Thursday, 23 May 2019
Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. Hebrews 13:18
Of the final verses of the epistle, Charles Ellicott notes the structure and layout as mirroring that of Paul’s other letters. For example, he says –
“The following verses—containing personal notices relating to the writer himself and his readers (Hebrews 13:18-19; Hebrews 13:22-23), a prayer on their behalf (Hebrews 13:20-21), a doxology (Hebrews 13:21), and brief salutations (Hebrews 13:24-25)—present many points of resemblance to the concluding sections in some of St. Paul’s Epistles. The first words, “Pray for us,” are found in Colossians 4:3; 1Thessalonians 5:25; 2Thessalonians 3:1.”
Again, as has occurred numerous times throughout this letter, the hand of Paul is seen all over its contents. That, combined with Peter’s words concerning Paul’s letter to the same audience he was writing to (2 Peter 3:15), gives us the surest foundation that we are reading a letter by Paul, and thus it confirms that there is one unified message concerning the gospel to both Jew and Gentile. The contents of these letters are written to the Jews collectively at many times, but the underlying truths are for all. Thus, it is a clear refutation of the heretical doctrines of hyper- and ultra-dispensationalism which proclaim two gospels – one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles.
In the author’s words now, he begins with, “Pray for us.” It is a good indication that the epistle was originally opened with a salutation stating the author’s name, title (position), and who he was with, such as Paul frequently did. One example of this is –
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2
The plural “us” indicates that this is probably the case. And yet, the book of Hebrews does not include this salutation. An obvious question then would be, “Why?” The answer is because of the animosity of the Jews towards the name “Paul” which has been highlighted for the past 2000 years. From the earliest time after his conversion, he was considered a miscreant and his name is held in contempt by them just under the name of Jesus Himself.
As this is so, God included no name or greeting as a part of the inspired text as it would set up an immediate wall between a seeking Jewish reader and God’s love for that person in His inspired words of the letter. “Pray for us” is the author’s appeal for himself and those with him. The author here writes with the firm conviction that prayer is effective, and that in praying, God will hear and respond accordingly.
From there, the author gives the specific reason for his prayer request by saying, “for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.” The words here are similar to Paul’s words of Acts 24:16 –
“This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”
Here, the author asks for prayer because he knows that his actions have been proper, and that there is no conflict between his audience and their prayers for him and his associates. This is another excellent clue to Paul’s authorship. As noted, there was a wall of animosity between Paul and the Hebrew people. This is evidenced throughout Acts, and the book ends on a note that Paul was – from that time on – going to the Gentiles (see Acts 28:28).
But the animosity was not because of Paul. He loved his brethren of the flesh (meaning the Jewish people) to such an extent that he would have seen himself cut off that they might be saved (see Romans 9:3). The animosity was because the Jews had rejected Christ, they had rejected Paul’s message of Gentile inclusion in the New Covenant, and they had thus rejected Paul, speaking against him to the point that even the Jewish believers were wary of him and his message. It is the very reason that Peter had to step in and include Paul as being a true apostle of Jesus Christ.
Life application: The Bible mentions prayer over 350 times and infers it many other times as well. Prayer is not something to take trivially or to simply use in times of trial either. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing” as we go about our lives. He also acknowledges elsewhere that the prayers of the many are effective. Corporate prayer has great weight.
Just because God knows the end from the beginning, it does not mean that He does not answer prayer. Rather, He knew all along whether we would pray or not. In the case of “not,” nothing is factored into the equation. For those who do pray, He knew they would, and He has factored that in as well. Be confident that God does, in fact, hear your prayers, and that He will respond according to His infinite wisdom.
Lord, we praise You and thank You for Your wonderful word. Thank You for reminding us that prayer was needed for even the early apostles and that we also share in the privilege of being able to pray for others. Also, help us to be as those apostles – having a clear conscience and a desire to live honorably in every way. To Your glory alone! Amen.