Lecture 25: Hebrews 13
Lecture: Hebrews 13
This is the last chapter of Hebrews where we get to the end of this intense argument. There are very different dynamics in play here. Some people through the years have suggested that Hebrews 13 was something later attached to the Book. The best work addressing this question is by a person, Floyd Filson entitled ‘Yesterday’. Filson showed that rather than being something tacked onto the end, chapter 13 flows out of the first 12 chapters of the book. It serves as the conclusion to Hebrews having several main movements. This is the purpose; it is serving as the conclusion.
II. Hebrews 13:1-6
1 η φιλαδελφία (2 brotherly affection) μενέτω (1 Let abide!)
2 της φιλοξενίας μη (Let not hospitality) επιλανθάνεσθε (be forgotten!) διά (2 by) ταύτης (3 this) γαρ (1 for) έλαθόν τινες (some were unaware) ξενίσαντες (having lodged) αγγέλους (angels.)
3 μιμνήσκεσθε (Remember) των (the) δεσμίων (prisoners!) ως (as) συνδεδεμένοι (being tied with them,) των (the ones) κακουχουμένων (being mistreated,)
ως (as) και (also) αυτοί (yourselves) όντες (being) εν (in) σώματι (the body.)
4 τίμιος (3 is esteemed) ο (1 The) γάμος (wedding) εν (in) πάσι (every way,) και (and) η (the) κοίτη (marriage-bed) αμίαντος (undefiled;) πόρνους δε (but fornicators) και (and) μοιχούς (adulterers) κρινεί ο θεός (God will judge.)
5 αφιλάργυρος (Let not loving money) ο (be the) τρόπος (manner,) αρκούμενοι (but being sufficient) τοις (with the things) παρούσιν (at hand.) αυτός γαρ (For)
είρηκεν (he has said,) ου μη (In no way) σε ανώ (will I forsake you,) ουδ΄ (nor) ου μη (in no way) σε εγκαταλίπω (will I abandon you.)
6 ώστε (So that) θαρρούντας (taking courage) ημάς (we) λέγειν (say,) κύριος (The Lord) εμοί (is to me) βοηθός (a helper,) και (and) ου (I will not) φοβηθήσομαι (be afraid.) τι (What) ποιήσει (shall 2 do) μοι (3 to me) άνθρωπος (1 man?)
For example, in verses 1-6 he gives a list of practical guidelines for living. Some call this paranesis; rather than addressing specific problems in the church, the author is tapping into general exhortations morally for Christians. These verses represent an ethical base for living well in the Christian community. For elders, the qualifications as stated in the New Testament are all related to character. A good idea for a book would be ‘A Witness of Character.’ There is the idea that the churches’ witness and ministry goes forward on the back of people living well under the lordship of Christ. I think we need to be involved in overt evangelism, but if you don’t have the moral-ethical foundation, then your evangelism isn’t going anywhere, neither is the dynamic in the community of your church. Often the church grows because a pastor is a gifted speaker but it dissolved because that person can’t sustain right relationships or has a problem with money or something else. We need to constantly look well to our character and walk with others who can help us to do that in community. We need to have a loving accountability with others to keep us on the righteous path. It may be that the first statement that we translate something like let brotherly love continue. This may be the heading for what follows. Do not neglect to show hospitality because through this, without knowing it, some have entertained angels. He is alluding to Abraham; the value of showing hospitality in Jewish piety in the ancient world was very high. The reason was due to the difficult traveling situation in the ancient world. You didn’t have the Inns that we have available to us today. At that time, a lot of Inns were places for thieves and prostitutes. They weren’t nice places to stay; so a traveling person was dependent on other followers of God in other cities who would take them in. You see this everywhere in the Scriptures. Today, what this means is that we need to have homes that are open. There is a different cultural context here; if a person that I don’t know shows up on my doorstep, that I have to let them stay in the guest room. What he is saying is that I need to be characterized by having an open hand by my, I am not sure that I would let them stay in my home but I would try to meet the needs to minister to people.
Secondly, we need to remember the prisoners as they were fellow prisoners. We should keep in mind those who are in jail to the extent like being in jail with them. The author says to remember those who are prisoners and the ones being mistreated as also those being in the body. Those who are being
mistreated, remember them as if you were that person being tortured. He is talking about identification and solidarity. Thirdly, he mentions marriage; marriage is honorable in all things and the marriage bed is pure and as far as adulterers, God will judge them. So, the marriage is to be honored and the marriage bed is pure. In some of the church fathers, I think there was a lack of perspective on biblical sex. As far as the biblical witness, there is an awesome healthy perspective on the nature of the sexual relationship between husband and wife. The author is very much affirming the beauty and the purity of the relationship between a husband and wife. The fourth thing that he points out has to do with being a lover of money. He says flee from the love of money and be content with the present things. He has said that by no means he will leave you nor desert you. Some translations say, I will not fail you or by any means leave you behind. We confidently say the Lord is our helper and we will not be afraid. What will man do to us?
Why would the author deal with this, from what we know from the backdrop of this community? This probably has to do with their circumstances with experiencing persecution. He tells us to keep money in perspective and be content with the things you have because God isn’t going to abandon you. We think of God as our helper and we don’t fear people. Living well, in part means to focus on the basic foundational aspects of life. How do you do in your basic relations and in marriage; how do you handle money? Don’t get into the bondage of money by owing other people.
III. Hebrews 13:7-8
7 μνημονεύετε (Remember) των (the ones) ηγουμένων (leading) υμών (you!) οίτινες (ones who) ελάλησαν (spoke) υμίν (to you) τον (the) λόγον (word) του θεού (of God;) ων (whom) αναθεωρούντες (contemplating) την (the) έκβασιν (result) της (of the) αναστροφής (behavior,) μιμείσθε (you imitate) την (the) πίστιν (belief!)
8 Ιησούς (Jesus) χριστός (Christ) χθές (yesterday) και (and) σήμερον (today) ο (the) αυτός (same,) και (and) εις (into) τους (the) αιώνας (eons.)
In verse 7, he turns to another issue which forms an inclusio to what he says in verse 17. This is because he is dealing with leadership in both places. In verse 24, he mentions the greetings of the leaders. He says to remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you. There is a question as to who he is talking about here. He goes on to say, considering the manner of their outcome of life; imitate the faith.
You have the leaders used as his last example of faith in the book. So, he says to imitate their faith. Bill Lane interprets these leaders as those who originally preached the Gospel to this community and have now died. It is true of the term we translated here, can refer to death. It is how they lived to the end of their life. But I think he is talking about the leaders who are still living in the community. He is also talking about the model of leaders in the community as to the right pattern of life and the community following those leaders in that pattern of life. Now is verse 8, he says Jesus Christ yesterday, today, the same and forever. Why is he saying this? In one of the psalms in chapter 1 where it says, you Lord, in the beginning, laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the works of your hands. Then he says that the earthly creation will perish but you remain. Your years will not come to an end. He is using the leaders as a positive example, not as a concession. The way I would say it, Christ in his unchanging nature is the stability for the community. We look at the history of our community, things change in our circumstances. Look at the pattern of how you leaders live; that is a level of stability but the ultimately foundation and grounding is in Jesus, who doesn’t change. In other words, the essence of the nature of the community isn’t going to change over time simply because Christ doesn’t change. Now, be aware that in verse 17, they are encouraged to submit to their leaders. Even in verse 24, the leaders still seem to be there. The obvious challenge to us as leaders in the church is for us to live well. You get to live a life that is worthy. You also see this pattern in Paul.
IV. Hebrews 13:9-16
9 διδαχαίς (6 teachings) ποικίλαις (3 by various) και (4 and) ξέναις (5 strange) μη (1 Be not) περιφέρεσθε (2 carried about!) καλόν γαρ (For it is a good thing) χάριτι (4 with favor) βεβαιούσθαι (1 to be firmed up) την (2 in the) καρδίαν (3 heart,) ου (not) βρώμασιν (by foods,) εν (in) οις (which) ουκ ωφελήθησαν (3 derive no benefit) οι (1 the ones) περιπατήσαντες (2 walking.)
10 έχομεν (We have) θυσιαστήριον (an altar,) εξ (of) ου (which) φαγείν (8 to eat) ουκ (5 do not) έχουσιν (6 have) εξουσίαν (7 authority) οι (1 the ones) τη (3 the) σκηνή (4 tent) λατρεύοντες (2 serving.)
11 ων γαρ (For those 2 whose) εισφέρεται (4 is carried in) ζώων (1 creatures) το αίμα (3 blood) περί (for) αμαρτίας (a sin offering) εις (into) τα (the) άγια (holies) διά (by) του (the) αρχιερέως (chief priest,) τούτών (of these) τα (the) σώματα (bodies) κατακαίεται (are incinerated) έξω (outside) της (the) παρεμβολής (camp.)
12 διό (Therefore) και (also) Ιησούς (Jesus,) ίνα (that) αγιάση (he should sanctify) διά (3 by) του ιδίου (4 his own) αίματος (5 blood) τον (1 the) λαόν (2 people) έξω (7 outside) της (8 the) πύλης (9 gate) έπαθε (6 suffered.)
13 τοίνυν (Therefore) εξερχώμεθα (let us go forth) προς (to) αυτόν (him) έξω (outside) της (the) παρεμβολής (camp,) τον ονειδισμόν (3 scorn) αυτού (2 his) φέροντες (1 bearing.)
14 ου (3 not) γαρ (1 For) έχομεν (2 we do have) ώδε (here) μένουσαν (an abiding) πόλιν (city,) αλλά (but) την (2 the one) μέλλουσαν (3 about to be) επιζητούμεν (1 we anxiously seek.)
15 δι΄ (By) αυτού (him) ούν (then) αναφέρωμεν (we should offer) θυσίαν (a sacrifice) αινέσεως (of praise) διά πάντος (at all times) τω θεώ (to God,) τουτ΄ έστι (that is to say,) καρπόν (fruit) χειλέων (of the lips) ομολογούντων (of acknowledging) τω (to) ονόματι αυτού (his name.)
16 της δε (But of the) ευποιϊας (well-doing) και (and) κοινωνίας (fellowship) μη (do not) επιλανθάνεσθε (forget!) τοιαύταις γαρ (for with such) θυσίαις (sacrifices) ευαρεστείται ο θεός (God is well-pleased.)
The author tells us not to be carried away by various and strange teachings. It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace not by food in which the ones walking are not benefited. We have an altar from which to eat that the ones serving in the tabernacle have no right to eat. He is still pulling in the contrast between the old covenant system of worship and the new covenant. We have an altar that we participate in from which they who are serving in the tabernacle don’t have any right to eat. One of the possibilities here in the broader Hellenistic world of the day, people did celebrate certain types of meals in which they were identifying with sacrifices that were going on in the temple back in Jerusalem. If it is the case as being part of their struggle going from an emergent Christian Judaism back into a mainline Judaism there in Rome, it may be part of the temptation has to do with these sacrificial types of meals, where you are in fellowship with those who are gaining strength. In fact, you have places in the Scripture and in Jewish literature in which these meals were said to strengthen the heart. Especially these fellowship meals were seen as communicating the grace of God to give spiritual strength. They were to remind the faithful of the ultimate expression of thanking God for redemption related to the Jerusalem altar. Think about the context here; if some of them are abandoning the Christian community to go these Jewish meals, this would make sense to what the author is saying here. He is using language from the sacrificial system. In verse 11, he mentions again the animals, the blood of the animals being taken into the holy place by the high priest. Then he says that their bodies were burned outside the camp. He is again referring back to the Old Testament sacrificial system; he is bringing this imagery of these sacrifices having their bodies burned outside the camp.
He is going to draw this analogy to Jesus in verse 12. Therefore, also Jesus in order that he might sanctify the people through his own blood suffered outside the gate. The idea that outside of Jerusalem is where Jesus suffered; he is drawing the analogy of the sacrifices being burned outside and Jesus being outside. He’s using this imagery of being outside to speak of alienation which is the opposite of solidarity. This is distinct and separate from the systems of this world. The author says in verse 13; let us go out to him, outside the camp bearing his shame or his disgrace for we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking one that is coming. For me, all of this relates to where we are placing our values. It may be that some in this Christian community are being tempted to identify at a deep level with the earthly city. If this is Rome, then that is something that we would be expected to be a temptation because of the high value placed on being a Roman citizen. If we are going to be faithful to the new covenant, what it means is going outside the city, making sure that it is clear that we are distinct from those as we go out and suffer with Jesus by standing with him in shame over against the earthly city. Some think that the locus of the recipients isn’t Rome but instead Jerusalem. Their idea is that you have Jesus suffering outside the gate as an overt illusion to Jerusalem itself. They think what may be going on in buying into the identification with Jerusalem is the central locus of Judaism over against going outside and identifying with Jesus over against the Jewish system that is embodied in Jerusalem. I think he is wrong about this; the better way of understanding this is referring to Rome and the imagery here is playing off of Gospel realities of Jesus suffering outside of Jerusalem. They use Jerusalem as an image of Judaism but that doesn’t mean that is where these people are living. He is using it as an image of exhortation; Jerusalem representing the camp and the old covenant form of worship at this point in history. Also, remember that Jews from Rome and all over the known world would travel to Jerusalem for Passover. I think the emphasis of the passage is more on identifying with him as alienated from the camp over against the world which is represented by the camp itself in this case.
From a practical standpoint, we need to be distinct from the culture and world around us. There is a fine line trying to build bridges of communications with people in the culture in order to share the Gospel with them and identifying and looking like the culture so much that we become indistinct. Notice that the main point of identification and separation is not that we have a different cultural kind of trappings. We have a cult group in West Tennessee that has been there a number of years who came from Florida. They dress the way they think the Israelites would have dressed with tunics and headbands. They have rejected culture and even are spending off into more bazaar lifestyles and behavior. This isn’t just the cultural trappings that is the primary emphasis, instead it is identifying with Jesus and the Gospel over against the predominate system. A serious question that I often consider; how can we as a church not buy into the values of the world system. Often we try to make church attraction by using these trappings to get people to come. How do we make sure that what whatever we do is permeated with Biblical values that are set over against the world? This is a question that we really need to be asking, but the primary identification here is with Christ and the Gospel. The response that we are to give is through him, we are to offer up a sacrifice of praise continually to God confessing his name. Some translate this as continually thanking him. This goes back to holding fast the confession we saw in 4:14-16 and 10:19-25. We are to have this fruit of lips offering as a response. The New Living Translation has it as proclaiming our allegiance to his name. We are to respond to all this with our own type of sacrifice. We are to respond to the sacrifice of Christ by being people who praise him. Then in verse 16, we are to live well and do good and share with others; for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. We move from the foundational theological base of Jesus’ superior sacrifice to how this is to affect how we live. We live in a right relationship with God and with each other. He concludes this little section by giving an exhortation to the community. The verb here can be translated as obey or to have confidence in. You are to have confidence in your leaders and to submit to them. If you are going to deal with the New Testament generally, you cannot get away from the concept of submission.
This is not a popular concept in our culture and it is a very scud concept because in history you do have a lot of oppression that has come out of ‘in the name of submission’ to authority under God. But rightly understood, submission is a beautiful thing. If you think about it; those who speak against submission as if submission and equality are mutually exclusive concepts. All you have to do is to look to natural relationships in our world and society. When I submit to the policeman who stops me on the street doesn’t mean that I’m not equal to him. The police have a role that is distinct and meant for good. It is the same in a marriage relationship, even at my work at Union University; I have a person who is the dean of Arts and Sciences and another person who is the provost of the University. In personhood, I am equal to them, but not in the role. I have a wonderful relationship with both of them. Even in normal situations and structures of the world, submission is a good thing because it gives structure and stability to life. If you have servant leadership, it is something that is nurturing and positive for the person who is submitting. It is it that is costing in terms of leadership; it should be the leader. If the leader is hurting someone under them, then they have failed as a leader. It ends up costing the follower greatly and it should not. This is not biblical leadership. It should be costing the leader in their servant leadership as they sacrifice themselves and lay down their lives; this is an appropriate type of biblical leadership. Laying down one’s life includes humility and owning the wrong that a person is feeling. This is biblical servanthood leadership. Being willing to die for a person is nonsense if you are not willing to live for them.
V. Hebrews 13:17
Here, he says in relationship to the leadership of the church that the people should submit. When submission is called for in the New Testament, it is never the leaders calling for people to submit; it is the exhortation to the people in the church to voluntarily submit to the leaders. If you are a pastor and you are out there telling people that they better submit to me because I’m the pastor. That is not a biblical pattern. The biblical pattern is for you to focus on sacrificial leadership; sacrificing to lead. He says the leaders are those who have oversight of your souls as those giving an account. The leaders of the church are going to have to answer for their leadership. They serve in order that they might do this with joy and not with groaning in their souls. If people in the church is not submitting the way that you should, not being confident in your leaders, causing them not to have joy groaning in their souls; this is not a good situation for you. If people don’t live according to Scriptural principles, there is no other place to go. The appeal here to submission and sacrificial leadership is very counter-intuitive from a cultural standpoint.
VI. Hebrews 13:18-19
He is confident that we have a good conscience and in all things there are wishes to conduct themselves well are the idea here. The way that I have lived is the way I would encourage your leaders to live. I am trying to live well and have a right pattern of life. He encourages them to do this all the more in order that he might be restored to them quickly. You have the idea of the author asking for prayer so that they might be brought back and restored to them.
VII. Benediction (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Now we have the benediction. It was common in Jewish situations and even in the broader culture. The benediction was an important aspect of letters and speeches and sermons in ancient Judaism. At times, these followed a general form. Verses 20 and 21 are very formal statements. He says now that the God of peace, the one bringing up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lord. Verse 21 has to do how that works its way out in our lives. It is to prepare you in every good thing to do his will working in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. So he says in the first part who Jesus is and what he has accomplished and in the second part, he says may the Lord put you in order in every good thing. It is so that you will live a life that is doing his will and that God is working in you to be pleasing before him through Jesus Christ. In terms of semantic dynamics, there is a category called posture to describe what he is saying here. So, if you or I are going to live well, we are to live before God. So, we are living out our lives with a strong sense that God is our audience. We are living before him. Notice the elements of the benediction that he brings in. He mentions the resurrection here; it is by the blood of the eternal covenant which is at the heart of the message of Hebrews.
VIII. Conclusion (Hebrews 13:22-24)
The final conclusion or what we could call an epistolary closing in verses 22-25. It could be that he attached this epistolary type closing at the very end in order to close this letter and send it with someone who was a courier. So, he ends it by exhorting them to bear with the word of exhortation. He says for I have written to you briefly; this doesn’t feel brief after forty hours of lecture for us. In verse 23, he mentions Timothy and says that Timothy has been released and he hopes to see them and then come to them quickly with him. Greet all of your leaders with an emphasis on leaders here and all the saints; those from Italy greet you and grace be with your all.
The blood of the eternal covenant there is playing off of the contrast that he built in, in that section on the sacrifice of Christ and the offerings of Christ and it also plays off of the mountain imagery in verses 18 and following. It is a covenant that isn’t going to pass away because of the eternal priest that we have. The blood sacrifice is not going to go out of date because it was made with his own blood which was made once for all time and therefore it is an eternal covenant.