Hebrews 13:25

Thursday, 30 May 2019

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

The final words of the book of Hebrews are reflective of the words of Paul. The same words are found at the close of Titus. They are also found without the word “all” in Colossians, 1 Timothy, and 2 Timothy.

The author desires that grace be realized in and among his audience. Grace is unmerited favor. It is getting what you do not deserve.

With these words, we close out the book of Hebrews. This has been a marvelously fantastic 303 days of study, and one which has merely touched on the depths of this wonderful book. In this final salutation, the author wishes grace to his audience. Despite being written to the Hebrew believers of his time, this includes you today.

As a closing thought, Albert Barnes says of this epistle –

“It is the true key with which to unlock the Old Testament; and with these views, we may remark in conclusion, that he who would understand the Bible thoroughly should make himself familiar with this Epistle; that the canon of Scripture would be incomplete without it; and that, to one who wishes to understand the Revelation which God has given, there is no portion of the volume whose loss would be a more irreparable calamity than that of the Epistle to the Hebrews.”

Life application: Surprisingly, if you want to see a lot of anger between Christians, do a study on the word “grace.” For such an uplifting and generous word, it divides to the point of great animosity. The reason for this is because by interpreting the word, or more precisely the concept of, grace one way or another we will have a different view on what God has done for us in human history – particularly in the Person of Jesus.

Romans Catholicism says that we must “participate” in grace. To them, what Jesus did – including going to the cross – is in itself insufficient for our salvation. Those who follow the doctrines of John Calvin see grace as bestowed on believers unconditionally – think of it as being “forced” on those God chooses to save. The Bible teaches neither of these.

There is a happy middle though. Grace is unmerited favor – it is getting what you do not deserve. If someone offers you a gift, that is not something you can earn. If you go to pay for the gift, then at some point you are going to offend the giver and negate the fact that it was a gift. Such is the case with our salvation. It is a gift. There is no merit deserving of it and no participation in keeping it, but it must be received in order to be possessed. The Bible makes this clear again and again.

A gift which is forced on someone is oppressive – no matter what the gift is. It needs to offered and received, not forced, in order for it to be a true gift. Just as Adam used free-will to rejected God’s fellowship, we must choose to receive it back now that Christ Jesus has made it possible. God’s grace in Jesus Christ is unmerited favor, offered to all. It is all-sufficient in and of itself to save. Accept God’s gift and be reconciled through the precious Gift – our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you all.

O God, thank You for the book of Hebrews. And thank you for Your grace, explained in this book as it tells us of the Work of Jesus Christ our Lord, Savior, Mediator, and Friend. May we have humble hearts toward You, never finding fault in the sufficiency of His work, but rather resting in the all-sufficiency of it. Thank You for Your grace! Amen.

Hebrews 13:24

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.

Hebrews 13:23

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly. Hebrews 13:23

Here, Timothy is introduced into the epistle. He is the same person to whom Paul addresses the epistles 1 and 2 Timothy, and who is referenced in quite of few of his other epistles. Paul normally refers to Timothy with the proper name first in the Greek, and with a definite article, such as, “Timothy the brother.” However, here it says, “the brother of us, Timothy,” meaning, “our brother Timothy.” This cannot be used as a case against Pauline authorship, because in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 it says, “Timothy the brother of us,” meaning “our brother.”

The placement of the name first or last, and the use of “our brother” as opposed to “the brother,” is based upon the words in relation to who is being addressed and the context in which Timothy is being referred to. As this epistle is to the Hebrew people, it is more natural to speak of Timothy as “our brother” first. The very fact that Timothy is being referred to, and as “our brother,” actually strengthens the idea of Pauline authorship. Timothy was Paul’s protege and they were almost constant companions. The words here reflect such a notion.

From there, it says that Timothy “has been set free.” This is, at times, translated as “set free from prison,” or implying that this is the case. The word used can reflect that, but it could be something as simple as being dismissed in some other way. This is the only time the word is used in the epistles. It is found throughout the gospels and Acts, and it simply means to release, let go, dismiss, etc. It is used, for example, when Jesus dismissed the crowds who came to hear Him speak.

Therefore, the words can be simply rendered as, “our brother Timothy who has been sent away, with whom if he returns soon, I will see you.” In other words, Paul may have sent him on a mission (which he is seen to have done at times – see Acts 19:22, for example), and if he returned in time, they would travel together to be with this group of Hebrew people.

The main point is that Timothy is included in the epistle and that the author had hoped that he and Timothy would together come to fellowship with this group.

Life application: Tradition (not in the Bible) records that Timothy served as the Bishop of Ephesus circa AD 65. He held that position for about 15 years, but eventually he tried to halt a pagan procession of idols, ceremonies, and songs that was occurring there. In response to his gospel preaching, they beat him, dragged him through the streets, and stoned him to death. Sticking up for the gospel wasn’t easy then and it has been a difficult ride for many faithful since then as well.

Countless faithful people have been martyred throughout the ages and it still occurs today. Despite this, Jesus’ promise of eternal life is given by our God, who cannot lie, and it is worth all the temporary troubles we may face for His name’s sake. Let us determine to stand fast on the gospel, no matter what. The rewards will be heavenly.

Finally, are you waiting for a reunion with someone today? As the old saying goes, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” When the time of our final reunion comes, it will be a wonderful occasion, especially if it is Jesus you are waiting on!

Lord, we look with anticipation for that Day when you will return and take us to be with You. Never has there been, nor will there ever be, a greater reunion than when we see Your face. May it be soon! Amen.

Hebrews 13:22

Monday, 27 May 2019

And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. Hebrews 13:22

The author now makes a final appeal as a part of his closing comments by calling his audience “brethren.” He is writing to believers, and – as is the case in the Greek – the masculine stands for both males and females. There is no reason to change modern Bibles to read “brothers and sisters” as is becoming so common. Females are included in such an address and the only reason for such a change is political correctness.

He then gives his appeal which is for them to “bear with the word of exhortation.” The idea here is that his tone has been direct, purposeful, and at times rather complicated in what was relayed. He is asking them to understand the necessity for these things. Further, it is certainly an appeal to not only understand this, but to consider what has been presented, apply it to their lives, and walk in accord with the principles he has laid out. The author is calling for the words he has written to become a part of the life and doctrine of all who read it (or hear it read).

With that understood, and almost as a slight apology, he says, “for I have written to you in few words.” This would further explain the words, “bear with the word of exhortation.” What he is saying is that if he had written more words, with a deeper explanation of the direct, purposeful, and at times rather complicated letter, they might have an easier time understanding the complexities of what has been presented.

However, the letter is inspired by God, and it is exactly what He intended for the reader to have. What this means is that God is asking us to not only read the letter, but to search out Scripture where the letter is hard for us to understand, and to then think on the reason for what has been presented.

In other words, we are being asked to study the whole counsel of God in order to show ourselves approved. Hebrews is not a stand-alone letter. It is an explanation of many issues and doctrines which are found in Scripture, but which can only be fully understood by understanding the rest of Scripture as well.

Life application: Considering the cost in both time and materials in writing an ancient epistle such as Hebrews, this verse may be a bit more easily understood. The author wrote a short letter on the Person and work of Jesus. There are several such verses in the New Testament and they remind us of the infinite riches of Jesus that we weren’t privy to. How blessed we will be when we have a complete understanding of all that wasn’t included. Such a note leaves us wanting more!

However, God left nothing out of His word that we need and included nothing in His word that is superfluous. In other words, God’s word is exactly what we need to live our lives in a manner pleasing to Him and to have sufficient knowledge of Him for our edification. Considering the incredible complexity of the structure of Hebrews, and also its orderly detailing of the superiority of Jesus over the law, over angels, over the high priest of Israel, and so on, we have a beautiful display of God’s wisdom.

The selection of the book’s author, who has such a masterful skill of presenting these concepts, brings glory to Jesus. It perfectly presents Him as all-sufficient in those areas that were once lacking. Truly He is “greater than” in every way. When you read your Bible, take careful time to cross-reference key points between other books and to think on how they unite into one perfect whole. By doing so, you can have a much fuller understanding of the points which may not be explicitly stated anywhere in the Bible. Such is the study of God’s word. It is a lifetime adventure into His will and intent for you, His precious child. Just as you cherish a love letter from someone, never fail to cherish the greatest Love Letter of all time – the Holy Bible.

Thank you for Your precious word, O God. Help us to understand it, love it, and share it with others. When a passage is difficult, please open our minds and eyes to understand it properly that we may be fully equipped to be pleasing in our walk with you. This is our prayer today, and it is made in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Hebrews 13:21

Sunday, 26 May 2019

…make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:21

This is the completion of the benediction which the author began in the previous verse. They read together –

“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

The words of this verse state the actual appeal to the “God of peace” mentioned in the previous words. The appeal is to “make you complete in every good work.” The word translated as “make complete” carries the idea of bringing something (or someone) to its proper condition. It is to bring to a state of fully functioning or full maturity. The obvious meaning, then, is that the readers (including us) are on a path which will hopefully take us from one level to the next, always maturing in order “to do His will.”

The implication is that we cannot do His will perfectly if we are not maturing in Christ. The average Christian is implored to not be average, but to excel in all ways, becoming perfect in knowledge, conduct, and adherence to the precepts of Scripture as they apply to us. The author is not saying that we are, or will become apart from glorification, perfect, but that God will continue to bring us to this state. But this can only happen if we are willing to strive for it. In this, He will be “working in you what is well pleasing in His sight.”

God will work through those who are willing to be worked through. It is a petition for God to do in us what He wills in order to bring us to a fully mature state. Again, however, it will not come about by a mere appeal. It will only come about if that appeal is mixed with both the desire to mature and the pursuit of maturing. This is not an appeal by the author to override the conduct of a person, but for God to work in those who are pursuing Him. And this includes the thought that God will work “through Jesus Christ.”

When God works in us, it is only because of the Person of Christ and the gospel which He brought forth in the New Covenant. God will not work in any person not “in Christ.” It would be illogical to think He would do so. The very purpose of Christ coming is to be the Mediator between God and man (see Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:24 & 1 Timothy 2:5).

It is He – meaning Jesus Christ – of whom the author says, “to whom be glory forever and ever.” The context of the passage indicates that it is Jesus who is being referred to. In such a statement is found the equation of praising God through the Son and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. This is so based on an understanding of the Godhead as revealed in Scripture.

And thus the benediction closes in the same manner as the epistle began, meaning with a focus on the glory of Jesus Christ. This was made perfectly evident in Hebrews 1:1-4. Jesus Christ is the focal point for our worship of the Godhead, and it is to and through Him that we give our praise and glory. In this, God is perfectly pleased and fully satisfied.

The author then closes his benediction with the word, “Amen.” The word signifies, “So be it.”

Life application: As God is otherwise unknowable to us except as He specifically reveals Himself in nature, He sent His word through the prophets and then through His Son in fulfillment of that word to allow us to know Him more fully. By saying about Jesus, “to whom be glory for ever and ever,” we are to understand that Jesus receives the glory which was reserved for God alone in the Old Testament. In other words, God has revealed Himself in Jesus because Jesus Himself is God incarnate. God is not diminished in our praise of Jesus Christ. Rather, He is glorified through it.

Lord, thank You for equipping us for every good work according to Your greatness. May our actions may be pleasing to You. Help us to use our time rightly in doing the works that glorify You. In all things, may we give you the honor You are due. We pray this in the powerful and personal name of Jesus. Amen.