Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. Hebrews 13:24
The author has had the leadership in mind throughout this final chapter. In 13:7, he said –
“Remember those who rule over you…”
In verse 13:17, he then said –
“Obey those who rule over you…”
Now, just before his final words, he again calls the leadership to mind by saying, “Greet all those who rule over you.” The word “you” is plural, and so the words are to those of the church as a whole. In this, he is asking that the body greet the leaders. As the leaders would be a part of the church, it seems superfluous to say this, but it could be that there was a leadership which was not at the particular body where the letter was received, or it could be that the letter is actually intended to be read by a group of churches which were spread out. In this, the author would be sending his greetings to the heads of each individual church, and also to “all the saints.” This would be in line with Peter’s greetings to his audience, probably the same group of people, who were originally addressed in this epistle –
“To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” 1 Peter 1:1
This addition then strengthens the thought of a group of churches receiving the letter. Again, if the author was writing to the church, and all ears were listening as it was read, the comment would appear to be superfluous. However, it was understood that there would be leaders not present at some times, and various saints not present at others. If it was understood that the letter was to be read at various times and places, the greeting makes more sense. But regardless of this, he is being thorough in extending greetings to all.
Finally, he says, “Those from Italy greet you.” Although the author is probably writing from Italy, it also may be that he is not, and that he is simply extending a greeting from a group of Italians that was with him. It can be read either as meaning “those who are in Italy send greetings from there,” or it could mean “those who are from Italy send their greetings.” Either way, it is the believers of Italy who are specifically named.
This unusual addition is noted by Cambridge with the words, “…it suggests a not unnatural inference that it was written to some Italian community from some other town out of Italy. Had he been writing from Italy he would perhaps have been more likely to write ‘those in Italy’ (comp. 1 Peter 5:13).”
If this is correct, and it appears to be the intent, and if it is Paul who wrote the epistle, then it would form a rather remarkable pattern. Acts had closed out with Paul in Rome (Italy), showing a transfer from Jew to Gentile, Rome being emblematic of the Gentile rule at that time. Further, his first letter was to the Romans. If this is Paul’s epistle, its placement at the end of his writings would have his letters both beginning and ending with the Italian saints as addressees.
Life application: The letter to the Hebrews was either sent with a cover letter which didn’t survive, or it was hand-carried by someone who could verify its authorship and authority. Either way, the letter itself survived intact, was recognized as authoritative, and was eventually included in the 66 books of the Bible.
Without it, we would have a lack in our understanding of the supremacy of Jesus over the Old Covenant shadows and pictures which pointed to His greater work. It is a letter included in Scripture for both the leadership and the saints in general, and all should be taught its truths. The wisdom revealed in it is the wisdom of God found in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Be sure to think of what is taught in Hebrews as you read the Old Testament and the gospels in the future. By combining your knowledge of what is revealed here to those studies, the things spoken of in those books makes so much more sense.
Lord, help us to take in the whole counsel of God, remembering what we have learned in various books, and to then see how what we learned in one area actually applies to studies in another area. Your word is a beautiful whole where the parts all work together harmoniously. Help us to understand this, and to learn what You are revealing as we see redemptive history unfold in its beautiful pages. To Your honor and glory! Amen.