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THE REMNANT

Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

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HEBREWS STUDY PART 11: CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR: IN RELATION TO GOD (13:10-21)

SEPARATION

Hebrews 13:10-14 are among the most difficult in the book of Hebrews. They are subject to many interpretations and applications, and we therefore cannot be dogmatic in the views presented.

“We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 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. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” (13:10-12)

This hardly can describe Christian worship. There is also no eating or sacrificing of animals at the heavenly altar. Others believe the altar is a figure of Christ, whose body we are to eat and whose blood we are to drink (John 6:53-58). But still the questions remain about who is not allowed to eat and about the sacrificial animals.

We most probably refers to the writer’s fellow Jews. The priests serve at this altar in the Tabernacle, or the Temple. On the Day of Atonement, they are not allowed to eat the sin offering. The bodies of the animals used for this sacrifice are taken outside the camp and burned.

In this view, an analogy is given for Christians. As the priest of old could not have a part in the sins of the people, so the believer should be outside the camp of the world, no longer a part of its system, standards, and practices. It is simply a picture of Christians, following their Lord, separating themselves from the things of sin. As our Lord was crucified outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem, so we are to be spiritually outside the walls of sinning people.

“Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (13:13)

As Christians, we must be willing to go out from the system, to bear the reproach and the shame that both the sin offering and Christ Himself bore, and to be rejected by men.

God sends us into the physical world, the world where people live. What we are to be separate from is the world system, the way the world’s people live (cf. 1 John 2:15-17). Paul had a great deal to say about separation. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15).

After the incident with the golden calf in the wilderness, and before the Tabernacle was built, Moses set a tent outside the camp, “a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about, that everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp” (Ex. 33:7). Whenever Moses entered the tent, the “pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses” (v. 9). Those who wanted to approach God had to go outside the camp, because Israel for the most part, siding with the world system, had rejected God.

Whether the analogy is of the Old Testament sacrifice being taken outside the camp, of Christ’s being crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, or of the tent of meeting being outside the camp, the basic point seems to be that of separation.

For the Jews to whom Hebrews was written, separation from the world system meant separation from Judaism.

SACRIFICE

“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. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (13:15-16)

Sacrifice was extremely important to the Jew. Christ offered the one and only sacrifice for sin. He demands the sacrifice of our praise and of our doing good (works) in His name. He demands sacrifice not in the form of a ritual or ceremony, but in word and in deed—in our praise of Him and in our service to others. He wants only the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. “I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High” (Ps. 7:17). The Christian’s sacrifice of praise is to be offered continually.

Praise of God in word and deed are inseparable. Lip service must be accompanied by life service. “Little

children,” John says, “let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). John warns us that “the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). In other words, if our praise of God in word is not accompanied by doing good and sharing, it is not acceptable to Him. Worship involves action that honours God.

SUBMISSION

“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.” (13:17)

The most obvious submission seen in this text is that given to church leaders. Someday God will rule all the earth through His Son, the King of kings, but in the meanwhile, He rules His church through godly men. Submission to these men, therefore, is submission to God. “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13). The priority of every pastor, every elder, every church leader, is to care for the spiritual welfare of the congregation, for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. It is a sobering responsibility to be a leader in Christ’s church. To cause our leaders grief is harmful to ourselves as well as to them and to the church as a whole. It is unprofitable for you.

But God mediates his earthly rule, secular and spiritual, through various men. Even pagan rulers who have no use for God are nevertheless used by Him. “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1).

SUPPLICATION

“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. And I urge you all the more to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.” (13:18-19)

To pray for our leaders in the church is to serve and to please God. Prayer makes things possible; it moves the hand of God. Church leaders are made of the same stuff as those they serve. They have sins, weaknesses, limitations, blind spots, and needs of all sorts, just as everyone else.

Paul did not hesitate to ask for prayer. “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). How much more do God’s ordinary ministers need the prayer of their people.

The writer asks for prayer because we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. God is sovereign, but prayer makes things possible that otherwise would not be possible.

THE POWER OF GOD

“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, 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.” (13:20-21)

These verses are really a benediction and could stand without comment. We not only need to know God’s will; we need to have His power. We need the God of peace to equip us in every good thing to do His will. Christian growth and obedience are by God’s power, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.

The greatest display of divine power in the history of the universe was at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when God brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant.

All we have to do is open the channel of our wills and let God’s power work through us. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Cor. 9:10). We can work out our salvation because God is at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Because Christ does the work, He deserves the credit and praise, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR: IN RELATION TO OTHERS (13:1-3)

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” (13:1-3)

Paul wrote: “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8). Hebrews 13 gives some of the essential practical ethics of Christian living that help portray the true gospel to the world, that encourage men to trust in Christ, and that bring glory to God.

Unfortunately, throughout the history of the church, the mean, prejudiced, and immoral lives of professed Christians have given the world an excuse not to be attracted to the claims of Christ. We who are true Christians have a serious responsibility to live spotlessly to the glory of God, so that unbelievers never have a just reason for criticizing the way we live, because how we live is a reflection on our Lord. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Jesus, of course, had in mind true good works, not hypocritical pretence. Good works that are self-conscious and hypocritical are not hard to spot. They do not impress God or unbelievers.

Ethics has to do with standards of conduct (behavior) or moral judgment. There can be no ethics without doctrine. You cannot reasonably require a certain type of living or morality from a person without underlying, under-girding, and universal moral principles that determine those standards. Otherwise you have no ethics at all, only a moral free-for-all, which is exactly what many people are advocating and exemplifying today.

Love itself needs a standard. Without a standard, one person’s idea of love often will be different from—and frequently contradictory to—someone else’s. Every moral command in the New Testament presupposes faith in Christ. You cannot possibly live up to God’s standards without God.

SUSTAINED LOVE

LOVE FOR THE BRETHREN

The primary moral standard of Christianity is love, and the particular love exhorted here is love of fellow Christians. Brotherly love is the natural outflow of the Christian life. “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:22-23). One of the by-products of obeying God’s truth is increased love for fellow believers.

Since we were given brotherly love when we were given spiritual life, we should exercise this love. Our primary concern should not be to look for blessings or to ask for blessings but to use our blessings (cf. Eph.l:3). Paul appeals to brothers in Christ to be diligent “to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:9-10).

The basic principle of brotherly love is simple and is explained by Paul. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10). Put in its most basic form, brotherly love is caring for fellow Christians more than we care for ourselves.

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). In effect, God has given the world a right to evaluate us on the basis of our love for each other.

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Loving fellow Christians also reveals our true identity and provides a sure proof of salvation is found in our own hearts. We have no better evidence that we are a child of God—because we love His other children, our brothers and sisters in Christ. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40).

It is also characterized by practical commitment. “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). John continuous, continues, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him” (vv. 18-19).

LOVE FOR STRANGERS

Our first responsibility is to our brothers in Christ, but our responsibility does not end there. “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). “All men” includes even our enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:43-44).

A stranger, by definition, is someone we do not know personally. Consequently, it is easy to be deceived when helping a stranger. If we help in good faith, God will honour our effort. Love is often taken advantage of, but this is a cost that it does not count.

In the ancient world hospitality often included putting a guest up overnight or longer. Christians are certainly to be no less hospitable. For by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

SYMPATHY

Sympathy is closely related to sustained love. It is easier to help others when we ourselves have needed help. It is easier to appreciate hunger when we have been hungry, loneliness when we have been lonely, and persecution when we have been persecuted. The point is that we should do our best to identify with those in need, to try to put ourselves in their places. We know that if we were starving, we would want someone to feed us, and that if we were imprisoned, we would want to be visited.

Hebrews 13:3 also warns against spiritualizing the Christian life. Our true home is heaven, but we are still in the body. We still get hungry, we still get lonely, and we still hurt, physically and psychologically. Our own troubles should make us more sensitive, hospitable, and loving, not less.

CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR: IN RELATION TO OURSELVES (13:4-9)

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your character be 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,” so that we confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. 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 thus occupied were not benefited.” (13:4-9)

SEXUAL PURITY

MARRIAGE IS TO BE HONOURED

Paul warns that in the last days apostate teachers will “forbid marriage” (1 Tim. 4:3). But God holds marriage not only to be permissible, but honourable, and we are to have the same high regard for it. The Holy Spirit honoured marriage by using it to picture the church in the New Testament.

Marriage is, amongst other things, provided as a means of preventing sexual sin. “Because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2)

Marriage can be held in honor in many ways. One is by the husband’s being the head. God is glorified in a family where the husband rules. “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman” (1 Cor. 11:3). “The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7).

God is serious about sexual purity. Part of our moral responsibility to ourselves is to be sexually pure. The world today is obsessed with sex as never before. Sexual activity apart from marriage is considered acceptable and normal by more and more people. Some of the more obvious results of such views are the heartbreaking increases in extramarital pregnancies, forcible rapes, illegitimate births,  abortions and in venereal diseases of all sorts. Judgment already exists in the broken homes, the venereal disease, the psychological and physical breakdowns, and the murder and other violence that is generated when passion is uncontrolled. It is not possible to live and act against the moral grain of the universe established by God and not suffer terrible consequences.

When Christians are immoral, the immediate consequences may even be worse, because the testimony of the gospel is polluted. “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph. 5:3).

SATISFACTION WITH WHAT WE HAVE

“Let your character be 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,” so that we confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (13:5-6)

You do not have to acquire a lot of things to be covetous. In fact, you do not have to acquire anything at all. Covetousness is an attitude; it is wanting to acquire things, longing for them, setting our thoughts and attention on them—whether we ever possess them or not. Covetousness and greed follow a principle of increasing desire and decreasing satisfaction, a form of the law of diminishing returns. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity” (Eccles. 5:10). The more you get the more you want. When we focus on material things, our having will never catch up with our wanting. It is one of God’s unbreakable laws.

A Christian should be free from the love of material things. Love of money is sin against God, a form of distrust. For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Among other things, loving money is trusting in uncertain riches rather than the living God (1 Tim. 6:17), looking for security in material things instead of in our heavenly Father. “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed,” Jesus warned, “for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Greed has kept many unbelievers out of the kingdom, and it has caused many believers to lose the joy of the kingdom, or worse.

Be content with what you have. We confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” Discontentment is one of man’s greatest sins. Contentment is one of God’s greatest blessings. If we really believe that God is good, we know He will take care of us, His children. “Your Father knows that you need these things” (Luke 12:30). We know with Paul that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). It is the worldly, including the wealthy worldly, who are poor, and it is believers, including poor ones, who are rich. Our treasure is in our homeland, in heaven, and we should set our minds “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

STEADFASTNESS IN THE FAITH

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. 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 thus occupied were not benefited.” (13:7-9)

The primary appeal of this passage is for Jews who had heard and professed the gospel not to return to legalism. Just as those who led {us} who spoke the word of God, and just as Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, so we should be in our doctrine and practices. We are not to be carried away by varied and strange teachings.

One of the saddest things in the world is for a Christian to get drawn into false doctrine and be rendered ineffective, to lose his joy, reward, and testimony.

Jews were used to having religious regulations for everything, and it was hard for them to adjust to freedom in Christ. It was difficult for them to accept the truth Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 8:8, that “food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.” All their lives they had been taught and had believed that what you ate and did not eat was extremely important to God. Even how it was prepared and eaten was important. Now they are told that those who were thus occupied were not benefited. Spirituality comes not by foods. As Christians, our hearts are only strengthened by grace.

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim. 4:1-5)

(MAIN SOURCE: MACARTHUR NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY – JOHN MACARTHUR)

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