Hebrews 13:20

Saturday, 25 May 2019

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, Hebrews 13:20

The author now proclaims a benediction upon the reader which comprises verses 20 and 21. His opening words in this proclaim a title not found in the Old Testament, and which is only found in Paul’s writings elsewhere as he calls upon “the God of peace.” In Paul’s writings, as in Hebrews, there is normally something in the epistle which was elaborated on which would impede peace in one’s life, but which was addressed by the author to bring about a state of peace in those who applied the principle(s) to their lives.

In the Greek, there is an article before “peace,” which is lacking in almost all translations. It more rightly says, “the God of the peace.” It is an indication of the great and expected peace which the redeemed will see realized in its fullest sense when they are brought to glory, but which we have a foretaste of now as we consider our salvation and what it means in a world full of toil and strife. Jesus spoke of this peace in John 14:27. Paul again refers to it in Philippians 4:7.

As such, there is now an appeal to the “God of peace” for the blessing which is to be stated. But before making the appeal, a couple more descriptors of this same God of peace will be mentioned. First, it is He who “brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead.”

Here is the only specific reference to the resurrection of Christ in the book of Hebrews. A note on the general resurrection was found in Chapter 6, but this is specifically Christ’s victory over death which is being referred to. It is through His death, and only through His life because of that victory over death, that man’s access to God and a restored paradise is possible.

It is a note which explains to us the words of Jesus in John 14:6. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No person may come to the Father except through Him. It is He who holds the keys to Hades and death (Revelation 1:8), and it is He alone who allows our release from the clutches of both.

Next, the author calls Him, “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” The Greek reads, “the shepherd of the sheep, the great.” In John 10:14, Jesus claims the title, the Good Shepherd. In 1 Peter 2:25, Christ is called “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls,” and in 1 Peter 5:4, He is called “the Chief Shepherd.” Each of these expresses the exalted nature of the Shepherd who has the ultimate care for those of His flock. But the truly remarkable aspect of His care of the flock is highlighted by the next words, “through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”

Christ was willing to lay down His life for His flock, exactly as He promised in John 10:15 (and elsewhere), in order to bring about the salvation of those who come to Him in faith. And in this, it was a one-time-for-all-time act. His sacrifice provided “the blood of the everlasting covenant.”

The word “everlasting,” signifies “eternal.” Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant and, as was seen several times in Hebrews, annulled it. Unlike that covenant, the New Covenant has no end. Its significance for those who come to Christ is eternal in nature. It is this part of Christ’s work, meaning His death, that initiated this covenant. The resurrection simply proved the effectual nature of it. In His resurrection, proof of sinlessness was seen. Therefore, the resurrection is a seal upon which we can know – with all certainty – that the blood of Christ is sufficient to cleanse us from all impurity.

In all, a more literal rendering of the entire verse would be –

“Now the God of the peace, having brought up out of the dead the shepherd of the sheep, the great, by an eternal covenant: the Lord – of us – Jesus.”

Life application: Two excellent points to ponder from this verse –

1) In the 23rd Psalm, David calls the Lord, “my shepherd.” That title is applied to Jesus in various forms – by Himself and by the writers of the epistles. What is clearly implied is that Jesus is the incarnation of Jehovah of the Old Testament. There is no doubt the writers of the New Testament intended for us to see this.

2) Jesus’ shed blood initiated a new and eternal covenant. It completely sets aside the Old Covenant for those who have trusted in Him.

Are you struggling with legalism and working under the law to please God instead of trusting in Christ alone for your salvation? Are you struggling with the concept of Jesus’ divinity? Both of these are clearly referred to and spoken of here and elsewhere. Take time to reflect on the surety of God’s ability to save you despite your failings. Also, take time to reflect on the unique nature of the God/Man – Jesus our Lord. And then accept these as absolute truth. It is what Scripture teaches.

Lord God Almighty! Thank You for Jesus, our Great Shepherd. He is the One who reaches down into humanity to redeem us from the curse of the law. Help us to understand that You have accomplished this through Him, and that our only means of reconciliation to You is through what He has accomplished. Glory, majesty, and perfection reside in You alone, O God! Amen.

Hebrews 13:19

Friday, 24 May 2019

But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. Hebrews 13:19

The author now explains why he said in the previous verse, “Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.” He is asking for prayers to be submitted more abundantly (as the Greek word implies) because something was hindering him from coming to them. As he says, “that I may be restored to you the sooner.” It is reflective of the words of Paul in Philemon 1:22 –

“But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.”

Whether the author is Paul, and whether he is speaking of being imprisoned personally, or whether he was limited in some other way, he is asking for prayers in order that he might be restored to those he is writing to once again. What is possible, but which is only speculation, is that if it is Paul, he is hindered because of his own disability which is evident in the book of Acts and in portions of his epistles.

He was conducted wherever he was led, traveling with others, and implying that he could not travel alone. This would fit well with Hebrews 13:23 which says, “Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly.” With Timothy in prison, Paul would have been without his help in getting around. Now that Timothy was released, if he came to Paul, they could then travel together. Again, it is speculation, but it fits the character and needs of Paul well.

No matter what, the author is confident of the power of prayer, and he requests it for this specific purpose. Again, it is reminiscent of Paul’s writings –

“Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” Romans 15:30

Life application: In this verse, the author lets us know something we have not had a clue about to this point. After all the beautiful analysis of the work of Christ, His superiority, His greatness, and His splendor – and after admonishing us to live proper lives in submission to our leaders – after all these things and so many others, only then does he finally get to his own needs.

He waited until he had put forth that which was of most importance to him before mentioning his own difficulty. It is a good lesson for all of us to consider. We may have needs, but are they the most important issue at the moment? In the author’s case, he didn’t think so.

Thank You Lord that no matter what happens to us here, we are safe in eternity with You. May it be our pleasure and honor to suffer for You should the time come. And may You receive all the glory You are due in the judgment of those who persecute Your people, or in their turning to You through watching and desiring to emulate our conduct as we suffer for You. Amen.

Hebrews 13:18

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,

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.

Hebrews 13:17

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17

The beginning of this verse closely parallels the words of verse 13:7, now forming the end of a section concerning leadership. The two clauses say –

Remember those who rule over you. 13:7

Obey those who rule over you. 13:17

Not only are we to remember those who rule over us, considering their faith and walk of life, but we are to be obedient to them as well. In obedience, we are to “be submissive.” The word is unique to Scripture, hupeikó. It signifies yielding to another and submitting to his authority.

The context here is that of religious leaders, not the civil leaders. The issue of submission to civil leadership, and the reason for it, is dealt with by Paul in Romans 13. Further, this does not mean that believers are to yield to the authority of someone who is in violation of the precepts of Scripture. Thus, the importance of knowing the word is implied here. One cannot discern when a leader is in the wrong if he does not have at least a reasonable knowledge of the word of God.

However, assuming the leader is leading appropriately, there is to be submission to him. The author says this is appropriate because “they watch out for your souls.” This means that when properly leading, they have the best intent for those under them in mind. As this is so, it would be counterproductive to not submit to them. One would suffer a self-inflicted wound. And more, the burden that a leader of God’s people carries is that they are “as those who must give account.”

This is speaking of their judgment before the Lord. All believers will stand at the judgment seat of Christ and receive reward or suffer loss (see Romans 14:10 & 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10). Those who fail to submit to their leaders (who are acting in accord with the word) will suffer loss for their failure to be submissive as directed. Those leaders who fail to care for the souls of their congregation will suffer loss for their inattentiveness towards those they are to care for. For those who fail to submit to their leader, this is perfectly reflected in the final two clauses of the verse where the author says, “Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

The first clause speaks of the well-being of the leader. They should be able to lead “with joy and not with grief.” The word “grief” here literally means “groaning.” It gives the idea of a feeling which is internal and remains unexpressed. One could think of the leader silently suffering over the conduct of those he is to care for.

The second clause speaks of the state of the believer who fails to give joy to the leader by saying, “for that would be unprofitable for you.” Where there is strife, disobedience, or animosity, there is grief (groaning). Where there is joy and contentment, there is profit for the subordinate. This is true in any situation. Therefore, how much more should believers attempt to act in a proper manner in the body whose true Head is Christ!

Life application: Paul reminds us that our spiritual leaders should be both recognized and taken care of on several occasions –

“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18 For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’” 1 Timothy 5:17, 18


“Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” Galatians 6:6

Because of these, and many other areas in the Bible dealing with authority, we should watch ourselves and be careful when we deal with those above us. This isn’t always easy to do either. How often we find ourselves at variance with our bosses and political leaders – and even our pastors! When we disagree, it is good to voice our opinions, but it is not right to vent in a violent or abusive way. One finds out as he climbs the ladder that he will face the same dissension from his subordinates, often over trivial matters. So let us be sure that when we vent, it is done with consideration and also not over what is trivial.

Yes Lord, give us wise and discerning hearts concerning our leaders. Help us to disagree only when warranted, and even then with a spirit of respect and love. Help us to understand that their jobs aren’t all peaches and cream and that they carry a burden larger than we may know. Help us to be good subordinates for the sake of Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hebrews 13:16

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16

The word “But” is given as an additive to what was just stated. The author had told the people to offer the sacrifice of praise to God, giving thanks to His name. Along with that (But), he now adds the thought that the believer should “not forget to do good and to share.”

What this means is that we have a vertical responsibility towards God, and yet at the same time we have a horizontal responsibility to those around us. We are not simply to offer lip service to God, praising Him and giving thanks to His name while, at the same time, ignoring what He expects of us towards those around us.

The words, “to do good,” are so general that they must be taken in relation to how we would expect to be treated by others. As Jesus said –

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

If you would want someone else to let you into the traffic line, you should allow the person trying to get into the traffic line in. If you see someone who is struggling with his load, help him to carry it. Doing good is something that makes the one who does good fell good as well, and so there is a two-way benefit. However, the thought of immediate benefit for self will often push out any thought of a later possible benefit. This needs to be actively overcome by remembering “to do good.”

Further, the author says, “and to share.” This is actually, more often than not, tied to doing good. If we allow someone into the traffic line in front of us, we are sharing our good position in that line. If we help someone with a heavy load, we are sharing our strength. If you have food to share with someone who obviously could use a bite, share your food. It is such an easy thing to simply look around and see other humans as you would like them to see and relate to you.

And with such a simple thing being practiced, we can then feel good not only about ourselves, and towards the other person we have tended to, but there is a third – and great – reason for this type of conduct. It is because “with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” God was under no obligation to send Jesus to bear our sin-debt. But He did. He took our heavy burden upon Himself.

When we were stuck on the path to hell, he allowed us access to the way of heaven. When we had no food to sustain us, He gave us the Bread of Life. God did good and shared all things with us because it pleased Him to do so (Isaiah 53:10). With this infinitely glorious example, we can then remember to follow suit, and to do likewise in our temporary stay here in this life. In such conduct, there will be eternal reward.

Life application: The problem (well, one of many problems) with liberal social theology is that it puts the “deeds cart” before the “salvation horse.” People all over the world are doing good deeds for others. If Christians think they have an exclusive claim on them, they are mistaken.

People like Bill Gates and other philanthropists give away as much as entire nations. Unfortunately, these deeds mean absolutely nothing to God in determining their righteousness. One simply cannot buy his way into heaven.

Likewise, liberal social theology follows a similar path. Such adherents tend to place people’s needs at the front of the list of things to be accomplished. In fact, this is often all that is on the list. They never get to the part about Jesus. The entire effort is wasted effort because the root of the people’s problem is a separation from God because of sin.

Feeding these people without tending to their spiritual needs is no different than petting a cow as it is going to slaughter…kind of pointless. Another problem with social theology is these people tend to get their fingers into the government entities around them and force themselves and their viewpoints on others who may have better-aligned priorities.

Such is the case in America where these ideologies have formed religious/political machines who never introduce Jesus. The Bible, on the other hand, never fails to proclaim our need for God’s pardon through Jesus and only then sharing with others. This is quite evident from the fact that we have spent 13 chapters on Christology and only in the middle of the 13th chapter do we introduce charity. Once our station with Christ is resolved, we can then please God with our charity.

Don’t be captivated by ministries which spend so much time doing good that they never get to the reason for the good. Without Jesus, the effort is in vain, but with Him it makes all the difference in the world.

Lord God, help us to have our priorities right as we seek to help others. Let us never shirk from first explaining the Gospel of Christ as we also tend to their other needs – physical, emotional, mental, financial, etc. May You be proclaimed at all times and in every way! Amen.