I. Having warned the Hebrews against the dangers of selfishness, fleshly lusts, and covetousness, the Apostle proceeds to warn them against the dangers threatening their faith and loyalty to Christ. He reminds them of the guides, the teachers and rulers, whom God had given to them—men who laboured in the ministry of the Lord, and sealed their testimony with their death. They had passed away, but the great Prophet, the great Apostle and High Priest, the true Shepherd, remained, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever. He is the only foundation, and His the only name. The heart finds rest in thinking of Him, the Rock of ages, the eternal unchanging Son of God, our Lord, Saviour, and Mediator.
II. We who believe possess the true altar. Of the type of this altar they who served the tabernacle were allowed to eat, but the reality was hid from them. By faith we behold it, and our hearts are stablished.
III. A joyous heart is also a generous heart. When we praise the Lord, the bountiful Giver, and thank Him for the gifts of His grace, gifts so undeserved, precious, and abundant, our hearts will be liberal. We shall not forget to do good and communicate; rather shall we be anxious to discover the good works ordained for us, that we may walk in them, to find out the poor and needy, the lowly and afflicted members of Christ, that we may help and cheer them. And as both the praise and the works are fruits of the Spirit, brought forth by the living branches, so it is by Christ's intercession that they ascend unto the Father and are well-pleasing unto Him.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. ii., p. 423.
References: Hebrews 13:1-19.—R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 276. Hebrews 13:2.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 296; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2619; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ix., p. 99. Hebrews 13:3.—Bishop Westcott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvi., p. 97; Case, Short Practical Sermons, p. 114. Hebrews 13:4.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 267.
I. This word is sufficient, because God has spoken it. We say of some men, "Their word is their bond." Shall we say less of the living One, of whose eternity our life is but a spark?
II. This word is inspiring, because it pledges the personal fellowship of God. "I will never leave thee"; not, "Angels shall be sent to thee," etc. To the Church Jesus says, "I am with you alway."
III. This word is complete, because it embraces all time. The child becomes free of the parent; the apprentice is liberated from his bonds; the hireling fulfils his day; but union with God is perpetual, and its joy is an ever-augmenting sum.
IV. This word is condescending, because it is personal in its application. It is not a pledge given to the universe as a whole; it is spoken to the individual heart, and is to be applied by each heart according to special circumstances. The whole exists for the part as well as the part for the whole. Every flower may claim the sun.
V. This word is assuring, because it is redundant in its expression. "I will never leave thee" would have been enough for a merely technical bond; more is added: we have word upon word, so that the heart cannot escape the golden walls of protection and security. Love does not study terseness; it must be emphatic: it must be copious.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 16.
References: Hebrews 13:5.—W. C. Heaton, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 73; C. Morris, Preacher's Lantern, vol. ii., p. 620; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 477; vol. xxxii., No. 1880; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 52; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 269. Hebrews 13:7.—A. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 312. Hebrews 13:7-9.—J. Oswald Dykes, Sermons, p. 369.
The Unchanging Christ.
I. The unchanging Christ in His relation to our changeful lives. The one thing of which anticipation may be sure is, that nothing continues in one stay. There is only one thing that will enable us to front the else intolerable certainty of uncertainty, and that is to fall back upon the thought of my text.
II. Think of the relation between the unchanging Christ and the dying helpers. Just as on the face of some great wooded cliff, when the leaves drop, the solemn strength of the everlasting rock gleams out pure, so, when our dear ones fall away, Jesus Christ is revealed, "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever."
III. We may apply the thought to the relation between the unchanging Christ and decaying institutions and opinions. His sameness is consistent with an infinite unfolding of new preciousness and new powers as new generations with new questions arise, and the world seeks for fresh guidance.
IV. Look at the words in their application to the relation between the unchanging Christ and the eternal love of heaven. It will be the same Christ, the Mediator, the Revealer, in heaven as on earth, whom we here dimly saw and knew to be the Sun of our souls through the clouds and mists of earth.
A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christy p. 1.
References: Hebrews 13:8.—A. Mackennal, Christ's Healing Touch, p. 276; H. W. Beecher, Sermons (1870), p. 391; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 12th series, p. 45; E. Paxton Hood, Dark Sayings on a Harp, p. 157; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 170; vol. xv., No. 848; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 97; A. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 1; T. J. Crawford, The Preaching of the Cross, p. 198; J. P. Gledstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 187; J. Culross, Ibid., vol. xxxv., p. 49; A. Rowland, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 291; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 560. Hebrews 13:9.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 294; J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 345. Hebrews 13:10-14.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 67; vol. xxvii., p. 188. Hebrews 13:11-14.—Ibid., Plymouth Pulpit, p. 305. Hebrews 13:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 577.
Without the Camp.
I. The exhortation in the text, "Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp." (1) It is a call to abiding trust in Christ as our great atoning sacrifice. (2) It is a call to separation from the world in spirit and character, and from whatever would hinder our loving fellowship with Christ.
II. The trial connected with due obedience to that call, "bearing His reproach," that is, reproach for Christ. Let us take this to ourselves. (1) It teaches that, while the Lord exercises a gracious sovereignty in His dealings with His people, He would have them reckon while here on reproach and trouble. (2) It is a call to steadfastness and perseverance in the path of duty, notwithstanding all reproach and suffering.
III. The reason or argument to enforce the exhortation: "For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come." (1) The statement describes the condition of Christ's people here in this present world. (2) The thought is an argument and encouragement in pressing the exhortation of the text.
R. Elder, The Redeemer's Cry, p. 61.
An Ever-changing Scene.
These words sum up what was certainly the Apostolic mind as to the position of Christians in this world. They were members of a vast, and powerful, and complex association which we call human society; but, with all its great attributes, it wanted one—it wanted permanence. The world passes away, is passing away, as we work and speak. But though here we have no continuing city, yet we do seek one to come. Born amid change, surrounded by change in every form, knowing nothing by experience but change, the subject and the sport of change, the human heart yet obstinately clings to its longing for the unchanging and the eternal. Christian souls, thought the Apostle, not only long for it, but look for it. We seek that which is to come—seek it by believing that we shall one day reach it.
I. "Here have we no continuing city." We are all of us under the unalterable necessity of change in one way or other. It is the absolute condition of existing now and here. The fact may affect or impress us in many ways; it may darken or it may brighten life; it may depress or discourage, or it may inspire with undying hope. We may find in it the highest summons to courage, or the excuse for the most enervating sentimentalism. The idea of the sovereignty of God is the counterpart throughout the Psalms set over against all that is unsatisfying, disastrous, transitory, untrustworthy, not only in man's condition, but in the best that he can do. The Psalms are always the expression of the will to fulfil God's purpose, though very often of that will baffled; but they always fall back when the will is baffled, not on despair, but on the conviction that men's lives are in the hand of God.
II. The Psalmists cast themselves into the arms of God, and they were blessed. Oh that we could catch something of the contagion of that faith and hope as day by day we repeat again their wonderful words! Search as we will, we can find nothing to rest upon, nothing that will endure the real trial, but the faith of the Psalmists in the eternal kingdom of God, the faith of the Psalmists lit up by the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ, the faith of men who are not afraid to meet their real circumstances, who are not afraid to trust in longing and self-surrender.
R. W. Church, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 369.
References: Hebrews 13:14.—H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit, 10th series, p. 337; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 83; S. Martin, Sermons, p. 77; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 88; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 473; Homilist, 1st series, vol. v., p. 101. Hebrews 13:15.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 89. Hebrews 13:16.—G. G. Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiv., p. 337; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 189. Hebrews 13:17.—Ibid., vol. i., p. 11; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 211; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 256.
I. The Author of peace. From all eternity God purposed in Himself the counsel of peace; and when, by reason of sin, discord and misery came into the world, the Lord always comforted His people by the promise of redemption. Our peace is complete the moment we believe in Jesus; our peace is consummated when we are presented unto the Father at the coming of our Lord. In like manner we are still looking forward to our salvation and our adoption.
II. Jesus the channel of peace. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the Paschal Lamb on Calvary. From that moment our peace was purchased, and we were identified with the Substitute. God has raised and exalted Him and us with Him; God has thereby made peace and perfection.
III. God works in us. He gives good desires, true petitions, loving words and works. He prepares us for the work in time, as He prepared the work for us in eternity. Look with the eye of faith to the Lord, and you will receive not merely the commandment, but the spirit and the power to obey it; you will not merely see the Example, but be conformed to His image.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. ii., p. 439.
The Great Pleas of a Great Prayer.
I. The name of God is the warrant for our largest hope. "The God of peace" wills to give to men something not altogether unlike the tranquillity which He Himself possesses. What is it that breaks human peace? Is it emotion, change, or any of the necessary conditions of our earthly life? By no means. It is possible to carry an unflickering flame through the wildest tempests, if only there be a sheltering hand round about it; and it is possible that my agitated and tremulous nature, blown upon by all the winds of heaven, may still burn straight upwards, undeviating from its steady aspiration, if only the hand of the Lord be about me. Just because God is the God of peace, it must be His desire to impart His own tranquillity to us. The sure way by which that deep calm within the breast can be received and retained is by His imparting to us just what the writer here asks for these Hebrews—hearts ready for every good work and wills submitted to His will.
II. Note, secondly, how the raising of the Shepherd is the prophecy for the sheep. The principal thought implied here is that where the Shepherd goes the sheep follow. Christ's resurrection and session in glory at the right hand of God point the path and the goal for all His servants. In Him there is power to make each of us as pure, as sinless, as the Lord Himself in whom we trust. He rose, and sits crowned with glory and honour. "The God that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep," has pledged Himself thereby that the sheep, who imperfectly follow Him here when He goeth before them, shall find Him gone before them into the heavens, and there will "follow Him whithersoever He goeth," in the perfect likeness and perfect purity of the perfect kingdom.
III. The everlasting covenant is the teacher and pledge of our largest desires. It is not fashionable in modern theology to talk about God's covenant to us. Our forefathers used to have a great deal to say about it, and it became a technical word with them; and so this generation has very little to say about it, and seldom thinks of the great ideas that are contained in it. But is it not a grand thought, and a profoundly true one, that God, like some great monarch who deigns to grant a constitution to his people, has condescended to lay down conditions by which He will be bound, and on which we may reckon? Out of the illimitable possibilities of action, limited only by His own nature and all incapable of being foretold by us, He has marked a track on which He will go. If I may so say, across the great ocean of possible action He has buoyed out His course, and we may prick it down upon our charts, and be quite sure that we shall find Him there. Your desires can never be so outstretched as to go beyond the efficacy of the blood of Jesus Christ; and through the ages of time or eternity the everlasting covenant remains, to which it shall be our wisdom and blessedness to widen our hopes, to expand our desires, conform our wishes, and adapt our work.
A. Maclaren, Paul's Prayers, p. 80.
The Work of God.
I. Look at the aspect in which God is here presented. (1) A God of peace. Sin banished the peace which God sent His Son to restore; and when the world is won over to Christ, and the crowns of earth, like those of heaven, are laid at His feet, then shall God be known as the God, and our world shall be known as the abode of peace. (2) God has made peace, not peace at any price; it is peace at such a price as satisfied the utmost demands of His law, and fully vindicated His holiness in the sight of the universe. For see, by the cross where Jesus hung, mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace are embracing each other; and there the great God appears as just, and also the Justifier of all those that believe in Jesus.
II. He brought Christ from the dead. (1) In one sense the glory of His resurrection belongs to Christ Himself. His death was in a peculiar sense His own act. In no case do we lay down our lives. Who dies a natural death has his life taken from him; who commits suicide throws his away. But He who said, "I have power to lay down My life," also said, "I have power to take it up again." (2) Here our Lord's resurrection is attributed to God. His resurrection is the crown of His labours; the token of His acceptance; the fruit of His deed. The God of peace raises Him from the dead, not simply by His almighty power, but "through the blood of the everlasting covenant," His own blood, as if the blood that washes away our sins, sprinkled on His dead face, restored Him to life; sprinkled on the chains of death, dissolved them; sprinkled on the doors of the grave, threw them open. Most precious and potent blood! May it be sprinkled in red showers from God's hand on us! If that blood, in a sense, gave life to a dead Christ, shall it not impart life to us? Yes. Through its power, dead with Him to sin, crucified with Him to the flesh, and buried with Him in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we rise to newness of life.
T. Guthrie, The Way to Life, p. 117.
I. Notice the simple, human name Jesus. (1) Let us ever keep distinctly before us that suffering dying manhood as the only ground of acceptable sacrifice, and of full access and approach to God. The true humanity of our Lord is the basis of His work of atonement, of intercession, and of reconciliation. (2) Then, further, let us ever keep before our mind clear and plain that true manhood of Jesus as being the type and pattern of the devout life. He is the Author and Finisher of faith, the first example—though not first in order of time, yet in order of nature and perfect in degree—the pattern for us all, of the life which says, "The life that I live, I live by dependence upon God." (3) Then, again, let us see clearly set before us that exalted manhood as the pattern and pledge of the glory of the race. "We see Jesus, crowned with glory and honour." Pessimism shrivels at the sight, and we cannot entertain too lofty views of the possibilities of humanity and the certainties for all who put their trust in Him. If He be crowned with glory and honour, the vision is fulfilled, and the dream is a reality; and it shall be fulfilled in the rest of us who love Him.
II. Secondly, we have the name of office. Jesus is Christ. Is your Jesus merely the man who by the meek gentleness of his nature, the winning attractiveness of his persuasive speech, draws and conquers and stands manifested as the perfect example of the highest form of manhood, or is He the Christ in whom the hopes of a thousand generations are realised, and the promises of God fulfilled, and the smoking altars and the sacrificing priests of that ancient system and of heathenism everywhere find their answer, their meaning, their satisfaction, their abrogation? Is Jesus to you the Christ of God?
III. Lastly, we have the name of Divinity. Jesus the Christ is the Son of God. (1) The name declares timeless being; it declares that He is the very raying out of the Divine glory; it declares that He is the embodiment and type of the Divine essence; it declares that He by Himself purged our sins; it declares that He sitteth on the right hand of God. (2) Further, the name is employed in its contracted form to enhance the mystery and the mercy of His sharp sufferings and of His lowly endurance. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." The fuller form is employed to enhance the depth of the guilt and the dreadfulness of the consequences of apostacy, as in the solemn words about "crucifying the Son of God afresh" and in the awful appeal to our own judgments to estimate of how sore punishment they are worthy who trample under foot the Son of God.
A. Maclaren, The God of the Amen, p. 8.
References: Hebrews 13:20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 277; S. A. Tipple, Echoes of Spoken Words, p. 19. Hebrews 13:20, Hebrews 13:21.—A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 175; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1186; vol. xxiii., No. 1368. Hebrews 13:20-24.—R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 286.
The Great Prayer Based on Great Pleas.
I. Consider the prayer which the name excites: "Make you perfect in every good work." We should expect that all the discord of our nature shall be changed into a harmonious cooperation of all its parts towards one great end. We bear about within us a warring anarchy and tumultuous chaos, where solid and fluid, warm and cold, light and dark, storm and calm, contend. Is there any power that can harmonise this divided nature of ours, where lusts, and passions, and inclinations of all sorts, drag one way and duty draws another, so that a man is torn apart as it were with wild horses? There is one. "The worlds" were harmonised, adapted, and framed together, chaos turned into order and beauty, and the God of peace will come and do that for us, if we will let Him, so that the low schism which affects our natures may be changed into perfect harmony.
II. Note, secondly, the Divine work which fulfils the prayer: "Working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ." Creation, providence, and all God's works in the world, are also through Jesus Christ. But the work which is spoken of here is yet greater and more wonderful. There is, says the text, an actual Divine operation in the inmost spirit of every believing man. God does not work by magic. The Spirit of God, who cleanses men's hearts, cleanses them on condition (1) of their faith, (2) of their submission, and (3) of their use of His gift. If you fling yourselves into the war of worldly life, the noise of the streets and whirring of the looms, and the racket of the children in the nursery, and the buzzings of temptations round about you, and your own passions, will deafen your ears so that you will never hear the still small voice that speaks a present God.
III. Lastly, notice the visible manifestation of the inward work. God works in order that you and I may work. Our action is to follow His. Practical obedience is the issue, and it is the test, of our having this Divine operation in our hearts. There are plenty of people who will talk largely about spiritual gifts, and almost vaunt their possession of such a Divine operation. Let us bring them and ourselves to the test, Are you doing God's will in daily life in the little things? If so, then you may believe that God is working in you. If not, it is of no use to talk about spiritual gifts. The test of being filled with the Divine operation is that our actions shall be conformed to His will. Action is the end of all. We get the truth, we get our souls saved, we have all the abundance and exuberance of Divine revelation, we have the cross of Jesus Christ, we have the gift of the Divine Spirit, miracles and marvels of all sorts have been done, for the one purpose to make us able to do what is right in God's sight, and to do it because it is His will.
A. Maclaren, Paul's Prayers, p. 91.
References: Hebrews 13:22.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 155; Fletcher, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 157.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany