Concluding Exhortations, 1-25
Heb 13:1 Keep on loving each other as brothers.
Vv 1-8 answer in several ways the question, ‘How can we serve God?’ Answer: by loving each other as brothers; by entertaining strangers; by remembering the imprisoned and the ill-treated; by upholding marriage and sexual purity; by keeping free from the love of money and being content with what we have. ‘All these issues have immediate relevance in our own day. Those who are indifferent to them thereby prove that they have hardly grasped the letter’s earlier teaching, for this Christian message had profound social and moral content. They are not merely implications which can be considered and ignored as an optional addendum to a more spiritual message…In the teaching of these verses Christians are expected to be loving, pure, contented, loyal, bold and worshipful.’ (Raymond Brown)
In verses 1-3 we have, says Raymond Brown, three aspects of Christian love: (a) its necessary continuance, v1; (b) its generous expression, v2; (c) its practical responsibility, v3.
Keep on loving each other as brothers – ‘Let brotherly love continue’ (AV). Philadelphia ‘expresses that special mutual regard for one another irrespective of race which is particularly characteristic of Christians. It is a combination of two basic ideas – the exercise of love and the adoption of a new relationship within the household of faith.’ (Guthrie) The readers are urged to keep this up, suggesting that they were tending to neglect it, Heb 12:14; 13:9. Cf. Ps 133:1; Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9-10; 1 Pet 1:22. On the costliness of such love, see 1 Jn 3:16-17.
Christ is not ashamed to call believers his brothers, Heb 2:11-12.
‘It is marvellous how any men can persuade themselves that they are Christians, and yet be not only strangers, but enemies unto this love.’ (Owen)
Heb 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Do not forget to entertain strangers – ‘First-century inns were notoriously immoral, unhygienic and expensive. Christian travellers had to know that they could count on a warm welcome at the home of a fellow believer.’ (Raymond Brown). It may or may not be true that ‘charity begins at home.’ But it is certainly true that it ought to begin in and from the home. Moreover, the eastern concept of hospitality includes friendship and (for believers) Christian fellowship. Hospitality was a quality required for bishops, 1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:8, and for widows wishing to be enrolled, 1 Tim 5:10. See also Rom 12:13; 1 Pet 4:9.
Some people have entertained angels without knowing it – Although some might take advantage of Christian hospitality, other guests prove a blessing to their hosts. Here is, apparently, a reference to Gen 18-19, when Abraham gave hospitality to mysterious visitors, who turned out to be angels. Abraham derived great blessing from their visit. Our author ‘is not necessarily encouraging his readers to expect that those whom they entertain will turn out to be supernatural beings travelling incognito; he is assuring them that some of their visitors will prove to be true messengers of God to them, bringing a greater blessing than they receive.’ (Bruce) Jesus said that to welcome his brothers is to welcome himself, Mt 25:31-40.
One writer suggests that this text ‘tells us that we have probably ALL seen angels at some time in our lives – without knowing it.’ (Quoted in Boa & Bowman, Sense and Nonsense About Angels and Demons, p94). Of course, the text says nothing of the kind. ‘The point of this verse is to encourage Christians to be hospitable, not to encourage them to be on the alert for angelic encounters. Nor does the text mean that strangers whom we meet and never see again might be angels. When the writer says that some “entertained angels without knowing it,” he does not mean that the angels never made clear their true nature. When Abraham and Lot met the strangers, they did not know they were angels, but they certainly knew they were before the visitors disappeared.’ (Boa & Bowman, p95)
‘One of the most encouraging features of contemporary church life is the way in which homes are being used, possibly as never before, in the work of evangelism, teaching and fellowship. Church Bible studies are held in the homes of Christian people and evangelistic house-groups are also being used as a way of reaching non-churchgoers with the good news of Christ. Many unbelievers find it extremely difficult to attend a church service. The informal meeting in the relaxed atmosphere of a Christian home can enable them to speak freely and openly about their doubts.
This verse is not only a challenge about the occasional use of the home for meetings, but also about the regular ministry of the home for hospitality. Students and nurses, especially those from overseas, or those denied the blessing of Christian parents, can be strengthened in the faith and helped to spiritual maturity by men and women who offer the warm encouragement of Christian hospitality. It is more necessary in these days than ever. With the serious breakdown of family life and the erosion of home stability young converts particularly need “parents” in the faith. Love which is merely vocal is in danger of becoming mainly sham.’ (Raymond Brown)
Heb 13:3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Remember – because ‘out of sight’ should not mean ‘out of mind’ those in prison. They cannot visit our homes (v2), but we can visit them. Presumably, fellow-Christians who have been imprisoned because of their faith. Similarly, those who are mistreated are also persecuted believers.
As if you were their fellow prisoners…as if you yourselves were suffering – Difficult as it may be, we should put ourselves in the position of the imprisoned and persecuted, asking, what kind of help would be most welcome – ‘a personal visit, some warm encouragement, a sustaining prayer, some useful provisions.’ (Raymond Brown) See 1 Cor 12:26.
In our own day, there are many prisoners of conscience, and systematic persecution of Christians. We are called to work for peace, justice and reconciliation, remembering in particular our family solidarity (v1) with fellow believers.
As Raymond Brown points out, there are other forms of imprisonment that Christians will strive to relieve: the imprisonment of the house-bound and that of the hospitalised, for example.
Heb 13:4 Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Marriage should be honoured by all – There is no verb in the original, and so it is not clear whether this is intended as a declaration or (as in NIV) as an exhortation. Some Jews (those who followed the teachings of Hillel, for example) and many Gentiles had a lax view of marriage. The relevance to our modern permissive society should be obvious. Though the world spurns the institution of marriage, Christians everywhere are to honour it, and thus keep the bed undefiled.
‘Whether Hebrews 13 was appended later or is, as we think, an original part of the letter-essay as a whole, it provides a list of moral exhortations in typical Greek paraenetic style. The exhortation in Heb 13:4 reflects especially Jewish marriage values. Sanctity of the “bed” was a common expression for sexual fidelity in marriage…and could also depict fidelity in advance…; other ancient writers also acknowledged that extramarital sex defiled it (Lane, 516). Here both sexual immorality in general and adultery in particular invite God’s judgment (see also 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Thess 4:6) and are dishonorable (see also 1 Thess 4:4).’ (DLNT)
‘The object here is to state that honour is to be shown to the marriage relation. It is not to be undervalued by the pretence of the superior purity of a state of celibacy, as if marriage were improper for any class of men, or any condition of life; and it should not be dishonoured by any violation of the marriage contract. The course of things has shown that there was abundant reason for the apostle to assert, with emphasis, that “marriage was an honourable condition of life.” There has been a constant effort made to show that celibacy was a more holy state; that there was something in marriage that rendered it dishourable for those who were in the ministry, and for those of either sex who would be eminently pure. This sentiment has been the cause of more abomination in the world than any other single opinion claiming to have a religious sanction. It is one of the supports on which the Papal system rests, and has been one of the principal upholders of all the corruptions in monasteries and nunneries. The apostle asserts, without any restriction or qualification, that marriage is honourable in all; and this proves that it is lawful for the ministers of religion to marry, and that the whole doctrine of the superior purity of a state of celibacy is false.’ (Barnes)
‘Young people and older alike need to remember that a good marriage doesn’t just “happen.” In the rush and tear of modern life, when people have to cope with financial difficulties and anxiety over employment, it is all too easy for overworked and preoccupied husbands or wives to take their partners for granted.’ (Raymond Brown)
Marriage is honourable, but so is the unmarried state, Mt 19:11-12; 1 Cor 7.
The marriage bed [should be] kept pure – ‘Marriage bed’ is an idiom (a metonymy) for sexual relations.
For God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral – God ‘will call such sins by their proper names, not by the names of love and gallantry, but of whoredom and adultery, whoredom in the single state and adultery in the married state.’ (MHC)
The knowledge that we must one day appear before a righteous Judge is a powerful motive to holy living. ‘Most whoremongers escape human tribunals; but God takes cognizance fo those whom man does not punish. Gay sic immoralities will be regarded very differently from what they are now.’ (A.R. Fausset) See Eph 5:6.
‘What kind of punishment does God administer? Scripture says that “neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10; Eph. 5:5; Rev. 21:8; 22:15). They perish in their sin.’ (Kistemaker)
Heb 13:5 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.”
This verse addresses ‘the menace of materialism’ (Guthrie) – a problem relevant now as then. Cf. 1 Tim 6:10, where again it is the love of money, rather than money itself, which is the evil to be addressed.
‘The Greek word for covetousness, pleonexia, signifies an inordinate desire of getting. Covetousness is not only in getting riches unjustly, but in loving them inordinately, which is a key that opens the door to all sin. It causes (1) Theft. Achan’s covetous humour made him steal the wedge of gold which cleft asunder his soul from God. Jos 7:21. (2) It causes treason. What made Judas betray Christ? It was the thirty pieces of silver. Mt 26:15. (3) It produces murder. It was the inordinate love of the vineyard that made Ahab conspire Naboth’s death. 1 Kings 21:13. (4) It is the root of perjury. Men shall be covetous; and it follows, truce-breakers. 2 Tim 3:2-3. Love of silver will make men take a fall – oath, and break a just oath. (5) It is the spring of apostasy. ‘Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.’ 2 Tim 4:10. He not only forsook Paul’s company, but his doctrine. Demas afterwards became a priest in an idol-temple, according to Dorotheus. (6) Covetousness will make men idolaters. ‘Covetousness which is idolatry.’ Col 3:5. Though the covetous man will not worship graven images in the church, yet he will worship the graven image in his coin. (7) Covetousness makes men give themselves to the devil. Pope Sylvester II sold his soul to the devil for a popedom. Covetous persons forget the prayer, ‘Give us daily bread.’ They are not content with that which may satisfy nature, but are insatiable in their desire. O let us take heed of this dry dropsy! ‘Be content with such things as ye have.’ Heb 13:5. Natura parvo dimittitur Nature is satisfied with little. Seneca.’ (Thomas Watson)
Be content with what you have – ‘Not an argument for an economic status quo. It refers rather to an attitude of mind.’ (Guthrie) ‘This contentment is not at all inconsistent with a duly regulated desire to improve our circumstances, and the use of the lawful means fitted for obtaining this purpose. It does not consist in a slothful neglect of the business of life, or a real or pretended apathy to worldly interests. It is substantially a satisfaction with God as our portion, and with what he is pleased to appoint for us. It is opposed to covetousness, or the inordinate desire of wealth; and to unbelieving anxiety – dissatisfaction with what is present, distrust as to what is future.’ (Brown)
‘In being content with daily bread, though less than others have, much grace is seen. All the graces act their part in a contented soul…There is faith. A Christian believes that God does all for the best. There is love, which thinks no evil, but takes all God does in good part. There is patience, submitting cheerfully to what God orders wisely. God is much pleased to see so many graces at once sweetly exercised, like so many bright stars shining in a constellation.’ (Thomas Watson)
God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” – The quote is from Deut 31:6. Why put our trust in possessions, which are here today and gone tomorrow, when the unchangeable God is with us? ‘Let us labour to have the interest cleared between God and our souls. He who can say, ‘My God,’ has enough to rock his heart quiet in the lowest condition. What can he want who has El-Shaddai, the all-sufficient God for his portion? Though the nether springs fail, yet he has the upper springs; though the bill of fare grow short, yet an interest in God is a pillar of support to us, and we may, with David, encourage ourselves in the Lord our God.; (Thomas Watson)
‘God respects you as much in a low as in a high condition, and therefore it need not so much trouble you to be made low. Not only so but, to speak home, he manifests more of his love, grace, and tenderness in the time of affliction than prosperity. As God did not at first choose you because you were high, so he will not forsake you because you are low. Men may look shy upon you, and alter their respects as your condition is altered. When providence has blasted your estates, your summer friends may grow strange, as fearing you may be troublesome to them. But will God do so? No, no!’ (Flavel)
Heb 13:6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
We say – The quote is from Ps 118:6-7.
‘If HE has said, I will never leave, WE may well say, What shall MAN do?’ (Brown)
Heb 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you – Reference to being unafraid (v6) leads on to a reference to the faithful teaching and exemplary lives of (former?) leaders. Even though they are not above the word, but are servants of it, due respect should be given to them. The source, authority, and nature, of the divine revelation is here implied: it is from God, it is therefore absolutely authoritative, it is verbal in form.
The outcome of their way of life – ekbasis means lit. ‘an exit’, and so some commentators think that a reference to their death is indicated here (‘they were faithful to the end’). So Guthrie and Raymond Brown. This interpretation is perhaps supported by the instruction to ‘remember’ them, and by the fact that the injunction to ‘remember’ them is put in the past tense. But others favour the meaning indicated by the NIV translation.
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.
It is important to remember leaders. But they come and go, Zec 1:5. Just as God promised to Joshua, “I will never fail you nor forsake you” (cf. v5), so Jesus Christ is ever the same. Cf. Heb 1:8-12. The language here is reminiscent of Ps 102:27 and Isa 48:12: that such qualities are applied without any sense of incongruity to Jesus says much for the biblical doctrine of the Person of Christ. See Rev 1:18.
In context, this verse teaches that ‘he who yesterday was the source and object of the triumphant faith of those leaders who instructed them in the word of God…is still today the same all-sufficient and all-powerful Redeemer and Lord, and will continue so for ever.’ (Hughes, who quotes Herveus: ‘The same Christ who was with them is with you, and will be with those who come after us, even to the end of the age. Yesterday he was with the fathers; today he is with you; and he will be with your posterity for evermore.’)
‘The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has just been recalling memories of the first apostles of the gospel. Many of them were dead. Those who had seen Christ, and who had listened to him, became day by day fewer in number. The flux of time, and the ravages of persecution, had done their work in thinning out the illustrious band. More than one soul had been dismayed and discouraged, and therefore it was necessary to recall to the minds of all that, though men may come and men may go, the cause of Christ is immortal.’ (Biblical Illustrator)
This verse, although a first sight appearing out of the blue, is relevant in its succeeding as well as its preceding context. ‘If Jesus Christ is unchanging, so also is the truth concerning him.’ (Hughes)
In the original, there is no verb in this verse. The ‘is’ is implied.
Jesus Christ – The first is Lord’s personal name; the equivalent of ‘Joshua’, meaning ‘Saviour’, ‘Deliverer’, Mt 1:21. The second is not really a name at all, but rather a title, meaning ‘the anointed one; the Messiah’. See Mt 16:16; Lk 4:18. ‘Jesus was the name by which he was known from the day of his incarnation, while Christ was the name by which he was called from the day of his resurrection.’ (Loane)
The same –
The immutability of Christ is in contrast to our changeableness and fickleness. ‘What seems more permanent than the everlasting hills or the never-ending skies? But he laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of his hands. ‘They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’ Psa 102:26f.
‘Jesus Christ is timeless. Though born into a first-century Palestinian culture, he belongs to every culture. He is not dated. He speaks to all people in their vernacular. Christ is our contemporary.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 66)
If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, then give no hearing to ‘new Christs’ and ‘new gospels’. Because Jesus does not change, the religion of Jesus does not change in its essentials either, v9.
If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever, then don’t put you confidence in the changing and decaying things of this world.
Yesterday – from eternity past, Jn 8:58, and in the days of his flesh, 2:9; 5:7f.
Today – as our High Priest in heaven, Heb 4:15f. The resurrection did not rob him of his humanity, Lk 24:39. Eternity past is gone; eternity future is yet to come. But today, now, at this very moment we can put our faith in the one who is unchangeable in his person, unshakeable in his purposes, unswerving in his promises. Note the emphasis on today in Heb 3:7.
For ever – to secure our final salvation, Heb 7:25; 9:28. It is ‘this same Jesus’ who ascended to heaven who will rise from his throne and return in glory, Acts 1:11.
‘By asserting that Jesus Christ is the same forever, the author confirms his eternal being (Heb 1:8) and eternal priesthood (Heb 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21, 28), as well as the eternal salvation he has accomplished (Heb 5:9; 9:12; 7:24–25), which believers are to inherit (Heb 9:15)’ (O’Brien)
‘We may enquire whether the idea of changelessness exhausts the meaning here. If yesterday refers to the immediate past of our high priest, the whole statement may, in fact, be referring to the sequence of his acts for men, a past sacrifice, a present intercession and a future consummation. In that case it would stress that Jesus Christ need never be replaced.’ (Guthrie) As Raymond Brown puts it, ‘in the great yesterday of world history he died for them as the unique sacrifice. Today he is the forerunner who has already entered heaven and is even now interceding at God’s right hand. The future is known fully to him. He lives for ever, the Lord of history who will certainly return, Heb 10:37, for those “who are eagerly waiting for him,” Heb 9:28.’
‘The Jesus Christ (the full name being given, to mark with affectionate solemnity both his person and his office) who supported your spiritual rulers through life even unto their end “yesterday” (in times past), being at once “the Author and the Finisher of their faith,” (Heb 12:2) remains still the same Jesus Christ “to-day,” ready to help you also, if like them you walk by “faith” in him. Compare “this same Jesus,” Acts 1:11. He who yesterday (proverbial for the past time) suffered and died, is to-day in glory. (Rev 1:18) “As night comes between yesterday and to-day, and yet night itself is swallowed up by yesterday and to-day, so the”suffering”did not so interrupt the glory of Jesus Christ which was of yesterday, and that which is to-day, as not to continue to be the same. He is the same yesterday, before he came into the world, and to-day, in heaven. Yesterday in the time of our predecessors, and to-day in our age” BENGEL. So the doctrine is the same, not variable: this verse thus forms the transition between Heb 13:7 and Heb 13:9. He is always “the same.” (Heb 1:12) The same in the Old and in the New Testament.’ (JFB)
‘The evident design of this independent proposition here is, to encourage them to persevere by showing that their Saviour was always the same; that he who had sustained his people in former times was the same still, and would be the same for ever. The argument here, therefore, for perseverance is founded on the immutability of the Redeemer. If he were fickle, vacillating, changing in his character and plans; if to-day he aids his people, and to-morrow will forsake them; if at one time he loves the virtuous, and at another equally loves the vicious; if he formed a plan yesterday which he has abandoned today; or if he is ever to be a different being from what he is now, there would be no encouragement to effort. Who would know what to depend on? Who would know what to expect tomorrow? For who could have any certainty that he could ever please a capricious or a vacillating being? Who could know how to shape his conduct if the principles of the Divine administration were not always the same? At the same time, also, that this passage furnishes the strongest argument for fidelity and perseverance, it is an irrefragable proof of the divinity of the Saviour. It asserts immutability-sameness in the past, the present, and to all eternity-but of whom can this be affirmed but God? It would not be possible to conceive of a declaration which would more strongly assert immutability than this.’ (Barnes)
Writing of Jesus as a friend, J.C. Ryle says, ‘The Lord Jesus is “a friend who never changes.” There is no fickleness about him: those whom he loves, he loves to the end. Husbands have been known to forsake their wives; parents have been known to cast off their children; human vows and promises of faithfulness have often been forgotten. Thousands have been neglected in their poverty and old age, who were honored by all when they were rich and young. But Christ never changed his feelings towards one of his friends. He is “the same yesterday and today and forever.”‘
‘The beauty and loveliness of all other things is fading and perishing; but the loveliness of Christ is fresh to all eternity: the sweetness of the best creatures is a fading flower; if not before, yet certainly at death it must fade away. Job 4:21 “Does not their excellency, which is in them, go away?” Yes, yes, whether natural excellencies of the body, or acquired endowments of the mind, lovely features, amiable qualities, attracting excellencies; all these like pleasant flowers are withered, faded, and destroyed by death; “but Christ is still the same, yesterday, today, and for ever.”‘ (Flavel)
‘See the excellence of the divine nature in its immutability. This is the glory of the Godhead. Mutableness denotes weakness, and is not in God, who is ‘the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ Heb 13:8. Men are fickle and mutable, like Reuben, ‘unstable as water.’ Gen 49:4. They are changeable in their principles. If their faces altered as fast as their opinions, we should not know them. Changeable in their resolutions; as the wind that blows in the east, presently turns about to the west. They resolve to be virtuous, but quickly repent of their resolutions. Their minds are like a sick man’s pulse, which alters every half hour. An apostle compares them to waves of the sea, and wandering stars. Jude 12. They are not pillars in God’s temple, but reeds. Others are changeable in their friendship. They quickly love and quickly hate. Sometimes they will put you in their bosom, then excommunicate you out of their favour. They change as the chameleon, into several colours, but God is immutable.’ (Thomas Watson)
By the way, this verse does not teach that God has no interest in time.
Heb 13:9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. 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.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings – This stands in contrast to the constancy of Jesus Christ.
The example of faithful teaching has been mentioned in v7. Because Christ does not change, v8, the truth about him does not change either. False teaching is diverse (’all kinds … ’), for it takes many forms, whereas the true doctrine only takes one essential form. False teaching is ‘strange’, for it is alien, and it leads astray. See Eph 4:11-14.
‘We live in a period when the warning and exhortation of verse 9 have special relevance. Many of our contemporaries are beginning to acknowledge some form of spiritual need in their lives and into this vacuum the perpetrators of various religious notions or Christian deviations press their unbiblical or distorted teaching. There has scarcely been any other time in this century when so many of these cults have been present and active … We need to take seriously the teaching of this letter about the primacy of God’s Word and the supremacy of God’s Son, so that we are not blown about or led away by diverse and strange teachings of any group not firmly based on the teaching of Scripture. We need to pray for friends who may be involved in them, recognizing that many are genuinely seeking the truth and could discover peace, life and security if they came to Christ. Some young adherents of the sects are disillusioned with the church, and that should come as a rebuke to us all. Have we offered the warmth, friendship, acceptance, sense of community and “certainty” which attract many people to these cults in the first place?’ (Raymond Brown)
Ceremonial foods – It would seem that the ‘strange teachings’ included dietary requirements and restrictions; these were common enough in both Jewish and Gentile circles, Heb 9:10; cf. Col 2:16,20-23; 1 Tim 4:3. But our hearts are strengthened by grace, not by any outward observances. Voluntary fasting, as in Mt 6:16ff, is, of course, a different matter. What other man-made ordinances would our author have considered null and void?
Mt 24:4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no-one deceives you.
Heb 13:10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
We have an altar – The sacrifice of Christ is a better sacrifice, not only because the spiritual antitype is superior to the material type, but also because those who enter the heavenly sanctuary “by the blood of Jesus,” Heb 10:19, know that the one who became their perfect sin-offering is permanently available as the source of their spiritual nourishment and refreshment, as the feed on him in their hearts by faith.’ (Bruce)
Our author has repeatedly argued that ‘the high priesthood, sacrifices, and sanctuary of the Old Testament find their antitype and fulfilment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Here also, altar is a cultic term used in a shorthand and figurative way for the many dimensions of Christ’s death.’ (O’Brien)
‘Christians had none of the visible apparatus which in those days was habitually associated with religion and worship – no sacred buildings, no altars, no sacrificing prist. Their pagan neighbours thought they had no God, and called them atheists; their Jewish neighbours too might criticize them for having no visible means of spiritual support…If there were people in the first century who said, “You Christians have no altar,” our author replies: “We have an altar – and a better one than the Jews had under the Levitical order.” The Christian altar was the sacrifice of Christ, the benefits of which were eternally accessible to them. Material food, even if it was called sacred, perished with the using; in this new and spiritual order into which they had been introduced by faith, Christ was perpetually available, “the same yesterday and today and for ever.”‘ (Bruce)
Some interpreters see this as a reference to the eucharist: ‘There can be little doubt that the writer is referring to the eucharist in distinction from the sacrifices of the old covenant. It is important to take note that he refers not simply to an altar in the new dispensation but to a place where eating takes place, a sacrificial act. In the Greek text of this passage the term for altar is the normal term used to describe both Jewish and Pagan altars of sacrifice in the Septuagint, e.g. Le 6:9 and Jud 6:25. The fact that this term is applied to the eucharist is of considerable significance. The reference to the eucharist as “a pure sacrifice” by the writer of the Didache, ch. 14, about AD 100, also underlines this fact. Ignatius of Antioch in his epistles, written about 107, also makes numerous references to the altar (the same term) and the eucharist, thus “Be careful to use one eucharist, for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup for union with his blood, one altar, as there is one bishop”.’ (Ep. Php 4:1) (A New Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship, art. ‘Altar’)
But ‘there is no justification for seeing here a reference to a sacrificial interpretation of the Christian communion service. For Christians there is no longer any need for an altar of sacrifice. The Christian altar is to be understood generally as the full benefits which come to those who serve Christ. On the contrary Jews who are not Christians are picturesquely described as those who serve the tent (skene), a remarkable contrast to those who serve Christ. The material and spiritual aspects of the two approaches are vividly brought out. The food from the Jewish altar is material food, but from the Christian altar it is Christ himself, a difference which has clearly deeply impressed the writer. The question of right (exousia) is inextricably bound up with the exposition of faith earlier in the epistle. Faith brings a right through God’s grace to which unbelief has no access.’ (Guthrie)
‘With the insistence that we have an altar, the writer returns to the pattern of argument that dominated the central chapters of this book: the high-priesthood, sacrifices and sanctuary of the OT find their fulfilment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Altar is another cultic term used in a shorthand and figurative way for the sacrifice of Christ. Those Jewish priests who minister at the tabernacle, and who are authorized to benefit from its sacrifices, (e.g. Lev 7:5-6; Num 18:9-10) have no right to eat from the altar of the new covenant. They, along with anyone else attached to that way of worship, are pursuing the ‘shadow’ instead of the reality. (Heb 8:5; 10:1) The writer of Hebrews does not here draw the inference that Christians may, even metaphorically, ‘eat’ from their ‘altar’, or sacramentally benefit from Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice. It is remarkable that there is no treatment of the Lord’s Supper in this context, even at the level of correcting false views of the community meal.’ (NBC)
‘The priests were allotted a portion of some of the offerings (Lev 6-7). There is no such right within the new covenant for we have a different type of sacrifice (the sacrifices of the old covenant were burnt on an altar; Ex 38:1ff). There is no material altar at all in the new covenant, for the sacrifice was that of Christ’s body on the cross. Food portions are entirely irrelevant within the scheme of the “new order” (Heb 9:10) of the new covenant which “has made the first one obsolete” (Heb 8:13).’ (College Press)
‘”We have an altar” (Heb 13:10) does not suggest a material altar on earth, for that would contradict the whole message of the epistle. In the Old Testament sanctuary, the brazen altar was the place for offering blood sacrifices, and the golden altar before the veil was the place for burning incense, a picture of prayer ascending to God. (Ps 141:2) A New Covenant Christian’s altar is Jesus Christ; for it is through him that we offer our “spiritual sacrifices” to God. (Heb 13:15; 1 Pet 2:5) we may set aside places in our church buildings and call them altars; but they are really not altars in the biblical sense. Why? Because Christ’s sacrifice has already been made, once and for all; and the gifts that we bring to God are acceptable, not because of any earthly altar, but because of a heavenly altar, Jesus Christ.’ (Wiersbe)
Heb 13:11 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.
Heb 13:12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
Heb 13:13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
Heb 13:14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Here we do not have an enduring city – ‘Hebrews has already made it plain that no earthly city can provide true security, for the earth itself will be shaken by the voice of God in the final cataclysm (Heb 12:25–27).’ (O’Brien)
Someone who stops over at an airport hotel does not go to the bathroom, frown at its decor, and start redecorating. Why? Because he doesn’t live there. His home is somewhere else. While he is away he will get by with only the basic essentials. Similarly, we Christians shouldn’t work too hard at making our lives here in this world more comfortable. This is just the airport and we are in transit. We should spend our energies on enhancing our eternal reward, and not worry so much about the walls of the hotel bathroom. (Source unknown)
The city that is to come – ‘By implication, the importance of the literal Jerusalem, symbolic of the temple and the levitical sacrifices, must give way to that of the heavenly Jerusalem.’ (Hagner)
Many modern Christian teachers mock the idea that we are not ‘at home’ in this present life. While there are indeed dangers attached to an other-worldly attitude, we must attend to what is here insisted upon. J.C. Ryle (Practical Religion) expresses the idea along the following lines:-
We live in a world which is beautiful in many respects. But it is not home. ‘It is an inn, a tent, a tabernacle, a lodging, a training school — but it is not home.’
(a) It is a changing world.
(b) It is a trying and disappointing world.
(c) It is a dying world.
(d) It is a scattering and dividing world.
This is because of the effect of sin and the fall. We must do our best to make the world a safe and happy place for ourselves and others. But we must never forget that this world is not our home.
Simon Kistemaker strikes a helpful balance:- ‘Do Christians live in an ethereal world detached from the pressing realities of everyday life? Certainly not! Christians are to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Mt 5:13, 14). Wherever God in his providence has placed them, they are to be Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20). They are to represent Christ by boldly speaking the Word he has given them. Yet they know the brevity of life and the fleeting nature of this world. Therefore, they look and long for their eternal dwelling: “a city that is to come.”’
Heb 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Vs. 13:15-16 ‘The believers’ sacrifices are praise, to do good, and to share.’ (Php 4:18) (Ryrie)
Heb 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Heb 13:18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.
Heb 13:19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Heb 13:20 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
The God of peace – ‘God the Father is called the “God of peace.” (Heb 13:20) God the Son, the “Prince of peace.” (Isa 9:6) God the Holy Ghost, the “Spirit…of peace”.’ (Eph 4:3) (Thomas Watson)
Who through (‘on the basis of’ – P.E. Hughes) the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus – ‘The Crucifixion is not a defeat needing Resurrection to reverse it, but a victory which the Resurrection quickly follows and seals … So it is that the centre of Apostolic Christianity is Crucifixion-Resurrection; not Crucifixion alone nor Resurrection alone, nor even Crucifixion and Resurrection as the finale, but the blending of the two in a way that is as real to the Gospel as it is defiant to the world.’ (A.M Ramsey)
Heb 13:21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Heb 13:22 Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.
My word of exhortation – ‘Since the same Greek expression in Acts 13:15 refers to a synagogue speech, the term may identify this “epistle” as an expository sermon in written form. Hebrews is aptly described as a “word of exhortation,” for exhortation or encouragement is the heart of the book’s purpose. (Heb 3:13; 6:18; 10:25; 12:5) The author repeatedly calls his readers to an active and courageous response.’ (Heb 4:11,14,16; 6:1; 10:19-25) (New Geneva)
There is some debate about the extent to which the NT documents (both gospels and epistles) are closely based on apostolic preaching and sermons. In the case of Hebrews, however, this verse makes the matter clear. Both ‘urge’ (parakaleo) and ‘exhortation’ (paraklesis) use the language of the spoken ministry of the Word. ‘Paraklesis practiced by Paul involved the proclamation of the mighty acts of God in Christ, often with some exposition of the OT, and a drawing out of the practical implications for the audience in question – believers or unbelievers. (cf. Acts 13:15-41) The terminology itself suggests that the activity had a summons to decision or an encouragement to persevere in the Christian way. Although systematic teaching was clearly involved, the address is not simply to the intellect but also to the affections and the will.’ (David Peterson, Q by Adams, Speaking God’s Words, 78f).
Heb 13:23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
Our brother Timothy – This shows that although Hebrews may not be a Pauline writing, it comes from within the same circle of associates.
Heb 13:24 Greet all your leaders and all God’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
Heb 13:25 Grace be with you all.