ecclesiae to be a community through which the work of God can be carried out in the world.
Two sections demonstrate Matthew’s understanding of the kingdom of God, present and future. The first is the so-called kingdom parables (Matt. 13). The second is often called the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24.25)
Jesus’ teaching was centered on the kingdom of God — his rule and reign in the lives of his followers. The parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13 teach both the present and future reality of the kingdom. Five of the parables are concerned with the present reality of the kingdom which Jesus came to bring. They are the sower, the mustard seed, the leaven, the treasure, and the fine pearls. Two of the parables, the wheat and the weeds, and the net were concerned with judgment.
- The sower teaches that the kingdom has come into the world and will be received by some and rejected by others.
- The wheat and the weeds teach that at the close of the age the truth will be revealed and the results are that the unrighteous will experience the anguish of a final rejection, while the righteous will experience the radiance of being accepted by the God.
- The mustard seed teaches that the presence of the kingdom of God was small in the day of Jesus, compared to what the final future reality will be. Our present reality of the kingdom is only a partial experience of what it will be in the kingdom’s future.
- The leaven teaches that God has transforming power in society in general and in the individual.
- The treasure and the fine pearls teach that the kingdom of God is of inestimable value and should be sought over all other possessions. They differ in that one teaches that a man who stumbles into the kingdom without really searching for it, realizes what a priceless possession it is, while the fine pearls suggest that a person can actively search for it as well.
- The net teaches judgment and separation.
The kingdom parables teach us through the medium of stories what Jesus acted out in reality and fact. The kingdom has come. Satan’s time is limited. Some will accept the rule of God now, while others will reject it.
All three Synoptic Gospels record the discussion of Jesus on the Mount of Olives about the end of this age (Matt. 24:1-25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36). We will use the Mark passage, the first one recorded, as the model.
When Jesus told his disciples that the Temple would be destroyed, it caused them to ask questions about when this event would occur and how they would know it was happening. There are two questions that the disciples of Jesus asked, “When will these be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and the end of the age?” (Matt. 24.3). For the most part, Jesus answers the second question first and the first question second. Some scholarship believes that he intermingled his answers to the two questions.
When did he answer the second question: What will be the sign of your coming? He told his disciples to take heed that no one deceived them (Mark 13.5). He then described the events which would lead up to the destruction of the Temple (Mark 13.6-22). There will be persecutions (Mark 13-9-13); there will be wars and famines (Mark 13.7-8); there will be false prophets and messiahs (Mark 13.6). He ends the section by telling them to take heed and that he had told them all the events beforehand (Mark 13.23). These events are an accurate picture of the siege of the Romans on Jerusalem in AD 70 when the city and its Temple were finally destroyed. The prophetic word of Jesus to his disciples was fulfilled in the years leading up to the destruction of the Temple. Dispensational Theology would say that it is a picture of what will be fulfilled again at the close of time.
The common belief of the day was that the Temple would be destroyed only at the end of the world. That belief was theologically mistaken. “When will these things be? The second question asked by his disciples is answered in the rest of Chapter 13 in Mark. Mark pictures in Apocryphal terms a cataclysmic end to this present evil age. While speculation has been the rave in every century, the simple fact is that no one knows when Jesus will return. He even told his disciples that he didn’t know. The point of the story is that his followers should be prepared.
- Jesus is the new Moses for the New Israel, the ecclesiae.
- The ecclesiae is a new community of faith.
- There are charismatic events that draw our attention to Jesus.
- The kingdom of God is present and future.
Questions Matthew Answers
- How does the ecclesiae get trained?
- What should the ecclesiae believe about Jesus?
- What is the Christian’s relationship to the First Testament Covenant?
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- In what way does the fulfillment motif help you connect the First and Second Testaments?
- How do you think Matthew’s view of the covenant is reconciled with Paul’s view of the covenant?
- Which comes first, the community or the individual? Why?
- In what way does the brief interpretation of the Olivet Discourse help your understanding of eschatology from the perspective of the kingdom of God?
After reading this section on kingdom parables, choose any one of them and demonstrate how the parable can be contemporarily understood in light of its kingdom of God meaning.
- Jesus fulfills the hopes of the First Testament in his life and ministry.
- The death of Jesus made it possible for you to have eternal life.
- Jesus will return; Jesus followers should be alert and be ready.
Thoughts To Contemplate
- The new birth is only a beginning.
- God wants his rule to reign in the life of the ecclesiae and also in your personal life.
- Giving is built on a relationship.
- Prayer and fasting are ongoing disciplines of the Christian life.
- Give up worrying, it won’t change anything.
- It’s okay to suffer and have conflict. There is nothing wrong with you.
- Jesus is coming again, be prepared!
“Who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows,” was the epitaph of Origen, an early church leader. (One should read such a line in context)[ref] James M. Rochford. “Authorship of Hebrews,” NT Wright. The New Testament in its World. SPCK, Zondervan Academic. 2019. 712.[/ref] Several authors have held that Hebrews was written by Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Apollos, and Priscilla, to name a few. Apparently, it was written to Jewish Jewish followers who were suffering and were tempted to deny Jesus as Messiah. It was most likely an oral presentation in its original form (Hebrews 13.22 compare with Acts 13.15). These Jewish believers had been influenced by Greek philosophy. The book defends Christianity in Platonic-like thoughts like a contrast between the “real” that is heavenly and eternal with the “apparent” that is earthly and temporal. Christ is always seen as superior in the book. The author had an excellent knowledge of the Septuagint (LXX). He quotes it frequently and then provides his readers with commentary on the passage quoted. Jesus is seen as the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, He is the one who always remains the same.
A Quick Look At Hebrews
Superior to the Prophets: Hebrews 1.1-3
Jesus’ message is superior to the First Testament message.
Superior to the Angels: Hebrews 1.4-2.18
Angels are spirits who minister. Jesus is the son whose life and death rendered salvation from our sins.
Superior to Moses-Joshua: Hebrews 3.1-4.13
Moses and Joshua, held in high esteem by Jesus’ believers, were inferior to Jesus.
Superior to the Priesthood: Hebrews 4.14-7.28
The First Testament priest administered sacrifices for the atonement of Israel’s sin. Jesus was presented as the perfect High Priest.
Superior Covenant: Hebrews 8.1-10.18
The sacrificial system of the old covenant was replaced by a once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus and became a new covenant.
Superior Way is Faith: Hebrews 10.19-12.29
The faith of past heroes is recited. Believers should now turn to Jesus who is the pioneer and perfecter of the faith.
Conclusion: Hebrews 13.1-25
A Theological Glance At Hebrews
Becoming Mature Jesus Followers
The ecclesiae should become more than a school of infants. It is okay for a while to clean up messy diapers for little kids. But, sooner or later one expects a child to deposit their waste in a culturally appropriate place. It is no fun to clean up after a six, eight, or ten-year-old child. It is one thing to clean up a baby in your nursery; it is quite another thing to clean up a child who is a fourth-grader. At the beginning of our life with Jesus we will make plenty of messes, but there comes a time when one should grow beyond the fundamentals and begin to speak and act with maturity in the faith. Hebrews makes it plain that being mentally sluggish and to have spiritual apathy, i.e., be slow to learn, should not be an ongoing part of the maturing life of Jesus follower. One often hears this sluggishness raised around questions like, “Why do I need to know all that historical stuff? All I need to do is ask God and he will tell me what the Bible means.” This attitude betrays the ABC level of learning. Mature believers need to go beyond the elementary truths (Heb. 5.11-14). Having trouble reading your Bible? Could it be that the Bible you choose as your favorite is above your reading level?[ref]Jonathan Petersen. “Bible Translation Reading Levels.” [/ref]
Finality of the Death of Jesus
The finality of Jesus for purchasing salvation for humankind is the backbone of Hebrews. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus remains the same today as he was then (Heb. 13.8). Therefore, his sacrifice for our sin and his mediation between us and God is still the same. There is no other way to salvation than through Jesus.
Superiority of Jesus and Christianity
Much like Stephen and his defense before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7), the author of Hebrews wants to show that Christianity is superior to Judaism because of Jesus, the Son of God, the Great High Priest, and the author of our salvation. He stands at the peak of God’s revelation, superior to angels and to Moses (Heb. 1.1-2.9; 3.1-6). He is the reflection of God’s own glory, an exact representation. All the revelations that appeared before the time of Jesus were mere shadows of what appeared in him (Heb. 1-3).
The High Priesthood of Christ is the central theme of Hebrews. The author of this book presents Jesus as superior to every First Testament institution. There was nothing in the First Testament economy that could adequately and permanently abolish sin forever. Only the Christ Event: his virgin birth, sinless life, violent death, powerful resurrection, and majestic ascension, was where sin was dealt a death blow. To turn away from Jesus and return to Judaism would be eternal death. Jesus as the superior High Priest is contrasted to Melchizedek who was the priest of Salem (Jerusalem). Abraham had paid a tithe to Melchizedek after a successful battle. Melchizedek appeared and disappeared in the First Testament narrative rather quickly. There were no records of his life to be found. Hebrew’s author used this Scriptural silence about the birth, life, and death of Melchizedek to make an analogy about Jesus. Melchizedek is often seen as a pre-incarnate Christ. There is no support for this anywhere in Scripture. The point of the Abraham story is that Abraham saw Melchizedek as a priest who was greater than he was, so he offered a tithe (an acrotheneon which literally means “the top of the heap, the top of the pile, the pinnacle”)[ref]Acrotheneon was the first-fruits of the produce of the ground, which were taken from the top of the heap and offered to the gods; the best and choicest of the spoils of war, usually collected in a heap, Heb. 7.4[/ref] and received a blessing. Jesus is seen as a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. This would make him superior to the priesthood of Aaron. This kind of reasoning does not make sense to the modern mind but made perfect sense to the ancient mind. The ministry of the priest in the First Testament was to purify, sanctify, and perfect. The First Testament priests could not permanently provide these. The work of Jesus did provide these when he provided total perfection by a single offering of himself on the cross.
Questions Hebrews Answers
- What is the uniqueness of faith in Jesus?
- Why should you unhook from your old theological past?
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- In which area of your ecclesiae life and your personal life do you need to grow? How can you accomplish that growth?
- Why is the so-called Christ Event the central core of understanding Second Testament theology?
- Explain how Jesus, being the same today as he always has been, is theologically understood in the light of salvation, justification, and sanctification?
- Write a defense of the faith demonstrating how following Jesus is superior to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Moonies, Secularism, or any other religious cultic group.
- Being faithful to grow in Christ is paramount.
- Jesus is fully adequate to meet any need we have.
- Through Jesus, we have direct access to God.
Thought To Contemplate
- The Christ Event—the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension—has adequately dealt with sin.
Jude wanted to write an instruction manual about salvation until he discovered that those whom he had led to salvation had fallen into errors taught by false/fake teachers. Instead, he wrote a stinging assault on the fake teachers and their teaching. He did not waste words or use the modern concept of tact. He blasted away without regard for hurt feelings of the hearers or being accused of harshness. The teaching the fake instructors had embraced was eternally dangerous. His use of metaphors is some of the most vivid in Scripture. When needed to make a point, he did not hesitate to turn to nonbiblical material. He did so more than any other author in the Second Testament. He quoted passages from two noncanonical books: The Assumption of Moses (Jude 9) and First Enoch (Jude 14-15). Jude told his audience that they would do well to stand firm in what the first missionaries had taught. It was the safest place to be.
A Quick Look At Jude
Introduction: Jude 1-2
Contend for the Faith: Why? Jude 3-16
The common salvation that all followers of Jesus shared was to be the topic of Jude’s letter. However, because of the influence of false teaching which was outright heresy, he wrote to believers to hold on to the firm foundation of “the faith” and not embrace the damnable instructions of the false/fake teachers, which is summarized in Jude 4. He used illustrations from the First Testament to support his thesis (Jude 5-7), illustrations from nonbiblical material (Jude 9), additional First Testament illustrations (Jude 11), vivid metaphors (Jude 12-13); and finally another nonbiblical illustration (Jude 14-15), to demonstrate why these followers of Jesus should stand firm in what they had been taught.
Contend for the Faith: How? Jude 17-23
It is good to know why you should not embrace false teaching. But, knowing how to resist improves the chances of not continuing in deceit. Jude then turned to tell Jesus followers how to defend the faith they had been given. They should remember the teaching of the missionaries that brought them the “good news.” They should build themselves up in the most holy faith. They should pray in the Holy Spirit. They should keep themselves in the love of God, wait for mercy, be merciful, snatch away from destruction those who are close to destruction, and finally, continue to have mercy on sinners while not getting involved in their sin.
Conclusion Jude 24-25
A Theological Glance At Jude
Tolerant and Watchful
False/fake teaching was a constant enemy of the ecclesiae. When Jude writes to those who have been deceived, he does not take them through a finely tuned point-by-point discussion of the heresies they are involved in. He simply shows the results of living as the fake news teachers live. He made sure his audience knew that there was nothing new about wrongheaded attitudes about God and wrong ways of living. He pointed back to Israel, the angels, Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam, and Korah as examples of ways not to live and the judgment that followed these poor choices.
Today, it is fashionable to be tolerant of anything that calls itself Christian. Tolerance is important. However, there is a danger whenever a follower of Jesus or a community of Jesus followers are so sure of their own “sound faith” that they proceed to sit in judgment of all who differ with them, even in comparatively minor points. There are many ways to look at Christian life, and genuine Christianity finds a variety of forms of expression in today’s ecclesiae. It certainly is important not to be judgmental. We must treat those who are our brothers and sisters, whose thinking and practice are different from ours, as being different. However, it is equally important to remember that there are limits. We must realize that it is possible to refashion the gospel in such a radically cultural way that the heart is taken out of it. If we are not careful, we can reinterpret the Christian life so loosely that it ceases to be too demanding and simply degenerates into a form of living that is not indistinguishable from this present evil age. With this in mind, the theological substance of Jude’s warnings continues to have significance.
- The lifestyle of a false teacher is a dead give away that his or her teaching is wrong.
- Wrong living does not produce life.
- Being aware of the foundations of “the faith” will keep believers from stumbling.
Questions Jude Answers
- Why does the ecclesiae need to battle for its mindset?
- How does the ecclesiae battle for its theological insights?
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- How tolerant are you of others’ religious beliefs?
- In what way have you refashioned the faith so that it is easier for you to live it?
- My lifestyle should reflect the righteousness of what I believe.
- Reading literature in addition to Scripture has value.
Thought To Contemplate
- Not knowing the foundations of “the faith” will make you easy prey for false (fake/counterfeit) teaching.