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Exhortations relating to the Christian's path here and with the Hebrews in connection with the approaching demolition and judgment of Judaism
In this next chapter there is more than one truth important to
notice. The exhortations are as simple as they are weighty, and
require but few remarks. They rest in the sphere in which the whole
of the epistle does: what relates to the Christian's path as
walking here, not what flows from union with Christ in heavenly
places. Brotherly love, hospitality, care for those in bonds, the
strict maintenance of the marriage tie and personal purity, the
avoiding of covetousness: such are the subjects of exhortation, all
important and connected with the gracious walk of a Christian, but
not drawn from the higher and more heavenly sources and principles
of the christian life as we see in Ephesians and Colossians. Nor,
even though there be more analogy — for the epistle to the Romans
rests in general in life in Christ in this world, presenting
Christ's resurrection, without going on to His ascension* — are
the exhortations such as in this latter epistle. Those which follow
connect themselves with the circumstances in which the Hebrews
found themselves, and rest on the approaching abolition and
judgment of Judaism, from which they had now definitely to separate
In exhorting them (v. 7) to remember those who have guided the flock, he speaks of those already departed in contrast with those still living (v. 17). The issue of their faith might well encourage others to follow their steps, to walk by those principles of faith which had led them to so noble a result.
The unchanging Christ
Moreover Christ never changed; He was the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Let them abide in the simplicity and integrity of faith. Nothing is a plainer proof that the heart is not practically in possessing of that which gives rest in Christ, that it does not realise what Christ is, than the restless search after something new — "divers and strange doctrines." To grow in the knowledge of Christ is our life and our privilege. The search after novelties which are foreign to Him, is a proof of not being satisfied with Him. But He who is not satisfied with Jesus does not know Him, or, at least, has forgotten Him. It is impossible to enjoy Him, and not to feel that He is everything, that is to say, that He satisfies us, and that by the nature of what He is, He shuts out everything else.
Jewish earthly worship ended; Christ's portion — in heaven, accepted; on earth, cast out and despised
Now with regard to Judaism, in which the Hebrews were naturally inclined to seek satisfaction for the flesh, the apostle goes farther. They were no longer Jews in the possession of the true worship of God, a privileged worship in which others had no right to participate. The altar of God belonged now to the Christians. Christians only had a right to it. An earthly worship, in which there was no entering within the veil, into God's own presence in the sanctuary, could no longer subsist — a worship that had its worldly glory, that belonged to the elements of this world and had its place there. Now, it is either heaven, or the cross and shame. The great sacrifice for sin has been offered; but by its efficacy, it brings us into the sanctuary, into heaven itself, where the blood has been carried in; and on the other hand it takes us outside the camp, a religious people connected with the world down here, into shame and rejection on earth. This is the portion of Christ. In heaven He is accepted, He has gone in with His own blood — on earth cast out and despised.
A worldly religion, which forms a system in which the world can walk, and in which the religious element is adapted to man on the earth, is the denial of Christianity.
Walking on earth as belonging to a heavenly city and seeking only to please the Lord
Here we have no continuing city, we seek the one which is to come. By Christ we offer our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. By sharing also our goods with others, by doing good in every way, we offer sacrifices with which God is well pleased (v. 16) .
He then exhorts them to obey those who, as responsible to God, watch over souls, and who go before the saints in order to lead them on. It is a proof of that humble spirit of grace which seeks only to please the Lord.
The apostle asking for the prayers of the saints
The sense of this responsibility makes Paul ask the saints to pray for him, but with the declaration that he had assuredly a good conscience. We serve God, we act for Him, when He is not obliged to be acting on us. That is to say, the Spirit of God acts by our means when He has not to occupy us with ourselves. When the latter is the case, one could not ask for the prayers of saints as a labourer. While the Spirit is exercising us in our conscience, we cannot call ourselves labourers of God. When the conscience is good, we can ask unreservedly for the prayers of the saints. The apostle so much the more asked for them because he hoped thus the sooner to see them again.
Blessing invoked from the God of peace
Finally, he invokes blessing upon them, giving God the title he so often ascribes to Him — "the God of peace." In the midst of exercise of heart with regard to the Hebrews, of arguments to preserve their love from growing cold, in the midst of the moral unsteadiness that enfeebled the walk of these Christians, and their trials in the breaking down of what they considered stable and holy, this title has a peculiarly precious character.
In the presence of a risen Christ; an unshakable hope, and unchangeable blessing and an everlasting covenant; the apostle's desire
The Spirit sets them also in the presence of a risen Christ, of
a God who had founded and secured peace by the death of Christ, and
had given a proof of it in His resurrection. He had brought Christ
again from the dead according to the power of the blood of the
everlasting* covenant. On this blood the believing people might
build a hope that nothing could shake. For it was not, as at Sinai,
promises founded on the condition of the people's obedience, but on
the ransom which had been paid, and the perfect expiation of their
disobedience. The blessing was therefore unchangeable, the covenant
(as the inheritance and the redemption) was everlasting. He prays
that the God who had wrought it, would work in them to grant them
full power and energy for the accomplishment of His will, working
Himself in them that which was well-pleasing in His sight.
He urges them to give heed to exhortation; he had only sent them a few words.
Circumstances confirming the idea that Paul wrote this letter; its authority that of the Spirit of God
He who wrote the letter desires they should know that Timothy had been set at liberty; he himself was so already; he was in Italy; circumstances which tend to confirm the idea that it was Paul who wrote this letter — a very interesting point, although in nowise affecting its authority.
It is the Spirit of God who everywhere gives His own authority to the word.