The New Testament documents indicate exegesis was the primary method of doing theology in the early church. This is no more clearly evidenced than with the author of Hebrews.
For him, Psalm 110:1, 4 serve as the “text” which he will, with the help of other Old Testament texts, expound theologically and apply to his hearers.
From Psalm 110:1, 4, the author identifies Jesus as Son, High Priest and King. As Son, Jesus shares in the identity of God; as High Priest, he atones for sin; as Lord and King, Jesus reigns from the throne of God.
A. M. Fairbairn once remarked:
“He can be no theologian who is not first a philologian.”
Biblical theology must be the foundation for systematic theology and exegesis is the foundation of biblical theology.
The author of Hebrews is first and foremost an exegete before he is a biblical theologian. His theology is predicated on his exegesis of Old Testament texts. He brings exegesis into the service of theology as an exegetical theologian and he brings both into the service of preaching and thus into the service of the church as a preacher par excellence. He reads the Old Testament wearing Christological glasses just as Jesus instructed the disciples on the road to Emmaus to do in Luke 24.
Hebrews is at heart a pastoral document where the author attempts to persuade his readers to a particular course of action.
The book of Hebrews is about Jesus the Son who becomes our High Priest and then becomes king when he sits upon the throne of God in fulfillment of Ps 110:1,4.
Christology is intertwined with Eschatology and applied pastorally to a congregation facing discouragement and spiritual drift due to persecution and failure to press on spiritually by means of obedience to the Word of God.
The value of Hebrews to the church cannot be overestimated. Its theological potency in revelation, christology and eschatology contribute to the church’s theological well-being in an age when doctrinal orthodoxy, especially in the areas of revelation and christology, is assailed.
Hermeneutically, the use of the Old Testament by New Testament authors binds the two testaments together christologically in a way that the church today needs to rediscover. No New Testament writer has done this anymore masterfully than the author of Hebrews.
Pastorally, this epistle teaches us that life’s problems internal and external can only be met and solved by clear thinking about Christ and his finished work of atonement. Persecution is to be endured by Christians who are grounded in their understanding of the person and work of Christ. Spiritual progress to maturity is grounded in faithfulness to Jesus and in ongoing daily dependence on the living Christ as our intercessor.
Hebrews is one of the most important books in the New Testament for its contribution to the nature, theology and practice of preaching. It is itself a first century sermon. As an exposition of Ps 110:1,4, it is a biblical text-driven sermon. Its application to the church is drawn from its exposition of Old Testament texts.
Hebrews is an example of doctrinal preaching as well in that its author teases out doctrinal insight from exegesis and application of Old Testament texts.
It is also an example of pastoral preaching that addresses the needs of the local church by satisfying exposition, exhortation and encouragement.
The problem with much of contemporary preaching is its aversion to exposition. Everything is application focused. Application cannot be authoritative unless it is based on exposition of the Word. The author of Hebrews knew this only too well. We would be wise to pay heed to him and to his approach.
He was not only a capable theologian but a creative preacher. His many uses of rhetorical features with the intent of turning the ear into an eye illustrate as much. As Lane says, “here is first century exegesis in the service of preaching”
We who preach should learn from this great expositor how to bring exegesis to bear on a text of Scripture and then apply its meaning to the church. In Hebrews one finds all the ingredients necessary for solid expositional preaching: careful but creative exegesis, theological reflection and reasoning, a balance of exhortation and encouragement, pungent illustration of truth, practical application, all creatively constructed into a masterful sermon that makes use of rhetorical techniques for maximum effect on the hearers.
When it comes to Hebrews and my response to it, F. W. Boreham, the great Australian Baptist pastor and wordsmith, said it best:
“Other people may do as they will; but, for myself, I am going to rest all my insufficiency and inefficiency on His finished and perfect Saviourhood, leaving Him to complete my incompleteness in the world in which He reigns supreme.”
 W. L. Lane, “Preaching and Exegesis in the First Century: Hebrews,” in Sharing Heaven’s Music – the Heart of Christian Preaching: Essays in Honor of James Earl Massey, ed. B. Callen (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 91.
 F. W. Boreham, Cliffs of Opal (London: Epworth Press, 1948), 31.
September 22, 2022