Our study in Hebrews will usher us into both the Greek and Hebrew world of what it means to be “educated” , “mature”, a whole person, a “good citizen”. The author often turns to the language of competition and athletic contest to illustrate these spiritual virtues. These examples also illustrate a remarkable understanding of both Classical Greek educational values and the Hebrew family culture as he depicts the fight for maturity and salvation.
One example is the consistent language of contest and athletics in Hebrews 11-12 where we find the terms gymnasium (to train or equip) and paideia (to rear, to educate) the uses of which would have evoked memories of the Lyceum, the school founded by Aristotle about 325 years before the letter to the Hebrews was penned.
Another example is in the writers depiction of Jesus himself in Hebrews 5.
“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered
9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him
10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
” Jesus’ own process of becoming qualified to serve as the perfect high priest, a process of formative education in which “he learned; μανθάνω [emathen] obedience from the things he suffered [or ‘experienced,’ epathen]” With the words “emathen … epathen,” the author incorporates a celebrated Greek wordplay, the classical equivalent of our “no pain, no gain.” Greek teachers sought to prepare their students to embrace the difficulties—even the pains—of the process of formative discipline (paideia) that would equip them with the skills, and carve into them the virtues, that would position them to flourish in Greek culture and leave behind a praiseworthy remembrance of a life well lived.
“Discipline did not merely involve punishment for doing something wrong (with the result that learning came from trial, error, and a whooping). Educative discipline challenged students with rigorous exercises training mind, soul, and body.”
deSilva, D. A. (2012). The Letter to the Hebrews in Social-Scientific Perspective (Vol. 15, p. 11). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
Finally we read of the great contest in Hebrews 12:1-4 where the writer calls us to engage in both a race, and a wrestling match; a fight to the death again sin, even to the point of bloodshed if necessary, in ultimate imitation our Lord Himself.
The Letter to the Hebrews is filled with exhortations to strength, perseverance, struggle, discipline and intentional living so that we might victoriously “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”