Loving God

Text: Hebrews 13:8-17

God doesn’t change

(Hebrews 13:8)

We should preserve because Jesus isn’t a moving target. He remains eternally the same. Thus, by applying eternity to Christ, the writer implies that Jesus is God (I Timothy 6:13-16). God promised to be always with us (Hebrews 13:5) – and God does not change. God promised to help us (Hebrews 13:6) – and God does not change. This then serves as the transition to the next point in Hebrews 13:9.

Don’t be carried away by various teachings

 (Hebrews 13:9)

Throughout the letter, we have seen hints that Christians who had left Judaism were being pulled back into their former life. But such teachings were an alteration of the Gospel (II Corinthians 11:3-4; Galatians 1:6-7). Jesus hasn’t changed his message ( I Peter 1:25).

This becomes a critical point for us as well. Those who argue for different teachings because “times have changed” deny the nature of the gospel and our Lord (II Peter 3:17-18).

Our hearts should be established and strengthened in God’s grace. It is God’s gift of salvation to us that forms the bedrock of our faith (Romans 8:3-4; I Peter 5:10). It is not established in the old laws of uncleanness and food regulations (II Corinthians 3:4-6). Foods won’t make a person righteous (I Corinthians 8:8).

In Christ, our efforts are not useless (I Corinthians 15:58), but those desiring to follow the Old Testament regulations are not being benefitted by their efforts.

What we have is not found within Judaism

(Hebrews 13:10-13)

The altar was where service to God was performed with sacrifices. Those who administered the sacrifices were required to eat a portion of the sacrifices (Leviticus 6:25-26; Numbers 18:9-10). Christians have a spiritual altar from which those who live under the Old Law of Moses cannot share. The writer refers to the Jews as “those who serve the tabernacle” to emphasis that the Old Law was a temporary religion, just as a tabernacle is less permanent than a temple. Christ is our sacrifice and we share of it through the Lord’s Supper and the lives we live as Christians (John 6:53-54; I Corinthians 10:16-18).

Under the Old Law, only a portion of the animal was placed on the altar and its blood was poured at the base of the altar, but the remainder was taken outside of the camp and burned (Exodus 29:10-14; Leviticus 4:2-21; 6:30).

Jesus’ sacrifice took place outside the gates of Jerusalem (outside the camp). It was a sacrifice but not in accordance to the sacrifices under the Old Law. For this reason, Jesus’ blood reaches those not born as Jews (Ephesians 2:11-18). But if the Jews wish to benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice, they too must go outside the camp; that is, they must leave the Old Law (Romans 7:4).

But leaving Judaism would create hardships. Just as Jesus was rejected, so must Christians following after Christ face rejection (Matthew 5:10-12).

We are seeking our heavenly home

(Hebrews 13:14)

The Old Law had been fade since the days of Jeremiah (Hebrews 8:13). The city that the Jews took so much pride in would not last (Matthew 24:1-2). There is nothing left for the Jews under the Old Law. But in Christ, we seek an eternal home (Philippians 3:20-21) and the city that God has prepared (Hebrews 11:15-16). Salvation is not in the Old Law, but in Christ and his law.

Continually praise God

(Hebrews 13:15)

Thus, through Jesus, we can offer a continual sacrifice of praise to God (Colossians 3:17). Under the Old Law, sacrifices were offered in one place at designated times in the morning and evening. Under Christ, Christians around the world offer praise. As one part of the world is settling down to sleep, in another, there are Christians waking up to offer God praise – the fruit of our lips (Hosea 14:2; Psalms 50:23; Colossians 1:12).

Do not neglect to do good

(Hebrews 13:16)

We also please God with sacrifices that involve doing good and sharing the things we have with others (Galatians 6:9-10; I John 3:17; Proverbs 19:17). The word translated as “sharing” is actually the Greek noun for “fellowship.” When we are sharing what we have with others we are demonstrating fellowship, but unfortunately, the translation leaves much out. If I told you not to neglect friendship, you would know that I'm encouraging you to bolster your friendships. It could be through kind deeds, or just sitting down and talking with someone. I think this is what the Hebrews writer is after as well. Fellowship with another person doesn't just happen and effort has to be expended to keep the state of fellowship going. Just because we have it, we should not neglect the relationship.

Follow your leaders

(Hebrews 13:17)


The Greek word translated as "obey" is peitho, which means to be convinced or persuaded. This is someone who listens to reason and then implements the truth in his life. This not to be confused with the obedience Christians owe God when we are told: "And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9). That obedience is the Greek word hupakuou, which means to heed someone in authority.

Those who rule over you

The Greek word translated as "rule" is hegeomia, which means to lead or guide. This is not the word for authoritarian or dictatorial control.

"Significantly, Thayer defines this word, "leading as respects influence, controlling in counsel." Please note that the position is one exerted by influential counsel, not by dogmatic control. Another example given by Thayer where the word is used as defined, is where Judas and Silas are described as "chief" or "leading" (hegeomai) men, chosen to go to Antioch by the apostles, the elders, and the whole church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22). The term translated "have the rule" then is not something that applies only to elders." [Dale Smelser, The Rule of Elders].

While this verse includes elders, it is not limited to elders. It applies to all people in the church to lead and guide others through their teaching and example.

And be submissive

The Greek word for "submissive" is hupeiko, which means to yield, to listen to, or be persuaded by. As many leaders will admit, it is hard to lead when others refuse to follow. This is especially true in the church where leaders are forbidden to use heavy-handed approaches. "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (I Peter 5:2-3). As Vines points out, "The obedience suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion."

For they watch out for your souls

All leaders in the church, but most especially the elders, are not acting for their own personal benefit. They are there to benefit the members of the church. They are trying to get as many as they can to heaven. The reason for submitting to such men is realizing that they are helping you. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13).

As those who must give an account

Those who lead are under authority themselves. This is hinted at by Peter when he told elders, "and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" (I Peter 5:4). Leaders are responsible for where they lead others; they are taking on an additional burden. "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment" (James 3:1). Paul compared his work to that of a builder. "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:10-11). A builder has to follow the plans and a leader doesn't have the authority to do as he pleases.

Let them do so with joy and not with grief

Continuing the idea of a leader is like a builder, it has to be recognized that in the church the builder has to work with what he has available to him and not all building material is the same. "Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (I Corinthians 3:12-15). A building can be well laid, but when tested, some of it might not survive. The fault is not in the builder but in the material. Yet the builder is still going to suffer because the effort he invested was lost.

A leader's goal is to get people to heaven. Come Judgment Day, what a joy it will be to see that all the hours of hard work paid off -- to see that those you taught, advised, scolded, and encouraged walk through heaven's gate. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (III John 4).

But at the same time, it is a heartache to know some you worked so hard to save didn't make it. "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18). "Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward" (II John 8).

For that would be unprofitable for you

If a leader is filled with grief about losing a soul he has striven to save, what does that say for the soul lost? The conclusion then is for the Christian to take full advantage of the efforts of those trying to save him so that both may enter arm-in-arm into heaven with joy.

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