Hebrews Chapter 13

(Heb 13:1) Let brotherly love continue.

It is notable that this paragraph (verses 1- 7) is about love, specifically about loving our brethren. The first five commandments were about exalting God. They are: have no other Gods before me, do not make an image and worship it, do not take the Lord’s Name in vain, remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, and honor your parents. This is also known as the first table or tablet of the law; it is about love. It is about loving God. Christ told us, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).The second table of the law is also about love. It is about loving others as Christ said in Matthew 22:39, And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In the last chapter, Paul 1 concluded a discourse upon loving and honoring God in all that we do, and doing all we can to please Him. We are to love him entirely. Now Paul shifts to the second table of the law, which includes do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not bear false witness, and do not covet. These laws are about loving others. (Admittedly, honoring your parents could fit in either place. They are an extension of God’s authority. By honoring your parents, you are obeying God. But you also love others, in this case, your parents.) In this chapter, Paul discussed the acts we should do (or not do) out of love for others. These are in the form of proverbs.

(Heb 13:2) Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Now the question is, do we take this literally or allegorically? The literal-historical-grammatical method of interpretation teaches that a passage of scripture is assumed to be literal unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. Using this method, one must avoid using spiritualization or allegory if not clearly indicated by the context of the passage. So using this method we would make the assumption that this is a literal truth, because there is not clear reason to assume it is allegory.

I do not usually agree with the Dispensationalists, but I do agree with this method of hermeneutics. I always take the Bible literally except when the context shows an allegorical view is correct. Having said that, though, I also know from experience that when I review a passage I often get a deeper understanding of the passage than I did the previous time I read it. Because of this, I accept Aquinas’ teaching that there are different levels of biblical understanding. He proposed four levels, beginning with the literal. The other three are the allegorical, moral, and spiritual (or anagogical) levels. I usually take the Bible literally but I understand that there are truths taught in each passage of scripture that transcend the literal. Even the passage that is completely literal, such as 1 Samuel 19:8, “And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him,” we can find a truth that transcends the literal. In this case, it is literally obvious that David went out, fought the Philistines, and defeated them. A truth that transcends the literal here is that David honored God and God was with David in this endeavor.

There is no doubt that Hebrews 13:2 refers to literal events. Abraham entertained strangers that were angels. Lot entertained these same angels but knew it not. The same applies to Manoah and his wife, and to Gideon. These men actually entertained strangers that turned out to be angels. The men that saw them were unaware of the fact at first.

Paul is not telling us that we may entertain angels. He is simply stating that others have entertained angels when they were hospitable to strangers. The verse certainly implies that the same thing may happen to us. However, he does not state it. Because he does not expressly say that in this particular case, the literal-historical-grammatical method of interpretation will not admit the possibility that people may entertain angels and remain unaware of the fact. It will only admit that it has happened in the past. Nonetheless, many Christians believe that we may indeed entertain angels unawares.

Why is that? It is because many preachers, who truly believe in the strict, literal-historical-grammatical method of interpretation, often teach that some of the strangers that some Christians entertain are actually angels. Notwithstanding the verse does not truly teach that we may entertain angels. It tells us that we must be hospitable to strangers and treat them as honored guests. However, because it is implied, I admit the possibility that some may entertain angels unawares.

In the historical context, there were few places to stay while traveling. Since most people walked everywhere, they sometimes spent several days on the road. Due to the lack of accommodations, it was socially correct to entertain strangers thus providing them with lodgings that were not available elsewhere. Once guests were under your roof it was your sacred duty to take care of their needs and that included their security. This explains why Lot and the old man of Gibeah would offer to turn out their daughters to the wicked men that demanded their guests be given over to them for abuse. It was because of their sacred duty to protect guests in their house at all costs (Genesis 19:8,  Judges 19:24). In fact in the Middle East today, you may hear this statement of hospitality: “You have extremely honored me by coming into my abode. I am not worthy of it. This house is yours; you may burn it if you wish. My children are also at your disposal; I would sacrifice them all for your pleasure.” 2 Though this is hyperbolic, it expresses how people feel about hospitality in the East; the guest’s comfort is all important.

Today, with myriads of public lodging places, it is not nearly so often that we must entertain strangers. I was once on the staff of a church that was just off the main road into town. Every down on his luck transient that came to town stopped at our church for food, lodging, gas, money, etc. We never gave them money. We had a contract with a local hotel to provide lodging for those folks. The motel would bill us for the accommodation. The folks stayed there one night as our guest. That is one way we may entertain strangers today. I would never advocate taking some of those folk into our homes because with today’s morals, it is simply not safe for us or for our families to do so.

In summary, Paul did not teach that we might entertain angels unawares. He simply taught that some of those men mentioned in the scriptures did so. Yet we are to extend hospitality to others as if they were angels we were entertaining unawares. This means to be cordial to others is all venues, including at home, at church, at work, shopping, at events, etc.

Heb 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

The object here, I believe, is those Christians who have suffered for the sake of Christ, and those who are imprisoned for their belief in Christ. In America today we don’t have any of those people in prison. [Addendum, The last sentence is no longer true. On September 23, 2015, County Clerk Kim Bailey of Rowan County, Kentucky was jailed for refusing to issue gay marriage licenses.  She refused to do so because of her Christian beliefs. Thus persecution of Christians has begun in the USA.] However, there are Christians in bonds in other nations. We must keep in mind; we must never forget them. We must be empathetic with them. We should picture ourselves in their place for we are still in the body, and susceptible to similar suffering.

Remember, however, that bonds can have other meanings. Certainly this implies that we also remember those in prison for crimes. We should pray for their salvation. A person without Christ is in bondage to sin. They too should be remembered. Additionally, those in hospitals, nursing homes, rest homes, etc., should be remembered.

(Heb 13:4) Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Marriage is between one man and one woman and God ordained marriage: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Therefore, God respects, honors, and holds marriage in high esteem. He ordained it and in this verse, God tells us that he respects and esteems it. Since God holds marriage in high regard, no one that disdains it is of God. The “same sex marriage” advocates are in opposition to God’s desire. The Roman Catholic Church and its vow of celibacy is also in opposition to God’s desire. Who opposes God at every turn and who does all in his power to corrupt the will of God? Of course, it is Satan, old slough foot. He is behind the destruction of biblical marriage. Let us not forget that as a nation, we in the USA (and those in many other countries, as well) have turned against God and through our own fleshly desires, we share responsibility with Satan for the destruction of marriage.

That the marriage bed is undefiled refers to sexual relations. Such relations between spouses cannot be condemned. Such marital relations are pure and there is no sin in them. In contradistinction, those who defile the marriage bed are sinning and God will judge them. Adulterers and whoremongers (customers of a prostitute—”johns”) defile the marriage bed with sexual relations outside of marriage. In fact any sexual relations outside marriage, including homosexual relations, defile the marriage bed. God abhors such practices because they are sin and God hates sin. However, God loves the sinner enough to provide an opportunity to be forgiven of sins and delivered from such actions through His Son, Jesus Christ. God does not hate homosexuals or adulterers or whoremongers. As such, we in the Body of Christ are to love those people as well (Matt 22:39).

Heb 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Our conversation is not the discussions we have with others, but is the way we turn, or live our lives. It is our behavior or deportment. The dictionary tells us that this use of the word ‘conversation’ is archaic and obsolete. Nevertheless, in the era the KJV Bible was translated, it meant our behavior. Other translations render it conduct, manners, way of life, behavior, etc.

Another word for covetousness is avarice, specifically avarice for money. The Greek word, αφιλαργυρος, aphilarguros, means not greedy for money or filthy lucre. Instead of always wanting more, we ought to be content with what we already have because of God’s promise to always be with us. He will supply our needs and more.

The question is, ought we pursue a job, savings, retirement, etc. Certainly, we should. There is nothing wrong with pursuing a goal provided our pursuit of such goal does not become idolatrous. It becomes idolatrous when we put our pursuit of it before God. How do we do that? We do so by ignoring our godly conversation, or behavior in pursuit of our goal. Practically, that means we let it get in the way of our Bible reading, our prayer time, our attendance at church, our families, etc. If we frequently miss Bible study, prayer time or church fellowship in order to pursue our goal, it has become idolatrous. When we let it interfere with our parental duties or our relationship with our spouse, it becomes idolatrous. When we do things pursuant to our goals that are sinful (such as lying, stealing, hating, taking advantage of the weak, etc.), then our goal or our work is placed ahead of God in our lives and that is idolatrous. If we separate our business and professional lives and do something that is less than honest (e.g. taking advantage of someone weaker than we) and claim “That’s business,” we have put business ahead of God, and that again is idolatrous.

Along these lines, let me say unequivocally, right now, that many Christians will miss attending church at the barest excuse. We would never allow many of those same excuses to cause us to miss work. We may say “Oh, its raining cats and dogs out. I guess we will have to miss church today.” However, we would probably not say, “Boss, its raining cats and dogs out. I guess I will have to miss work today.” No, we would put on our rain gear, take our umbrella, and go to work. Is church less important than work? In some cases, yes it is. If a Doctor is called out to an emergency, that may be more important than attend church fellowship at that time. In most cases (like our rainy day scenario) our excuses to miss church fellowship are far less important than attending regular worship gatherings. And normally, our employment is less important than attending church. God commands us to fellowship with others. The commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy”. While Paul tells us that Christ has fulfilled this commandment (Colossians 2:16), he also said not to miss regular fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). As the Sabbath was weekly, so should our fellowship be weekly.

When regularly we miss attending church, Bible study, prayer time, or family duties for work, then our work has become idolatrous. Occasionally it is necessary to allow work to interfere with our Godly conversation (church, Bible study, prayer, family), but that should be the exception, and not the rule. If we allow our work to interfere with our Godly conversation, then our conversation is with covetousness, or avarice. It is usually because of money. However, it may be for personal power or personal achievement or some other motive. Nevertheless, it is still avarice.

We need not pursue money, shelter, food, or clothing to the point of idolatry. If we will trust in God, He will provide our needs. We may still have good jobs, but they must not become idolatrous. God will provide.

Samuel F.B. Morse, upon sending the first telegraph message in Morse code, sent this phrase from Washington to Baltimore: “What hath God wrought!” (Numbers 23:23). Morse was a Christian, yet he perfected the telegraph and innovated Morse code. He profited handsomely from this and other works, yet he remained a committed Christian until his death. He proved that one could be successful at his vocation and still be a committed Christian and a Godly person. There are many other men (for example, Dan T. Cathy, head of Chick-fil-A) that were successful in their endeavors and still remained Godly men. Many of our founding fathers (men like George Washington and Samuel Adams) were Godly, committed Christians, and were, at the same time, successful in their vocations.

Hebrews 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Remember the last phrase of the previous verse, “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Since God will never leave or forsake us, we may boldly say that He is our helper and we will not fear anything man can do to us. A sermon could be preached on this verse alone, but let us be as brief as possible. There are several corollaries to this verse in the scriptures that will help us understand this.

Psalms 118:6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

Dan 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. (17) If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. (18) But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, {39} Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

From these verses we can see that the truth is that we can never be hurt by anything another person does to us. Yes, we can be temporally hurt. If tortured, we will feel pain. If naked, we will be cold. In famine, we will be hungry. Without water, we will thirst. Without shelter, we will be exposed to the elements. If we are killed, our bodies will die. Yet Christ suffered all of these things and He was raised again on the third day. We too, will be raised to life after our physical death. As for suffering:

Acts 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

If we do suffer, let us take heart that He also suffered and we should rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer as He did.

Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Paul is talking about those Christians who have witnessed to us, taught us, and have preached to us the Word of God. Let us follow the example of their faith that we may have Godly conversation as they have.

In this verse, the Greek word for end is εκβασιν, ekbasin, the accusative form (object form) of εκβασις ekbasis, 1545, which, in this context, means the results. We should follow the example of Godly men and women when we consider the result of their Godly lives. That result is that they have spoken the word of God to us and to others, and lived lives of salt and light reflecting Christ to the world.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Here we begin a new direction. The subject, Godly behavior, remains the same but the focus changes slightly. Previously, Paul exhorted us to live godly lives because of our love for God (the first commandment of Christ) and then because of our love for others (the second commandment of Christ). Now Paul exhorts us to live Godly lives because of the unchangeable or immutable nature of Christ. God manifests Himself in three different persons, Father Son and Spirit. Thus, the immutable nature of Christ is the immutable nature of God. God has always been the same. His attributes do not change. He has always been loving, merciful, kind, just, terrible, patient, righteous, holy, and has many more attributes. All of his other attributes are unchangeable as well.

(Heb 13:9) Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

As God is immutable, let us be unchangeable about truth as well. We should not allow various or foreign doctrines persuade us to forsake the truth. To be carried about literally means that someone to carries another person around. When the men let the sick man down through the roof into Christ’s presence, they had carried him about on a pallet. The sick man had no control over where he went unless those carrying him would go where he bid them. If not, he was at their mercy. The same is true about the person carried about with false doctrines. He knows not where he is going. Those false doctrines control him and his beliefs. Therefore ‘carried’ symbolizes false doctrines changing our minds about true doctrine. It tells us not to allow every new doctrine that comes along to sway us. Don’t be faddish with doctrine. If the doctrine is not in accord with the Bible, it is false and we should avoid it.

The Greek word rendered diverse literally means many-colored. Look at the humble houseplant, philodendron. The most popular variety has heart shaped leaves of a fairly even green. Yet one can get a variegated philodendron. The normal is a single color, while the variegated is multi-colored. Compare this to sound doctrine. Sound doctrine has but one source, the Bible. It has one overriding object, and that is to glorify God. Other doctrines are many and varied, having more than one source and more that one object. Sound doctrine and false doctrine are to each other as non-variegated philodendron is to the variegated type. Sound doctrine has a single color, and that is Jesus Christ. False doctrine is many-colored, and includes other than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and no one may go the Father in Heaven except by the work Jesus did at the cross (John 14:6). The many-colored doctrine teaches other ways to get to Heaven than the finished work of Christ. That doctrine adds works, extra-biblical “scriptures,” and usually has a man or woman who replaces Christ, or claims to be Christ or His substitute on Earth (e.g. His vicar).

The Greek word rendered strange literally means foreign. So sound doctrine is that which is established by Christ and false doctrine is that which is foreign to Him. So not only is false doctrine many-colored, it is also foreign to the Christian with an established heart. As a result, by the grace of God, let His Son, Jesus Christ establish our hearts with sound doctrine.

Paul uses meats, or foods, as a metaphor for false doctrine. The Mosaic system established whether certain foods were clean or unclean. Israelites could consume clean foods but were required to abstain from unclean foods. The Pharisees added further requirements to the point that the law was too cumbersome for any to completely obey. Of course the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and other religious groups prided themselves on their ability to know obey the entire law. This pride often led to arrogance. That is why the Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luk 18:11-12) While the publican prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luk 18:13) The publican had it right with his simple, humble, and single request for God’s mercy. The Pharisee was so arrogant that he could not see his own total depravity before God. So meats here refers the food laws, which, when observed, had never profited their adherents. The food laws also reflect the many regulations that were required of the Israelites in the time of Jesus. Paul thus applies meats metaphorically to diverse and strange doctrines.

All those doctrines and laws of the Pharisees, the Jews, and the nation of Israel did them not one bit of good. They profited nothing for their religiosity. Let us not be as them, who ran after or, more accurately, carried about with all of their religion and false doctrines. Let us be sober and diligent and seek out the word of God even as the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11), so that we will not be blown about by every wind of false doctrine.

False doctrine of every kind is in full swing today. Many “Christian” groups maintain one or more works as necessary for salvation. Some allow immorality but force their members to abstain from anything containing caffeine. Some have a works type salvation (charity, penance, or baptism). Some teach many unbiblical doctrines like the laughing revival. (I once asked, jokingly, “What’s next, the vomiting church?” Little did I know that “holy vomiting”, or “vomiting in the Spirit” would become another “manifestation of the Spirit” in some groups.) There is plenty of false doctrine in the world. Do not be swayed by it.

(Heb 13:10) We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.

Of course, our altar is one that requires no further sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed Himself at that altar and His offering is sufficient forever. Those who serve at the tabernacle are the ones working themselves to heaven. A portion of all the sacrifices was given to the priests for them to eat and to feed their families. The priests actually ate the sacrifice at the Tabernacle (Leviticus 8:31).

The tabernacle of Moses required the continued practice of very specific rituals. Victims had to be prepared in certain ways, sacrificed on certain days, and the rules, laws, and ordinances had to be meticulously followed in order for God to accept the sacrifice. Nadab, Abihu (Aaron’s sons), Hophni, and Phinehas (Eli’s sons), improperly carried out their duties as priests and died as a result. David’s nephew Uzzah died when he touched the Ark of the Covenant. He died because he was not allowed by law to transport or to touch the ark. Only the Kohathites were allowed to carry the ark. Only Levites might touch it.

Approximately two centuries BC, when the Mishna (the oral traditions of the elders) was written, the Rabbis numbered 613 specific written laws that supposedly clarified the laws written in the Torah. Each has a scripture reference, some of which are implausible. An Israelite had to obey all 613 laws to be considered righteous. The Pharisees had taken all of those meticulously followed ordinances and embellished them further, making them even more intricate and difficult to follow. An example of the traditions of the elders or Israel can be seen in Mark 7:3. Even though the Pharisees claimed to observe them all, they were not being honest. On the other hand, perhaps they had deceived themselves into believing they observed all the laws. Yet, it was impossible to obey all of them. No one could keep every law on the books, not even the Pharisees.

Those who served at the tabernacle typify those preaching a false doctrine of salvation plus works. Moreover, since they teach such false doctrines, they do not eat at, that is, they do not partake of the same altar as we. Our altar is the one where the perfect and sinless sacrifice was made once for all. Their altar is one of their own choosing where they try to make enough sacrifices to be found righteous in God’s eyes. The only problem is God’s own words that no one is righteous. Not even one (Psalm 14:3,  Psalm 53:3, Romans 3:10).

If you believe or teach that works are required for salvation, then you have not the right to eat at the same altar as true believers. Many cults teach that faith plus works equal salvation. That is not what the Scriptures say. The Bible teaches that faith equals salvation and salvation begets good works. Without salvation, we can do not good works. God says that all our attempts at righteous acts are like filthy rags in His eyes (Isa 64:6). What do we do with filthy rags? We either wash them or discard them. While filthy they are no good to us. Accordingly, if our works that are good in our own eyes are as filthy rags to God, and if not washed, God will discard them. The only way to wash them is in the blood that Jesus spilled at Calvary. Nothing else will make them clean. Without Jesus, we have no righteous works, therefore our works cannot save us, and we have no salvation.

Our altar is in heaven. Those believing their works will save them cannot get to heaven and therefore they cannot eat at the altar in heaven where we as true believers eat. They have no right to heaven because their works are filthy, and not effective in securing salvation, therefore they have no right to eat at that altar.

Heb 13:11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.

There were certain offerings that the Levites, by law, could not to eat. They were the sin offerings. The priests could not eat those victims whose blood the high priest sprinkled on the altar for atonement. They took those carcasses out of the camp or, when the temple was in Jerusalem, out of the city, and burned them (Ex 29:14). Those who carried the victims out and those who burned them were unclean (Lev 16:28) and had to wash themselves before they could reenter into the camp. To be unclean was to be an outcast not accepted by general society. It was shameful to be unclean. The carcasses bore condemnation to any who touched them.

When the sin offering was made, the high priest would lay hands on the victim, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the victim. Then the victim would be killed and the high priest would sprinkle its blood on the altar. The remains of the victim would be carried outside the camp and burned symbolizing removing the sins of the people from God’s sight.

Heb 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

Just as the sin offerings sacrificed to sanctify the people temporarily were burned outside the gate, and for the same reason (see above), Jesus was crucified outside the gate. Jesus’ death and shed blood sanctify all who will believe on Him. It is of interest to note that Jesus shed a good portion of the blood He lost inside the city when they scourged Him, beat Him, and shoved the crown of thorns into His head. He shed some blood during the crucifixion process, when they drove in the nails in, and when they plunged the sword into His side. But most of it was shed inside the gate just like the blood of the sin offering at the tabernacle.

Heb 13:13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

Those that went out of the camp with the carcasses of the atonement victims were unclean. Uncleanness was a shame and until he could dispel the shame, the unclean person had to remain outside the camp. Nonetheless, there is more than being unclean to be considered here.

When Jesus died outside the city, it was because they considered Him a malefactor. Anyone who followed a malefactor, especially one executed under the law, was an outcast and bore the reproach of the malefactor. After His execution, those who followed Jesus Christ bore His reproach as a malefactor. Society considered them outcasts. Even today, when a devout Jew becomes a believer in Christ, his family may reject him. Some will even have a funeral for the family member who becomes a believer. Believers must willingly accept the reproach they receive from their family and from society in general.

A third way to view this is that we Christians are in the world but not of the world. Being followers of Jesus puts us at odds with the world. If you don’t see this let me take a moment to acquaint you with the facts about Christianity. When we become believers, we become sons of Abraham, engrafted branches into the stock of Israel. We become Israelites by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those that are Jews outwardly are not of God. Only those that are Jews inwardly are the true people of God. Those who are Jews outwardly, that is, those who try to kept he law for their salvation, are not God’s people. Paul said, in Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Those who are Jews inwardly, of the heart and in the spirit, are Jews, rather, are spiritual Jews. Understand this. Anyone who is a Jew inwardly, that is, anyone who is circumcised of the heart and in the spirit, is a Jew. That means Jew, Gentile, Greek, Roman, male, or female. That includes any person of any race, sex, or nationality. It is not limited to only those of proven Jewish ancestry.

Dispensationalists violently disagree with this and call it Replacement Theology. It is not. The Bible does not teach that the church has replaced Israel. The church has become a part of Israel by adoption. The national promises to Israel still stand. But the Dispensationalist believes, in opposition to the scripture, that Israel and the church are forever separate. Therefore, he must find fault with this intimately Biblical teaching in Romans 9, 10, and 11, that true believers (the church) are God’s children, and therefore a part of God’s children, Israel. Nevertheless, Paul teaches that though we Christians are adopted children of Abraham, and engrafted branches of the root of Israel, those Israelites who are not believers in Christ, are “going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). See “The Relationship Between Israel and the Church.”

Let us examine circumcision of the heart. First, we must consider physical circumcision. It is the cutting away of part of the flesh of the male organ. Any male born an Israelite was circumcised on the eighth day after birth. A proselyte received circumcision upon confirmation. Circumcision was the outward sign that one was an Israelite or Jew. Another outward sign that a person was an Israelite was His meticulous keeping of the law. Circumcision of the heart is having our old corrupt, sinful, and hardened heart cut away leaving a pure heart in its place. Now the physical cutting away of a person’s heart would kill the person. So, this had to be a spiritual act. When we believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit changes our heart, which, in Greek thought, is the mind, and not the physical heart. He changes us from a sinner hardened against God to a believer, a follower, and child of God. That changed or heart or mind is the circumcision. All of our old enmity with God is cut away leaving only love for Him. God said, in Ezekiel 1:19, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh”. That is the inner circumcision.

It is that spiritual circumcision that saves us and makes us adopted sons of God. We then are one of God’s chosen people. In other words, in spirit, we are Israelites. We are a part of spiritual Israel. And it is only spiritual Israel who are God’s people. Physical Israelites are no longer His people: Romans 9:6-8 “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: {7} Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. {8} That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” That promise is the promise of a new covenant. The New Covenant is the one made with Christ. Those who accept and believe on the One and Only Son of God have received the New Covenant. The Covenant is that if we believe, we will have eternal life. As believers in Christ, which includes Jews, Gentiles, males and females, we are those children of the Promise that Paul mentioned in the above scripture.

As I said before, physical Israel has not been rejected by God, and the unconditional promise of the land is still in effect for Israel, both physical and spiritual:

Romans 11:1-2, “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. {2} God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.”

Now, let us return to our premise that Christians are at odds with the world. Take a moment to think about the news of the past couple of years (actually you could go back decades). Who are the most reviled people on the planet? Of all the nations on the earth, there is only one that is regularly excoriated when it defends itself. There is only one nation that other nations wish to annihilate. There is only one nation that others have actually tried to exterminate. Are you getting the hint? Of course, it is Israel. The United States, Israel’s staunchest ally, is hated because it is allied with Israel. Have you ever stopped to consider why Israel and its allies are so hated among nations? Is it because they stole the land from the Palestinians? No, the Palestinians never owned that land to begin with. Is it because Israel is an imperialist aggressor nation? No because all they are interested in is defending themselves. But what about he West Bank, you say? Try to remember that all of its neighbors attacked Israel forcing the nation to defend itself. In the course of defending itself and repulsing the attackers, Israel took the West Bank. It was the spoils of war, a war that was started by its enemies. No that is a local problem, so how does that make Israel the most reviled nation on earth?

I will tell you why. It is simply because the nation of Israel are still God’s people. Even though now, they are not in God’s will nor are they a part of spiritual Israel, God still loves them and still wills for them to be saved. In fact, the Bible tells that there will come a time when they will be saved. They will one day recognize their Messiah. God has a covenant with physical Israel that is still in force. It is the unconditional grant of the land of Canaan to Abraham and his seed. Because of this covenant, Satan hates the Israelis. Satan hates all things of God. He especially hates physical Israel. Moreover, just as he hates physical Israel he hates spiritual Israel even more.

What religion is the most persecuted religion in the world? What religion has been persecuted from its inception? What religion believes in only one way to Heaven? Well of course, it is Christianity. Christians are currently the most persecuted group in the world. Why? Because they believe that there is only one way to heaven: Jesus. The world abhors this idea. That means that those in sin are not gong to make it. That makes sinners furious. How dare someone else believe them to be sinners. Why, they do as much good work as any Christian, even more. How dare a Christian think he is better that they are. The true reason that Christians are persecuted is because they are God’s people and Satan hates God’s people. Satan has used the fact that Jesus is the only Way to make the world hate Christians.

The truth of the matter is that if we are believers in Christ we share His reproach. The world hates God. The world hates Christ. The Bible tells us so. If the world hates Him, it also hates His followers. We are Christians outside of the camp and therefore reviled. We share His reproach.

John 15:18-21 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. {19} If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. {20} Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. {21} But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

Now if you are a Dispensationalist, you will disagree with most of what I have written here. But I supported it all with scripture. If you are a Dispensationalist and disagree with me because of that, I am not worried. Dispensationalism is heresy so I don’t worry when Dispensationalists disagree with me.

Heb 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

We cannot return within the gate as citizens because of the reproach we bear with Christ. Therefore we have no city to reside in. We are outcasts. Jesus said it best: John 17:14-16, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. {15} I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. {16} They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” We Christians are in the world but not of the world. We are just wayfaring strangers, sojourners in a place that is not our home. We are outside the camp and cannot come back in. But look for a city we have never seen. We look for a city that is to come in the future. Again, I will borrow the words of Squire Parsons, “I’m kind of homesick for a country to which I’ve never been before,” and of Arthur Ingler, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”

Heb 13:15-16 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (16) But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

This is very simple. There are no longer any sacrifices for the atonement of sin. Jesus took care of that forever. God stopped those offerings in 70 AD. There was another type of offering. It was called the peace offering. It was not an offering made to make peace with God; it was one of thanksgiving for the peace He already gave. Barnes put it this way, “But in their peace-offerings, the offerer was regarded as one who stood in the relation of a friend with God, and the oblation was a sign of thankful acknowledgment for favors received.” We may still give that offering today in the form of praise and thanksgiving. Let us continually praise God and thank Him for His unbounded love for us and for His sacrifice at Calvary. Let us not forget to always praise and honor Him with our lips.

“To do good” is to practice well-doing. The Greek for communicate is κοινωνιας, koinonias, the genitive of κοινωνια. koinonia, 2842, fellowship. Genitive is another word for possessive. So κοινωνιας would mean to have fellowship. Of course, one definition of the word communicate is fellowship or communion. So it is easy, “Do not forget to do well and have fellowship with each other.” Young’s Literal Translation has it thus: “and of doing good, and of fellowship, be not forgetful, for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased.” Paul is including this well doing and communication as sacrifices. Consequently, the sacrifices or offerings we are to give are threefold: 1. Praise God with our lips. 2. Do well. 3. Have fellowship with other believers. Note that God says that He is pleased with our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Yes, Paul wrote these words but God gave them to him to write so these are the words of God. Praise God, do well, and have fellowship together. These are the sacrifices that are pleasing to God.

Heb 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Here begin Paul’s closing remarks. Listen to your spiritual leaders. Submit to them, that is, listen to them, and yield to the authority given them by God. They watch over your souls, not to lord over you, but because they are to be as those who are about to give an account of your souls. In other words, they are responsible to God for this pastoral duty, and are not to do it for power over you. By being responsive to them, you help them to accomplish this task joyfully. It will not be of any benefit to you if you submit to them grudgingly.

Heb 13:18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

Paul and his company asked for their prayers because itinerate preaching is not an easy task. Nevertheless, they had a clear conscience because they would never do anything dishonest.

Heb 13:19 But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Their prayers would help Paul’s way to go more smoothly allowing him to be with them all the sooner.

Heb 13:20-21 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, (21) Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Peace is a very comprehensive word. To the Hebrew, peace was much more than just freedom from war or worry, peace was the completeness of all things. Here are several different senses for the word peace (shalom) in Hebrew: completeness, soundness, welfare, safety, prosperity, tranquility, contentment, and friendship. But the one overriding use of the word shalom is that of completeness. In the Hebrew mindset, being in peace is like being copasetic, that is, everything is satisfactory. The Greek word for peace, ειρηνη, eirene, 1515, adds harmony to the list of synonyms. Now this epistle would have been written with the Hebrew mindset, so I must opine that Paul was speaking of the God of completeness. Being complete engenders all of the other senses, peace, harmony, prosperity, well-being, etc.

God, in whom all things are complete, raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus, who was both God and man (Matthew 1:23, 1 Timothy 2:5), died as a man upon the cross. As a man, God resurrected Him. In order to save mankind, a perfect and sinless victim equal to a man had to be sacrificed. A bull or goat would not suffice ( Hebrews 10:4). Since there were no perfect or sinless men, God became a man, Jesus Christ, and died for all. God the Father raised Jesus the man from the dead.

Jesus is the Great Shepherd for he is Shepherd of all the sheep. Pastors are shepherds under the Great Shepherd and have only a small flock. Even so, Jesus is the Shepherd of the entire flock, that is, of every Christian throughout history. They are His sheep because of the blood He shed at Calvary. That is the blood of the New Covenant. In ancient times, men cut a covenant. That is, the contractors halved and placed sacrificial animals in a row and walked together between the cut sacrifices thus signifying that the covenant was in force. Blood had to be spilled to confirm a covenant. Jesus blood was spilled confirming the everlasting covenant of God’s grace. Let us look again at verse 21.

Heb 13:21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul prays that Yehovah, the God of Completeness that raised Jesus from the dead, will make us complete in all our good works. We may only do good works through Jesus Christ. Without Him our works are worthless. He works those good works in us and through us. God will make us complete in His will, that is, every work He completes in us will be good and pleasing to Him. All of this is possible through Jesus Christ because of His work at Calvary. The doxology, “to whom be glory forever and ever, Amen,” signifies the end of the Epistle. But there is a post script.

Heb 13:22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.

This post script (P.S.) discusses the main script of the letter. The Epistle contains 6913 words, while the Book of Matthew contains over 26,000 words. So it is brief by Biblical standards. Nevertheless, is longer that most of his Epistles. He seems to be saying that the Epistle is not so long that they should not suffer it. By that, he means it is not so long that they should have difficulty in reading it. It is a letter of exhortation and they needed to read the whole thing. That is why he says he wrote it in few words.

Heb 13:23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.

Paul does not mean that Timothy has been in prison, though that is a possible situation. It simply means that Paul sent him away to do the work of the ministry without Paul. Perhaps it was like a fledgling. The mother bird pushes the fledglings away to teach them to fly. Perhaps Timothy was finally out on his own and not longer dependent on Paul. Whatever the reason, Paul sent him away for a good reason. It was not done in anger for Paul dearly loved Timothy.

Heb 13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

Say hello to all the brethren including the leaders. Tell them all of us back here in Italy said “Hi!” Apparently after Paul’s release, he did not immediately leave Italy. He probably stayed awhile in freedom with the brethren there, especially those who supported him while a prisoner.

Heb 13:25 Grace be with you all. Amen.

I pray the same for all who have suffered through my teachings on the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews (See Introduction). There are over 67,000 words in this study of Hebrews.

  1. The reason I use “Paul” instead of “the writer of Hebrews” is explained in the preface to Chapter 1. If you disagree that Paul is the writer, please continue to read for I have no argument with you. As a scholar once said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, love” (attributed to Augustine).
  2. Abraham Mitrie Rihbany, The Syrian Christ (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1916), 127.
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