Study Notes

Hebrews 13:8-15


We're in the home stretch, the final chapter, of the book of Hebrews, as the author has encouraged us to show the love of friendship towards both Christians and strangers, to remember prisoners, to honor marriage, to be content with what we have, and to remember those that help build the foundation in our Christian lives.

This morning, we continue chapter 13, beginning with verse eight.

13:8 Jesus Is The Same

It is interesting how people change from one minute to the next. Yesterday, the girl liked you, today she doesn't know you exist. Yesterday the boss said your bonus was in the bag, and today he's talking about how your department is too far over budget.

People are so inconsistent, that we tend to attribute that trait to God as well. "Yesterday, He loved me, but today He's ready to pound me," we think. "Grace was good for last year, but this year, I'm forsaken!"

But He stays the same, He is consistent. He said through Malachi,

Mal. 3:6 "For I, the LORD, do not change..."

God doesn't waffle between decisions, and get swayed by an unexpected difficulty or bad hair day!

James 1:17 ...with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.

God is our rock - stable, unmoving, unshifting, unchanging.

13:9-12 Varied And Strange Teachings

Because Jesus is the same, His teaching does not change either. It stays the same, generation after generation. Although society changes, trends shift, and styles go in and out, the gospel, the message, the teaching, remains the same. Paul told Timothy,

2Tim. 1:13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

"Standard" there literally means "repeatable pattern." It is something that can be stamped in repeatedly, like the plates that print money, or an inked rubber stamp with your return address on it. The word was used in ancient Greece to refer to the impact of a horse's hoof in the dirt, which created the same image in the dirt over and over.

Now this kind of repetition is not exciting enough for some people. Many are always on the lookout for the new thing, the new outpouring, the new revelation, the new truth. They want more, and go off in search of "varied and strange teachings."

The Bible warned that this would happen in the last days:

1Tim. 4:1 ...the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons

2Tim. 4:3-4 ...the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.

We see it all around us today - varied and strange teachings surround us. They permeate Christian bestseller lists, Christian TV stations, and Christian churches.

Grace, Not Foods

One of the strange teachings that caught on early in the church was that which we have been studying in the book of Hebrews: the observance of religious ritual to find favor with God.

One of the more prominent practices of this religion was that of food. Of course the Old Testament Law had much to say about which foods were clean and which were unclean. But did observing the dietary laws make a man any more holy? Did it make a woman any more righteous? Jesus said no (Mark 7:18-19), and so did Paul.

1Cor. 8:8 will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.

Amazing then, that those in the bondage of religion make such a big deal about following dietary laws, and harshly judge anyone who claims to be a believer, but doesn't follow those same standards. The Bible tells us not to let anyone judge us for failing to observe religious dietary standards (Col. 2:16-17). After all, food will strengthen our bodies, but it is grace that strengthens our hearts!

Grace, God's love and favor given to me when I am completely undeserving does more to make me righteous than following any religious diet ever could!

Better Altar, Better Sacrifice

Now, the group that had more dietary restrictions placed on them than anyone else was the priests that served in the temple. This was because they ate from the sacrifices on the altar.

But the author here is saying, "The altar that our sacrifice is on isn't allowed to be eaten of by the temple priests. Our sacrifice is Jesus on the cross." He then goes on to explain how Jesus was a fulfillment of the sin offerings in the temple.

Bearing His Reproach

The flesh of sin offerings was always taken outside the camp. There is one sin offering in particular that fascinates me: that of the scapegoat. In Leviticus 16, we read that that the high priest...

Lev. 16:21-22 "...shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send {it} away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who {stands} in readiness. And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness."

Lev. 16:26 "And the one who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; then afterward he shall come into the camp.

This scapegoat was an obvious picture of Jesus Christ.

- The goat had all of the sins of the people transferred to himself. He alone would bear them all. The same is true for Jesus:

Isa. 53:6 ...The LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

- Then the goat was taken outside the city. So too with Jesus, Who was led out of Jerusalem to be crucified on Calvary.

- The goat was then sent away into the wilderness, to a solitary land, symbolically carrying the sins of the people away from them. Their sin would never be seen again. The same is true with Jesus:

Ps. 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

- He was led out in the wilderness by a man dressed in readiness, who would see the goat leave, be washed with water, and then come into the camp. How does this relate to Christ? There was a man dressed in readiness when Jesus was led out of the city to enter the wilderness of His death. He was a Roman Centurion.

Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

Luke 23:47 ...the centurion...began praising God...

When Jesus left to enter the wilderness of death, the man was washed with water - the water of the truth of the Word of God. He proclaimed faith in Jesus, causing himself to enter the camp of those who are the church!

13:13-14 Let Us Go Out To Him

Jesus bore our reproach outside the city walls, outside the religious system. If we are going to meet with Him, it must be outside as well. The author is getting one final plug in here for these Jewish Christians not to fall back into their religion, but instead to pursue relationship with Jesus Christ. He's telling them that it's okay to leave the earthly Jerusalem behind, because the heavenly Jerusalem is waiting for them.

13:15 A Sacrifice Of Praise

The sacrifice that is required of us now is not a sin offering, a grain offering, or any of the other multitude of sacrifices dictated by the Law, for Christ has fulfilled them all. Now the sacrifice that is expected of us is simply the sacrifice of praise to God - giving thanks to Him for fulfilling all of the requirements that we needed to gain eternal life!

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