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As in St. Paul's Epistles, practical directions as to conduct conclude the treatise, such as the readers may be supposed to have especially needed. They are urged to evince and confirm the faith which was the subject of Hebrews 11:1-40, and to maintain their communion with the world invisible spoken of in Hebrews 12:1-29, by attending especially to those daily duties which they might be in danger of forgetting. By perseverance in a life consistent with profession faith is not only evidenced, but also kept from faltering. In the course of these hortations (Hebrews 12:10-13), being suggested by one of them, there is introduced a yet additional view of the meaning of the Levitical symbolism.
Let brotherly love continue. Φιλαδελφία does not mean general philanthropy, but the peculiar love of Christians to each other as brethren; "a narrower sphere within the wider sphere of ἀγάπη" (Delitzsch); cf. 1. Peter Hebrews 2:17, "Honor all men, love the brotherhood;" and 2 Peter 1:7, where Christians are exhorted to add ἀγάπη to their φιλαδελπία. This grace of φιλαδελφία they had already, and had evinced it by their conduct (cf. Hebrews 6:10, etc); they are only to take care that it court, me; and let them, among other ways, evince it in hospitality (2 Peter 1:2), and in sympathy with the afflicted brethren (2 Peter 1:3).
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers (or, of hospitality): for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Allusions to this duty are frequent in the Epistles; its exercise would be of especial importance, in those days of persecution, towards scattered and destitute brethren as well as towards missionaries, though it by no means appears that it was meant to be confined to "them that are of the household of faith." Possibly some of the wavering Hebrew Christians might be becoming less ready to open their doors to the persecuted from fear of "reproach" in Jewish circles. The allusion of the latter part of the verse is evidently to Abraham and Lot (Genesis 18:1-33. and 19). At any time the visits even of our fellow-men may be to us as visits of angels, as being messengers of God's purposes for good when least expected. And especially to be noted are our Lord's own words, "He that receiveth you receiveth me," etc., and "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).
Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. The Hebrew readers have been also specially commended for their past sympathy with their imprisoned and despoiled brethren (Hebrews 10:33, etc), having been themselves also at the same time persecuted. Whether or not sufferers themselves now, they must not be forgetful of those that are "As bound with them" seems best taken as expressing the sympathy of one member with another (cf. Hebrews 10:33, Hebrews 10:34 and 1 Corinthians 12:26, "If one member suffer," etc). "As being yourselves," etc., reminds them that they are still in the flesh, and so not only on this account bound to sympathize, but also liable themselves at any time to the like afflictions. Exhortations to personal purity and to contentedness follow next. Of the need, and prominence in the Epistles, of warnings against impurity see what was said on ἁγιασμόν (Hebrews 12:14). St. Paul is given to couple covetousness 'rod uncleanness together in his warnings, as cognate sins, and alike incompatible with the kingdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:10, 1Co 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9, etc; Ephesians 5:3,Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). Greediness, or inordinate desire (πλεονεξία), may be for sensual indulgence or for wealth—the same word is used in both senses; and such πλεονεξία, whatever its object, is fatal to the spiritual life. So here, after a warning against impurity, comes a like one against covetousness.
Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. So in the A.V. the first clause of this verse, which is taken as an assertion, the copula ἔστι, being understood. So it is also taken by Chrysostom and other ancients. If so, it is a declaration, interposed among hortations, of the honorableness of the" estate of matrimony," with the hortatory purpose of suggesting this "remedy against sin "(as in 1 Corinthians 7:9), or as a protest against false asceticism, such as is alluded to in 1 Timothy 4:3, "forbidding to marry." And certainly the expression, τίμιος ὁ γάμος, taken by itself, would most naturally have this meaning. But most modern commentators understand it as an exhortation, supplying ἔστω; and this for the following cogent reasons: it occurs in the midst of a series of exhortations, and is therefore more likely to be one; it is difficult to understand the connected clause, "and the bed undefiled (καὶ ἡ κοίτη ἀμίαντος)," as a statement; and the exactly similar phrase in 1 Timothy 4:5, ἀφιλάργυρος ὁ τρόπος, seems evidently hortatory. Hence we take it to mean "Let marriage be τίμος ἐν πᾶσον." Two questions remain—that of the import of τίμιος, and whether πᾶσιν is masculine or neuter. Τίμιος elsewhere, when applied to persons, means "held in honor" (as in Acts 5:34, of Gamaliel); when applied to things, it means "precious" (as in 1 Corinthians 3:12; Revelations 17:4; 18:12, 16; 21:19, of precious stones; in 1 Peter 1:19, of the blood of the Lamb; 2 Peter 1:4, of promises; Acts 20:24, of "my own life;" James 5:7, of the fruit of the earth). Bengel explains thus: "Caelibes, quibus periculum scortationis imminet, hortatur ut matrimonium contrahant, tanquam pretiosum quiddam agnoscentes, ejusque bone digne utantur. Conf. 1 Thessalonians 4:4.' And, taking πᾶσιν as masculine, he explains further: "Omnesque debent matrimonium magni facere, ut, si quis eo ipse non utatur, alios tamen non prohibeat." According to this view the first clause is an injunction to all to appreciate marriage, the second warns those that are married against any violation of the bond: "Τίμιος γάμος antitheton ad scortatotes, κοίτη ἀμίαντος ad adulteros" (Bengel). But the more natural, and the usual, meaning of the common expression ἐν πᾶσιν is "in all things," not "among all persons" (cf. Jaffa, 1 Thessalonians 4:18; also Colossians 1:18; Tit 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:5). If so here, τίμιος ὁ γάμος must be taken rather as an injunction with respect to the sanctity of marriage when contracted: "Let it be held in honor in all respects; in all ways reverently regarded as a holy bond;" the succeeding clause, ἡ κοίτη ἀμίαντος, being a further explication of the same idea (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:4, "That every one of you should know how to possess his own vessel [meaning, probably, as seems to be required by the verb κτᾶσθαι, 'get to himself his own wife'] in sanctification and honor (ἐν ἀγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ);" where ἐν τιμῇ may express the same ides as τίμιος in the text). 'In the conclusion of the verse "for" (γὰρ) suits the drift of the sentence as above understood, and is considered to be supported better than "but" (δὲ) of the Textus Receptus. Observe, lastly, that, in "God will judge," "God" is emphatic, being placed last. Though the kind of sin spoken of is lightly regarded among men, and may escape detection or punishment now, yet certainly God will judge it.
Let your conversation (i.e. manner of life, or disposition) be without covetousness; be content with such things as ye have: for he (αὔτος, emphatic) hath said, I will never (i.e. in no wise) leave thee, neither will I ever forsake thee. The reference seems to be to Deuteronomy 31:6, Κύριος ὁ Θεός σου .. οὔτε μή σε ἀνῇ οὔτε μή σε ἐγκαταλίπῃ, the same assurance being repeated in Deuteronomy 31:8. But similar promises occur elsewhere in the Old Testament (see Genesis 28:15; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Isaiah 41:17; "Est igitur instar adagii divini," Bengel).
So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me; rather, I will act fear: what shall man do unto me? The quotation is from Psalms 118:6. The memory of their former pastors who had finished their course is next urged upon the readers as an encouragement to perseverance in the life of faith.
Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:8
Remember your leaders (τῶν ἡγουμένων ὑμῶν, wrongly rendered in the A.V., "them that have the rule over you;" for the reference is to departed chiefs. The word is similarly used by St. Luke (see Luke 22:26; Acts 15:22; also below, Acts 15:17 and Acts 15:24). St. Paul, with a like meaning, calls the rulers of the Church οἱ προιστάμενοι: see Romans 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17), who spake to you the Word of God; of whose conversation (i.e. course of life, ἀναστροφῆς), considering the end (or issue, ἔκβασιν), imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is yesterday and today the same, and forever. This allusion to departed leaders shows the comparatively late date of the Epistle. Those who had died as martyrs, and hence, having a peculiar halo round them in the issue of their lives, may be supposed to be especially referred to; such as Stephen the proto-martyr at Jerusalem, James the son of Zebedee, and possibly James the Just, the acknowledged leader of the Jewish Christians. It may be that Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, had also suffered before the writing of the Epistle. This supposition, however, which would involve a date for the Epistle after St. Paul's death also, is by no means necessary. Others, too, may be alluded to of whom we have no record, but whose memory would be fresh in the minds of the readers. But it does not follow that martyrs only are intended. Others also who had died in peace, and whose end had been blessed, might be pointed to as models for the imitation of survivors. Verse 8 must be taken as a distinct appended sentence, the watchword on which the preceding exhortation is based. Its drift is that, though successive generations pass away, Jesus Christ remains the same—the Savior of the living as well as of the departed, and the Savior of all to the end of time. It may be here observed that, though his eternal Deity is not distinctly expressed—for "yesterday" does not of necessity reach back to past eternity—yet the sentence can hardly be taken as not implying it. For his unchangeableness is contrasted with the changing generations of men, as is that of Jehovah in the Old Testament (e.g. in Psalms 90:2-4), and surely such language would not have been used of any but a Divine Being.
Be not carried away (so, according to the best authorities, rather than carried about) by divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, in which they that were occupied (literally, that walked) were not profited. From the exhortation to imitate the faith of the departed leaders, the transition is natural to warnings against being carried away from it by new teachings. The faith, which was their faith, remains unchanged, as Jesus Christ remains unchanged; why, then, these doctrines, new and strange (of. 1 Corinthians 3:11; Galatians 1:6-10)? What these doctrines were is not shown, except so far as is intimated by the word βρώμασιν ("meats"), which reminds us at once of similar warnings in St. Paul's Epistles (cf. Romans 14:2, Romans 14:14, Romans 14:21; Colossians 2:8, Col 2:16 -723; 1 Timothy 4:3). These passages seem to refer in the first place to purely Jewish distinctions, still held to by Jewish Christians, between dean and unclean or polluted meats; and further to a new kind of asceticism, not found in the Old Testament, but based probably on notions of the impurity of matter, which led to entire abstention from flesh or wine, and also in some (1 Timothy 4:3) from marriage; also, as appears from the passage in Colossians, a false philosophy about angels and the spiritual world. We may perceive in these allusions the germs at least of later Gnostic heresies, such as found (as that of the Ebionites) their first congenial soil in Jewish circles; Oriental theosophy, or neo-Platonic philosophy, being supposed to have been engrafted on Jewish modes of thought. Some, misled by what is said in verse 10, see in the word βρώμασιν an allusion to those sacrifices of the Law which were eaten by the worshippers, against any fancied obligation to partake in which the readers are supposed to be warned. But the word is never so applied in the Old Testament or the New (see above, Hebrews 9:10; Le Hebrews 11:34; Hebrews 1:0 Macc. 1:16; Romans 14:15, Romans 14:20, 31; 1 Corinthians 6:13, 1 Corinthians 8:8, 1 Corinthians 8:13); nor would such error be likely to be classed among "strange doctrines." The drift of the warning is that the religion of the gospel does not consist in any of these notions or observances, the supposed importance of meats being specially noted, and that to make them its essence is a misconception of its whole meaning, and a departure from the faith: "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17).
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. Here there is a plain allusion to the eating of offered sacrifices. If, then, there was no such allusion in the preceding verse, what is the connection of thought? It appears to be this: "Some would teach you that meats are of religious importance. Nay, but what are meats to us who have Christ himself for our spiritual food? This is our peculiar privilege, not shared by the very priests of the old dispensation." Then, in Hebrews 13:11, "That this is so is shown by the very symbolism of the Day of Atonement." Then, in Hebrews 13:12, "Let us, then, be well content to leave Judaism entirely, and cleave to Christ alone." By "those that serve (λατρεύοντες) the tabernacle" are meant the priests of the Law, whose service is, as in former passages, referred to as still going on. It is evidently implied that we have the right which they have not.
Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:12
For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the High Priest for sin (i.e. as sin offerings; for this sense of περὶ ἁμαρτίας, cf. Hebrews 10:6), are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate. The allusion is to the sin offerings on the Day of Atonement—the bullock for the high priest, and the goat for the people. Of the flesh of some sacrifices of ordinary peace offerings—the people ate, being themselves "partakers of the altar;" that of ordinary sin offerings was partaken of by the priests alone: but the special sin offerings of the great day, which typified complete atonement, and the blood of which alone was taken into the holiest of all, were consumed entirely by fire without the camp, and not even the priests might eat of them (Leviticus 16:27, etc). This part of the ceremonial, not mentioned in Hebrews 9:1-28., completed the symbolism of the Day of Atonement. It not only typified (together with the other goat that was set free) the entire removal of sin from the congregation; it also signified that the Law itself made none, not even the priests, partakers in such complete atonement. Christ fulfilled the first significance of this type by suffering "without the gate;" the Jews, in casting him out from their midst, were the unconscious instruments of his so fulfilling it; he thus bare and took away the sins of all outside the holy city which represented the Israel of God. But further, in him is supplied what under the Law was wanting; for of him, the true Sin Offering, we may all partake: he declared this himself when he spoke of our caring his flesh and drinking his blood—in which words the mention of the blood as well as of the flesh is peculiarly significant; for of the blood, which was "given upon the altar to make atonement for sins" (Leviticus 17:11), none might in any case under the Law partake; but of him we even drink the blood, in token that atonement is completed, and that we are now full partakers in all its benefits. The only seeming discrepancy between the type and the Antitype, as above set forth, is in the order of the different parts of the old ceremonial. The sin offering was slain in the camp before it was burnt outside, whereas Christ fulfilled both these parts of the type by one act upon the cross outside. Again, the blood of the sin offering was taken into the holy of holies before the body was consumed by fire outside, whereas Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary "with his own blood" after he had suffered "without the gate." But the general significance of the symbolism in its several parts is not thus disturbed; it is viewed as a whole, and all parts of it are found to be fulfilled. In saying, "we have an altar," and implying that we eat of it, the writer has surely the Eucharist in view, though it does not follow that θυσιαστήριον means definitely the table on which it is celebrated. He may, as some explain, have especially in his mind the cross on which the sacrifice was once for all completed; or he may have had no definite local image before him, seeing rather (as elsewhere in the Epistle) in spiritual realities and relations the counterparts of the Levitical symbols. But that the Holy Communion is alluded to, even if it were not apparent here, might be concluded from 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, where similar phrases are used with distinct reference to it. There St. Paul is dissuading from participation in heathen sacrificial feasts, as being inconsistent with partaking of the Holy Communion; and he says in this connection, "Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices (ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας) partakers of the altar (κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου)?" It is evident that "partakers of the Lord's table" (1 Corinthians 10:21) are regarded as being thereby partakers of the Christian altar, of which mention is made in the text before us. It may be observed that the use here of the word θυσιαστηρίον may be held to justify—and this without implying any actual repetition of the one accomplished sacrifice—the application of the term "altar" to the table on which the Eucharist is celebrated, as does 1 Corinthians 10:21 the term "the Lord's table." Both terms were so applied from very early times. The holy tables in our churches are altars, in that on them is continually commemorated and pleaded the one sacrifice of the cross, and that from them the spiritual food of the body and blood is given to the faithful.
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. By a happy turn of thought Christ's having suffered without the gate is viewed as representing his exclusion from the Jewish Church and polity, outside which we are now to follow him, though we with him be reproached by the Jews as outcasts. There may be a tacit reference, such as Bengel sees in the word φέροντες, to our bearing our cross after him.
For here we have no abiding city, but we seek that which is to come; i.e. not Jerusalem, representing the transitory dispensation of the Law; but the "city of the living God," which is eternal.
Through him therefore let us offer the sacrifice (or, a sacrifice) of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips confessing to his Name. Θυσία αἰνέσεως is the designation in the ritual of the Law of the voluntary peace offering, offered by individuals on occasions calling for special thanksgiving (Le Hebrews 7:12). In the psalms it is used to express generally praise and thanksgiving (see Psa 1:1-6 :14, 23; Psalms 116:17. Θῦσον τῷ Θεῷ θυσίαν αἰνέσεως καὶ ἀπόδος τῷ ὑψίστῳ τὰς εὐχάς σου, etc). In virtue of their participation in the true and complete Sin Offering, Christians may fulfill this part of the ancient symbolism, not occasionally, but "continually;" bringing to God, not fruits of the earth, but the "fruit of the lips" (an expression found in Hosea 14:2, where the LXX. has καρπὸν χειλέων ἡμῶν), i.e. continual praise, springing from thankful hearts. In the Eucharist especially (hence so called) such sacrifice is continually offered, over the one atoning Sacrifice which is pleaded and partaken of. But not in communions only, but ever in their daily lives, such "sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving" is due. But, as the next verse reminds the readers, the "knit of the lips" is not enough; there is a further sacrifice of our own, whereby we must show that we are true partakers of Christ, and truly thankful.
But to do good and to communicate forget not; while κοινωνίας expresses the sense of Christian fellowship evinced by communicating to others a share of what we have; cf. Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 9:13): for With such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Obey them that have the rule over you (τοῖς ἡγουμένοις ὑμῶν, as in Hebrews 13:7), and submit yourselves (to them): for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it With joy, and not With grief (literally, groaning); for that is (rather, were) unprofitable for you (i.e. their ministry is for your profit; if its result be their giving in their account with groans, its whole purpose will be frustrated). In this allusion to the ἡγουμένοι as in Hebrews 13:7 and Hebrews 13:24, there is evidence of the existence of a regular order of ministry in the Hebrew Churches, such as many allusions in St. Paul's Epistles show to have formed part of the constitution of the Churches to whom those Epistles were addressed (cf. also Acts 14:23 and Acts 20:17, Acts 20:28, etc). The word itself (ἡγουμένοι) which is here used might, indeed, denote any persons who took the lead in the congregations; but the urging of the duty of submission to them, in virtue of their office of watching for souls for which they would have to give account, shows plainly that a special order is here, as elsewhere, referred to. Observe also below, Hebrews 13:24, where "all the saints," i.e. what we should call the laity, are mentioned in distinction from the ἡγουμένοι. (For similar injunctions, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and 1 Timothy 5:17, τοὺς προεσταμένους ὑμῶν and οἱ προεστῶτες πρεσβύτεροι being the words there used) The special injunction here to obey and submit may have been called for by some deficiency in this respect among the Hebrew Christians. Possibly it was among the people rather than the pastors that there were any signs of wavering between the Church and the synagogue, and that one purpose of the admonition is to strengthen the hands of the former, in whom confidence is placed.
Pray for us: for we trust (rather, we are persuaded, πειθόμεθα) that we have a good conscience, in all things willing (i.e. desiring) to live honestly. When St. Paul uses the plural ἡμεῖς he usually at least, if not always, includes his colleagues (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Colossians 4:3). So probably the writer here, especially as there is a transition to the singular in the following verse. Whoever he was, he associates himself in sending the Epistle with his fellow-laborers, i.e. with others of what we may call the Pauline circle, who were engaged with him elsewhere. Both this and the request for prayer, and also the assertion of integrity, which seems to imply suspicion of possible mistrust, are quite in St. Paul's way, and confirm the view that, though the author may not have been St. Paul himself, it was at any rate some one who was, or had been, closely connected with him.
And I beseech you the more abundantly (the Pauline word, περισσοτέρως) to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. The author of the Epistle proceeds here for the first time to speak of himself individually; and what he thus says shows that the Epistle was addressed to some definite circle of Hebrew Christians, and one which he had been among before. What circumstances, whether of imprisonment or other hindrances, were in the way of his revisiting them does not appear. We remark that this verse again reminds us strongly of St. Paul (cf. Philemon 1:22). The possibility may be here noted that, if the Epistle was composed by one of St. Paul's friends, and sent under his authority, he may have himself dictated this concluding portion (beginning possibly at Hebrews 13:17) which is in a more epistolary style than the rest, and contains personal allusions.
Hebrews 13:20, Hebrews 13:21
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through (literally, in) the blood of the eternal covenant, our Lord Jesus, 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 (i.e. to God, the subject of the sentence) be glory forever and ever. Amen. It is St. Paul's way also to introduce, in the end of his Epistles, a solemn prayer or benediction, couched in terms suitable to the subjects that have been dwelt on (see e.g. Romans 16:25, etc). The term, "God of peace," is also usual with him; and it is appropriate here after so many warnings against disturbing the Church's peace; as is, with reference also to what has gone before, "make you perfect" (καταρτίσαι), and what follows. On "the great Shepherd," etc., Bengel says, "Habemus, inquit, antistites multos, Hebrews 13:17, sed hic omniam est Antistes. Ego sum absens, Hebrews 13:19, sed DEUS non abest, neque deerit." The expression is taken from Isaiah 63:11, "Where is he that brought them out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? (Ποῦ ὁ ἀναβιβάσας ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης τὸν ποιμένα τῶν προβάτων; LXX)." The reference in Isaiah is to Moses and the Red Sea, the well-known types of Christ and his resurrection, and of ours to a new life, leading to eternal life, through him. He is called "the great Shepherd," as in Hebrews 4:14 the "great High Priest," as being the true fulfillment of the ancient types. "In [i.e. 'in virtue of'] the blood of the covenant" seems to be suggested by Zechariah 9:11, Καὶ σὺ ἐν αἵματι διαθήκης σου ἐξαπέστειλας δεσμίους σου ἐκ λάκκου οὐκ ἔχοντος ὕδωρ: αἰωνίου being added (as αέγαν before) to distinguish the new covenant from the old. The suitableness of the words to the contents of the Epistle is obvious. It is observed that the above is the only distinct allusion in the Epistle to Christ's resurrection, the writer's treatment of his subject having led him to pass at once from the sacrifice to the heavenly intercession. But "non concludit apostolus, autequam menti-onem fecerit resurrectionis Christi" (Bengel).
But I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. This and the following verse are in the manner of a postscript, such as is usual with St. Paul. Some little apprehension is implied (of. Hebrews 13:18) of the admonitions not being taken well by all. Though the Epistle is not short as compared with others, yet it has been compressed with as "few words" as the subject would allow (cf. Hebrews 13:11). If, however, this concluding portion of the Epistle was written or dictated by St. Paul himself, as suggested under Hebrews 13:19, the "few words" may possibly refer to it only.
Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. This allusion to Timothy shows that the Epistle, whatever its exact date, was at any rate written in the apostolic age, before his death. Further, though not proving St. Paul's authorship, it supports the conclusion that the writer, if not himself, was one of his associates, Timothy having been peculiarly his disciple and companion. It seems that Timothy had been, as the readers were aware, in prison; and the joyful news is communicated of his release, and of the prospect of his visiting them. This again shows that the Epistle was addressed to a definite circle of readers. It is observable that the word ἀπολύεσθαι, which does not occur in St. Paul's writings, is, like so many expressions throughout the Epistle, one usual with St. Luke (Luke 22:68; Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:16, etc; Acts 3:13; Acts 4:21; where it expresses release from prison or captivity). He uses it also for dismissal of persons on a mission (Acts 13:3; Acts 15:30); and hence one view is that Timothy's having already set out to visit the Church addressed is all that is here meant. But the other meaning of the word is more likely.
Salute all them that have the rule over you (τοὺς ἡγουμένους, as before), and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. The fact that no names are here mentioned, as is usual with St. Paul in sending salutations to Churches he was personally well acquainted with, leads us to infer that there had been no such close association, at any rate recently, between the writer and the readers in this case; or else that a circle of Churches in some locality is addressed. Nothing certain can be concluded as to the writer's whereabouts at the time of writing from the expression, "they of Italy (οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας)," though it seems to favor the idea, rather than otherwise, that he was in Italy at the time, possibly at Rome. For the phrase means simply "natives of Italy" (cf. Acts 10:23; Acts 10:38; Acts 12:1; Acts 17:13; Acts 21:27; Acts 18:13; all these being, we observe, expressions of St. Luke's); it by no means implies that they had left Italy. In fact, as Delitzsch observes, "if the author was then in Italy, and at the same time was not a native of Italy, he could not have selected a more appropriate designation for the Italian Christians." The Epistle is concluded by St. Paul's accustomed words, which, with some variations, seem to have been appended to all his letters as his authenticating autograph (see 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18., etc)—
Grace be with you all. Amen.
This book "to the Hebrews" begins like a doctrinal treatise; but it ends like a letter. Hebrews 13:1-25. is written quite in the epistolary form; and concludes with some personal notices—the only such that are to be found in the book. The verses before us contain counsels suited to the individual Christian life. Here the apostle says in effect to his readers—Be not selfish (Hebrews 13:1-3); be not sensual (Hebrews 13:4); be not sordid (Hebrews 13:5, Hebrews 13:6).
I. AN EXHORTATION TO BROTHERLY LOVE. (Hebrews 13:1-3) In the New Testament, love of the brethren means love of the spiritual brotherhood of believers. The natural affection which subsists between brothers and sisters, although very sacred and beautiful, is not in itself Christian brotherly love. No more is patriotism, or love of country, a distinctively Christian sentiment. The brotherly love which the gospel inspires forgets all differences merely of kindred and nation. It is a spiritual bond, and unites the saint to all his fellow-believers everywhere. This love is not one of the things "that can be shaken" (Hebrews 12:27); it "never faileth" (1 Corinthians 13:8, 1 Corinthians 13:13). So, the apostle exhorts the Hebrews to make sure that it shall "remain" among themselves, and be as actively exercised in the future as in the past (Hebrews 6:10). For, the spirit which rejoices to recognize fellow-believers—taking pleasure in their society, laboring to promote their welfare, and throwing the veil of charity over their failings—is one of the richest and ripest fruits of the Christian life. Love of the brethren is the cement of a congregation. And only the man who cherishes it is, in the proper meaning of the word, a gentleman. In Hebrews 13:2, Hebrews 13:3, the apostle specifies two modes by which it is essential that brotherly love should be manifested; those, viz. of hospitality and sympathy. It is to be shown towards:
1. Brethren who are strangers. (Hebrews 13:2) The Christian Hebrews were to account it a sacred duty hospitably to entertain fellow-believers from other lands or districts, who might be traveling either on business, or in the service of the Church, or because driven from home by persecution. And not only a sacred duty, but a blessed privilege. For as Abraham and Lot (Genesis 18:1-33., Genesis 18:19) "entertained angels unawares," so the stranger whom the Christian receives may turn out to be a messenger from God to his soul—one whose presence may fill his house with the atmosphere of heaven. Should the stranger be a man whose mind is stored with the treasures of spiritual truth, and whose affections are devout and pure, his visit may prove a means of direct quickening to the religious life of the household. Samuel Rutherford experienced this privilege, when one Saturday evening he received a stranger into his pleasant manse at Anworth; for after being impressed at the family catechizing with the guest's answer that the number of the commandments was eleven, the "new commandment" (John 13:34) being cited as proof, he discovered by-and-by that his visitor was Archbishop Usher, the learned and devout primate of the Church of Ireland. But another and a still sweeter thought is not remote from the motive to hospitality contained in this verse, viz. that in entertaining Christ's servants we are receiving the Master himself: "I was a Stranger, and ye took me in" (Matthew 25:35).
2. Brethren who are sufferers. (Verse 3) The Hebrews were to "remember" the saints who might be in prison. They were to do so "as bound with them;"—a beautiful expression, breathing the aroma of true Christian sympathy. They were to pray earnestly for them, if possible visit them, minister to their wants, and strive to secure their liberation. Brotherly kindness would lead them to conceive of themselves as occupying the position of the sufferers. It would cause them to realize the "bonds" of their brethren as an affliction personal to themselves, just as the elder Brother's love does (Acts 9:4). But, since imprisonment is not the only calamity to which believers are exposed, the apostle proceeds to bespeak sympathy for all who in any way "are evil entreated" for Jesus' sake. We ourselves are liable to the same adversities which our brethren endure. Let us, therefore, identify ourselves with them. It is not enough that we contribute to public charities. Neither do we discharge all our duty when we employ some person as our proxy to care for the sufferers. True Christian sympathy requires that we bring ourselves into personal contact with them. Strength is often received from the glance of a sympathizing eye, or the grasp of a loving hand, or the utterance of a tender word of holy comfort.
II. A WARNING AGAINST IMPURITY. (Verse 4) The first part of this verse should certainly be translated as an exhortation. Marriage is to be" had in honor;" not so much here, however, as against celibacy, but in opposition to unchastity. The apostle in this precept elevates marriage to its rightful place as a Divine ordinance. The ethics of the New Testament magnify family life. The Christian religion, in honoring the family, guarding its rights, and proclaiming its duties, has invested home with a halo of loveliness. Wherever the sacred character of marriage is recognized and felt, the result will be purity. And, adds the apostle, there is judgment in reserve for those who dishonor God's ordinance in this matter. For the adulterer is guilty of the greatest of all social crimes, murder alone excepted. Whether, therefore, the breaker of the seventh commandment be a single or a married person, he shall not escape. The doom of impenitent sensualists will be none the less dreadful that the apostle does not here enlarge upon it. He feels it enough to say solemnly regarding such persons, "God will judge."
III. A DISSUASIVE AGAINST THE LOVE OF MONEY. (Verses 5, 6) Constantly in the New Testament sensuality and avarice are mentioned together as being sins of the same class. If sensuality hardens the human heart, sordidness does so also. The love of filthy lucre will drag a man down to perdition quite as readily and insidiously as the love of filthy lust. Avarice is often regarded as the national sin of the Hebrew race. The natural man Jacob is very prone to develop—unless Divine grace prevent—into the sordid, grasping Shylock. But the Anglo-Saxon nations are all powerfully predisposed to this sin too. In our own time how largely are riches over-estimated, both as a means of happiness and as an evidence of success in life! Even the Church of Christ is tempted to pay court to wealth. Yet it cannot be denied that the Savior forbids his people to make it one of their chief aims to accumulate gold. We are to be diligent in business, and neither despise money nor set our hearts upon it. To be "content with present things" (verse 5) is a high Christian attainment. And a man's habits of thought and life in connection with money are a touchstone of his character. "A right measure and manner in getting, saving, spending, giving, taking, lending, borrowing, and bequeathing, would almost argue a perfect man" (Henry Taylor). The apostle sustains his precept by an appeal to Scripture (verse 5). The words quoted, "I will in no wise fail thee," etc., contain in the original no fewer than five negatives, and are thus, as it were, a fivefold assurance of the Divine support. God gave this same promise to so many of the ancient saints—to Jacob, Joshua, Solomon, etc.—that it possesses the force of a spiritual adage, and thus may be personally appropriated by every believer. In all ages thousands of the people of God have rested on it, and have accordingly exemplified the rare and difficult grace of contentment. This is matter of history and of observation.
"O earth, so full of dreary noises!
O men, with wailing in your voices
O delved gold, the wailers heap!
O strife, O curse, that o'er it fall!
God strikes a silence through you all,
And giveth his beloved sleep."
Seeing, then, that we who believe are assured of the Divine presence and help, why should we not have the "good courage" (verse 6) to say with the psalmist, "I will not fear: what shall man do unto me" (Psalms 118:6)? Avarice has its root in want of faith in God; but no one who is persuaded that the Lord is with him need dread any kind of poverty. Having Jehovah for his Champion, he will not "make gold his hope, or say to the fine gold, Thou art nay confidence." Divine grace will root up out of his heart the noxious weed of covetousness, and plant in its room the fair arid fragrant flower of contentment.
Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:8
Passing from admonitions bearing upon the individual Christian life, the writer now proceeds to exhort the brethren about matters arising out of their Church relations. He charges them to cherish the memory of their departed Christian teachers.
I. THE WORK OF THE PASTORATE. The duties of the gospel ministry, when these are faithfully discharged, may be said to be threefold.
1. To bear rule over the Church. Christ has given to his Church the "power of the keys," vesting it in her pastors and presbyters. This power, however, is simply ministerial. The rulers of the Church merely administer the laws given by the Lord Jesus Christ, her King and Head. While at liberty to frame by laws which may promote the edifying celebration of the ordinances which be has founded, they dare not prescribe new laws or appoint new ordinances. They are to admit to Church communion and exclude from it; but only upon the lines laid down in the New Testament.
2. To speak the Word of God. The main function of the ministry is to preach the gospel, and to teach Christian truth. The gospel is a definite "word;" and it is enshrined in a Book which is called "The Word." The preacher's text-book is not the newspaper, or the current literature of the day, but "the oracles of God." The great design of the Christian pulpit is to promote the intellectual and experimental knowledge of the Bible. And no minister "shall have lived in vain if it can be written over his grave, 'He made the people understand the Scriptures'" (Dr. John Hall).
3. To live a consistent Christian life. When a pastor is, like Barnabas, "a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith," it is to be expected that "much people will be added unto the Lord" (Acts 11:24). A holy example lends incalculable momentum to Christian teaching. "The life of a pious minister is visible rhetoric" (Hooker).
"To draw mankind to heaven by gentleness
And good example, was his business …
And Jesus' love, which owns no pride or pelf,
He taught; but first he followed it himself."
II. THE DUTY OF BELIEVERS TOWARDS THEIR DECEASED PASTORS. Although these are removed from us, we still have duties towards them. Indeed, the relationship of pastor and people, being spiritual in its nature, may be said to be prolonged into eternity. We must:
1. Remember their official work. We should recall the strain of their Christian teaching, and think with gratitude of their spiritual supervision. If we continue to "esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work's sake," they "being dead, shall yet speak" to us. Many a believer tools that he has had one spiritual guide in particular whose influence over his heart and life must continue unaffected by change or time; viz. the pastor under whose ministry he was converted, or whose teaching helped most powerfully to mould his Christian thought and give direction to his spiritual energies.
2. Consider their consistent Christian life. When a man's career is finished, it can be surveyed as a whole, and its moral worth appraised. So the character of a godly minister comes to be appreciated at its full value only when we are in a position to "consider the issue of his life." The early spiritual guides of the Hebrews had all died in faith; and some of them, it may be (e.g. Stephen, James the son of Zebedee, and James the Little), had obtained the crown of martyrdom. And what an evidence still of the truth of Christianity is the blameless, unselfish, beneficent career, continued through perhaps two generations, of a faithful Christian minister! What a magnificent sunset the close of the life of the pastor who can say upon his death-bed, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).
3. Imitate their holy fidelity. These primitive pastors had been sorely tried; yet they had never swerved from their loyalty to Christ and to his truth. Like the heroes of the old dispensation, whose exploits are recounted in Hebrews 11:1-40., they had "lived by faith." Why, then, should any of the members of the Church, whom they had taught, be guilty of apostasy? Those doctrines of grace which the teachers had held fast were surely worthy of the adherence of the disciples. Let us also continue steadfastly in the pure gospel truth which our departed spiritual guides adorned in their lives, and let us copy their holy and persevering fidelity to the Redeemer.
III. A BLESSED ENCOURAGEMENT TO DISCHARGE THIS DUTY. Hebrews 11:8 is to be read as an affirmation: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday," etc. It expresses the glorious thought of the changelessness of the Redeemer. He is ever the same in his Divine nature, in his true humanity, in his mediatorial power, in his love and tenderness, in his gospel and its promises. More particularly here he is immutable:
1. As the theme of the pulpit. The preacher of the gospel dies, but "the Word of God" which he spoke is immortal. That Word has its focus in the person and work of the Savior. Its central fact is the death of Christ. The backbone of evangelical preaching is the scheme of redemption by him. And the singular vitality of the pulpit, as compared with other institutions—as, e.g. schools of philosophy, scientific societies, commercial guilds—is due to this undying theme; undying, because coeval with the deepest needs of men in all time. We should, then, remember those who "spake the Word of God," because the Word which they spoke is indestructible.
2. As the confidence of the sailors. The apostolic missionaries who had first preached to the Hebrews had made Jesus Christ their own Stay during life, and their "Guide even unto death." It was he who had succored them under all their afflictions and persecutions as ministers of the Word. And, although they were now dead, the same Savior still lived. It was fitted to be a powerful stimulus to the Hebrews to imitate the faithfulness of their ministers, that the immutable Redeemer remains forever with his people; and that they, too, could link their souls with him, and share in his immutability.
3. As the perpetual Pastor of the Church. The under-shepherds are taken away, but the chief Shepherd abides. Each of them was one of his "gifts for men," lent only for a season. But the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ himself is perennial and inexhaustible. During the "yesterday" of the Jewish dispensation he made his sheep "to lie down in green pastures" (Psalms 23:2). During the today of the Christian dispensation he presides over his flock by his Spirit, "that they may have life, and may have it abundantly" (John 10:10). And, during the blessed "forever" which shall begin with the second coming, when all his sheep shall have been gathered from their various folds into the infinite meadows of heaven," the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their Shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life" (Revelation 7:17).
"Without the camp."
These words occur repeatedly in this passage; and, used as a motto, they express appropriately the nerve-thought which pervades it. Indeed, the entire Epistle may be described as an urgent and affectionate exhortation to the Hebrews to "go forth unto Jesus without the camp, bearing his reproach." We are required to withdraw from the polity and life of Judaism—
I. AS REGARDS DOCTRINE. (Hebrews 13:9) The reference here seems to be to the Levitical distinctions between clean and unclean "meats," and perhaps also to the traditional customs on the same subject which had been elevated to equal authority with those. The apostle reminds his readers that all such precepts are only "carnal ordinances," which the coming of Jesus Christ has rendered no longer necessary, and the observance of which can now have no influence upon a man's spiritual life. Christ has "made all meats clean" (Mark 7:19). The principle and power of his religion consists in "grace," and not in fanciful distinctions connected with food. "The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking" (Romans 14:17). No consciousness of external observances can ever "profit" a man spiritually. Only the "grace" of God, given by his Spirit, can regenerate and ennoble the human soul. We must therefore forsake the materialistic "teachings" of Judaism for the spiritual doctrines of Christianity.
II. AS REGARDS OUR SIN OFFERING. (Hebrews 13:10-13) Our "Altar" is Christ (Hebrews 13:10), and he is also our Sacrifice "for sin" (Hebrews 13:12). He is at once High Priest, Altar, and Victim. Under the Levitical law, while the priests were allowed to partake of many of the sacrifices, there were certain sin offerings of which they were expressly forbidden to eat (Leviticus 6:30). Those, e.g. which were presented on the great annual Day of Atonement were wholly consumed by fire "without the camp." This ordinance typified the fact that Christ, the true Sin Offering, was to suffer for us "without the gate" of Jerusalem; and that, if we would participate in the atonement which he has made, we must voluntarily renounce the Jewish Church from which he was expelled. The law of the tabernacle forbade those who remained in connection with the camp of Judaism to eat of the flesh of any sin offering the blood of which had been presented within the tabernacle; but every one who worships before the true altar which has been set up on Calvary is encouraged freely to partake of the flesh of Christ, which he has "given for the life of the world." To cleave to the Law, therefore, is to reject the gospel. If we would eat of the real sin offering which has been provided under the new covenant—i.e., obtain the blessings of pardon and peace, of access and sanctification, which the atonement of Jesus has purchased—we must "go forth unto him without the camp."
III. AS REGARDS OUR THANK OFFERINGS. (Hebrews 13:15, Hebrews 13:16) These are not to be presented any longer through the medium of the Aaronical priesthood and of the Levitical oblations. Christ's people are to offer them "through him" as Mediator, and depending for their acceptance upon his atonement and intercession. So soon as we partake of the New Testament sin offering, we are ourselves constituted "a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). The great substantive thank offering which the believer presents is himself (Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 8:5). But the man who has given himself to the Lord will also offer:
1. Words of praise. (Hebrews 13:15) The most direct means by which we can honor God is publicly to "make confession to his Name" in words of faith and songs of adoration. When the spirit of praise takes root within the soil of the heart, it will spread its buds and blossoms over all the soul, and adorn the "lips" with its "fruit."
2. Works of piety. (Hebrews 13:16) These are spiritual sacrifices also. Christianity is eminently a practical religion, and regards every deed of charity done for Jesus' sake as a sweet and holy psalm. The truly grateful heart is always generous, and "willing to communicate" for the relief of brethren who are in need. And "God is well pleased" with every act of beneficence done out of gratitude for his grace. He accepts such as a "sacrifice" offered to himself.
IV. AS REGARDS OUR SPIRITUAL CITIZENSHIP. (Hebrews 13:14) Very soon, now, Jerusalem and its temple were to be razed to their foundations; and the entire Jewish polity, both civil and ecclesiastical, thus to be brought to a perpetual end. But that event would entail but small loss upon the Christian Hebrews, if only they remained steadfast in the faith. For, in embracing the gospel, they had transferred their affections from the earthly Jerusalem to the heavenly. Not only so, but all believers—Jew and Gentile alike—must "go forth unto Jesus without the camp," in the sense of living a life of separation from the prevailing spirit of the world. The believer is to cultivate habits of reserve in reference to earthly pursuits and interests. His "citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). He looks beyond even the kingdom of grace to that of glory.
He knows that the whole visible order of things in this world shall pass away, and just as completely as the Jewish polity has already done. And he anticipates for himself a permanent home in the New Jerusalem that shall "come down out of heaven from God."
CONCLUSION. Seeing we possess such transcendent privileges "outside the camp," let us bear patiently the "reproach" of Christ. We must be content to appear "singular" for his sake. We must be willing to be ostracized by the world on account of our love for him. The spirit of devotion to Jesus will be always diametrically opposed to the prevailing spirit of the ungodly. But what an honor to be permitted to suffer with him! And "if we endure, we shall also reign with him."
Duty to present pastors.
In Hebrews 13:7 the apostle had exhorted the Hebrews to honor the memory of their deceased ministers. But, if this was a duty incumbent on them, it was equally their duty to render Christian obedience to their living spiritual guides. These precepts connected with the pastoral relation remind us that even in the earliest times the Churches possessed a definite organization, and were presided over by regularly appointed spiritual office-bearers. A twofold duty towards their leaders is pointed out in these verses.
I. TO OBEY THEM. (Hebrews 13:17) The spiritual government of the Church is an ordinance of Christ, and a means of grace to his people. It is not, however, a despotic government. Pastors and presbyters are simply to administer the Law of Christ. They may not demand submission to what is based only upon their own will or caprice. But, within the limits of their rightful authority, they are to be honored and obeyed. Their public teaching is to be received with a view to personal edification. Their private pastoral admonitions are to be accepted as "an excellent oil "(Psalms 141:5). The censures of the Church, administered after conviction of scandalous sin, are to be submitted to, not as a penance, but as a means of spiritual benefit. The exhortation of this verse is needed in our own time. The present age is characterized not only by a healthy independence of thought, but also by an unhealthy impatience of legitimate authority—at once in the family, in the state, and in the Church. Yet there must be both government and discipline in every ecclesiastical society; and the proper administration of such is indispensable to the order and purity of the Church, if not even to her visible existence. In the latter part of the verse some reasons and motives are presented by which to enforce this duty of obedience in spiritual things.
1. The solemn work of the pastor. He "watches in behalf of your souls." If the Church ruler be worthy of his office, he will be full of vigilant solicitude for the salvation of the people whom the Lord Jesus has committed to his care. He will take trouble for their souls. He will seek to know the flock personally—their individual condition, character, and needs. He will try to establish true sympathy between himself and them. He will watch, that he may teach and warn and comfort, with a view to their salvation.
2. His responsibility to the chief Shepherd. Every minister knows that he "shall give account." In his private communion with his Master he ought from time to time to report to him upon the condition of his charge. And he must not forget that at the end of the days, when the Son of man shall separate the sheep from the goats, he shall address to him the solemn question, "Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" (Jeremiah 13:20).
3. The hurtful recoil upon the souls of the people if they fail in obedience. A spirit of docility in the congregation will encourage its spiritual guides to do their responsible work with cheerfulness and joy. But when there is resistance to counsel and contumacy under discipline, the heart of the pastor will become cast down; he will be prone to feel his work irksome, and to do it "with grief," if indeed he be not tempted to abandon it altogether. And such a frame of mind in him will react in turn upon the congregation. A dejected minister will be more or less inefficient. The people will suffer much spiritual loss, for which they can only have themselves to blame.
II. TO PRAY FOR THEM. (Hebrews 13:18, Hebrews 13:19) In the verse preceding, the apostle has had in view the anxieties and burdens of the Christian ministry; so he now requests the prayers of the Hebrews for the pastors of the Church, and specially for himself. Here, for the first time in the course of this Epistle, the author—whoever he was—allows his personality to appear. He claims to stand in a pastoral relation to the Hebrews, not only on the ground of former intercourse, but in virtue of this letter, which he has weighted with precious instruction and affectionate appeal, Now, if apostles and inspired men felt the need of the intercessions of the Church, how earnestly ought she to pray for her ordinary pastors and teachers! And a congregation should not only implore Divine grace for "our beloved pastor"—a duty which is sometimes done in a spirit of parochial selfishness; we should also embrace in our intercessions the ministers of all the congregations with which we are associated in Church fellowship, and all the Lord's servants in the gospel everywhere. The writer advances two considerations in support of his request.
1. His purity of conduct. (Hebrews 13:18) He had the testimony of "a good conscience;" and yet he yearned for the sympathy of his brethren in all his labors and sufferings. Jewish zealots might asperse his motives and defame his character; but the prayers of his fellow-Christians would fortify him against such trials. And the Church ought still to pray for her godly pastors, that they may have grace "to live honestly in all things," preserving "a good conscience" in keeping their own hearts, in maintaining habits of study, in faithfully preaching the gospel, and in watching for souls by means of pastoral work.
2. His desire to revisit the Christian Hebrews. (Verse 19) The writer had resided among them at some former period, and he strongly wished to return to them so soon as circumstances might permit. He solicits their prayers, that the hindrances presently in his way may be removed. He makes this request very earnestly, and as a great personal favor to himself. We are reminded here, accordingly, that prayer is one of the powers which co-operate in the government of the world. The author of this Epistle was persuaded that the almighty energy of God is roused into action by the supplications of his people. He was quite sure that human prayers, not less than human deeds, are a factor in the Divine government. So he begged that the "voice" of the Church might "rise like a fountain for him night and day."
Hebrews 13:20, Hebrews 13:21
Concluding prayer for the Hebrews.
The apostle, having earnestly requested the prayers of the Christian Jews for himself, proceeds to plead for them at the throne of the heavenly grace. He virtually says, "Pray for me, brethren; I pray for you." And what a wonderful prayer is this! How brief, yet how comprehensive; how exquisitely simple, yet how deeply sublime! It is a benediction as well as a petition. And it is so richly colored with the doctrine which the writer has been discussing that it reads almost like a summary of the Epistle. Consider—
I. THE TITLE UNDER WHICH GOD IS ADDRESSED. "The God of peace." This is a Pauline expression. Outside of this book it occurs only in the writings of Paul. The appellation is profoundly suggestive. God is "the God of peace"
(1) in his own being and character—he loves peace, and it dwells within him;
(2) in his moral administration, the end of which is to work peace in the world, and within the hearts of men. These Hebrews lived during a time of political turmoil and of religious persecution; but the apostle directs their thoughts to the Lord that "sitteth upon the flood," who "will bless his people with peace." There are some very solemn and terrible passages in this Epistle about the sin and doom of apostates; but the writer points us once more to the rainbow of grace shining in front of the gloom, and tells us how the hands of "the God of peace" have bonded it.
II. THE SPECIAL REDEMPTIVE ACT HERE CELEBRATED. It is that of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—an event not referred to elsewhere in the Epistle. The God who works peace had sent his Son to obey and suffer and die for man's sin; and the same God had brought him again from the dead, and confirmed him in his high dignity as "the great Shepherd of the sheep." Throughout this prayer of benediction the writer seems to have in view Isaiah 63:11-14, and to think of the Lord Jesus by contrast with Moses, and the other shepherds of ancient Israel. Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Aaron, Samuel and David, had all been true" shepherds of his flock;" but the Lord Jesus is "the great Shepherd." The Hebrews were to cherish the memory of their own former pastors (Isaiah 63:7), and they had other pastors set over them now (Isaiah 63:17); but the Lord Jesus, the crucified and risen One, was ever their chief Pastor. He had laid down his life as "the good Shepherd," but in rising from the dead and ascending to heaven he had shown himself to be "the great Shepherd." On every account he is entitled to be called "great;" e.g. because all the prophets spoke of him, because all former true shepherds were types of him, because he is himself mighty to save, and because of the vastness of the flock over which he shall preside. Here in particular, however, the apostle calls him "great" because he has sealed the new and "eternal covenant" with his "blood." That blood was the blood of God' himself (Acts 20:28); and so the covenant confirmed with such a costly sacrifice cannot but be everlasting. Not only so, but the Lord Jesus died, not merely as a federal offering; he died as a Sin Offering. His death completed the fulfillment of the covenant stipulations on his and our part; and, as we know that God also will be faithful to the treaty on his side, we are sure it shall stand forever. Christ is "the Mediator of the new covenant" and "the great Shepherd of the sheep," through virtue of the merit of his blood.
III. THE SPIRITUAL BLESSING PRAYED FOR. (Verse 21) It is the gift of perfect sanctification, a blessing that had been expressly promised and guaranteed in connection with the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33, Jeremiah 31:34). The God who has elevated the Lord Jesus to be the Head of the final dispensation is both able and willing to perform his own covenant promise. "Make you perfect;" i.e. put you into order, restore you, equip you. Naturally, every man needs to have his soul reorganized before he can learn to do God's will. And sometimes a good man requires, as many of these Hebrew believers did, a second conversion. The apostle prays that their equipment may be thorough; that it may be a deep and comprehensive work within the soul, wrought there by the power of the Holy Ghost, and which shall bear fruit outwardly in a career of perfect holiness that shall be "well-pleasing in God's sight." It is not enough to practice only some of the virtues of the Christian character; we must be "perfect in every good thing "—in worship and work, in thought and feeling, in body and spirit. The rule of our perfect equipment is "his will"—the mind of God as made known to us in Holy Scripture. And the medium by which it is accomplished is "through Jesus Christ"—by means of his gracious operations upon the heart by his Spirit. Perfect holiness in man is all of his creation: not by his doctrine merely, or by faith in him; but through himself, and by virtue of the believer's union to him.
IV. THE DOXOLOGY WITH WHICH THE PRAYER CLOSES. "To whom "—i.e. as we take it, to "the God of peace" who is addressed in the prayer. And yet, when "the glory" is ascribed to him, it is given to all the three Divine Persons—to God the Father, who "brought again our Lord Jesus from the dead;" to God the Son, "the great Shepherd of the sheep" and Mediator of "the eternal covenant;" and to God the Spirit, the executive of the Deity, who personally "worketh in us" and "makes us perfect." This doxology is the language of spiritual instinct; and, being such, it is irrepressible. So soon as any human heart really apprehends that Jehovah is "the God of peace," and feels grateful for his unspeakable gift of "the great Shepherd," and accepts the blessings of "the eternal covenant," and becomes conscious of the transforming influence of grace within itself,—how is that heart to be restrained from breaking forth into adoring praise, and from uttering the desire that the Divine glory should be universal and eternal? May our souls be in such full sympathy with this prayer of benediction as to join with emphasis in the apostle's rapturous and fervent "Amen"!
If the previous part of this chapter is of the nature of a postscript, these closing verses seem to be a second and briefer postscript appended to the first. The apostle's loving heart lingers fondly over the close of the letter, and prolongs its last words.
I. HE CRAVES A KINDLY RECEPTION FOR THE EPISTLE. (Hebrews 13:22) Although his book is an inspired message, he does not urge its Divine authority as the reason why it should be carefully studied. He rather solicits the Hebrews as his "brethren," and "for love's sake," to "bear with the word of exhortation." It is interesting to mark the description of the book which is thus given by its author. The theologian deals with it as a profound theological treatise; the expositor regards it as the New Testament counterpart of the Book of Leviticus; but the writer himself calls it simply a "word of exhortation." But when we study the structure of the Epistle, we find that this description, although modest, is most appropriate. What is often spoken of as the doctrinal part (Hebrews 1:1-10:18) is itself full also of earnest expostulations and warnings; and these but prepare the way for the prolonged and solemn practical appeal of the closing chapters (Leviticus 10:19 to the end). The Epistle was written for the purpose of pressing upon its readers the duty of unflinching loyalty to Christ. "The key-note of it is struck and heard throughout in the hortatory parts, to which the doctrinal elements are subservient" (Dr. A. B. Davidson). The apostle might have enforced his request in this verse by many weighty reasons; but he mentions only one, viz. the brevity of the Epistle. He had written "in few words"—few, as compared with
(1) the extent and importance of the subject;
(2) his own burning interest in it, which would have made it easy for him to dilate;
(3) the gravity of the crisis in relation to the spiritual life of the Hebrews. But he had rigorously condensed his matter, that his readers might not be deterred from the study of the Epistle, or their patience exhausted before the close of the argument. It was desirable that when it should be read aloud in their Churches—a task which would occupy less than an hour—the last words of it should leave the people longing rather than loathing. And what a marvel of condensation is this book to the Hebrews! During the preparation of these homilies, the writer has had his conviction of the plenary inspiration of the Epistle greatly deepened,—especially in view of its wealth of holy thought, its lucid expositions and arguments, its rhetorical splendor, its singular spiritual elevation, and its living power to pierce the heart and conscience. What a blank there would have been in Holy Scripture had this book, which is the key to the entire Levitical system, been excluded from the canon! Had such a calamity been allowed to happen, the New Testament would have been utterly silent about the priesthood of Christ—this great theme being dealt with exclusively in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
II. HE SENDS KINDLY TIDINGS AND GREETINGS. (Verses 23, 24) Cheering news is given about Timothy; he "hath been set at liberty." The expression seems to imply that this beloved spiritual "son" of Paul had been in prison and had been discharged. It was the writer's intention, should Timothy and he meet, that the two should together visit the Hebrews. (This reference to Timothy, as well as the salutations in verse. 24, have been eagerly canvassed by commentators, in their vain endeavors to arrive at certainty regarding the author of the Epistle, the place of its composition, and the Churches to which it was addressed) The apostle's greetings are sent through the members to the spiritual rulers, as if to remind us that it is the members of congregations that constitute the Church, and not their pastors alone. Still, the apostle is careful to give honor to the office-bearers: he has already exhorted the people to "obey" them (verse 17), and now he sends his farewell salutation first to them. "They of Italy" refers to the greetings of Italian brethren; but it cannot be determined from the words whether the Epistle was sent from Italy or to Italy. Such Christian courtesies as those of verse 24 are not to be dismissed as mere formalities. They remind us of the duty of loving our brethren in the Lord everywhere. Spiritual love is international. It is cosmopolitan. Wherever Christians are, our hearts should warm to them. Salutations like those before us derive their value
(1) from the character of the sender, and
(2) from their substance.
Here we have the affectionate messages of a great apostle, or at least of an eminent apostolical man—the author of one of the noblest of the Epistles of the New Testament. And his greetings are not empty compliments. He has shown himself on every page of his letter to be deeply in earnest, and to have a heart brimful of loving solicitude for the souls of those to whom he writes. Let us learn, accordingly, the duty of courtesy and kindliness in our Christian intercourse. "As ye enter into the house, salute it" (Matthew 10:12).
III. HE CLOSES WITH THE, PAULINE BENEDICTION. (Verse 25) The same form of blessing is used by Paul at the close of every one of his thirteen letters; and, apparently because Paul had already appropriated this form, none of the other writers of New Testament Epistles conclude with any expression which is at all similar. This fact seems to corroborate the opinion that this anonymous Epistle is to be ascribed to the Apostle Paul, so far as regards the authorship of its thoughts, and although it may have received its literary form from another mind and hand. The final adieu is brief; but it could not be richer or more comprehensive. The word "grace" expresses the sum of all blessing, both temporal and spiritual. The author desires for his dear readers grace of every kind—efficacious grace, preventing grace, co-operating grace, habitual grace. For grace blesses with pardon. It purifies from sin. It comforts amid sorrow. It strengthens for duty. And it will at length ripen into glory.
HOMILIES BY W. JONES
"Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to," etc. The writer now proceeds to exhort his readers to the practice of sundry Christian virtues. He begins by enjoining the maintenance and manifestation of brotherly love.
I. THE MAINTENANCE OF BROTHERLY LOVE. "Let brotherly love continue."
1. That this affection existed is implied. That it had been exercised in former times is clear from Hebrews 10:32-34. That it was existent and active at the time when this Epistle was written appears from Hebrews 6:10.
2. That this affection was imperiled is also implied. There are several things which may check the growth and extinguish the life of brotherly love.
(1) Diversity of opinion. We are each gifted with individuality; we sometimes look at things from different standpoints; we arrive at different conclusions. This is the case in the interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, and in other matters. Differences of opinion sometimes lead to differences of feeling, to coldness and estrangement.
(2) Diversity of gifts. The great Master gives to one man five talents, to another two, and to another one. There is danger that pride in those of superior gifts, or envy in those who are less gifted, may crush this holy affection.
(3) Misunderstandings may arise amongst Christian brethren and blight their love of each other.
3. That this affection should be maintained. "Let brotherly love continue." Let it remain. Guard against those things which endanger its existence. Cherish it. This love of the brethren is not to be limited to those who belong to the same ecclesiastical community, or to those who hold the same views of Christian doctrine; it should embrace all the disciples of the Lord Jesus. "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in uncorruptness." The importance of maintaining this affection is manifest from many Divine utterances (John 13:34, John 13:35; John 15:12, John 15:17; 1Jn 3:11, 1 John 3:14-18; 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:20, 1 John 4:21).
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF BROTHERLY LOVE. TWO forms in which this affection should be expressed are adduced in our text.
1. Hospitality towards strangers. "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Consider:
(1) The duty. Hospitality is frequently enjoined and commended in the Bible (Matthew 10:40-42; Matthew 25:34-46; Luke 10:4-7; Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9). "The primitive Christians," says Calmet, "considered one principal part of their duty to consist in showing hospitality to strangers. They were, in fact, so ready in discharging this duty, that the very heathen admired them for it. They were hospitable to all strangers, but especially to those who were of the household of faith. Believers scarcely ever traveled without letters of communion, which testified the purity of their faith, and procured for them a favorable reception wherever the Name of Jesus Christ was known." In the parable of the good Samaritan the great Teacher presented to his disciples a perfect example of Christian hospitality.
(2) The motive by which we are encouraged to perform this duty. "For thereby some have entertained angels unawares." There is a reference to Abraham (Genesis 18:1-33) and to Lot (Genesis 19:1-38). Many a guest has proved as an angel to his entertainers, brightening the home by his presence, and leaving behind him precious memories and saving influences. The kindness we have shown to strangers has often come back to us with compound interest, and in higher and holier forms. Therefore, "forget not to show love unto strangers."
2. Sympathy towards sufferers. "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body." Notice two points:
(1) The obligation. "Remember them," etc. All who are distressed should be remembered tenderly, sympathized with heartily, and succored as far as opportunity will allow. "Weep with them that weep." "Bear ye one another's burdens," etc.
(2) The consideration presented as an incitement to the fulfillment of this obligation. "As being yourselves also in the body." We are not beyond the reach of persecution or distress. We may be called to suffer as some of our Christian brethren are now suffering, and then we should need the sympathy which they now require. Here is a beautiful example of this sympathy. "Thomas Samson was a working miner, and working hard for his bread. The captain of the mine said to him on one occasion, 'Thomas, I've got an easier berth for you, where there is comparatively little to do, and where you can earn more money. Will you accept it?' What do you think he said? 'Captain, there's our poor brother Tregoney. He has a sick body, and he is not able to work as hard as I am. I fear his toil will shorten his useful life. Will you let him have the berth?' The captain, pleased with his generosity, sent for Tregoney, and gave him the berth. Thomas was gratified, and added, 'I can work a little longer yet.'"—W.J.
Christian contentment enjoined and encouraged.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness," etc. Our subject naturally falls into two main branches.
I. THE DUTY TO WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED. This duty is here stated negatively and positively.
1. Freedom from the love of money. "Let your conversation be without covetousness." Revised Version, "Be ye free from the love of money." This is a sin to which many are very prone, and the descendants of Jacob, to some of whom this letter was addressed, as much, or perhaps more so, than others. It is an exceedingly insidious and perilous sin. It does not carry any outward and visible stigma, as some sins do. They who are guilty of it may be respectable in appearance, maintain a good reputation in society, and retain their position in the communion of the Christian Church, while the vigor and health and even the very life of their Christian character are being subtly consumed by it. There is no sin more destructive of spiritual life, or more fatal to the highest and divinest things in man. It quenches the nobler aspirations of the soul. It degrades the soul itself until, oblivions of its high calling, and looking simply upon material or perishable possessions, man says, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry." And it is the prolific parent of other sins," the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Let us endeavor to be free from this ensnaring and destructive sin.
2. Contentment with present possessions. "Be content with such things as ye have." Ward Beecher says well, "It is not to be the content of indifference, of indolence, of unambitious stupidity, but the content of industrious fidelity. When men are building the foundations of vast structures, they must needs labor far below the surface and in disagreeable conditions. But every course of stone which they lay raises them higher; and at length, when they reach the surface, they have laid such solid rock under them that they need not fear now to carry up their walls, through towering stories, till they overlook the whole neighborhood. A man proves himself fit to go higher who shows that he is faithful where he is. A man that will not do well in his present place because he longs to be higher, is fit neither to be where he is nor yet above it: he is already too high, and should be put lower." When we consider how few our real needs are, we may well cultivate contentment "with such things as we have." "Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content." And contentment is blessed. It softens our privations and sweetens our provisions. "Contentment will make a cottage look as fair as a palace. He is not a poor man that hath but little, but he is a poor man that wants much." In St. Paul we have an illustrious example of this virtue: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content," etc. (Philippians 4:11-13). Like him, let us seek to learn this lesson completely, and to practice this virtue constantly" in him that strengtheneth" us.
II. THE FACT BY WHICH WE ARE ENCOURAGED TO FULFIL THIS DUTY. "For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." These exact words do not occur in the sacred Scriptures; but the sentiment is frequently expressed therein (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20). Extraordinary is the emphasis of expression in this assurance. No less than five negatives are employed by the writer to give force to this one brief yet blessed promise. The argument of the text is this, that the abiding presence of God with us is a sufficient reason for contentment. It is so because his presence guarantees:
1. The supply of all our need. We have all things in him; e.g.:
(1) Provision (Psalms 84:11; Matthew 6:25-34).
(2) Protection (Psalms 121:1; Romans 8:31; 1 Peter 3:13).
(3) Guidance (Psalms 73:23, Psalms 73:24; Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 3:6).
"My God shall fully supply every need of yours, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
2. The sanctification of our portion. His gracious presence will sweeten the poorest fare, and cheer the most depressed condition, and exalt the lowliest circumstances. To his faithful suffering servants his presence transformed a loathsome dungeon into a palace beautiful (Acts 16:24, Acts 16:25). It is stated that Seneca said to Polybius, "Never complain of thy hard fortune so long as Caesar is thy friend." How much more may we say to every true Christian," Never complain of such things as you have so long as you have God for your Portion"!
"The rich man in his wealth confides,
But in my God my trust abides.
Laugh as ye will, I hold
This one thing fast that he hath taught:
Who trusts in God shall want for naught.
Yes, Lord: thou art as rich today
As thou hast been, and shall be aye;
I rest on thee alone.
Thy riches to my soul be given,
And 'tis enough for earth and heaven!"
A triumphant assurance.
"So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper," etc. The writer in our text adopts the language of Psalms 118:6. Three distinct, yet closely related topics for meditation are suggested.
I. MAN'S NEED OF HELP. What a dependent creature is man! Mark this in the different stages of his life.
1. How utterly helpless in infancy!
2. How needy in youth! Instruction, direction, counsel, support, are indispensable to youthful life, if it is to grow into usefulness unto men and acceptability unto God.
3. How dependent in manhood! No one is independent. Even the wealthiest, the wisest, the mightiest, cannot stand alone. We need help
(1) from each other. "We are members one of another." "The members should have the same care one for another" (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13) We need help
(2) from God. "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things … for in him we live, and move, and have our being." It was truly said by Fenelon, "God has but to withdraw his hand which bears us, to plunge us back into the abyss of our nothingness, as a stone suspended in the air fails by its own weight the moment it ceases to be held."
4. How imbecile in old age! This is often a "second childhood," a season of almost complete dependence upon others both physically and mentally.
5. There are times, when man specially feels his need of help. In affliction we feel our need of patience; in sorrow, of consolation; in perplexity, of guidance, etc.
II. GOD'S PROVISION OF HELP. God has put it into our hearts to help each other. Many are the ways in which this is done; e.g. by sympathy, by counsel, by gifts, etc. But God himself is the great Helper. A helper does not do everything for us. He supplements our weakness with his strength; our ignorance and inexperience with his wisdom. We must do our part, and he will not fail in his. Consider what a glorious Helper God is.
1. He is all-sufficient. His wisdom is infinite. The treasures of his grace are inexhaustible. It is conceivable that the sun, after the lapse of many and vast ages, may become dark and cold, or that the waters of old ocean may be drank up; but it is impossible and inconceivable that the infinite resources of our Divine Helper should ever fail.
2. He is ever-available. We cannot seek him and discover that he is inaccessible to us. We cannot approach him inopportunely. He is "a very present Help in trouble." "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
3. He is ever-gracious. His willingness to help is as great and as constant as his ability. Man varies in his moods: today he is genial and kind, to-morrow he is cold and harsh. But God is ever merciful, ever disposed to help and bless his creatures.
III. THE BELIEVER'S ASSURANCE OF THE HELP OF GOD. "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear: what shall man do unto me?"
1. This confidence rests upon the promise of God. "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (verse 5). His promises are perfectly reliable. "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man," etc. (Numbers 23:19). "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" "The Scripture cannot be broken." "He abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself." His promise, then, is an immovable basis for our confidence.
2. This confidence inspires the courage of the believer. "The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear: what shall man do unto me?" The man over whom God casts his shield is invulnerable. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" "Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" No crafty foe can elude the vigilance of his eye; no subtle scheme can surprise his infinite mind; no strong antagonist can cope with his almighty arm. If he is our Helper, man cannot injure us. If he is our Helper, our resources cannot fail. If he is our Helper, we may pursue our life-path chanting cheerfully, "God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble," etc. (Psalms 46:1-11).—W.J.
The unchangeableness of Jesus Christ.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever." The Lord Jesus Christ is unchangeable—
I. IN HIS PERSON. "Our Lord's Godhead is the seat of his personality. The Son of Mary is not a distinct human person mysteriously linked with the Divine nature of the eternal Word. The Person of the Son of Mary is Divine and eternal. It is none other than the Person of the Word." £ This personality is immutable. This has been already asserted by the writer of this Epistle: "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth," etc. (Hebrews 1:10-12). He is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" in his great attributes—his eternity, spirituality, omniscience, omnipotence, etc. He is the same in his perfect and blessed character—in his righteousness and faithfulness, his love and mercy, his forbearance and tenderness, etc. In this respect how vast is the difference between him and us! We are ever changing in many respects. Our outward appearances, the particles of which our bodies are composed, the opinions which we entertain, the experiences which we pass through, the characters which we are forming,—all these change. But he is sublimely unchangeable, eternally and infinitely perfect.
II. IN HIS WORD. The teaching of our Lord, like his personality, continues and changes not. His words are true, vital, suited to the conditions and needs of human nature and life. More than eighteen centuries have passed away since they were uttered; but they have lost none of their clearness, or freshness, or force. They are still the great fountains of religious light to our race. And the noblest human spirits still say to him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." It has been well said by Dr. Parker, "Plato's definitions are practically forgotten, but the Nazarene's words intermingle with universal civilization. A great composer said he was spending a long time over his work because he intended it to live long, but this Galilean peasant talks extemporaneously, as if simply answering the question of the hour; yet his words float over all generations, and are prized by men today as if they had been addressed exclusively to themselves. These 'sayings' are not local lamps, but suns set in the firmament commanding the range of all nations.... In Christ's 'sayings' there was always something beyond—a quickening sense that the words were but the surface of the thought; there was nothing to betoken conclusion, much less exhaustion; there was ever a luminous opening even on the clouds that lay deepest along the horizon, which invited the spectator to advance and behold yet fuller visions" ('Eece Deus'). How different is the teaching Of Jesus Christ from the changing opinions, speculations, and theories of men—even of distinguished men! Of every province of human thought and investigation we may truthfully say—
"Our little systems have their day;
They have their day, and cease to be."
But Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." "The Word of God liveth and abideth The Word of the Lord abideth forever."
III. IN HIS WORK. Part of his great work was perfectly and splendidly accomplished while he was upon earth. The work which was given him to do upon earth, says Dr. Wardlaw, "was the expiation of human guilt, and the provision of a righteousness for the justification of the ungodly; the laying of the groundwork of man's redemption—the foundation on which might rest together the glory of God and the hopes of sinners. But his mediatorial work did not cease then. It does not properly terminate till 'the end come,' when he shall have accomplished all the ends for which his office as Mediator had been assumed."
"He who for man their Surety stood,
And poured on earth his precious blood,
Pursues in heaven his mighty plan;
The Savior and the Friend of man."
Many of the miracles which he wrought when upon earth are illustrations, parables, of the work which he is ever performing in human spirits.
1. As Savior of sinners he is the same. The cross upon which he gave himself in death for us has lost none of its ancient power. By his glorious gospel and his Holy Spirit he is still convincing men of sin, drawing them to himself, and imparting to them pardon and peace, liberty and joy.
2. As the Helper of his people he is the same. "He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). "Christ's perpetual presentation of himself before the Father," says Canon Liddon, "is that which constitutes his intercession." He is in the presence of God as our Representative, our Advocate, and our Friend.
From the unchangeableness of Jesus Christ we infer:
1. That he is essentially Divine. All created beings change. This is one thing in which each and all of them are alike. We are different today from what we were yesterday, and tomorrow we shall differ from what we are today. Immutability belongs only to God (cf. Hebrews 1:10-12).
2. That be is worthy of our utmost confidence. If he were fickle, changeable in his character and purposes, loving man today and regarding him with indifference to-morrow, how could we trust him? Nay, if it were even possible for him to change, how could we calmly and confidently commit cur souls to him? But seeing that he is what he is in his character and in his relation to us, and that he is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever," we may repose in him the fullest confidence of our being.
3. That the success of His cause is assured. In the preceding verse we were reminded of the death of Christian ministers and elders; but the great Head of the Church ever liveth and is ever the same. "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged," etc. (Isaiah 42:4).—W.J.
The Christian altar.
"We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat," etc. Here are three points which require notice.
I. THE CHRISTIAN ALTAR. "We have an altar." One of the positions which the writer of this Epistle endeavors to establish is this, that by the renunciation of Judaism these Hebrew Christians had not lost anything of real value, or that the good in Judaism was perfected in Christianity. He shows that in Jesus Christ, the Head of the Christian dispensation, they had One far greater than Moses, by whom the elder economy was given. For giving up the Levitical priesthood there was far more than compensation in the possession of an interest in the great High Priest. Moreover, the tabernacle in which our great High Priest appears for us is "greater and more perfect" than either the tabernacle in the wilderness or the temple at Jerusalem. And in our text he points out that Christians have also an altar with its provisions and blessings. By this altar we understand the cross upon which our Lord offered himself a Sacrifice for human sin. £
1. On this altar the perfect Sacrifice was offered. (We have already dealt with the perfection of Christ's sacrifice in our homilies on Hebrews 10:5-10, and Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:13)
2. This altar has superseded all other altars. The perfection of this sacrifice rendered its repetition unnecessary, and abolished forever the imperfect and typical sacrifices of the earlier dispensation (cf. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:10-18).
II. THE PROVISION WHICH THIS ALTAR FURNISHES. The writer speaks of eating of this altar. The reference is to the fact that certain portions of some of the sacrifices under the Mosaic economy were eaten by the priests, and certain by the Levites also (cf. Le Hebrews 6:14-18, 24-30; Hebrews 7:0; Numbers 18:8-11; 1 Corinthians 9:13). The provision from the Christian altar is Jesus Christ himself, the great Sacrifice. By faith" we become partakers of Christ;" we appropriate him as the Life and the Sustenance of the soul. Our Lord said, "I am the living Bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever," etc. (John 6:51-58).
1. This provision is spiritual. Not of the literal or material flesh and blood of Jesus do we eat and drink, but by faith we become partakers of his mind, his feelings, his principles, his spirit, his life, himself. Hence St. Paul writes, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," etc. (Galatians 2:20). Again, "Christ our Life" (Colossians 3:3, Colossians 3:4).
2. This provision is delightful. To those who are healthy the eating of suitable provision; Is not only necessary and satisfying, but pleasurable. It gratifies the palate. The spiritual appropriation of Christ is joy-inspiring. In Christianity we have "a feast of fat things."
3. This provision is free, and free to all. Some of the Levitical sacrifices belonged to the sacrificing priest only, others only to the priest and Levites. But all may come to Christ by faith, and partake of the inestimable benefits of his great sacrifice. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," etc. (Isaiah 4:1, Isaiah 4:2; Revelation 22:17).
III. THE EXCLUSION OF SOME FROM' PARTICIPATION IN THIS PROVISION. "Whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." The reference is to the Jewish priests and Levites. They who clung to Judaism rejected Christianity, and were necessarily excluded from its benefits. They were self-excluded. They would not come unto Christ that they might have life. All who reject the Lord Jesus are in a similar condition: e.g. the self-righteous moralist, the modem representative of the ancient Pharisee; the captious and the scoffing skeptic; the worlding who elects to have his portion in this life; and others. The provision is free, free for all; but these exclude themselves from participation therein. How is it possible for any one to enjoy the blessings of Christianity who rejects the Christ?—W.J.
Hebrews 13:15, Hebrews 13:16
"By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise," etc.
I. THE NATURE OF THE SACRIFICES WHICH ARE REQUIRED OF CHRISTIANS.
1. Praise to God. "Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his Name." The sacrifices which are obligatory upon us are not expiatory or atoning, but eucharistic. The great atoning sacrifice in all its perfection has been offered. To it nothing can be added. But we should confess the Name of God, and gratefully acknowledge his great goodness to us, and celebrate his infinite perfections. Two things show our obligation to offer this sacrifice.
(1) The number and preciousness of the blessings we receive from him. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?... I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving." "Bless the Lord, O my soul," etc. (Psalms 103:1-5).
(2) The perfection and glory of his own being and character. We ought to bless God because of what he is in himself. "For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord?" etc. (Psalms 89:6, Psalms 89:7). "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts," etc. (Isaiah 6:3).
2. Beneficence to man. "But to do good and to communicate forget not." God requires not only "the fruit of our lips," but the fruit of our lives. Our gratitude to him is to be expressed in kindness to our fellow-men. "Thanksgiving is good, but thanks-living is better." Dr. South has well said, "The measures that God marks out to thy charity are these: thy superfluities must give place to thy neighbor's great convenience; thy convenience must yield to thy neighbor's necessity; and thy very necessities must yield to thy neighbor's extremity."
II. THE MEDIUM THROUGH WHICH THESE SACRIFICES SHOULD BE OFFERED. "By him let us offer," etc. More correctly, "through him let us offer." Our sacrifices should be offered through the mediation of Jesus Christ. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me," or, "through me." "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." We offer our sacrifices through him because:
1. He represents God to us as accessible and attractive. "No man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him." "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the besom of the Father, he hath declared him." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "The Father himself loveth you." Through this revelation we are encouraged to draw near to God with our thanksgiving and praise.
2. He represents us to God in his own humanity. "When he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." "Christ entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." He is there still, bearing even in his glorified body the marks of the wounds which he endured for us. "A Lamb standing, as though it had been slain."
III. THE TIME WHEN THESE SACRIFICES SHOULD BE OFFERED.
1. The sacrifice of praise to God should be offered "continually." "Daily praise should ascend from each of us to God, as the perfume of the daily sacrifice ascended in olden times; there must not be fewer sacrifices under the new dispensation than there were under the old; we are priests to offer up unto God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving." Praise should be not an occasional exercise, but an abiding disposition of the soul. We should cultivate a thankful, praiseful, adoring spirit. "In everything give thanks."
"Not thankful when it pleaseth me;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart whose pulse may be
2. The sacrifices of beneficence to men should be offered according to our opportunities. "As we have opportunity, let us work that which is good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Let us not neglect any opportunity of kindness and beneficence; for all our opportunities may soon be ended, and that forever.
IV. THE FAVOUR WITH WHICH THESE SACRIFICES ARE REGARDED BY GOD. "With such sacrifices God is well pleased." He not only accepts them, but he is gratified by them. He is "well pleased" with them, because they are expressions of that spirit in which he delights. He is infinitely beneficent. He is "good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." "He is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil." He loves to find the same disposition in his creatures. Moreover, our Lord regards our acts of beneficence as done to him (cf. Matthew 25:40). And not even the least of them escapes his notice, or will fail of its reward (cf. Matthew 10:42; Hebrews 6:10).—W.J.
Hebrews 13:20, Hebrews 13:21
Concluding prayer and doxology.
"Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead," etc. (Hebrews 13:20, Hebrews 13:21). Let us notice—
I. THE GREAT BEING WHO IS HERE ADDRESSED. "The God of peace." This title is fitly applied to the Most High.
1. He is infinitely peaceful in himself. All those elements which disturb and distress souls are entirely absent from his nature. Pride, anger, jealousy, remorse, fear, foreboding,—these are the things which agitate and alarm us; but they have no existence in him. He is infinitely pure and perfect, and, therefore, he is infinitely peaceful.
2. He is the Giver of peace to others. He gives peace in the conscience by means of the forgiveness of sin. "Thy sins are forgiven;… thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace" (Luke 7:48, Luke 7:50; cf. Romans 5:1). He gives peace in the heart by the expulsion of evil passions therefrom and the inspiration therein of holy affections. Anger, revenge, jealousy, he expels from the heart, and he awakens in it supreme love to himself and love to our fellow-men. He quickens within us confidence in himself, and so gives us peace as we contemplate the possibilities of our future. A calm trust in his fatherhood is an unfailing antidote to our anxieties and forebodings. "Be not anxious for your life," etc. (Matthew 6:25-34). He gives peace in the Church. There is, perhaps, an allusion to this fact in the present application of the title to him. The nineteenth verse suggests that there was danger of disobedience and insubordination amongst those who are addressed. And it was appropriate to remind them that God is the God of peace and the Giver of peace, and to wish for them the enjoyment of this blessing.
II. THE GREAT WORK ATTRIBUTED TO HIM. "Who brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus?' We must notice here what is said of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. The relation which he sustains to his people. "The great Shepherd of the sheep." This relationship implies
(1) provision for the wants of his people. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want," etc. (Psalms 23:1-6).
(2) Direction of their way. "The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out," etc. (John 10:3, John 10:4).
(3) Protection of them from dangers and enemies. "I will save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey." "I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep," etc. (John 10:11-14; cf. Ezekiel 34:11-31).
2. The means by which he entered into his relationship. "Through the blood of the eternal covenant." Jesus Christ became the great Shepherd of the sheep through the great sacrifice of himself which he offered. Ebrard: "Christ is the great, true, chief, and superior Shepherd, inasmuch as he has made an everlasting covenant by his blood (cf. Hebrews 10:11, etc). The best commentary on these words is found in John 10:1-42. He is the good Shepherd because he has given his life for the sheep." This great Shepherd of the sheep was brought again from the dead by the God of peace. In the New Testament the resurrection of our Savior is almost invariably attributed to God the Father. "God raised him from the dead, and gave him glory" (1 Peter 1:21). Thus his resurrection was an evidence that the work which was given him to do upon earth was perfectly completed, and was accepted by the Divine Father.
III. THE BLESSING SOLICITED FROM HIM. "Make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ." Perfection is the blessing prayed for.
1. The nature of this perfection. "Make you perfect in every good thing to do his will." Absolute perfection is not solicited here; but that they may be enabled fully and heartily to accomplish the holy will of God. Cf. Hebrews 10:36, "That having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise."
2. The means of this perfection. "Working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight." To the same effect St. Paul writes, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure." The inspiration and strength for our out-working of his wilt must come from his in-working with us.
3. The medium of this perfection. "Through Jesus Christ." God works within us through the Savior, through his mediation and by his Spirit. Through him alone can man attain unto perfection of being.
IV. THE HONOUR ASCRIBED TO HIM. "To whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
1. Glory is ascribed to God the Father. Some hold that the glory is attributed to Jesus Christ. But it seems to us that it is ascribed to God the Father, "the chief Subject of the whole sentence," as Alford says; "God, who is the God of peace, who brought up the Lord Jesus from the dead, who can perfect us in every good work, to accomplish his will, and works in us that which is well-pleasing to him through Jesus Christ. The whole majesty of the sentence requires this reverting to its main Agent, and speaks against the referring 'to whom be the glory' to our blessed Lord, who is only incidentally mentioned." To the God of all grace the highest, fullest, divinest honors are due.
2. Glory is ascribed to God perpetually. "Forever and ever." "Unto the ages of the ages. Amen." His own essential glory is eternal, and the honors attributed to him will not only continue, but increase throughout endless ages.—W.J.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
I. ESPECIALLY NECESSARY AT THE PRESENT SEASON. It was a time of trial from outside. Brothers needed to be brotherly, helping one another. We cannot expect anything from strangers, and must be ready even for their hostility. But we must do everything to guard against alienation amongst friends at a time when the closest union will be serviceable.
II. THE COUNSEL NECESSARY BECAUSE SELF-REGARD IS SUCH A SUBTLE SIN. Carnal views of the kingdom of heaven, such as seem to have been prevalent among these Hebrew Christians, inevitably led to each one of them thinking what in the expected glorious state of things he would get for himself. So it was among the disciples of Jesus. They disputed who should be greatest. There was even intrigue to get promise of the principal places. Christians need to be ever on their guard lest any feeling get dominion in their hearts hostile to the good of the whole body.
III. WE ARE REMINDED OF ABIDING THINGS THAT DEPEND ON OUR OWN DISPOSITION. The writer has just been referring to things that can be shaken and removed, and things that cannot be shaken. These are things that God deals with by his power. But the continuance of some things depends on whether we will have them continue. Whether brotherliness shall be a deep and abiding thing depends on the state of our hearts.
IV. CONTINUAL REMEMBRANCE OF THE REAL RELATION OF EVERY CHRISTIAN TO EVERY OTHER CHRISTIAN. By the same Spirit we are all born again, and therefore members of the same Divine family. Each of us, therefore, is under certain obligations; each of us may prefer certain claims. But there can be no proper treatment either of
the obligations or the claims unless there be real affection underneath. It is in the spiritual sphere as in the natural; the mere relation may only irritate unless there be the feelings that properly belong to the relation.—Y.
Note the connection of Hebrews 13:1 and Hebrews 13:2. First φιλαδελφία is enjoined, then φιλοξενία. The stranger as well as the brother must have a proper place in our consideration. Brotherliness must not lead to exclusiveness. We must go by the golden rule. If we came to a strange place at nightfall, footsore with a long day's walking, we should be very grateful to any who would open the door and give us shelter and food. The injunction to hospitality very needful in times when facilities of travel were not what they are now. Hospitable feelings are strong in many who have not yet attained to Christian virtues; let the Christian, then, be in no way behind. He will be prudent and cautious in his treatment of strangers, he will be wise as the serpent; but he will remember, too, that he is under the protection of God. Now and then he will be deceived and robbed, but this is a little matter compared with the maintenance of hospitable duties. It may seem at first as if a low motive for hospitality were here introduced; but if it be considered, we shall see that it is not so much a motive to hospitality as to unremitting watchfulness in hospitality. Let the stranger be ever in your mind. Let not one slip past your gates, or go away knocking in vain. What will it avail to admit a thousand who bring you nothing but their needs, if you let the one go who will bring you blessings far more than anything you can do for him?—Y.
Sufferers to be remembered.
I. THOSE IN BONDS. Doubtless those in bonds for Christ and conscience sake. In the worst of persecuting times there seems to have been a body of Christians suffering nothing, or comparatively little. Some, in bonds, have preached all the more effectively; others have continued free to make known the gospel far and wide. This admonition becoming ever less needful so far as literal imprisonment for Christ's sake is concerned. But still we must bear in mind the admonition, so far as the essence of it is concerned. For the persecuting spirit of the world remains; the world persecutes, not meaning to persecute; does not know all the suffering it inflicts. We must be quick to discover all sufferers for conscience' sake, and intercede for them. Then let the exhortation also include those in bonds as evildoers. Of such, alas! there is still abundance. Civilization is not able to do without the prison. Let us consider that in less favorable circumstances we also might have been criminals. Let Christians be forward in all that tries to prevent the child growing into a criminal manhood, and the liberated criminal lapsing again into evil ways. "Put yourself in his place," and so let your heart go out in pity and effort for the vilest of mankind.
II. THEM WHICH SUFFER ADVERSITY. All that a man can suffer because he is in the body—let that draw out your pity and help. Here, again, no doubt, the primary reference is to a state of things that has largely passed away. Christians had to suffer physical violence. This was a readier and cheaper way of venting hatred against them than putting them in prison. The fist and the cudgel are soon got in action. And here again, too, let the exhortation pass far beyond the limits of its first occasion. You are in the body, and can suffer pain through the senses; and what you can suffer, many actually do suffer.
III. THE MEANING OF THE REMEMBRANCE. Merely to remember would do no good. The remembrance must be so constant, so burdensome, as to make you act. There is a kind of reproach in the word; it implies that we only too easily forget the prisoner and the oppressed.—Y.
The love of money.
No body of the most important precepts for practical Christian life can be without some admonition bearing on the proper use of money. Money, with all it represents, has a most insidious and potent charm for the great majority of men. Even in times of trial and persecution this spiritual peril has to be remembered. A man may become so deluded by external possessions that the risk of losing them may lead him to apostasy. Money must not be allowed to become the great center of attraction, the controller of our life's orbit, else how shall we be properly influenced by nobler things? Distinguish, of course, between the possession of money and the love of money. There may be possession of much wealth with no love of it, and there may be very little in actual possession with a most intense desire after it. The writer indicates two reasons especially for guarding against love of money.
1. There can be no contentment along with this love. The Christian is to attain his true contentment in that which becomes an integral part of his own life.
2. There can be no honoring trust in God. God has said, "I will not leave thee," yet every, act of the money-loving man expresses doubt on this point.—Y.
Treatment of the leaders.
In properly treating all Christian leaders and rulers four acts are enjoined, coming in a regular and appropriate sequence.
I. LISTENING. These men lead and rule because they speak the Word of God. If they spoke their own word then it would not be right to follow them. And because they speak the Word of God we have no choice but to listen. The writer has just been quoting a word of God intended to guard against a great spiritual peril—the love of money. All who really speak the Word of God are to be reckoned as our leaders, Jesus himself in the very front, giving in his own words a sure test whereby every other word is to be tried.
II. REMEMBERING. All instructions and promises must be at hand in the mind when they are wanted. Spoken before being wanted, they were ready when the want came. Hence the value of regularly and penetratively reading the New Testament. We cannot go far anywhere in it without coming across the most profitable directions for our daily life.
III. STUDYING THE EXPERIENCE OF THE LEADERS. As they spoke they acted. The Word of God they pressed on others they first of all believed themselves. There was no inculcated duty in which they did not lead by practice as well as by precept. Some of these leaders, at least, had now passed beyond the vicissitudes of earth. Their whole Christian life was open to observation. Results could be seen. Take a life, for instance, like that of Stephen, consummated by a revelation of glory and reward such as might well inspire any follower. And especially the faith of the leaders is to be studied. Examine the true riches that have come to men by trusting in God.
IV. IMITATING THEM, or rather imitating one particular thing in them—their faith. We are no real followers of any Christian leader unless we do this. It is not peculiarities in a man's teaching, commanding influence of a personality, that should make him a leader. It is the reality of his faith in God. Such a leader we follow most and honor most when his example makes us as true believers as himself.—Y.
The unchanging Jesus.
I. THE NEEDS OF MEN DO NOT CHANCE. No doubt there is change and progress in some respects. Each generation of the human race, like each succeeding wave when the tide is flowing, is an advance on the generation going before it. As the world grows older this advance is more marked. Our fathers traveled in stage-coaches, we by express trains; they had to wait weeks for the answer of a letter, we have the telegraph to bring the same answer in an hour. But all these changes, however impressive, are only on the surface of life. Our nature has not changed, it wants the same ministries, though they may come in a different way. Though each wave is an advance on the preceding wave, they are all composed of the same elements. We who travel in railway trains are exactly the same sort of beings as those who rode in stage-coaches. The great facts of existence are the same—birth and death, sin and sorrow, hope and fear. A picture is not altered because you put it in a different frame. Man is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
II. THE SERVICE OF CHRIST DOES NOT CHANGE. Let the words be taken as true of Christ in his relation to us, that relation arising out of his life among men in the flesh. He has come into special relations to us, and it is in those special relations that we have to consider him as "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." He came to this world to do a work for all generations. As to us, the closer we keep to the evident and pressing wants of our generation, the better work we shall do. We know not the wants of posterity, and therefore we had better leave it to look after its own wants. But Jesus in his brief life did a work for the whole world—for all who ever have lived or will live on the broad surface of the earth. Because there are sinners still, Christ is still a Savior, The world is still full of Pharisees and Sadducees, publicans and harlots, sinners of every type and shade; full of the sick and the sorrowing; full of women like the widow of Nain and the sisters of Lazarus, weeping for their departed kindred.
III. NO CHANGE IN THE THINGS TO BE SAID ABOUT CHRIST. Do not be carried away, says the writer of the Epistle, with new doctrines concerning Christ, however attractive and plausible. Let us ever remind ourselves of what Christ has been in the great yesterday. Especially let us consider that yesterday which is revealed to us in the Scriptures of the New Testament. If that day was not a dream of the imagination, then it is one of the most glorious of soul-supporting realities. Jesus justified the name he bore, for he did indeed save his people from their sins. The yesterday of which we are now able to speak is a long one. It has known many changes in the world, but none in Jesus Christ.
IV. NO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE. The world will not change in its need of him. They are certainly wrong who tell us the religion of Christ has seen its best days. Look at the future in the light of the past, and you will be assured of your Savior ever standing in the midst of the golden candlesticks, watching that their light goes not out. We may change in our faith and hope and patience, but Christ changes not. Rising to the measure of our duties and opportunities, this would become a practical truth to us. We are not straitened in him, but in ourselves. He asks to let him do for us what he has done for those going before. He asks for admission. Let the door no longer be locked with the key of unbelief and double bolted with indolence and worldliness. Let us not go from the world without leaving a testimony that shall if possible have a savoir of life unto life to those following in our steps.—Y.
The continuing city.
The two previous verses express, in a thoroughly Hebraistic way, an invitation to be crucified together with Christ. At the same time, these Hebrew Christians are reminded of the wilderness and tent life which their forefathers led for forty years. What they experienced in the outward reality let us experience by the inward spirit. We belong to the future more than to the present.
I. OUR VIEW OF PRESENT SURROUNDINGS. We have cities, but not continuing ones. It would be very foolish in us, knowing all we do and hoping for all we do, to look upon the states and governments of this world as do those in whom nationality is the very strongest feeling. We must pray to be preserved from that narrow and one-sided idealism which so glorifies fatherland as to make it the chief object of one's enthusiasm and effort. Our hearts must not be deceived by the outward splendors of capital cities. And yet, while the pilgrim spirit is in us, let it not be a restless and a carping one. No one should be more interested in the life, prosperity, and good government of a state than the Christian.
II. OUR OUTLOOK TOWARDS THE FUTURE. An abiding city, a city where there is true stability and true glory, is no dream. We have it not yet, but we shall have it if we seek for it. What an interest the Christian is exhorted to have in abiding, continuing things! Faith, hope, and love are to abide; all abiding things will be manifested after the great shaking; and they will cohere into the true dignity of the heavenly state. Never has the human imagination been more nobly employed than in bodying forth the conditions and appearances of a perfect state. But those indulging such imaginations had no definite way of reducing them to fact. Here, however, the Christian is spoken of as seeking for the coming city in a very definite way. True, our present life is as it were a camp-life, but not for all that like the life of savage or gipsy. Our camping-places are all stages in the journey to the new Jerusalem.—Y.
Hebrews 13:15, Hebrews 13:18
The sacrifices with which God is well pleased.
Vain is any attempt of ours to take in the full significance of this exhortation. We have not to turn away from any literal altar or any literal sacrifice. But the injunctions in themselves, apart from the special aspect of them, are permanently important.
I. OUR CONSTANT AIM MUST BE TO PLEASE GOD. Literal sacrifices had degenerated into a traditional safeguard against displeasing God. The ordinances of Sinai with respect to sacrifice had aimed to lift it into a great teaching and self-revealing institution. But probably only a few in every generation had grasped the spiritual significance of sacrifice. Though, doubtless, many too, because their motive was sincere as far as it went, were accepted, as was the woman with her alabaster box, and the widow with the two mites. The illuminating gospel of Christ leaves us without excuse as to what will please God. We know that the old sacrifices never could have pleased him in themselves. He could not eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats. But now no offering can please unless it be in itself helpful to men or glorifying to God.
II. INTELLIGENT PRAISE PLEASES GOD. Praise which comes from overflowing heart-experiences must always be acceptable to God. For the fruits from outward possessions are substituted the fruits from an inward life. The habitual acknowledgment of God's Name means an habitual consciousness of all the services he renders in supplying all our needs from the highest down to the lowest. It is not enough that there be praise; it must be praise abounding in the right elements. Mere words of the lip can give no more pleasure to God than the mere slaying of animals.
III. THE DOING OF GOOD PLEASES GOD. Praise cannot stand by itself. Real doing of good shows that God's Spirit of love, direction, and power is working in us. Work must not stand instead of praise, nor praise instead of work; going together, they are as the sacrificial body and the smell proceeding from it. Note the significant injunction not to forget. How much easier it is to go through a round of praise than to muster the self-denial needed for a course of practical good!
IV. FELLOWSHIP PLEASES GOD. Christians must associate. Real Christians coming together cannot but associate. God delights in the process of mutual giving and receiving observable in every Christian community. Making up for each other's defects, bearing each other's burdens, having fellowship as the eye has with the hand, the head with the feet, let this be the sight God ever sees when he looks upon his people. So shall the carcasses of all beasts slain in sacrifice be glorified when we think of the real offerings which they typified, and towards which they iF, some manner prepared.—Y.
The watchful leaders.
Under the details of this exhortation there seems to lie a reference to the shepherding of sheep. The shepherd goes before his sheep, leading them out and in, and finding pasture. This reference made probable by the further reference in Hebrews 13:20. Consider, then—
I. THE SHEPHERD'S AUTHORITY. Christians must maintain the liberty wherewith Christ hath set them free, but at the same time there is a discipline also to be maintained, a provision and protection to be accepted. Few are the Christians who can do without counsel, comfort, and spiritual supply from those who in various ways are qualified to give these. We must look for the shepherd ability and tenderness wherever we can find it. Those formally constituted shepherds may have very few of the qualifications. Let intrinsic authority be recognized; more than that, let it be looked for. It is quite possible to be the shepherd in relation to certain fellow-Christians and the sheep in relations to others.
II. THE SHEPHERD'S FIDELITY. He remembers that he has to give account. If any of the sheep be lost or slain he has to explain how it happened, and show that the blame did not lie with him. This makes a true shepherd ever vigilant and foreseeing, always ready to suspect danger under an appearance of the greatest safety.
III. THE SHEPHERD'S DIFFICULTY. The literal shepherd has difficulties enough. He has to do with stupid sheep who have to be watched continually. But, then, he can always employ main force. The spiritual shepherd, on the other hand, deals with human beings. They have to be persuaded. If they are bent on going into pasture-less and dangerous places, then the shepherd cannot stop. He warns, he expostulates, he entreats, with tears in his eyes, again and again; and that is all he can do. Hence the need of appeal to those who add the responsibility of a human being to the helplessness of the sheep.
IV. THE SHEPHERD'S ACCOUNT. The faithful shepherd can keep the day of account before him, with a calm and ready heart. He can justify himself for every sheep committed to his trust. But all this will not prevent him bewailing the sheep that are lost. Every one with the shepherd instinct in him will think with deepest sorrow of those who would listen to no counsel and believe in no peril.
V. THE SHEPHERD'S REWARD. He is rewarded according to his faithfulness. He may have to present a most deplorable list of lost sheep; but if he can show that no blame is his—that every one has been lost purely through self-will—then his profiting will appear all the same. The shepherd will have sorrow for a season, but he cannot suffer in the end. The sole suffering and loss remain in the end with those who reject the counsels.—Y.
Hebrews 13:18, Hebrews 13:19
A request for prayer
Here is a new and unexpected relation between the shepherd and the sheep; for as a shepherd the author of this Epistle must be viewed, whoever he may be. The shepherd instinct, striving to guard Christians from error and backsliding, is manifest in every page. But while there is authority, the authority of one who sees with a clear eye right into truth, there is also, as expressed in this request, a most touching sense of need. The guiding and comforting of Christians is an awful burden. To be in any way charged with the diffusion and enforcement of the truth keeps the heart continually on the strain. There are so many things to say, so little time in which to say them, and such lack of the best words, as makes one say, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Hence the earnestness with which one who is busy from the heart in working for Christ asks for the intercession of others. Only a man himself knowing the power of prayer could utter such a request. A prayerless man will never have an inward impulse prompting him to say, "Pray for us." Note where this request comes in—just at the end of the Epistle. As if the writer intended his friends to feel that he would first of all do all he could for them before he asked anything from them. If indeed they had profited by his instructions then, both intellectually and spiritually, they would be in the fittest mood to pray for him.—Y.
Hebrews 13:20, Hebrews 13:21
A most comprehensive wish.
This is both a wish and a prayer, None the less a prayer because referring to God in the third person. The writer both prays that God may prosecute a course of operations in the hearts of these Christians, and indirectly solicits them at the same time to make this course possible by their submission and co-operation. This prayer-wish, it will be noted, was peculiarly correspondent with the position of Hebrew Christians.
I. THE REFERENCE TO THE COVENANT. There had been a covenant, not everlasting, seeing there was no possibility of everlastingness in it. But now there is a new covenant, stable and consecrated by the blood of Jesus himself. The very Lord's Supper, in which these Hebrew Christians must repeatedly have taken part, made it impossible for them to forget the blood of the new covenant. This new covenant was really established in the raising of Jesus from the dead. And well might God be called a God of peace in connection with it. As God of the old covenant he had too frequently to be a God of wrath and of hostility to those transgressing the terms of the covenant.
II. THE COMFORTING REFERENCE TO GOD'S POWER AND DISPOSITION. Great as the troubles through which these people were passing seemed, yet they were not as the troubles of ancient Israel, idolatrous and apostate from the living God. It is a matter of the greatest importance to be assured that one is not contending with the Divine wrath. If God be against us, all comforts and hopes, however promising, are only delusions. [But here is the proof that God is for us, in raising Jesus from the dead. Jesus had been the great Benefactor of men, a true Shepherd. Had he not compassion on the crowd, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd? And when he died, how many lost their hope and comfort then] But God raises him from the dead, brings him back from among the corpses, and so constitutes him in a higher sense than ever the great Shepherd of the sheep.
III. THE GREAT THINGS YET TO BE EXPECTED AND PREPARED FOR. A risen Savior is not only to secure us immortality, but to confirm us in a new life in every way. Things are prayed for that belong to the very essence of the Christian life, whatever its external circumstances may be. We need to be properly placed and endowed for every good work; we need to be fitted to carry out the will of God. The Divine intent is that we should in all ways be strong for usefulness as well as strong to bear trial. The God of the resurrection can work in us all that is acceptable to himself, and he will do it through Jesus Christ.
IV. THE DOXOLOGY. How fittingly it comes in after this recital of the Divine power and ability! All true praise must be based upon a real and deep apprehension of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.—Y.
Suffering the word of exhortation.
The writer wishes to be prepared for every state of mind in those to whom he writes. He knows very well that much of what he has said will not be welcome upon the first reading of it. He may seem not to be sufficiently sympathetic, not sufficiently alive to the present troubles of others. More than that, in the midst of their troubles he calls them to exercises of thought and feeling which run counter to old hopes and old associations. And now, in conclusion, he lets them know how he quite understands their attitude of mind towards his letter. He does not expect his exhortations to commend themselves at first. But, knowing the word of truth to be in them, he knows they will guide his friends to higher duties and higher hopes, if only they will consider them. Thus he shows at the same time regard for the feelings of his friends, and anxiety that truth may not be repelled because at first it does not look serviceable.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17