Today we finish Hebrews! We started our study of this book on January 16, 2000, this is the 59th message. That seems humorous in light of Hebrews 13:22 which says, "And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words." The author says he has only written a few words, but it took us over a year to study those few words.
As we come to the conclusion of this letter, the author gives us several closing exhortations to love and good works. Then beginning in verses 7 and running down to verse 18 he gives us three final exhortations, all of which begin with "S"; these verses are a final call to separation, submission, and supplication. After he calls on them to pray, he prays for them, specifically for their sanctification. Then he closes with some personal instructions.
We are to live a life of separation from the world, we are to be holy. And one very important aspect of this holy lifestyle is submission. We are to be subordinate to the powers that be, and here he refers specifically to church leaders. Being submissive is not easy, we all know that, so here he calls them to supplication; to pray for those who rule over them. Pray for your leaders, don't rebel and resist them, pray for them.
Hebrews 13:18 (NKJV) Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.
"Pray for us" - the word "pray" here is from the Greek word proseuchomai. It's a present imperative which looks for a continuous activity and implies that they had already been doing this. "Keep praying for us" is its force.
We are to be praying for those who lead in the church, church leaders are made of the same stuff as those they serve. They have sins, weaknesses, limitations, blind spots, and needs of all sorts, just as everyone else; and thus they need prayer.
The apostle Paul did not hesitate to ask for prayer:
Ephesians 6:19 (NKJV) "Pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,"
If Paul needed prayer for boldness, than how much more do church leaders today?
The author goes on to say, "...for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably". The good conscience of which he speaks is probably the fruit of a sense of duty done, a responsibility well discharged. He was not being egotistical or arrogant, but simply saying that, to the best of his own knowledge, he had ministered to the people faithfully - not perfectly, but faithfully. He had been faithful in warning them of the dangers of apostasy.
Hebrews 13:19 (NKJV) But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
"But I especially urge you to do this" - that is, to pray for me, "that I", by God's response to your petitions, "may be restored to you the sooner", or in the near future. The word "sooner" is from the Greek word tachion, which comes from tachus, which means: "speed, quickness, swiftness, haste". He longs to be united in person with them again.
The implications of this brief request are: first, that the writer had previously been associated with those he is addressing, perhaps as one of their leaders; second, that he is now in a different location, presumably in a different country; and third, that he is for the present prevented from coming to them, though he hopes to be able to do so soon.
After requesting prayer, he immediately turns around and prays for them:
Hebrews 13:20-21 (NKJV) 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, 21 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.
This prayer is in three parts.
1. An address: "Now may the God of peace...." This title contemplates God in relation to His people and not mankind in general. God is only a God of peace to those who have been justified by faith:
Romans 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
"...who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead...."- I believe the resurrection is mentioned here as the grand evidence that God is pacified toward us. When God raised Christ from the dead, He showed that He was propitiated, that He had accepted the ransom which had been given for our redemption. This is the only reference to our Lord's resurrection in the epistle; elsewhere the emphasis is on His exaltation to the right hand of God.
"...that great Shepherd of the sheep...." - This imagery stresses the care of our Lord for his own, for sheep are helpless without their shepherd. Sheep require more attention than any other class of livestock , they need endless attention and meticulous care. As our shepherd, Christ cares for our needs, keeps us safe, and gives guidance to our lives. Also the shepherd has absolute sovereignty over his flock.
Who are Christ's sheep?
John 10:11 (NKJV) "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
John 10:15-16 (NKJV) "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
John 10:23-29 (NKJV) And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. 26 "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.
Christ tells these Jews that they did not believe, because they were not His sheep. These verses point clearly to the doctrine of particular redemption or limited atonement. Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of the elect, his sheep:
John 10:3-4 (NKJV) "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Notice that the Shepherd calls "his own sheep". The idea of God choosing certain people to receive his grace and mercy is taught all through Scripture. Look with me at the story in:
John 5:2-8 (NKJV) Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."
There was a "great multitude" of sick folks there, but Christ healed only one. Why? He could have healed them all, why didn't he? The answer is simple, He chose not to. God is sovereign in the dispensing of his mercy and grace. Does it bother you that God chooses certain people to give grace and mercy to? If the doctrine of election bothers you, you are not alone:
Luke 4:25-30 (NKJV) "But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 "but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 "And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." 28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. 30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.
Here, out of the many widows and lepers, God chooses to bless two Gentiles - this made the Jews very angry. People, God is Sovereign over all, and this includes the giving of eternal life:
John 5:21 (NKJV) "For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.
Who does the Son give life to? Whom He will. Our Shepherd is sovereign over His sheep. Our minds have been conditioned to think of the cross as a redemption which does less than redeem, and of Christ as a savior who does less than save, and of God's love as a weak affection which cannot keep anyone from hell without their help, and of faith as the human help which God needs for his purpose. This is not the gospel, the gospel is "God saves sinners."
In John 17 we see the Great Shepherd praying only for His sheep:
John 17:2 (NKJV) "as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
John 17:9 (NKJV) "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
Jesus Christ is the Great Shepherd who not only died to save his sheep, but He ever loves and provides for them. What comfort to know that I am one of His sheep.
The author of Hebrews goes on to say, "...through the blood of the everlasting covenant...." The adjective "everlasting" brings out the point that the New Covenant will never be replaced by another as it replaced the Old Covenant. It is perpetual in its validity, and it was established by blood. The author never forgets that; for him the death of Jesus Christ is central.
The second part of this prayer is:
2. The petition: "...make you complete...." - This has been the purpose of the epistle. He wants the readers to go on to maturity, to being full grown children of God. The word "complete" is from the Greek word katartizo, which has the idea that an article is accurately and completely adapted to its intended use. It is used of fishermen "mending their nets" in Matthew 4:12, they mended them so that they might catch and hold fish. It is used in:
Galatians 6:1 (NKJV) Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore (katartizo) such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
He is to be restored so that he shall again be adapted to serving God.
The writer is praying that his readers will be completely adapted to their intended use which in Hebrews has the idea of being partners with Jesus Christ. We are invited into partnership with the exalted King Jesus. God has intended that we share in His inheritance as His partners.
These believers were being tempted to give up, to stop assembling with other believers, and to turn their back on God:
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
They were tempted to turn away from their Christian commitment because of persecution (10:34-36). The author says, "Please don't cast away your Christian confidence. If you do, you will be throwing away your intimate relationship with the King of Kings."
Believer, the maturity that is spoken of in Hebrews is being completely adapted to our intended use, which has the idea of being partners with, or living in fellowship with Jesus Christ.
He goes on to say, "...in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ" - our maturity, our sanctification is God's work. This is very similar to:
Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Sanctification is a work of God in which man co-operates. How do we co-operate? By applying ourselves to the means of grace that God has provided. We studied this two weeks ago - do you remember what the means of grace are? They are the Word of God, prayer, and the ministry of others - fellowship.
John states that our sanctification comes by the Word:
John 17:17 (NKJV) ""Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."
So we must spend time in His Word, and we must spend time in prayer:
Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV) Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Only as we are dependant upon God can we live the Christian life.
Our third means of grace is: The Ministry of Others.
Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV) Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
The means of grace here is the ministry of other believers. God uses us as ministers of grace. Are you aware that you can be a means of grace in another believer's life? That is a very sobering thought. I can impart grace to a fellow believer!
The third part of this prayer is:
3. Doxology: "...to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." All the glory for any thing we accomplish goes to God; it is His work, and He receives the praise.
Now, in verses 22- 25 the author gives the readers some personal instructions:
Hebrews 13:22 (NKJV) And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words.
He has spoken sternly in warning them of the extreme peril of apostasy, but his aim all through has been their strengthening and encouragement.
"...few words"- is the Greek word brachus, which means:"short, or in a few words". The whole letter (7,160 words, my last message in Hebrews was 4,904 words) is shorter than Romans or 1 Corinthians and can be read in less than an hour. If the writer had dealt fully with the great themes he discusses such as:
Hebrews 9:5 (NKJV) and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
This letter would have been inconceivably long.
Hebrews 13:23 (NKJV) Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly.
This was probably Paul's younger companion who had been in custody of some kind, presumable on account of his Christian profession, but now he has been released. The writer's hope was that Timothy would "soon" join him, and that together they would visit the readers. The word "shortly" is from the Greek word tachion, which come from tachus, which means: "speed, quickness, swiftness, haste".
Hebrews 13:24 (NKJV) Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.
The mention of "...all those who rule over you" supports the other New Testament teachings of the plurality of elders who lead the people of God.
"...Those from Italy greet you" - is an ambiguous expression which could mean either those from Italy who are now in a different country, or those who are of Italy and still in Italy. We could translate it "Greetings to you from our Italian friends"
Hebrews 13:25 (NKJV) Grace be with you all. Amen.
This benediction is identical with that of Titus 3:15. The source of this grace is the throne of grace where divine assistance is ever available to us in the hour of need.
The burden of Hebrews is a call for Christians to hang on to their confidence and Christian profession in the midst of persecution and suffering.
Have you ever been tempted to give up? Has living the Christian life ever gotten to the point when you just wanted to quit? You felt like you couldn't take anymore. I think we've all been at that point at one time or another, and because we've all been there, the book of Hebrews is very relevant to us.
The five warning passages in this book are very solemn and actually quite terrifying. And it's very important that we understand that they are written to believers:
Hebrews 10:23-29 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
Who are the "we" in verse 26? They're the same ones who in the previous verses are unmistakably identified as God's children who are admonished to hold fast their profession. He is saying that the way to avoid willful sinning is for the believer to hold fast his profession.
Hebrews 10:34-35 (NKJV) for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
The word "reward" is the key to understanding the book of Hebrews. It is not written to half-saved professors who are threatened with being lost. It is written to believers who can never be lost, we are His sheep. But we can lose our reward. The warnings are to believers who will lose their reward in eternity and suffer temporal discipline here and now.
The potential of apostasy is very real, and the purpose of this book is to warn us of its dangers and to encourage us with the glorious potential of intimate fellowship with Christ.
We all face temptations, we all experience trials, we all are persecuted from time to time, and therefore, apostasy is a very real danger to us all. I hope that you are aware of the danger; if you think it can't happen to you, you obviously don't know the depravity of your own heart:
1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV) Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
I would like us to close our study of this book by reviewing its core message which is found in:
Hebrews 10:22-25 (NKJV) let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
These four verses give us the divine antidote to apostasy, or we could call them the divine prescription for spiritual victory.
1. "Let us draw near..."- "draw near" is from the Greek word proserchomai, which means: "to approach". This speaks of our communion or fellowship with God. We draw near to God as we would with a friend, by communication. We communicate with God through His Word and prayer. He speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to Him through prayer.
We are to Draw near:
Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV) Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
As He speaks to us, we must submit to His will; a holy walk is indispensable to fellowship with God:
1 John 1:6 (NKJV) If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
2. "Let us hold fast..." - "hold fast" is from the Greek word katecho, which means: "to continue, to hold down, to keep in memory". What are we to keep in memory? Our hope! Hope is looking forward to things not present, but whose coming is certain. The hope that we are to hang on to is heaven; eternity with Christ.
In the midst of the storms of life, "hold fast" your hope in the promises of God. If you find your hope fading, go back to number 1; get into His word and remind yourself of what he promises.
3. "And let us consider one another..."- "consider" is from the Greek word katanoeo, from kata which means: "down", and noeo which means: "to exercise the mind". It has the idea of thoroughly and carefully noticing someone or something.
Do you realize that individually you and I are personally responsible for the physical and spiritual welfare of each believer in this assembly? I wish we all realized this.
Notice the twofold purpose of our considering one another - "in order to stir up love and good works".
Notice in verse 25 the twofold manner in which this is done:
Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV) not forsaking the assembling of ourselvestogether, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
We are to "not forsake the assembling of ourselves", and we are to "exhort one another". The word "exhorting" is from the Greek word parakaleo, which means: "to encourage, comfort, beg". It speaks of positive encouragement, coming along side to help.
I can endure much more when I have someone to encourage me, someone to give me support and comfort. The supportive love of Christians for one another is a powerful factor in maintaining our spiritual walk. One of the best ways to preserve our own vitality of faith is to be actively involved in the encouragement of others.
It's my prayer that the teaching of Hebrews will strengthen us to stand against every opposition. Let's keep in mind this prescription for victory. Let us: draw near to God, Hold fast our hope, consider one another.
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