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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 29, 2012

Hebrews 13:1-10

  1. Verses 1-2. The writer closes his letter with an admonition to not stop doing the things they did at first. The first of those things was demonstrating real love. Showing love for another is crucial when you are being persecuted. When love for Jesus Christ falters, love for the brethren normally fades as well (cf. Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9-10; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 1:7; 1 John 2:9). Showing love meant demonstrating extreme hospitality to those of the faith who might be outside one’s immediate family. Abraham entertained angels when he showed them hospitality (Gen. 18). Hospitality (lit. love to strangers) is a concrete expression of Christian love today, as it was in the first century (cf. 3 John 5-8). Abraham received a special blessing because he showed hospitality, and we may, too (cf. Matt. 25:35). All Christians should practice hospitality (Rom. 12:13), especially Christian leaders (Titus 1:8).

  2. Verse 13:3. The prisoners in view were evidently Christians who were suffering for their testimonies (cf. 10:34; Matt. 25:36, 40). Often prisoners in the Roman world had to depend on friends outside the prison to provide them with food and other necessities. The existence of a significant number of prisoners supports a date for writing after A.D. 64, when an empire-wide persecution of Christians began. In July of that year, Emperor Nero set fire to Rome and blamed the Christians, resulting in much persecution of Christians. The readers might suffer the same fate as these prisoners themselves one day since they were still leading a mortal existence.

  3. Verse13:4 Christians also need to maintain a high regard for marriage and to remain sexually pure. God's judgment will follow the sexually impure (cf. 12:29). Under the Old Covenant the Israelites were to punish fornicators and adulterers, but under the New Covenant God does it. Hebrews 12 reminded us that we all need to free ourselves from the things that so easily entangle and trip us up in the walk of faith. Sexual sin then, as it is now, was one of those issues that caused many to stumble.

  4. Verse 13:5-6 Greed has lured many believers away from a life of faithful discipleship, as has sexual temptation. We need to cultivate a spirit of contentment so we do not apostatize/ fall into a false system of faith. Contentment really has nothing to do with how much money we have, though the world generally thinks it does. We have the Lord, and with Him we have all we need (cf. Luke 12:15; Phil. 4:11; 1Tim. 6:6-10). Furthermore, He has promised never to abandon us (Matt.28:20). Many who were persecuted had lost property (10:34). In these circumstances, the Christian response is not to grasp all the more eagerly at material wealth, but to rely quietly on God's provision, even in the face of human opposition.

  5. Verse 13:7 The example of our spiritual leaders is one we should follow (cf. 12:1; 13:17, 24). They, like the heroes of faith in chapter 11, set a good pattern. Leaders are not to be idolized, but if you see a leader doing a good thing imitate it. The key is to imitate the Christ-like behavior and not idolize the person. Too often people seek to imitate the person and not the Christ-like behavior.

  6. Verse 13:8 Jesus Christ is the content of the message that the leaders had preached to these hearers (cf. v. 7). That message and the Savior is what this writer had urged his readers not to abandon. The leaders had preached the Word of God to these readers, and that preaching culminated in Jesus Christ. Leaders might change, but Christ will not. So in Christ the believers always have something to imitate. His example of faithfulness, as expounded in this epistle, should be a continuing encouragement to all believers. He is as faithful to His promises now as He ever was, and He always will be faithful to them.

  7. Verse 13:9. We should reject teaching that deviates from apostolic doctrine. This, too, is a strong safeguard against apostasy. The term strange describe a variety of false positions. Rather than accepting these ideas we should receive strength by taking in God's grace that comes through His Word (4:12-13; 1 Pet. 2:2). This strength comes from spiritual rather than material food. Evidently one of the strange teachings prevalent when this letter originated was that certain foods or abstinence from certain foods resulted in greater godliness (cf. Col. 2:16; 1 Tim. 4:1-5). This was, of course, what Judaism taught too. Judaism taught that eating food strengthened the heart in the sense that when the Jews ate they gave thanks to God and thus brought Him into their experience (cf. Ps. 104:14-15). However, Jesus' death on the cross is the source of both the saving and sustaining grace of God by which we experience strengthening.

  8. Verse 10.The entire system of worship that God appointed for Israel was of a symbolic character, and the reality and substance of it is now found in Christ. The Lord Jesus is Himself the reality of "the altar of burnt offering". The writer knows that his Hebrew friends were tempted to direct their attention fully to the natural, physical altar in the tabernacle. A description of it is supplied in Exodus 27:1-8. This altar occupied a place of first importance among the seven pieces of the furniture in the tabernacle, for it was not only the largest of them all—being almost big enough to hold the others—but it was placed "before the door" (Ex. 40:6), just inside the outer court (Ex. 40:33), and would thus be the first object to meet the eye of the worshipper as he entered the sacred place. To it the sinner came with his Divinely-appointed sacrifice, and the high priest officiated on the great Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). This altar was really the basis of the whole Levitical system, for on it the burnt offering, meal offering, peace offering, and sin offering were presented to God. Blood was put upon its horns, sprinkled upon it, round about it, and poured out at its base. It was the chief connecting-link between the people and God, they being so identified with it that certain parts of the offerings there presented to Him were eaten by them, and hence we read "Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" (1 Cor. 10:18). But the special aspect in which our text sets forth Christ as "the altar" of His people, is to present Him as the One who furnishes them with that spiritual meat which is needed for nourishment and sustenance in their worship and service. We have in Christ the true altar, which supplies us with "grace," that better food which really establishes the heart before God. In other words, the Holy Spirit here explains and declares the fulfillment of those words of Christ in John 6:55, 56.

  9. Of many of the offerings which were laid on the tabernacle altar only parts of them were consumed by the fire, the remaining portions being reserved as food for the priests, or for the offerer and his friends—this food being regarded as particularly sacred, and the eating of it as a great religious privilege. (Lev. 6:14-16 Lev. 7:1,6,15 Num. 18:8-10). But the Christian has spiritual food far more holy and precious than any Israelite ever had, or even Aaron the high priest was permitted to taste. Christ is our food, the "Bread of life" to our souls. He is not only our sacrifice but our sustenance; He has not only paid the price of God’s judgment, but He is the nourishment of His people. It is true that we should by faith, feed upon Him when remembering His death in the way appointed, yet there is no reference in our text to "the Lord’s supper," nor is "the Lord’s table" ever called an "altar" in Scripture. Moreover it is our blessed privilege to feed upon Christ not only at "Communion services," but constantly feed on the grace of his sacrifice. And herein appears again the immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Israel according to the flesh partook only of the symbols, whereas we have the Reality. They had only certain parts of the offerings—as it were the crumbs from God’s table; whereas we feed with Him on the fatted calf itself. They ate of the sacrifices only occasionally, whereas Christ is our daily food. "We have an altar," namely, Christ, and He is the only altar which God owns, and the only one which must be recognized by us.

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