THE NEW TESTAMENT
Epistle to Hebrews #18
Paul finishes his epistle to Hebrews with many different
admonitions. It is obvious he was aware of certain problems and
questions within their culture and church groups. When there are
problems and questions within any society of people, brotherly
LOVE is of paramount importance. If love flavors all aspects of
living and conversing then questions and problems take a back
seat, a seat where they do not lead to open frictions and party
spirit which end in divisions.
They are not to forget to entertain STRANGERS, people they
have no real knowledge of, or personal contact with on any
regular basis. In be-friending such people as time and
circumstances dictate, some, he says, have entertained ANGELS
unaware that they were angels. As we move about in our society,
as we take holidays in different parts of our country or, as is
so easy today, different parts of the world, we as Christians
need to remember that it is possible that some of the people we
meet may be angels. This should give us a mental outlook on life
and our mingling with strangers that leads to a deep attitude of
friendliness, respect, politeness, and service. When you are
among strangers in your own land or another land, keep in mind,
you may never know when some you meet are really angels -
unaware, unknown by you.
We are to remember those, who for the Christian cause, may
be in prison or suffering great adversity. Yes, even today in
this 21st century, there are some parts of the world that you
suffer mightily and are even physically abused, or put in chains
and cast into prison. It can be very hard for us in the Western
world where religious freedom is an everyday part of our lives,
to imagine and realize that this is not the case in some
countries of the world. Pray that God will encourage and give
enduring strength to those who do not have the religious freedom
that we may have.
It would seem there were question among the Hebrews
concerning marriage and sex. It may have been possible some
thought Christians should not marry, or that being married it was
not sin to have other sexual partners beside your wife or
husband. Paul answers straightforwardly that marriage is
HONORABLE, and sexual relations is good and undefiled, but the
sexual immoral and those practicing sexual relations with others
other than their mates, would face the judgment of God. In other
words sexual relations with others other than your mate is not
Christian, such a sexual practice would be judged as sin by God.
Christians are to learn to be CONTENT people with what God
has given them at any particular stage of life. No matter what
our situation in life may be, in hardships, in trials, in
relative peace, in prosperity, whatever physical things we have
or do not have, we need to be in an attitude of a content mind.
We need to always keep in mind that God is with us under all
situations of our lives. Paul certainly experienced many
different variations in his physical life, sometimes in plenty
and sometimes in want and need. Sometimes he had relative calm
and peace as he worked spreading the Gospel, and sometimes he had
persecutions, beatings, stoning, and imprisonment. We read some
of that in Philippians chapter four. We can see much more of the
ups and downs Paul went through in the book of Acts. Paul learnt
to be content through it all, and so should we. God will be with
us, so then we shall be able to say, "The Lord is my helper, and
I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (verses 1-6).
The Hebrews (and so all of us likewise) are told to remember
those who have the rule over us in our spiritual lives. The
margin of the KJV says "are the guides" - that is the better way
to translate the Greek. The SHEPHERDS of the flock of God - the
ministers of the Church of God - are the GUIDES, they are the
ones who should set the lead, be examples to the flock as Peter
put it (1 Peter 5:1-5). They are to be HUMBLE, with all and to
all, they are to be patient, kind, loving, giving, and just
simply like Jesus Christ, serving and living as He lived and
served others. The true ministers of God are not to have the
attitude of mind and way of life that makes them and everyone
around them know they are some kind of BIG CHEESE, the real CAT'S
MEOW, the KING-PIN. They are not to be VAIN or BOMBASTIC. They
ARE to set THE EXAMPLE of what Jesus lived and acted like, and
with all that Jesus was given from the Father, He was humble, He
was a servant, He was kind and loving and gentle. Yes, now and
again, He had to get tough, and call a spade a spade, but He also
knew WHEN and HOW and to WHOM such straight talk needed to be
given. The vast majority of His life was lived in humbleness,
kindness, and loving service.
When God's true ministers live as they should in being the
guides of the flock of God, then all others in the flock are to
remember, consider, and follow their faith and manner of conduct
of life. For they then emulate Jesus Christ, who in such conduct
and character of life is the SAME, YESTERDAY, AND TO DAY, AND FOR
EVER (verses 7,8).
I have seen this verse 8, MIS-applied so often and in so many
ways, as used by some to say this or that teaching or doctrine of
the Old Testament is still in force today. Verses 7 and 8 have
NOTHING to do per se with "doctrine" - they have all to do with
CHARACTER, HOLINESS, CONDUCT. No matter what age, dispensation,
era, time frame, of this world and mankind on it, God the Father
and Jesus the Christ, are in CHARACTER and HOLINESS and CONDUCT,
the SAME. They are ALWAYS PERFECT IN JUDGMENT, HONEST, FAIR, HOLY,
LOVING, KIND, MERCIFUL, SLOW TO ANGER, RIGHTEOUS IN CONDUCT.
These verses have to do with HOLY CONDUCT OF CHARACTER, and
nothing as such with "doctrine." To prove things about this or
that law of God under the Old Testament and the New Testament,
you must use a whole set of other criterion and Biblical
principles and correct Scriptural reading.
Verses 7 and 8 have to do with HOLY CONDUCT of CHARACTER.
When a minister of God is following that character of Jesus
Christ, then all other Christians should take note, and follow
their same faith and conduct, as they all then follow Jesus, who
in conduct and character is indeed the same, yesterday, today,
and for ever.
Paul warns against being driven about, tossed up and down,
with different and STRANGE doctrines. I give emphasis to the word
"strange" as the main thought is on strange doctrines outside the
Christian faith, and maybe inside it. To be sure there will be some,
even many, outside Christianity who think many of our Christian
doctrines are "strange" - that is to be expected. The Christian
truths of God are not hard to find as such. It will take a little
effort, you will have to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation,
you will have to put Scripture with Scripture, you will have to be
willing to search the Scriptures as Jesus once told the Pharisees
of His day to do. But the basic doctrines of God can be found.
The simplicity of Christ, as Paul once termed it, can be simple.
Oh, yes, you will have to become like a little child as Jesus
once proclaimed to enter the Kingdom of God, but little children
can read the bible, they can find the basic simple truths of God.
I personally know this to be true, by reading the Bible from age
6. Over a 12 year period, from age 6 to 18, I came to understand
many of the basic doctrines of God.
Once you have those basics then you will not be carried off,
thrown over-board, tossed here and there by many different and
strange doctrines of men, who come to you either from within
Christianity or from without Christianity.
Our hearts and minds can be established, founded, on the
solid rock of the relative simple truths of God as found in His
word. And we then need not waste our time and energy on some of
the complicated ideas and philosophies of the complicated and
mixed-up minds of men and women who come claiming "I have the
light" when in fact they have heavy meat-ball ideas of darkness.
Paul now goes back to the physical Temple and physical human
priesthood of that Temple in Jerusalem (verses 10-14).
Those who still ONLY believe in that Temple, that Old
Testament Covenant shall we say, those who have not had their
minds opened to the true sacrifice of God in Christ Jesus. They
cannot partake of the true heavenly altar.
In the physical, was the type of burning the bodies of the
beasts outside the city wall of Jerusalem. So the type became the
reality - Jesus as the true sacrifice, was killed, had His blood
shed on the cross, outside the city walls. We Christians are to
go outside the physical type, outside the physical city of
Jerusalem and the physical Temple contained therein. We are to
take the reproach of Christ, bear His burden if needs be, take
the mocking, the persecutions, the reproach that was His, and go
forth looking towards another city, the true city of God, the
heavenly Jerusalem, that is yet to come to earth (Revelation
It must have been hard for some Hebrews to follow in the
steps of Christ. They no doubt had great opposition from family
members, the Jewish priesthood, and other Hebrew neighbors who
would have ridiculed them, scorned them, laughed at them, and
reproached them just as they had done to Christ Himself.
Christians were to look BEYOND all the physical - look to
the eternal FUTURE and eternal LIFE in the heavenly city of God,
look towards living forever in the Kingdom of God.
So with all this in mind, we are to offer to God the
sacrifice of PRAISE, giving THANKS to him at all times. We can do
this many times a day, as we walk about, work at our jobs, play
our sports. It is just a second or two to praise God in our minds
or with our lips, to praise Him for all we have, for all we can
see, or do. There are hundreds of things each day that we have
been given each day. As we mingle among them all, as we move and
converse within all we have each day, we can often say "Thank you
Lord." It is somewhat of a mind-set we must teach ourselves to
be in, appreciating all the time what God has given us.
I am blessed to have the owner of the Music School I teach
for, as a Christian friend. She calls me at home on a pretty
regular basis just to talk about the blessings we have, how God
has moved and blessed her over the years. We talk about what
happened this day or that day, how the Lord gave this or gave
that, how the door opened here or there to serve in one way or
another. We talk about other parts of the world and the material
things they do not have as we here in the Western world have. We
may look at what we do not have that many other materially richer
people have in our town where we live, but we always come back to
talking about the wonderful blessing God has given us, even just
to have the students we have to teach music to. We talk about the
health we have, the nice food she cooks and often shares with me.
We talk about her two little dogs and her 12 budgie birds. I may
talk about my wonderful Golden Palomino horse and the fun I have
as a working volunteer at the Riding School Ranch. We both are
reminded, we both remind each other, about the blessings and more
blessings we have from God, and we PRAISE His name.
We talk about HOW and WHY we can do good to others,
sometimes in just small ways, but small things can mean a lot. We
will buy things like a pencil with a colorful eraser on the end,
to give to our students. Maybe a green cookie for them at
St.Patrick's day - March 17th. Small things but you should see
the expression of delight on their faces.
Whatever your circle of life you can find ways to do good
and to serve others, and to communicate with others about God and
Christ and their desires for us in using our lives to give back
to others from the many things God has given us (verse 16).
Paul goes back again to the relationship of the shepherds
over the flock - the ministers over the Church of God. A verse
that some today do not want to hear, is verse 17. There is to be
a certain "obey them that have the rule or guide over you." The
ones guiding the flock are to be submitted to at times. Because
this has been abused by some leaders of Christian groups (who
really were leading as to make their group into a cult) many do
not understand this verse. When you put this verse in the context
of the WHOLE New Testament on the subject of Church Government,
it is clear that Paul is not talking about having a BLIND FAITH -
making leaders into little Hollywood Stars - obey their every
whim and fancy - allowing them to become little dictators over
An example I hope will illustrate and give the meaning of
I was pastoring a small group in the Toronto area of Canada
in the 80s. I baptized (after some in-depth council) a young man,
about age 20 at the time. It is impossible to know everything
about a person or their lives when you do not live with them on a
daily basis. This young man had kept from everyone a dark secret
we may say. Even his best friend at the time (whom I also baptized)
did not know this secret. It was only after about a year after both
young men were baptized that the one young man (the first I
mentioned) revealed to the other young man, that he was a
homosexual. The young man finally came to me to talk about his
problem with homosexuality. We talked for about 3 hours. He
revealed to me he had some practicing homosexual friends, and had
had them for a few years. He also revealed to me that he was
thinking of moving into the city of Toronto. Now, many of you may
not know that Toronto is second on the list behind San Francisco
in homosexual population in North America. He indicated to me he
was interested in putting away homosexuality in his life. After
all he told me, I said that if he really wanted to overcome and
put away homosexuality from his life, he would have to do TWO
THINGS for sure. I told him he would have to PUT AWAY having any
friends that were homosexuals, and that he should NOT move into
the city of Toronto.
I gave this young man TWO areas of life that he should obey
me on, if he was going to put away homosexuality from his life. I
was giving instructions on a VERY SERIOUS matter - a spiritual
life and death matter. There are times when a minister needs to
be obeyed in what he tells people to do to put away sin. A true
minister of god is watching out, looking out for, the lives of
the people of God. A minister of God will have to give account
one day. He wants to do it with joy not with grief and sorrow,
for giving account with grief and sorrow means it is unprofitable
for you, the one needing help to put away sin.
Sad to say the young man did NOT listen to me. He moved into
Toronto, and we never heard from him again. I can only hope and
pray that in the years from then to now, he has recalled what I
told him to do, if he was going to put away that sin from his
Paul wanted all the Hebrews to pray for him and his helpers
with him, that they would lead an honest life in good conscience.
He wanted to be restored to them the sooner. What this exactly
meant is unknown today. Was he physically apart from them and
wanted to be in their midst? Was he spiritually apart from them
and so wanted this epistle to mend that gap? Probably it was a
combination of both. Whatever the specifics of it, he wanted to
once more be restored to them the sooner (verses 18-19).
He finishes this epistle with these words:
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our
Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood
of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work
to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his
sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.
And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation:
for i have written a letter unto you in few words. Know you that
our brother Timothy is set at liberty; to whom, if he come
shortly, I will see you.
Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the
saints, They of Italy salute you.
Grace be with you all. Amen"
Written April 2007
So we end our commentary on the 14 epistles of Paul. What
wonderful inspiration they hold. What glorious revelations and
truths of the Most High they contain. Yes, as the apostle Peter
said, some of the writings of Paul are hard to understand, by
those who wrest the words of God, to their own destruction. For
those who know the Scriptures do not contradict each other, for
those who know there is unity in all the words of God, for those
who will search the Scriptures, who will study to show themselves
approved to God, and so correctly putting verse with verse, there
is wonderful and eternal salvation to be found.
We shall now continue with what has been called the "general
epistles" - the letters of James, Peter, John and Jude, and see
the magnificent truths they contain.