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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Hebrews 13

 

 

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Verse 1

AN APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION

‘Let brotherly love continue.’

Hebrews 13:1

Brotherly love had been a conspicuous feature of the early Church (Acts 2:44-46; Acts 4:34-35; Acts 11:27-29; Hebrews 10:32-33). But in the perilous times foretold, ‘the love of many would wax cold’; hence the call to continuance. This love is described in 1 Corinthians 13. as very different from mere friendliness of disposition. And this, so contrary to our natural tendency, may reveal where, above all, the battle of our spiritual life must be fought.

‘Let brotherly love continue.’ Why?

I. It is necessary for the well-being of the Church.—Love is the bond which keeps Christians together. Love is the only atmosphere in which Christian life can flourish. Love raises the fallen, cheers the sorrowing, encourages the timid, and restrains by affectionate concern the wavering and tempted. Love is the element in which the Divine Spirit can do His work, for love is of heaven, and God is love.

II. It is necessary for the fulfilment of our duty to one another.—Gather together the laws which describe our treatment of one another: ‘Forbearing one another’; ‘Forgiving one another’; ‘Let each esteem other better than himself’; Envying not’; ‘Seeking not our own, but others’ good’; ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens’; ‘In honour preferring one another,’ etc. These lofty, comprehensive commands, embracing thoughts as well as deeds, are wholly impracticable save to the man who has learnt to love. Love is the motive-power of all right feeling and action towards our brother: ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’

III. It is necessary for our personal deliverance of self.—Love is an old form of the word to live: to love is to live; we never truly live till we have learned to love. Until love possesses us, life is little more than a sepulchre, or, at best, a dungeon. He who only loves himself must be a lonely man, and live in a narrow place. The depressed, miserable, complaining (except those made so by disease) are those wrapped-up in themselves. To be imprisoned in oneself is to have a dreary home: love is the hand that opens the doors and admits us into liberty.

IV. It is necessary for the vindication of our Christian standing.—‘Give diligence to make your calling and election sure’ (1 John 3:14; John 13:35; 1 John 4:7; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Can we stand the test?


Verse 5

THE NEVER-FAILING PRESENCE

‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’

Hebrews 13:5

These words, or words very like them, occur in five different places in the Bible. They were spoken to Jacob (Genesis 28:15); and again twice to Israel in Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8. God Himself repeated them to Joshua (Hebrews 1:5).

I. Every true-hearted Christian may claim this promise as his own.—He may say, The great God has spoken to me from heaven, as if there were no one else in the world, and He has said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’ But what right have I to take a promise addressed to Jacob, and Israel, and Joshua as my own? If you will turn to Galatians 3:29, you will see, ‘If ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise.’ If I belong to Christ, then I am a true child of Abraham, and an heir of all the promises.

II. Mark well that ‘I.’—The mother cannot say to her children, ‘I will never leave you.’ The pastor cannot say to his flock, ‘I will never leave you.’ Friend cannot say to friend, ‘I will never leave you.’ But God says it to the weakest, the humblest, the feeblest of His children. Put that ‘I’ and that ‘thee’ together, for what God has joined together let no man put asunder.

III. Seek to be able to trust God’s promise with simple and childlike faith. Rest upon it, not as you would tread upon ice you feared every moment would crack, but stand boldly on it as you would on a rock that has stood for ages. Why live in the cold and dreary wilderness, when the sweet land of promise is before you, where the light of God’s countenance is ever shining, and the air is warm, and there are grapes of Eshcol, and no fears or doubts, but songs, and gladness, and ‘perfect peace’?

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,

He’ll never, no never, desert to its foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,

He’ll never, no never, no never forsake.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE DIVINE PRESENCE

Coming where it does, this promise is meant to reassure us in whatever position we are. ‘Be content with such things as ye have,’ for ‘He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’

I. This is a declaration of God’s Personal Presence.—The quotation shows that God’s promises to any are the property of all His people. Only God can say, ‘I will not leave thee’; not one of His gifts can say it. Loneliness destroys content. God satisfies.

II. This Presence pervades the arrangements of our life.—The words must mean that God will be in all our circumstances, and where He is He will not play a subsidiary part, and follow where chance or our waywardness may dictate. ‘I will not leave thee,’ must mean I will guide thee: choose thy lot; appoint thy changes; where thou comest thou shalt be brought by Me. Dread of the Unknown destroys content. God in all we have creates content by removing that dread.

III. This Presence is the guarantee of protection and supply.—No hurt can come to him with whom God is as his friend. Fear destroys content, but God with us enables us to say, ‘I will not fear.’

IV. ‘He hath said.’—There are five negatives here to prevent our doubting it.


Verse 8

ALWAYS THE SAME

‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’

Hebrews 13:8

You will observe the accuracy of the words and the exact force of the expression. It is not ‘yesterday, and to-day, and to-morrow,’ though that would be the natural sequence; but all the past is a yesterday’; and the oldest among us will best appreciate the word.

I. The past.—To read the ‘yesterday’ of Jesus, we must go back to that time, before the corner-stone of this world was laid, when, in far anticipation of all the ruin that should befall us, He planned His advent of love and blessing—‘Then said I’—O where is that ‘then’?—what millions of ages back!—‘Then said I, Lo, I come!’

II. The present.—And what ‘to-day’? The same; exactly ‘the same.’ We are often apt to depreciate the present in the prospect of the future. There is no diminution here. No change. With the identical love that brought Him to our world, He loves ‘His own’ now. And His work, His power, His willingness, His grace, are unchanged. As he called then so He calls now—‘Come unto Me.’

III. The future.—‘Yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ Has it ever happened to you to say—‘I think there was a time when God loved me—when I was a little child. There have been periods in my life when I felt God was very near to me. I could not doubt His love then. I believe Him now to be near. Will he be near me when I am dying? Will He always be near me?’? Doubt not. Jesus lives! If you feel that doubt in Jesus, you have not yet read Him rightly. That Sun is always rising to its zenith, and never sets. ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE CHANGELESS CHRIST

I. Changeless in His teaching.

II. Changeless in His Person.

III. Changeless in His work.

His work saves, for He is the Saviour; remember, first and chiefest, the Saviour. Not the great Moralist, Teacher, Thinker, though with a moral life which lights up every page of the Gospel narrative, so sublime and perfect. Not the great Examplar, though the Hero, the Saviour, the Comforter, Who lives and breathes in every verse at once touching and eloquent of our New Testament; though the Hero, and Saviour, and Comforter is at once perfect, flawless. Not the Moralist, Teacher, or Exemplar, but first and chiefest the Saviour, the Redeemer. Here, though the world never saw before, will never see again, like teacher, like examplar, here is the real source of His changeless power, of His limitless influence over the souls of men and women.

Dean Spence-Jones.

Illustration

‘“Can you tell me who Jesus was?” asked Napoleon at St. Helena. The question, having been declined by Bertrand, Napoleon proceeded: “Well, I will tell you. Alexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires. But upon what did the creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions will die for Him. I think I know something of human nature; and I tell you that all these were men; and I am a man. No other is like Him. Jesus Christ was more than a man.… Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen that he becomes insensible to the barrier of time and space. Across the chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is, above all others, difficult to satisfy. He asks for the human heart. He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally, and forthwith His demand is granted. In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him experience this remarkable supernatural love towards Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame. Time can neither exhaust its strength, nor put a limit to its range. This is what strikes me most. I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.”’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

THE VITALITY OF CHRISTIANITY

The words, ‘yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,’ were no doubt used by the author of the Epistle in the proverbial sense at that time given to them. They declared that from the ages to the ages Christ changeth not, that from eternity to eternity Jesus Christ is the same. But they may serve also to throw us back in mind to the time at which they were written, a time when in one sense they were literally and vividly true; when so far as the Christian knowledge of Christ was concerned, the whole of the Christian past was but as yesterday.

I. We find it difficult to realise with any fulness the conditions of Christian life in those days, and the advantage and disadvantage to the Christian preacher and the Christian convert of the recent character of the events on which the one based his teaching, the other his conviction. The Christian of those days would have found it much more difficult to forecast the Christian faith and practice, the Christian difficulties and the Christian advantages of a time eighteen hundred years after him, when events, vividly fresh to him, should have become matters of far-off history. At the natural creation germs were sown which have developed according to the laws imposed upon them, and have produced the marvels that surround us. The revelation of Christ planted a spiritual germ, the developments of which have been manifold, bewildering in the diversity of their character. As the spirit is vastly freer than the body, so the spiritual germ expands to all appearance unfettered, free, so far as we can see, from everything resembling the stringent laws which govern the growth of the natural organism.

II. While Jesus Christ remains the same for ever, man’s ideas of Jesus Christ have varied greatly, and vary greatly still.—To different ages Jesus Christ has been different; different in power, in operation, in nature; to different men, nay, to the same man at different stages of the man’s development; He is different still. But all the time, while men have been forming feeble and varying conceptions of Him, He has been the same. What age has been least feeble and least wide of the truth in its conception of that which is inconceivable, what men or what school of the present age are most near to the truth, it is beyond the power of man to know.

III. It is one of the most powerful of the incidental arguments for Christianity, that it has gone through almost every possible phase, and yet we may fairly claim that it is possessed of greater vitality at this present time than it ever possessed before. It has been all things to all men, and yet it has not changed. It has decked itself in splendour, and has fitted itself to the cabin of the slave. It has filled the whole soul of the man of mighty intellect, and has satisfied the mind of low degree. It has fired the hearts of martial kings to great resolves, and has guided the nameless poor to humble deeds of mercy and love. The whole of our science of theology has grown out of it, a science second to none in difficulty and grandeur, and yet the very fulness of its blessing and its power has been poured upon those to whom theology is an empty name. It has for each the message which each needs, and how diverse are those messages in their form and in their operation; but how surely is it the same spirit which worketh all in all. We speak of the changes through which Christianity has passed, but they are chiefly changes of garb. There have been times, no doubt, of dark and prevailing ignorance, but even in the darkest times there have been those who possessed the one true knowledge, the love of God which passeth knowledge.

Bishop G. F. Browne.


Verse 14

THE POSITION OF CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD

‘For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.’

Hebrews 13:14

These words sum up what was certainly the apostolic mind as to the position of Christians in this world. They were members—they could not help being members—as we are of a vast and powerful and complex association, human society; but with all its great attributes it wanted one—it wanted permanence. ‘The world passeth away’—is passing away, as we work or speak.

I. We are all of us under the unalterable necessity in one way or another of change.—It is the absolute condition of existing, now and here. How shall we feel about this fact, as certain as death; how shall we meet it when we no longer merely know it, but imagine and realise it?—no longer merely hear of it by the hearing of the ear, but see it with the inner eye of the living mind. It may impress and affect us in many ways. It may darken or it may brighten life; it may depress and discourage, or it may inspire with boundless hope. We may find in it the highest summons to courage or the excuse for the most enervating sentimentalism. We may bow our heads in sullen despair under the yoke of its necessity; we may cease to strive, and throw up the game in the vain attempt to master or to stem it; or we may see in it more gain than loss, and welcome it charged with infinite possibilities of recovery and advance. We may meet it, thankful that we are born under its dominion and its hopes; or we may meet it with the indifference with which we resign ourselves to what is inevitable; or with the regrets which see in it that which has robbed us of what we most loved and trusted, only a companionship with bereavement, decay, degeneracy; or with irritation at its monotony, its fruitlessness, its aimlessness, its undirected and purposeless course.

II. How does the Bible teach us to think and to feel about this truth, which often comes upon us so unexpectedly, with such piercing force? The Bible, we know, was written that we, ‘through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope’ in the changes and chances of this mortal life, as well as in its sins, its temptations, its terrible evils. The Bible, which has told us of the presence and victory of our Lord, of the life and immortality which He has brought to light, teaches us abundantly what to think of change, both in its good and its evil, and of that unchanging glory in which it is to be swallowed up. But is there in the Bible any special guiding for judgment, for temper, for self-discipline, for everyday feeling and everyday behaviour, under the disquieting consciousness of change—any ever-ready counter-charm when the stern facts of change present themselves oppressively, insupportably? Doubtless, a sentence from the mouth of Christ, an inspiration of an Apostle, can carry strength and comfort to the soul. But we have that, too, which was a source of teaching and a stay to Apostles, and from the words of which the words of men, though taught by the Holy Ghost, even the Son of Man deigned to draw language for His feeling and thought. We have the Book of Psalms, the mirror of the deepest and most varied spiritual experience, the inspirer of the strongest feelings of religious assurance. In the Book of Psalms we may read how the believer in God may learn to feel and to act, when he sees the great currents of change sweep by him, and feels himself borne upon their tide.

III. ‘Here we have no continuing city,’ any more than they had. But we know, with a distinctness which all of them had not, of a ‘city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God’—a ‘house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ But where is that passionate, delighted, triumphant faith of those men of old? What have we of their joy and gladness at the very thought of God, even amid the tumults of the nations and the overthrows of life, the certainty that at the best they too must soon ‘follow the generation of their fathers’? Where is that assurance which they had that ‘to the godly there ariseth light in the darkness? He shall never be moved; he will not be afraid of any evil tidings, for his heart standeth fast and believeth in the Lord.’ Where is that ‘fearful joy’ with which they responded even to the terrors of the world? ‘The floods are risen, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.’ ‘The Lord sitteth above the waterflood; and the Lord remaineth a King for ever.… The Lord shall give His people the blessing of peace.’ As surely as they were as we are, in the experience of life, so surely had they this lofty, burning faith, this never-failing, abundant hope. ‘What reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits which He hath done unto me? I will receive the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.’ And so they cast themselves into the arms of God, and were blessed. Oh that we could catch something of the contagion of that faith and hope, as day by day we repeat again and again their wonderful words!

—Dean Church.

Illustration

‘Human pride, knowing the truth of perpetual change, has tried to defy it; the monuments of these mighty attempts in Egypt, in Assyria, in India, in China, have survived the centuries: there was once an empire which seemed as solid as the world; there was a city which called itself the Eternal City; and their ruins, like the drifted fragments of a wreck, battered but undestroyed, are the witnesses in our museums or in desolate places of the earth to those enormous powers of change over which mortal men once thought to triumph. It is in vain—even the “unchanging East” must go through its revolutions—even the Roman Empire must pass away:—

So fails, so languishes, grows dim and dies,

All that this world is proud of. From their spheres

The stars of human glory are cast down:

Perish the roses and the flowers of kings,

Princes and emperors, and the crowns and palms

Of all the mighty.

… The vast Frame

Of social nature changes evermore

Her organs and her members, with decay

Restless, and restless generation, powers

And functions dying and produced at need:—

And by this law the mighty whole subsists.’


Verse 15

PRAISE

‘By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.’

Hebrews 13:15

In order to be fit for heaven, we must find true happiness in loving and praising God.

I. One great thing—the greatest far—for which we ought to praise Him is the pardon of our numberless sins. Till a man has learnt that secret, religion will always be formal; it will be a mystery, very little real delight and enjoyment will it produce.

II. Besides this, however, there are many ways of stirring up our hearts to God’s praise, and thus of adding to our own happiness.

(a) There is the habit of noticing His mercies. Not one day passes without our all receiving many blessings at His Hand. How do we act? Are we louder to complain at our few trials than to thank Him for our many enjoyments?

(b) Or, think again of what He is in Himself. Think of what you admire in a man—sense and judgment, kindness and liberality. We often praise a fellow-creature for good and noble qualities. Shall we grudge acts and words of praise to the Perfection of goodness itself?

(c) Or, again, His providence. Were He for one moment to let the world go, and leave it and its inhabitants to themselves, all would instantly be ruin and destruction.

(d) Or, His special mercies—such as the harvest—by which He gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endureth for ever.

(e) And besides these there are particular mercies—in our own families—which a grateful and thoughtful heart will delight to reckon.

Any or all of these should serve as fuel to the heavenly fire. Thinking over such blessings and mercies before we come to Church would attune our hearts and prepare us to join with heart and voice in the service of praise and thanksgiving, and thus make our worship brighter and happier to ourselves, and more acceptable to Him Who says, ‘Whoso offereth Me thanks and praise, he honoureth me.’

—Rev. J. Tournay Parsons.


Verse 16

SACRIFICE: THE OLD AND THE NEW

‘With such sacrifices God is well pleased.’

Hebrews 13:16

What do we mean by the word sacrifice? We look back to the dawn of history, sacred or profane alike, and everywhere we find the same belief, the same practice, not resting, so far as we know, on any external revelation, but with roots which seem to lie deep down in the human soul. Man—such as we still see him in many savage tribes—feels himself in the presence of a mightier power. A voice within him or without him bids him place himself at peace with or in union with that power. He takes something of his own and offers to his god.

I. There was a stage in human history in which sacrifice, literal sacrifice, seemed to be the only form of worship into which the human mind could fully enter; it seemed to represent the elements, so to speak, of prayer, praise, adoration, thanksgiving, penitence, trust, affection, the readiness to give one’s very best, the yearning to be at one with God which lies at the very roots of all true religion; and we may almost, as we look back on those far-off days, hear God’s Spirit say to those early worshippers words which our Saviour used to His own disciples: ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.’ Let us never pass, as we sometimes do pass, a Jewish synagogue without remembering that it was in these synagogues, ages ago, that our Lord first began, and so often repeated, His own teaching; that it was in these places that His apostles found, in city after city, wherever a handful of Jews were settled, a seed dropped to bear witness to the Word of God.

II. We know how in the very fulness of time there came One in Whom the highest and noblest ideas of the rite of sacrifice found their fulfilment. In that full dedication and self-offering to God of a sinless life on that cross of Calvary which consummated that sacrifice, the days of the old bloody sacrifice of the earlier world were ended. And the effects of that far-reaching sacrifice have extended far beyond the limits of the Christian Church.

III. There are still senses in which we can offer to our Father Which is in heaven a sacrifice which will be pleasing to His fatherly heart, and the offering of which may help to draw us nearer and nearer towards Him. We think of the complete and entire surrender of our own being to His service, of which St. Paul speaks in Romans 12 : To do good and to communicate.’ We know how large a place this surrender of what is ours to aid those who sorely need it filled in our Saviour’s teaching—in the teaching of Him Who went about doing good. ‘Sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven,’ He said to one. Very startling words they were to him, and also to us. ‘I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink.’

—Dean Bradley.


Verse 20

THE GREAT SHEPHERD

‘Our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep.’

Hebrews 13:20

The Son of God, Who came down from heaven, and Who lived and died and rose again for us, has been known by many names, chiefly descriptive of His many-sided mission to the world, but none have appealed more forcibly to the universal instincts of humanity than the image of the Shepherd. It has been illustrated by the artistic genius of the painter—the pictures of Christ as the ‘Good Shepherd’ belong to our earliest memories.

I. The beauty and truth of this image does not owe its origin to Christianity.—The oldest of Greek poets speaks of the kings of his age as ‘shepherds of men.’ But when we turn to the Old Testament, we find this image applied to many who played important parts in the development of the national history of the Jews. Moses was a shepherd; so was David. When the prophet Micaiah prophesied destruction to the army of Ahab, he said, ‘I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd.’ And during the captivity, when Ezekiel saw the spiritual shepherds of Israel eating the fat and clothing themselves with the wool, he cried, ‘Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? and they were scattered because there is no shepherd.’ And he consoled the exiles with the promise, that when they returned to their own land, restored and purified, God would set up ‘one shepherd over them,’ and he should feed them, even His servant David. And, therefore, to apply this metaphor, which was so constantly upon their lips and read in their hearing, to Him Who watched over Israel and neither slumbered nor slept, was both easy and natural. David spoke from the abundance of his own experience both as a keeper of sheep and a ruler of men when he declared, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’

II. Our Blessed Lord spoke of Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep, of calling them by name and leading them out, of laying down His life for them, and then of their hearing His voice and following Him, and of His giving unto them eternal life, in consequence, so that they should never perish. The words must be understood and felt with all the weight of old association and familiar quotation. We read that ‘there was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.’ And this division was not caused through any misunderstanding of His words. Those who were not in sympathy with Him saw in them nothing but blasphemy, and said, ‘He hath a devil and is mad’—whilst others said, ‘These are not the words of him that hath a devil.’ Each party understood His words to be a claim to be the Son of God. The teaching and the claims of Christ, from their very nature, drew to Him great friends and bitter enemies. Those who were drawn to Him by the magic power of His personality, and by the indisputable testimony of His works, saw in Him a probable fulfilment of the prophecy spoken in the last prayer of Moses: ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.’ But those who were pitted against Him ignored the logic of the others: ‘Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?’ and at the word of Christ Himself, ‘The works that I do in My Father’s Name, they bear witness of Me,’ they took up stones again to stone Him, saying that for blasphemy they did it, because He, being a man, made Himself God. The phrase ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ was a shaft that went home to friend and enemy alike, to convince the one and to incense the other. Like the Cross, it drew men unto Him or it condemned them. His words either remitted or retained their sin. The Jews were so jealous of His influence, and so impatient at His words, that they judged Him before the time. Every act and every word of His was distorted into a ‘railing accusation’ against Him. Even at the last when He gave them ocular proof of the genuineness of His pastoral office: ‘The Good sShepherd giveth His life for the sheep,’ they passed by wagging their heads, and saying, ‘Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the Cross.’

III. Let us meditate on Christ in the light of this teaching.—Let us try to realise Him as the ‘Good Shepherd’ Who was faithful to His charge, even unto death, Who laid down His life rather than one of His little ones, the lambs of His flock, should perish. Let us claim Him also as the ‘Shepherd and Bishop’ of our souls. As soon as we turn and repent us of our sins, we place ourselves under His pastoral charge. He is seeking us, no matter how far we have wandered from the fold, and He will bring us back again on His shoulders rejoicing, if we will. Remember, this pastoral ministry is still exercised by our Risen and Ascended Saviour. In His glorified body, He sits at the right hand of His Father, interceding for us. Yet His ministry is not confined to heaven only. He is always present in the midst of the two or three that are gathered together in His name for prayer and worship. He is present in the Holy Communion, not only to nourish our souls with the spiritual food of His most blessed Body and Blood, but also to co-operate with us in presenting before the Throne of His Father, that one Oblation of Himself, made once for all, for the sins of the whole world.

—Rev. C. Rhodes Hall.


Verse 20-21

THE RIGHT AIM IN LIFE

‘The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

Hebrews 13:20-21

Without the right aim of life, there is no spirit of life. But this must not be established alone, but only in union with a corresponding power of life. Should we courageously and joyfully behold the real human purpose of life, then we may have the certainty that it is attainable. Otherwise we should look upon it with hesitation and doubt. We must be animated with the joyful hope that we shall succeed in its accomplishment; for without hope there is no joyousness and no courage.

I. What does all this depend on?—Two things.

(a) We must, on the one side, find in ourselves the requisite ability for the attainment of that aim, and so have true respect for ourselves individually, as well as for mankind in general.

(b) And, on the other hand, we must have the certainty that, if we honestly do our duty, the external conditions of success, which are independent of us, will not be wanting to us.

In this respect, the chief thing is, that we know ourselves to be in harmony, in our work for carrying out the purpose of our life, with the holy guidance of divine Providence, so that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28), that we know ourselves at one with God’s holy purpose, and feel ourselves sustained, supported, and led by Him. And only in so far as we know ourselves in such a relation to our God can we consider ourselves capable of the realisation of the aim of our life. Yes, he who, with all his will and deeds, with all his effort and endeavour, keeps throughout his whole existence thus near to his God, and can lay himself with such childlike confidence in his Father’s arms, his heart beats high with joyful resurrection life; but his only can do this.

II. Look how Christ grasped the aim of His life—with what decision, with what perfect distinctness. For here we see a life of such consistency as has never again happened in our experience—a human life, in which there were no vacillations, but only the steady, constant progress pursued with unhesitating inward steadfastness, straight forward to a fixed and immovable aim, which was not left out of sight for one moment, among the changeful external conditions of the world. And therefore it was also a human life of no less unexampled unity and entireness. And did not the aim, which so completely governed this human life, embrace time and eternity; did it not unite earth and heaven into a peaceful union, while it grasped this poor existence in the world of sin as the material from which an eternal and heavenly existence was to be fashioned? And did He not have regard to God’s aim? Did He, Who lived this life, wish for anything else than the will of His heavenly Father, Who showed the Son all that He did, that He also might do likewise? Did He know any other meat than this, to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work?

III. Since the risen Christ is in the world, sin can no longer frustrate our true life, unless we wish to remain the servants of vanity. Sin is now conquered, it can now tie down no one, against his will, to the dust and the mire.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Hebrews 13:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/hebrews-13.html. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, April 4th, 2020
the Fifth Week of Lent
There are 8 days til Easter!
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