I wish I had this book by me when I preached my first sermon, 55 years ago! As always with Stuart Olyott’s works, this one is crammed with solid biblical teaching. It is written in a simple, clear way, without any wasted words or unnecessary padding. Instead we are presented with an easy-to-understand exposition which explains the epistle and has many exhortations applying its teaching to our own situation.
The first chapter outlines the teaching and purpose of Hebrews in a way that stimulates us to give praise to God. We can see what an excellent teacher Stuart is by the way he explains the cultural and historical setting of this letter.
I have often taught that it is difficult to understand the meaning of Hebrews without knowing the details of Leviticus. Stuart Olyott goes much further. He says that Hebrews not only helps us to understand Leviticus, but is ‘the best commentary on the [whole of the] Old Testament that has ever been written’ (p.6).
He believes that Paul is the most likely author, but he does not waste words debating this. He explains that Hebrews was written because some second generation Christians were wondering whether they ought to return to Judaism. Their faith was like a fire that had been dampened down, but the teaching given by the apostle is fuel that causes it to burst into flame once again (p.4).
I especially liked the way that each chapter ends with a practical and spiritual exhortation to place the Lord at the centre of our lives. An example of this is found at the end of his section on Hebrews 7:1-29.
There he writes, ‘With Jesus Christ as my high priest, there will never be an occasion when I approach God but find that I have been turned away’ (p.87). And, at the end of his chapter on Hebrews 9:14-28, he writes, ‘We are going to heaven! Christ is coming to take us there, but no one will get there without him. Those, like the Hebrews, who are thinking of walking out on him, would do well to remember this’ (p. 113).
This is a helpful commentary on Hebrews, but it also demonstrates how we can unlock the teaching of any part of the Scriptures. If your faith is beginning to flag with the pressures of life do not borrow this book. Instead buy and keep it. You will dip into it time and again, and it (along with the Bible) will warm your heart and soul.