Scripture Reading: Hebrews 13:9-25
Background: The writer is wrapping up his book here, and he gives us his final teachings (v. 9-19), final benediction (v. 20-21), and final greetings (v. 22-25). This last paragraph of the letter is tremendously strengthening. We can use that as our unifying idea for these verses. The writer wants to leave these Christians stronger. He wants us to feel much stronger when we finish chapter 13 than when we began chapter 1. So here is a believer—maybe in the first century or maybe you or me. We have problems and pressures. We feel weak, and we aren’t really sure if we can carry on. But that believer—maybe you or me—can study the book of Hebrews. It is be like a blood transfusion. It’ll be like a steroid shot. It will give us a surge of strength and the energy to persevere.
1. Be Strengthened by Grace (v. 9-13)
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.
This week I was with a missionary who served for many years in Eritrea, a nation on the horn of Africa, where there has been tremendous persecution of Christians. This missionary was thrown out of the country, but later was able to visit one of the church leaders. The leader said, “If we had known then what we know now about the onset of persecution, we would have done three things differently: (1) We would have focused more on small groups; (2) We would have done less clapping and more teaching; (3) We would not have listened so much to Benny Hinn.” There are a lot of teachers who stray from the authority of Scripture, as Rob Bell has done in his recent books. Well, I can’t control a secular society or heretical teachers any more than the writer of Hebrews could control the society of his day. But I can control my own beliefs, and I can obey this verse. If we’re going to be strong, we have to be feeding on truth and strengthened by grace. And so the writer goes on to say:
It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
This altar is the cross of Jesus Christ, as the writer goes on to explain: The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood. Let us, then, go to Him outside the came, bearing the disgrace He bore.
Jesus was sacrificed outside the city walls of Jerusalem. He was crucified outside the gates, just as the bodies of the temple sacrifices were burned outside the gate on the Day of Atonement. If we follow Christ, we may be an “outsider.” We’ll be outside the mainstream, outside the acceptable popular crowd, outside the circle of worldly acclaim. But it will be a place of personal strength, for we’ll be with Christ and strengthened by grace.
2. Be Strengthened by the Hope of Heaven (v. 14).
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
We may suffer outside the city now; but one day we’ll be inside the city. The writer of Hebrews has this city on his mind, and he mentions it in three chapters in a row, in chapters 11, 12, and 13 (11:9-10 & 16; 12:22; 13:14). This is preparing us for the much fuller description of this city in Revelation 21-22. The anticipation of heaven is a major strength for the believer. It keeps us going, for we know the end is in sight—and the end is glorious. We may be outsiders now, but one day we’ll be the ultimate insiders.
3. Be Strengthened by the Sacrifice of Praise (v. 15-16)
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
This is one of the premier verses on worship in the New Testament; it’s a description of what we do when we gather for worship or when we worship God in private, when we sing His praises. And, as verse 16 says, we are also made stronger as we do good and share with others, offering a sacrifice of giving.
4. Be Strengthened by the Church (v. 17-19)
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as though who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
5. Be Strengthened by the God of Peace (v. 20-21)
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
This is the one of the greatest benedictions of the Bible. It takes all the threads of thought in the book of Hebrews and spins them into a single blessing for the readers and for the people of God. Here we have:
- A description of God: He is the God of peace.
- A description of His plan: He designed an eternal covenant to bring us into a relationship with Himself, and it was implemented by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- A description of His Son – He is the great shepherd of the sheep.
- A description of His work in us – He equips us with everything good for doing His will and works in us what is pleasing to Him.
- A description of His praise – He works in us through Jesus Christ so He will receive the glory forever and ever amen.