Hebrews 12:25-13:25 – The Practical Life of Faith
The Final Warning – Hebrews 12:25-29
He concludes with his last warning to the readers, urging them not to refuse Him who is speaking to them. It is the voice of God Himself, warning them against sin, rebellion and apostasy. It is impossible to avoid hearing His voice, because all the world will stand before His judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Remember the opening words of this letter. “In these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son.” (1:2) Jesus is God’s final answer.
God promised that “once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” (12:26) His purpose is to remove everything that can be shaken – everything that is not permanent, things that are temporary, things that have form but no essence, all that is counterfeit. God had shaken the world many times in the past, so that only the permanent, unshakeable things may remain. He promises the Jewish Christians in this letter to once again shake their world.
Since the days of the Early Church, when this letter was written, God has continued to shake the world. Things that looked permanent – governments, totalitarian rulers, evil systems, unjust economies, centers of immorality, centers of anti-God activity—have been shaken. The apostle Peter tells us that God’s judgment will begin at the “household of God;” that is, the Church. (1 Peter 4:17) He adds that it will be even worse for those who do not believe. As we study this important epistle to the Hebrews, are you sensing that God is once again shaking the earth, removing things that can be shaken? Beginning with the Church . . .
At the end of history as we know it, God will shake the heavens and the earth one final time. Our God is a consuming fire. But we need not be anxious, for we have received a Kingdom that cannot be shaken. (12:28)
How must we respond? He is appealing to the Hebrew Christians by showing them how foolish it would be to leave all that they have received and return to Judaism. We must offer to God acceptable, spiritual worship, which is our bodies as His instruments of righteousness. We must respond in reverence and in the fear of the Lord. (The fear of the Lord is to turn away from evil and to turn wholeheartedly to the Lord; then we will be filled with awe and wonder at His mighty deeds.) Our God, who is a consuming fire, is also our Abba Father.
Four Areas of Love – Hebrews 13:1-4
- Mutual love in the body of Christ. The readers were ignoring this, even neglecting to meet together.
- Hospitality to strangers. Remember! A stranger could be an angel! Hospitality to others means welcoming each person as if that person were Jesus Christ.
- Prisoners (Hebrews 10:32-34). They had compassion on prisoners in the past; but they had grown cold, perhaps out of fear of persecution.
- Husband and wife. Love demands moral purity and affection.
Money and True Wealth – Hebrews 13:5-6
- A Christian’s character must be free from the love of money. Money is the symbol of all that the possessions of the world have to offer. This is especially true during times of extreme hardship (such as the present pandemic) or persecution, when it is possible to lose all financial possessions.
- Contentment is the power that conquers the love of money and enables us to depend on God’s promises. When we are content, we begin to love people, not money. The basis of our contentment is God’s promise to never leave or forsake us. He will care and provide for us with all His riches.
- Some basics of contentment:
- Trust in God’s faithfulness
- Know God as Father
- Continue to give thanks
- Live without complaining
- Show generosity by giving freely to meet others’ needs
- Some basics of contentment:
Jesus Christ, the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever – Hebrews 13:7-8
We are told to remember those who have led and nurtured us in our faith. (The writer of Hebrews was one of those leaders. See Hebrews 13:18-19.) We must remember the quality of our leaders: They taught the Word of God and lived their lives in accordance with it. We honor them by choosing to imitate their faith, and by passing it on to the next generation.
Jesus Christ is the One True Leader. He is consistent, the same in the past, the present and the future. He is the only one in whom we can place total confidence. He alone is eternal, permanent. He is always available to us, in His presence and peace.
Outside the Camp – Hebrews 13:9-14
- We have an altar. Our altar is the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. All the benefits of His grace are always available to us. So we do not need to cling to the old laws regarding food, festivals and other rituals. Our hearts are to be strengthened by His grace alone.
- Outside the camp – The camp is not the secular world. We must not become other-worldly. The camp was Jerusalem – the old Jerusalem, the center of Judaism. Jesus was rejected by the religion of His day. Religion is not bad; all people are religious by nature. But we must go out from every form of religion that denies the cross of Jesus Christ as the one supreme, final sacrifice; or that claims that we do not need to share in Jesus’ sufferings.
Let us go out . . . to Jesus, bearing the abuse He endured and sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings. (Philippians 3:10-11)
Four Sacrifices That Please God – Hebrews 13:15-17
- The sacrifice of praise
- Doing good to others
- Sharing with others
- Obeying our leaders
Pray for Leaders – Hebrews 13:18-19
- To have a clear conscience
- To desire to act honorably in all things
Their prayers will enable the author to return to them sooner.
Benediction – Hebrews 13:20-21
The benediction given here is one of the most majestic and powerful benedictions in all of Scripture. It sums up the whole letter. Verse 20 sums up what God has done for us. Verse 21 sums up what He will do in us and through us.
What God has done. The author spoke of the wrath of God, but he prays with perfect confidence. He is the God of peace. Jesus Christ has brought peace to the world through the blood of the everlasting covenant. It is the peace of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and of the Lamb. In God we have reconciliation and wholeness; shalom, the rest of God.
Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep. Jesus led these people, the wandering sheep, and laid down His life that they might come home. He continues to lead His sheep today. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
What God will do. He will make you complete in every good work to do His will. God created you to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), and He will work in you to enable you to complete those works through Jesus Christ. Your works will be well pleasing in His sight. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews still had this faith, this confidence, in his readers who were tempted to turn away from Jesus. And God also has full confidence in you. The apostle Paul echoed God’s confidence when he said, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) All glory be to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Greek word in Hebrews 13:21 that is usually translated as “equip you with everything good” (ESV) or “make you complete in every good thing” (NKJV) is katartizo. The actual meaning of this word is “to make you perfect.” Professor Howard Kuist (†1964), known in the West as the “father of the inductive Bible study method,” described this Greek verb as meaning “perfect in the sense that each part is joined, or fit together so that the blending produces a completeness.”
It was a household word. When a seamstress sewed together pieces of cloth for a garment, she used this word when she admired her artistic skills. When a potter skillfully shaped the clay on the wheel until he made a beautiful vessel, he had made the clay perfect. When a physician restored broken bones so that they were fit to function properly, he had made that leg or arm perfect; it would be fit to use. We might say today that when a Korean grandmother blended all her cabbages and other vegetables properly and then placed them in a clay pot to be buried underground to make kimchi that would last throughout the winter, the taste would be perfect.
The author of Hebrews concluded his letter with this “perfect” benediction. It is as though he prayed: “What you seamstresses do to make your garments fit to wear, what you physicians do to restore broken bones, what you musicians do to tune your instruments to make the sound perfect, may the God of peace do also for you, that you may be fit to do His will in every good thing.”
God takes all the pieces of our broken lives and restores them to produce perfect harmony. Nothing is broken that God cannot fix. No sickness exists that God cannot heal. There is no tragedy in any person’s life that God cannot transform into wholeness and peace.
“Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep with the blood of the eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good thing to do His will.” To do God’s will is the perfect way to live.
Final Greetings – Hebrews 13:22-25
The author tells us for the first time that he is writing from Italy, and that he will be traveling with Timothy to meet them in person.
Andrew Murray sums up the exhortation section with these 4 words:
- Take heed! (warning against negligence and sloth, disobedience, doublemindedness, unbelief, falling away)
- Press on! (on to perfection, to holiness, to rest, to deep knowledge of God, to communion with Jesus)
- Consider Jesus! He is the only remedy for all the weaknesses and problems in the Christian’s life. Consider Jesus! Fix your gaze on Him alone – as fully God, as fully man, in His obedience, His compassion, His suffering, His blood, His glory on the throne, His intercession. Consider that He lives in you!
- By faith! Go forth in faith! We can inherit every promise of the Bible, through obedience and trust, forsaking all, boldly drawing near to God, boldly going outside the camp, accepting all that God is doing now.
The foundation of all this is knowing God. (John 17:3)
As you conclude your study of this majestic book, take some time and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about how you are living your life now, how you might live more abundantly in the future. Recommit yourself to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power of the Spirit. And make plans to teach the truths of this book to someone else. Let your blessings flow to the world.
NEXT WEEK: Next week’s lesson will be on how to continue your personal study of the Letter to the Hebrews.