This is the last message in a series on the Book of Hebrews, covering chapter 13 at the end of the book. Have you ever left your house or your business and given everyone there some final words? Random thoughts that you wanted to make sure they heard from you until you returned? That’s what this last chapter is all about: final words. You need to listen to them!
I remember a time, years ago when the kids were much younger, Robin and I left them on their own and went out for a dinner and evening visit with a young couple from church who lived in Rochester. No babysitter, just the four boys, on their own.
We got ready, put our shoes and coats on, and before we headed for the door there was a talk we had that went with the notes we left them. No fighting. Brush your teeth. Here are the TV shows you’re watching, right? Don’t answer the door. If the phone does ring, don’t say, “My Mom and Dad are out for the night” or anything like that. If there’s an emergency, here’s the number for where we’ll be. We’ll be home by 9. Then we left.
Final words – just before I go, here’s what I want to say. It may seem random, but it all fits under the heading of things you need to remember when I’m not with you. Like, “Do the dishes!”
The author of Hebrews does just about that in Chapter 13, the last chapter in the book. Just before I go, here are these things that I can’t leave out. Most commentators that I’ve read try to unify what is put in this chapter, try to make a connection between one verse or paragraph and another. I just don’t think it was written that way. The Book of Hebrews was written out of love for these people no matter where they were at. These final words were the overflow of that love.
So what does the Lord have to say to us as final words in this book?
Let brotherly love continue.
Keep up what you already have. The tenor of your relationships makes you like a family. That’s why the rather random people that end up in a church are referred to as “brethren”. People who truly love and follow the Lord Jesus with you are spiritual family – brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, etc. Let that kind of family love continue to play out in the future because it can fade. Do you know what the most common tool of the enemy is? Offense. You have to straighten out offenses, quickly, cleanly and completely. Then you can continue brotherly love. That goes for the extended family outside of your local family of believers as well.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners, as if chained with them-those who are mistreated-since you yourselves are in the body also.
There are Christians in need of hospitality – that man or woman who is in trouble for their faith, imprisoned in another nation for the faith – they need to be helped by you and I as if you were right there. We can’t help everyone in need, but we can do our part with the ones God instructs us to specifically consider ours to help. You might just be helping angels, which you are now related to in God’s larger family. Yes, they are different creatures than us, but they serve the same Lord we serve. How cool is that?
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers, God will judge.
Marriage is awesome and good, single or married people should agree. And sex? It’s also awesome, but it’s only in marriage that it’s right and good and fits the design. It’s powerful! For many reasons, it only properly fits into marriage. Fire is only meant for the fireplace, so there’s no guilt in having a great sex life with your spouse, as a matter of fact, it’s a holy thing.
But listen to this, God will take it personally if you practice sex outside marriage. If you’re sleeping with your boyfriend, you’re having an affair, if you’re taking sex out of the fireplace and igniting it somewhere else, God will judge you.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:25 “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison”. Repent; get it straightened out with the Lord, before the court date!
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (From Psalm 27:1)
Covetousness here is a Greek word for greedy to the point of hoarding. Your conduct is the way you carry out everything in life. In other words, does your stuff own you or do you own your stuff?
You need to learn to depend on the Lord as your supply. If you have Him, you have everything, and He said that He would never abandon you. He’s your Helper, so fear of not having or of having someone take advantage of you isn’t valid for you as a Christian.
So what if my house was foreclosed on? What if I lost my job? What if I’m living out of my car? Thank God for what you do have, focus on Him, His people and His principles and let Him walk you out of this. Let someone know what you’re going through. Don’t be so proud that you can’t tell the right person about your circumstances.
Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the Word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
There is such a thing as spiritual authority. You may have great friends, confidants or mentors but God wants you to pay special attention to pastors and elders who know the Word of God, have faith you can follow and who bear the fruit of obedience in the way they live their life. If your pastor/elder says something, you will benefit if you consider their words above your friend’s’ words. If you fill that role, you need to take that responsibility seriously.
Remember that they’re humans also, with worries, doubts and other emotions. Feel for them. That’s what the Scripture word “remember” means. It’s mnēmoneuō, which means to think of and feel for.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
He never varies, His way of relating to you is never going to change. It’s always by a gift, always with love and mercy, without changing His holiness and power.
If you’re going to “cherry pick” a verse of Scripture, this is one to cherry pick.
But it couples nicely to the next one…
Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.
Okay, Jesus never changes; ever. Don’t get blown around with every wind of doctrine. By grace you are saved, through faith. You relate to God and He relates to you by His gracious decision to love you. It’s never going to be by obeying the Jewish laws and rituals. It has nothing to do with food, Kosher diets or anything else you do religiously. It’s a separate way of relating to God.
The priests and Levites were given a portion of the sacrifices on the altar, as their own food to eat. That was the provision for them. Only they had the privilege, no one else.
But figuratively, we have an altar all our own where the Lamb of God gave His life a ransom for many. We eat of His one sacrifice for all, now and forever. We get so much from that altar!
But those who still serve the Law can’t eat there. You will forever be hungry if you try to relate to God on the basis of good works, what you do. Pride says, “I’m doing great with God because I do what is good”; or, “I’m not loved by God because I’ve done wrong.” You’ll starve if that’s the altar you serve and try to eat from.
But following Jesus alone, eating from His altar, will cost you popularity.
For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
Again there is a reference to the sacrifices of the Temple and the altar of serving the Law, relating to God by works. The sacrifices were finished off by being burned outside the camp of Israel, or outside the city of Jerusalem. Jesus suffered and died outside the gate. We go with Him, identify with Him, knowing we don’t belong to the majority. We’re strangers and pilgrims, so we will not be popular, appreciated or held up as great examples.
That kind of animosity from those who are not followers of Jesus will only grow in the days ahead. We need to expect it; it’s a part of what it means to be strangers and sojourners on the earth. We have no continuing city here, no place that’s really home. That’s because our home is in the city to come, the New Jerusalem. It’s part of the deal; we aren’t well treated by this world, even persecuted. But we don’t bend because we know where our home is.
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Sacrifices of the past aren’t worth anything anymore since Jesus came, became the Sacrifice, and sat down. But there are sacrifices, offerings that mean something to God, not to earn favor from Him, but to please Him.
The sacrifice of praise. We don’t always do that very well. We wander into the praise and worship portion of the service, distracted, unprepared and late. We could up our game to say thank you to God. He loves it when we praise and thank Him. It doesn’t change Him. It changes us and makes our relationship right, great. And honest, it says here again that is pleased.
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Speaking as a pastor, I rejoice when someone gets it; grows and increases, establishes their life in the Lord and doesn’t look back. I cry over those who go the other way. But who is the winner and loser in those cases? You.
Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
Don’t forget, your prayers make a difference. You can get me out of jail with your prayers.
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words.
Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly. Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. Grace be with you all. Amen.
Here’s some great news; Timothy is free now and if he gets here soon he can travel with me to see you. Say “Hey” to everyone there, the leaders and everybody, and everybody from here in Italy says “Hey” to you too. And based on everything taught in this letter, grace be with you all. Amen.
Seemingly random points at the end of a powerful book, but the author wanted to equip, as much as possible, the believers as he figuratively went out the door and closed the letter.
Pay attention, because you will need these last words somehow.
We were in Rochester with the couple I mentioned earlier. We had a trendy dinner and then we played a board game after dessert. Robin and I were getting totally trounced by this couple. While we were losing the third round, their phone rang and the husband handed the phone to me. It was our son, Chris. Hey Chris, what’s up? Dad, there’s a fire across the street. There’s a gas, diesel fuel and home heating oil facility directly across the street from our house. One of the boys looked out and saw flames shooting from a pipe at the bottom of one of the tanks. So I said get everybody in the car as quick as you can and go to this friend’s house, now! They did. Somebody called 911 and they put out the fire okay. You can imagine how our neighborhood would look if they didn’t.
Here’s the point: at least one of those last minute instructions gave the kids the direction they needed. They called the number we gave them. I’m going to guess that one of these last minute instructions is or will be valuable to you.
This is My Beloved Son; hear Him!
Taking these words seriously?
And now let’s finish our study of the Book of Hebrews with this benediction: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.