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Hebrews - Part 16 - Final Exhortations

Study of Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:13
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Good morning, everyone! Introduction Today we conclude our study of the book of Hebrews that began back in March. This morning we will study chapter 13, the final chapter of this epistle; however, before we dive into chapter 13 I believe that it is important to give a final overview of the book so that you can take away from this series of messages an overall understanding of the book. Author For approximately 12 centuries (400 A.D. to 1600 A.D.) this book was referred to as "The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews"; however, from the time of the Reformation, Pauline authorship has been largely dropped. There are some compelling reasons for not assigning the authorship to Paul. First, biblical scholars have noted that, although there is no disagreement between the content of the epistle and Paul's writings, the literary style and emphases are different. Nowhere in this epistle does the author identify himself unlike Pauline epistles where Paul always identifies himself. Second, the author is clear that his knowledge of the gospel is second hand from others who personally knew Christ. Paul on the other hand states that revelation was given to him directly from Jesus. If Paul is not the author, then who wrote Hebrews? We know that a man wrote the book because of the Greek grammar in chapter 11:32. A couple of candidates for authorship have been proposed. The letter reveals that the author had authority in the early church and was an intellectual Hebrew well versed in the Hebrew scriptures. Barnabas meets these criteria. He worked closely with Paul after the church commissioned them prior to their first missionary journey. A second candidate for authorship is Apollos who was first suggested by Martin Luther. He was an Alexandrian by birth, a notable intellectual with considerable oratorical abilities. Luke speaks highly of him (Acts 18:24). Like Barnabas he was associated with Paul in the early years of the church in Corinth (I Cor. 1:12, 3:4-6:22). So, do we not know for certain who the author of this epistle is. You will usually find the author referred to as "the author" or "our author". Perhaps one day some biblical scholar will unearth some ancient manuscript that identifies the author but, in the meantime, we don't know with certainty who wrote Hebrews. Date It is difficult to put a precise date on when this epistle was written. We are confident that it was written before 70 A.D. when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans for two reasons. First, there is no reference to such a significant event in Hebrew history in the book. Second, the author of Hebrews consistently using the present tense when referring to the priestly services. Therefore, various dates have been estimated for this book-perhaps in the 50s or 60s A.D but all before 70 A.D. Recipients The letter was addressed to Jewish Christians who were tempted to revert to Judaism or to add Judaism to the gospel. Theme The overall theme of the book is the overarching superiority of Jesus as the revealer and mediator of God's grace. He is superior to any ancient prophet or hero of Judaism like Moses. He is the Son of God and is superior to any angel. He is a priest above all priests. His one sacrifice of himself for our atonement makes the repetitious sacrifices under the Old Covenant passé. The superiority of Jesus to anything in Judaism is emphasized the by the repeated (15 times) use of the Greek words for "better" or "superior". Although the book is deeply theological, it is also replete with practical exhortations. The readers are to disassociate themselves from Old Covenant practices and embrace true worship of Jesus. No longer do they look to sacrificial animals but to Jesus whose atoning death, resurrection and ascension has brought them into the heavenly places. Five times the author gives strong warnings of abandoning the faith as he reminds them of their rebellious ancestors in the wilderness. Literary Form Hebrews is often referred to as a letter although it does not begin like a letter but begins more like an essay or sermon. Also, the author does not identify himself which one would expect in a letter. The author describes his writing as a "word of encouragement" (13:22) the type of wording found in a synagogue service (cf. Acts 13:15). It seems likely, therefore, that the epistle was originally a sermon which was modified and sent out as a letter. With that brief overview of the book let's dive into chapter 13. 13:1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. In the previous 12 chapters the author of this epistle has either quoted or alluded to many scriptures in the Old Testament which he interprets Christologically-that is he sees these scriptures as pointing to Christ who is the fulfillment of all our spiritual needs and desires. But in this final chapter of the epistle the author abruptly changes writing style. Verse one of chapter 13 could be interpreted as a heading for what follows. In the command to keep on loving another as brothers and sisters we hear an echo of Jesus' second great commandment to love one another as you love yourself. This is followed by some practical instruction on how to love another. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Here we see another example of this author who is so knowledgeable of the Septuagint or pre-Christian era Greek translation of the Old Testament. He appears to be alluding to one or more instances in the OT where significant personalities entertained angels. This would include Abraham, Lot, and Manoah (father of Samson). Now the likelihood of any of us actually showing hospitality to angels is remote but the author stresses the importance of showing hospitality to strangers. Historical context is important to understand this command. When this epistle was written conditions were vastly different from today. Strangers couldn't just check into the local Holiday Inn or Quality Inn. Inns, where they existed, had a reputation for being a den of thieves and prostitutes. Thus, welcoming strangers into one's home was very much appreciated by visitors to one's community. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Our author exhorts the readers of his epistle to specifically remember those who are in prison. Again, historical context is important to appreciate what the author is driving at. Today a prisoner in Canada will be treated quite well-clothing, shelter, three meals a day, opportunities for exercise, showers, and television. This was not the environment that a prisoner in the first century would experience. Rather a prisoner was dependent upon friends and relatives to supply them with food. They received precious little from their jailers. And it appears that some of the believers were in jail. Visits from their brethren were essential even if the prison officers would suspect the visitors to be guilty of whatever crimes the prisoners were jailed for. So why should the readers risk visiting their brethren in prison? Simply the time could come when they might be prisoners and would need outside support to keep them alive in prison. 4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Since the author does not elaborate on this admonition it seems that his readers did not have a major problem with an exhortation to be sexually pure. Also, this type of ethical admonition was common advice in Judaism. But in our day and age this admonition is just as relevant as it was 2,000 years ago. Before I retired, I worked in a hospital in Toronto. I can recall one time a woman was in my office. I don't recall the particular reason why she was in my office, but I vividly recall her bringing up the subject of "casual sex". I hadn't heard the term before, so I asked her something like, "What in the world is casual sex?" She was only too happy to explain to naïve me that it was sex between a man and a woman with no commitment of any kind. I assume that this was a not-so subtle invitation. I replied that I was all for sex within marriage, but casual sex as she described it would not be something that I could agree too. And let me share one other story from my 11 years working in the hospital. We had one man on staff who was strikingly good looking. Frankly, I thought he looked like some Hollywood actor. I shared my observation with someone else on staff. I didn't even know his name but the person that I talked to immediately knew who I was referring to. Somehow my comments were relayed back to him. Someone told me that he was married and a great family man; however, at one time in a meeting he decided to hit on me. He must have seen the look of disgust on my face as I ignored his homosexual advances. Our author's admonition to remain sexually pure is something that we must be aware of all our life not only in youth but also in our senior years. 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." (Deut. 31:6) Again, another practical admonition. Sometimes this verse is misquoted. You may hear a statement like, "Money is the root of all evil". No, it is the "love of money" that is problem. In other words what is our attitude towards money? Money is neutral. In Canada, our bank notes have actually become quite attractive with the imbedded holograms and various markings. Of course, people look at money for what they can get in exchange-homes, cars, entertainment, travel, romance. It's not that these things are wrong in themselves but if we covet them, we are breaking one of the ten commandments. Our greed is an insult to God. We are basically saying that we do not trust him to fulfill the promise that our author quotes from Deuteronomy 31:6 - that God will never leave us, never forsake us. 6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" (Psalm 118:6-7) Here the author quotes Psalm 118:6-7 to remind his readers that we can be confident in all situations since the all powerful, all loving God is our helper (perhaps also alluding to Psalm 23). Yes, people can persecute us, ridicule us for our faith, imprison us, confiscate our possessions, even kill us but we remain satisfied that we will have an eternal reward with God that eclipses anything in this life. 7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. The author exhorts his readers to remember their spiritual leaders. Now this exhortation actually cuts two ways. For those of us in any kind of leadership position in the church-deacon, deaconess, elder, pastor-we need to consider the example that we set for the brethren. Is our life and demeanor a reflection of the love and character of Jesus Christ? And if you are not in any leadership position, how do you relate to the faithful leaders in our denomination? This does not imply that we have to obey immoral leaders or those who have false teachings, but we should respect and follow the example of faithful servants of Jesus Christ. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. The author changes focus with this verse. This verse is an important one-line summary of what he has been emphasizing throughout the epistle. He is not referring to Jesus' appearance which obviously changed from infancy to adulthood during his earthly life. Rather this is a reference to his holy, perfect, sinless, and compassionate character. The technical term is immutable, i.e., Jesus' character is the same 2,000 years ago, today, and forever. Our circumstances constantly change. Our perspective on life can and does change but Jesus' character is ever constant-never whimsical. 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 eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. Let's look at the first part of this verse. Clearly, this is a direct warning against being seduced into following strange teachings. The obvious follow- up question is, "What constitutes strange teachings?" Let me suggest a couple of ideas. First, if someone is teaching something that has never been taught before in the history of Christianity, your heresy radar should be beeping. Consider that Christianity has been around for two millennia. How probable is it that someone will bring forth some teaching that is entirely new and is scripturally sound? Second, be on guard against anyone who emphasizes the blessings of this life (health and wealth gospel?) and ignores or downplays the eternal blessings which will be ours. Be careful of the two directions that religion can take-legalism whereby people believe they can earn favor with God through works and liberalism where someone believes that they can do anything they want because they are covered by grace. In the second part of this verse our author returns to a theme that we have noted throughout the entire book, that is, we are saved by grace through faith in the atoning work of Jesus. Be careful he says of yielding to pressure or temptation to follow the Jewish food laws. These laws are of no benefit to you. Don't rely on old covenant ways of worship. Our hearts are made right with God by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9), not by old covenant rituals. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. The word altar is a metaphor for a place of atonement. Jesus is our atonement. He is our source of forgiveness. If someone persists in the forms of worship found in the old covenant, they are missing the boat so to speak. They are entrapped by their adherence to rituals when freedom in Christ is available through faith in his atoning work. 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. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Again, the author reaches deep into the Old Testament and draws a comparison between the actions of the high priest on the Day of Atonement and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would bring the blood of the sacrificial animals into the Holy of Holies, but the body of the sacrificial animal would be burned outside the Israelite camp. When Jesus was crucified, he was put to death outside the walls of Jerusalem at Golgotha. Why should we be willing to accept disgrace for our faith? In verse 14 the author answers that question, For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Like Abraham, we look to a future city that is built by God not men. Since our orientation is to Jesus, we look to him, not to public opinion for approval. 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. The author seems to anticipate a question in his readers' minds. If we do not keep the old covenant sacrifices, then how do we worship? His answer is: let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. We worship God in our public praise of him and when we serve others. These actions are pleasing to God. 17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. As the author nears the end of his epistle, he makes another reference to church leadership and exhorts his followers to submit to their authority because they must keep watch over you and give an account for you. If you do this, their work will be a joy and not a burden. There is no benefit to making your leaders' work a burden. There is no question that authority can be misused but the writer is not suggesting that we submit to unbiblical or selfish commands; however, if leaders set a sterling example and lead well, it is a great benefit to the people. However, this is a two-way street-followers must also cooperate and work with their leaders. Let's briefly look at the subject of submission. Sometimes people balk at submission, but don't we all submit to something or someone on a regular basis? When I am driving, I do up my seatbelt. I am submitting to the law that requires that and it is for my good. Similarly, when I am driving through a children's playground area, I slow down to 30 km/hr. I submit to the traffic law. If we submit to these man-made traffic laws, can we not submit to those who are in positions of leadership in the church? To do otherwise is no benefit to church leadership or to us. 18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. The author asks his readers to pray for them. He asserts that he has a clear conscience and desires to live honorably in every way. Do you regularly pray for your pastor and the elders in our denomination? I hope you do. As some of you know, I did serve as a co-pastor years ago. I know that pastoring is not an easy role to fulfill. In addition to family responsibilities you have responsibility for the brethren that you oversee. And, frankly, not all the members of the congregation will be 100% supportive of your ministry. In a previous congregation one of the men voiced his opinion that if I became pastor, 50% of the church would leave. That is what you may have to deal with. If that man had issues with me, he should have spoken privately to me, but he never did. Not surprisingly he was a thorn in the side to the previous pastor as well. So, please pray for your pastor. In verse 19 the author makes a specific request that he may be restored to them soon. Perhaps he was incarcerated or otherwise cut off from them and desired to be reunited with them. Benediction As the author draws near the end of his letter to the Hebrews, he inserts this beautiful benediction. 20 Now 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, 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. Final Greetings 22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly. I can't help but smile when I read verse 22. The author says, I have written to you quite briefly. Really? It takes about 45 minutes to read the entire epistle. And that reminds of the story of young Becky who accompanied her mother and father to Sunday morning worship services. Pastor Jones approached the podium, carefully removed his wristwatch, and placed it beside his notes. Becky started tugging on her father's coattails. "Yes, Becky, what is it?" "Daddy, what does it mean when Pastor Jones removes his wristwatch and places it on the podium next to his notes?" Her father thought for a moment, shook his head, and quietly whispered, "Not a thing dear, not a thing." 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. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord's people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. 25 Grace be with you all. In the final verses the author mentions Timothy showing us that he had a relationship with him. He shares the good news that Timothy has been released from some type of imprisonment. The reference, those from Italy send you their greetings, can be interpreted in two ways. Perhaps he was writing to Rome or perhaps he was writing from Rome. It is not clear. The final "Grace be with you all" is a common closing remark that Paul also made in his epistles. Conclusion1 As we finish our study of the book of Hebrews, I wonder what the author would say to us believers living nearly 2,000 years after he originally wrote this letter. I think that he would emphasize the same message to us. Jesus is the Son seated at the right hand of God the Father. His mission was accomplished in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. There is no competing gospel to what he has accomplished. He is your Saviour and High Priest. Keep the faith my beloved brethren. God's grace be with all of you. Amen. *** finish in prayer *** Word count: 3780 Estimated time: 27 minutes 1 Morrison, Michael. https://www.gci.org/articles/closing-benediction-hebrews-1317-25/ Epistles: Final Exhortation & Closing Benediction (Heb. 13:1-25). Accessed 28 Jul 20. Referenced throughout this message. --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ Sermon Hebrews 13 -- Final Exhortations0Page 1 of 1 Keith M. Roberts0New Life Christian Fellowship0August 2, 2020
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