Hebrews Lesson 215
NKJ Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
We are in Hebrews 13. Last time we began the chapter and I pointed out that this begins a series of commands or exhortations in the first person sense. "Let us do such and so." That's a first person command known as a hortatory subjunctive. Or, it may be just a basic second person plural or second person singular command. These begin in verse 1. The primary command in verse 1 was to let brotherly love continue. That is sort of the thematic statement for these imperatives (these mandates) all the way down through verse 17.
We broke this section into two parts: the first six verses and then verses 7 to 17.
NKJ Hebrews 13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
That should be translated "those who ruled over you." The focus is in the past tense, those who were their leaders, those who were the evangelists and pastors who explained the gospel to them initially when they were saved, when they trusted in Jesus as their Messiah.
Then once we get down to verse 17, it is a present tense command: "obey those who currently rule over you". So there is a bracketing of these commands in between by these two emphasis on the relationship to the leadership.
NIV Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders,
NKJ Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls…
I pointed out last time as we developed our way through verses 7 down through 14 that the emphasis here was again on (primarily on) the completed work of Jesus Christ. That's what we've seen all the way through Hebrews. What we need to remember now as we bring Hebrews to a close is the focal point of this letter to these Jewish Christians in the first century was to encourage them not to give up, not to fold, not to go back into Judaism, not to give up on of the their Christian life because they were encountering some persecution, some opposition and some rejection.
But the idea was to focus on all that we have as believers in Jesus Christ positionally, all that has been provided for us because of the superiority of Jesus Christ as a sacrifice over the sacrifices of the Old Testament, and that the sacrifices of the Old Testament had to be performed again and again and again, the Day of Atonement was year after year after year but it only sufficed for a year. Whenever there was a sin, then there had to be burnt offering or sin offering, trespass offering again and again and again that the Mosaic sacrifices, the Mosaic Covenant was a temporary covenant; that it was designed to teach and illustrate principles related to sin and the necessity of cleansing from sin and the payment of the sin penalty as illustrated in these sacrifices.
But all the sacrifices pointed to a future, final sacrifice that would be the complete sacrifice and there would be no need for a subsequent sacrifice. That was fulfilled in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ when He died on the cross and paid the penalty (the complete penalty) for sin. So because of that, the writer then in verse 8 shifts to Jesus Christ. The command is to first of all to remember those who ruled over you, to look back on how they handled the opposition, how they handled difficulty, stress, adversity in life, so that they would be an example. Again, the same idea as we have at the beginning of chapter 12 that we're surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses to remember those who rule over you, who spoke or taught the Word of God to you. Follow their faith. Consider the outcome of their conduct. Follow their example.
NKJ Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I said this statement isn't written as a statement on His immutability although that is certainly there. It is written to remind the readers that the Jesus Christ who yesterday was faithful in providing stability and hope for the older generation that had now passed from the scene was the same Jesus Christ who in their present circumstances would sustain them and would also sustain them in the future.
Then starting in verse 9 there is a shift that begins with a focus on the Old Testament sacrifices focusing on the fact for example in verse 10 that we now have an altar from which those who serve the Tabernacle have no right to eat. It is a spiritual altar. The altar is not a reference to something that's in front of the church. That's a statement that always bothered me. In the Roman Catholic Church, of course, they do have an altar up in the front because they have a sacrifice, a literal sacrifice that occurs week after week after week when they celebrate the Mass. What happens in the Roman Catholic Church, they don't have a communion or the Lord's Table as Protestants do. They believe that there is a literal transformation of the elements that occurs when they celebrate Mass. When the priest waves his hand over the bread and over the wine then it is transformed in terms of its very substance below the level of what we observe. It is transformed into the literal body and the literal blood of Christ.
Now on Tuesday night I mentioned this Pew Research Poll that came out in the last month or so. They asked about 30 questions of an audience of folks that were from different religious backgrounds. There were 3 or 4 Buddhists and several atheists and agnostics and 2 or 3 Jews and maybe a third of them were Roman Catholic and the rest were Protestant. One of the results is that 40% of the Roman Catholic folks who participated in that survey did not understand that what actually was going on at the front the church when they went to Roman Catholic Mass what that the bread and the wine was being transformed into the literal body and the literal blood of Christ. I found that just to be amazing.
I always find it ironic when I hear of the Roman Catholic Church singing A Mighty Fortress is our God, which was written by Martin Luther who's the father of the Protestant Reformation. That's the way the Roman Catholic Church has always been. They just sort of co-opt everything and assimilate everything and absorb everything into their system. So it's just a hodge-podge at the local church level, at the cutting edge of their expansion.
So in the Roman Catholic Church there really is an altar. This is not a biblical. This is the result of the influence of Aristotelian thought into medieval theology. The very term transubstantiation: "tran" means change and "substantiation" from substance meaning the substance of the elements is transformed. But this is a technical use of the word substance. You think of substances as matter. In Aristotelian thought everything had substance, which usually wasn't anything you could perceive, and then it had various accidents. The accidents were the things that described the substance such as its height and weight and color and shape. Those things were the accidents. So what you see when you look at something, for example, if I hold up a Bible here. All you see are the accidents. You see the color. You see the shape. You see the weight. But you don't see the substance. The substance is something that is only given shape by the accidents. That's at the foundation of Roman Catholic view of the Mass is that the substance is changed. But you don't ever see the substance. You just see the accidents. The accidents don't change. Therefore you can take the bread and you can take it into the laboratory afterwards and it's still going to come out looking like bread. But the substance changed. That is where we get our word hocus pocus. Literally, Hoc est corpus was the Latin for "this is my body." In Medieval times when people didn't know Latin and they saw the priest wave his hand over the bread and said, Hoc est corpus. They said, "Well, it sounds like hocus pocus." That's where that phrase came from in terms of magic. That's the Roman Catholic view.
Then in the Protestant Reformation they struggled with this. It was a big struggle. Part of it was as much a problem as you had with baptism because these ideas of transubstantiation and how you view the Lord's Table and baptism were linked to how good a member of the church you were. If you disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church's view of these doctrines then you were a heretic. If you were a heretic, it wasn't as bad as being a heretic today because if you were a heretic in the Middle Ages because of the unity of the church and state you were also traitor. That meant off with your head and you were in serious trouble.
This whole doctrine starts to take shape during the Protestant Reformation. Luther who started the Reformation goes from a Roman Catholic view here... Let's say over here is a full blown Protestant view. Luther moves about this far. He gets justification by faith right. We're justified by faith alone, not by works. But his view of the Lord's Table was called consubstantiation. I always thought it was kind of a con job. Consubstantiation: the Latin prefix and preposition "con" means with. It's not that the substance is transformed into the body and blood of Christ, but that somehow mystically the body and blood of Christ are with the substance. It is kind of a half away position from the memorial view, which we have of the Lord's Table, and the Roman Catholic view. Those are the polar opposites. So you have the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation where the bread and the wine become the literal body and blood of Christ. Then you have the Lutheran view that the body and blood of Christ are with the substance in some sense.
Then there was the view of John Calvin, which was called the spiritual sacrifice view. In Calvin's view there is a mystical presence of Christ at the table. But that's not really defined very well. You just had this mystical spiritual presence of Christ at the table. Ulrich Zwingli the reformer from Zurich was the first to clearly articulate a memorial view: that there's no presence of Christ in the table. You don't feed on Christ in a mystical or spiritual sense. It is a memorial.
There is a significance to the eating of the bread and drinking the cup. The significance is that when you eat something, every human being has utility to eat. The analogy is that every human being has the ability to believe. When you eat something, you are making it a part of your life. When you believe something, you are making it a part of your belief system about life. Eating and drinking were used as an analogy or a picture of belief. This is what Jesus meant when He talked metaphorically about eating His body and the drinking His flesh. "Those who feed on Me will have eternal life." He was not talking about in the literal, cannibalistic sense. Neither was He talking about it in the mystical sense. He was merely talking about it in an analogy or analogical sense.
So there's no altar. If you go to a Baptist church, sometimes you go to a Methodist church, you will hear them talk about "come to the altar and pray." When I was in a Baptist church it used to always bother me because I wanted to know where the altar was. It wasn't the pulpit. But we get this language among Christians that's like "holy" and a few other words like "altar" and we just assign this twilight zone kind of meaning to them and nobody ever questions it. We all have to come to the altar and pray and lay it all upon the altar. This was very popular terminology in the 19th century. It sounds all holy and good, but when you start asking, "Well, what does that mean and how do you support that from the Bible?" things began to kind of fall apart a little bit.
The only altar that the New Testament talks about is the altar where "the sacrifice" took place which is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross when He paid the penalty for the sins of the world as the Lamb of God, the antitype or the ultimate picture to which all of the Old Testament sacrifices pointed.
NKJ Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.
…that is talking about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then there's the contrast between the bodies of the animals whose blood was brought into the sanctuary that that had limited efficacy, as I said. It was good for a ritual cleansing, but not for spiritual cleansing as we covered that in the chapters 8 and 9.
NKJ Hebrews 13:12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify
Or set apart
the people with His own blood,
Literally it should be by means of His own blood, always understanding that whenever you refer to the blood of Christ it is just a metaphor for the death of Christ so that we can get a better sense of what that means by saying:
NKJ Hebrews 13:12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
I went back to Leviticus 16 last time pointing out that on the Day of Atonement there were two focal points of the activity (the ritual) on the Day of Atonement. One was the sacrifice of one of the goats. Two goats were taken. The sacrifice of one had his blood splattered on the Ark of the Covenant (on The Mercy Seat). Both goats were identified with the sin of the nation when the high priest put his hands upon the goats. The one was sacrificed. He pays the penalty. The other one is taken out and released into the wilderness depicting the complete removal of that sin. It's no longer brought up. It's no longer an issue.
NKJ Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
That's that picture; that one goat is taken out into the wilderness as far, far away as he can be taken, and he's released so he can't find his way back. Then afterward the flesh and everything left of the animals, the goat that was sacrificed, is taken outside of the camp where it is all burned completely.
Then the priest who performs that action had to be completely bathed, put on clean clothes and comes back into the camp. That is the picture that is being used here is that Jesus also was sacrificed outside the camp so that the people could be sanctified. He suffered outside the gate.
I showed you the map of where Golgotha was located outside of the wall that existed at that time.
Then we have a conclusion.
NKJ Hebrews 13:13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.
The challenge to the audience that he's writing to is: you need to stay separate from the legalistic religions of the world, and focus on following Jesus, the same thing he said earlier at the beginning of chapter 12, i.e. keeping our eyes focused on Jesus the author and completer of our faith.
NKJ Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
Now he connects it to the future hope of the believer. When we began Hebrews, I said that this is all about focusing on the fact that Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sins, the one who satisfied the Father, that He is now with the Father; but He's coming back. When He comes back He will establish His kingdom and we will rule and reign with Him. So we need to keep our focus upon the end game. We are being trained for something. We are being prepared to serve with Him in the administration of His kingdom.
NKJ Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God…
This is where we begin this evening.
NKJ Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him
…indicating that again would have another conclusion. This is the third "therefore", the third conclusion in these 4 verses – a therefore in verse 12, therefore in verse 13, and a therefore in verse 15 – each conclusion building upon what we have studied before.
That is, by Jesus Christ. He is the one who is the High Priest of the Church Age. He is our High Priest. He has gone into heaven where He is seated with the Father. He is the one who performed the eternal sacrifice on the cross. It is by virtue of His work on the cross (His completed payment for sin) and His presence now as our High Priest with the Father that we have access to Him.
NKJ Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace…
…because of His completed work on the cross.
Here we begin:
NKJ Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
What we see in verse 15 is gratitude to God and praise to Him as a form of sacrifice. We normally think of the word sacrifice as a literal sense in terms of taking the life of an animal in terms of that kind of an offering. But what we find also in the Old Testament as well as in the New for this terminology is taken right out of the Old Testament what we have is a clear understanding that the concept of sacrifice is not to limited to be taking the life of an animal or taking the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes because we speak of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ we elevate term so much that when we apply it to other things some people think, "Well, that's trivializing the term. But that's not what we have here in the Scriptures. The Scripture uses the Greek word thusia for sacrifice to apply to the sacrifice of praise, which is related to gratitude.
The basic command here is "let us offer." That is the basic command. It is the Greek word anaphero. It is the present active subjunctive, which means it is a strong first person command where the author includes himself in the command. It means to bring something up, to raise it up, to offer it up. So the idea here is to continually offer this. The word phero was often used back in Hebrews 8:9 in relation to offering of sacrifices. Here it's anaphero.
NKJ Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
Just a note about the word sacrifice. The Greek word means the same thing the English word does. It means a sacrifice. It's a rather broad term that's used to refer to both pagan sacrifices as well as Old Testament sacrifices as well as the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
A sacrifice is defined as the act of giving up something of value for the sake of something that is of greater value or importance. Now sometimes in life when we give up something for something, for example, a parent gives up time and money and other things in order to raise their children and in order to take care of them, if they have health problems, they give up much more than that. But they don't think of it as a burden. Well this term sacrifice does not have as part its core lexical meaning the idea of something that is burdensome or that "Oh gee. I'm sacrificing something." It just simply means that you are doing one thing of greater value in place of something that usually would have contributed more to something of personal value. So we're giving up one thing in order to do something else.
That is what we do through life. There are always trade offs. Instead of doing one thing for ourselves, we're doing something for someone else, and we do it because we want to. We do it because of the transformation that has occurred in our character as we grow and mature as believers.
So thusia is simply an act of sacrifice or sometimes it's used for an offering, giving something to God, giving something of value to the church or to a missionary organization or something of that nature.
But here it is linked to the word ainesis. This is the only time in the New Testament that we have this noun; and it means praise. A verb form is used a few times and the verb means to express gratitude, to express respect or admiration or gratitude towards God. Praise is the expression of gratitude to God. It is the expression of admiration or respect to God for what He has done.
So when we read "Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise," it is simply emphasizing the fact of giving God the respect and honor for what He does in our life instead of taking credit for it ourselves. That's simply what it means.
Unfortunately the fruit of our lips, praise of our lips kind of verbiage that we get out of Scriptures is often abused in a lot of our churches, just as the word charismatic is abused and holy is abused. Satan is always trying to steal good biblical words and give them some kind of different meaning and then this spins off in terms of some kind of new Christian sect or Christian group and those words get lost because they get attached to some sort of odd behavior.
The sacrifice of praise to God is simply recognizing that God gets the credit for what God does in our life, and we don't take credit for it. We express our gratitude and our thanks to God for what He has done and what He has provided for us. This is expressed audibly, which is why it is called in the next phrase "the fruit of our lips." This is an appositional phrase that defines what the sacrifice of praise is. It is something that is stated. It is not something that is simply quietly acknowledged in silent prayer but something that when we're in conversation with people or we are in certain kinds of settings with other believers where we can express verbally and audibly our thanks, our gratitude to God for what He has done for us.
Then this is further expanded in the next phrase "giving thanks to His name." The phrase there for giving thanks is a participial clause and a participial clause that is related instrumentally to the main verb which is "let us offer." Let us offer by – and it's not giving thanks. That word is not there. It is a word that some of you have heard many, many times. It is the Greek word homologeo, which means to confess, to acknowledge, to admit something. So what he is saying is "therefore by Him that is Christ let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God that is the fruit of our lips by acknowledging His name" – by acknowledging His name. Whenever we read something of this nature related to His name that always relates to His character and bringing the focal point in any situation or circumstance back to the fact that it is God and His character of love and grace that has provided this for us.
In terms of his breaking down the meaning of text, we've done that. But these ideas come from some other places in the Scripture. You can imagine as many illusions as there are to the Old Testament the writer of Hebrews is constantly connecting Old Testament doctrine, Old Testament practices, and he is comparing and contrasting them to what we have in the Church Age in the body of Christ. He is drawing out the fact that there is a continuity between the Old and the New Testament.
In Leviticus 7:12 we have similar language. There we are told about the thanksgiving offering and we read:
NKJ Leviticus 7:12 'If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the
There's our terminology.
sacrifice of thanksgiving…
This involved a literal animal sacrifice, but it is a thanksgiving offering expressing gratitude to God. So it talks about the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, etc. What the writer of Hebrews is saying is that we've moved beyond literal animal sacrifices or grain offerings to express thanks to now what we have is a sacrifice that is expressed verbally and audibly with our lips because the Old Testament sacrificial system, all the Levitical offerings, found their completion in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We also have another similar phrase in Hosea 14:2 which reads:
NKJ Hosea 14:2 Take words with you, And return to the LORD. Say to Him, "
That is saying to God.
Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.
So the idea of a sacrifice being related to simply the expression of praise to God is one that finds its source as far back as Leviticus 7, carries through into the period just before the exile in Hosea 14 and on into the New Testament. Again and again the Scripture recognizes that just audibly expressing our gratitude and our praise to God is identified as a sacrifice.
Then again we also have another Old Testament passage in Psalm 54:6 where the psalmist says:
NKJ Psalm 54:6 I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name,
…which in the context indicates confession
O LORD, for it is good.
"I will praise or confess or admit or acknowledge your name O Lord."
We have that kind of phrase several times in the Old Testament. The writer is making the shift here. He says
NKJ Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him
Drawing that contrast between the New Covenant sacrifice and Old Covenant sacrifices. New Covenant sacrifice completed in Christ, Old Covenant still repetitive with the various animal sacrifices, grain offerings; things of that nature.
let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
That is admitting, acknowledging, talking about what God has done in our life.
In contrast we're told to not do something in verse 16.
NKJ Hebrews 13:16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
In verse 15 there's a focus on the sacrifice of praise, and in verse 16 there are the two sacrifices: doing good and sharing.
Now all of this must be understood within the background of John 13:34-35 where Jesus said:
NKJ John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
NKJ John 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
This now becomes the primary ethic for the spiritual life. When I break down the spiritual life into spiritual infancy and childhood and spiritual adulthood, one of the key elements that become clear is when we get into the more advanced spiritual skills and we talk about impersonal love for all mankind and personal love for God and occupation with Christ. Those three all focus on developing our love and our focus for the Godhead.
As a result of that as that matures and while that is maturing, we experience greater and greater happiness and meaning in life as we are focusing on the end game and being prepared for our future destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ.
All of this still comes back to the idea of expressing what is stated in verse 1 of this chapter: to let brotherly love continue. It is expressed in two categories. That is love is expressed in two categories in the New Testament: love for God and love for others.
We'll see this when we get into our study in Acts at the very beginning. In Acts 2:42 after Peter's first sermon there on the Day of Pentecost and he has a huge response and the church began to grow in the days afterward and then Luke writes in verse 42:
NKJ Acts 2:42 And they continued
That is all of these new believers.
steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Those 2 things… It looks like 4 things because it says doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers, but the way it's punctuated breaking of bread and prayer describes fellowship; fellowship toward God. Breaking of bread is in communion, and prayer is also part of our fellowship with God. So we have two basic elements. They are devoted to the teaching of the apostles and fellowship with God. That is the expression of love for God. We learn His Word. We learn what He has to say to us because that's important. It teaches us how to think correctly about everything in life; and that's the only way we can have real happiness and real stability.
Then in Acts 4 we see another dimension to this as it begins to work itself out in the infant church as they now begin to share with one another, not in a socialistic sense; but it's motivated by each individual's volition. That's the difference between socialism and the kind of communal sharing that you have in the early part of Acts. In socialism somebody like the government comes along and dictates how much you should give and who you should give it to, and then it's redistributed to people who didn't work. But the New Testament has no place for those who don't work. At the end of the 1 Thessalonians, or 2 Thessalonians rather Paul says if you don't work you don't eat, period.
There's no idea of sharing there in terms of some higher authority like the church authority saying, "Okay, you need to give 20% and then we're going to take part of it and give it over here because these poor people didn't quite achieve as much."
That is not a biblical love. That is sort of an anti-love. You know, like in science fiction you have matter and anti-matter. Well socialism is really anti-love. It's a pseudo-love. All it does is it builds a lot of antagonism within any culture in which it operates.
The early church was motivated by individual volition. Now we're going to see this some on Sunday mornings when we get into the breakdown of the culture in Judaism. Because when we see what happens with Isaiah and with Jeremiah as they condemn the nation for not taking care of the widows and not taking care of the poor, and the condemnation isn't directed to the government. The condemnation is directed to the people because it never was the government's responsibility under the Old Testament to take care of the poor and the widows and orphans.
They had a very shallow safety net in the Mosaic Law that once every three years a ten percent tithe was taken and that was used to provide a safety net, a little bit of sustenance for the widows and orphans.
What Isaiah and Jeremiah are talking about is not the social gospel or social justice which is just a code word for Marxism. What Isaiah and Amos and Jeremiah and the other prophets are doing is they're telling the people that they're just a bunch of self-absorbed, selfish greedy individuals who aren't doing anything to help those who are in need in their culture. It is not coming out of their own volition. The issue isn't the government doing it. It is the people doing it. Once you start letting the government step in and do it, then the people can absolve themselves of their own responsibility for taking care of those who are less fortunate and so the responsibility gets shifted away to somebody else and the buck gets passed to the government and government never can do anything efficiently or well. We're seeing a lot of examples of that today. So rather than giving you examples, just watch the news for the next week.
In Acts 4:32 we see love for others: love for God in Acts 2:42; love for others in Acts 4:32. This is what is emphasized in these verses. We are not to forget to do good and to share. That is exactly what the text says: that by doing good and sharing, this pleases God. This is an anthropopathism meaning that this is what has value according to the character of God.
The word that is translated "doing good" is a Greek word eupoiia, which means more than doing good; it is rendering service to others. That is something that just seems to get downplayed so much today. The importance of Christian service, not just within the local church but in helping other believers. I think we do a good job. We can always do better job, but I know that there are people who were shut-ins, people who face problems when they have to go the doctor they can't drive, things of that nature. They need to be taken. There are several people that I know of who watch live stream all the time who have never walked through the doors of this church because they are unable to get out and go to church or go to Bible class. Yet they are associate members of the church and they faithfully watch. Yet I'm sure that there may be some physical and maybe some financial needs that are there. Part of Christian service is serving others in the body of Christ and putting others first. That is the idea of eupoiia. It's doing well towards others, not just good deeds but serving others in the body of Christ.
Then the other word translated to share is the word koinonia which has to do with a close association or the attitude of the idea of fellowship or generosity towards others. It is the idea of developing a close relationship with other people and understanding who they are and knowing them, that the body of Christ isn't just a bunch of little atoms, little people (not Adam, but atom) not a bunch of little atoms that just coincidentally sort of a ricochet off of each other three times a week. The body of Christ is a personal interaction.
Go back and listen to what I taught on 1 Corinthians 12. Again and again and again Paul says we are members of one another. There is this mutual interaction within the body of Christ. We are to be involved in each other's lives – not everybody and not to the same depth of intimacy that we have in every case. There are some people we are going to be close to, some people we're not going to be close to. There are some people that we have time to be close to; other people we don't have the time and opportunity to be close to. But we are to be involved in the lives of other believers and there is to be this mutuality of ministry that takes place as we take care of them in terms of this association of koinonia, fellowship and interaction as well as serving one another.
The Scripture says, "Don't forget to do this." Why? Because it's easy to get caught up in our own lives and in the details of our own lives and in the busyness of our schedules and to all of a sudden wake up two years later and say, "I've been meaning to get together for lunch with that person" or "I've been meaning to go out and give them a call and just go over and see if there's anything I can do for them."
The next thing you know three years went by. So it's very easy for that to take place. We are to not forget to do good and to share.
…for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Then the last verse here states:
NKJ Hebrews 13:7 Remember those who rule over you,
"Who lead you" is actually a better way to translate it. I always have a tendency to focus on these passages – for example the passages related to husbands and wives; wives submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives – more in terms of leadership than in terms of simply obedience. When you focus on obedience as so many people do, often it comes across as just of autocratic tyranny. But men have to lead in the home. The leaders of the church have to be leaders, not just dictators.
I've never figured out why it is in local churches there always seem to attract people who want to create their own little fiefdom so that they can somehow exercise power over other people. Why don't they just go and start a good business and contribute to the profitability of the whole country? Then they have employees they can lord it over instead of coming to a volunteer organization and trying to brow beat a bunch of other believers. Unfortunately that happens. I can tell you horror stories about what happens in many different churches. I know one church (you do too but we won't mention any names) where someone who is a close friend of this congregation took over this congregation a few years ago and he was left with a bunch of folks in that congregation who really didn't want him as their pastor. It took about three or four years to finally encourage them to go somewhere else and for them to take the hint. But in the meantime there was a lot of tumult in that church. He was fortunate because things worked out well and God worked things out well for him.
My first church was sort of the poster child of the dysfunctional church. They put the "dys" in dysfunctional. It was one of these sort of ecumenical type churches that had been around since the late nineteenth century. It was located down near Galveston and there was just the situation there where there was this coterie of older people in that church that didn't ever want to let lose of the reins of authority go to the next generation. They had had one pastor who had been able to keep the lid on their arrogant rebelliousness for many years. When he retired after forty years of being their pastor (about 10 years before I became their pastor) he left the area. He came back later on. He was a great guy. In fact, he kept the lid on the problem I had for a long time until the Lord took him home. But from the time he retired until the time I came the church had split like three times in a decade. That's just sort of a clue there. But things were kind of being cleaned up and eventually those who were going in the right direction in that church ended up leaving and starting a new church rather than fighting the old crowd.
But the problem here is not ruling, it's leadership. So often you don't get men in positions as deacon or elders who know anything about leadership. We have great men in this congregation. I've been privileged in last twelve years in two churches with tremendous boards and men who really understood leadership and how to lead a congregation. Those who are in the congregation are to follow their leadership. If they don't want to and they should just quietly go find a church where they can submit that the leadership and where they can be happy rather than trying to cause a big dustup and split in the church just because things aren't being done the way they want them to.
There's only one vision in any congregation that matters, and that's the vision of the pastor. You can't have one of these boards where everybody's equal; and you have four or five competing visions. That just leads to all kinds of fragmentation. There is only one vision that matters; and that's if God has put a man in the position of pastor-teacher of that local congregation; his vision is the one that matters. If people want to follow him, great. If they don't, that's also great but you don't start a new rebellion in order to get your way. So this is one of those strong passages on leadership in the local church.
"Obey those that lead you and be submissive."
Why? Because they watch out for your souls. They have a God-given responsibility that they take very seriously to watch over the spiritual life of those in the congregation. Peter calls us under-shepherds. The over-Shepherd is the Lord Jesus Christ. So we have a boss that we're answerable to. That's what the next phrase points out – as those who must give account. Those who are in leadership position in the local church must give an account and eventually will give an account that the Judgment Seat of Christ for how well they led the church according to Scripture.
So then the next statement is made, the next command.
Let them do so with joy and not with grief,
Nothing is tougher for a pastor than to get in the congregation and look out and say, "Lord, why don't you just move those 10 people away."
You go home and you're…grief is a great word for it. You are sad because you know the next morning the phone is going to ring and you're going have to deal with some rebellious sheep that has some petty problem they want you to solve because they don't understand anything and they think they ought to be the center of attention. When that goes on for 5, 10, 15, or 20 years without the pastoral leadership dealing with it, then you have major problems.
So the Scripture emphasizes that the leaders should be leading with joy. Don't be a pain.
There's an interesting little disease out there that was first identified by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. It is a muscle spasm. They're not really sure that it's that. Nobody knows what it is. It is a muscle spasm in the rear end, which is why the first term for this disease is proctalgia. The second term is fugax, which means they don't know what it is. So it's an unexplained pain in the rear. Now I just thought about it last night I thought you know that be a great nickname for a number of people I could think of: an unexplained pain in the rear! And there are a lot of these in local churches. We don't want them.
"Don't let the leaders rule with grief, but let them rule with joy."
for that would be unprofitable for you.
That means this is a detriment to your spiritual life when you become a proctalgia fugax in the eyes of the Lord.
All right, next time we will come back in verse 18 where we begin the final close of the book. The writer gives some parting instructions and analysis. Next time we'll come, we'll close out the book of Hebrews and then begin to do the final flyover to sort of summarize all the things that we have learned.
Let's close in prayer.