SUSTAINING PERSEVERANCE REQUIRES:
– STABILITY IN GRACE AND FAITH
– SACRIFICES OF PRAISE AND GOOD WORKS AND
– SUBMISSION TO OUR SPIRITUAL LEADERS
This closing section of practical exhortations that center around religious duties as compared to our social obligations seems on the surface to be very random. Yet we can immediately see structure from the parallel opening and closing injunctions to pay heed to our spiritual leaders – both to those that initially led us and faithfully taught us the Word as well as to those who are currently in that role of authority and shepherding. One must view these instructions from the overall perspective of the book as a whole. These are critical components to maintaining our perseverance in the faith. They build upon the doctrinal exposition of the superiority of the New Covenant with its superior sacrifice, priesthood and sanctuary. These Jewish believers must be committed to a life of separation – of fully leaving behind the types of Levitical worship with its special dietary instructions and its system of feasts and ceremonial cleansings, in order to go outside the camp and bear the reproach of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross to provide spiritual cleansing and future access to the city of God.
Mohler: To the casual observer, this final section of Hebrews might seem somewhat disjointed, in much the same way that those who read a military briefing from World War II today might find that account disjointed. In a military briefing, a commanding officer informs troops about the battle plan, provides tactical information, makes clarifications, and gives personal instruction. Troops receiving such a briefing would certainly see the instructions as coherent, but we, being so far removed from the original situation, would find it perplexing. This is why these concluding commands in Hebrews 13 might seem disconnected to us. Hebrews 13:7-14 is a commanding officer’s last order of business with his troops. It was a word they needed to hear then, and it is a word we still need to hear now.
I. (:7-9) SUSTAINING PERSEVERANCE REQUIRES STABILITY IN GRACE AND FAITH CENTERED IN THE IMMUTABILITY OF JESUS CHRIST
A. (:7) Stability Imitates the Faith of Our Former Godly Spiritual Leaders
1. Appreciate Faithful Spiritual Leaders
a. Their Leadership
“Remember those who led you,”
Mohler: The command to “remember” is a call to look back.
b. Their Teaching
“who spoke the word of God to you;”
2. Aspire to Imitate Their Faith
a. Their Life
“and considering the result of their conduct,”
b. Their Faith
“imitate their faith.”
Kent: Present leaders are referred to in verse 17. . . It was their first leaders who had brought to these readers the word of God. They needed to remember the results of those early days, how a real work of God’s grace had been accomplished through the ministry of their faithful leaders. Eventually these leaders had passed from the scene. It need not be inferred that they had all died martyrs’ deaths, although some may have. The real importance was that all had been faithful to the end. None had wavered and given up faith in Christ. Let these readers continue imitating that steadfast example. May not even one fail to arrive at the goal.
F. F. Bruce: Those who planted this community of Christians and fostered it by the ministry of the word of God and the example of a life of faith had run the race unwavering to the end; what they had done their followers could also do. It is not necessary to suppose that they had suffered martyrdom; but like the heroes of Chapter 11 they “died in faith.”
B. (:8) Stability Centers in the Immutability of Jesus Christ
“ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.”
Why is it relevant to consider the faithful lives of our former spiritual leaders and to ground ourselves in the traditional Christian doctrine which they taught? Because of the immutability of Jesus Christ. Our spiritual walk should be consistent with theirs and our doctrine should be the same as theirs. We serve an unchanging Savior. The Old Covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant with its focus on the sacrifice of Christ and His eternal priesthood. Jesus Christ will never be replaced.
F. F. Bruce: Yet they died; they lived on in the memory of those who had known them, but they were no longer available for consultation and wise guidance as they had once been. Jesus Christ, by contrast, was always available, unchanging from year to year. . . He never needs to be replaced, and nothing can be added to His perfect work.
Leon Morris: Earthly leaders come and go, but he is always there.
1. Unchanging in His Person
Images of immutability and stability:
a. Jesus as our Anchor in the midst of any storm
– our hearts are prone to wander – set our hope completely on the promises of God about our salvation in Jesus Christ – Heb. 6:19-20 “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” We need an emotional anchor
– in terms of doctrine and truth, we are easily blown around by counterfeit teachings and the philosophy of the world – Ephes. 4:14 “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” – We need a doctrinal anchor
b. Jesus as our Rock, our fortress, our high tower, our place of refuge and protection
Herman Bavink (Dutch theologian): The doctrine of God’s immutability is of the highest significance for religion. The contrast between being and becoming marks the difference between the Creator and the creature. Every creature is continually becoming. It is changeable, constantly striving, seeks rest and satisfaction, and finds this rest in God, in him alone, for only he is pure being and no becoming. Hence, in Scripture God is often called the Rock . . .
Jesus is the Rock we can depend upon with confidence because His attributes never change – they remain the same. He continues steadfast in His love for His sheep. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. He is a rock in that sense. He continues steadfast in His goodness in His dealings with us – James 1:17 “Every good thing given and ever perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” That is because God is a steadfast Rock.
c. Jesus as our Sure Foundation, which will never be shaken
J. I. Packer: Examine God’s two disclosures of His “name” in the book of Exodus. God’s revealed “name” is, of course, more than label; it is a revelation of what He is, in relation to men. In Exodus 3, we read how God announced His name to Moses as “I am that I am” (verse 14) – a phrase of which “Yahweh” (Jehovah, “the LORD”) is, in effect, a shortened form (verse 15). This “name” is not a description of God, but simply a declaration of His self-existence, and His eternal changelessness; a reminder to mankind that He has life in Himself, and that what He is now, He is eternally. In Exodus 34, however, we read how God “proclaimed the name of the LORD” to Moses by listing the various facets of His holy character. “The LORD, the LORD (Yahweh), a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children . . .” (verses 5 ff RSV). This proclamation supplements that of Exodus 3 by telling us what in fact Yahweh is; and that of Exodus 3 supplements this by telling us that God is forever what at that moment, three thousand years ago, He told Moses that He was. God’s moral character is changeless.
2. Unchanging in His Purposes
a. The Call to Discipleship: “Deny yourself; take up your cross daily and Follow Me” –
Our Relationship to the Lord Jesus —
– Involves a call to Wholehearted Commitment – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; — Luke 10:27
– Involves a call to Holiness – “Be ye holy, for I am holy” – (1 Pet. 1:15-16)
– Involves a call to Humility – “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2) — the path of a servant is the one Jesus trod
b. The Call to Evangelism: “Follow Me and I will make you Fishers of Men”
Our Relationship to the Lost —
– must have compassion for the lost – you have to love to fish – book title: — “I’m Glad You Asked”
– must go where the fish are – look at the effort fishermen put into scoping out a good spot
– must use attractive bait – sufficiency of the Word of God
– must be patient and persevere
– must trust God for the results – look at the disciples – fished all night and caught nothing; but when Jesus told them to cast their nets into the waters again, the nets could not contain the catch; fields are white unto harvest
The message of the gospel has not changed – many false gospels out there … but only one has the power to deliver from sin and from hell
c. The Call to Security: “Fear not for I am with you”
Our Relationship to Self —
Great Commission – Go and “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
Financial security, emotional, physical, etc.
Is. 46:9-11 “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”
Packer: It is true that there is a group of texts (Gen. 6:6 f.; 1 Sam. 15:11; 2 Sam. 24:16; Jonah 3:10; Joel 2:13 f.) which speak of God as repenting. The reference in each case is to a reversal of God’s previous treatment of particular men, consequent upon their reaction to that treatment. But there is no suggestion that this reaction was not foreseen, or that it took God by surprise, and was not provided for in His eternal plan. No change in His eternal purpose is implied when He begins to deal with a man in a new way.
3. Unchanging in His Promises
a. Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, returning to enjoy the wedding feast with His beloved
1) Preparation of the Groom: John 14:1-4 “I go to prepare a place for you”
2) Preparation of the Bride: Rev. 19:7-10 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”
Is the bride getting herself prepared? Are we alert and watching?
We had better not be found to be adulterers, to be unfaithful; “Friendship with the world is enmity to God”
b. Jesus, the Faithful Judge – the one who will reward each according to what he has sown; the one who sees all; the one to whom we are accountable
The Father has committed all judgment to the Son; we don’t have to agonize over trying to get a fair shake in this life – this life is not fair; but the Righteous Judge will settle all accounts
“as a man sows, so shall he also reap” = universal harvest principle
How should we live in light of the urgency of the Judge standing at the door, ready to enter His courtroom?
c. Jesus, the Reigning King – just as He fulfilled in every detail, the promises of His First Coming as the precious Lamb of God; we look forward to Him returning as the reigning King over all
“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him, the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-11
1) History Will Accomplish God’s Kingdom Purposes
2) There is Victory in Jesus
We will have the privilege of reigning with Him; sharing in His inheritance forever
Amazing Grace lyrics:
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.”
C. (:9) Stability Feeds on the Grace of God Consistent with Traditional Christian Doctrine
1. Avoid Being Misled by Strange New Teachings
“Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings;”
Richard Phillips: The charge of novelty was leveled against the Protestant Reformers by the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century. The Reformers took the charge seriously, acknowledging that if it were true, it would condemn their teaching. They were eager to show, and did so effectively, that theirs were not new but rather the old and original doctrines of Christianity. The truths of the Reformation were found in the writings of the early church fathers and derived from the apostles and prophets in the Bible.
2. Absorb the Healthy Nourishment of Grace
a. Grace Strengthens
“for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace,”
b. Other Foods are Not Healthy
“not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied
were not benefited.”
Kent: It is not by observing distinctions about meats that men grow strong spiritually. It is by grace – God’s favor bestowed upon believers in Christ – that Christians are brought to maturity. The readers needed greater stability in doctrine.
Richard Phillips: The warning here does not seem to be about abstention but rather about eating sacramental means that supposedly provide spiritual benefit. . . The point is that spiritual strength does not come to us by what we eat, but by grace, which is received through faith.
II. (:10-16) SUSTAINING PERSEVERANCE REQUIRES SACRIFICES OF PRAISE AND GOOD WORKS AS WE IDENTIFY WITH THE REPROACH OF CHRIST AND FOCUS ON THE CITY TO COME
A. (:10-14) Identify with Christ
1. (:10-12) Appreciate the Superior Sacrifice of Christ
a. (:10) Superior Altar in the New Covenant System
“We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle
have no right to eat.”
Bruce Hurt: What the writer is saying is that the Levitical priests (who hold to the Old Covenant sacrificial system) have no right, no permission, to “eat” at our altar (the Cross of Christ). While what it means to “eat” is debated, don’t miss the point that the Levitical priests cannot place their faith in both the Old Covenant of the Law and also the New Covenant of Grace. If they hold to the old system, they have no part, no right, to partake of the new system.
So in this section, the writer again takes up his central theme of the sacrifice of Christ, which contrasts with and is superior to the Levitical (animal) sacrificial system. Recall that he had just exhorted his readers to “be strengthened by grace not by foods” (Heb 10:9) and now proceeds to continue the thought by making an allusion to eating, albeit in the present context it is not eating literal foods, but “eating” the “spiritual food” provided by Christ.
b. (:11) Significance of Suffering Outside the Camp under Levitical System
“For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp.”
c. (:12) Significance of Jesus Suffering Outside the Gate under the New Covenant System
“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people
through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.”
Mohler: what makes Jesus’s suffering outside the gates far superior to that of the Old Testament animals is what his suffering accomplishes: Jesus suffers outside the gates “so that he might sanctify the people by his own blood.” His blood actually makes believers holy. This astonishing reality once again reveals that the old covenant sin offerings pointed to the better new covenant offering of Jesus Christ’s blood.
F. F. Bruce: the sacrifice of Christ is a better sacrifice, not only because the spiritual antitype is superior to the material type, but also because those who enter the heavenly sanctuary “by the blood of Jesus” (Ch. 10:19) know that the One who became their perfect sin-offering is permanently available as the source of their spiritual nourishment and refreshment, as they feed on Him in their hearts by faith.
2. (:13-14) Identify with the Reproach of Christ and Focus on the City to Come
a. (:13) Identify with the Reproach of Christ
“Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp,
bearing His reproach.”
Hewitt: no longer must the readers look for salvation in the old forms of Judaism; they must come outside of it to Jesus who cannot be found in Judaism. They must bear His reproach by coming to His cross of shame, which was an object of disgust to the Gentiles, and to the Jews the place of a curse, since they regarded every crucified person as “accursed of God” (Dt. xxi. 22, 23; Gal. iii. 13). And they must then be prepared to bear the reproach of Christ even if it should lead to excommunication or martyrdom.
Kent: Those who have professed Christ to be their Lord have obligated themselves to follow Him. For Hebrew Christians, that posed some momentous decisions. Jesus had been rejected by Judaism, both literally by crucifixion at the demand of Jewish leaders and symbolically by suffering outside the gate analogous to the sin offering repudiated and burned outside the camp. Were these Jewish Christian readers actually willing to join Jesus outside the camp? Were they willing to accept his reproach as they faced rejection from family, friends, and their religious traditions? The stirring challenge let us go out left them no alternative. The old system had been superseded in the program of God. They must leave the camp of Judaism and come wholeheartedly to an identification of themselves with Christ.
Richard Phillips: The writer of Hebrews has referred to this, our heavenly situation, as being within the veil (6:19; 10:20). We are brought near to God, with Christ in his heavenly dwelling, as God’s children, his people, his flock. Therefore by faith we see that outside the camp is truly within the veil with Christ.
b. (:14) Focus on the City to Come
“For here we do not have a lasting city,
but we are seeking the city which is to come.”
Kent: Doubtless the chief culprit in the struggle faced by the readers was the attractiveness of the earthly system which they had known all their lives. Judaism had its physical worship center, its visible priests, its tangible sacrifices, and its ancestral traditions which were not easily cast aside. They must be reminded that all Christians (whether Jewish or Gentile) are strangers and aliens on earth (11:13), and have no continuing city – that is, no permanent associations with organizations that are only earthly. Rather we must be like Abraham and have our gaze fixed on the one to come (11:10, 16). Eternal and spiritual verities must occupy our thoughts and constitute our goal in place of earthly institutions, however honorable may have been their function.
B. (:15-16) Offer Sacrifices of Praise and Good Works
1. (:15) Offer Sacrifices of Praise
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise
to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”
Kent: Through him occupies the emphatic position in this statement, stressing that it is through Christ alone, not through any Levitical mediation, that worshipers truly come to God. No longer are animal sacrifices necessary, but this does not mean that Christian offer no sacrifices at all.
Richard Phillips: In terms of Old Testament Judaism, this sacrifice refers to the thank offering, which was offered not to make atonement for sin but in gratitude for salvation and for the many gifts God has given. . . This was the highest expression of religion in Judaism, an occasional and special mark of piety, but now it is to characterize the whole of our lives as children of God. . .
Jesus said that the Father is seeking worshipers to worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). It is for this that we are saved, to live sacrificially unto him, to offer a lifestyle of worship, for the blessing of others and for the glory of his name.
2. (:16) Offer Sacrifices of Good Works
“And do not neglect doing good and sharing;
for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Hewitt: Moffatt rightly points out that the three great definitions of worship or religious service in the New Testament (here, and in Rom. xii. 1 f. and Jas i. 27) are all inward and ethical.
F. F. Bruce: Christianity is sacrificial through and through; it is founded on the one self-offering of Christ, and the offering of His people’s praise and property, of their service and their lives, is caught up into the perfection of His acceptable sacrifice, and is accepted in Him.
III. (:17) SUSTAINING PERSEVERANCE REQUIRES SUBMISSION TO OUR SPIRITUAL LEADERS AS THEY KEEP WATCH OVER OUR SOULS
A. Responsibility of the Flock – Obey and Submit
“Obey your leaders,”
and submit to them;”
Hewitt: In verse 7 the readers were exhorted to remember those spiritual leaders who had passed on, and especially their consistency in life and doctrine. They are now urged to obey those spiritual leaders who were still in their midst, and to submit themselves to their authority, for in them the same consistency in life and doctrine is found.
B. Responsibility of the Shepherds — Oversight
“for they keep watch over your souls,
as those who will give an account.”
C. Responsibility of the Flock – Support a Profitable Outcome
“Let them do this with joy and not with grief,
for this would be unprofitable for you.”
Kent: Parishioners who are spiritually sluggish, or rebellious, or who lack the vision to move forward in the exercise of their Christian privileges, or who become enamored with every doctrinal innovation promoted by some spellbinding advocate, cause much heartache to those charged with their spiritual care.
Richard Phillips: Six reasons are given for this obedience and submission.
– The first is found in the word “leaders,” which may also be translated as “guides.” True spiritual leaders are those who go before the flock into the Word of God, into prayer, and into the Christian life.
– Second, because their authority comes from Christ.
– Third and fourth, these leaders “are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” They are gifted by God for rule and Christian teaching.
– Fifth, our obedience is what makes spiritual leadership a joy and not a burden.
– Finally, this verse concludes that it is no advantage to us for our ministers to be burdened by division and strife and unbelief in the church.