And so we embark upon the final leg of this incredible letter to the Hebrews. A people being hard-fought for to set aside the idols of sacrifice, and their fears of walking outside tradition, to follow Christ straight to the cross. It is the testimony of one sent, determined to deliver the call.
Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. (verses 1-3)
Clearly, this brotherly love (philia) was expected to already have been established because this is an exhortation to simply let it continue. And because I have always loved the various Greek words that are translated love, let’s take a quick look at each of them.
Agape: Most accurately defined as God’s love toward man. It is unchangeable, undemanding, and unselfish. An all-consuming passion for others that is not turned off by rejection.
Eros: A baser form of love, more centered on self, and is sexual in nature.
Philia: Brotherly, or companionable, love. It involves giving as well as receiving and it is about our happiness rather than my happiness.
Storge: A natural soul response to one’s family. Used to describe the love between a parent and their child or among family bonds in a more general sense.
This love also is mindful to receive strangers as well as those bound by struggle, tending to and meeting their needs as though they were our own. It is no small thing to consider that in so doing, we may actually be ministering to angels without realizing it.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (verse 4)
I honestly found it interesting that this verse is nested in among these others. But satan has countless ways to destroy a marriage and this is certainly one of, if not the most, effective of his strategies. Because a bed defiled is a relationship broken and the defilers will stand in judgement before God, no matter how they attempt to placate their consciences now.
But it stands to reason that an undefiled bed should be fought for and protected, encouraged here by the declaration that marriage is honourable in all. The world encourages sexual encounters of all kinds outside the bonds of marriage while, at the very same time, the enemy tries to put the brakes on God ordained sex within a marriage. Both lead to defilement, though one more insidiously than the other.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (verses 5, 6)
Oh, how many souls have come to ruin by means of unchecked wants? God has provided abundantly, sometimes even through the withholding of abundance, for our every need. He gives us what we need in order for us to get where we are going. He’s offered an allowance with which to make the journey, and He carefully determined the amount so we wouldn’t run out. We have no need to worry about that which He has not yet provided; if it is needed, He will supply. Contentment is truly the path to joy.
I love how Spurgeon puts it when referring to the promise I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Here, in his words, is a breakdown of that verse:
“You that are familiar with the Greek text know that there are five negatives here. We cannot manage five negatives in English, but the Greeks find them not too large a handful. Here the negatives have a fivefold force. It is as though it said, ‘I will not, not leave thee; I will never, no never, forsake thee.’”
Clearly, God wanted to be certain we understood, without any room for doubt, His committment of faithfulness!
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. (verse 7)
Unless you are one (and I am not) in a position of leadership over a flock, the weight of that burden cannot possibly be understood. I teach only a small group of young children and one of middle-age youth and even that responsibility is weighty. These men (and women) that God has sent forth carry a message they must first absorb themselves. And in the muddle of distraction and the flurry of ministry, it is far too easy to lose one’s own spiritual grip. We need to not only being willing to glean from the inspiration God gives to them, but we also need to be in prayer on their behalf. They have no ministry without the continual blessing of heaven.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. (verse 8)
I worship a very different Jesus than I did a decade ago. I hear Him calling to me in new ways and to different things. But He isn’t the one who has changed. The very same Jesus, who 10 years ago dealt with me in one way to walk me along the path, now approaches me in new ways to keep me moving forward rather than slipping back. It is the immutable depth of His wisdom that carries us toward change while not changing even a fraction Himself.
Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart may be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (verses 9-14)
Herein we receive another call not to cling to the sacrificial system. There is no profit in that which is no longer profitable and the blood of Christ had ended the need for the ceremonies which only pointed to the Saviour. The altar the beasts were sacrificed on was replaced with the altar, or cross, on which the Deliverer was slain.
Sacrifice had become for man a thing to accept rather than offer.
But make no mistake: there is definitely a cost in the acceptance of His offer. It involves laying aside ones own desires for the greater good to be found in His. And while this shouldn’t be hard, it almost always is while the relationship is being established. But once that love takes root and buds, casting off self loses its sting more all the time. And the acceptance of Christ results in a commission.
Because we are called to come unto him without the camp. We’re called to go outside our comfort zones and beyond the safe space within our own gates and serve Him, embracing the reproach that will come from stiff-necked, unbelievers. If we might only remember this one truth: if we serve Him, what this world does to us is as bad as it will ever get but if we choose to shrink back from His call, what this world does to us is as good as we’ll ever have it. Because sometimes we just need a dose of clear perspective.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (verses 15, 16)
What an amazing God we have that would allow Himself to be humiliated as one of us, be emptied of the very life humanity couldn’t stand, and then ask only that we offer the sacrifice of praise in return? But He asks us to speak those words of praise. To proclaim His goodness in every circumstance. Because bad times will fall upon us, of that we can be certain. We are living on a battleground as the war is waged around us…we will get caught in the crossfire. But we can avoid being taken a prisoner of war when the hard times hit, and our hearts have been shattered, by choosing to praise Him for what we cannot yet see.
That trust, my friends, is the sacrifice we are called to.
Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (verse 17)
It is no coincidence that we hear this plea repeated. Because stubborn humanity hasn’t changed much over the centuries, though the continued work of depravity has made our condition even more grave. But God knew our tendency is to be proud and trustful of self so He provided the repeated reminder to be in careful submission to those He has chosen to lead us.
This, of course, must involve a spiritually healthy shepherd leading the flock. A good leader will always direct those in his care to the throne of God, and not to an altar he’s built for himself.
Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. (verses 18, 19)
How earnestly we are entreated to be in prayer. And specifically, to be in prayer for those who lead us. We open channels of blessing, when we pray, that were before closed to us.
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen. (verses 20, 21)
And we are left with a proclamation of blessing poured out over our weary souls. He has made us able. Our trust is in the One with whom death can neither defy nor withstand. We are the clay in the hands of the very willing Potter and He delights in fashioning us exactly as He pleases. We must only be moldable so He can shape us because He promises the result will be perfection.
And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints, They of Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen. (verses 22-25)
Ahhh, the joy of liberty in Christ. Even when the world attempts to hold us captive, we are free to praise the God who unshackled (past tense because He’s already done the work) the chains that bind us. Free as was Timothy. If only we will accept the grace that He so freely offers in lieu of sacrifice.
Disclaimer: I feel like it’s important to point out, I am a Bible student and not a Bible scholar. These studies are a reflection of my own personal journey each morning through one chapter of Scripture. I open the Word only after praying for discernment but I also fully understand the Lord brings increasing light over time, as it is sought. Therefore, I recognize there is much I have not yet come to understand. I welcome Christlike discussion on any of my posts.