This post is a part of a series that is examining each essay in the recently published book Grace for All.
This is the final essay in the book Grace for All, and the second entry by Grant R. Osborne, the author. In this essay, Osborne notes that there are numerous questions about the book of Hebrews. We don’t know who the author was, who specifically it was written to, and where the original recipients were located. The warning passages in this book are also a topic of great debate (see some thoughts on that here).
This essay focuses on the main theme of the book, concluding:
The writer [of Hebrews] argues against a static Christianity that is content to dwell in the assurance of final inheritance. Such a faith is not faith at all; it inevitably stagnates into immaturity (5:13-14; 6:1) and leaves itself open to apostasy (6:4).
There is a famous scene from the drama The West Wing in which President Bartlett rips into Dr. Jenna Jacobs, a conservative talk show host. The dialogue is based on an actual letter that was originally addressed to Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
At a press conference, the President accuses Dr. Jacobs (and by proxy all Christians) of cherry picking the Scriptures they accept and being inconsistent in how they apply them. Specifically, the scene makes it clear that Christians are acting hypocritical for holding to some parts of the Mosaic Law (ie regarding homosexuality as a sin) and not others.
Here is one example:
… we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean – Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington Redskins still play football?
Unfortunately, this scene was cut from that episode. A young journalist steps forward.
The author of Hebrews challenges his original audience to “run the race with endurance” and to cast aside those things that will slow them down. And while we may not be tempted to return the Mosaic Law as they were, we too are called to “finish our race” by keeping the faith.
As some readers may know, when I am not reading a theology book or hanging with the family I can be found working out for an upcoming race. A race that often involves mud and obstacles. As in any race, we can start off well, but fail to reach the finish line if we become sluggish in our training and fail to keep our eyes focused on the finish line.
This truth about running races was an analogy used by Paul (1 Cor 9:24-27; 2 Tim 2:5) as well as the author of Hebrews (12:1) to describe the Christian life. Both Paul and the author of Hebrews were afraid of running the race in vain (Gal 2:2) even if they started off well (Gal 5:7) because they did not want to fail to receive what was promised (1 Cor 9:27; Heb 10:35-36). This motivated them to press on and strive to reach their goal (Philippians 3:14; Heb 4:11) so that they could reach that finish line (2 Tim 4:7) and exclaim:
I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
And they encouraged others to do the same.