Hebrews 13:20-21 Experiencing Spiritual Lordship


These last verses in Hebrews seem to gather together the major themes of the letter: peace, the resurrected Christ, the blood, the covenant, spiritual perfection (maturity), and God’s work in the believer. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ died for the sheep (John 10:11). As the Great Shepherd, He lives for the sheep in heaven today, working on their behalf. As the Chief Shepherd, He will come for the sheep at His return (1 Pet. 5:4). Our Shepherd cares for His own in the past, present, and future. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Our Great High Priest is also our Great Shepherd. When He was on earth, He worked for us when He completed the great work of redemption (John 17:4). Now that He is in heaven, He is working in us to mature us in His will and bring us to a place of spiritual perfection. We will never reach that place until He returns (1 John 2:28-3:3); but while we are waiting, we are told to continue to grow. The phrase “make you perfect” (v. 21) is the translation of one Greek word, [katartidzo]. This is an unfamiliar word to us, but it was familiar to the people who received this letter. The doctors knew it because it meant “to set a broken bone.” To sailors it meant “to outfit a ship for a voyage.” To soldiers it meant “to equip an army for battle.”

Our Savior in heaven wants to equip us for life on earth. Tenderly, He wants to set the “broken bones” in our lives so that we might walk straight and run our life-races successfully. He wants to repair the breaks in the nets so that we might catch fish and win souls. He wants to equip us for battle and outfit us so that we will not be battered in the storms of life. In brief, He wants to mature us so that He can work in us and through us that which pleases Him and accomplishes His will. How does He equip us? By tracing this Greek word [katartidzo] in the New Testament, we can discover the tools that God uses to mature and equip His children. He uses the Word of God, prayer, and fellowship of the local church. He also uses individual believers to equip us and mend us. Finally, He uses suffering to perfect His children, and this relates to what we learned from chapter 12 about chastening.

The basis for this marvelous work is “the blood of the everlasting covenant (v. 20). This is the New Covenant that was discussed in chapter 8, a covenant based on the sacrifice discussed in chapter 10. Because this New Covenant was part of God’s eternal plan of salvation, and because it guarantees everlasting life, it is called “the everlasting covenant.” However, apart from the death of Jesus Christ, we can share in none of the blessings named in this profound benediction. As we close on this study blog on the book of Hebrews, lets reflect on the total impact that Hebrews has in answering the all too important question, “How can I stand firm in a world that is shaking all around me?” The answer: Know the superior Person, Jesus Christ; trust His superior priesthood; and live on the things of heaven that will never shake. Be confident! Jesus Christ saves to the uttermost!

Hebrews 13:20-21 Reflection Questions:

How are you continuing to grow spiritually?

What tools is God currently using to “perfect you”?

I’d like to challenge you to make Hebrews 13:20-21 a personal prayer: “Lord, make me perfect in every good work to do Your will. Work in me that which is well-pleasing in Your sight. Do it through Jesus Christ and may He receive the glory.” Amen!

Hebrews 13:10-16, 18-19 Sharing in Spiritual Worship


While it’s true that a New Covenant Christian is not involved in the ceremonies and furnishings of an earthly tabernacle or temple, it is not true that he is deprived of the blessings that they typify. A Jew under the Old Covenant could point to the temple, but a Christian has a heavenly sanctuary that can never be destroyed. The Jews were proud of the city of Jerusalem; but a Christian has an eternal city, the New Jerusalem. For each of an Old Testament believer’s temporary earthly items, a New Covenant believer has a heavenly and eternal counterpart.

“We have an altar” (v. 10) does not suggest a material altar on earth, for that would contradict the whole message of the epistle. In the Old Testament sanctuary, the brazen altar was a place for offering blood sacrifices, and the golden altar before the veil was a place for burning incense, a picture of prayer ascending to God. A New Covenant Christian’s altar is Jesus Christ; for it is through Him that we offer our “spiritual sacrifices” to God (v. 15). We may set aside places in our church buildings and call them altars; but they are really not altars in the biblical sense. Why? Because Christ’s sacrifice has already been made, once and for all; and the gifts that we bring to God are acceptable, not because of any earthly altar, but because of a heavenly altar, Jesus Christ.

The emphasis in this section is on separation from dead religion and identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in His reproach. The image comes from the Day of Atonement. The sin offering was taken outside the camp and burned completely (Lev. 16:27). Jesus is the perfect sin offering, suffered and died “outside the gate” of Jerusalem. All true Christians must go out to Him, spiritually speaking, to the place of reproach and rejection. “Why stay in Jerusalem when it is not your city?” asked the writer. “Why identify with the Old Covenant Law when it has been done away with in Christ?” The readers of this epistle were looking for a way to continue as Christians while escaping the persecution that would come from unbelieving Jews. “It cannot be done,” the writer stated in so many words. “Jerusalem is doomed. Get out of the Jewish religious system and identify with the Savior who died for you.” There is no room for compromise.

The writer named two of the “spiritual sacrifices” that we offer as Christians in verses 15-16. The first spiritual sacrifice is continual praise to God (v. 15). The words of praise from our lips coming from our hearts, is like beautiful fruit laid on the altar. How easy it is for suffering saints to complain, but how important it is for them to give thanks to God. The second spiritual sacrifice is good works of sharing (v. 16). This would certainly include the hospitality mentioned in verse 2, as well as the ministry to prisoners in verse 3. “Doing good” can cover a multitude of ministries: sharing food with the needy; transporting people to and from church and other places; sharing money; perhaps just being a helpful neighbor. Next the writer emphasizes the importance of prayer (vv. 18-19). He was unable to visit readers personally, but he did want their prayer help. It is possible that some of his enemies had lied about him, so he affirms his honesty and integrity.

Hebrews 13:10-16, 18-19 Reflection Questions:

Do you praise God daily (even through the day) for the blessing He has given you?

What are some ministry ideas God has put on your heart that you have been procrastinating on?

What will you do to improve your prayer life?

Hebrews 13:7-9, 17&24 Submitting to Spiritual Leadership


Three times the writer used the phrase, “Them that have the rule over you.” The phrase refers to the spiritual leaders of the local assemblies. The church is an organism, but it is also an organization. If an organism is not organized, it will die. Wherever Paul went, he founded local churches and ordained qualified believers to lead them (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). “Saints, bishops (elders), and deacons” (Phil. 1:1) summarize the membership and leadership of the New Testament churches. Each Christian has three responsibilities toward the spiritual leaders in the local church.

Remember them (vv. 7-9): The word “remember” may suggest that these leaders were dead, perhaps martyred, and should not be forgotten. How easy it is to forget the courageous Christians of the past whose labors and sacrifices made it possible for us to minister today. But while we do not worship people or give them the glory, it is certainly right to honor them for their faithful work (1 Thes. 5:12-13). These leaders probably had led the readers to Christ because the leaders had spoken the Word to them. Today, we can read the Bible for ourselves, listen to the radio or TV sermons. We are in danger to taking the Word for granted.  When local churches change pastors, there is a tendency also to change doctrines or doctrinal emphases (v. 9). We must be careful not go beyond the Word of God and the spiritual foundation of the church. That is why I believe the writer of Hebrews pointed to; “the outcome of their way of life” (v. 8) – “Jesus Christ, is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Their lives pointed to Christ!

Obey them (v. 17): When a servant of God is in the will of God, teaching the Word of God, the people of God should submit and obey. This does not mean that pastors should be dictators (1 Pet. 5:3). Some church members have a flippant attitude toward pastoral authority, and this is dangerous. One day every pastor will have to give an account of his ministry to the Lord, and he wants to be able to do it with joy. A disobedient Christian will find on that day that the results of disobedience are unprofitable, not for the pastor, but for himself. It’s much easier to “win souls” than it is to “watch for souls.” The larger the church grows the more difficult it becomes to care for the sheep. Sad to say, there are some ministers whose only word is to preach and “run the program”; they have no desire to minister to the souls placed in their care. Some are even “hirelings” who work only for money, and who run away when danger is near (John 10:11-14). However, when a shepherd is faithful to watch for souls, it is important the sheep obey him.

Greet them (v. 24): The Jews used to greet each other with “Shalom – peace!” The Greeks often greeted one another with “Grace!” Paul combined these two and greeted the saints with “Grace and peace be with you!” When Paul wrote to pastors, he greeted them with “Grace, mercy, and peace.” (I wonder why?) Of course, the writer of Hebrews was sending his personal greetings to the leaders of the church; but this is a good example for all of us to follow. Every Christian should be on speaking terms with his pastor. Never allow any “root of bitterness” to grow up in your heart (Heb. 12:15) because it will only poison you and hurt the whole church. While it’s true that each member of a local body has an important ministry to perform, it is also true that God has ordained spiritual leaders in the church.

 Hebrews 13:7-9, 17&24 Reflection Questions:

Are on speaking terms with your pastor?

Are you obedient to your church leadership?

Do you honor church leaders for their faithful work?

Hebrews 13:1-6 Enjoying Spiritual Fellowship


As you read this last chapter in Hebrews, you get the impression that the writer had a great deal of miscellaneous matter to discuss and saved it till the end. In chapter 12, we were rejoicing on Mt. Zion; and now we are discussing such everyday topics as hospitality, marriage, church officers, and who was the last one to be released from jail. But in the Bible, there is no division between doctrine and duty, revelation and responsibility. The two always go together. The emphasis in this last section of the book is on living by faith. The writer presented the great examples of faith in chapter 11, and the encouragements of faith in chapter 12. Here in chapter 13, he presented the evidences of faith that should appear in our lives if we are really walking by faith and not by sight. We will study four such evidences as we study chapter 13.

The basis for this fellowship is brotherly love. As Christians, these Hebrew people no doubt had been rejected by their friends and families. But the deepest kind of fellowship is not based on race or family relationship; it is based on the spiritual life we have in Christ. A church fellowship based on anything other than love for Christ and for one another simply won’t last. Where there is true Christian love, there will also be hospitality (v. 2). This was an important ministry in the early church because persecution drove many believers away from their homes. Also, there were traveling ministers who needed places to stay (3 John 5-8). Many poor saints could not afford to stay in an inn; and since the churches met in homes, it was natural for a visitor to just stay with his host.

Love also expresses itself in concern (v. 3). It was not unusual for Christians to be arrested and imprisoned for their faith. To identify with these prisoners might be dangerous; yet Christ’s love demanded a ministry to them. To minister to a Christian prisoner in the name of Christ is to minister to Christ Himself (Matt. 25:36, 40). In our free country we are not arrested for religious beliefs; but in other parts of the world, believers suffer for their faith. We need to pray for them and share with them as the Lord enables us!

The home is the first place where Christian love should be practiced (v. 4). A Christian home begins with a Christian marriage in the will of God. This means loyalty and purity. Sex outside of marriage is sinful and destructive. Sex within the protective bonds of marriage can be enriching and glorifying to God. In these days, when sexual sins are paraded as entertainment in movies and on television, the church needs to take a stand for purity of the marriage bond. A dedicated Christian home is the nearest thing to heaven on earth, and it starts with a Christian marriage.

If we love God and others as we should then we will have a right relationship to material things (vv. 5-6). Times of suffering can either be times of selfishness or times of service. It’s not easy to take “joyfully the spoiling of your goods (Heb. 10:34). But with economic and ecological problems in our world today, comfortable Christians may soon find themselves doing without some luxuries that they now consider necessities. The word covetousness literally means “love of money”; but it can be applied to a love for more of anything. Contentment cannot come from material things, for they can never satisfy the heart. Only God can do that (see Luke 12:15). When we have God, we have all that we need. The material things of life can decay or be stolen, but God will never leave us or forsake us.

The affirmation of faith in verse 6 comes from Psalm 118:6. This is a messianic psalm and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, so we may claim this promise for ourselves. It was a source of great peace to the early Christians to know that they were safe from fear of man, for no man could do anything to them apart from God’s will. Men might take their goods, but God would meet their needs. The important thing is that we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Helper, and that we not put our trust in material things. Contended Christians are people with priorities, and material things are not high on their priority lists.

Hebrews 13:1-6 Reflection Questions:

Do you have the gift of hospitality, if so how often do you use it for the body of Christ?

Do you have a gift for those (of all ages) who are in incarceration?

Do you struggle with covetousness? Are material things a high priority for you?

If you were to lose everything (maybe like Job) would you be contended with your relationship with Jesus?

Hebrews 12:14-29 The Enablement of God’s Grace


As we run the Christian race, what is our goal? The writer explained the goal in verse 14: Peace with all men, and holiness before the Lord. These two goals remind us of our Lord’s high priestly ministry – King of peace and King of righteousness (Heb. 7:1-2). It requires diligence to run the race successfully lest we “fail of the grace of God” (v. 15). God’s grace does not fail, but we can fail to take advantage of His grace. In this section, the writer encouraged his readers to depend on the grace of God by urging them to look by faith in three directions.

Look back – the bad example of Esau (vv. 15-17): Esau certainly failed to act on God’s grace (see Gen. 25:27-34, 27:30-45). Esau was a “profane person” which means “common person, one who lives for the world and not God.” Esau despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob, and he missed the blessing because it was given to Jacob. Afterward, Esau tried to get Isaac to change his mind, but it was too late. Esau’s tears availed nothing. What sins will rob us of the enabling of God’s grace? These verses tell us: lack of spiritual diligence, bitterness against others, sexual immorality, and living for the world and the flesh. Some people have the idea that a “profane person” is blasphemous and filthy; but Esau was a congenial fellow, a good hunter, and a man who loved his father. He would have made a fine neighbor – but he was not interested in the things of God. God’s grace does not fail, but we can fail to depend on God’s grace. Esau is a warning to us not to live for lesser things.

Look up – the glory of the heavenly city (vv. 18-24): The writer now contrasts Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Law with the heavenly Mt. Zion and the blessings of grace in the church. He describes the solemnity and even the terror that were involved in the giving of the Law. The people were afraid to hear God’s voice, and even Moses feared and trembled! What a relief it is to move from Mt Sinai to Mt Zion! Mt Sinai represents the Old Covenant of Law, and Mt Zion represents the New Covenant of grace in Jesus Christ. He describes the “citizens” that make up the population of Mt. Zion. Innumerable angels are there. The church is there, for believers have their citizenship in heaven and their names are written in heaven. God is there of course, and so are the Old Testament saints. Jesus Christ the Mediator is there the One who shed His blood for us. When the days are difficult and we are having a hard time enduring that is when we should look up and contemplate the glories of heaven. One way to lay hold of God’s grace is to look ahead by faith to the wonderful future He has prepared for us.

Look ahead – the unshakeable kingdom (vv. 25-29): God is speaking to us today through His Word and His providential workings in the world. We had better listen! If God shook things at Sinai and those who refused to hear were judged, how much more responsible are we today who have experienced the blessings of the New Covenant! God today is shaking things. He wants to tear down the “scaffolding” and reveal the unshakable realities that are eternal. However, too many people (including Christians) are building their lives on things that can shake. The “shaking” quotation is from Haggai 2:6 and refers to that time when the Lord shall return and fill His house with glory. As events draw nearer to that time, we shall see more shaking in this world. But a Christian can be confident, for he shall receive an unshakeable kingdom. In fact, he is a part of God’s kingdom today.

What shall we do as we live in a shaking world? Listen to God speak and obey Him. Receive grace day by day to serve Him “with reverence and godly fear.” Do not be distracted or frightened by the tremendous changes going on around you. Keep running the race with endurance. Keep looking to Jesus Christ. Remember that your Father loves you, and draw on God’s enabling grace. While others are being frightened, you can be confident!

Hebrews 12:14-29 Reflection Questions:

Are you living for lesser things, like Esau?

Where do you look to when times get tough?

Are you frightened or confident by what’s going on around you in the world today? Why?

Hebrews 12:5-13 The Assurance of the Love of God


The key word in these verses is “chastening.” The writer viewed the trials of the Christian life as spiritual discipline that could help a believer mature. Instead of trying to escape the difficulties of life, we should rather be “exercised” by them so that we might grow (v. 11). When we are suffering, it is easy to think that God does not love us. So the writer gave three proofs that chastening comes from the Father’s heart of love.

The Scriptures (vv. 5-6): Verses 5-6 is the quotation from Proverbs 3:11-12, a statement that his readers had known but had forgotten (this is one of the sad consequences of getting “dull” toward the Word). This quotation is an “exhortation,” which literally means “encouragement.” Because they forgot the Word, they lost their encouragement and were ready to give up. God deals with us as adult sons and daughters because we have been adopted and given an adult standing in His family. The fact that the Father chastens us is proof that we are maturing, and it is the means by which we can mature even more. Satan wants us to believe that the difficulties of life are proof that God does not love us, but just the opposite is true. Sometimes God’s chastening is seen in His rebukes from the Word or from circumstances. At other times He shows His love by punishing us with some physical suffering. Whatever the experience, we can be sure that His chastening hand is controlled by His loving heart. The Father does not want us to be pampered babies; He wants us to become mature adult sons and daughters who can be trusted with the responsibilities of life.

Personal experience (vv. 7-11): If a child is left to himself, he grows up to become a selfish tyrant. The point the writer made in verses 7-8 is that the father chastens only his own sons, and this is proof that they are his children. Why do earthly fathers correct their kids? So that their offspring might show them reverence and obey what they command. This is why the Heavenly Father corrects us: He wants us to reverence Him and obey His will. A child who does not learn subjection to authority will never become a useful, mature adult. Any of God’s children who rebel against His authority are in danger of death! Verse 9 suggests that, if we do not submit, we might not live. God chastens us for our profit so that we might share His holy character.

The blessed results (vv. 11-13): No chastening at the time is pleasant either to the father or to his child, but the benefits are profitable. The Father does not enjoy having to discipline His children, but the benefits afterward make the chastening an evidence of His love. What are some of the benefits? For one thing, there is “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” Instead of continuing to sin, the child strives to do what is right. The rebellion has ceased and the child is in loving fellowship with the Father. Chastening also encourages a child to exercise in spiritual matters – the Word of God, prayer, meditation, witnessing, etc. All of this leads to a new joy. Paul describes it: “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

Of course, the important thing is how God’s child responds to chastening. He can despise it or faint under it (v. 5), both of which are wrong. He should show reverence to the Father by submitting to His will (v. 9), using the experience to exercise himself spiritually (v. 11) The example of God’s Son, and the assurance of God’s love, certainly should encourage us to endure in the difficult Christian race. But there is a third resource, which we will study next week.

Hebrews 12:5-13 Reflection Questions:

Are you studying God’s Word daily? If so how has that kept you encouraged?

In what ways have you been chastened by God?

Are you exercising in spiritual matters (the Word of God, prayer, meditation, witnessing, etc.) or are you falling away?