Why Christian Worship Is Superior
Highlights From the Letter to the Hebrews
JEHOVAH GOD introduced superior features of worship when he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth. That was so because Jesus, the Founder of Christianity, is superior to the angels and the prophet Moses. Christ’s priesthood is of great superiority when compared to that of the Levites in ancient Israel. And Jesus’ sacrifice is far superior to that of animals offered under the Mosaic Law.
These points are made clear in the letter to the Hebrews. Apparently it was penned by the apostle Paul in Rome about 61 C.E. and sent to Hebrew believers in Judea. From early times, Greek and Asiatic Christians held that Paul was the writer, and this is supported by both the writer’s comprehensive familiarity with the Hebrew Scriptures and his use of logical development, which are typical of the apostle. He may have omitted his name because of Jewish prejudice against him and because he was known as “an apostle to the nations.” (Romans 11:13) Now let us take a closer look at the superior features of Christianity, as revealed in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews.
Christ Superior to Angels and Moses
Shown first is the superior position of God’s Son. (1:1–3:6) Angels do obeisance to him, and his kingly rule rests upon God. So we should give extraordinary attention to what was spoken by the Son. Moreover, we should remember that even though the man Jesus was lower than the angels, he was exalted above them and given dominion over the inhabited earth to come.
Jesus Christ is also superior to Moses. How so? Well, Moses was only an attendant in the Israelite house of God. However, Jehovah placed Jesus over that entire house, or congregation of God’s people.
Christians Enter God’s Rest
The apostle next points out that it is possible to enter into God’s rest. (3:7–4:13) The Israelites freed from Egyptian bondage failed to enter into it because they were disobedient and lacked faith. But we can enter into that rest if we exercise faith in God and obediently follow Christ. Then, instead of just observing a weekly Sabbath, we will daily enjoy the superior blessing of having rest from all selfish works.
Entry into God’s rest is one promise of his word, which “is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit.” It does so in that it penetrates to discern motives and attitudes, to divide between fleshly desires and mental disposition. (Compare Romans 7:25.) If our “soul,” or life as an individual, is coupled with a godly “spirit,” or disposition, we can enter into God’s rest.
Superior Priesthood and Covenant
Paul next shows the superiority of Christ’s priesthood and of the new covenant. (4:14–10:31) The sinless Jesus Christ has compassion for sinful humans because, like us, he has been tested in all respects. Moreover, God has appointed him “a priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.” Unlike Levitical high priests, Jesus possesses an indestructible life and thus needs no successors in his saving work. He does not have to offer up animal sacrifices, for he has offered up his greatly superior sinless body and has entered heaven with the value of his blood.
The new covenant, validated by Jesus’ blood, is superior to the Law covenant. Those in the new covenant have God’s laws in their hearts and enjoy forgiveness of sins. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) Gratitude for this moves them to make public declaration of their hope and to assemble with fellow believers. Unlike them, willful sinners no longer have any sacrifice for sins.
Faith Is Vital!
To benefit from the superior new covenant, we need faith. (10:32–12:29) Endurance is also needed if we are to receive what Jehovah has promised. As encouragement to endure, we have a ‘great cloud’ of pre-Christian witnesses surrounding us. Especially, however, should we consider closely Jesus’ flawless course under suffering. Any suffering that God allows to befall us may in a sense be viewed as discipline that can yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. The reliability of Jehovah’s promises should increase our desire to render sacred service to him “with godly fear and awe.”
Paul concludes with exhortations. (13:1-25) Faith should move us to display brotherly love, be hospitable, remember suffering fellow believers, hold marriage in honor, and be “content with the present things.” We should imitate the faith of those taking the lead in the congregation and should obey them. Moreover, we must avoid apostasy, bear the reproach Jesus bore, “always offer to God a sacrifice of praise,” and continue to do good. Such conduct is also among the superior features of true Christianity.
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Various Baptisms: Features of worship at Israel’s tabernacle had to do “only with foods and drinks and various baptisms.” (Hebrews 9:9, 10) These baptisms were ritual washings required by the Mosaic Law. Vessels made unclean were washed, and ceremonial cleansing included washing one’s garments and bathing. (Leviticus 11:32; 14:8, 9; 15:5) Priests bathed, and things having to do with burnt offerings were rinsed in water. (Exodus 29:4; 30:17-21; Leviticus 1:13; 2 Chronicles 4:6) But the “various baptisms” did not include the ritualistic ‘baptizing of cups, pitchers, and copper vessels’ practiced by some Jews by the time the Messiah arrived; nor does Hebrews 9:10 refer to water immersion performed by John the Baptizer or to the baptism of those symbolizing their dedication to God as Christians.—Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 7:4; Luke 3:3.