The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote to mostly Jewish believers and refers to them as the brethren who were made up of both the brothers and sisters in Christ (Heb. 3:1, 12-13; 10:19; 13:22). The writer of Hebrews wrote to encourage the Jewish brethren who were suffering persecution whose faith had been shaken to continue to stand in the faith, endure, and continue on in the faith. Due to the pressure of the persecution the Jewish brethren were suffering they were struggling with doubt concerning the faith. Therefore, many Jewish believers were vacillating or wavering between continuing in the faith and leaving the faith to return to Judaism.
The writer addresses the brethren in Hebrews 3:1 saying, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling”. The writer goes on to say to the brethren in Hebrews 3:12, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end”. The writer of Hebrews told the brethren to “exhort one another daily”. As believing brethren, we are called to exhort one another daily, this is the “Priesthood of All Believers” in actual practice. The writer of Hebrews was not writing to a bishop, elder, overseer, priest, pastor, or a building, he was writing to the believers or the brethren who were responsible for ministering to one another.
The writer of Hebrews then address the brethren concerning their spiritual immaturity stating in Heb. 5:12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” The writer is saying to the brethren by now you should be teaching others the first principles of the oracles of God, but you need someone to teach you again these basic first principles of God’s Word. The reason is not because they did not know the first principles having head knowledge and being able to communicate the basic principles. The reason is due to the lack of practical application or having experience by living them out in their lives.
The writer says, “you have come to need milk” and continues “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness”. The brethren were considered to be unskilled, inexperienced, or without experience due to their lack of practical application of the Word of God in their lives. Though they should have been teachers, they were without experience gained through practical application by living it out in their lives. Remember, we teach more by our example more than we do by our preaching. The writer says, those “who are of full age” were those who by reason of use, who had practice, or through their practical application were able to sense, to perceive, due to having exercised or trained themselves to discern, judge, distinguish, discriminate between that which is good and that which is evil, or had evil influence, harmful or injurious effects on their personal walk with the Lord. It was through their practical experience of loving God and man which enabled them to exhort and encourage others to love the Lord and their neighbour (Matt.22-37; Rom. 13:8-10; 14:14-19; 1 Cor. 8:1; 13:1-13; 14:1; 16:14; Gal. 5:6, 13-14; Eph. 5:1-2; Phil. 1:9; Col. 3:14; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess. 1:3; 1 Tim. 1:5; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:22; 3:10; Heb. 10:24; 13:1; James 2:8; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 4:8; 2 Pet. 1:5-7; 1 John 3:11, 14, 16-18, 23, 4:7-8, 11-12, 16, 20-21; 5:2-3; 2 John 1:5-6).
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say in Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore, (meaning-in light of the previous fact) leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection. We have already seen that they should have already been able to teach others. Now, the writer wanted to stop discussing or talking about the first principles and go on to perfection or spiritual maturity. Remember, those of full age were those who were spiritually mature who had experiential knowledge or practical experience of loving God and man. By maintaining a walk that was committed to loving God and man their obedience produced good fruit in their lives and they became an example for others to follow. Those who are spiritually immature were those who had head knowledge, but failed to walk in love toward both God and man producing thorns and briars “whose end is to be burned”.
The writer says in verse 9, “But, beloved,” speaking to the brethren, the believers both brothers and sisters in Christ. He says in Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Notice, the brethren or believers that their work and labour of love was that they ministered to the saints (those who believe or the redeemed) and do minister. It is all the brethren who ministered to each other (the saints) and are continuing to minister to them. Remember, it was the brethren who were to exhort one another daily in Hebrews 3:1, 12. It is the brethren who are to minister to one another by exhorting, admonishing, teaching, instructing, warning, and correcting one another (Rom. 15:14; 1 Cor. 14:26; 15:58; Eph. 5:19-21; Col. 3:16-17; 1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11, 14; Heb. 3:12; 6:10; 10:25; James 5:16, 19-20). This is the “Priesthood of All Believers” in action ministering to one another and to the Lord (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
One of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted passage in the Bible is Hebrews 10:19-25. It is usually used to get people to “go to church by not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”. Many believers use this passage to get people to a go to a building, to sit and listen to one man. However, if we look at this passage in context we see the writer of Hebrews speaking to the brethren or all the believers (Heb.10:19). In Hebrews 10:22, 23, 24, the Word of God says, "let us" referring to the brethren. In Hebrews 10:24, the "let us" refers to the brethren who were to "consider one another in order to stir up love and good works". It was the brethren or the believers who were to be ministering to one another. This was the "Priesthood of All Believers" in action ministering to one another without a bishop, elder, overseer, priest, or pastor to lead them. In Hebrews 10:25, the Word of God declares, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching."
It was the believers or the brethren who were to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works and were not to forsake their assembling together in order to exhort one another, and so much more as they seen the Day drawing near! The brethren or the believers participated and functioned in ministry to one another and were to do so much more as they seen the Day approaching (Rom. 15:14; 1 Cor. 14:23-33; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Pet. 5:7-11).
In the last chapter the writer says in Hebrews 13:7 “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” The Greek word used here for rule is hegeomai meaning to lead as someone would lead or guide another along an unfamiliar path. The ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. This was not a hierarchal position of title, rank, or superiority over the rest of the family of God. Older brothers in the Lord (elders) naturally surfaced over time by their example of loving God and man.
The writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 13:17, says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive”. The Greek word for obey is peitho meaning to persuade, to convince, to influence, and to win over. It means to be persuaded by or listen to; an example would be to allow your-self to be persuaded by the truth of God’s Word resulting in faith. It is not the same meaning as the Greek word hypakouo used for obey your parents. The Greek word hypakouo is used for “obedience to the faith” and “to the obedience of Christ” (Rom. 16:26; 2 Cor. 10:5).
The Greek word for rule is hegeomai the same as in Heb. 13:7, meaning to lead. The Greek word for be submissive or submit is hypeiko meaning to surrender, to yield, submitting figuratively to those who lead you and guide you. Put it all together and it would say something similar to, “Allow yourselves in be influenced and persuaded by and even won over by those who lead you, submit or yield to them as they guide you. Once again, this is a voluntary allowing ourselves to be persuaded by in voluntary surrender by yielding to those who lead by example serving one another out of love and not blind obedience to those who would speak perverse things (Acts 20:28-31; Gal. 5:13-14;1 Peter 5:1-5).
As we have seen throughout the book of Hebrews that it was written to the brethren who were to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. It was the brethren who were responsible to minister to one another exhorting one another daily and more and more as the seen the Day approaching Heb. 3:12-13; 6:10; 10: 24-25). It was the brethren who were responsible for ministering to one another as equal basis. The older brothers or elders were to tend to the flock of God which was among them by being examples to the flock not lording over the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-5). The elders or older brothers were among among the flock and were not over the flock in any way. The five-fold ministry gifts were according to function, not hierarchal positions of titles, rank, or office over other members of the household or family of God (Matt. 23:8-11).
May we examine our faith and practices and consider returning to the biblical patterns laid down by the apostles.