The Nature of Christ’s Kingdom & Our Sacrifices, Hebrews 13:1-25

Most people read this chapter as separate in theme from the previous one. As if it is an added addendum with a bunch of random instructions and a farewell tagged on the end. But it is not written that way at all. It is a description of the unshakeable eternal Kingdom we have become members of. Herein this chapter, are the highest virtues of Christ’s Kingdom from an earthly perspective. Brethren must be loved (Heb 13:1); Strangers must be received (13:2); the Persecuted must be supported (13:3); Spouses in Christ must be honored (13:4).  The context of one of the greatest promises in the Bible, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” is covetousness.  Insecurity promotes a perverted attraction to material things.  “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God”, v16. Covetousness and all other insecurities are overcome by faith in God’s power to keep his promises, with God as our ally, and Jesus as our King of kings (Mat. 28:18, Rev. 17:14, 1st Tim. 1:17) we have nothing to fear from men (13:6). Why? Because God has proved Himself over and over again as being omnipotent against sin, death and all the weapons of the evil one. Do you believe this? Joshua had the same promise made from our God and He kept it powerfully! Joshua 1:5.

  Go With Him Outside the Camp, v7-14

This must be one of the tallest orders God ever gave a Christian. But we will never be expected to Go alone, the word “WITH” is very important. Under the old law on the Day of Atonement, the high priest could not participate in the sacrifice after the sin offering was made (Lev 16).  These sacrifices had to be taken outside the camp and burned. In a similar way, Jesus was taken outside the camp (gates of Jerusalem) and crucified.  He suffered outside the city/camp in order to sanctify humanity through His own blood, the blood of the Lamb of God.  So therefore, we too must go outside the camp and bear His reproach (1 Pet. 4:13). This is a spiritual exercise, that we can do within our hearts in the communion on Sunday, (this could be the “altar” he refers to in v10), or we can do it whenever we feel we are being mistreated, mocked or even persecuted, in our minds when we pray. Who do you pray through when you’re in a trial? Who is the intercessor when you’re tempted? 

Listening, Obeying & Submitting to our Leaders, v7, 17 & 24. Those who are speaking this faith to us in the first place are leading us in the path of glory & grace, and it is their faith we should imitate, not necessarily their every action or deed. The “outcome” of their way of life in faith, which is what is important for us to keep in mind & heart. Praying for our Leaders is a command for us to obey, not just for our civil leaders, but for our spiritual leaders too, 1st Timothy 2:1-2. For this congregation, that is Dennis & Ralph. For me personally it is my mom & step-dad David & Loretta Armstrong and brothers like Joe Nisbet & Frank Worgan who taught me God’s word in numerous Bible classes.  Who is this passage telling you to pray for personally? Who is this passage telling us to pray for as a congregation? Who spoke the word of God to you in truth from the beginning of your Christian walk of faith? In 1st Timothy 5:17, it was Paul telling Timothy to honor his Elders, even though Paul himself considered himself to be like a spiritual father to him. So your leaders may change throughout your life, but we should always keep them in our prayers! Those prayers will be answered, and you will be blessed beyond your expectations!

His Best Effort in The Best Kingdom, Hebrews 12:11-17

In this passage we are given several commands, authoritative instructions, based on the warning that we should not despise the Lord’s discipline. Being reproved & disciplined by God is actually kind of  like painful coaching from a good coach that is like your Father. As if you’re on the team you’re Father coaches and you can’t win the championship without Him as the Coach, to get you fully fit to play your absolute best in the final game of the season. It hurts, but you know it’s worth it. Here are His powerful demands in the training:

  1. Strengthen your tired arms & legs, v12
  2. Make straight paths for your feet to run in, so they persevere, v13
  3. Pursue peace with everyone & pursue holiness with God, v14
  4. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God, v15
  5. Avoid sexual immorality & don’t be unholy, v16

It is important to remember the goal in this race we run, v1. To not only stay in Christ, but to help as many people as possible to get to the eternal unshakeable Kingdom of Christ with us in all His glory. The Hebrew writer now points us to how superior a goal this truly is: Back when the Hebrews were being brought into existence as a Nation, the Kingdom of Israel. They were given a law, with that law, even Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling”, Deuteronomy 9:19., All this fear did not succeed in promoting holiness among the people of Israel. It did not succeed in changing the heart of Israel. 40 days later, they worshipped a gold calf and said it was the gods that brought them out of Egypt. So now we have the Kingdom of Christ giving his holiness, and his law of faith that will stand even when Jesus arrives a second time, shaking not only the earth but also the heavens. Then we will see God as the consuming fire that he truly is. In Hebrews 12:24, we are taught that in this Kingdom of Christ where our citizenship is, we have Jesus as the ONLY mediator between each Christian and our Creator/Father God. Read 1st Timothy 2:5. Our citizenship in His Kingdom is reliant on the Covenant which Christ guarantees, (Heb. 7:22) with his priceless, sacrificial blood! What are the details of this Superior Covenant? An entire New Testament that describes all the promises of a perfect covenant, which will gain us entry into all the glory & power of His eternal Kingdom. For now, he has made us the assembly of the firstborn, enrolled in Heaven, where every righteous person is made PERFECT (Gk = Teleioo) “complete consummated maturity”. That is total holiness! Because He is our righteousness, Jesus, 2nd Peter 1:1, Php. 3:9, 2nd Cor. 5:21. We are in The best Kingdom, because He has made us to be His best work.

In my collection of 36 English translations of the N.T., all of them read, “God IS a consuming”, None of them read, “God is AS a consuming”. His eternal flame is purifying & holy. Because of this unique and powerful virtue of God, the Apostle Peter reminds us that we should be holy because He is holy, 1st Peter 1:15-16. The purifying fire in God is not here to punish us, but to separate and destroy sin from our nature, which is made by Him in such a way that desires it. Without God’s purifying flame, we are in trouble. If we don’t want Him, we will live in trouble and die in trouble to be sent to hell, wasted by the trouble we desired more than God Himself. Don’t get wasted, get saved!

Confidence in the Champion Christ, Hebrews 12:1-8

This penultimate passage opens up by pointing our attention to the reality of a ‘cloud’ that includes men and women of God who are spectators and are larger in number than those 18 or so saints mentioned here, known and unknown to history. We are also under angelic observation, read Ephesians 3:10-11 and a few people in the world today are watching our faith and conduct. We are surrounded by them, as spectators in a stadium observe the players in the championship game of the ages from all angles. Do we have as much anticipation about how our faith plays out in our lifestyle as ancient saints, angels and loved ones here on earth? Many masses of beings are more than interested in how our faith is shown, so…. Do you share your faith?

Is there a difference between a “weight” and “sin”? Can something be a burden without it being a sin? Our weights in life could be pressure put on us by harmful people or hypocrites. If we can find a way to cast their pressure aside, what better direction than to lay them at the feet of Christ in prayer? 1st Peter 5:7. When it comes to sin, we should be eager to confess all kinds of sin to Christ, the lover of our soul. Sins come in various types, some can be avoided, admired, seductive and/or dangerous. Be dead to them all.

Why? Because Jesus is the Champion, as in founder and perfecter, v2, or Alpha & Omega, (Revelation 1:17) which offers his established victory to us personally, and he promises us His power, if we will accept Him for who He says He is, trust Him and obey Him. This position of Jesus is why the disciples called him “Lord” when they realized they were sent (apostles) by him, Luke 17:5.

The “struggle” v4, against sin, can be equated to “our cross” which Jesus demands every follower of Christ should pick up and bear, (Luke 9:23). If we do not identify and know this struggle, then we are not picking up our cross. Do it for the “cloud”, do it most of all for the One who suffered v3, and died for us in the worst way of all.  Why, because God empowers us to fight the good fight if we do, He will never expect us to pick up our cross alone! Jesus didn’t and neither will any of us.The founding principle for the best reason to fight the good fight against sin, is because of our need to respect the power of God and God himself. The author quotes this encouraging warning from Deuteronomy 4:9-10, with the same point Solomon makes in Proverbs 3:11-12. Forgetting this principle, v5, will cost us dearly, so dearly, God is willing to discipline us, so that we will learn His will and never forget His priorities. If discipline does not hurt, then it’s not real. The pain of discipline is not just an attention-getter, but rather, it instills in us the importance of God’s priorities for what is right as more valuable than what is wrong. Because even Christ underwent discipline by what He suffered, and his perfect life of righteousness in doing the Father’s will, is why He is the King of kings in this Kingdom eternal and unshakable! 12:27-28. It is for discipline that we have to endure. God is treating us as His own children. For what child is there, whom his father does not discipline? If we are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then we are illegitimate children and not God’s children, 12:7-8. I want to be God’s own child, adopted with the priceless gift of Christ’s blood, 1st Peter 1:18-19. Don’t you?

Faith Achievements, Hebrews 11:32-34

Never forget that the only “King” mentioned in this chapter is David. Most heroic men and women of faith are usually those that live lives out of the public spotlight. Genuine mature spiritual giants in Christ today, love living life behind the scenes of the public’s eye. Praising and serving Christ amongst those that Jesus would serve if He were here, because His Spirit is here, read this: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)

11:32-34, have excellent comfort for us, phrases like; “Wrought righteousness.” In their narrower sense, these words signify “to execute judgment, to enforce the laws of justice:” the historical reference would be to such passages as Joshua 11: 10-15; 1 Samuel 24:10; 2 Samuel 8:15. But in its wider scope “wrought righteousness” means the living of a holy life: “Lord, who shall abide in Your tabernacle? who shall dwell in Your holy hill? He that walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2). “In every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:35). “Righteousness” signifies up to the required standard; and to work righteousness means, walking according to the rule of God’s Word: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

“Stopped the mouths of lions.” The historical reference is to Daniel in the den. It shows again the marvellous power of faith. This comes out clearly in Daniel 6:23: “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.” But how far may this be of help to us? Is the answer far to away? There are ferocious people, as well as fierce animals! There are savage oppressors and persecutors who try to intimidate, if not destroy, the mild and harmless Christian. True, but they should not terrify us, nor spoil our testimony, by causing us to hide our light under a bushel. Daniel would not be forced into compromising by the threat of the lions of Babylon, nor should we be frightened by the menacing looks, words, and actions of the world’s lions today. “I will trust and not be afraid.” IN CHRIST. The phrase, “Stopped the mouths of lions.” almost looks as though faith were omnipotent! We dare not set any limitations to it, for faith has to do with the living God, and nothing is too hard for Him. Faith lays hold of the Almighty, and not until your faith learns to do that, is it of much worth. Is the Lord God a living reality to you, or do you have but a theoretical knowledge of Him? The ultimate reference in our text is to him of whom it is said, “The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). His mouth is opened against many a child of God, uttering lies, telling him that our lifestyle is an empty one. Have you learned to “stop his mouth?” Do his false accusations no longer terrify you? Does he now find it useless to harass you any longer? It all depends: “stopped the mouths of lions” is preceded by “obtained promises”!

  “Escaped the edge of the sword.” The historical reference is to such passages as 1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Kings 18:10; 1 Kings 19:1-3, Jeremiah 39:15-18: It seems in those eminent servants of God, escaped from danger more by fear than by faith—by fleeing from those who threatened their lives. The life of faith is many-sided, and care needs to be taken to preserve the balance: to keep from merely being passive on the one hand, and from fanatical presumption on the other. While the Christian is to walk by faith, there is wrestling (Ephesians 6:12) and fighting to be done (1 Timothy 6:12); we are to seek grace and develop all heroic virtues, such as courage, dignity, boldness (2 Timothy 2:3), and endeavour by Divine aid to overcome everything which hinders us entering into God’s best example. On the other side, the Christian must not refuse the use and aid of all lawful means in times of danger: “when they persecute you in this city flee ye into another” (Matthew 10:23)—to refuse to do so, is not faith, but presumption. This chapter of faith should invoke us to “walk wisely”, see Ephesians 5:15. It is amazing what achievements God’s wisdom can accomplish. What do you really believe?

God’s Definition of Faith, Hebrews 11

 Having just referred to Habakkuk’s timeless declaration, “The just shall live by faith” (Heb 10:38; Hab 2:3-4), the author now develops the concept of faith. Faith is able to “see” what is invisible; it is a confidence in God that accepts and obeys His word when one’s experience, feelings and desires are to the contrary. Without this quality of faith, “it is impossible to please” God (11:6).  Many were once heavily steeped in their own traditions and rituals as pertaining to the old law (Matt 15:3-9), thus possibly losing the spiritual aspect of worshipping God. The writer now defines faith and demonstrates to his readers that faith has always been a necessary requirement in serving God.

When the author writes about Abraham, and examines the seeds that grew into an ancient and storied nation.  To inherit the land so beloved by Israel, Abraham had to leave his home for an unknown destination and, once there, reside in tents as an outsider (Heb 11:8-9). It was Abraham’s faith, their “father” to whom the promises were made, that accredited him for righteousness (Gen 15:6, Rom 4:1-3).  Abraham’s first demonstration of faith in God was when he was called to leave his home and journey to a place all the while not knowing where he was going (the unseen). For a nation to arise from him, he and his wife faithfully acted in accordance with God’s promises (11:11; Rom 4:19-21). Thus the lives of Abraham and Sarah present an analogy of the Christian endeavor, for we are likewise on a journey and living as sojourners.  Abraham not only had his sights on a tract of land, “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11: 10). Had he been otherwise minded, he would have simply returned to Ur (11:15-16). And if these brethren turn back from God now, they would betray the very ancestor in which they had so much pride. The author here connects faith to the prospect of death, for this is faith’s ultimate challenge.  Regarding God’s command to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, Abraham obeyed “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb 11:19). Another ancestor is cited as parallel to the readers’ predicament.  Just as they had chosen to leave Judaism for Christ and are presently suffering for it, even so Moses chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (11:25). Undeniably, God’s people have done the seemingly impossible, radically changing the face of the world.  Sadly, God has also allowed unimaginable hardship to befall them. Of such “the world was not worthy” (11: 38), and they endured “that they might obtain a better resurrection” (11:35).  This most notable chapter on faith in God is an exhortation which says to all who read, “Others have done it. You can do it, too!” We must aspire to real courageous, steadfast faith.

These great heroes of faith were so firmly convinced of God’s promises that it is  as if they actually saw them with their own eyes {inductive faith} (Jn 8:56) even though they died before there fulfillment.  Because they embraced and sought after God’s promise of a real “homeland” (true tabernacle- heaven), they recognized that they were just foreigners (without the country or jurisdiction) and pilgrims (a wanderer; a traveler) during their stay here on earth.  By the actions of their faith they made it clear that they were seeking a better land a “heavenly country”.  Because of their great faith in Him, God is not ashamed to be called their God. Surely we are not ashamed to be called His children?