Final Admonitions and Conclusion.
Exhortations of a general nature:
v. 1. Let brotherly love continue.
v. 2. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
v. 3. Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them, and them which suffer adversity as being yourselves also in the body.
v. 4. Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
v. 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,
v. 6. so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
The inspired author has presented the matter to which he wanted to call the special attention of the Hebrew Christians. But in connection with this doctrine he now takes occasion to address some special admonitions to his readers: Brotherly love should continue. Love of the brethren had existed in their midst, as he had frankly acknowledged, chap. 6:10. But if they did not heed the appeal and warning addressed to them in the preceding chapter, there was danger that the general decay of their faith would be accompanied by the inevitable corresponding loss of true brotherly love. But in order that brotherly love might remain, it required constant exercising, two forms of which are here mentioned. First of all: Entertainment of strangers do not neglect; for through this some have entertained angels without knowing it. True hospitality is here earnestly recommended, not an indiscriminate feeding of loafers. Conditions often made it necessary for the Christians to move from one place to another in those days, and many of them could ill afford to make use of the public inn. In such cases the brethren should be willing to show their love by receiving others, often fugitives, into their homes and providing for their wants. In this work of love the thought was to encourage them that some people at least who practiced hospitality in that way had entertained angels without knowing it, Gen_18:19. The hospitality of the early Christians was commented upon favorably even by heathen writers. It is a virtue which might be practiced with far greater liberality in our days, when a suspicious coldness has come to mark the intercourse of Christians with one another, Rom_12:13; 1Pe_4:9; 1Ti_3:2; Tit_1:8. But some of their fellow-Christians might be in even a worse plight, and therefore the text continues: Be mindful of those in bonds as fellow prisoners, of those that suffer evil as being yourselves also in the body. The Christians to whom these words were addressed were living in troublous times. The general persecution which came upon them after the death of Stephen had indeed subsided, but the hatred of their enemies remained, and there were probably local disturbances. The believers, then, should feel a prayerful sympathy for all those that were languishing in prison for the sake of the Gospel, just as though they had been bound with them and were suffering the same hardships. In the same way they should remember those that were being abused, maltreated, showing this cordial sympathy all the more readily since they, being in the body, were liable to similar ill-usage. It was in accordance with these and similar instructions that the early Christians composed special prayers for those suffering imprisonment and in every way provided for their relief.
A special admonition concerns the sacredness of holy wedlock: in honor let marriage be held by all, and the marriage-bed be kept unstained; but fornicators and adulterers the Lord will judge. Whether a person has already entered the state of holy wedlock or is still unwed, marriage should be held in honor, sacred as an institution of the Lord. There must be no violation of its sanctity either by the unmarried, by presuming upon the special functions of this state, or by the married, by defiling the marriage-bed through unfaithfulness or in entering this holy estate for the mere gratification of sexual lust. The conjugal relations should be chaste. With solemn emphasis the writer adds that it is God who will judge and condemn the fornicators and adulterers, those who in any manner violate the sacredness of the boundaries which He has drawn around the state of marriage.
Of the entire conduct of the Christians the author says: Your mode of life be without covetousness, being content with what you have: for Himself has said, I mill by no means leave thee, nor will I at all forsake thee. The entire life of the Christians, all their thinking and doing, their conduct under all circumstances, should be free from avarice, from the love of money, for God demands that His children on earth should be satisfied, content with what they have, with what He has given them. This contentment has a firm foundation in the promise of God that He mill under no circumstances leave His own to want, nor mill He in any manner forsake them, Deu_31:6-8; 1Ch_28:20. See Gen_28:15; Jos_1:5; Isa_41:17. This promise of God being secure, we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear, Psa_118:6. The Psalmist asks the challenging question, but the author here changes the question to the bold statement of faith which fears no danger with God on its side. See 1Ch_28:20. Men can at their worst but take our lives; but our salvation in Christ Jesus is secure in the hands of the Father. The body they may kill, but the soul has been entrusted to the certainty of everlasting Mercy.
An admonition to stand firm:
v. 7. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
v. 8. Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever.
v. 9. 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.
v. 10. we have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
v. 11. For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin are burned without the camp.
v. 12. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.
The first point which the sacred author brings out in this paragraph is that of keeping in remembrance the former teachers of the Gospel: Keep in remembrance them that had the rule over you, who spoke to you the Word of God, upon the close of whose life look closely, and copy their faith. The Christian's should remember their spiritual guides, or leaders, keep them in kind and honoring remembrance. This feeling should be intensified by the fact that it was they that proclaimed to them the glorious Gospel of their salvation, God's Word of Love, These leaders, these early guides of the Hebrew Christians, had now passed away, but they were still acting as examples through their conduct. These men had sealed their teaching with their lives; they had remained steadfast in their belief in the Gospel to the end, and had thus exhibited a faith worthy of imitation. The believers should carefully consider this; they should keep the same faith, and God would keep them.
This may be set forth all the more emphatically, since the object of faith has not changed or passed away: Jesus Christ, always the same, yesterday and today and forever. That is the inscription which the Christians may at all times place upon their banner. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, is the basis of our faith. There was and is and will be only this one Redeemer; but in Him we have all that we need for this life and for the world to come, Act_4:12; Act_15:11; Rev_13:5; 1Co_3:11. "Yesterday is the time before His incarnation, today is the time of His revelation in the flesh. Thus it is now and in eternity the same Christ, through whom, and through whom alone, all believers in the past, in the present, and in the future time are delivered from the Law, justified, and saved."
With this basis of faith, it follows: With various teachings, and strange, be not carried away; for it is a fine thing for the heart to be confirmed by grace, not by meats, which were of no avail to them that had recourse to them. This was the great danger which was menacing the Jewish Christians. There were many men that sought admission to the Christian congregations in those days who construed the Old Testament doctrine in such a way and insisted upon the former institutions and practices with such emphasis as to loosen the attachment of the believers to Christ as the only Mediator. Many a Christian who was not firmly grounded in the liberty of Christ was swept away by the flood of specious arguments brought forward by these Judaizing teachers. It was necessary, therefore, that the hearts of the Christians be strengthened and confirmed, a fact which only the grace of God in the Gospel could bring about. A fine and laudable thing it would certainly be if all Christians would stand firm in the knowledge of the efficacy of this grace, for it is all that we need for this life and the next. The writer, in this connection and for the sake of his readers, purposely rejects the idea that this aim might be reached by the se of certain foods of the sacrificial meals, of which some Jewish Christians still believed that they had the power to give spiritual strength. All the people that had ever placed their trust in these sacrificial meals, in the eating of the meat and other food that was connected with the offering of certain sacrifices, had had no benefit of their work, having thereby not become justified before God, Gal_4:9-10; Gal_5:1-4.
It is in contrast to this ceremonial eating of the Old Testament that the author says: We have an altar, from which to eat they have no authority that serve the tabernacle. The contrast is between those that cling to the Levitical sacrificial cult and those that place their trust in the mercy and grace of God alone. Those that still serve the tabernacle, whose heart is bound up with the form of worship of the Old Testament, who insist that the observance of the Ceremonial Law is necessary also in the New Testament, have no authority, no right and power to take part in the blessings which come to us from our altar, from the Cross of Christ, on which the Lamb of God was offered for the sins of the world. For to eat of this altar means to become a partaker of the benefits which the great Sacrifice brought to the world, it means to accept in faith the true righteousness before God and eternal salvation. See Joh_6:51-58.
This is emphasized by another comparison between the sacrifices of the Old Testament and the one great offering of the New: For of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, their bodies are burned outside the camp; therefore also Jesus, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside of the gate. According to the Ceremonial Law of the Jews, the carcasses of those animals whose blood, on the great Day of Atonement, was taken into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled against the mercy-seat, chap. 9:8-25; 10:19, had to be burned outside of the camp of the Jews, and later outside of the city of Jerusalem, Lev_16:27. Of the flesh of these sacrifices, therefore, no one was permitted to eat, as was the case with many other offerings. But now the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement is the principal type of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, chap. 9:7-12. It was for this reason, then, that Christ, in consecrating the sinners to Himself, in working salvation for all mankind through His own blood, suffered and died outside of the gates of the city of Jerusalem. Like a malefactor He was taken outside of the city and put to death, Lev_24:14; Num_15:35-36; Deu_17:5; Mar_15:20-28. The very fact that Christ was cast out and condemned and put to death won salvation for all men. Those, then, that still insist upon keeping all the precepts of the Ceremonial Law are obliged to look upon Christ as an unclean criminal; whereas we, who know ourselves to be free from the demands of the old church law of the Jews, rejoice that Christ was made to be sin and a curse, because we know that it was done for us, 2Co_5:21; Gal_3:13.
Bearing Christ's reproach and working for His glory:
v. 13. Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.
v. 14. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
v. 15. 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.
v. 16. But to do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
v. 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.
Here the natural consequence of our having cast our lot with the crucified Christ is brought out: Let us, therefore, go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. The author wants his readers to consider it a privilege to be branded outcasts and traitors to the Jewish cause. Having chosen Jesus as their Lord and Master, they should freely confess that they were willing to join Him in His shame and reproach as a malefactor and criminal in the eyes of the Jews. True believers will have nothing to do with the Law and its ordinances as necessary for their salvation, they will have nothing to do with legalistic practices. Having cast their lot with Jesus and His salvation by grace alone, they will be glad to bear the shame and reproach which fell upon Him, for His sake.
Surely this step is one which should not cause regret in the heart of any one that has accepted Jesus in truth: For not have we a lasting city here below, but we seek earnestly the one to come. The believers are strangers, sojourners, in this world; they are the Lord's pilgrims, Psa_39:12. The short span of life which is granted them in this world is but a time of preparation for the world to come. Our real home, where we have our true citizenship, is in heaven, Php_3:20. Only that which is spiritual and eternal can truly satisfy the ambition and fill the heart with that peace which passes all understanding. We strive earnestly, therefore, for the city which abides forever; we keep our attention centered on its glorious advantages, on its bliss inestimable.
Thus we are enabled also to do what the inspired author urges: Through Him, then, let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips celebrating His name. We believe in the virtue of Christ's atoning sacrifice, we have openly taken the part of Him who was condemned as a criminal by men; but through Him we are also identified with the Father as His children and worshipers. As such it is our cheerful duty, our glad privilege, to bring sacrifices to Him through Christ. Not only occasionally and periodically, but continually we offer to God, our heavenly Father, the fruit of our lips in the praise and celebration of His holy name. Hos_14:3; Psa_50:14-23; Isa_57:19.
At the same time we do not lose sight of the fact that our faith, expressed in the sacrifice of the lips, will also express itself in the fruit of the hands: But do not forget beneficence and charity; for those are the sacrifices which are well-pleasing to God. A heart that is enjoying the certainty of salvation through the redemption of Christ cannot but feel some of the deep and wonderful love which the Savior showed all men in His vicarious suffering and death. All acts of beneficence, therefore, all forms of doing good, of communicating to the brethren and to all men in need, are the sphere of the Christian's activity. And such good works, growing out of a heart filled with faith, imperfect as they are in themselves, nevertheless are looked upon by the heavenly Father with all good pleasure, since the merits of Christ cover up all their shortcomings. Thus we Christians are living under the good pleasure of God.
But in this connection there is one more point to which the holy writer deems it necessary to call attention: Obey your leaders and submit yourselves; for it is they that watch for your souls, as men that will have to render an account of their trust; that with joy they do this and not groaning, for this would be a loss to yourselves. Of the example of the former leaders the author has spoken above, v. 7. Here he speaks of the teachers, pastors, ministers that have charge of their spiritual welfare at the present time. They should yield themselves trustfully to their teaching, as long as they teach the Word of God, the pure Gospel of the salvation of all men, as this was being done by the teachers in Judea. Christians should always remember what a great responsibility was resting upon these men and is resting upon the true pastors today, that they must render an account to the Lord on the last day for every soul that was entrusted to their pastoral care. It is a solemn word for both the teachers and the hearers. Since it is in the interest of the souls of the people that faithful pastors discharge their duty, therefore the parishioners should make it their object thus to conduct themselves toward their pastors at all times that the latter may perform the work of their office cheerfully and joyfully and not groaningly, with sighs and laments; for such a condition of affairs would surely react in such a manner upon the hearers as to deprive them of at least some of the benefit which God intends for them through the ministry of the Word, Luk_10:16; Eze_3:17-21. This word of warning should be heeded also in our days when men are inclined to look with suffering compassion upon the pastors and to disregard their teaching and warning from the Word of God. On the other hand, it should be remembered that this passage does not give the ministers absolute power over the souls of the parishioners, as the Romanists falsely claim.
An admonition to prayer and good works:
v. 18. Pray for us; for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
v. 19. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
v. 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,
v. 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 be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The close of this letter, as those written by the Apostle Paul, breathes the spirit of intimacy which characterized the fellowship among the early Christians. The inspired author pleads: Pray for us, for we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, in all things willing to conduct ourselves well. Paul also pleads for the intercession of the Christians to whom he addresses some of his letters, 1Th_5:25; 2Th_3:1-2; Rom_15:30-32; Eph_6:19-20; Col_4:3. Because the responsibility which rests upon the pastors is so great, therefore their parishioners will do well to include them and their work in their daily prayer. But incidentally, because the author was aware of the fact that the doctrine which he taught was not acceptable to the Judaizing Christians, he boldly declares that he is convinced that he has a clear conscience, that he is not conscious of any offense, that his conduct, so far as he knew, at all times was such as not to require an apology at this time. He had lived up to his intention of behaving with decency and propriety toward all men. For that reason his appeal is so urgent: I appeal to you all the more impressively to do this, in order that all the more quickly I may be restored to you. The writer was either imprisoned or else hindered in some way from coming to Palestine. But he felt that he and his labors belonged to them, and that they, as well as he, would welcome his return to them with open arms. The trust which the writer here shows in the power of prayer is that which ought to be found in the hearts of all Christians.
The sacred author, in turn, adds a prayer for his readers, which concludes with a doxology: But the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of an everlasting covenant, confirm you in every good thing to the doing of His will, working in us that which is well-pleasing before Him through Christ Jesus to whom be glory forever and ever, Amen. He calls God the God of peace, 1Th_5:23; 2Th_3:16; Rom_14:23, since through the relation and condition of peace which has resulted in consequence of the redemption of Christ there is once more peace between God and mankind, and because the believers are, by virtue of this knowledge, able to follow after peace with all their heart. That peace between God and man actually obtains is due to the fact that God restored, brought back from the dead Jesus, the great Shepherd of His sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant. See Joh_10:1-42 As Christ Himself informed the Jews, He, as the Good Shepherd, laid down His life for His sheep, He shed His holy blood in consequence of God's covenant of mercy, the counsel of love which was made in eternity and has for its object the salvation of all mankind. This God of mercy also has the power to give the necessary strength to the believers, enabling them to be eager for the doing of every good work, for everything that pleases the heavenly Father This the Christians then do, not by their own reason and strength, but in Jesus Christ through the might which flows from their Savior into their hearts and minds by faith In this way, by the continued growth of all believers in sanctification, the end and aim of God's work in them will be realized, Christ Himself being glorified, world without end.
Greetings and benediction:
v. 22. And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation; for I have written a letter unto you in few words.
v. 23. Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.
v. 24. Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.
v. 25. Grace be with you all! Amen.
The writer now closes his letter. Tactfully he appeals to the Hebrew readers: But I beseech you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation. Some of them might be inclined to resent his open, frank way of putting the matter before them, especially since their conscience was somewhat uneasy. His letter, he explains, had surely been brief enough; he had purposely refrained from wearying them. Note that he does not apologize for a single word, but that his plea is rather an admonition for them to be sensible about taking his words in good grace.
Concerning Timothy he informs them that he is now set free, having been imprisoned for some time, probably at Rome, and it is his intention to come to Palestine with Timothy and visit them all. He intimates that this event will take place soon. He sends greetings to their leaders, their pastors or ministers, the letter being intended for all the congregations of Judea or of Palestine, and includes all the saints, all the believers that have been consecrated to God by faith. He sends greetings from the Christian brethren in Italy, the fellowship between the believers in those days being much more cordial than it is in our days. The very last words of the letter are the common, but by no means meaningless formula: Grace be with you all! Every person that is assured of the mercy and love of God in Jesus Christ and accepts this message in simple faith is a partaker of that grace and of all the blessings which it transmits, here in time and hereafter in eternity.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany