Hebrews 11-13 Hall of Fame Faith, Hope, and Love

TMS Romans 12:2 Secret to Sanctification
12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your priestly service of worship.

2 And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Observations: Romans 12:1-2 This is the key passage on the Holy Spirit and Sanctification in the 7PASSAGES (in the sidebar). If believers don't renew their minds by the word of God, replacing Satan's lies with the Spirit's truth, they will continue to desire and do the wrong things. Verse 2 tells you how to be the living sacrifice of verse 1, which is our priestly service of worship (response to God's revelation).
We must first stop allowing the world to press us into its mold,
then we need to be metamorphosized (change of form; going from a caterpillar to a butterfly) which occurs by the renewing of our mind with truth.
Only then can we prove or manifest in our lives the good, acceptable, and perfect (as in nothing better than it) will of God.
The Spirit of God uses the word of God to produce in us the mind of Christ. See the post on Romans 12 for more insights and context.

Application: If we're not renewing our minds with God's truth, we can't experience God's perfect best.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are worthy of my entire life; may I live it for You by doing Your perfect will every day. Amen.

Hebrews 11-13 These final chapters show believers how to live in faith, hope and love, and reap the reward God has planned for them. The inspiring list of those in Faith's Hall of Fame should inspire us to persevere and endure the difficulties we will encounter in going after our hope, by living in love. Chapter 11 tells us that we can't please God unless we believe He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Chapter 12 gives us the example of Jesus to keep in front of us, and warns believers of what will happen to those who go back to they way they were. Chapter 13 gives two sacrifices NT priests should offer, as well as a couple of clues to the author of the letter.

Hebrews 11 Faith's Hall of Fame
11:1 "Now faith is the substrate of things hoped for, groundspring of things not seen. 2 For by this, the elders obtained testimony. 3 By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible.
4 By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had testimony given to him that he was righteous, God testifying with respect to his gifts; and through it he, being dead, still speaks. 5 By faith, Enoch was taken away, so that he wouldn’t see death, and he was not found, because God translated him. For he has had testimony given to him that before his translation he had been well pleasing to God.
6 Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
7 By faith, Noah, being warned about things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared a ship for the saving of his house, through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 8 By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he went. 9 By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked for the city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11 By faith, even Sarah herself received power to conceive, and she bore a child when she was past age, since she counted him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as innumerable as the sand which is by the sea shore, were fathered by one man, and him as good as dead. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them, and were persuaded of them and embraced them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 If indeed they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had enough time to return. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith, Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac. Yes, he who had gladly received the promises was offering up his one and only son; 18 even he to whom it was said, "In Isaac will your seed be called"; 19 concluding/reckoning that God is able to raise up even from the dead. Figuratively speaking, he also did receive him back from the dead. 20 By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even concerning things to come. 21 By faith, Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By faith, Joseph, when his end was near, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel; and gave instructions concerning his bones.
23 By faith, Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that he was a valuable/goodly child, and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 24 By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill treatment with God’s people, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time; 26 accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
27 By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith, he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn should not touch them. 29 By faith, they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land. When the Egyptians tried to do so, they were swallowed up. 30 By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith, Rahab the prostitute, didn’t perish with those who were disobedient, having received the spies in peace.
32 What more shall I say? For the time would fail me if I told of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets; 33 who, through faith subdued kingdoms, worked out righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, grew mighty in war, and caused foreign armies to flee. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others were tried by mocking and scourging, yes, moreover by bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned. They were sawn apart. They were tempted. They were slain with the sword. They went around in sheep skins and in goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, mountains, caves, and the holes of the earth. 39 These all, having had testimony given to them through their faith, didn’t receive the promise, 40 God having provided some better thing concerning us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect."

Observations: 11:1-3 The author is now going to give a litany of the OT saints who demonstrated the faith that pleases God, and received the testimony from Him that they were pleasing to Him. First we need to understand what faith is, and then we'll see multiple examples of it to imitate.
Hebrews 6:11 “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Faith in the promises of God brings them to fruition in our lives. Faith is what stands under the things hoped for. Sub-stance (hupo-stasis) literally means “stand under.” Faith is the basis or foundation for what is built upon it but it is dynamic not static (note how it is the force that seeks to bring the promises into reality in the rest of chapter 11 of Hebrews).  Most translations misunderstand the meaning, giving some idea of confidence (in accord with Paul's usage in 2 Corinthians), but this incorrectly leads to the silly idea of faith in faith, as if just being confident or positive thinking makes things happen. Three other pieces of evidence validate this interpretation of faith being the means, agent, or vehicle of our hope: how the author used the word previously, and the two illustrations which follow. In Hebrews 1:3 Jesus is said to be the radiance of God's glory, and express image of His person/substance (hupostasis). Now obviously Jesus is not the image of God's “confidence.” He is the radiance (rays of light) that emanate from God's glory and the image/character of the underlying reality (substance) of God. The real substance or nature of God expresses itself in the form or character (marks made on a tablet by a stylus) of Christ. If there were no underlying reality, there would be no Christ. If there were no sun, there would be no rays of light. If there were no faith, there would be no realization or possession of our hope of reward. It is faith in what God has revealed, that brings into being (our frame of experiential reference) our hope which God promised to those who exercise faith.
In Hebrews 3:14 the author says that believers become partakers or sharers in the Messiah's blessings if we hold fast the beginning of our “hupostasis” firm until the end. Most versions will follow Paul's usage to translate “hupostasis” as confidence/assurance here, as well as in 11:1. But what is the beginning or starting point of realizing our expectations for the future? It's faith. So the author is telling believers to continue to believe the promises of Christ, as they had at first, so they would reap their reward/hope, unlike the Exodus generation.
In the last half of 11:1 the author uses the word usually translated “reprove” to further define faith. “Reprove” means to bring to light, or establish something. In a court of law, or in confronting sinners (Eph 5:13), one provides evidence to prove one's case (which is why some versions will poorly translate “reprove” as “proof” or “evidence”). Faith “brings to light” or makes visible the promises of God in the experience of the faithful believer.
It was by demonstrating faith in God's revelation that the ancients obtained a good report or testimony from God, which the rest of the chapter will delineate. In verse 3 the author elaborates on the nature of faith in saying that by means of faith in what God has revealed about creation we understand (see in our minds) that the worlds were framed by the world of God. We weren't there at creation when He said: “Let there be...and there was” but we understand that the word of God brought what we see into being. On the other hand, we don't see the reward God has promised, but we understand that the word of God will bring that into being, so that what is not seen (our reward) will be brought into being by what is seen (God's promises). Faith is the dynamic which brings about fulfillment of the word of God. See more on verse 6.
11:4-5 The author gives two examples of faith which result in being righteous and pleasing God. By faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice than Abel, and God testified that he was righteous as a result. God told Cain that if he wanted to be accepted he needed to do what was right (like Abel in offering the best to God -see comments on Genesis 4). God's testimony about Abel still continues. The implication for the original audience is that they need to offer the better sacrifice of Christ to God if they wish to have the righteousness God rewards (12:24). Enoch also received the testimony that he pleased God (because he walked with Him) and was translated (changed) as a blessing, so that he would not see death.
11:6 This is a verse worth memorizing and applying. It explains why Abel and Enoch pleased God. Without faith we can't please God (notice this is about pleasing Him for reward/glorification not believing Him for justification/forgiveness). The reason we can't please God unless we demonstrate faith is because the one who comes to God (in worship) must believe that He is (who He revealed Himself to be) and that He rewards (pays back wages) those who diligently seek Him. Or, put another way: “We can't please God unless we believe He is who He said He is, and will do what He said He'll do (reward those who diligently seek Him).” It is impossible to please God if you say there are no rewards for faithful believers. If someone doesn't know much about rewards, or isn't motivated by what God has promised, the odds are they are not very pleasing to God.
11:7 Noah believed God's revelation about the upcoming flood, and motivated by fear of God, built the ark, saving his family (and humanity). In the process he condemned the rest of the world by showing that faith and resultant obedience were possible. Thus he became an heir (inheritor) of righteousness (knowing and doing what is right in God's sight).
11:8-16 Abraham, the “father of faith” faithfully obeyed when God told him to go to a place not specified. He didn't know where, but he knew God said “Go,” so he went, looking for the inheritance or reward God would give him. He sojourned in the promised land, not putting down roots, because he was looking for a city which would endure, built by God (heavenly Jerusalem??). Sarah also believed God's promise of a son, and received power to conceive. Her faith brought into being God's promise of a son, because she reckoned Him faithful who had promised. She believed that God is who He said He is, and would do what He said He'd do. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob all died still believing God for His promises, but not having obtained them on earth. They received some of the blessing (like the descendants) but not all the promises. They “saw and embraced” them from afar, recognizing that this earth isn't all there is, but there is something better coming. They made it clear that they were seeking a country of their own, not the temporal one here on earth. If they had been focused on getting just earthly blessings, they would have returned to the way they were (like the original audience would have been tempted to do), and not kept on believing God for what He had promised. As a result of demonstrating Hall of Fame Faith in believing God for His promised blessings/rewards even though they couldn't have them yet, He is proud to be called their God and has prepared that eternal city for them.
11:17-22 Abraham did some reckoning of his own (as did Sarah). His faith in God's promises was tested when God told him to sacrifice Isaac, the product of Sarah's faithful reckoning). He knew two pieces of revelation from God: 1) God promised that he would have grandkids from Isaac; 2) God told Him to kill Isaac. As he and Isaac went to worship (first use term in the scriptures: a response to revelation -see Genesis 22 comments), he had a lot of time to think. He reasoned or reckoned that if God was going to fulfill His promise of grandkids from Isaac, and Isaac was going to be dead as a result of Abraham obeying Him, then God was just going to have to resurrect Isaac from the dead! That's an amazing piece of logic (reckon or account is logizamenos, from which we get the English “logic”). Abraham reckoned the resurrection (and this was in the days before the Easter Bunny; no one had ever heard of such a thing)! Faith and reason are totally compatible (see the 7QUESTIONS in the sidebar for the argument that it is more reasonable to believe than not, and that those who don't have faith are unreasonable or irrational). In his commitment to obey God, Abraham viewed Isaac as dead and thus figuratively received Him back from the dead. By faith in God's future promises Isaac blessed both His sons concerning the future; and Jacob blessed both of Joseph's sons in accordance with the older serving younger (see comments on Genesis 48). Joseph also expressed faith in God's promises of blessing the descendants of Israel in the Promised Land, and gave instruction that his bones should be brought back there rather than honored in Egypt.
11:23-26 Speaking of wanting to be in the Promised Land of God rather than being honored in Egypt brings us to Moses. His parents demonstrated faith in the God of the Hebrews (even though He wasn't looking too powerful) and were not afraid to disobey the mighty Pharaoh, so they preserved Moses, seeing his value. Following in his parent's footsteps of faith, Moses refused the honor of being the only son of Pharaoh's daughter, and chose instead to suffer mistreatment with God's people than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. How could he turn down being treated like a god in Egypt to be abused with (and by) the people of God? Another simple reckoning (different word than Abraham's logic, but same idea of objectively weighing or considering the facts -see OLB Synonyms on Strong's #2233). Moses determined that reproach or abuse for the sake of Christ was of greater value and long term benefit than all the treasures of Egypt, because He was looking ahead to his reward. Those pitifully hypocritical “saints” who consider themselves to be too pious to be motivated by reward, might want to consider that both Abraham and Moses, were very much motivated by their reward and commended by God for being so. If they insist on maintaining that they are “holier” than Abraham and Moses, they might want to give some thought to what they have done in the service of God and how pleased He is with them, because we can't please God unless we believe He rewards those who diligently seek Him (11:6). We'll talk about Jesus' motivation in the next chapter.
11:27-31 So with belief/faith in the fulfillment of God's promises, Moses left Egypt and endured the wrath of Pharaoh, as seeing Him who is invisible. His view of God being greater than the Bogeyman enabled Him to trust that God would take care of and reward Him. He obeyed, as did Abraham, in keeping the Passover, following God's revelation which protected the nation. By faith the entire nation passed through the Red Sea (Ex 14:31) which destroyed their enemies who tried to follow them. By faithful obedience to God's revelation the walls of Jericho fell. Rahab, a non-Israelite of dubious profession, was preserved, not perishing with the disobedient pagans (who had rejected the available revelation about God's dealings with humanity), because she not only believed, but acted upon that belief in protecting the spies.
11:32-35a Time and parchment fail the author to tell of how other OT characters made it into God's Hall of Fame of Faith. The first four were most unlikely candidates, but see the sermon on Truthbase.net which tells how they demonstrated the faith that pleased God. Daniel, Samuel and the prophets did some amazing things by believing what God had revealed and acting upon it. Mere mental assent to God's promises, without accompanying actions/works, doesn't reap rewards, because there is none of the diligent seeking (killing giants, dancing in furnaces, petting lions) that pleases God. People who demonstrate Hall of Fame Faith are rarely naturally strong and might (like the unlikely candidates in verse 32), but they become strong and mighty by their trust in and obedience to what God has promised (which opens the gates for God's grace to empower them -cf 2 Corinthians 12:9). The climax of the examples of faith is armies being caused to flee, and people being resurrected. Faith triumphs over death.
11:35b However, there is the flip side of faith that pleases God, suffering to remain loyal to Him. Instead of being delivered from torture, many died and were martyred. God didn't respond to their prayers for temporal deliverance/salvation because He has better plans for their eternal deliverance/salvation. Some, like Moses, consciously chose to refuse deliverance from torture (by burning a pinch of incense to the flag or standard of the emperor; or recanting Christ) because they wanted a better resurrection (with more glory/reward). See 1 Corinthians 15 for Paul's teaching on differing degrees of glory. This truth might cause pause for thought among those who don't think how believers live their life matters. Denying Christ in an hour of torture or days of self-indulgence doesn't result in loss of being born again, but does give us some difficult explaining to do come Judgment Day (2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 10:30). The abuse suffered by the choice/elect servants of God is documented throughout history. One of the contributing factors for the spread of Christianity (taking over most of the Roman Empire while Christians were being used as cat-food and candles pre AD 315) was the fact that Christians “died well.”
All these faithful believers died without having received the promise of blessings in the Kingdom (which tells us that the Kingdom isn't here and now, but yet future). The reason they didn't receive the end goal of their faith (1Pt 1:9 – the salvation of their souls/glorification), is because God has something better planned, for us (that's the author's audience, and you and me). That better plan is found in Ephesians 1 (see comments) that apart from NT saints, OT saints, should not be made perfect, as in glorified in the Kingdom by receiving their reward. This concept of perfect or being brought to completion is the final aspect of salvation, reversing the effects of the Fall. It is the goal of Jesus coming to earth, not just to give us forgiveness, but return us to pre-Fall glory. See Hebrews 2:10; 7:11,19; 10:1, (and even 10:14) in light of this. See sermon on Faith Activates God's Promises for a survey of faith and how to live by faith.

Application: Are you demonstrating Hall of Fame faith, which pleases God and seeks His reward? How so, or why not?

Prayer: God, I believe You are who You said You are, and will do what You said You'll do; help me diligently seek You. Thanks. Amen.

Hebrews 12 Hang on to Your Heavenly Hope
12:1 "Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the captain and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls.
4 You have not yet resisted to blood, striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which reasons with you as with children, "My son, don’t despise the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him"; 6 "For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines, and scourges every son whom he receives." 7 Endure hardship as discipline (NIV). God deals with you as with children, for what son is there whom his father doesn’t discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have been made partakers, then are you illegitimate, and not children. 9 Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they indeed, for a few days, punished us as seemed good to them; but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.
11 All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised thereby. 12 Therefore, lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that which is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. 14 Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord, 15 looking carefully lest there be any man who falls short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and many be defiled by it; 16 lest there be any sexually immoral person, or profane person, like Esau, who sold his birthright for one meal. 17 For you know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for a change of mind/repentance though he sought it diligently with tears.
18 For you have not come to a mountain that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and to blackness, darkness, storm, 19 the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which those who heard it begged that not one more word should be spoken to them, 20 for they could not stand that which was commanded, "If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned" 21 and so fearful was the appearance, that Moses said, "I am terrified and trembling." 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable multitudes of angels, 23 to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel. 25 See that you don’t refuse him who speaks. For if they didn’t escape when they refused him who warned on the earth, how much more will we not escape who turn away from him who warns from heaven, 26 whose voice shook the earth then, but now he has promised, saying, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens." 27 This phrase, "Yet once more," signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, receiving a Kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us have grace, through which we serve God pleasingly, with reverence and receptivity, 29 for our God is a consuming fire."

Observations: 12:1-3 This chapter expands upon the exhortation in 10:23 to hold fast the profession of our hope of reward, without wavering in the midst of opposition and difficulty. The great group of witnesses to the benefit of demonstrating enduring faithfulness for future reward should motivate us to run to win the prize of God's pleasure (and consequent reward). Such examples should motivate us to get rid of anything that would hinder us from hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” and avoid any sin that would entangle us so we trip. The author is not referring to a single sin (although doubt and disbelief in God's promises would rank near the top of what prevents people from receiving glory, as it did the Exodus generation), but any sin that would prevent us from reaching the end goal of our faith (glorification). You might profit from looking at yourself from Satan's perspective and think what he would use to prevent you from getting the glory he grasped at and missed. Know your weak points (power, pleasure, possessions, security, significance, safety, success, etc.), get rid of what's not helpful and shore up your defenses if you hope to succeed in the Christian life. Then run the race course God has for you (of course it would be a good idea to know that good works God has prepared for you to do - Ephesians 2:10).
As a model and motivation for endurance, look to Jesus, the captain and perfecter of your faith. The thing you should note while contemplating Him is that He was motivated by the joy that was set before Him. In 1:9 and 2:10-13, the joy of sitting at the right hand of God is enhanced by the sharing of that rule with faithful companions. The pain and suffering necessary to please the Father and receive His blessing and exaltation was something Jesus despised (to think little of) compared to the eternal glory He would enjoy.
It's worth noting that this is similar to Paul's lightly esteeming the pain and suffering he experienced in comparison to the eternal weight of glory he would receive (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 9:26-27). Both Jesus and Paul were motivated by reward. When we add in Abraham and Moses (and all the other giants of the faith) who were motivated by reward, and the fact that God specifically notes that He is pleased with them because they sought their reward (and that you can't please Him unless you believe He rewards those who diligently seek Him), why would anyone be opposed to rewards? On what basis? Where are the verses? Gratitude is an acceptable motivator (although it can degenerate into trying to pay back God for your salvation), but it is not highlighted nor taught to the disciples as the basis of Christ's call to discipleship, nor in the Sermon on the Mount, nor in most of the NT. Why is there a bias against rewards? Because Satan is alive and well on planet earth feeding a corrupt oral tradition to people who don't study their Scriptures (Matthew 15:9). So consider Jesus' example, and follow it, despite the opposition Satan has planned to dishearten you (soul is put for mind, will and emotions).
12:4-10 Here's another truth absent from the oral tradition. Believers need to strive against sin (no "let go and let God" here). Resist to the point of shedding blood is more like it, rather than wimping out at the slightest temptation, due to lack of Spirit-led self-control. God always makes available all we need to do His will (which is our sanctification that pleases God -1 Thessalonians 4:1-3). Those who spinelessly succumb to sin have forgotten that God wants to benefit us by having us partake in His holiness through the process of discipline. The author quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 which, apart from being a good passage to show the applicability of the OT to the Christian life, is a good reminder that we need to be receptive and cooperative with God's efforts to conform us to the image of Christ. God points out our errors, and gives us negative consequences for our sin to train us to be godly 1Tim 4:7). God wants us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).
12:11-17 No discipline is naturally a joyous occasion, but afterward the results are worth it. The gain is the fruit of righteousness (which God rewards). But this is only for those who train and endure. Therefore believers need to fix their hope and move their feet in the right paths. We need to pursue peace with all (as much as it depends upon us Romans 12:18). We also need to pursue the holiness/sanctification without which no man will see the Lord. This is not justification by faith, nor some kind of “positional” state, but something to chase after with all we've got. It was Jesus who said that the blessing of the pure in heart is that they will see God. What do you think is the outcome of those whose heart is set on earthly things and have the sanctification of a slimy slug (cf comments on Ezekiel 44)? The author isn't just giving suggestions, he's making Holy Spirit inspired commands/promises. The Body of believers also has the loving responsibility to help each other do well at the judgment seat of Christ. We need to be diligently looking out for each other (this isn't just the job of elders), and weeding out any roots of bitterness (digging down to the causes) so that a lack of forgiveness won't result in dissension and defilement in the Body, a favorite tactic of the evil one. Not just corporate harmony but personal holiness is the purview of the purified. We need to help the profane people who live like worldlings rather than saints not missing out on their blessings. Those who are sexually immoral will lose their reward (no inheritance for them -1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9; Ephesians 5:5). Those who exchange their eternal delight for a dumb morsel of temporary pleasure (that often causes bellyache) are dumb and deceived. Recall that Esau exchanged his birthright for a bowl of beans. Bad choice. There are some decisions that have irreversible consequences (Numbers 14) so get in the habit of choosing God's pleasure rather than your own.
12:18-28 The author provides another warning passage to reinforce the church's responsibility to look out for each other, so no one winds up like Esau, the firstborn who lost his inheritance. The initial audience was in danger of following his example by going back to Judaism because the path of following Christ got too difficult. A modern reader is more likely to go back to the way they were, indulging the desires of the mind and flesh (Ephesians 2:3), because following Christ does take self-denial. The author reminds his readers that they haven't come to the OT Mt. Sinai, where the OT law was given, but to something far better, to Mt. Zion, the home city of the living God. The heavenly Jerusalem was the home of angels and the general assembly of believers and the called out assembly of the firstborn who are written or enrolled in heaven. Some see the “general assembly” and the “called out assembly” as one and the same, but lexical, grammatical, and contextual evidence argues for them being two different things. The general assembly was used of a gathering of everyone in a city for a festival. The smaller “called out assembly” was just that a group called out of the general populace for a specific purpose, usually the governance of the city. This is further supported by the additional note of this group having their name written or enrolled in heaven. This list of citizens who could rule or vote was written in a book. Not everyone living in the location had this privilege. There is no definite article separating any of the items in the list beginning in verse 22, just the conjunction kai is used to separate items, so the normal expectation would be to see a differentiation between the two groups. The argument of the author is that not all will have the privilege of reigning and ruling with Christ, only those who are holy, faithful, and pleasing to Him. Esau is an example of someone who lost his privileges as firstborn, so the context supports this view of two different groups as well. The audience will stand before God, the Judge of all, with some being rewarded and others not. They are coming to the gathering of just men (justified) made perfect (glorified). They are coming to Jesus, who mediates the New Covenant and the Holy Spirit, and whose blood can cleanse the conscience so believers can serve the living God and gain God's approval (unlike Abel's offering).
Therefore, they must pay careful attention that they are receptive to God's instructions, warnings, reproofs and discipline. In the OT those who refused to obey warnings given by God through Moses on earth did not escape negative judgment; so much more those who ignore God's warnings from heaven will not escape negative judgment. The Lord's voice shook the earth in the giving of the OT law at Sinai (Exodus 19). The author quotes Haggai 2:6 to refer to the greater shaking and removal of the heavens and earth at Christ's return. The only thing that will eventually remain is the Messiah's Kingdom, ruled by the select assembly of the firstborn, the just men/women made perfect. Therefore since faithful believers are receiving a kingdom that will endure, they should draw upon God's grace/power to serve Him in a manner that pleases Him, for our God is a consuming fire, and those who don't please Him will suffer loss.

Application: Draw motivation and encouragement from the example of Jesus, and use the grace/power He offers to serve and please God to ensure your future reward in the kingdom.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may You be my example and motivation as I seek to do what pleases the Father; help me resist sin, and serve as You did. Amen.

Hebrews 13 Practical Love and Submission
13:1 "Let brotherly love continue. 2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those who are in bonds, as bound with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you are also in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled: but God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. 5 Be free from the love of money, content with such things as you have, for he has said, "I will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you." 6 So that with good courage we say, "The Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
7 Remember your leaders, men who spoke to you the word of God, and considering the outcome of their way of life, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Don’t be carried away by various and strange teachings, for it is good that the heart be established by grace, not by food, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the holy tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside of the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside of the gate. 13 Let us therefore go out to him outside of the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For we don’t have here an enduring city, but we seek that which is to come. 15 Through him, then, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which proclaim allegiance to his name. 16 But don’t forget to be doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
17 Obey/be persuaded about your leaders and submit to them, for they watch on behalf of your souls, as those who will give account, that they may do this with joy, and not with groaning, for that would be unprofitable for you.
18 Pray for us, for we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, desiring to live honorably in all things, 19 but I strongly urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus; with the blood of an eternal covenant 21 make you complete in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 22 But I exhort you, brothers, endure the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. 23 Know that our brother Timothy has been freed, with whom, if he comes shortly, I will see you. 24 Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. The Italians greet you. 25 Grace be with you all. Amen."

Observations: 13:1-6 Picking up on the third aspect of the hinge in chapter 10, “considering one another to provoke to love and good deeds,” the author encourages them to do just that. Brotherly love (philos) should continue and be expanded to showing hospitality to those outside their normal circle who were probably in need of hospitality (literally philos/love of strangers) due to the persecution from the Jews and Romans. He also encourages them to remember those who are imprisoned for their faith. He warns that the marriage bonds and bed should be undefiled, which would be a temptation with the disruption of normal home life, and reminds them that God will judge the immoral. Finances would also be disrupted, so he warns them to be free from the love of money by loving God and looking to Him to meet their needs. He probably freely quotes Joshua 1:5 and Psalm 118:6 to show that God is with His servants and will help them, although the quotes could have come from a number of other sources, to show that they need to keep their focus on God for their needs rather than depending upon people, including themselves.
13:7-16 Verse 7 is probably not so much an exhortation to submission (as in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, and in 13:17 below) but rather a reminder to consider the words they spoke and the end result of their life of following Christ, and then imitate their faith, rather than the ritual of the Judaizers. The believers should establish their hearts with the grace of God, not temple sacrifices, nor strange teachings. NT believers have an altar which provides nourishment, namely the cross of Christ. Some see a reference to the Lord's Supper, but the grace which comes through the words of Christ are what strengthens (cf John 6:63 comments).
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
In describing the incompatibility of continuing in both Judaism and Christianity (13:10), the author shows that Christ was rejected by the establishment and suffered outside the camp, where the bodies of the animals offered for sin were buried. The blood of those animals was carried into the holy of holies to make atonement or covering for sin. But Jesus' blood, which he earlier described as being carried into the sanctuary of heaven itself (the earthly being a mere copy) did more than cover sin, it sanctified or cleansed the beneficiaries completely. Therefore those who follow Christ should go out from Judaism to join Jesus in sharing His reproach/suffering. The temporal Jerusalem was just that (and would shortly be destroyed in AD 70). The heavenly city of which faithful believers are citizens would endure (11:10; 12:22,28). The author mentions two God pleasing sacrifices which NT believing priests should offer. The first is the sacrifice of praise, which is clarified as the fruit of lips which proclaim allegiance (or confess) His name. The Psalms are replete with examples of faithful trust in the God in the midst of adverse circumstances, followed by God's deliverance of those who trusted Him, resulting in the ascription of praise and glory to the name/reputation of the God who is our Helper. This is what should happen in praise and worship time in churches, rather than the mindless lip service to a catchy tune. Remember, worship is a response to revelation. If God has revealed Himself to be your Helper, tell others about it. If He hasn't revealed Himself to be your Helper, you really need to ask yourself why that is and do something corrective.
The second sacrifice which pleases God that a NT believer priest should offer is that of blessing believers. Doing good and sharing, take time, money, and strength, as well as denial of our desires for the benefit of others. As such, they are very Christ-like things to do. With such sacrifices (as in it costs you, sometimes painfully so) God is well pleased (and will reward those who diligently seek to please Him).
13:17 This verse has some key insights on leadership, authority, and submission. The text does not say to blindly obey, but rather uses the word for “be persuaded about.” One should be persuaded about one's leaders and then submit (line up under their authority). Submission is not in the black and white commands of Scripture, for there simple obedience is required, but submission occurs in the gray subjective areas, which sometimes are really black or white but sinning and deceived believers don't always see clearly. But what should one be persuaded about regarding their leaders? First and foremost is that they are Biblical, following what the Scriptures say. Meeting the qualifications for leadership outlined in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1 (see list of characteristics there) would be a good checklist. Then this chapter provides a couple of items to look at as well. Back in verse 7, the leader is supposed to have spoken the word of God to you, and have a life that will be rewarded. Finally in this section, the leader is supposed to be looking out for your soul. This is not to make sure you get to heaven, Jesus has already done that, but to make sure you exchange your soul for something of eternal value. Your soul is your mind, will/values and emotions. Those can be fixed on temporal goods or eternal betters. Biblical leaders want to make sure those under their care do well at the judgment seat of Christ. So submissive believers make their job easy for them. Stupid, stubborn, wandering and wayward sheep that create havoc and discord among other sheep and demand a lot of attention do not make the shepherds job easy. When believers appear before Christ's judgment seat, those who have shepherded them will be called to give an account of how watching over them has been. If there is more grief than joy, it will not be a profitable time for the silly sheep. They will have forfeited eternal glory by being displeasing to the Chief Shepherd, and those who watch His sheep for Him. If you aren't persuaded about the Scriptural basis of the leadership where you are, talk to them. If you can't resolve things and submit where you are, find a place where you can, and make their job easy. If you can't find a place where you can submit, and the problem isn't you, consider starting a Biblical church (see the upcoming Catacomb Church Blog for something you can actually try at home). But first, take every effort to make where you are work.
13:18-25 The author asks for prayer. He knows that he has a good conscience and desires to live honorably in all things, but he wants prayer that he will see them again soon. He begins to close with a common benediction, asking that the God of the covenantal blessing of peace, who resurrected the Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus, make them, by means of the blood of the everlasting (of the Age) covenant, complete (equipped) in every good work to do His will, working in them what is pleasing in His sight, through the mediating grace of Jesus, to whom should be glory and honor forever.
He encourages them to bear with his brief!! word of encouragement/exhortation. Seven times he uses the noun or verb for encouragement which is a clue to His identity. The author is obviously a Levite, well trained in the OT law and sacrificial system. His theology is remarkably similar to Paul, but as discussed in 2:3 and 1:1 comments, it can't be Paul. He is a companion of Timothy, and so well known that there is no need for him to identify himself. The letter was well accepted by the church, even without a specified author, so the recipients must have known who wrote it and accepted their authority. The most likely candidate is Barnabas, the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36), whose signature is in his encouragement. If you want to believe it is someone else, please do so, since it doesn't affect the interpretation nor application of the letter. He informs them that Timothy has been released and will hopefully join him when he visits them. He closes with a greeting from the brothers at Rome and its surrounds, and a blessing of God's grace.

Application: As NT priests, we should be regularly offering the sacrifices of praise and good works to please God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You for Your grace that You have lavishly bestowed on Your 
people; may I draw upon it to do the things that are pleasing in Your sight, for the glory of my Lord, Savior, and Shepherd, Jesus. Thanks. Amen.

Digging Deeper:

God in a nutshell: God is pleased to reward those who diligently seek Him, and commends those throughout history who sought to please Him and be rewarded by Him. He has not yet given them all He has promised, and is waiting to glorify us together with them.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus endured the cross and its shame for the joy the Father set before Him of reigning with faithful companions in His Kingdom.

Us in a nutshell: We must believe that God rewards those who diligently seek Him if we wish to please Him. Then we must live in holiness, faith, hope and love to reap our reward. If we don't we will regret it. We need to be concerned about the spiritual welfare and reward of our fellow believers, as we serve them in our service to God.

Where to Go for More:

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