26 Sep Mid-Week Msg. – Hebrews 13, The 9th Study
- Reference: Hebrews 13
- Date: 26 September 2012
Mid Week • Hebrews 13
In a couple of previous studies, we’ve noted 1 of the great mysteries of the NT is who wrote Hebrews.
So as we’ve marched thru the text, we’ve identified the hints that it was probably the Apostle Paul.
One of those hints is the outline of Hebrews is the same as others of his letters.
The first half is doctrine, then practice.
Theology, then application.
Belief à Behavior.
Creed à Conduct.
So in Hebrews we find first a masterful exposition of the superiority of Jesus & The Gospel to a Christ-less & Jesus-rejecting Judaism.
And the reason for that powerful explanation of the supremacy of The Gospel is because the letter was written to Jewish followers of Jesus being pressured by their fellow Jews & hostile Roman officials, to go back to the Judaism of their past.
The pressure was great, at times breaking out in violence – and had been on for so long, some HAD in fact gone back.
Others were thinking about it.
So the writer penned this letter to bolster their faith
As we come to the last ch. tonight, it’s some super-practical guidelines for living out our faith.
The first 9 vs list 7 specific exhortations.
Since we covered vs. 1-6 Sunday, we’ll be brief with them tonight.
1Let brotherly love continue.
“Carry on showing practical care for one another. Don’t let your concern for each other flag or falter.”
One of the first lesson Christians learn is the NT word for love.
We learn that there are 4Greek words for our one word love.
Eros – Sexual attraction
Storge – Family loyalty
Phileo – Friendship; a bond of mutual affection.
Agape – The God-kind of love.
In the NT, agape is the main love spoken of.
It’s a love that seeks to bless w/no thought of what it’s going to get back or in return.
It’s the love God has for us, & as we walk in the Spirit, the love we show 1 another.
The love here is a compound word; Phileo = Friendship + Adelphos = brothers.
It’s the affection of brotherhood & refers to the practical care friends showed one another.
Because we are the born-again sons & daughters of God, we’re brothers & sisters who are to take care of one another.
Jesus said the world would know we belong to Him by the love we had for one another. John 13:35
The word for love there is agape.
That agape is manifested by specific acts of kindness – which is philadelphia = brother love.
History tells us Jesus followers were well-known for their practical love for 1 another.
Even their critics were heard to say in wonder, “See how these Christians love one another!”
Pliny the Younger was a Roman governor who did a thorough study into the Christian Faith & sent a report to the Roman emperor Trajan who was concerned about the growing movement.
Persecution of Christians at the time was mostly by Jews & was sporadic & irregular.
Trajan wanted to know what had Jews leaders so worked up & if the new religion deserved Rome’s attention.
Rome frowned on new movements like this because they usually ended up turning into political revolts.
So Pliny was really trying to find justification for adopting an official policy of oppression of the Church.
After some digging Pliny wrote of Christians, “They bind themselves by an oath not to any criminal end, but to avoid theft, robbery & adultery, never to break their word or repudiate a deposit when called on to refund it.”
While looking for a charge against them, Pliny ended up saying they were faithful, law-abiding citizens who paid their debts.
The writer calls his readers to continue on showing practical care for one another.
He knew one of the effects of long-term pressure is the tendency for old conflicts to be renewed.
When persecution first began, Christians set aside the petty things that created tension between them because the need for unity in the face of opposition was greater.
But after a while, when hostility from the outside became the new norm, those old issues resurfaced.
So the writer reminds them what they share is greater than where they differ.
They’re still a part of 1 spiritual family.
I repeat – in John 13:35 Jesus said the world would know we were truly His followers by the love we had for one another.
In Jesus’ prayer to the Father FOR us He prayed this – John 17:23
I am in them, and You are in Me; that they may be made complete in union with us, so that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
When we’re walking in the Spirit of His love toward 1 another, the world is confronted w/the truth of our message.
Conversely, when we’re not showing brotherly love to one another, our message is hollow.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a famous essay titled, Why I Am Not a Christian.
He presented what he believed were irrefutable arguments for rejecting Christianity.
It’s an atheist classic & is used as ammo by many critics of the Faith.
Russell focused mainly on the lives of Christians he knew or heard of who fell far short of what we find here.
He wrote, “I think there are many good points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than many professing Christians. I do not know that I can go all the way with Him, but I could go with him much farther than most professing Christians can. I do not profess to live up to (Christ’s standards) myself, but then after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian, is it?”
He goes on, “There is the idea that we should all be wicked, if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been, for the most part, extremely wicked. The Spaniards, for example, in Mexico and Peru, used to baptize infants of the Indians, and immediately dash their brains out, by this means securing for them a place in heaven.”
With many other such examples, he argued against Christianity & the Bible.
Unfortunately, throughout history the lives of supposed Christians have given the world an excuse not to be attracted to the claims of Christ.
What’s interesting is that while there are always some whose immorality gives the lie to their claim of following Jesus, there are many more who are following Him à quietly.
Humbly serving Him by ministering to the needs of those around them.
They don’t call attention to themselves or their love because – well, true love, as Paul said, doesn’t boast; doesn’t call attention to itself.
So if the critics were honest & evaluated the faith fairly, they’d HAVE to admit there are many more following Jesus than fakers who aren’t.
And wait – doesn’t the existence of a fake prove there must be something real, that the fakers are trying to imitate?
Oh yeah – but never mind, logic & being reasonable has never been something scoffers care about.
One of my favorite preachers is Alexander MacLaren.
He wrote, “The world takes its notion of God most of all from those who say they belong to God’s family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. They see us; they only hear about Jesus Christ.”
Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
One of the primary ways we do that, is to love 1 another practically.
From the love of the brethren we move to the love of strangers.
2Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
This is a call to general kindness & hospitality to outsiders. // We covered this Sunday.
Something we didn’t talk about then was this à We need to be hospitable to visitors here at CCO.
We have Ushers & Greeters whose work is to welcome & help people.
But really, this is something every member of CCO ought to be doing.
Because if you’re not being hospitable, you’re IN-hospitable; there’s no like limbo-zone for this.
What we’ve heard: “Friendly!” & “Unfriendly!” // Difference = someone said “Hi!”
That’s a ministry we’re all called to.
3Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.
Again, covered Sunday.
Prisoners around the World – Voice of the Martyrs. = VOM.org
4Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
There’s something here we DIDN’T cover Sunday we will tonight.
Some translations convert this from a statement about the sacredness of marriage into a command to keep it pure.
They make it –
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and keep the marriage bed be undefiled.”
If you have a NKJ, note that the word “is” is in italics, meaning it’s supplied by the translators.
So – is this a statement of fact or an exhortation? Is this DESCRIPTIVE or PRESCRIPTIVE?
It doesn’t matter. All the commands & exhortations of the Christian life flow from doctrine.
God declares marriage to be honorable. We’re to honor what He honors!
God says the sexual relationship between a husband & wife is good & right. So we’re to esteem it so!
Something I didn’t get a chance to mention Sunday is that the writer deals here with a problem that had surfaced in the Church: The idea that married couples ought to abstain from sex.
Immorality in the wider Greco-Roman culture was so gross, so hideously nasty & the culture was so drenched in sex that the idea had begun to float around à maybe Christian married couples, in an attempt to avoid connection to the world, should forgo sex.
This idea was helped along by Greek philosophy that was ingrained in the culture that anything material or physical was evil while the spirit was good.
So any pleasure experienced by the flesh was suspect, & the more intense the pleasure, the more evil it was considered.
Consequently, some thought sex was a great wickedness.
Even though this was written to Jewish followers of Jesus, the culture they lived in was heavily influenced by the Greco-Roman culture.
Question: Are European teenagers influenced by American culture? Are the youth of China, Japan, Israel and even Iran being influenced by American culture?
Such was the case for 1st Century Jews.
A Jewish sect called the Essenes had banned marriage & prohibited sex.
So, coming out of the world, many married Christians began to wonder if they needed to forgo marital sex.
This was a big deal in the church at Corinth and Paul deals with in in 1 Cor. 7 where he tells husbands & wives they are NOT to abstain except for brief times of fasting & prayer.
So the writer here affirms the essential sacredness of marriage & the purity of married sex.
The physical creation is not evil & sex is God’s gift to foster & express intimacy between a husband & wife.
While marriage is honorable and marital conjugation is clean –
Fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Fornication is porneia from which we get our word “pornography.”
It’s any & all sexual activity outside marriage, not just intercourse.
We had a President a while ago who said that he did not have sex with an intern because they never had intercourse.
That may be his definition of sex, but it’s not God’s!
[Plug Pure Desire]
Adultery refers to a married person who engages in sex w/someone other than his/her covenant partner.
As I mentioned Sunday, this is a subject the Church has tended to avoid – and to our harm.
The world seems to talk about little else. Sex dominates popular media, the workplace and school.
It’s in half the ads & the sub-text to many if not most workplaces.
The Church ought to deal with this issue when the text of Scripture deals with it and it’s why we’re looking at it tonight.
I want to encourage married couples who weren’t here for the Song of Solomon study we did last year – listen to it online – together.
It’s a great study because there’s homework! J
5Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Contentment rather than covetousness; greed.
Greed is the desire for more & is never satisfied.
If we have God, we have all we need; for He has promised to take care of us.
Now the writer speaks to church issues.
7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
Preachers must not be gauged only by their skills as speakers. // Do they practice what they preach?
The writer calls us to consider the conduct of preachers.
If it was consistently faithful & godly, follow their example & keep listening to them. // If not, don’t.
This has a lot to say to us about how we gauge success in the American church.
In the American church world, success is about the size of your church; how many people come & how many campuses you have.
Because there are so many churches & this is a market economy, churches compete with each other for attendance.
So, church boards look for someone to fill the pulpit who can draw big crowds.
Who can grow a radio or TV audience, or now, a lot of web traffic.
Sadly, if these celebrity preachers go bad & have a moral failure, sometimes the board hides it.
They make pay-offs to keep people silent.
And the preacher stays put & keeps preaching.
The problem is the vast majority of those who listen to him have no relationship w/him beyond him being a voice.
They have no idea if he’s doing what He’s preaching & teaching.
The vast majority of pastors are good, solid godly men who live out their entire lives in humble service of Jesus.
They may only have a congregation of 60, 125, 250. // But they live with & before their people.
They get to see that their pastor is the real deal.
It’s wonderful we have the tech of radio, TV & the internet to broadcast the Gospel and good Bible teaching.
But that ought not be a substitute for people being plugged into a good local church where they can rub elbows with their pastor & have opportunities to get to know him personally.
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.
While v. 8 is quoted often, keep its context in mind.
The writers says we must be on guard against those who say they’re sent by God but who want to lead us in some radically new direction.
Jesus Christ does not change. His message doesn’t change.
The method may alter from place to place & time to time because cultures change.
Methods have to adapt. // But the message & motivation never changes.
Now, keeping the theme of the letter in mind, the writer is likely cautioning them against legalism!
They were being pressured to revert to Judaism.
They must not go back to the law now that they’ve found grace.
But they must also not set up new laws, Christian rules about things like diet & days, then equate the Faith w/this se of accepted behaviors.
Christianity isn’t about
Going to church,
Reading the Bible,
Praying daily, or
Christians do these things. But they aren’t the essence of our Faith.
Christianity is a love-affair w/JC that involves these things are part of our life In Him.
I don’t call my wife in the middle of the day to say “Hi” because we’re married. I call because I love her.
I don’t wash the dishes because we’re married. I wash them because I love her.
I don’t read my Bible & pray because I’m a Christian. I read & pray because I love Jesus.
I don’t go to church & tithe because I’m a Christian. I just love God.
Hear this: Jesus hasn’t changed!
The same Jesus who, because of love for us, rose from His throne in Heaven, laid aside His glory and wrapped Himself in humble flesh, went to the cross and died a shameful death – that same Jesus now sits once again on His glorious throne.
He hasn’t changed! His love is just as fierce toward us.
We must ensure the reason we do what we do is motivated by love for Him & doesn’t degenerate into mere ritual.
Again – it’s all about relationship, not religion. [Say it]
Now the writer launches once again into an allusion to the Jewish temple . . .
10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. [meaning the earthly tabernacle or temple] 11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.
Really – this is what the entire letter has been moving toward since the first v. of ch. 1.
While the Theme of Hebrews is that “Jesus is Better” – this is what His followers need to conclude from that.
Rather than giving in a going back to Judaism, their mindset needed to be in the other direction; understanding that Faith in Jesus meant seeing Judaism in an utterly new light.
God was calling them OUT of Judaism.
Here’s how the writer makes his case . . .
Under the Law of Moses, while the good parts of the sacrifices were burned on the altar in the tabernacle & temple, the skin & intestines, the unclean parts of the sacrifice, called the offal, were taken outside the camp, & later outside the walls of Jerusalem, where they were burned in a place like a dump.
Jesus was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem like the offal because he was despised & rejected and treated as an unclean thing.
The writer is saying – If you follow Jesus, don’t expect or try to curry the world’s favor.
The world hated Jesus; it’s going to hate you.
Jesus warned His disciple of the same thing.
The writer tells his Jewish readers following Jesus they need to own-up to the fact the time has come to be done w/Judaism.
Any hope of reforming the religion from within is past.
The Jewish leaders had proven intractable & it was time for the Christians to acknowledge their need to withdraw and form their own group.
Martin Luther was an Roman Catholic Augustinian monk teaching Romans in the University of Wittenberg when he realized salvation was by grace through faith, apart from works.
Being born again, the Bible became an open book to him and he quickly realized the Church had strayed far from the path of Truth & fidelity to God.
He listed 95 errors that needed correction; 95 points to bring much needed reform to the Church – and nailed them to a public bulletin board – the church door.
His goal was reform! He didn’t want to split from Rome.
But when Rome refused to listen to what Luther knew to be the truth, there was nothing left fro him but to leave.
That’s why it’s called The Reformation.
Luther simply followed the course of action the writer calls for here.
There may be someone listening to this attending a church that once faithfully loved & served Jesus.
But those days are in a distant past.
And you’ve been praying for renewal and a return to the Lord & His Word but you’ve been stonewalled by the leaders; even marked as a trouble maker by the elders.
Is this word for you? Is it time to leave?
14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
The focus of our worship isn’t a bronze altar in some city; it’s a throne in heaven.
The offering we bring God isn’t an animal; it’s us.
We give ourselves thru worship – the fruit of our lives and lips
16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Because Jesus was the final sacrifice, what we give to God is a life of worship & service.
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
We must follow those God’s placed in leadership in the church. // You all exemplify this.
As a pastor, I tremble at this: Pastors will give account for how they have tended the flock.
I’ve been charged w/watching out for your soul & for that I will give account.
That explains why we do what we do here at CCO:
Why we keep our emphasis on the Word & Spirit of God.
Why we urge people to live what they learn.
18 Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. 19 But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
This clues us the author was in prison. // He saw prayer as the means of his release. // Another clue.
20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Because God is working IN us, we can accomplish everything He’s set before us.
The goal of it all is that God would be glorified in His Son.
In v. 21 he says God will complete us.
Some translations say He will equip us.
The word means to make something good, to mend.
It pictures something incomplete or broken being filled out & fixed so that it can fulfill its purpose.
A few years ago Jack Moore too me fishing at Lake Casitas.
He has a lot of fishing rods & reels & 1 of them was a bait-casting reel I had a hard time with.
When I cast, the line to get tangled so I had to hand it to Jack to untangle.
He handed it back to me w/instructions on how to cast w/o messing up.
Sin has tangled up our lives.
But God sends His grace to untangle us, to heal what’s broken, & makes it possible for us to live full, rich, & profitable lives for His glory.
22 And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words.
In other words: LISTEN to what I’ve written! Hearken to it & DO IT!
23 Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly. 24 Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. 25 Grace be with you all. Amen.
Here’s yet more evidence Paul was the author.
Timothy was his ministry companion & may have been w/Paul when he was under arrest in Rome.
Next week, Jeremiah! We start This Sunday.