INTRODUCTION TO HEBREWS 13
The apostle having finished the doctrinal part of this epistle, closes it with practical exhortations to these Hebrews, puts up prayers for them, and sends salutations to them. The exhortations are to brotherly love, and the continuance of it, Hebrews 13:1 to hospitality, by which some have entertained angels unawares, Hebrews 13:2, to sympathy with those that are in bonds, and in, afflictions, Hebrews 12:3 to purity and chastity in the honourable state of marriage, urged by the judgment of God on unclean persons, Hebrews 13:4 to avoid covetousness, and to be content with present things, enforced by the promises of God, which give boldness and strength to faith, Hebrews 13:5, to remember their spiritual guides and governors, the preachers of the Gospel to them; to follow their faith, and consider the end of their conversation, which is Christ Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and for ever, Hebrews 13:7. And then he cautions them from being carried about with the doctrines of men, which are divers and strange; which he urges from the profitable effect of the Gospel to establish the heart, and from the unprofitableness of meats to legal worshippers, and from the Christians having an altar, which is Christ, which those who are seeking life by the service of the law have nothing to do with, Hebrews 13:9. And this he illustrates in the type of burnt offerings, which were burnt without the camp, and there was nothing left for the priests to eat of, Hebrews 13:11. In like manner Christ, the antitype, suffered without the gates of Jerusalem, for the sanctification of his people, by his blood; and who only, and not those who seek for righteousness by the law, have an interest in, Hebrews 13:12. However, it becomes the saints to quit everything, and all dependence on themselves, and fellowship with others, and go forth to Jesus, believing in him, whatsoever reproach they suffer on his account; for here is nothing permanent and durable in this world; but there is a state of happiness to come, which will last for ever, Hebrews 13:13. And since Christ has offered himself for his people, they ought to offer up the sacrifices of praise to God by him, and to do acts of beneficence and goodness, which are sacrifices well pleasing to God through him, Hebrews 13:15. And to these exhortations apostle adds others; as to obey their spiritual rulers and governors, and submit unto them; since they watch for their souls, and must give an account, which to do with joy, and not with grief, is best and profitable, Hebrews 13:17 and to pray for the apostle, and other ministers, since they had a good conscience, and were willing to live honestly; and the rather, that he might be restored to them the sooner, Hebrews 13:18 and to engage them to this their duty, he sets them an example, by putting up prayers for them, Hebrews 13:20 and desires them to take in good part the letter he had wrote unto them, Hebrews 13:22 and acquaints them that Timothy was set at liberty, with whom he hoped to see them in a short time, Hebrews 13:23 and then closes the epistle with his own, and the salutations of others, and with his usual benediction, Hebrews 13:24.
Let brotherly love continue. The Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions add, "in you"; or among you, as a church and society of Christians; for this is not to be understood of love to all mankind, or to those of the same nation, or who are in a strict natural relation brethren, though they are all in a sense brethren, and to be loved; but of love to those who are in the same spiritual relation to God, as their Father, to Christ, as the firstborn among many brethren; and are in the same church state, at least partakers of the same grace: and which love ought to be universal, and reach to all the saints, and be fervent and unfeigned, and as Christ hath loved us; and when it is genuine, it is active and laborious; and shows itself in praying with and for one another; in bearing one another's burdens; in forbearing and forgiving one another; in admonishing one another in love; in building up each other in the most holy faith; and in stirring up one another to the several duties of religion: and without this excellent and useful grace, a profession of religion is in vain; this is an evidence of regeneration; it is the bond of perfectness, and what renders the saints' communion delightful and edifying: many are the arguments moving to the exercise of it; as the love of God, and Christ; the new commandment of Christ; the relation saints stand in to one another; the comfort and joy of Gospel ministers, and our own peace and edification: and this should continue; for the love of God and Christ continues; the relation between the saints continues; and without this, churches cannot continue long: the apostle means, not the grace itself, the internal principle, for that, where it once is, always continues, and can never be lost; but the exercise and increase of it, an abounding in it yet more and more. One of the Jewish prayers is to this purpose
"he that dwells in this house, let him plant among you אחוה ואהבה, "brotherhood and love", (or brotherly love,) peace and friendship.'
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers,.... By whom are meant, not unconverted men, who are strangers to God and Christ, and the covenants of promise; nor saints, who are as pilgrims and strangers in this world; but such as are of another country, and are unknown; and even though wicked men, they are not excluded; though such as are obliged to quit their own country for righteousness sake are chiefly designed; all strangers in distress are meant, and hospitality is to be exercised towards them; which lies negatively in doing nothing to distress them, and positively in providing food, raiment, lodging, &c. for them, and in comforting, counselling, and directing them in all matters in which they may stand in need thereof: and that this is a duty, appears from the light of nature, and practices of the Heathens, Acts 28:2, from the express law of God, Deuteronomy 10:19 and many others made in favour of strangers, binding on the Jews; from the sundry exhortations to it in the New Testament, Romans 12:13 and from the exhortation here not to forget it; and from the great regard which Christ will show to such as mind it, and his disregard to others at the last day: the persons who are to exercise it are not only the ministers of the Gospel, who should be given to hospitality; but all the saints, even the meaner sort are not exempted, but should use it according to their ability; though it is chiefly binding on those that are rich. And this should not be forgot, but pursued and followed after; it should be frequently performed; men should be given, and used to it; it should be done without grudging, and in a friendly and loving manner:
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares; as Abraham, Genesis 18:1, he knew them not to be angels at first; they appeared as men, and he treated them as such; but they were angels, yea, one of them was Jehovah himself; and hereby he received many favours, Genesis 18:10, and Lot, Genesis 19:1 who knew not that they were angels he took into his house; but they were, and he was delivered by them from the burning of Sodom; yea, some have unawares, this way, entertained Christ himself, Luke 24:15 and indeed, entertaining of his members is entertaining him, Matthew 25:38. It is an observation of a Jewish writer
"from hence we learn (says he) how great is the strength (or virtue) of the reception of travellers (or hospitality), as the Rabbins of blessed memory say, greater is הכנסת אורחים, "hospitality", than the reception of the face of the Shechinah.'
And this is said to be one of the six things which a man enjoys the fruit of in this world, and for which there remains a reward in the world to come
Remember them that are in bonds,.... Not for criminal actions, or for debt, though such should be remembered, and pity showed them, especially the latter; but such as are in bonds for the sake of Christ, and the Gospel. This has been often the lot of God's people, who should be remembered, by praying for them, sending comfortable letters to them, personally visiting them, and relieving them under their distresses:
as bound with them; as if it were so, as if in the same condition, and circumstances; by sympathizing with them; by considering themselves liable to the same bonds; by dealing with them as it would be desirable to be dealt with in the same case: and
them which suffer adversity; outward afflictions of body, distress for want of temporal mercies, food and raiment, and persecution by enemies; or spiritual adversity, as the prevailings of corruptions, and particularly unbelief, the hidings of God's face, and the temptations of Satan.
As being yourselves also in the body; as if in their bodies, enduring the same things; or as being afflicted in the body with diseases, necessities, and persecutions; or as being in the body, the church, of which these afflicted ones are a part, and therefore should have a fellow feeling with them; or rather as being in this world, in the flesh, or in a body and state subject to the like adversities, temporal and spiritual.
Marriage is honourable in all,.... Some read these words as an exhortation, "let" it "be so"; others as an assertion, it is so. "Marriage" is the union of one man and one woman in wedlock, whereby they become one flesh; it is a joining together of male and female in this relation, and of two only, and of such as are not within the degrees of blood forbid by the law, Leviticus 18:6 and of such as are fit for marriage: and this is "honourable", as it was instituted by God, and has been honoured with the presence of Christ, Genesis 2:22. And it is so in the ends of it, being to procreate children, multiply the earth, build up families, preserve a legitimate offspring, and prevent fornication and all uncleanness; and it is so, when the duties of the relation are performed on both sides: and it is honourable "in all"; in all things, in all respects, upon all accounts; "every way", as the Arabic version renders it; or as the Ethiopic version, "everywhere"; it has been honourably esteemed of among all nations; it becomes persons of all ranks and degrees, quality, and order; and it is honourable in all that are lawfully married, and do not violate the marriage contract, or defile the marriage bed: hereby are condemned such who despise marriage, that they may give a loose to their wandering and insatiable lusts; and such who, under a pretence of greater sanctity and perfection, reject it as unlawful; and the Papists, who deny it to men employed in sacred work:
and the bed undefiled: the Arabic version reads, "his bed"; and the Syriac and Ethiopic versions, "their bed"; the bed of such whose marriage is honourable; which is not polluted by admitting others into it, or by acts of fornication and adultery: "but", or "for", as the Alexandrian copy reads,
whoremongers and adulterers God will judge; the former of these may be rendered "fornicators", as it is by the Vulgate Latin version: fornication is a sin committed by single persons, unmarried ones; and though it was reckoned among the Gentiles a thing indifferent, yet is contrary to the law of God, and is a work of the flesh, and makes unfit for the kingdom of God, and brings down the judgments of God both here and hereafter. And this is in opposition to marriage, which is appointed to prevent it. The sin "adulterers" are guilty of, is a sin committed by persons, who are either one or both in a married state, and so is directly a pollution of the marriage bed: this was punishable with death by the law of God, and light of nature; and though men may make light of it, God will judge and punish such as commit it, both in this life, with diseases, poverty, and disgrace, and in the world to come, at the great day of account; for however secretly it may be committed, God, who is omniscient, sees it, and will bring it into judgment; nor shall any be able to escape the righteous judgment of God, for he is omnipotent, as well as omniscient. The Jews say,
"whoever lies with another man's wife, shall not escape דינה, "the judgment", or damnation of hell
Let your conversation be without covetousness,.... Which is an immoderate desire, of riches, an over anxious care for worldly things, attended with dissatisfaction, and discontent with their present state: it discovers itself many ways; in preferring the world to religion; in laying up treasure for a man's own self, without being any ways useful to others; in withholding from himself the necessaries of life, and in making no use of his substance for the glory of God, and the interest of religion: this is a very great evil; it is called idolatry, and is said to be the root of all evil; and is very pernicious to true religion: a believer's conversation should be without it; in his family, for whom he should provide things convenient and honest; and in the world, where he should deal uprightly, and not defraud and overreach; and in the church, where he should be liberal, and generously communicate, upon all occasions; and such a conversation is becoming the Gospel, which is a declaration of things freely given to us of God. The reason of the apostle's mentioning this sin of covetousness is, because the Jews were prone to it, and these believing Hebrews might be inclined to it, and be dissatisfied with their present condition, in which they suffered the spoiling of their goods; and besides, unless this was avoided, the above mentioned duties could not be performed aright, as brotherly love, hospitality, remembering and relieving persons in bonds, and adversity.
And be content with such things as ye have; or with present things; with present riches, or with present poverty; with present losses and crosses; with present reproaches and afflictions; and contentment with these things shows itself by thankfulness for every mercy, and by submission to the will and providence of God in every state of life: and there are many things which may move and engage unto it; as the consideration of the state and condition men are in, when they come into the world, and will be when they go out of it; the will of God, and the disposition of his providence according to it, which is unalterable; a sense of: their own unworthiness; a view of interest in God and Christ; and an eye to the recompense of reward; as well as the many promises of God to support and supply his: and among the rest, what follows,
for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee; which is a promise made to Joshua, and belongs to all believers, Joshua 1:5 which may regard things temporal, as that God will not leave his people in the hands of their enemies, nor forsake them in distress, nor withhold any good thing from them needful for them, but will supply them with the necessaries of life, with which they should be content: and this passage is very pertinently cited for this purpose, and could be easily understood in this sense by the Hebrews; for the Jews explain such places as speak of God's not forsaking men, of the sustenance of them, as Psalm 37:25 and observe that the word עזיבה, "forsaking", is never used but with respect to פרנסה, "sustenance"
So that we may boldly say,.... Or confidently assert; for nothing is more true than this,
the Lord is my helper; he is able to help, and does help, when none else can; he has promised to be the helper of his people; he has laid help for them on Christ, who is mighty; and he has helped him as man, that he might help them; he has set up a throne of grace for them to come to, where they may find help; and experience confirms the truth of this assertion; every believer can set up an Ebenezer, and say, hitherto hath the Lord helped me: the people of God are of themselves helpless ones; there is no help for them in man; their help is only in the Lord; who helps them out of the pit of sin and misery; out of the hands of all their enemies; out of all their afflictions, and "out" of all the dangers they are exposed unto by Satan and his temptations, by reason of a body of sin and death, and no account of the world, and the men of it: he helps them "in" the exercise of grace, and in the discharge of duty; in bearing the cross; in fighting the Lord's battles; and in their journeying through the wilderness: he helps them "to" temporal blessings, and spiritual ones; to spiritual food and raiment, and to all needful supplies of grace, and, at last, to eternal glory and happiness: and the help he now affords is quick and present, suitable and seasonable, and is what is sufficient; and is sometimes with, and sometimes without means.
And I will not fear what man shall do unto me. There is a becoming fear and reverence which is due to men that are our superiors, whether in civil or religious affairs; but men are not to be feared, when opposed to God; not a single man only is not to be feared, but even all men; and not they only, but all that they can do; the utmost of which is to kill the body; the ground of this fearlessness in believers are the infinite power, grace, and goodness of God. The words seem to be taken out of Psalm 54:4.
Remember them which have the rule over you,.... Christ's church is a kingdom, and he is King in it; pastors of churches are subordinate governors; who rule well when they rule not in an arbitrary way, according to their own wills, but according to the laws of Christ, with all faithfulness, prudence, and diligence. The word may be rendered "guides" or "leaders"; for such point out the way of peace, life, and salvation to men, and direct them to Christ; and guide them into the understanding of the Scriptures, and the truths of the Gospel; and lead them in the paths of faith and holiness, and are examples to them. The Greek word, here used, is what the Jews call Christian bishops by; and ηγεμονια, is, by Maimonides
who have spoken unto you the word of God; of which God is the author, being agreeably to the Scriptures, given by inspiration of God; the subject of which is the love and grace of God in Christ; and which God makes useful for conversion and comfort; and which, when spoken aright, is spoken freely, boldly, and faithfully:
whose faith follow; or "imitate"; meaning either their faithfulness, by owning the truths and ordinances of the Gospel before men; by reproving fellow Christians in love; by discharging the several duties of their place in the church; and by performing the private duties of life: or the grace of faith, their strong exercise of it, together with its fruits and effects, love, and good works; also the profession of their faith, which they hold fast unto the end; and the doctrine of faith, by embracing the same, as it appears agreeably to the word; by abiding by it, standing fast in it, striving for it, and persevering in it to the end.
Considering the end of their conversation; which may intend the whole of their conduct in the discharge of the several duties of their office; the end of which designs either the manner of it, as De Dieu explains it, agreeably to the sense of the Hebrew word, תוצאות in Psalm 68:20 or the drift and scope of it, which was Christ, his honour and glory, as in connection with the following verse; or the event of it in life, being for the glory of God, and the good of men; or rather the issue of it in death, or what a comfortable end they made; and so the Ethiopic version renders it, "considering" their "last manner of living, in their exit out of the world"; and this is to be considered for imitation and encouragement.
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. Who is the substance of the word spoken by the above mentioned rulers, the author and object of their faith, and the end in which their conversation terminated. These words may be expressive of the duration of Christ: he was "yesterday", which does not design the day immediately foregoing, nor some little time past, but ancient times, formerly, of old; and though it does not extend to eternity, which is true of Christ, yet may be carried further than to the days of his flesh here on earth, even to the whole Old Testament dispensation; yea, to the beginning of the world, when he existed not only as the eternal Word, the everlasting "I am", but as the Saviour and Redeemer of his people; during which dispensation he frequently appeared in an human form, and was the sum of all promises and prophecies, and the substance of all types and shadows, and the spiritual food of his people: and he is "today" under the Gospel dispensation; in his person as God-man, and in his offices as prophet, priest, and King: and will be so "for ever": he will never die more; his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his priesthood an unchangeable one. Moreover, these words may regard the immutability of Christ; who is unchangeable in his person, perfections, and essence, as God; and in his love to his people; and in the fulness of his grace, and in the efficacy of his blood, and in the virtue of his sacrifice and righteousness: it may be observed, that ο αυτος, translated "the same", answers to הוא, "he", a name of God, Psalm 102:27 and which is used in Jewish writings
Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines,.... The word "divers" may denote the variety and multitude of other doctrines; referring either to the various rites and ceremonies of the law, or to the traditions of the elders, or to the several doctrines of men, whether Jews or Gentiles; whereas the doctrine of the Scriptures, of Christ, and his apostles, is but one; it is uniform, and all of a piece; and so may likewise denote the disagreement of other doctrines with the perfections of God, the person and offices of Christ, the Scriptures of truth, the analogy of faith, and even with themselves: and "strange" doctrines may design such as were never taught by God, nor are agreeable to the voice of Christ, nor to be found in the word of God; and which are new, and unheard of, by the apostles and churches of Christ; and appear in a foreign dress and habit: wherefore the apostle exhorts the believing Hebrews not to be "carried about with them"; as light clouds and meteors in the air, by every wind: for so to be, is to be like children; and discovers great ignorance, credulity, levity, inconstancy, uncertainty, fluctuation, and inconsistency:
for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; with the doctrine of grace, which is food for faith, and does not leave men at uncertainties about things; but establishes the heart, with respect to the love and favour of God, and builds souls upon the foundation, Christ; so that they are not at a loss about the expiation of sin, justification, and salvation; but firmly look for, and expect eternal happiness by Christ, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God:
not with meats; referring to the distinction of meats among the Jews; or the sacrifices ate both by the priests and by the people; or the whole ceremonial law which stood in divers meats and drinks:
which have not profited them that have been occupied therein; they were only profitable to the body; and could be of no other use to the soul, when they were in force, than as they led to Christ, and were regarded by believers; for they were of no advantage to hypocrites and carnal men; they could not sanctify, nor justify, nor cheer the spirits, nor establish the heart; and are of no manner of service at all, since the death of Christ, whereby the whole ceremonial law is abolished.
We have an altar,.... By which is meant, not the cross of Christ, on which he was crucified; nor the Lord's table, where his flesh and blood are presented to faith, as food, though not offered; but Christ himself, who is altar, sacrifice, and priest; he was typified by the altar of the burnt offering, and the sacrifice that was offered upon it; the altar was made of Shittim wood, and covered with brass, denoting the incorruptibleness, duration, and strength of Christ: the horns of it, at the four corners, were for refuge; whoever fled to it, and laid hold on them, were safe; so Christ is a refuge to his people, that come from the four corners of the earth; and who believe in him, and lay hold on him, are preserved and protected by his power and grace: the use of it was for sacrifice to be offered upon it; which being a male, without blemish, and wholly burnt with fire, was a sweet savour to God; and which was typical of Christ's human nature, offered on the altar of his divine nature; which was pure and holy, suffered the fire of divine wrath, and was for a sweet smelling savour to God: this altar was but one, and most holy, and sanctified what was put upon it; all which is true of Christ: now this altar the saints have, and have a right to eat of it; even all Christ's friends and beloved ones; all that are made priests unto God by him; all that know him, believe in him, have a spiritual discerning of him, and hunger and thirst after him:
whereof they have no right to eat that serve the tabernacle: there is something of this altar, or that was offered up upon this altar, that is to be eaten, even the flesh and blood of Christ; and to "eat" of it is to believe that Christ is come in the flesh, and is become an offering for sin, and for us that eat; it is to receive, embrace, and possess the blessings procured by it; which is done by faith, with spiritual joy and gladness, and with sincerity and singleness of heart: now those, who served the tabernacle, or adhered to the service of the ceremonial law, they had no right to eat of this altar: the allusion is to the priests' eating of the sacrifices, and to some sacrifices, of which they might not eat, Leviticus 2:10 and this is not to be understood of believers, before the coming of Christ, who did attend tabernacle service; for they ate the same spiritual meat, and drank the same spiritual drink, as believers do now; but of such, who obstinately persisted in the ceremonies of the law, when they were abolished; and so cut off themselves from all right to the substance of these shadows. See Galatians 5:2.
For the bodies of those beasts,.... Not the red heifer, Numbers 19:1 nor the sin offering in general, Leviticus 6:30 nor those for the priest and people, Leviticus 4:11 but the bullock and goat, on the day of atonement, Leviticus 16:11 which were typical of Christ, in the bringing of their blood into the most holy place, by the high priest, for sin; and in the burning of them, without the camp: these beasts were slain, their blood was shed, and was brought into the most holy place, by the high priest; and was sprinkled on the mercy seat, and the horns of the altar of incense; and, by it, atonement was made for the priest, his house, and all Israel; which was a type of the death of Christ; the shedding of his blood; the carrying of it into heaven; the sprinkling it upon the throne of grace and mercy; by which reconciliation is made for the sins of all God's people:
whose blood is brought into the sanctuary: that is, into the holy of holies, as the Ethiopic version renders it:
by the high priest for sin; to make atonement for it, for his own, and for the sins of his family, and of all Israel:
are burnt without the camp, Leviticus 16:27 even their skins, flesh, and dung; and the men that burnt them were unclean, though, upon being washed, were received: which was typical of the dolorous sufferings of Christ without Jerusalem, as the next verse shows; and points out the extent of his sufferings, reaching to all parts of his body, and even to his soul; and expresses not only the pains, but the shame and reproach he endured, signified by the burning of the dung; and hints at the pardon of the wicked Jews, who were concerned in his sufferings; which was applied unto them upon their repentance.
Wherefore Jesus also,.... In order to answer the type of him;
that he might sanctify the people with his own blood: by "the people" are meant the people who are the objects of divine love and favour; a chosen and covenant people; a distinct and peculiar people; Christ's own special people, by the gift of his Father to him: and the sanctification of them does not design the internal sanctification of them, though this is from Christ, and in consequence of his blood; nor does it so much regard the cleansing of the filth of sin, though Christ's blood sanctifies, in this sense; but rather the expiation of the guilt of sin, which Christ has fully took away; complete pardon being procured, and a perfect righteousness brought in: and this by "his own blood"; the priests sanctified, to the purifying of the flesh, with the blood of others, with the blood of bulls and goats; but Christ with his own blood, which he was, really, a partaker of; and his human nature, being in union with his divine person, as the Son of God, it had a virtue in it, to sanctify and cleanse from all sin, and to make full expiation of it; in shedding of which, and sanctifying with it, he has shown great love to his people: and, that he might do this agreeably to the types of him on the day of atonement, he
suffered without the gate; that is, of Jerusalem: the Syriac version reads, "without the city"; meaning Jerusalem; which answered to the camp of Israel, in the wilderness; without which, the bodies of beasts were burnt, on the day of atonement: for so say
"as was the camp in the wilderness, so was the camp in Jerusalem; from Jerusalem to the mountain of the house, was the camp of Israel; from the mountain of the house to the gate of Nicanor, was the camp of the Levites; and from thence forward, the camp of the Shechinah, or the divine Majesty:'
and so Josephus
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp,.... Either of legal ceremonies, which are to be quitted; or of this world, which may be compared to a "camp"; for its instability, a camp not being always in one place; and for its hostility, the world being full of enemies to Christ and his people; and for the noise and fatigue of it, it being a troublesome and wearisome place to the saints, abounding with sins and wickedness; as also camps usually do; and for multitude, the men of the world being very numerous: and a man may be said to "go forth" from hence, when he professes not to belong to the world; when his affections are weaned from it; when the allurements of it do not draw him aside; when he forsakes, and suffers the loss of all, for Christ; when he withdraws from the conversation of the men of it, and breathes after another world; and to go forth from hence, "unto him", unto Christ, shows, that Christ is not to be found in the camp, in the world: he is above, in heaven, at the right hand of God; and that going out of the camp externally, or leaving the world only in a way of profession, is or no avail, without going to Christ: yet there must be a quitting of the world, in some sense, or there is no true coming to Christ, and enjoyment of him; and Christ is a full recompence for what of the world may be lost by coming to him; wherefore there is great encouragement to quit the world, and follow Christ: now to go forth to him is to believe in him; to hope in him; to love him; to make a profession of him, and follow him:
bearing his reproach; or reproach for his sake: the reproach, which saints meet with, for the sake of Christ, and a profession of him, is called "his", because of the union there is between them, and the sympathy and fellow feeling he has with them in it; he reckons what is said and done to them as said and done to himself; and besides, there is a likeness between the reproach which Christ personally bore, and that which is cast upon his followers; and this is to be bore by them willingly, cheerfully, courageously, and patiently.
For here have we no continuing city,.... Neither for religious worship, the city of Jerusalem being quickly to be destroyed, nor for civil life to dwell in; and so may have a peculiar regard to the Hebrews, whose temple and city would, in a short time, become desolate; though it was the general case of the saints, in those times, to be obliged to flee from one city to another, having no certain dwelling place: and it may respect the common instability of this world, and of the state of the saints in it: this world, and all things in it, are unstable and transitory, the riches, honours, pleasures, and profits of it, and the persons in it, and even the world itself; the fashion of it passes away: the saints have no settlement and abiding here; they are not of it, though in it; and though they are in it, it is but for a time; and, when they have done the will of God, they are taken out of it; another place is prepared for them: they are but sojourners, and strangers, and pilgrims; and this they are sensible of, and own, and acknowledge: and it is their mercy, that they are not to continue here; since, while in it, they are exposed to a great many sorrows and afflictions, both of soul and body; are often disturbed with Satan's temptations; and are liable to the snares, insults, and reproaches of the world; and, seeing they have no continuance here, they will be the sooner at home: and they have that to support them, under the instability of worldly things, which others have not; they are interested in an unchangeable God, and in his love; and in an unchangeable Saviour; and in an unchangeable covenant; and have a right to eternal glory and happiness, a city which has foundations, as follows:
but we seek one to come; heaven; which is compared to a city; is future, yet to come; though certain, being built and prepared by God; and is continuing, will abide, being well founded: hence the saints seek for it; See Gill on Hebrews 11:10.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise,.... For temporal and spiritual mercies; particularly for sanctification, or expiation of sin, by the blood of Christ; and for heaven, the continuing city, that is to come: this sacrifice is not a proper, nor a propitiatory one, but spiritual and evangelical; it is enjoined by God, is well pleasing to him, and glorifies him; and is our reasonable service, that believe in Christ; for being made priests by him to God, and having faith in him, such are capable of offering it aright; to do which, they are under the greatest obligations: and it is to be offered up by Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and for ever; and who has suffered without the gate, that he might sanctify the people by his blood; it is to be done in imitation of him, and by his assistance; and for him, and blessings in him; and on him, as the altar, which sanctifies the gift; and through him, as the high priest and Mediator; for, as there is no coming to God but by Christ, and all our mercies come to us through him, and our thanksgivings are only acceptable to God on his account, it must be right to offer them up by him: and that,
to God continually: as the Creator and Preserver of us, in our beings; as the Father of mercies; as the Father of Christ; and as our covenant God and Father in him; since he is always bestowing mercies on us, of one kind or another; and, therefore, should be continually praised, even in times of adversity, affliction, and temptation; in the midst of reproach and persecution; even when unsettled in mind, body, and estate; since there is a continuing city to come; nor can a believer be in any state of life but he has something to be thankful for:
that is, the fruit of our lips; the sacrifice of praise is so called, in allusion to the offering of the firstfruits under the law; and to distinguish it from legal sacrifices; and to show in what way and manner we are to praise God, namely, with our lips: in Hosea 14:2 which is thought to be referred to here, it is, "the calves of our lips"; sacrifices of praise being instead of calves: and the apostle interprets it in great agreement with the Jewish writers; the Chaldee paraphrase explains it by מלי ספותנא, "the words of their lips": and so Jarchi, דברי שפתינו, "the words of our lips"; and Kimchi, וידוי שפתינו, "the confession of our lips": and it may be observed, that there is a great nearness in פרים, "calves", and פרי, "fruit"; though perhaps rather the phrase is borrowed from Isaiah 57:19 where it is expressly had; the Septuagint indeed have it in Hosea 14:2 & the apostle adds, for further explanation,
giving thanks to his name; to the name of God; to the glory of his name; to the honour of his divine perfections; for mercies of every kind: the word signifies "a speaking together"; and may design not only the conjunction of the heart and tongue together in praise, but a social giving thanks to God by the saints, as a body together: the phrase θυσια αινεσεως, "the sacrifice of praise", is used by the Septuagint in 2 Chronicles 29:31. The apostle having shown that legal sacrifices were all superseded and abolished by the sacrifice of Christ, which is the design of this epistle, points out what sacrifice believers should offer up to God, under the Gospel dispensation; and the Jews themselves say, that
"in future time (i.e. in the days of the Messiah) all sacrifices shall cease, but קרבן תודה, "the sacrifice of praise" shall not cease
But to do good and to communicate forget not,.... Which is to be understood, not of doing good works in general, but of acts of beneficence, or communicating to "the poor", as the Syriac version renders it: the apostle proceeds to take notice of another sort of sacrifice, which continues under the Gospel dispensation; and that is, alms; which should be attended to: alms should be given, or beneficence be exercised to all men in need, even to our enemies, as well as to our friends and relations; and especially to poor saints, and ministers of the Gospel: and this believers should not "forget"; which shows that it is a duty of importance; and that men are too apt to neglect it, and should be stirred up unto it:
for with such sacrifices God is well pleased; not that they are meritorious of the favour of God and of eternal life; for what a man gives in a way of charity is but what God has given him, and cannot be profitable to God, though it is to a fellow creature; nor is there any proportion between what is given, and grace and glory which the saints receive; yet doing good in this way, when it is done in faith, springs from love, and is directed to the glory of God, is well pleasing to him; yea, these sacrifices are preferred by him to legal ones, Hosea 6:6 and the Jews also say, that
"greater is he who does alms than (if he offered) all sacrifices
Obey them that have the rule over you,.... Not the ecclesiastical rulers among the Jews, for to these they were no longer obliged, they being no longer under such tutors and governors; nor civil magistrates, though it was their duty to obey them, even Heathen ones; for as for Christian magistrates, as yet there were none; but their spiritual guides and governors, the same that are mentioned Hebrews 13:7 these the apostle exhorts them to "obey": by constantly tending upon the word preached by them, and hearkening to it; by receiving it with faith and love, as it appears agreeable to the Scriptures; for a contrary behaviour is pernicious to souls, and highly resented by God; and by being present at, and joining with them in the ordinances of Christ, as administered by them; and by regarding their admonitions, counsels, and advice:
and submit yourselves; to the laws of Christ's house, as put in execution by them; and to their censures and reproofs, as delivered by the authority of the church; for they are spiritual fathers, and children should obey their parents, and submit to them; they are the ambassadors of Christ, stand in his stead, and represent him, wherefore their authority is great; and they are pastors or shepherds of the flock, whom the sheep should follow:
for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account: they watch not for themselves, for their worldly gain and advantage, and for the estates of men; but for the souls of men, to do them good, to comfort and edify them, to feed them with knowledge and understanding, and for the salvation of them; as such that must give an account to their own consciences, that they discharge their work aright, or they cannot be satisfied; and to the church, to whom they minister, to whom they are accountable, if they are dilatory and negligent; and especially as such as must stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and give an account to him of their ministry, of their use of talents committed to them, and of souls that are put under their care and charge; how they have discharged their duty to the souls of men, and how these have behaved towards them under the ministry of the word: the Alexandrian copy and the Vulgate Latin version read, "for they watch, as those that must give an account for your souls": the sense is much the same:
that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; either do their work with joy, cheerfully; which they do, when they are obeyed and submitted to; when men attend upon the word and ordinances administered by them, and receive advantage, and grow in grace and spiritual knowledge; when they abide by the Gospel, and walk worthy of it; otherwise they do their work heavily, and with sorrow: or else give up their account with joy, and not with grief; either at the throne of grace, where they either rejoice or complain; or at the great day, when they will be witnesses, either for or against those that have been committed to them:
for that is unprofitable unto you; for whose souls they watch; that is, the latter would be so, either to do their work sorrowing, or to give up their account by way of complaint; either of them must be to the disadvantage of such persons that occasion grief and sorrow.
Pray for us,.... Who are in the ministry; your guides and governors; since the work is of so much moment, and so arduous and awful, and you have such a concern in it; See Gill on 2 Thessalonians 3:1.
for we trust we have a good conscience; there is a conscience in every man, but it is naturally evil: a good conscience is a conscience sanctified by the Spirit of God, and sprinkled by the blood of Jesus; here it chiefly respects the upright discharge of it in the ministerial work: this the apostle often asserts, and appeals to, and which he here expresses with modesty, and yet with confidence; and which he uses as an argument for prayer for them:
in all things willing to live honestly; not only as men, but as ministers; faithfully dispensing the word of truth, without any regard to the favour or frowns of men, as good stewards of the mysteries of God; which contains in it another reason for prayer: the phrase, "in all things", is so placed, that it may be read in connection with either clause; and the sense is either that they exercised a good conscience in all things, in which they were concerned with God, or man, and among all persons, Jews and Gentiles; or that they were willing to live honestly in every respect, as men, Christians, and ministers.
But I beseech you the rather to do this,.... To pray earnestly; to strive together in their prayers for them, Romans 15:30
that I may be restored to you the sooner: Christ's ministers are sometimes hindered from being with their people, through Satan, or his emissaries, creating troubles, or casting them into prison; which might be the apostle's case now; but God can make their way through all; and for this he should be prayed unto.
Now the God of peace,.... This is the concluding part of the epistle, which is ended with a prayer, made up of very suitable petitions for the Hebrews; and as the apostle desires them to pray for him and other ministers, he, in turn, and by way of example, prays for them: and he addresses God, as "the God of peace"; who is so called, because of his concern in the peace and reconciliation of his people; because he is the giver of conscience peace to them; because he is the author of all felicity and prosperity, temporal and spiritual; the promoter of peace and concord among saints, and at last brings them to eternal peace; See Gill on Romans 15:33, a consideration of this gives boldness at the throne of grace; furnishes out a reason why blessings asked for may be expected; has a tendency to promote peace among brethren; may bear up saints under a sense of infirmity and imperfection, in prayer and other duties; and be an encouragement to them under Satan's temptations, and all afflictions. The Arabic version makes the God of peace to be Christ himself; whereas Christ is manifestly distinguished from him in the next verse; and even in that version, reading the words thus, "now; the God of peace raised from the dead Jesus the Shepherd of the sheep, magnified by the blood of the everlasting covenant; Jesus, I say, our Lord confirm you, &c. through Jesus Christ"; for which version there is no foundation in the original text. The God of peace is manifestly God the Father, who is distinguished from Christ his Son:
that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus; who died for the sins of his people; was buried, and lay under the power of death for some time; but was raised from the dead by his Father; though not exclusive of himself, and the Spirit of holiness; in the same body in which he suffered and died; as the firstfruits of his people, and as their Lord and Saviour, head and surety, for their justification, and as a pledge of their resurrection. The apostle addresses the God and Father of Christ in prayer, under this consideration, to observe his power and ability to help in the greatest distress, and in the most difficult and desperate case; to encourage faith and hope in him, when things are at the worst, and most discouraging; to comfort the saints under afflictions, in a view of their resurrection; to engage them to regard a risen Christ, and things above, and to expect life and immortality by him:
that great Shepherd of the sheep: the people of God, whom the Father has chosen, and given to Christ; for whom he has laid down his life; and whom the Spirit calls by his grace, and sanctifies; to whom Christ has a right, by his Father's gift, his own purchase, and the power of grace: these being partakers of his grace, are called "sheep", because they are harmless and inoffensive in their lives and conversations; and yet are exposed to danger; but meek and patient under sufferings; are weak and timorous of themselves; are clean, being washed in the blood of Christ; are sociable in their communion with one another; are profitable, though not to God, yet to men; are apt to go astray, and are liable to diseases: they are also called sheep, and are Christ's sheep before conversion; see John 10:16 and Christ, he is the Shepherd of them, who in all respects discharges the office of a shepherd to them, diligently and faithfully; See Gill on John 10:16, here he is called, "that great Shepherd"; being the man, God's fellow, equal to him, the great God and our Saviour; and having a flock which, though comparatively is a little one, is a flock of souls, of immortal souls, and is such a flock as no other shepherd has; hence he is called the Shepherd and Bishop of souls: and his abilities to feed them are exceeding great; he has a perfect knowledge of them; all power to protect and defend them; a fulness of grace to supply them; and he takes a diligent care of them: and this great Person so described was raised from the dead,
through the blood of the everlasting covenant: for the sense is not, that God is the God of peace, through that blood, though it is true that peace is made by it; nor that Christ becomes the Shepherd of the sheep by it, though he has with it purchased the flock of God; nor that the chosen people become his sheep through it, though they are redeemed by it, and are delivered out of a pit wherein is no water, by the blood of this covenant; but that Christ was brought again from the dead through it; and it denotes the particular influence that it had upon his resurrection, and the continued virtue of it since. The "covenant" spoken of is not the covenant of works made with Adam, as the federal head of his natural seed; there was no mediator or shepherd of the sheep that had any concern therein; there was no blood in that covenant; nor was it an everlasting one: nor the covenant of circumcision given to Abraham; though possibly there may be some reference to it; or this may be opposed to that, since the blood of circumcision is often called by the Jews דם ברית, "the blood of the covenant"
Make you perfect in every good work to do his will,.... The Alexandrian copy reads, "in every good work and word"; as in 2 Thessalonians 2:17 every good work is to be done: a good work is what is done in obedience to the command of God, and in faith, and from a principle of love, in the name and strength of Christ, and with a view to the glory of God; and every such work should be diligently attended to; such as concern God, and are of a moral nature, or of positive institution; and such as concern each other, whether as men or Christians: and the will of God is the rule of every good work, both as to matter and manner; whatever is not agreeably to the revealed will of God, let it have ever such a show of religion and holiness in it, it is not a good work; continuance in the performance of good works, and the perfection of them, are things to be desired of God; it requires grace to perform good works, and more grace to abound in them, and to keep men from being weary of well doing; and though the best of works are imperfect, yet perfection in them is desirable, and it is God alone that can make the saints perfect in any sense; see 1 Peter 5:10. The Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it, "strengthen you", or "confirm you"; saints need to be strengthened with spiritual strength, to perform good works; for they are weak and feeble, and unable of themselves to do anything spiritually good; without Christ they can do nothing, but through him strengthening them, they can do all things; and they have need to be confirmed in them, that they are the will of God, and that it is their duty to regard them. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, "fit you": men are naturally unfit for good works; in order to do them aright, it is necessary that they should have knowledge of the will of God; that they be regenerated and created in Christ; that they be sanctified and cleansed, and so meet for the master's use; that they have the Spirit of God, and strength from Christ; and that they be believers in him: nor is there always a fitness in saints themselves, or a readiness to good works, only when God gives both will and power to do them; wherefore such a petition as this is very proper and pertinent; another follows, or the same carried on, and more largely expressed; though it rather seems to be a distinct one, and that in order to the former:
working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; the good work of grace being necessary to the performance of good works; nor can any man do a good work well, unless he has the good work of grace wrought in him: grace is a work not of man, but of God; it is an internal work, something in a man's heart, and not anything without him, or done by him; and it is a gradual and progressive work; it is carried on by degrees, and is not yet perfect, though it will be. God is continually working in his people, carrying on his work, and will at length perform it; See Gill on Philemon 1:6, and this is "well pleasing in his sight"; it is in his sight; it is obvious to his view, when it is not to others, nor to themselves, being the hidden man of the heart; and it is very agreeable to him; it makes men like unto him; hereby they become a suitable habitation for him, and are put into a capacity of serving him; to such he gives more grace, and on that grace he entails glory: and all this is
through Jesus Christ; all the grace necessary for the beginning and carrying on, and finishing of the good work of grace, and for the performance of every good work, comes through the hands of Christ, in whom all fulness of it dwells; and through the blood and intercession of Christ, by virtue of which it is communicated; and all become acceptable to God through him, as the persons of the Lord's people, so the grace that is wrought in them, and the works that are done by them:
to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen; either to God the Father of Christ, and the Father of mercies, and God of salvation; and as he is the God of peace, and the bringer of Christ from the dead; the appointer, provider, and giver of the great Shepherd; the author and finisher of all good in his people: or to Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through whom all grace and good things come; to him does this doxology of right belong; he has a glory both as God, and as Mediator; and the glory of both is to be given to him: the glory of his deity, by asserting it; by attributing all divine perfections and works unto him; by worshipping of him, and by ascribing the efficacy of his mediatorial actions to it: and the glory of salvation and redemption is to be given to him, who alone has obtained it; by discarding all other Saviours; by trusting alone in him; by looking to him alone for peace, pardon, justification, sanctification, and eternal life: and this glory should be ascribed continually, for ever and ever, as it will be by angels, and saints to all eternity, The word "Amen" is added, to show that the apostle assented to it, and wished it might be, and that he firmly believed it, and so asserted that it would be; for it is expressive of assent, asseveration, and prayer.
And I beseech you, brethren,.... The apostle closes his epistle to the Hebrews in a very tender and affectionate manner, calling them "brethren", as he often does; and speaking to them, not in an authoritative way, nor by way of advice, but by entreaty: the reason may be, because he was the apostle of the Gentiles, and because the Jews were not so well pleased with him, on account of his preaching down the ceremonies of the law; though such language is used by him in other epistles; he became all things to all, that he might gain some. The subject matter of his entreaty is, that they would
suffer the word of exhortation; either from one another, as to prayer, to attendance on the word and ordinances, to a regard to their lives and conversations, and to a close adherence to the Gospel, and the profession of it; or from their ministers, their guides, and governors, whose business it was to exhort them to the several duties of religion; or rather from himself; and it designs either the particular exhortation in Hebrews 12:5 or the continued exhortation to various duties in this chapter; or any, and everyone throughout the epistle: and this shows that the children of God are sometimes heavy and sluggish, and need stirring up; and that there are some things often in exhortations and reproofs which are not so agreeable to the flesh, and yet ought to be taken kindly, and patiently endured: the word may be rendered "consolation", or "solace", as it is by the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions; and may refer to the whole of this epistle, which is of a consolatory nature: this may suggest that these Hebrews were under afflictions, and needed comfort; and yet through unbelief might be tempted to refuse the comfort administered to them; which is too often the case with God's people:
for I have written a letter unto you in few words; or, "I have sent, or, wrote to you in brief"; meaning either the exhortatory part of the epistle, which lay in few words, and chiefly in this chapter; or the whole of the epistle, which was but short in comparison of the length he might have carried it, and as the subject matter of it might seem to require; it treating on the great doctrines of the Gospel, and mysteries of grace; things of the greatest moment and importance, and which might have been largely insisted on; but he had contracted things, and had wrote much in a little; and this he makes a reason why they should suffer or bear with the exhortation given, since it was not pressed with a multitude of words, wearing out their patience.
Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty,.... This is the same person to whom the Apostle Paul wrote two epistles, and whom he often calls his son, though sometimes his brother, as here, Colossians 1:1 of him he says, that he was set at liberty, or "dismissed"; either by the apostle, by whom he was sent into some parts, upon some business; or rather was loosed from his bonds, having been a prisoner for the sake of Christ and the Gospel; and, it may be; a fellow prisoner with the apostle, at Rome, as Aristarchus and others were; and this very great and useful person being known, very likely, to the Hebrews, since his mother was a Jewess, and he himself was well reported of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium, Acts 16:1 it was a piece of good news to them to hear of his release:
with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you; by which it seems that Timothy was now absent from the apostle, but that he expected him to come in a short time; when, if he should, they would both come together, and visit the Hebrews; which looks as if the apostle was at liberty himself, or at least had some hopes of his deliverance from prison; but whether he ever had his liberty after this, and saw the Hebrews any more, cannot be said; the contrary seems most probable.
Salute all them that have the rule over you,.... The pastors and officers of the church of the Hebrews, the same with those in Hebrews 13:7 and all the saints; the several members of the church, who were set apart to holiness by God; whose sins were expiated by Christ; to whom Christ was made sanctification; and who were internally sanctified by the Spirit of God, and lived holy lives and conversations; to these the apostle wished all prosperity, inward and outward, spiritual and temporal; and he uses the word "all" in both clauses; and, including every officer and member, expresses his universal love to them, whether high or low, rich or poor, greater or lesser believers:
they of Italy salute you; that is, the brethren, as the Vulgate Latin version reads; the Italian brethren; such as were at Puteoli, and other places, in that country; see Acts 28:13. Italy is a famous and well known country in Europe; a very fruitful and delightful one; of which Rome, where the apostle very likely now was, is the chief city: it has been called by different names, as Saturnia from Saturn; and Ausonia, Aenotria, and Hesperia Magna; and it had its name Italy, some say, from Italus, the son of Penelope and Telegonus; others, from Italus, a king of the Arcadians, or, as some say, the Sicilians; but, according to Timsaeus and Varro
Grace be with you all, Amen. Which is the apostle's usual salutation in all his epistles, 2 Thessalonians 3:17 in which he wishes renewed discoveries of the love and favour of God; fresh communications of grace from Christ; an abundant supply of the spirit of grace; an increase of internal grace and external gifts; and a continuance of the Gospel of the grace of God. Of "Amen"; see Gill on Hebrews 13:21. The subscription of this epistle is,
written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy; in the Alexandrian copy it is, "written to the Hebrews from Rome"; which is very probable, since the Italian brethren send their salutations in it; and the words, "by Timothy", are left out; nor is it likely that it should, since it is clear, from cf11 Heb_13:23 that he was absent from the apostle; and if he had sent it by him, what need was there to inform them that he was set at liberty?
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany