I like to give a summary of where we have come from for context, but because like the last 2 weeks when we chose to handle Hebrews 11 and Hebrews 12 in one big mea each, so to speak, we did the same thing with Chapter 13. In order to maximize our time in the chapter itself, I will give an abbreviated summary of where we have been.
Up until now, we have been seeing how God in these last days (John calls these days “the last hour” in his first general epistle) has chosen to speak to us through the person of His Son, through whom He has disclosed Himself to mankind fully. That Son, we saw is none other than Jesus, the long-promised Messiah (Gk., Christ; Eng., Anointed One). Jesus had come as a better high priest of a better priesthood with a better sacrifice, that would give a better redemption, better resurrection, and better reward than that of the Levitical (or any other) priesthood, who we saw were mere types and shadows that spoke of Him in Old Testament Scripture. We in fact saw all that in great detail, and had opportunity to speak of Moses, of Abraham, of Melchizedek, and others, and what that all meant and pointed to in the New Testament or Covenant under Jesus. What seems to have emerged is that this is a Covenant that is received by faith, or in terms of the five Solae of the Reformation, Sola Fide. And with that foundational ideal discussed in great detail in Chapter 11, we went on to entertain the concept of longsuffering, or “endurance” in Chapter 12 and a few of the reasons we need to have a mindset of endurance, we come to chapter 13, which like a typical Pauline letter, we have closing instructions, final thoughts, encouraging reasoning, and finishes with a wonderful doxology and personal details. (None of this means Paul wrote it, by the way. I think this may be a Lukeified version of an actual sermon Paul preached. But that bit is just speculation on my part, it doesn’t say who wrote this anywhere.
With that, let’s look at Chapter 13.
[Chapter Summaries shared here!]
I looked at the chapter like this:
KV13: So let us follow Christ in character
1-6: It’s all about your character
7-14: Our character comes from Christ’s
15-19: Christ’s Character in us leads to good works
20-25: He will personally equip our character
KV13: So let us follow Christ in character
Verse 13 reads, “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” This is really the second half of a sentence, the first half reading, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” We must give thanks and do everything else through Him, that is Christ. That is the main point of the entirety of Scripture – that everything must be done through Him – or it has no value.
It seems appropriate to me that as we started the study of this book by examining the character of God, that we look now at the character of those who would be His people. The very best that can be said of us as sinful people is that our character in a natural sense can in no way please God. Therefore (my favorite word), it falls to God to make those character changes in us that He needs to make. This began with the death of God the Son and continued with His being made alive again, and after that with our regeneration or heavenly new birth, we are given His life. As we obey God through the hardships that He allows in our lives, He begins to reform and remake our character as He sanctifies us through our trials and troubles – until ultimately He completes the work by making us like Christ. You don’t have the character of Christ, you say? You need to obey Him – and He will begin to form you into His image and character. And as we know from other places, it is ALL about your character.
1-6: It’s all about your character
It can be said that character can be recognized by what you do when nobody else is around. If you look at all the things that are mentioned in the first thought unit or paragraph of the chapter, you begin to see what I mean. Yes, this is a list of activities that can be done by anyone, I suppose, but who would want to? Let’s hop in so I can more easily explain my point.
1: Let love of the brethren continue.
- As has been previously pointed out by some impatient folk around here, my teaching can seem like lectures from a Greek lexicon. This is made even more ironic when one realizes that I do not speak or read Koine, Greek, the language of the New Testament. However, when I do give a Greek word and explain it, it is because I think it is important, and that the understanding I am giving is important on interpreting Scripture. The Greek word here is philadelphia, which means brotherly love.
- This should be contrasted with God’s love, or agape, which is a divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing love. The word used in this verse should be viewed as a brotherly affection for other believers. There is no article, and it is a noun. It means a friendly affection for one another as Christian brothers and sisters in fellowship together.
- Now comes the important question. Would you be willing to do this for all those “brothers” and “sisters” that you feel less affection for? Or perhaps would you be willing to offer the brothers that you don’t like as much less of that brotherly affection? Friends, we need to put that aside, there is no partiality with God. We all have issues – have mercy on each other. See? CHARACTER is required.
2: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
- Again, character. I also need to clear something up. Brotherly love and friendship is what you show to brothers and sisters. Hospitality is what you show strangers. People you do not know, or do not know well. Allow me to explain.
- In the first century, staying at an inn was taking your life into your own hands. The inns were places for parties, prostitution, and piracy. They were usually the places that roughnecks hung out, and any self-respecting traveler had better either be bringing his own security contingent or find someplace else to stay. A system of houses that were safe developed as a response to this, and for a part of a denarius, one could stay the night (the going rate was 1/32 denarius). What was needed to gain entrance to one of these “safe houses” was the address and a password. Christians may have founded this to provide itinerant brethren a safe place to stay, and soon they were everywhere. Think about this – Christians who were strangers to each other could stay with each other for safety in a day where everyone else was out to get them.
- What does it mean that they hosted angels unawares? Well, the Greek word is aggelos, but that can also mean humans if it is used in its strict sense of messengers. Personally, I think it means the heavenly variety most of the time – All the angels that men ever encountered on earth took human form, so why should this be any different? Or they might have played host to someone like Apollos and never known his name.
- Now – why – other than the character of Christ shining through – would anyone want to give hospitality to people they do not know?
3: Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
- Contextually, we should remember the day in which this was written, because it helps the understanding of the passage. This was written in the first century, and a lot of the world was hostile to Christianity. The phrase here is “remember THE prisoners,” and the author is reminding the hearers or readers that people were arrested for not worshipping Caesar Nero. The reason they would pray as if they were in prison with them, might have been because they HAD been or could end up there! They could sympathize or at least empathize with the folks in jail for the faith.
- The second group referenced here is confirming of that in my mind – those who were being ill-treated. Everyone in those days had at least seen someone being beat up or mocked verbally just as today. And nobody particularly wanted it to happen to them – so the author is telling them to pray like they were going through the same thing; they soon might be after all.
- This too is an issue of character. The ability to sympathize or empathize is even today seen as a positive character trait.
4: Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
- I think this is interesting – that first phrase is partly in italics, meaning that those words were not in the original and were inserted by the translators to clarify meaning. I think they did a good job here, but I could essentially translate it as “Marriage is honoured by all, and the bed undefiled.” I think the shorter phrasing makes it more effective when the whole verse is read. “Marriage is honoured by all, and the bed undefiled – for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
- The word for fornicators is pornos, and describes those that have sex outside of its own legal context – a man and his one wife. Any other context is sinful. I’m not saying people are bad if they are messing around outside of the proper context for sex. God is. Take it up with Him.
- Adulterers are those that have a spouse and have sex with someone who is NOT their current spouse. This means that they are breaking their vow before God to forsake all others until one of the two have died. Again, I’m not saying people who do this are bad. God is, and you should be taking this up with Him.
- That last phrase about how these two groups specifically God will judge is also interesting to me – both of these groups of people have a lack of self-control or don’t care what God says the proper way things should be…well, are. It seems to set up a special category for these, saying that God Himself will judge these individuals. Maybe that’s all the more reason they should take it up with Him.
- Now explain to me how this has nothing to do with character. The first do not seem to care for what the rules are, they just want to feel good without any consideration for what is right. Also, they do not trust God that He will supply their needs and they go after the passing pleasures of sin. That’s a character sin.
- The second group HAVE had their needs met by God who has provided them a spouse. For those that would look elsewhere, the trust issue applies, but now they have to go outside what God has provided them to other sources. They break their solemn vow before the Lord to seek to fulfil the desire because they cannot live within the context that God gave them. That’s also a sin of character.
5: Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
- And as if to make the point that this is all about character, the very next phrase is “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money.” The love of money is a symptom of an idolatrous heart. If you worship at the throne of plenty, you will never be satisfied with what God offers. Now do I really have to point out that the text says “free from the love of money” and not “free from the lack of money?” Beloved, this is not and never has been an anti-poverty message. Jesus said the poor would always be with us. I should know, I am one. But I have no desire to be rich, just enough to keep my family fed and clothed and housed.
- Instead, if we can be free from the love of money, we can be content with what God gives us. And people think that we have to take some Franciscan vow of poverty to be holy. No, beloved, He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” I can tell you stories, and so can my wife, about times where we had no money to pay the bills or feed the babies – and we prayed and God answered with just enough to keep us going until I could get paid or such. And if you don’t see the connection here between this and character (with the word character right in it), I’m not sure how much I can help.
6: so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
- And our character because of that sustaining power of God has character-stabilizing abilities. I will not fear what any group of persons will do to me, the worst they can do is kill me, and THAT’S doing me a FAVOUR!
7-14: Our character comes from Christ’s
This should be the underlying thing for all real Christians. For example, we shouldn’t be thinking that because WE are on JESUS’ side, Jesus now has a better ministry. God doesn’t need us at all, and some recent superstar rap artist who has made a profession of faith should do well to remember the title of his most recent gospel album – Jesus is King. There should, by the Holy Spirit, be a humility and teachability when the Scriptures are opened. There should be more of a choice for Him and less for me. There should be a concentrated forsaking of past sins. I don’t believe that happens all at once, but it should be at least in process. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These fruits should be increasing in the life of a new believer. Why?
It comes down to that great exchange that was talked about by a missionary to China named Hudson Taylor. It works like this – because Christ died in our place and in so doing paid the penalty we owed for our sins, we can now participate in His life. 2 Cor. 5:21 reads, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” A sort of exchange has been made by God on our behalf, and we as believers may now access His life freely upon request. When we were regenerated or born again (anew, from above), we were brought into the family of God, and our old nature died, and a new nature was implanted in us. Paul describes that in Gal. 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” It can truly be said that we now “have the mind of Christ,” as it says in 1 Cor. 2:16 in context. Clearly, our character comes from Christ.
7: Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
- Now, we are called newborn babes (1 Pet. 2:2) when we are first believers in Jesus. How does a baby actually learn? They listen and they imitate. Who should the believer first listen to? Those who spoke the word to them. Think about how they behave as Christians, and imitate them. Do you see now why our character is so important? Those of us who have been around for a while – the “younger” believers are all watching us and learning from our behaviour, either way I will add. Your example, or perhaps lack of it, can influence new believers. Sadly, I recall the negative effects of what one young man experienced. He was, by hypocrisy, turned off of “church” completely and turned to atheism – and he was a pastor’s kid. He is slowly coming back, but it’s a dicey thing, and I don’t blame him for being careful in who he chooses to talk to when he shows up. If they are going to affected by your witness or lack of it anyway (and you ARE accountable to God for that), let it be a good witness from you. Let the character of Christ come through, beloved.
8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
- Here is the one we should all seek to imitate – the best way to express Christ to the world around us is to follow His example to us. Okay, I hear you. “But Ger,” you say, “He died!” My answer is this – EXACTLY. If we did a little more of that, maybe there would be less argumentation over every. Little. Thing. Now, let’s deal with the text of the verse.
- The first thing to notice is that the verb is not present in the original, it can be a thing that is understood in the Greek. That it is not there is not really significant here, but consider that the Greek autos is used to convey the meaning of “He Himself and no other” on all occasions that it refers to Christ. This could well read, “Jesus Christ, He Himself and no other – Yesterday, today, and forever!” This is encouraging them to come to the unchangeable Christ Himself and no one else. He is THE universal constant. All other things by comparison are moving targets. Aim for imitating Him!
9: Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
- Because this is a verse in a sequence, after telling us to imitate godly examples and especially Christ, it talks about those moving targets. It warns us that these things are potentially capable of carrying us off, and warns us to be grounded in our source of character, Christ.
- Varied and strange teachings. Try this out – “many-coloured and alien (or foreign) teachings.” I find this fascinating. “many-coloured” comes from the Greek poikilos, “to make gay,” according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. What that means in today’s language is “to make festive.” This is that “things go better with Jesus gospel” that is a false gospel. You’ve heard the lines before – “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life…” Now that’s true – but that wonderful plan is only wonderful in terms of the outcome. Ask any of the Apostles – 11 of 12 and Paul were all murdered for the testimony to Jesus, and the other spent time in his old age in a Roman mine as a prisoner. There is nothing festive about any of that. Friends, Jesus is not like Coca-Cola. Things do not go better with Jesus. He has NOT commanded your health, prosperity, and joyfulness all your days. In fact, He deliberately uses difficult times to perfect you! Oh, it will be worth it, but we have learned repeatedly in Hebrews that God’s servants, especially His leaders of His people, run around destitute (that is, broke), afflicted (sick), and ill-treated (beat on both verbally and physically). Walking with Jesus is not a party.
- Alien – the Greek is xenos, and it literally means “the stranger,” who is sometimes called “the alien” in the Old Testament. I believe this may be strange doctrines that come up from time to time that are foreign to the gospel. The one that Paul wrote about in Galatians was circumcision. Marcion tried to dismiss the Old Testament. Arius denied the divinity of Jesus. Pelagius said that the gospel was based on works. We could go on. These strange doctrines all seek to alter the gospel so that something other than grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone is responsible for a person’s salvation. Now if you have been following this study for any length of time, you already know we think that is false – there is nothing that anyone can add to what Christ has already done (see Eph.2:8-9).
- The author talks about some of this by example. “It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace and not by foods.” I have some qualification to speak here. At age 48, I had a heart attack. I had a proper diet, I was even being medically supervised because I am diabetic – but I still had a heart attack. I have the stent they put in me to prove it. I actually watched what they were doing on a screen! It was really cool. But it was by grace that I am still here, not any good diet. How do I know that? The rest of the verse indicates that “those who were so occupied were NOT benefitted.” Look, I have a degree in biology. Eat right, exercise every day, die anyway! That is a lot less important than what happens after that, is it not?
- Now, theologically, this is a reference to the Levitical priests eating the food brought as a sacrifice – they got to keep some of it to eat, and it was to the Levites, considered holy – but it really did not convey any real spiritual benefit – only grace can do that.
10: We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.
- Here that theological reference is continued – we, compared to those Levitical servants of the tabernacle, have an altar of grace where we can eat – for which they have no right of participation, unless it is grace like we have. In this fashion, by grace, our hearts are to be strengthened for service to and for Him.
11: For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp.
- Now we are coming to a great parallel in typology. The author talks about the bodies of animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin. These would be perfect lambs – they are drained of blood, and their carcass is burned outside the camp by God’s instruction in several places in Leviticus. Why would it mention that here?
12: Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
- Wouldn’t you know it, Jesus also suffered outside the gate. His purpose was even to take away the sins of those who would turn to Him. Just like that pure lamb in the temple – The Lamb of God. But why?
13: So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.
- So we could follow Him, and so we could be like Him. We follow Him as living sacrifices, for in that great exchange where He paid the price of our sinning, He also paid the price of our redemption, and we are no longer our own – we are His – and we must go and be with Him.
14: For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
- So let’s go after that city by following Him now – and take our character from Him who loved us and washed us from our sins.
15-19: Christ’s Character in us leads to good works
Now – Remember how it says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that “…we are saved by grace through faith, and that no of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, so that no one may boast?” That’s followed by verse 10, which reads something like, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, so that we may walk in them.” In His death, we die with Him when we believe, and we are buried with Him, and we are raised with Him into newness of life. Baptism is a symbol of that, by the way. When we are raised, we gain His character by the Holy Spirit. Not perfectly, but enough to start down the road towards sanctification. That character results directly in God beginning to work through us to accomplish His plan on earth. That’s right, He causes us to start doing good works.
Notice the order here, please. God causes us to be born again or regenerated, THEN He causes us to do good works, NOT the other way around. Good works are a result of salvation, not the cause of it. Good works do not save in any way. Isaiah tells us that all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment in Isaiah 64:6. The sense in the Hebrew is used menstrual rags. If that offends your sensibilities, imagine how offended God must be, what with all those “righteous deeds” going on.
15: Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
- The very first of those real good works is to begin to worship God. Here it calls it in the best poetic language I have read, a sacrifice of praise, and the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. You see, blood is no longer required, Jesus offered His own, and it was that one sacrifice that was effective for all sins for all time…like we studied in chapter 9. It is easy for the child of God to praise just for that – let alone all the other blessings in our lives!
16: And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
- And those real good works like doing good to people (makes me think of paying for the coffee for the person behind you in line), and for sharing your stuff – these are also not only acceptable but pleasing sacrifices to God. Through the Old Testament, He informed the people then and us that sacrifice of animals did not give Him the kind of pleasure this does. 1 Sam. 15:22 says, “Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.” Our Lord takes pleasure when we treat others well, and when we share things.
17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
- And one of those good works is to obey church leadership! Contrary to what most people seem to believe through their actions today, Christianity is actually a religion of submission. We all submit to God, and we all submit to each other – all in love [agape], or the whole thing doesn’t work. Women are to submit to their husbands. Husbands are to submit as well, and love the woman like Christ loves the Church in that He died for it (see Eph. 5). Children are to obey parents. Slaves are to obey their masters (current version employees are to obey their employers). When we all willingly submit in agape love, this works beautifully.
- This all starts with obeying church leadership, because God has put them in that place of leadership, and you are our charges. We have to give an account of everyone that is in our charge, and the last thing anyone wants is to have to give a poor report. I know I wouldn’t be happy having to do that, and the way the verse is worded, you also will not be happy if I have to do that. It’s just bad all the way around.
- I think people have big problems with this, because they are afraid that the “leadership” either isn’t trustworthy or qualified, and that makes for trust issues sometimes. I’ve been in those kinds of authoritative relationships, and it isn’t pleasant when you do submit and then you get thrown under the bus. This is why we tell everyone that they have to find a good place of fellowship where they understand that we are all in direct accountability to God and want the very best for God’s people.
- Also, sometimes, I think that people just don’t want to submit, because our society as a whole has issues with authority. Everyone wants to get up in police officers’ faces when all they are trying to do is their job (keeping the peace). No one has anything nice to say about politicians in general, even though there are good ones that would run the country well (if we could ever get any of them elected). See? Even I have issues with that. So what do we do?
18: Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.
- We pray. Specifically for the leaders, the “us” that the author uses here. Interestingly, they were sure they had a good conscience to oversee the church, and in doing so. How did they know, and by implication how can WE know that WE have a good conscience? They had a desire to conduct themselves honourably. If your desire is to be above reproach for real, you will be – but only you and the Lord will know that unless you share that with someone else like the author did.
19: And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.
- The thing the author is urging is the “pray for us” from the last verse, but as it turns out there is a reason – so that the author may be restored (I think released from jail in this case) sooner. Prayer works, friends, that’s what this is about. And the author would know, too.
So what can we learn from this? That the new nature we gain when God regenerates us or causes us to be born again, should be leading us into good works. This is certainly borne out in Scripture, but it becomes at a certain level intuitive and instinctual. New nature, new instincts based on the new law written in our hearts and our thoughts. A desire to please the Father by good works comes almost as second nature (which it is) for new believers unless there are unique issues that God has allowed for His glory. Honestly, I had trouble coming up with examples of that, but I can allow for the possibility.
20-25: He will personally equip our character
With that knowledge of how the Lord Jesus Himself will work in us to produce that sanctified new nature and help us to learn how as His people to choose to serve Him and please God with our choices and our real good works, not the “righteous deeds” of our flesh (remember Isaiah), the author very naturally breaks into praise in the form of a closing doxology, in which he makes that exact promise.
20: Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,
- What is the very first way that God is identified in this verse? The God of peace. As it turns out, that word eirene, which is usually used as a feeling or state of well-being, can mean other things. In this passage, it is actually a title (and it is used in other places: Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23 among others), and the Hebrew word that is equated with it is shalom, meaning “wholeness.” (Vine’s) And what is our God of peace recognized and worshipped for?
- He brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep – that is, He raised Christ from the dead. This is, as the Apostle Paul identifies, the very crux of Christianity. 1 Cor. 15:12-14 says, “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.”
- Further, this was somehow accomplished through the blood of the eternal covenant. Did you catch that phrase, “eternal covenant?” That implies something of a plan, or a covenant if you will, that was in place from before the beginning of time. It is the eternal covenant. Lest I be accused of proof-texting to support unscriptural doctrines, I must ask – you have read Romans 8:29 and 30, have you not? And Ephesians chapter 1? Both of those say something about that eternal covenant. I am not just making things up as some would suggest. But the passage continues.
21: equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
- This is the completion of the sentence that starts with “Now the God of peace.” The rest of the last verse is what is called a parenthetical phrase. Filled with information, but beside the point. It is describing that God of peace. This is what that God of peace is doing – He is equipping us in every good thing to do His will.
- He is working in us whatever pleases Him, and He is doing that through our Lord Jesus Christ. The author is so moved by this that he breaks into spontaneous praise – “to whom be the glory forever and ever. So be it [Amen].”
22: But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.
- This next mini-section is really a thought unit on its own but it is like the PS section of a letter, so I have chosen to include it with my last paragraph division. Here is where the author says some interesting things. The first thing he does is characterize the letter as an exhortation, the word in Greek for strong encouragement. He also says that this letter is brief. Compared to the subject matter, that is true – it is shorter than say Romans or 1 Corinthians, and can be read in less than an hour. Compared to how the author could have gone through the book of Leviticus a verse at a time or sacrifice by sacrifice, this letter is a lot more brief than it could have been – it could have been half the size of the Old Testament!
- And the author asks the brethren to bear with the exhortation. What he is saying is that it is worth reading I think.
23: Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you.
- Here is the very kind of thing you would expect in a postscript to this kind of a letter. We don’t have any historic detail on Timothy’s imprisonment, but it is not a surprise to find that Paul’s protégé and son in the faith being imprisoned for preaching the word of God. It was a pattern. In fact, when Pliney the Elder wrote to the Emperor Trajan about these followers of Christ, in trying to find reason to arrest them for not worshipping Caesar without calling it that, had to admit that they were very moral people that paid their taxes, supported widows and orphans, fed the hungry, and generally improved society. Whoever did write this down travelled with Timothy.
24: Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.
- This is the final greeting, but there are some interesting things we can glean – did everyone notice that the reference to “all your leaders” is plural? True Church leadership is reflected in a plurality of elders. If you thought that “the pastor is in charge” was all there was to it, you are mistaken! At least around here, there is more than one leader, of which the pastor is considered the senior leader – but not the only leader.
- The greeting of these leaders and “all the saints” is meant to reflect the intimacy of Christian fellowship, and is especially seen by the greetings of those in Italy. That probably means the author was in Rome, and this is where he wrote from.
25: Grace be with you all.
- What better way to close a letter than to invoke the grace of God that comes through Jesus Christ?
If we have seen anything in this chapter, it is that God is so interested in our character that He is working on it as we walk with Him. He literally works through Christ to form in us what pleases Him. This is a defining characteristic of all real Christians. Remember in Chapter 12, we learned that if He wasn’t disciplining you, you weren’t His child? If God is not forming your character, you aren’t His. If you aren’t letting Him work in you, if you are constantly fighting His work in you, you still may not be his. But if you are His, His law is written on your heart. Wanting to please Him is a real desire He gave you. Doing His will is high on your priority list.
Maybe you’re sitting there thinking – that’s me – I’m the one fighting Him every step of the way. The great news here is that you can turn from your current behaviour (that’s called repentance). You can believe that Jesus died in your place and that it was enough to pay for your sins. You can believe that and be saved. As we conclude our study of Hebrews, please allow me to provide you with opportunity to turn from your sin and begin to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. You can rely on Him! If you have chosen to do that, get a hold of me by email.
That’s the chapter, and that’s the book of Hebrews!
Now that is out last study of the year. We will be back in the new year, but with a time change – we’re moving to Thursday Evenings at 7 p.m., and we will likely be meeting in the sanctuary if we get enough people. When we initially began this a couple of years ago, we started in Galatians because there was a fellow that really needed to hear the Gospel, and He did – and was saved. His life is still changing, and his family relationships are healing. I want to give praise to the Lord for that. After that, we continued through all of the Pauline epistles and Hebrews here, so we are going to circle back and get the three that we have not yet covered – starting with Romans, then 1 and 2 Corinthians in that order. Looking forward to seeing you in the new year!
God bless you all!