Study Notes

Hebrews 13:16-25


I will never forget the look on the Skipper's face. The seven of them had been on the island for so long, and finally, they were saved. He looked into the distance towards the approaching craft and said, "After fifteen years, we're finally rescued."

I believe that many of us might be feeling the same way this morning. Our journey through the book of Hebrews, which began over ten months ago, and consisted of 44 studies, will finally come to an end today.

In our previous study, we were reminded that the altar in the temple is no longer necessary - the cross has become our altar, and Christ is our sacrifice.

We saw that the sacrifice God is desiring from us is not one of flesh and blood, but one of praise and thanksgiving:

Hebr. 13:15 ...let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

This morning, as we approach our final study in Hebrews, we are told about two more sacrifices...

13:16 Doing Good And Sharing

Doing good and sharing. There are few more basic instructions for proper behavior. And yet, these actions are considered sacrifices. One needs only go into a preschool or kindergarten to figure out why: Doing good and sharing are two things that rub against our selfish human nature. It is no coincidence that one of the first words children learn is "mine!" It is only after repeated training by our parents that we learn to share rather than horde.

Of course, most of us like to point out others' inability to share. We see those with lots of stuff, and resent them for not sharing. It is true that they should. Paul told Pastor Timothy,

1Tim. 6:17-19 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future...

People who are rich should be generous, giving, and ready to share. But not us ordinary folks, the middle-class, right? Wrong. John the Baptist, when asked by the multitudes, "What shall we do," responded,

Luke 3:10-11 ..."Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise."

You see, you don't need to be rich to share. You just need enough for two.

So far, the only people who've escaped this command are those with nothing, right? Wrong. The Ephesians were told,

Eph. 4:28 Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have {something} to share with him who has need.

If you don't have enough to share with others, the question is, "Why not?" Is it because you're not doing what you can? If so, go out and work so that you do have enough to share.

The question then arises, "With whom should we share?" We should start with those in the church. Paul wrote,

Gal. 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

In the early church, there were some with much and some with little.

Acts 2:44-45 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they {began} selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

The sharing that went on in the early church was amazing. When the rich help the poor, everyone becomes middle class!

We are also supposed to share with those that guide our spiritual growth. Paul told the Galatians,

Gal. 6:6 And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.

I praise God for all the Christians that have blessed me since I entered the ministry. Sometimes the blessing is a pile of firewood for the stove, sometimes money for groceries, and sometimes it's simply a heartfelt "thank you." They all bless me radically.

Although we have a very special group of people in the church, I pray that we will continue to grow in our doing good to - and sharing with - one another. It is certainly a sacrifice, but it is also pleases God.

13:17 Obey Your Leaders

There are several places in the Bible that make it clear we are to submit to the authorities over us. Most of us recognize the authority of the president and of the police, but what about the pastors? Often, people don't give consideration to the spiritual authority that God gives to church leadership. Maybe that's because church leaders don't carry guns or have the ability to put you in jail.

Frankly, the authority of church leadership is only what you allow it to be. After all, leaders in the church are only able to lead if you agree to follow. If you choose not to follow, about as extreme as we can get is telling you not to fellowship with us anymore. Paul said,

Titus 3:10(NIV) Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

And Jesus instructed the church that after a person had been confronted about his or her sin twice and still refused to listen or repent,

Matt. 18:17 "...tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer."

So the biggest stick we can carry is the threat of disfellowship. The sad thing is, those who really need to be corrected by us are often the very people who refuse to listen and don't want to come back to church anyway.

And yet we are supposed to be keeping watch over your souls. Paul told the elders at Ephesus,

Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

We have a mandate from God to do our best to keep you out of harm's way. And so, here is something for you to file away for the future: If we as church leadership ever confront you about something, please remember that it is only out of love and concern, for your protection, and only after a whole lot of prayer.

When your instincts tell you to get mad, pack up, and move on, remember that its very likely your flesh reacting. And if you follow your flesh, nothing will grieve us more, and it will certainly be unprofitable for you.

13:18-19 Pray For Us

The exhortation to pray is then given. Notice that the author knew that if they prayed, he would be reunited with them sooner. This is one of many places which show us plainly that prayer affects the outcome. Although nothing is impossible for God, there are times that He will not do things unless we pray.

13:20-21 Equipped

As the author prays that God will equip us to do His will, he reminds us that He resurrected Christ from the grave. What a great reminder: after all, if God can raise Jesus from the dead, then he can certainly equip you! God is truly a God of the impossible!

13:22 Bear With This Word

The author says that he has written this word of exhortation briefly. While it has really exhorted us, I don't know about his use of the word "briefly!"

In this letter, he has been simply warning the Jewish Christians not to abandon Christianity for the Law again. But he has had to use some fairly blatant language to convince them. No doubt some of them were offended by its frankness. Others may have felt personally attacked, thinking that the message was about them specifically. Still others may have been put off by the content of the letter.

I am often accused of pointing sermons at people. I often find myself defending the messages, telling folks somewhat frequently, "Look, if you want to know what I'm teaching about next week, just read ahead in your Bible. That is our text, and those are our topics. I'm not talking about you."

But I think I like this approach better: "You heard it, now deal with it. I could have said a whole lot more!"

13:23-25 Grace Be With You All

After a couple of personal comments, the author finishes his long letter with five words: "Grace be with you all."

Grace is truly the key to understanding how to avoid the problems that the Hebrews were facing, because grace destroys the religion of ritual and rules. It guards against legalism. It protects us from living a works-based life. It causes us to love God and draw close to Him.

Religion threatens. Grace reassures.

Religion tries to change people from the outside in. Grace changes people from the inside out.

Religion says, "Serve so God will love you." Grace says, "God loves you, so serve."

Religion says, "Work for it!" Grace says, "It is finished."

May grace truly be with you all.

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