Things to Come


Hebrews 13:1-14   |   27 August 2011


The book of Hebrews follows the Covenant pattern, most obvious in Deuteronomy. The final point is Succession arrangements, the future. The author outlines the most important things that those in the household of faith must remember. He is dealing with the major landmines hidden in the path of Jewish believers in the first century church.

1  Keep on loving each other as brothers.

-    They were already loving each other, and were not to lose this love, which is the natural way of things. We are to be supernatural. Such undying love comes from God, via the humility brought by the conviction of the Spirit.

-    These Christians were actually brothers, brothers by Covenant, just as David and Jonathan were. Their bond was stronger than blood. It was a bond of kindred Spirit.

2  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

-    Hospitality is one of the most effective methods of evangelism. Perhaps the author refers to Abraham and Lot, and Monoah and his wife. This is unlikely to happen to us, because the New Covenant people are now God’s angels, His messengers. They received the message in their hospitality. We preach the message in our hospitality.

3  Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

-    It is unclear whether those in prison were there justly or unjustly, but in our case it doesn’t matter. Prison ministry is extremely effective because those in prison know they are guilty. They are at the bottom and can only look up. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice, not to envy them. And we are to weep with those who weep, not to ostracize them as weak or cursed.

4  Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

-    Marriage is to be honoured by all, and not just by those who are married. This means that the relationship between a husband and wife must not be tested or interfered with by outsiders. Flirting isn’t funny.

-    The marriage bed is sacred because sex is fire on an altar, that is, it is both legal and relational. An altar has boundaries that contain the fire.

-    Some marriages are only legal, and some relationships are only relational. God intends for the fire of a physical relationship to be within the legal bounds of an altar, that is, protected by self-sacrifice and submission of the man and his wife to each other.

-    Aaron’s sons offered strange fire on the altar and were incinerated by God. Eli’s sons slept with prostitutes inside the Lord’s tent, and the Lord had them killed in battle.

-    Adulterers are those who violate a marriage covenant. The sexually immoral are those who engage in sex outside of a marriage covenant. Adultery carried the death penalty. Fornication carried the penalty of marriage.

5   Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

-    Another major temptation is money. Money is a good servant, but a terrible master. Jesus said we cannot serve two masters, so we must choose. Being generous, and supporting the church’s ministry, is a good way to develop your faith in trusting God for your finances.

6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

-    The key to achieving such faith is not will power. It is trust in the God who owns everything anyway, including our detractors and persecutors.

7   Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

-    Remember that this final section concerns Succession. Just like CEOs and managers today, God’s Covenants always outline the possible outcomes. Every act of obedience is a death, a mortification of sin, and every resulting blessing from God is the Spirit giving us the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Obedience is an investment, and the results are the return.

-    Discipleship is imitation. Besides reading the Bible, biographies of well-known Christians are very helpful here. To influence others for Christ, we must allow ourselves to be influenced by godly people. We must choose our friends wisely, because they affect what we consider to be “normal.”

8   Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

-    Although the Covenant world was about to be changed forever, godly living never changes. God has deliberately placed us in the tension between His Word and the world of men so that we develop wisdom. We are to be in the world but not of it. We can study a culture in order to reach it, but we must not compromise the gospel. Some churches remove themselves from the world; others let the world flood in until there is no distinction. Both are errors.

9   Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.

-    This is another grave danger. The apostles’ warnings against false teachers are extremely harsh. They cursed them openly! Churches must have closed-handed issues and open-handed issues. Closed-handed issues are teachings not open to debate. Open-handed issues are open to debate. Churches where every minute detail is closed become isolated and legalistic. Those where everything is debatable get snuffed out by Jesus, because they have compromised on the fundamentals. True fundamentalism means we can fellowship with anyone who believes the gospel.

9b   It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

-    Our bread is the Word of God. The food laws, like the law given to Adam, were only temporary prohibitions to humble us and teach us to trust in God.

-    Herod’s Temple was still standing when this letter was written. The author is saying that the altar built by Christ is holy and the Old Covenant altar is now unclean.

-    The tent poles symbolized the people of God. We are a living house gathered around the throne of Christ. Physical, ceremonial cleanliness was only a temporary picture. We are washed on the inside and the outside. Christians are the true Jews. The preaching of the gospel cuts us to the heart, and believers are the true circumcision.

11   The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.

-    Circumcision and other rules decided who could come in. But baptism decides who can go out. Jesus was sacrificed for us, and now He commands us to die for others.

12    And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.

-    The city gate was the place of judgment. Lot sat in the gate as a judge.

13   Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.

-    Criminals and lepers were exiled from the city. The world may treat us like lepers, as they did eventually treat Jesus, but like Jesus, we can touch them and make them clean.

14   For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

-    The gates of the cities of men do not matter. Their judgment is not sound. The gates we are concerned with are the gates of the New Jerusalem, a city whose judgment is perfectly sound, because God looks on the hearts of men. Faith and baptism put us into that city.

-    Paul told the Galatians that the old Jerusalem was in bondage, but that the Jerusalem above was the mother of the free. Christians who look for the restoration of Jerusalem below are in error. We must love and preach the gospel to Jews, like anybody else. But those of faith are the true children of Abraham.

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