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The Epistle to the Hebrews.
#1. The Theme of the Epistle.
pp. 84 87
What is the theme of the epistle to the Hebrews? A full answer would of course be
difficult to express in a sentence, but if we put our question as follows, the answer is
simpler: Does the epistle to the Hebrews deal with the salvation of the sinner, or with the
perfecting of the saint? From the careful study of the epistle we have for a long time
reached the conclusion that the salvation of the sinner is nowhere in view, but that the
apostle addresses "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling", and is concerned
throughout with the "perfecting" of the believer. Some may interpose with a reference to
Heb. 2: 3, the "so great salvation". This has not been forgotten, for we hope to prove
later that it was addressed to believers and not to unbelievers.
The great typical example whereby the apostle enforces his argument is borrowed not
from the history of Israel's redemption from Egypt, but Israel's failure to reach the land
of promise (3:, 4:). So it is with the references to Abraham: we are not referred to
Gen. 15: (the passage which supplies the epistle to the Romans with its argument for
justification by faith without works), but we are referred to Gen. 22: (Heb. 6:) where,
as James teaches, Abraham who was already justified by faith without works was
"justified by works", and "by works was faith perfected". So in Heb. 11: we read of
Abraham dwelling in tents, a sojourner, a pilgrim, and a stranger, looking for a city which
We do not lose sight of the fact that the epistle is addressed to Hebrews, and that the
peculiar teaching of the Mystery and the One Body does not form part of its doctrine.
We do not wish any reader to imagine that we teach that this epistle in its primary
interpretation belongs to the church of the dispensation of the Mystery, but we do want to
impress the great value of this epistle as an exposition of the principle that underlies the
passage in Phil. 3: which we have been, and are still, considering under the heading,
The Hope and the Prize. Because there is a unity of principle in these things, the apostle
makes no lengthy digression in Phil. 3: to explain what is involved in being "not
already perfected", and having "not already obtained", for the subject has been
exhaustively dealt with in the epistle to the Hebrews.
Certain books of the Bible seem to have been written to be the great expositions and
authority on certain doctrines. The epistle to the Romans will always be the classic on
the foundation doctrine of Justification by Faith, and we believe it will be seen that the
epistle to the Hebrews is the great classic on the question of "those things which
accompany salvation", "the better things", "the perfecting of the faith".
In The Christian for 27th April and 4th May, 1916, there appeared two articles by
J. W. Thirtle, LL.D., wherein the writer sought to show that the epistle to the Hebrews "in
very early times followed that to the Galatians". Quoting from this interesting article:--