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Bible Commentaries

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews

Hebrews 13

Verse 1

—Let brotherly love continue.

Brotherly love is Christ's new commandment. It is at once a new and an old commandment. It is old, as it was from the beginning. It is new, as it was enjoined by Jesus on his disciples. The love of believers to each other, which is implanted in them by Divine teaching, 1 Thessalonians 4:9; was shadowed forth by the preference which the children of Israel were commanded to cherish towards each other. Believers of every nation are to be the objects of our love. It is to continue. It is the perfect bond by which the subjects of the kingdom of God are knit together. They are heirs of God, and joint- heirs with Christ. Their inheritance is ample. However great the enjoyment of one, it does not impoverish others, so that there is no room for jealousy.

Verse 2

—Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hospitality to strangers is inculcated from the consideration that some have, without knowing it, entertained angels, as was the case with Abraham and Lot.

Verse 3

Remember them that are in hands, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

This is a reference to those who are in bonds for the cause of Christ. They were to sympathize with them and to pray for them. Such persons had peculiar claims upon them as their brethren, and being placed as it were in the front of the battle. Indeed, it became them to sympathize with all who were in adversity, from the consideration that they were also in the body and liable to like afflictions.

Verse 4

Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Marriage is honorable in all.—The Roman Catholics extol celibacy as more honorable, and do not permit their clergy to marry; but God has declared it to be honorable in all. But God will judge whoremongers and adulterers; they may escape the judgment of men, but they cannot escape Divine vengeance.

Verse 5

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Here, and in many other passages of Scripture, we are cautioned against covetousness, and urged to be content with the situation and circumstances in which we are placed in the course of God's providence, and the motive to contentment is the promise of God, that He will never leave us nor forsake us. This passage is remarkable for the number of negatives which it contains. I will never, never leave thee; no, I will never, never forsake thee. This was originally said to Joshua, after the death of Moses. Joshua 1:5. David repeated the promise to Song of Solomon, 1 Chronicles 28:20; and it is repeated in substance to Israel. Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:20. The Apostle teaches us that "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that "we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope," Romans 15:4; and as "all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us," 2 Corinthians 1:20, all believers are encouraged to appropriate this precious promise in all their straits and difficulties.

Verse 6

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

We may therefore boldly say,—"The Lord is my helper," &c. "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?" Psalm 118:6.

Verse 7

Remember them which have the rule over you, who hate spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

The Apostle seems to refer to their leaders or elders, who had spoken to them the word of the Lord, and had departed this life; for he refers to the end of their conversation. They had finished their course, they had kept the faith, and entered into the joy of their Lord.

Verses 8-9

V:8-9.—Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

This is often understood as being connected with the preceding verse; but it is evidently to be connected with what follows. From the consideration that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and for ever, the believers are cautioned against being carried away with those winds of doctrine which arise from time to time—they are termed diverse and strange doctrines. There appears, from what follows, to be a reference here to the Judaizing teachers who "taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved," Acts 15:1; for the Apostle goes on,—"It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, not with meats," &c. It appears from the epistle that many had either apostatized, or were in danger of apostasy and of returning to the weak and beggarly elements. This error is exposed in almost all the epistles, especially in that to the Galatians; and those who inculcated such doctrine are characterized as false teachers. The Apostle would have the hearts of believers established with grace, with enlarged views of the boundless riches of Divine grace, through the one sacrifice of Christ.

Verse 10

We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.

The Jewish sacrifices were offered upon the altar. Now we have an altar, by which is evidently meant Christ. He is at once the altar, the sacrifice, and the Priest. The whole of the Jewish dispensation pointed to Him on whom alone believers depend. The priests in Israel who waited at the altar were partakers with the altar, 1 Corinthians 9:13; part of the sacrifice was burnt on the altar and part eaten by the priest; but those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat the sacrifices of the Christian altar.

Verses 11-13

V:11- 13.—For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sins, as burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sins, are not to be eaten, but burnt without the camp, according to Leviticus 16:17 :—"And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel." All the sacrifices prefigured Christ, and more especially the sacrifice on the great day of atonement. Now, as the priest was not permitted to eat of the flesh of the sacrifice offered on that day, but it was burnt without the camp, it is evident that the worshippers in the tabernacle have no right to eat of our altar; for, in exact correspondence with the Levitcal law, Jesus, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us then go forth to Him without the camp, bearing His reproach, turning our back on the legal sacrifices, and on the altar where they were offered.

Verses 14-15

V:14-15 —For here have are no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that Isaiah, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

And let us be encouraged so to act by the consideration that here we have no continuing city, but we look for one to come, that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. This verse is a parenthesis. The15th verse is connected with the13th. In it we are encouraged to go forth without the camp, bearing His reproach; and, in verse15, are exhorted by him to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, namely, the fruit of our lips, Hosea 14:2; Psalm 69:30-31; giving thanks to His name. As Israel approached God through their high priest, we are to approach through the great High Priest of our profession, for no man comes to the Father but by Him.

Verse 16

But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

But while we are to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, we are not to forget to do good to others, and to communicate of our substance to the poor. Philippians 4:18. Probably the Apostle particularly refers to the fellowship or contribution for the poor, which is so frequently enjoined in Scripture. These are the sacrifices which the Lord now requires of His people, and with these sacrifices He is well pleased.

Verse 17

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

In verse7th and9th the Apostle had exhorted the Hebrews to remember their departed leaders, who had spoken to them the word of the Lord, and cautioned them against being carried away with diverse and strange doctrines, from the consideration that Jesus is the same yesterday and for ever. Here he admonishes them to obey their leaders, and to submit to them. The authority given by the Lord to the bishops or elders of the churches of Christ is altogether different from the authority with which civil rulers are invested. The authority of the spiritual ruler is to be maintained by instruction and persuasion, and is not to be enforced by civil pains and penalties, like the authority of the civil ruler. We have an illustration of this in the history of our Lord. In consequence of the doctrine in one of His discourses proving very offensive, many of His disciples went away. He neither prevented nor threatened them, but said to the twelve, "Will ye also go away?" But they were restrained the conviction that He was the Christ, the Son of God. John 6:67; John 6:69. So the overseers are to commend themselves to every man's conscience, and to rule by the Word of God. The duty of submission is enforced, first, because they watch for the souls of those over whom they are placed, and must give account of the manner in which they have fulfilled their trust.

Verse 18

Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

The Apostle then requests their prayers, and he does this the more confidently because he trusted he had a good conscience. He was indeed maligned by many; but, whatever his calumniators might allege, he had the testimony of his conscience. "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly Wisdom of Solomon, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." 2 Corinthians 1:12. It may appear strange that the Apostle does not speak with more confidence. He trusts he had a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. Here he seems to glance at the deceitfulness of the heart. We may compare this with 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 :—"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord." He was not conscious of acting unfaithfully, but this did not justify him. His heart was deceitful and desperately wicked. He might form a false estimate of himself, but the judgment was the Lord's; and here he does not affirm that he has a good conscience, but he trusts he has a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

Verse 19

But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.

He had requested in general to have their prayers, and he desires them for a specific purpose, that he might be the sooner restored to them. He was exposed to many dangers. He was exposed to deaths oft, 2 Corinthians 11:23; and in many perils, ver26; and he desires the prayers of his brethren that he may be the sooner restored to them. Amidst all his varied and extensive labours he always felt peculiar interest in his countrymen, and appears glad of an opportunity of seeing and conversing with them.

Verse 20

Now 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.

Here, in drawing to a close, he offers an affectionate prayer for his brethren; and it is expressed in a manner calculated for their instruction and edification.

He describes God as the God of peace. [It is an argument for Paul being the author of this Epistle that this title is only to be found in his writings.] He preaches peace to them that are far off, and to them that are nigh. He is the author of peace in all the Churches of the saints, 1 Corinthians 14:33. The same Apostle prays that the Lord of peace may give the brethren peace always, by all means, 2 Thessalonians 3:16. By the blood of His Cross Christ hath not only reconciled His people to God, but made peace between Jews and Gentiles, making of two one new Prayer of Manasseh, so making peace by abolishing the enmity arising from their separation by the peculiar dispensation under which the Jews were placed.

The prayer, then, is addressed to the God of peace, who is characterized as having brought from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep. He feeds His flock as a shepherd, Isaiah 40:11, and describes Himself as sustaining this character, John 10:11, and speaks of His sheep consisting both of Jews and Gentiles, verse16, as given to Him, verse29. He received a commandment to lay down His life for them, verse18. Pastors are exhorted to feed the flock, but He is the great Shepherd of the sheep.

Through the blood of the everlasting covenant.—Some understand this to signify that Christ is the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant, having purchased the Church with His own blood. But it is rather to be connected with His being brought from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant. His being brought from the dead, or His resurrection, was the fruit of the perfection of His sacrifice, by which the sins of His people were cast into the deeps of the sea. He proclaimed with His dying breath that the work of redemption was completed, and the Father set His seal to the declaration when He raised Him from the dead. He Isaiah, therefore, said to be brought from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant. He had been made sin for His people, but their guilt was fully expiated by His blood. He had received the wages of sin, but, having made an end of sin, death could not retain him under its dominion; hence He was brought from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant, by which the covenant was ratified; and through the same blood all His blood-bought sheep shall be brought.

The everlasting covenant is opposed to the temporary covenant with Israel, which they broke, and the removal of which made room for the better covenant, which can never wax old, having been in the mind of God from eternity, and shall abide for ever.

Verse 21

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 he glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Make you perfect in every good work.—Thus He prays for their progress, for their growth in grace, and increasing conformity to their great pattern and example.

Working in you...—Believers are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. They were at first created in Adam; but they are born of the Spirit, and possess a new and divine nature, derived from their glorious Head; and, as they were at first changed into the image of Christ by the contemplation of His glory, the transformation proceeds till they see Him as He Isaiah, and are completely conformed to Him.

Verse 22

And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.

He entreats them to listen to the instructions He had delivered, for He had written to them very concisely.

Verse 23

Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.

He informs them that Timothy was set at liberty, and expresses His intention to visit them along with him.

Verse 24

Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

All the Epistles were addressed to the Churches, and thus we are guarded against the error of considering the clergy, as they have been improperly called, as in themselves constituting the Church. The brethren are directed to salute their pastors, overseers, or rulers. Respect to them is intimately connected with the peace of the Church, 1 Thessalonians 5:13.

The Apostle adds, "and all the saints." He also sends the salutation of the brethren in Italy, which shows the Epistle was written from thence.

Verse 25

Grace he with you all. Amen.

Grace, the Lord's free and undeserved favor: He prays it may rest on them all.

The Epistle is said to be written from Italy, which is evident from verse24; but it could not be sent by Timothy, for Paul only expected his arrival, and the notes appended to the Apostolic Epistles are of no authority.

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Bibliographical Information
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". 1835.