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THE EXHORTATIONS for practical daily living in this closing chapter are strikingly befitting. The first is:
Let love of the brethren continue. There would be a natural attraction to others, especially to prominent and wealthy ones of their own race; but these were not the brethren. Most of the brethren were classified by God in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28: "foolish," "weak," "base," "despised," zeros--"the things that are not"! The word for love-of-the-brethren is philadelphia, love of the brotherhood. It should be the determination of the very heart and soul of every believer that nothing should interrupt or mar this love for the precious brotherhood, that is, for those in Christ. But by all means let him "continue" it, at any cost of self-sacrifice! For as we find it in Chapter 10:24, "Let us consider one another to provoke (by our own kindnesses and example) unto love and good works."
Paul thus commends a beloved household, that of Stephanas: "Ye know the house of Stephanas ... that they have set themselves to minister unto the saints.... I beseech you, brethren, that ye also be in subjection unto such, and to everyone that helpeth in the work and laboreth." There is no ministry that brings such a response in a heart subjection of love!*
* The author's book, Romans Verse by Verse (p. 471-2), makes this comment on Heb. 13:1-5:
We have in Heb. 13 three uses of the Greek root phil--meaning love: (1) "Let love of the brethren (philadelphia) continue"; (2) "Forget not to show love unto strangers" (philoxenia); and, (3) in verse 5, "Be free from silver-loving" (philarguros). If you are tempted to philarguros, philadelphia and philoxenia will cure you! ... Let us make "Strangers' Inns" of our homes. We are not staying here long. And the Lord may send "angels" around when we least expect! ... Even if the reference in "unawares" is not to Abraham in Gen. 18 (for he at once recognized the Lord, and knew His attendants), yet the statement seems rather an absolute one of inspiration, suggesting such a possibility for any of us! See also the case of Gideon in Jud. 6; and Manoah, Jud. 13.
Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares: The old version renders this precious word, "entertain strangers," but God did not say "entertain," but show love unto strangers. (See Revised Version.) And "hospitality" is but a weak rendering of this word. Love to strangers is possible perhaps only to believers, for in them the Holy Spirit lives and exercises the very emotions of God. How often have we heard someone say, "I attended such and such a church for weeks and no one spoke to me." Or, "I was a stranger, and the only ones these Christians seemed to recognize were their own company and friends."
These Hebrew believers, "partakers of a heavenly calling," have only Christ, and Him in the glory. They are relieved from earthly, "religious" things and can let their love, or rather His love through them, be extended to "strangers."
The personal attitude of Christians toward strangers, who are not of their own regular assembly, particularly, is in view here, as well as the truly Christian attitude toward just common "strangers." There is to be love shown such. It is not duty, formality, nor in any wise pretense: it is allowing the love of God in Christ to go through us toward them, without seeking some reward from their side. We verily believe that an assembly of saints showing love to strangers will soon have plenty of strangers to love. The expression some have entertained angels doubtless has included, through the centuries, many who still remained unaware of their heavenly visitants. Therefore let us not forget to show love unto strangers. Visit them--especially if sick! Look after them--even to loaning, or giving them money! "Love is love!"
Next, an equally beautiful exhortation: Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them. (Excellent commentators refuse to confine these counsels of mercy regarding the stranger, prisoners, and the "ill-treated," to Christians only; but make them include all, as Conybeare: "Remember the prisoners, as though ye shared their prison.") Beloved Paul yearns for such fellowship: "Remember my bonds" (Col. 4:18). This takes peculiar grace, but grace can do peculiar things! It enables one in freedom, even in ease, to enter the deepest dungeons of saints in affliction, and the Holy Spirit, in both this praying saint and that bound one, working in both, administers comfort. Blessed is the saint gladly entering into these sufferings!
(Remember) them that are ill-treated, as being yourselves also in the body: These are no common directions to "pity" those suffering bonds and ill-treatment, but to enter by the Holy Spirit, in love and prayer, into their condition with them, visiting them when possible.
And now such a needed exhortation: (If needed then, how vastly more in these days hurrying on toward Sodom!) Let marriage be had in honor in all things and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge: The entire conduct of married people as such toward each other is looked at here. (See Eph. 5:25-28; 1 Cor. 7:1-5; Mk. 10:2-12; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
* "In all things: Greek, en pasin: 'In all respects and circumstances.' Pasin is neuter as in verse 18, 'all things'; 1 Tim. 3:11, etc."--Westcott.
Be ye free from the love of money, content with such things as ye have! (See note on verse 1) Money--and the love and pursuit of it, has ever been a snare to the Hebrews (as Gentiles constantly mark and remark: though with no less covetous hearts, and probably less acquisitive ability!) But mark the great word "content," that God uses to describe that state of heart pleasing to Him in His people. Content with such things as ye have. Would that these words described all Christians!
Loving trust in the Lord banishes all fear, so that the psalmist here quoted writes,
The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: What shall man do unto me?
Surely he had entered into the truth of the "in no wise fail ... in no wise forsake thee." How blessed this life of simple faith!
Remember those leading you--In three verses (7, 17, 24) these "leaders" (them that had the rule over you) in the assemblies which these saints had known, are set before us, always in Hebrews, with a lesson to all believers.
1. They were leaders (lit., those leading). (It is very instructive that in the New Testament this Greek word, hegeomai, meaning to go before, to be a leader, etc., is used only in the participliar form, which indicates that it was their work, and not an office, to which God is calling attention. There are no popes, no bosses, in the early Church; and there is no other church than after this pattern. "Judas called Barsabas, and Silas," in Acts 15:22, are called "Leading men among the brethren." In rendering this word "have the rule over you," both the Authorized and the Revised Version show the relics of popery. The Assembly of God has no earthly popes, though it does have Divinely appointed and therefore Divinely annointed brethren upon whom God has placed the burden of the care of the Assembly. These are elders (presbuteroi) to care for the Assembly spiritually and to defend it from error; and deacons (diakonoi) to care for the temporal matters, such as looking out for the poor, as did the seven of Acts 6. Both elders and deacons are to be clearly distinguished from those who are gifted by the Spirit in any of the nine or ten ways spoken of in 1 Cor. 12: "apostles, prophets, teachers," etc., for example. Leadership involved responsibility for the condition of the Assembly; whereas a teacher would "give himself to his teaching." One of the supreme needs of the hour now is for Christians to find out from God exactly what He has fitted them for.)
God raises up by His Spirit in each assembly of saints those whom He fits to care for it. They are not rulers as "bosses."
2. These leaders spake the word of God unto the saints. This is illustrated in Acts 14:12, where Paul was the chief speaker, literally, took the lead in speaking: the same Greek verb, hegeomai, as Hebrews 13:7. (This is the very opposite of the Satanic tyranny over the Roman Catholics, in which the "priests" do not even permit the people to read the Scriptures for themselves!) These Scriptural leaders were, of course, by no means the only ones in the assemblies of saints who spake the word of God, for there is wondrous freedom in a Scriptural assembling of the saints. As Paul says, "When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Cor. 14:26). Here was no one-man ministry!
But the "leaders," while including the God-appointed elders or overseers, especially taught the Word of God, as an excellent commentator translates 1 Timothy 5:17: "Let the elders who take the lead well (among the saints) be esteemed worthy of double honor." In each assembly there would be those fitted by God to do as Paul exhorts the elders of the Ephesian assembly to do: "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of the Lord which he purchased with His own blood ... Wherefore watch ye" (Acts 20:28-31).
* Greek, episkopoi. Note two things about these overseers here: (1) There were not one but several in each Assembly. Compare with Phil. 1:1, addressed to "all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, with the overseers (episkopoi) and deacons." How eagerly the human heart seizes the least excuse for self-exaltation, and for aloneness and aloofness of power, is seen in the sad misapplication of the term "overseer" (used always in Scripture, we repeat, of several in each assembly) as arrogating to itself the title of "Bishop" and even of "Archbishop" of many assemblies--such a person to be addressed as "My Lord Bishop"!
(2) Note again in Acts 20 that those addressed as overseers (episkopoi) are simply "the elders" of the assembly (vs. 17): Paul "sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders (presbuterion) of the assembly."
Note also that Scripture confines eldership to a local assembly. In Acts 11:30 the elders are those of the assembly at Jerusalem. In Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas "ordained elders in every assembly." Compare 21:18; and Tit. 1:5: "ordained elders in every city." Again. Jas. 5:14: "Let him call for the elders of the assembly."
An elder, therefore, was such in the assembly where he was. There was no hint by the Holy Spirit of a confederating of various assemblies into what is now called a "Presbytery," "Conference," an "Association," or a "Convention," any more than there is Scripture for denominations.
3. The saints were to imitate their faith--the faith of such, leaders, and to be especially drawn to this imitation by considering the issue of their life. The word "issue" has special reference to the character of their closing testimony, "Considering what kind of an end they made."--Vincent. So we do well to remember the leaders, and to consider the end of their kind of life. Thus are our hearts drawn out to imitate, not them, but "their faith"; not their mannerisms, but their methods with God; their separation unto Him; their reliance upon Him; the boldness and confidence in their trusting Him.
* For myself, for instance, I look back first to my father, a godly minister, who lived to within three years of a century, in whose life I cannot remember the least dishonorable or unchristian act, and whose end was perfect quiet and very peace!
Then I think of R.A. Torrey, in the Moody Institute in Chicago, whom Mr. Moody had appointed superintendent. When I consider Mr. Torrey's manner of life, and the ending thereof, my heart is peculiarly filled with tenderness. Once, in his praying with me and for me, I happened to glance at his face, and tears were running down. So I remember that leader!
As for Mr. Moody, he came to the Chicago Auditorium Theatre, and held two meetings a day, morning and afternoon. In that last series in Chicago, how he preached! One day, for instance, on Elisha's receiving Elijah's mantle, when you could fairly see that old camel's hair garment drop from the skies, and Elisha rending his own clothes, taking Elijah's mantle, and smiting the waters with the words, "Where is Jehovah, the God of Elijah?"--and the Jordan dividing!
Mr. Moody went from Chicago to Kansas City, to a great audience in Convention Hall, where he was stricken, and went home to Northfield to go to be with the Lord on what he called his "Coronation Day," saying just before he went home: "Earth is receding and Heaven is opening; God is calling me."
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and forever!--Let this mighty verse grasp our hearts, for it is spoken of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Out of past eternity, never having had a beginning--for is He not God the Son--He comes to us. (Sapphir well says, "All their departed teachers and elders had shown them in life and death what they had declared: The just shall live by faith. They had passed away; but the Great Prophet, the Great Apostle and High Priest, the true Shepherd, remained--Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever ... His yesterday has no beginning but it ends with His burial in that new tomb. His today commences with His resurrection, and is even now the 'today' while we hear the voice of grace. His 'forever' commences with His second advent. His incarnation is only the manifestation of the mind that was in Him from all eternity.")
Yesterday--Oh, what a word! Remember out of this eternal yesterday" He comes to do the Father's will and also to let His infinite love work for us.
And today--His obedience to His blessed Father and His infinite devotion to us, we see in the choice of the cup of Divine forsaking, and the drinking of it to the finish on the Cross. When does this blessed word "today" begin? I beg you to consider if its meaning be not since His resurrection; since He sent the message to His disciples on that resurrection day, "Go to My brethren"; since He appeared that night to them saying, "See My hands and My feet"; and He ate with them, and "showed Himself alive ... by the space of forty days." Then He ascended to the right hand of Him Who said, "Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek," and, "Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." Then in ten days He sent forth the blessed Spirit upon His beloved believers, and lo, the Church, the Body of Christ is found! All this-and how much more is included in the blessed words "and to-day!"
What an unspeakable marvel! There is One Who changeth not. Our God changes not and in the blessed quotation from Psalm 102:27, we find these words applied to the Lord Jesus:
"But Thou art the same, And Thy years shall have no end."
And unto the ages (Gr., _eis _tous _aionas)--This is, of course, for the eternity to come! But in the mind of the Spirit, "eternity" is looked at as a succession--endless, of course--of periods during each of which some purpose of God is fulfilled, for example, the age (_aion) succeeding the present one is called the age to come.
* The meaning of _aion must be understood despite man's dispensational ignorance or prejudice, if we would understand what the Word of God says to us in this word: It means a duration of time during which God is accomplishing certain things. It never means the created world itself.
How tragic it is that even the Revised Version banishes to the "margin," the word age, substituting the word world as for example in Matthew 24:3: "Thy coming, and of the end of the world." The disciples asked literally, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming and the consummation of the age?" In Matthew 13:39, 40, 49 and 28:20 also the word age (_aion) is banished. What right has anyone to substitute the word _cosmos (world), God's word to denote the earth (Matt. 13:35; John 21:25; Acts 17:24; 1 John 3:17), that is a material creation, for the characteristic operation of God in that created world? His creation is _cosmos (world). His operation is _age (_aion).
Change with us is constant, universal. How unspeakably blessed that the Christ to Whom we have transferred our life and hopes is the same unto the ages, yesterday and today, and forever! Of no one but Deity could this be spoken. Even of angels it is written, that they "desire to look into" certain things. And so with all creatures: how blessed that we know One Who changeth not! The love that redeemed us was in His bosom from all eternity. We therefore wholly reject divers and strange teachings (vs. 9).
Be not carried away by divers and strange doctrines"--Strange teachings": Look at them today! Buchmanism, Bullingerism, Unity, Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventism, Russellism, British Israelism, Psychianna, and many more! God may bring back to truth and soberness some of these foolish folk, who have been carried away by them, but the real apostate has turned his back on Christian things and Divine mercy forever. For it is good that the heart be established by grace; not by meats, wherein they that occupied themselves were not profited: Here you must turn to Leviticus 11. We beg you, go read this chapter, The conscientious Israelite was occupied with meats! But the Law "made nothing perfect," as we found in Hebrews 7, so that there was "a disannulling of a foregoing commandment," and now comes GRACE, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
* "Nothing is plainer proof that the heart is not practically in possession of that which gives rest in Christ, that it does not realize what Christ is, than the restless search after something new--divers and strange doctrines. To grow in the knowledge of Christ is our life and our privilege. The search after novelties which are foreign to Him, is a proof of not being satisfied with Him."--Darby, Syn. p346.
We have (that is, in Levitical things, especially on the Great Day of Atonement) an altar, whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those living creatures whose blood is brought into the holies by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned without the camp: The opening word in the Greek, We have, is merely a verb making a statement, referring to Old Testament things, and not a statement of any distinction between Jews and Gentiles. In We have, the writer is speaking as a Hebrew, and the emphatic words are "have," and "altar." This "altar" is the one that was in the tabernacle of old. (Note that it is the "tabernacle"; not the temple as existing when this epistle was written. This use of "tabernacle," instead of temple, is consistent throughout Hebrews, for the temple looked forward to kingdom times; the tabernacle in the wilderness, meant atonement and worship. We expect, therefore, to hear of some ordinance or ceremony connected with that tabernacle, and we have this in verse 11.)
The altar was not the offerer, much less the victim. It was the place where the victim was presented, slain. Christ is nowhere called an altar, nor is the Cross.
* To make the altar Christ, now in Heaven, is to pass by the work done at the Cross, and pass on to the worship in Heaven--which cannot be carried on except in view of the perfect sacrifice on earth. To make Christ in Heaven the altar would be to set up in Heaven what He finished on earth; for the altar was not the place of worship, but of sacrifice.
The altar was standing in front of the temple at Jerusalem when the Apostle was writing; and on it was the sacrifice, the sin-offering (vs. 11) of which none were permitted to eat. It was of course afterwards destroyed by the Romans.
To suppose this altar to be what we today call "the Lord's table," will not do; for all partake of that table; but no one partook of the sin-offering, which was burned without the camp, symbolizing God's wrath against sin.
Indeed, verse 11, the chief point of the passage, does not support this. It carried on the explanation concerning the altar in the tabernacle. Of that altar those who served the tabernacle were indeed to eat: but not of the bodies of those living creatures whose blood is brought into the holies by the high priest as an offering for sin. (See Lev. 6:26, 30; 4:7, 12, 18, 21; 16:15, 27, 28.) We see in these passages that when the blood of the sin-offering on the Great Day of Atonement was presented in the Holy of Holies (in the immediate presence of God, as most precious to Him), the bodies of those living creatures of which the blood had been shed were burned without the camp. So Christ suffered the wrath of God without the gate (vs. 12), and entered into the presence of God "within the veil" (Heb. 6:19; 10:20).
Going back for a minute to verse 10, we must see what truths are set forth by this burning without the camp:
- The fire represents God's wrath upon Christ-made-sin at the Cross.
- This took place without the camp, showing Him becoming a curse and forsaken of God.
- The burning of these bodies had nothing to do with atonement for sin, because "it is the blood that maketh atonement," and the blood of these beasts had been poured out, and taken into the holy place as an offering for sin, not only on the Great Day of Atonement, but also whenever sin had been committed, as we saw in Leviticus 4, cited above.
From man's side, carrying out the type, Christ should have died in the temple at the altar. But human religion was on the throne there, and human religion has no place for atoning blood. Men give up hope in "religion" when they transfer their trust to the poured-out blood of the Son of God! Jerusalem was the "holy city": "religious" sinners are out for His blood, but will not have it shed there. So they take Him to Golgotha, outside the whole religious camp. And that day saw a world of sin with the Redeemer cast out by them!
Note now that verse 11 connects itself with verse 10 by the word "For," and verse 12 opens out the new subject with the words Wherefore Jesus also. (Vs. 11 refers to and depends on vs. 10.) (Vss. 10 and 11 refer to the type, vs. 12 is the application of it, vs. 13 is the exhortation in view of it, vs. 14, our expectation, and vs. 15 our true sacrifice in praise to God.)
Here we have the object of this burning without the camp, fulfilled by our Lord's suffering without the gate. (Remember the brazen altar was inside, not without!) It was that He might sanctify the people through His own blood. Here the meaning of the word sanctify as it is generally found in Hebrews prevails. It is, to separate unto. (See comment on 10:14, 29; 12:14). When our blessed Lord died, outside the gate, outside all "religious" connection, despised and rejected of men, the way was laid for Him, risen from the dead, to give us His own life and place. Joined to Him (for "Both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one") they are, and are worshiping. There is no other worship. The world, even the religious world, has been left behind by a Risen Christ, and so by all His own. The saints, believers, are sanctified, separated, unto God. "They are not of the world even as I am not of the world," our Lord said (John 17:14). Was He despised? Was His place without the gate, without the camp? Then the place of all His own is there. The world despises them, knows them not, as it knew not and despised the Lord. The world is a black ball doomed, rolling on to judgment!
Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach: Inasmuch as Jesus had suffered without the gate down here, "a reproach of men, and despised of the people" (Ps. 22:6), believers were now to go forth unto Him without the camp. It is a blessed thing that in thus going forth without the camp we go forth UNTO HIM. For Christ is known only by and in the Holy Spirit, and true worship is that of Ephesians 2:18: "Through Him we both (Jew and Gentile believers) have our access by one Spirit unto the Father."
* Our Lord's suffering is without the gate, while we are exhorted to go forth unto Him without the camp. The types of Hebrews are those of the tabernacle in the wilderness, but by the Spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10) the word "gate" is used, referring to our Lord's going forth through the gate of Jerusalem to the hill of Calvary.
"The camp" to those Hebrew believers whom Paul is addressing, of course meant apostate Judaism that had crucified their Messiah. But the term "camp" includes all those "religious" developments, by whatever name called, which, though professing to be Christian, are Judeo-pagan. (This refers not only to Roman Catholicism, which openly claims temporal power, holding not one Christian truth in purity, and having an order of "priests" who blasphemously undertake to do that work for men which our Great High Priest has done on the Cross, and now is accomplishing in Heaven. It refers also to all who, despite God's Word to the contrary, disobey God's command not to "divide Christ" by sectarianism. Thus we see what is called Christendom, where Christ is named, but which believes in human righteousness, hates grace for the guilty, and thinks of itself as having "the Christian religion": people not born again, not having the Holy Spirit, never having been convicted of their lost state "joining" what are called "churches.") You must choose between earthly "religion" and heavenly reality. You must know a heavenly Christ or not know Christ at all, Your worship must be by the Spirit, or be worse than paganism.
Six words might sum up the believing Hebrew's position: "Within the veil" (6:19; 10:20); without the camp. "Within the veil" is the heavenly position: Christ is there, and believers in fact are there in Him, and are to be there in constant entrance (10:19 ff). Without the camp reveals where Christ is and His followers are, as to this world and its "religion." If God takes Judaism away from the Hebrews, and commands them to "draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace," having "no continuing city" on earth, no temple, ceremonies, special days--no religious camp, but Christ in the glory only--let us beware of any "religious" things man sets up on earth! All earthly religious things are of the flesh, which has been forever rejected of God. Let no man build it up by religious forms, lest it prove his doom. ("It (the kingdom of Christ) has no sacred days or seasons, no special sanctuaries, because every time and every place are alike holy. Above all, it has no sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man. The only priests under the Gospel, designated as such in the New Testament, are the saints, the members of the Christian brotherhood. As individuals all Christians are priests alike."--Bishop Lightfoot, of Durham.)
Again and again we say, since their "religion" is taken away from the Hebrews (to whom God gave it), let no Gentile (to whom religion was never given) dare to claim to have it! You--who are you? A publican, we trust, who has smitten his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner" (Lk. 18:9-14). Otherwise, you are a Pharisee!
Bearing His reproach: For if there is anyone despised or reproached on earth, it is one openly holding a hope of Heaven, yet having no connection with human "religion." Let such an one love fellow Christians, and unsaved people too, howevermuch; and let him testify ever so faithfully of God's infinite gift of love, even Christ, dying for our sins--yet the question the world will ask will be, "What religion do you profess?" or, "What denomination do you belong to?"
And if he says, "To none: I belong to Christ," they cast him out. Yea, the "denominations" themselves will persecute him. And why all this? Hearken:
Because the sins of such a one were put away by the blood of Christ, and he knows it.
Because he died with Christ and is a new creature in a Risen Christ, and he knows it.
Because, wonder of wonders!--he is a member of the Body of Christ; and the Spirit, Who baptized him into that Body, indwells him--and he knows it.
Because he finds in the Cross the end of all human religions, the end of all man's hopes of whatever sort.
Because he is not of the world even as Christ was not of the world; and he is hated because Christ is hated--and he knows it.
Of course all this makes him "different" from the world. Unless your only hope is not "religion," not being a "church member," not so-called Christian activity, but--the blood of Christ Who entered Heaven "through His own blood," having shed it on the Cross, forsaken of God for your sins--your hope is a damning delusion, whatever your "priest," "pastor," or "spiritual adviser" may tell you.
So any man or woman who knows the true gospel is in a world where he will bear His reproach. "All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12. The world will not have Christ Himself set before them: as their only hope of escape from hell; as having immediate claims upon them as their Creator God, as the Redeemer at the cost of His own blood; as their appointed judge. Let these claims of Christ be set forth in the power of the Holy Spirit, and you will find the wrath of this Satan-ruled world to be just what it was when they spat in the face of the Son of God, and nailed Him to the Tree!) Let it be known that you believe the mere profession of "the Christian religion" to be a delusion, and you will at once find yourself bearing His reproach. "Religion" is a false hope. Christendom has put on this garment and goes right on sinning. Salvation, on the other hand, involves men's knowledge of and acquaintance with Jesus Christ in Heaven Who bore their sins in His own body on the Tree. Saved people have HIM. They have deserted "religion" for a Person--a Divine Person--and are waiting for Him from Heaven. The nation that had "religion," blind to their sins, crucified their Messiah. So religion's day was done.
* In the Millennium to come, as shown in the prophets (see Ezek. 40-48) there will be a temple, with memorial sacrifices. But this will be only after the Remnant of Israel have "looked unto Him Whom they have pierced," and "mourned for Him," and have rested upon His sacrifice.
For we have not here an abiding city, but we, seek after the city which is to come: Thus did Abraham, as we have said (see Ch. 11:10); and all the patriarchs (11:13-16). They "confessed they were strangers, and pilgrims on the earth" ... that they were "seeking after a country of their own ... that they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly."
Thus these Hebrew believers not only were "partakers of a heavenly calling," but saw they had a heavenly destiny. Those whose consciences have been cleansed by the blood of Christ (9:14) "to serve the Living God," come to the city of the Living God (12:22)--not only in expectation now, but in realization shortly!
Through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name:
* One Sunday night, many years ago, the writer was preaching in the old Moody Church building in Chicago, on the finished work of Christ on the Cross, and His present priesthood in Heaven. As usual on Sunday nights, the song service led by beloved D.B. Towner had crowded the auditorium. All seats were full, and people standing against the walls, both upstairs and down.
A little Irish woman, a Roman Catholic, who was unattractive in appearance and had lost one eye, hearing the great volume of song, came to the entrance, could not get in on the first floor, and went to the gallery. There too she found people standing, but pressed on to the aisle which led down through the gallery to a point opposite the pulpit. There she took a stand, looking right down at the pulpit.
At that moment the speaker was saying, "Let this Bible in my left hand represent the world's sin, your sin and mine. I now transfer this book to my right hand" (and he did). "Thus God transferred the sin of the world, your sin and mine, to Christ, and now says to us, 'Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!' God forsook Christ on the Cross, instead of forsaking us; for there the judgment of human sin was being held, held ahead of time, that we sinners might not be judged, but our Substitute judged in our place!
"And now God has raised Him from the dead, and He has entered Heaven 'through His own blood ' and in the value and power of that shed blood He is at God's right hand just now. Believe on Him, believe that He has put away your sins by His blood on the Cross, and lo, you have Him as your Great High Priest in Heaven, in things pertaining to God, making intercession for you, sympathizing with your every need. Your conscience is then forever free as regards guilt and judgment, for the Lord Jesus has said,
"'He that heareth My word, and believeth Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.'"
That little Irish Catholic woman, just as she heard, believed--believed God's Word, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. She left that gallery, that building, and went home to the convent where she was a servant, and began to pack up her belongings to remove from there.
They said, "What do you mean? You cannot leave us!" She answered, "I must leave you, and I will, tonight! For I have heard tonight that Jesus Himself put away my sin forever, and is my Great High Priest in Heaven!"
And she did leave that convent! She went to live in a humble rented room, and began to publish in every spare moment the good news of salvation she had heard and believed.
What a straight course in the truth she held! She testified to everybody, on the streets, everywhere. Soon all the policemen in the "Loop" knew her, and let her alone, for they knew that her message of salvation helped, rather than hindered, good government.
One night about 11 o'clock I was on a State Street car coming from a meeting on the South side. The snow lay many inches deep. What was my astonishment, as the car stopped opposite a vacant lot surrounded by illuminated billboards, to see standing in the snow 75 or 100 men, and, on a box, "Sister" Duffy, telling those men the good news, from her very soul.
What had happened to her? That night in the old Moody church, the swelling song of 2,000 voices had drawn her in, and she had joined--what? Through simply believing the blessed message of Christ's work on Calvary, and His present priesthood on high, she had joined the great company of adoring worshipers who through Christ have become real believers in God Who raised Him from the dead!
So may this book of Hebrews I pray, draw any who have not yet believed, who have not yet rested on the transferring of their guilt to the head of Christ on the Cross, and the putting away forever of their sin from God's sight by the offering of Himself! May this book of Hebrews lead us to join the glad song of worship which the Risen Christ, Himself the High Priest, leads, the heavenly worship of His saints, those who have believed!
Through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name: Friend, this exhortation of Hebrews takes you into heavenly worship. The subject of Hebrews is not our justification, not our being delivered from condemnation: but our being brought into the glad company who are worshiping and praising God, Christ leading this worship. As He said concerning us, in the wonderful Twenty-second Psalm (vs. 22 ff--the Risen Christ),
"I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: In the midst of the Assembly will I praise Thee."
But you say, My time is occupied with getting a livelihood! I hope to get to Heaven by the blood of Christ shed for me on the Cross. But as to my occupation now, I am a practical man. I attend church faithfully, but when Monday morning comes, it is out in the world for me, to make my way. This absorbs my thoughts.
Nay, you are wrong, you are tragically wrong! You can "praise the Lord in all things"! See Psalm 145:2-3; 146:2; Lamentations 3:22-23; Acts 5:42; and Psalm 55:17, as wrote David with the uncounted burdens of the whole kingdom on his shoulders! Do you not remember that the Lord Jesus said, "The Father seeketh worshipers"--in spirit and in truth? What does your little earth life amount to? As James says, "What is your life? For ye are a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (4:14). And you say, I have not time to be a worshiper. Is not that tempting God? "The God in Whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified," as said Daniel to Belshazzar (Dan. 5:23). And a creature depending on God for breath "has not time" to use that breath to praise him!
What is time compared with eternity--endlessness of being? We can believe nothing else than this: that the vast majority of professed Christians refuse to become worshipers, want to do as the world does as far as they safely can; place their little earth affairs before the heavenly Father's desire for worshipers--those who offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually. The hope of most Christians is "to go to Heaven when they die." Meanwhile, they are to pray for grace to "live the Christian life." But believers are to enter into Heaven, where Christ is, NOW.
* Vincent well observes that this sacrifice of praise "was the Levitical term for a thank-offering," quoting the LXX, Lev. 7:2, 35, etc. Various commentators also quote an ancient saying of the Jewish rabbins: "In the future time all sacrifices shall cease; but praises shall not cease." Philo says, "They offer the best sacrifice who glorify with hymns the Saviour and Benefactor, God." Oh, that this might have been entered into by the whole Hebrew nation! Instead, alas, the nation, with no Messiah, no blessed Holy Spirit to guide and fill their hearts with worship in the name of the Great High Priest appointed for believers, build synagogues, and observe "feasts" at which there can be no festivity, for God is not in it!
Most of Christendom, imitating the poor Jews, has "Christian" synagogues and forms of worship. But on how many lips is there the sacrifice of praise to God continually, open confession to His name, which should be the true "fruit" of Christian lips? Instead, alas, a printed form of "service," a one man ministry, a paid choir, and the lips of the saints silent. It was not so in the early assemblies of the saints (1 Cor. 12, 14).
In Hebrews as in no other book, is set forth a believing human being left here for a few years of pilgrim existence as to earth, but really occupied with Heaven, with the throne there, the throne of grace; with the Great High Priest there, Jesus, the Son of God. As regards the earth, the world, and all human religion, believers have gone forth unto Christ "without the camp, bearing His reproach." But, as to Heaven, they enter into "that which is within the veil." Nor is their entrance there to be spasmodic or temporary, but habitual and permanent. The "heavenly minded" saints we all have read of or perhaps blessedly known, are simply those who had exercised the rights, yea, obeyed the invitation God had given them and us, through the blood of Christ. Indeed, the book of Hebrews sets before us the Christian life as something that absorbs the whole attention of the believer. This fifteenth verse of Chapter 13 is its great message.
And wherefore? We are to draw near to God in the holiest above, are we not? Suppose any other creatures in God's presence should undertake to live the low, casual, absent-minded, interested-in-other-things life that most professing believers engage in. What would all Heaven think of that? Suppose cherubim, seraphim, or angels, undertook to engage in an occasional worship or service of God; prayed to be "excused": that they had other interests, not connected with God's service? What would God think of that?
If God's creatures in Heaven constantly, gladly, serve and worship, His saints on earth, for whom He gave His Son, should respond to His unspeakable kindness with the utter devotion which befits it, devotion to God such as no other beings have!
But we "go to church" for an hour, and go home and go about other things with no thought of that constant worship which is being carried on in Heaven. Ah, this is not Hebrews! For in this great epistle there is no thought of our withdrawing from nearness, from worship. There is constant spiritual activity, praise continually. We have elsewhere noted that forever and ever in eternity new discoveries of the infinite glories of God will be revealed to His saints; and evermore the Leader of their praises is Christ. Through Him, then, here and now, and by His blessed indwelling Spirit, yea, by Christ formed within us by that Spirit (Rom. 8:2, 11; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18), let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually. There is nothing occasional about the true Christian life. It is continual! Against spiritual sluggishness, now-and-then-ness, indifference, unbelief, we are warned in Hebrews. It is neglecting "so great a salvation"!
Beloved, we are in a world rapidly rushing to judgment. At the bottom of the heart of every unsaved "religious" one today lies the perhaps unexpressed, even unconscious, word of the high priest and his company to Peter and the apostles: "Ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this Man's blood upon us!" (Acts 5:28). Jesus said of the world, "Me it hateth, because I testify of it that its works are evil." Despite all its dreams and delusions about a "lasting peace," iniquity is increasing--every honest, unbiased observer knows this. The earth is daily becoming more godless, getting ready, and fast, for the Great Tribulation and the worship of the Antichrist: these are dead ahead. As our Lord said, "I am come in My Father's name and ye receive Me not: if another (Antichrist) shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." (Thank God, the Church will be raptured away from that hour of trial! Rev. 3:10)
* Be not deceived: today men are seeking to unite the nations in a perpetual bond of peace, with their "post-war planning" for a "new and better world"! But Scripture, which cannot lie, says that Until the very end there shall be wars and rumors of wars; and that only when our Lord returns as High Priest for His Melchizedek reign, will He "make wars to cease to the end of the earth."
We need, as never since our Lord ascended, to leave this world; to "set our mind on the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God"; to become such as are offering up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name. Finally note, that those who make confession to His name continually, will be finding out what being His representative means. The world wants to salve its conscience with "religion," but the world hated and crucified the Christ of God, and that is its attitude still. We beg you, believe it, and keep making confession to His name! This should describe your constant occupation perhaps more simply and understandably than any other verse in this great book of exhortation.
The verse that follows: To keep doing good, and communicating (to others) of your substance forget not, comes naturally with a life of continual praise. See Romans 12:13, and Galatians 6:6. God says He is "not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye showed toward His Name, in that ye ministered unto the saints" (6:10). Nothing is easier for us to forget! How blessed to read that with such sacrifices God is well pleased! We have known, even we ourselves, a few such praisers and givers. Aunt Sarah Cooke was one of the two sainted women who fasted and prayed for D.L. Moody till he received a mighty anointing of the Holy Ghost. Clad in a quiet dress and little black bonnet she would come into my Bible classes in Chicago, and I always thanked God for her presence. She sat well to the front. Her face was heavenly. When she quietly raised her right hand with her eyes closed (for I watched her), I knew that her soul was full of rapture. She was always praying and praising, and often I knew God was answering her prayer just then with power in the meeting.
God had such a handmaiden also in St. Louis. In an afternoon Bible reading on prayer in the old Dr. Brookes church there, I said, "If one person in this audience today yields his or her life up to praying, God will not only transform such a one, but will reach hundreds, perhaps thousands, through those prayers." I saw to my left in the back, a woman bow upon the pew in front of her, for she was doing the very thing I spoke of. She was a widow whose son, a doctor, had an office downtown, and she, alone at home, had hours which she gave over daily to prayer and praise. Soon requests began to come for her to remember, not only in St. Louis, but from hundreds, then thousands of miles away. She became known as "Mother" Hopkins. After some years she went to Heaven, but what a funeral! There was such consciousness of her entering victoriously into the presence of the Lord, that it was a triumph, melting everyone with very joy.
John S. Inskip, whose life was spent praying and praising God, shouted as his last words, "Victory! triumph! triumph!"
Susanna Wesley, John Wesley's mother, was the mother of oldtime Methodism. Her last uttered request was, "Children, as soon as I am released, sing a psalm of praise to God."
"Who offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth Me," saith our God (Ps. 50:23).
Obey them that are leaders over you, and be submissive: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy and not with grief: for this were unprofitable for you: Paul having urged upon these Hebrew believers (vs. 7) loving remembrance of "them that had the rule over you" (now passed away), urges next, Listen to those leading you (at present) and do not be resisting them (literal rendering). Let us at once lay to heart that no matter how marvelously the Spirit of God may be operating in our midst, "God is not a God of confusion, but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33). So that we are to be,,guided both by this passage in Corinthians, which tells each believer to be subject to the Spirit in the way of order in the Assembly, and also by Hebrews 13:17, which commands obedience, rather than rebellion and strife, to those God-appointed leaders among us; and this because they are watching in behalf of our souls, as they that shall give account.
We see here the work of one truly leading God's saints, whether elder, deacon, or bishop. They are such as are watching over others' souls in view of Christ's coming. We are not claiming that all elders--those today leading the saints--are here described; but such is the pattern. As Paul told the Ephesian elders, "After my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; ... Wherefore watch ye." So it is now. It is not a sign of spirituality to be stubborn and resisting, brother (1 Sam. 15:23). Help these leaders to give an account of their leadership (as they shortly must) with joy, and not with grief (literally, the word is, groaning), both in prayer here, and in loving regret at the judgment seat of Christ.
In verse 18 we have Paul's common plea, Pray for us, with his reasons therefor, in verses 18 and 19. And then the next words, Chapter 13:20, are, Now the God of peace.
* "Praying at all seasons ... and on my behalf" (Eph. 6:18, 19); "Brethren, pray for us" (1 Thess. 5:25); "Finally, brethren, pray for us" (2 Thess. 3:1); "Now I beseech you, brethren ... strive together with me in your prayers to God for me" (Rom. 15:30); "Ye also helping together on our behalf by your supplication" (2 Cor. 1:11); "I hope that through your prayers I shall be granted unto you" (Philemon 22).
Here we have a Christian address (using the word Christian to set forth the whole company of the saved, Hebrew and Gentile). First, the Name of God, the God of Peace, used only by Paul, is before our eyes here:
* Six other occurrences of this precious name of God are: Phil. 4:9: "The God of peace shall be with you." 2 Cor. 13:11: "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfected; be comforted; be of the same mind; live in peace: and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
1 Cor. 14:33: "For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace."
1 Thess. 5:23: "And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly,; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Rom. 15:33: "Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen."
Rom. 16:20: "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."
(We have sought to place these Scriptures in their spiritual order.)
Second the Name given to Christ--Our Lord Jesus. He is called "Lord Jesus" nearly forty times, and "Our Lord Jesus" here and in the following passages, all in Paul's epistles: 1 Corinthians 5:4 (twice); 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:11, 13; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
* Paul only uses the words Our Lord Jesus. And of the nearly 30 times the Name "Lord Jesus Christ" is used, Peter uses it twice (Acts 10:37; 2 Pet. 2:20); James once 1:1; and Paul all the other times.
Then the Name, The Great Shepherd of the sheep, takes us to John 10, the "sheep chapter," when among the "poor of the flock" who believed on Him when He was on earth, we hear our Lord speak of "My sheep," and say they were "given Him of the Father," and that "they shall never perish," and that "none shall pluck them out of His hand." Further, "Other sheep I have, not of this (Jewish) fold: them also must I bring ... and they shall become one flock, one Shepherd." (The fold was Jewish, but the "other sheep" are here included--all the saved.)
* As has been so often said, as the Good Shepherd, Christ "lays down His life for the sheep"; as the Great Shepherd, He is brought again from the dead; and as the Chief Shepherd He will shortly be manifested, and reward those who have cared for the sheep and lambs in His absence (1 Pet. 5:4).
Dear friend, do you have a sheep's attitude towards your Lord? David, the shepherd, said it so well: "The Lord is my Shepherd." Did you ever notice the last verse of Psalm 119: "I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek Thy servant; for I do not forget Thy commandments"? He prays, "Seek Thy servant," not, I will seek Thee. Remember the two things the sheep is without: first, it has no wisdom: if it starts wandering, it must be recovered by the shepherd. Second, it has no weapons. It cannot defend itself, but must be protected by the shepherd. So with you and me!
Next in Hebrews 13:20 we have the word "covenant" (which we saw so frequently in Chs. 8, 9, 10, 12) and an eternal covenant; and its character and meaning unfold before our wondering eyes like the opening of a great rose--yea, and our beings are filled with the fragrance thereof! For here we find The God of peace bringing again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep--how? with the blood of an eternal covenant. That is, in accordance with the terms of an agreement between the Father and the Son, which terms are seen to be a promise from the Father that if the Son would become "a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death," shedding His blood for us, the Father would bring Him again from among the dead. (Here is the only assertion of the resurrection of Christ in the book of Hebrews.)
The Son came to earth, and became "obedient even unto death," and the Father indeed brought Him again from among the dead. The eternal covenant was kept.
Before we go farther, it will be well to look back over Scripture teaching as to covenants. To make a covenant effective, the parties thereto must be able to fulfill the conditions undertaken. But with fallen man, such fulfillment is unthinkable, impossible. For,
(a) Man is a creature, and all the ability must be supplied by God.
(b) Man is a fallen creature, and unable to put away his guilt.
Therefore the legal covenant of Sinai was, as 2 Corinthians 3:7, 9 says, a "ministration of death ... of condemnation." It revealed to man his helplessness, but it supplied no strength. We are removed, then, in our consideration of Hebrews 13:20, both from the legal covenant of Chapters 8 and 9, and from the future "new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (8:8) because:
(a) "The Law (with its covenant) made nothing perfect" (7:19), and was "disannulled" "because of its weakness and unprofitableness" (7:18-19). (b) The "new covenant" to be made with Israel and Judah at our Lord's return to that nation, we have seen is all grace--God's operation instead of their response (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 37:12-14, 21-23, 25-28). Therefore the "new covenant" which the Hebrew believers to whom Paul was writing had had explained to them, was not yet on, nor will be till Christ's return; and then it will apply to "the house of Israel and the house of Judah," as God says, in the land of Palestine, with the peculiar blessings described in Scripture.
But--there is yet an eternal covenant, detailed in Hebrews 13:20, in which and according to which Paul knows that all believers may be made perfect in every good work. This eternal covenant, in which the God of Peace and our Lord Jesus are the actors, and the sheep are the beneficiaries--this covenant, I say, is the only covenant which believers, whether Hebrews or Gentiles, should keep in mind as already and eternally fulfilled in its conditions, and available to all.
* To sum up, for we must repeat these great truths till they are clearly in mind:
- There was the old covenant with Israel, called in Heb. 9:1 "The first covenant"; THIS IS OFF.
- There is to be made "a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Ch. 8:8-12). THIS IS NOT YET ON.
Therefore Israel and Judah are out of all covenant relationship with Jehovah at present. (And remember God was never in covenant with Gentiles.)
- There is the everlasting covenant of Ch. 13:20. THIS IS ON FOREVER. The parties in this covenant are: (a) The God of Peace, and (b) The Great Shepherd of the sheep ... our Lord Jesus.
The terms of the covenant were: (a) God--The God of Peace (for all things are of God), requested the Son to come to earth to "give His life a ransom for many." (b) The Divine promise--as made to Him that, He having done so, God would bring Him again from among the dead.
See comment also on Ch. 8:9.
Remember, God never made a covenant with the human race: they are not under any covenant. He made, as we have seen, a covenant with His Son, that if He would bear sin unto death, He would raise Him up. So, The God of Peace brought (Him) again from the dead ... in the blood of an eternal covenant. If the word were _dia, through, instead of _en, in, it would mean that it was through the blood that God brought Christ again from the dead. He did not do that. Christ had committed no sin. The word is _en, in--in agreement with, in accordance with the terms of the covenant. This is the eternal covenant of which the Lord Jesus is said (9:15) to be the Mediator, and which is celebrated in the Lord's Supper, in view of His death, by those benefited forever thereby!
* Alford well says "The expression itself (in the blood of an eternal covenant), can hardly but be a
reminiscence of Zech. 9:11: and if so, the import of the preposition here will be at least indicated by its import there. And there, it is, 'by virtue of (in the power of) the blood of the covenant' entered into with Thee. By virtue of that blood also He was raised up as The Great Shepherd, out of the dead, and to God's right hand."
This was revealed to Paul: "The Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread ... in like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me." And 2 Corinthians 3:6: (God) "Who made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit." Note also Luke 22:20: "And the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood, even that which is poured out for you." This is the covenant of Hebrews 13:20.
* This eternal covenant did not have an external mediator (as Moses). Gal. 3:20 must be fulfilled: "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is One." No external mediator is needed here. The covenant of Heb. 13:20 has, indeed, Christ as "Mediator." But this covenant being between two Persons of the Godhead; and all conditions fulfilled (Christ's death and God's raising Him from the dead), the term "Mediator" must no longer demand conditions to be fulfilled. There is peculiar blessing in seeing clearly that an eternal covenant or agreement exists between God the Father and God the Son--one God.
Let us meditate yet a little farther on this wonderful eternal covenant. We repeat, the parties to it are not man, nor any creature! It is an agreement between God and His Son. It antedated creation, for we read in Eph. 1:4 that we were chosen in Christ "before the foundation of the world," that is, before anything was created. And further, Paul writes that God "saved us ... according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times of ages" (2 Tim. 1:9).
In fulfillment of this covenant, the Son, the Lord Jesus, came to earth subject to all the arrangements directed by God (Heb. 10:5-7), and became obedient even unto ... the "death of the Cross" (Phil. 2:8). He went to death in the unwavering attitude of faith. "When the days were well nigh come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). From the time His journey to Jerusalem began we read, as in Matthew 16:20-21: "From that time began Jesus to show unto His disciples, that He must go unto Jerusalem, and ... be killed, and the third day be raised up."
Compare Luke 9:20-22; Mark 8:31; "the third day rise again," Luke 18:33. Read "with hearing" all these verses, and you will marvel anew at Christ's perfect confidence in God's raising Him up according to the eternal covenant--which He trusted!
God the Father, accordingly, faithful to the terms of the covenant, brought Him again from the dead. For we read, "He was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father" (Rom. 6.4). "But God raised Him from the dead" (Acts 13:30). We are giving in a footnote some of the O.T. Scriptures which were fulfilled.
* See the psalms and the prophets: Ps. 16:10-11:
"Thou wilt not leave My soul to Sheol. (Gr., _Hades; see Acts 2:27)
Neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.
Thou wilt show Me (even though My body lie in the tomb, and My spirit descend into the heart of the earth) the path of life (resurrection life):"
"In Thy presence (whither Thou wilt receive Me) is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore." Peter at Pentecost, and later Paul, call this wondrous psalm of trust to remembrance (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35).
Abundant also are the prophecies that the Son would "give His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair." That He would "hide not His face from shame and spitting" (Isa. 50:6).
So it was done!
"Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow, saith Jehovah of hosts; smite the Shepherd" (Zech. 13:7).
And Christ returned answer to God,
Thou, Who hast showed me many and sore troubles, wilt quicken me again, and wilt bring Me up again from the depths" (Ps. 71:20, R.V., margin).
We have another wonderful view of the blood of the eternal covenant in Zechariah 9. The ninth verse, with which everyone is familiar, identifies Christ:
"Thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt, the foal of an ass" (this is the Triumphal Entry).
Then follows verse 10, in which, passing over the time of Christ's rejection, God declares that Christ
"... shall speak peace unto the nations: and His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River (the Euphrates) to the ends of the earth."
Then comes the further reach of this covenant, which evidently here covers all those God ever gave to Christ:
"As for Thee also, because of the blood of Thy covenant I have set free Thy prisoners from the pit wherein is no water" (vs. 11). Note the word "also": Not only will Christ ride into Jerusalem, as we see in verse 9, but at His future coming "His dominion shall be from sea to sea" (vs. 10). "Also" speaks of something more and different.
It is "because of the blood of His covenant" that what God here says He will do, has to be done. Prisoners were not "set free" through the Mosaic covenant. Indeed, we saw in Hebrews 8:9 that Israel continued not in God's covenant, and God "regarded them not." But because of the eternal covenant in Christ's blood, God can do anything for His dear Son. That is, it was wholly and solely because of Christ's shedding His blood, and not for their own goodness, that God, in the Old Testament days, delivered Christ's prisoners from going to the compartment of Sheol (Gr., _Hades), where lost spirits go, the place of torment into which the rich man of Luke 16 went: "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments." This place was separated by "a great gulf fixed" from the place where the "prisoners of hope," the Old Testament saints, were at rest with Abraham, which is called "the stronghold" (vs. 12), the place of security and rest they were in until Christ visited them during the three days when He was "in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:40).
Not only are Christ's "prisoners"--His dear saints whom His blood has bought--set free" from the pit of torment, but the additional word is spoken, "Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope."
Now, while these disembodied spirits were still prisoners, they were "Prisoners of hope." (Dives was hope-less!) The blood of the covenant which would free them and open Heaven to them had not yet been shed, but they were "comforted," as Abraham said of Lazarus, upon his bosom, while those "in the pit wherein is no water," were in anguish. It was because of simple faith in the Word of God on the ground of sacrifice, that they had their place of protection.
The prophetic Word, after addressing Christ's "prisoners of hope," turns again to Christ:
"Even today do I declare that I will render double unto Thee" (vs. 12). "Rendering double" signifies first, God's delivering the "prisoners of hope" from the pit, on account of the blood not then shed; and second, Christ's going down into "the lower parts of the earth" (Ps. 68:18 as opened to us in Eph. 4:8-10), when the blood had been shed, and bringing up those prisoners from the stronghold--"leading captivity captive," upon His ascension.
Finally turn to Zechariah 9:14-17, and read of the wondrous triumph He gives the Jews over their enemies in establishing them in the land He promised Abraham: "For how great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty!" (vs. 17).
Now the apostle's benedictive prayer that the God of peace will make them perfect in every good thing to do His will, working in them that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to Whom be the glory unto the ages of the ages. Amen. Now this is Christian language: this is Pauline. Here, as we said above, we step out into Christian truth. Not that the words of Peter, John, James, and Jude are not Christian. But God now has, in this marvelous Hebrews epistle, brought out from their former religion these Hebrew believers, these "other sheep," to where they can forget former legal things, have their hope set on Christ in glory, call their God the God of peace, and speak of the Son of God as our Lord Jesus!
We know that "the Lord gave" Paul "authority for building up" the saints (2 Cor. 10:8); let us regard, then, as authoritative and effectual, this confident, apostolic committal of the saints to God. Let us receive to our very hearts, if we are of the sheep, this great and blessed word of comfort, for it is the God of peace Who undertakes a work within believers, those sheep. This working within us is nowhere else found in Hebrews. It is, we repeat, Christian truth in Christian terms as direct and simple as any epistle of Paul, involving the indwelling and operation of the Holy Spirit, and His undertaking to perfect us in the Divine will.
* It is to be noted, and with awe, that the Lord Jesus is so set before us in Hebrews that the Holy Spirit's working in us is not described unless it be in Chapter 9:8 and 10:15. where He is opening the written Word. The reason for this is readily seen from the contents of Hebrews: it is all CHRIST. Not, as we have said, Christ speaking, but God speaking in the Person, work, and present position of the Son, Who was to fulfill all O.T. Scriptures concerning Himself.
Today "modernism" (which is the name of Satan-deluded man for the last days), walks with blinded eyes right past the whole book of Hebrews, on down to the Apocalypse, the book of judgment. "Modernism" does not hear God speaking in this Son "Whom He appointed Heir of all things," the Great High Priest Who shed His blood for all sinners, and entered Heaven through that blood.
We remind you again that He is the Great High Priest there only for those who have believed on Him! "I pray not for the world," He said (John 17:9). If you are not a believer, Christ is not your Priest, but He will be your judge! (John 5:22). Hasten to find Him, "while it is called Today."
The blessed Spirit Who inspired this epistle does not here name His own inworking in us. All attention is drawn to Him Whom, one with and equal to God, both the Father and the Spirit delight to honor, He of Whom "Moses in the Law, and the prophets wrote," as He Himself, to the two walking to Emmaus, opened out "in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."
At the close of this epistle, from Chapter 13:20 on, these Hebrews addressed are simply believers, as the word is, on "Christian" ground. Their intelligent consent to the teaching of the preceding chapters of the epistle is presumed. How different from the Judaism under which they did the working, is the God of peace ... working in us that which is wellpleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ! To have entered into a spiritual state in which they consented to these words--how different from that state of even earnest Jews described by Paul to Agrippa: "Our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain"! (Acts 26:6). It is Hebrews who are "partakers of a heavenly calling," and in Christ are "holy" and "beloved" (3:1, 6:9), whom we joyfully meet here at the end of Hebrews. Along with them, all believers join in ascription of praise to our blessed God of peace.
Word of exhortation--Exhortation is not doctrine; these believers knew Christian doctrine, even concerning the "heavenly calling" (3:1). Doctrine is received, believed; exhortation is to be followed, obeyed. In Hebrews, since "God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son" (1:1), exhortation will concern our attitude toward His Son. Since He "became unto all that obey Him the Author of eternal salvation" (5:9), exhortation will persuade to obedience to Him. This obedience will not in Hebrews be so much to Christ as Lord, or as Head of the Body, as to Him as Great High Priest, appearing "before the face of God for us" (9:24), leading our worship and praises, as well as taking care of our needs. (Priesthood has to do with maintaining before God the position, privileges, worship, warfare, and progress through temptations and trials, of God's saints; just as Christ's sacrifice had to do with putting away forever of their sins, and the bringing them into God's presence in resurrection, and in the full value of His blood.) The chief disobedience in Hebrews will be to stay out of that worship, whether through neglect, unbelief, slothfulness of spirit, or (deadly danger!) shrinking from bearing Christ's reproach, and so living in compromise with the religion of earth, with its "great" divisions, and "established" institutions, carried on not in the Holy Spirit, but by human means, measures and movements--in short, to stay in "the camp."
Thus the great exhortation which this book of Hebrews is, becomes the supreme safeguard to the believer against that religionism which was found in Israel, which crucified the Lord of glory.
* it is, in view of other Scriptures, astonishing to read the book of Hebrews through and not find in it any accusation such as those which fill the mouths of Peter, Stephen and Paul in the book of Acts:
"Ye by the hands of lawless men did crucify and slay" (Acts 2:23). "Ye denied the Holy and righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted unto you" (3:14). "In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead, even in Him doth this man stand here before you whole" (4:10).
And Paul in Thessalonians: "--the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets and drove out us" (1 Thess. 2:15).
You ask, Why was not this fearful
fact emphasized in the Epistle to the Hebrews? Because, first, the Word of God is one: all preceding utterances are taken for granted. The great national crime of Calvary is not stated, though all knew it had been the nation's act, as it is their attitude today.
But consider further that each book has its special Object, and the object in Hebrews is to call believers away from earth and its religion "the camp," to Heaven, to the throne of grace, where alone true worship of God is being carried on. The epistle is addressed to Hebrews who had professed faith in this rejected Christ; who had been "enlightened" (6:3); and knew that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Lovingly, therefore, the Holy Spirit in this epistle will woo such believers, presenting Christ as Deity, as well as man, crowned now with glory and honor as our Great High Priest, having entered Heaven "through His own blood," and interceding there for all that come to God by Him.
Of course He will also warn. But it will be the danger of neglecting "so great salvation," of hardness of heart, of unbelief; of refusing God's speaking "in His Son," so marvelously set forth in Hebrews.
Man, uneasy in conscience, desires relief from that uneasiness, but he does not desire to draw near to God now. But this the book of Hebrews proposes: for we are exhorted to "come boldly to the throne of grace." And where is that throne? In Heaven, where Christ is our Great High Priest, and where we are to offer up sacrifices of praise continually, as we saw in verse 15. Such a life is a heavenly life. It is not the mere apprehension of the doctrines of justification or of "Church truth"--of our position, by God's infinite grace: created in Christ and seated with Him in the heavenlies: but it is the actual realization through faith of this heavenly place with all its privileges, and the obedient entering on a life of heavenly worship "by the blood of Jesus, by the freshly-slain and living way, through the veil ... His (pierced) flesh;--and having Him as our "Great High Priest over the house of God" (10:19-21), drawing near "with a true heart in full assurance of faith," because our hearts are fully delivered--"sprinkled from an evil conscience."
* We might here summarize what Hebrews does not teach:
- Church truth: The Risen Christ, the Head of the Body; saints heavenly, raised with Him . Believers are not in Hebrews seen as seated with Christ in the heavenlies, but as making their pilgrimage through this world. Christ is seen as coming, but not definitely as the Bridegroom of the Church as in Ephesians 5, or even as Lord of the service of individual believers. True and wonderful as these things are, they are not the lines of truth brought out in Hebrews.
The second coming of Christ, and the "good things to come" therewith, constantly in view; but not the Rapture, or the catching up of the Church as in 1 Thess. 4:16, 17; 1 Cor. 15:52, etc., although these Hebrew believers are "partakers of a heavenly calling."
- In Hebrews, Christ is the High Priest in Heaven. Worship is being carried on there, "within the veil." The whole Levitical economy, and all man-made forms and ceremonies, done away. No "holy place" left on earth, no tabernacle, temple, or "continuing city." "Christianity" as a "religion" unknown; instead, the living confession of a heavenly hope. Believers not to "forsake their peculiar assembling together" (10:25), but the Church as seen in Ephesians, Colossians, and other epistles, not found in Hebrews.
- Neither God the Father as such (nor the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Comforter, evoking the "Abba, Father," cry) is revealed, except in Ch. 12:5-11, where the Father is spoken of in Connection with chastening.
My brother, Church "membership" and "Christian service" will not do in Hebrews. WITHIN THE VEIL ... WITHOUT THE CAMP, describes, almost defines God's saints here. Does it describe you? Hebrews constantly exhorts believers to come in, to draw nigh to God with boldness, which of course means to come boldly into the presence of God Himself. The sacrifice has been made; our Great High Priest has gone in through His blood and sat down, and God waits for those who have heard and believe to press in boldly. Our Great High Priest is there, filled with sympathy, for He passed through this world, and tasted to the full its trials, temptations, and sufferings. Our welcome to Heaven is as great and actual as the gift of God of His Son for us, and as intimate and blessed as He upon Whose breast John laid his head at the supper, can make it.
Oh, let us take heed that we are not deceived into a "Christian" life which yet makes excuse, which does not "press on unto full growth" (6:1); which does not "draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace" (4:16); which pursues not "the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord" (12:14), and finally avoids the great exhortation of Chapter 13:15, to continual praise. Of course, the world and worldliness will shun you, if you press on "within the veil ... without the camp." Are you afraid of that? What a state for one professing to be redeemed by the shed blood of the Son of God!
Is our High Priest living? Is He "the same yesterday, and today, yea and forever"? Has His sacrifice availed to put away sin? Are you invited? Yea, indeed! And note again Paul's words, I exhort you brethren, bear with the word of exhortation.
And oh, how simple the path! Bear with the word of exhortation: Why? For I have written unto you in few words--roughly estimated, less than ten thousand words! Compare "the ten thousand things" of the Law (Hos. 8:12): days, seasons, months, years; daily offerings unceasing; watchings against many, many forbidden things; repeated cleansings against defilement--as Peter called it all (and thus it was meant to be), "a Yoke ... which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear." Compare, I say, the manifold directions for conduct from Exodus 19 on, with the great word of Hebrews 11: FAITH. Christ has finished the work that opens Heaven! We have only to come, "Come for all things are now ready." Are you the Spirit-filled, constantly praying person in your Christian company? Are you?
It is not easy to the flesh--this life of constant access to God in Heaven:
"The way of faith is hard to flesh;
It is not hard to love;
If thou wert sick for want of God,
How quickly wouldst thou move!"
Salute all them that have the leadership over you, and all the saints: All the saints are equal, certainly; but recognizing the established order, he mentions leaders first. As to the rest of the verse, a word farther on.
Now why should Paul urge upon the Hebrew believers three times over (vss. 7, 17, 24), that they remember, obey, and salute, those who were, by Divine appointment, leaders among them? We beg you, consider how different from that of the Gentile believer, the Hebrew believer's position would be. The Gentiles would come into the faith from raw paganism; the Hebrew believer had known and worshiped the true God according to His revealed oracles, in His temple at Jerusalem. He had known nothing from his babyhood but a Levitically descended priesthood; ordinances, days, feasts, abstainings. He had indeed known a "religious" leadership which belonged to his religious system.
But now the Hebrew believers were in an assembly where the Holy Spirit controlled, where He engifted whom He would, independently of any religious system. Therefore the temptation would be strong to ignore such leadership, or to fear it as not connected with what they and their fathers had known in Judaism.
It is agreed among commentators that this very unusual epistle, TO THE HEBREWS, called by many a treatise, seems to end (vss. 18-25), in Paul's usual epistolary manner, both in the reference to Timothy, and in the author's expectation of traveling again with Timothy: with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. (See Appendix G. "Authorship of Hebrews.") It includes, as we have seen, the great prayer of benediction (vss. 20-21); and the final urging to bear with the word of exhortation (the whole epistle).
Then come the last salutations. Do you not recognize the hand that writes, Our brother Timothy hath been set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you (vs. 23)? And, They of Italy salute you (vs, 24)?
And finally comes "the token in every epistle" (2 Thess. 3:17), Grace be with you all. Amen. Only Paul ends thus.
* "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you" (Rom. 16:20).
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you" (1 Cor. 16:23).
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14).
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit" (Gal. 6:18).
"Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible" (Eph. 6:24).
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit" (Phil. 4:23).
"Grace be with you" (Col. 4:18).
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you" (1 Thess. 5:28).
"The salutation of Me Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all" (2 Thess. 3:17-18).
"Grace be with you" (1 Tim. 6:21).
"The Lord be with thy Spirit. Grace be with you" (2 Tim. 4:22).
"Grace be with you all" (Tit. 3:15).
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit" (Philemon 1:25).
"He closes every epistle by praying for GRACE to those whom he addresses ... Paul's characteristic salutation, known to be his badge, not used by others in his lifetime."--Fausset.
No more veil! God bids me enter
By the new and living way--
Not in trembling hope I venture,
Boldly I His call obey;
There, with Him, My God, I meet
God upon the mercy-seat!
One with Him, O Lord, before Thee,
There I live, and yet not I;
Christ it is Who there adores Thee
Who more dear, or who more nigh?
All the Father's heart mine own--
Mine--and yet His Son's alone.
All the worth I have before Him
Is the value of His Blood;
I present, when I adore Him,
Christ, the First-fruits, unto God!
Him with joy doth God behold,
Thus is my acceptance told.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Newell, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany