Hebrews 13 (Read the whole chapter for context—focus on vss. 1-16)
These final instructions sum up the warnings and encouragement throughout the letter with a final reminder of the object of our faith and worship. (Review how Jesus is “better” with table)
At the end of chapter 12, we are reminded that we have an unshakable kingdom which we are waiting for by faith. In the present time we should be worshipping the Lord with reverence and awe, knowing that we have an unshakable life in Him alone.
vs. 1-6 give some specific applications on what it looks like to give God acceptable service with reverence and awe.
—Love our brothers and sisters in Christ
—Be hospitable, knowing God has something to say to us in unexpected ways. “Angels” are messengers of God. This verse is referring to how we should always be teachable and that God is speaking to us and others in acts of generosity. Aside from that, it is just in the character of God to be hospitable.
—Remember those suffering for their faith—compassion, or feeling their pain.
—Keep pure in our relationships, especially marriage. This includes our definition of marriage and acceptable relations between men and women. They should not be together unless joined in marriage. This is a recognition of how marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church.
—Be content—don’t love material stuff. This is important, as Hebrews backs up this point with an allusion to Deuteronomy 31:6-8. The LORD was bringing His people into the land He promised them. He will be with them and lead them to victory. This is appropriate for the end of Hebrews, especially in the context of the previous chapter—the promise of an unshakeable kingdom. In light of what we will certainly receiving in Christ, we can let go of worldly possessions and desires.
—The next verse cited also backs up all these instructions thus far: “The LORD is my Helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Throughout Hebrews there is exhortation to endure, even in the face of temptation and external struggles. Our worries, concerns and mistreatment from people can keep us from our focus on the eternal, unshakeable kingdom and King Jesus—who helps us to love, be hospitable, feel compassion, stay pure, and be content. This verse cited is Psalm 118:6, which is a prophetic psalm looking forward to the Messiah. Another verse cited from this psalm in the New Testament is “the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (see Luke 20:17). This speaks to how Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leaders of His time.
—Verse 7-8 is an encouragement that we can indeed overcome given the examples of those who have led and taught in the name of Jesus. Because they overcame in the name of Jesus, who is “the same yesterday today and forever,” we will always be able to overcome.
—Verses 9-12. Jesus, and His message as the final, definitive word of and from God (see chapter1), will therefore never change. We need to take everything taught and weigh it against the truth of who He is. The temptation, like the Jews in this time, will be to succumb to pressures from outside, BUT ALSO INSIDE, the Church. There is nothing to add to who Jesus is: 1) God’s final Word; 2) The Son, and not merely a servant (like Moses), 3) The giver of final, true rest (better than Joshua), 4) The perfect High Priest (being sinless), 5) The perfect, final sacrifice, and 6) The bringer of a better covenant in which we have bold, open access to God again.
—Verse 13-16. Because of all these things, we can be confident in suffering with Him graciously and unselfishly, looking forward to “a lasting city” to come. If this current world is temporary, so are the sufferings and temptations! Life with the LORD in his kingdom is eternal.
JESUS IS ALL WE NEED TO ENDURE TO THE END. Vs. 17-25 back this up, with comforting imagery of our Shepherd who will equip us in everything as we seek His will.
Jesus gives a warning to His disciples with specific things to be ready for. These are the types of things which the writer of Hebrews was warning Christians about in their time—nearly 2,000 years ago. How much more should we pay attention who are closer to “the end!”
THE EXHORTATION: ENDURE TO THE END, MEANING 1) DON’T FALL AWAY FROM THE FAITH, 2) DON’T BETRAY OR HATE ONE ANOTHER, 3) DON’T BE MISLED, 4) DON’T LET LOVE GROW COLD, 5) PREACH THE GOSPEL. Stay active in your relationship with the Lord, fellowship with each other, and outreach to this world.
Questions to Answer:
Why has God given us the Holy Spirit?
Who has He made the Holy Spirit available to?
What is meant by Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
Why has God given us the Holy Spirit?
Acts 1:7-8, “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth.’”
The Holy Spirit is working to bring me into submission to God through revelation of His Word. In this, I receive power to participate in His plan of salvation.
Who has God made the Holy Spirit available to?
Acts 10:35,”but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”
As seen in Acts 10, the Holy Spirit is given to anyone who would turn to the Lord. This passage of Scripture, Acts 10:44-46, is often quoted for the purpose of proving that in order to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, one must speak in tongues (other languages, unintelligible to the speaker). Context is key. Cornelius’ household speaking out in tongues happened so that Peter and the other Jewish Christians would know that Gentiles—non-Jewish/those who are uncircumcised—can receive the Holy Spirit just as they had. This is a similar purpose as we can observe in Acts 2. Speaking in “tongues” was all about the spread of the Gospel message to people of all “tongues,” nationalities, etc.
If tongues was the normative manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit even in the time of the Apostles, we may have seen it referenced in such passages as Acts 4:31-32, “…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness…those who believed were of one heart and soul…all things were common property to them.” Here, being filled with the Spirit is evidenced by speaking the word of God with boldness, unity and unmatched generosity. Acts 19:6 points out “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.” It does not necessarily say all spoke in tongues, but prophesying is also clearly a manifestation of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Notice in Acts, the phrase “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is only explicitly used in chapter 1, then quoted by Peter in chapter 11, in the context of carrying out the Great Commission. Acts 11 is another case in which it is all about the Jewish Christians understanding that salvation in Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit is for Gentile believers, too. This is further reinforced when Peter reports to the church in Jerusalem in chapter 15:6-9. Here, Peter notes the work of the Holy Spirit is “cleansing their hearts by faith” (vs. 9). 1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that there are various gifts of the Spirit, who “works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (vs. 11). Yes, we should “earnestly desire the greater gifts” (vs. 31), but they should all be for the building of the Body of Christ in love, according to the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14. It is hard, given careful exegesis of all these Scriptures, to come to a conclusive doctrine of “tongues” being a normative manifestation of being filled with the Spirit. (Also of note is the fact that Paul does not use the phrase “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in 1 Corinthians).
“Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is a huge focal point for charismatic churches, especially, but not always understood and used properly. We know that we need the Holy Spirit to carry forward Jesus’ mission and to live in submission to God’s will. The first reference in the New Testament of this is Matthew 3:11, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John the Baptist speaks of two baptisms: baptism in water, and baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire.
Let’s look at these two baptisms side-by-side (picture below)
Romans 8:9-17. My body is dead, but spiritually I have been made alive. This allows my dead body to be brought into obedience
If one truly takes a text-critical reading of Scripture with careful exegesis, then the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit according to a lot of churches is just not accurate, despite what one’s experience might be. That said, I am not one to limit the working of the Spirit. In the context of multicultural churches and the spread of the Gospel in new regions, the gift of tongues may still be actively used. The point is that it is not NORMATIVE, nor a necessary sign, that one has been baptized in the Holy Spirit as Jesus meant. Again, it should be an ongoing experience, evidenced by a transformed life—all to the building up of the Body of Christ.
Starts off with the word “for.” He is building on his previous point. In verses 14-17, the point is If I truly want to see the Lord and display His life to others, I will endure His discipline to be sanctified. SONS OF GOD ARE NOT COMPLACENT. (Esau was fleshly, Jacob—>Israel was spiritual.)
In these verses, Hebrews describes what made our access to God possible, contrasting two mountains, which represent two different covenants.
verses 18-21 speak of Mount Sinai, where Moses received God’s commandments for the people and God manifested Himself, which people could not bear. Mount Sinai could be touched—it was a physical place—but anything or anyone unclean (everyone) would be killed if they did so!
verses 22-24 speak of Mount Zion, the heavenly place of God’s dwelling where the church and all God’s angels will be gathered together. He makes a point to describe those who are there, “the righteous made perfect.” Jesus, the mediator of a NEW COVENANT (by which He those righteous were made perfect). The sprinkled blood which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
So there is a contrast between two mountains—also two covenants, two types of blood. The new covenant makes God accessible, whereas the old covenant shrouded God in mystery. The old covenant could not perfect a man, as there was a never-ending cycle of sacrifices, but the new covenant could. Jesus died once for all. (Hebrews 10:11-14)
The key is understanding verse 24—the difference between the “blood of Christ” and “the blood of Abel.” I have read commentaries which in some way speak to how the blood of Abel refers to when Cain killed Abel, but I don’t think that is the full analogy being drawn here.
Look at Genesis 4: 1-15. Cain is a farmer, Abel is a shepherd. Cain brings some crops to offer God, and Abel brings his best animals. God regards Abel’s offering but not Cain’s offering. What was different about Abel’s offering? The attitude of the bringer. Abel brought an offering of blood—a sacrifice, where Cain brought the best work of his hands. Abel was remembering God’s mercy on his parents Adam and Eve. When God warned them about eating the forbidden fruit, He said they would surely die. They did experience separation from God in being cast out from the Garden of Eden—this was spiritual death. God would have been justified to kill them completely then and there. However, what happens is this: “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” God clothes them in animal skin—an animal had to be killed first! God at the very beginning institutes the first animal sacrifice. Mankind, separated from God, became like animals. Yet God shows mercy. This is what Abel was remembering. He wanted to reconcile with his Creator. You can also see he had a heart to reconcile with his brother Cain. God warned Cain; Cain told Abel his brother; they are out in the field (Abel went out to meet Cain in the field—where Cain works). The first man ever killed also had a heart to reconcile man and God and was killed in innocence. Both Abel’s animal sacrifice and his own death were not enough to reconcile God and mankind, though his heart was in the right place. We should remember Abel’s attitude and desire for God’s mercy—and I do believe he died in faith and that I will get to see him someday—but only God Himself can act to reconcile Himself to humankind.
WE HAVE BOLD, CONFIDENT ACCESS TO GOD THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST (Heb. 4:16)
**FAITH OF YOUNGER BROTHER: Jacob and Abel foreshadow Christ and Spiritual Israel**
Only Jesus’ blood is what makes it possible for me to be reconciled and sanctified.
2 Corinthians 5:14-19…Christ died for all so we would no longer live for ourselves. Being sanctified doesn’t just mean we no longer commit sins. It means we seek to be and to do everything God wants for us. We should be seeing others as: Children of God or Potential Children of God. Now reconciled, all I have to live for and offer is Jesus. Anything else is vain.
Do I truly understand and treasure the confident access to God which we believers have?
Am I truly living only for Jesus, keeping in mind the heavenly hope I have?
PREVIEW Hebrews 12:25-29. We will go through this more in depth next time; however, we can observe that there is a kingdom to come. Our proper response is obedience, gratitude, and service to God.
Where am I distracted from living for Jesus?
Do I always have in mind the kingdom to which He has granted me access?
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!