“A Leader’s Message” – Hebrews 13:7-14

March 17th, 2019

Hebrews 13:7-14

“A Leader’s Message”

Aux. Texts: Exodus 33:7-11 & Numbers 2:1-2

Call to Worship: Psa 37:27-40

 

Service Orientation: God provides what we need to persevere in the face of opposition.  We need to look to Jesus Christ Who purifies us outside the camp.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. — Hebrews 13:8

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 7) The verb consider actually means to “look at again and again,” to “observe carefully.” (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 414)
  • (v. 7) The word translated “outcome” (ekbasis, again in the NT only in 1 Cor 10:13) is understood by many as a euphemism for death, often as a martyr’s death. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 148)
  • (v. 8) This sentence (13:8) is probably the letter’s most famous verse. We must not forget its context.  It is set between the commendation of faithful leaders (13:7) and the condemnation of false ones (13:9).  Some of these Christians may have taken their eyes off Christ (12:2), only to develop “itching ears” by accumulating “teachers to suit their own likings.”  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 256)
  • (v. 8) The name Jesus embraces the work and word of God’s Son on earth. He has come to save his people from their sin.  The name Christ is the official title that expresses the divinity of the Son.  The double name occurs only three times in Hebrews (10:10; 13:8, 21).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 415)
  • (v. 8) The term yesterday relates to the mediatorial work of Jesus on earth, proclaimed and confirmed to the readers by those who heard him (2:3). The expression today refers to the intercessory work Jesus performs in heaven, where he represents the believer in God’s presence (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25; 9:24).  And the word forever pertains to the priesthood of Christ.  He is priest forever (5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21, 24, 28).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 415)
  • (v. 8) What a contrast with the changeableness of us humans and of life here on earth. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 227)
  • (v. 8) Our priest is eternally the same and eternally contemporary. We need not fear opinion changes or mood swings in Jesus!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 228)
  • (v. 9) The Jews had rigid food laws, laid down at length in Lv 11. They believed they could serve and please God by eating and by not eating certain foods.  Possibly there were some in this Church who were ready to abandon their Christian liberty and once again put themselves under the yoke of Jewish rules and regulations about food, thinking that by so doing they were going to add strength to their spiritual life.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 196)
  • (v. 9) He has some erroneous teaching in mind, but we cannot define it with precision. He and his readers both knew what it was; so there was no need for him to be specific.  Whatever it was, the unchangeability of Christ should inspire them to refuse its curious diversities and novel teaching.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 149)
  • (v. 9) Truth is a perfect unit, but error is multiform. There is but “one faith,” as there is but “one Lord” (Eph 4:5), namely, that which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) in the revelation made of it by Christ and the apostles (Heb 2:3, 4).  Hence, when the Truth is in view, it is always “doctrine” in the singular number, as “the doctrine” (Jn 7:17), “the doctrine of Christ” (2 Jn 9) and see Rom 16:17; 1 Tm 4:16 etc.  On the other hand, where error is referred to the plural number is employed, as in “doctrines of men” (Col 2:22), “doctrines of demons” (1 Tm 4:1).  The Truth of God is one uniform system and chain of doctrine, which begins in God and ends in Him; but error is inconsistent and manifold.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1165)
  • (v. 9) It is plain from such passages as Rom 14:13-23, 1 Cor 8, Gal 4, etc., that determined efforts were being made by the Enemy to corrupt the Gospel by attaching to it parts of the ceremonialism of Judaism. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1165)
  • (v. 9) There may have been a little group in this Church who, either at the sacrament or at some common meal where they consecrated their food to Jesus, claimed that they were in fact eating the body of Christ. They may have persuaded themselves that because they had consecrated their food to Christ, his body had entered into it.  That was indeed what the religious Greeks believed about their gods.  When a Greek sacrificed he was given back part of the meat.  Often he made a feast for himself and his friends within the temple where the sacrifice had been made; and he believed that when he ate the meat of the sacrifice, the god to whom that meat had been sacrificed was in it and entered into him.  It may well be that certain Greeks had brought their own ideas into Christianity with them; and talked about eating the body of Christ.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 197-8)
  • (v. 10) Christians had none of the visible apparatus which in those days was habitually associated with religion and worship–no sacred buildings, no altars, no sacrificing priest. Their pagan neighbors thought they had no God, and called them atheists; their Jewish neighbors, too, might criticize them for having no visible means of spiritual support.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 379)
  • (v. 10) What connection is there between this passage and the Eucharist? No direct connection at all.  It is remarkable how our author avoids mentioning the Eucharist when he has every opportunity to do so; for example, it would have been easy for him to derive some eucharistic significance from the bread and wine which Melchizedek brought to Abraham when he met him “returning from the slaughter of the kings” (7:1); but he does not even mention the bread and wine.  His failure to mention them, let alone discern some Christian meaning in them, can scarcely be accidental.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 379-80)
  • (v. 10) We are allowed to feed on the sacrifice offered up for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole people of God. And we thus have a far higher privilege in reference to sacred food, not merely than the Israelites, but even than the priests themselves enjoyed.  Such seems to me the general meaning of the passage.  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 697-8)
  • (vss. 10-14) Verses 10-14 are among the most difficult in the book of Hebrews. They are subject to many interpretations and applications, and I do not want to be dogmatic in the views I present.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 440)
  • (v. 13) Heb 13:13 has ever been a great favorite with those who started “Come out” movements.  It has been used, or rather misused, again and again by ambitious Diotrephes, who desired to head some new party or cause.  It has been made a sop for the conscience by many a little group of discontented and disgruntled souls, who because of some grievance (fancied or real) against their religious leaders, church, or denomination, forsook them and set up an independent banner of their own.  It is a verse which has been called into the service of all separtists, who urged all whose confidence they could gain to turn away from–not the secular world, but–their fellow-Christians, on the ground of trifling differences.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1190)
  • (v. 14) The word “seek” (looking – NIV) in our text is a very strong one: it is used in, “after all these things (the material necessities of this life) do the Gentiles seek,” (Mt 6:32)–i.e., seek with concentrated purpose, earnest effort, untiring zeal. The same word is also rendered “labor” in Heb 4:11: the Christian deems no task too arduous, no sacrifice too much, no loss too great, if he may but “win Christ” (Phil 3:8).  He knows that Heaven will richly compensate him for all the toils and troubles of the journey which lead thither.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1207)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What does God provide for us to help us choose Jesus, grow strong and persevere in the faith?

 

Answer: God graciously provides godly leaders, a superior salvation, and the promise of a better life. 

 

Numbers 2-3 gives the logistical arrangement of the 12 tribes with the Tabernacle in the middle.

 

Exodus 33:7-11 – Tabernacle outside the camp because of Israel’s sinfulness with the golden calf.

 

It is one of the marks of the Fall that man is fonder of that which is material in religion, than he is of what is spiritual; he is most prone–as history universally and sadly shows–to concentrate on trivialities rather than upon essentials.  He is more concerned about the details of ordinances than he is of getting his heart established with grace.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1166)

 

For the Christian there must be a real identification with Christ and his shame; he must enter into a genuine “fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Phil 3:10), and be willing even, like the first martyr Stephen, to lay down his life for his Lord and Savior “outside the city” (Acts 7:58).  The recipients of this letter had gone forth “outside the camp” to associate themselves with Christ and his cross; but now their resolve is weakening and they are being tempted to turn back in the hope of finding an easier and more respectable existence “inside the camp.”  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 580)

 

Of special interest in connection with the passage before us is the account (in Ex 33:7ff.) Of how, after the incident of the golden calf (Ex 32) but prior to the setting up of the tabernacle proper (Ex 40), Moses took a tent and pitched it outside the camp, at a sufficient distance to make it quite separate from the camp, and called it “the tent of meeting.”  This served as a temporary sanctuary upon which the pillar of cloud descended when God spoke with Moses there.  Moses, by this action, effectively emphasized the fact that the people’s sin of apostasy had separated them from their God and had defiled the holy ground of the camp, with the result that it was now necessary for anyone who sought the Lord to go forth outside the camp.  Thus the normal situation in which all territory outside the camp was regarded as unholy and the man who left the camp ipso facto became unclean was at this time reversed.  Sin had rendered the camp unholy and Moses’s withdrawal in order to establish a holy location outside the camp prefigured the setting up of the Christian altar, Christ’s cross, outside the gate and the necessity for God’s people to join Christ there.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 581)

 

They had been accustomed to think of the “camp” and all that was inside it as sacred, while everything outside it was profane and unclean.  Were they to leave its sacred precincts and venture on to unhallowed ground?  Yes, because in Jesus the old values had been reversed.  What was formerly sacred was now unhallowed, because Jesus had been expelled from it; what was formerly unhallowed was now sacred, because Jesus was there.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 381-2)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Grace

 

Altar: 

Altar = the bloody place of slaughter or sacrifice.  In the Hebrew, the word altar comes from a root word that means to approach.

 

Altar = The table in Christian church from where communion is served.  Where the blood and the flesh is served.

 

The placing of the two altars is significant.  The altar of burnt offering stood in the eastern part of the court and would thus be the first major feature visible to one who approached the Tabernacle, setting forth symbolically the truth that the shedding of blood provided access and forgiveness for the rebel, a truth spiritualized and consummated in the NT (Heb 9:9, 22).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Vol. One, 120)

 

What does God graciously provide for us to help us to choose Jesus and grow in our faith?:

I-  Godly leaders. (Heb 13:7; see also: Rom 13:1-7; 1 Tm 3:1-13; Ti 1:6-9)

 

Human leaders have much to teach us and we can learn much from emulating them (13:7), but we must keep our eyes on Christ, our ultimate leader.  Unlike any human leaders, he will never change.  Christ has been and will be the same forever.  In a changing world we can trust our unchanging Lord.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 236)

 

We are not to follow mere men, not even the best of men, as our model and example in all things is Christ alone.  But we can learn to emulate Christian graces where we see them displayed in Christian leaders.  So the apostle says that he himself is an example to believers (1 Cor 4:16; Phil 3:16; 1 Thess 1:6), but adds a limiting factor, that they should only follow him in as much as he followed Christ: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 259)

 

The former leaders are gone, but what they taught and believed remains eternally the same.  Their Savior is our Savior and will be our children’s Savior.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 174)

 

The thought here of the loss of those who had taught them, but had now left them, appears to suggest the words that follow: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and for ever.  There may be loss and change of men who are beloved and of great worth as teachers.  Jesus we can never lose,–in Him there is no change.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 525)

 

They are held up as examples to be imitated and, specifically, their faith is singled out.  Faith is the important thing, and the readers were being tempted to unbelief in falling back from the Christian way.  They should instead follow these good examples of faith.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 148)

 

Too often members of the body of Christ forget their place. They not only fail to remember those appointed to lead them (13:7), but they also often ignore or rebel against the direction leaders provide.  They form factions and parities around their favorite figures (1 Cor 1:11-12).  They forget that Christ himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit, ordained leadership in His body to nurture its growth toward maturity (Eph 4:11-13).  To ignore or rebel against this leadership would be to neglect an essential means God has provided for our spiritual nourishment.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 217)

 

In this fast-changing world, nothing seems dependable and permanent.  Leaders come, and leaders go.  One leader, however, is unchangeable: Jesus Christ.  Says the author, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  More sermons have been preached on this text than on any other verse from Hebrews, so that this verse almost has attained confessional status in the church.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 415)

 

Happy the church where the holy life and manifest faith of the leaders can be pointed to, even more than their teaching.  Happy the church that imitates and emulates the faith of its leaders.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 525)

 

The former leaders had passed away, but Jesus remains on the scene.  In the midst of changing times, scenes and ideas, He stands like a ROCK–for He is changeless.  Since He is eternally the same, God’s Word to these Hebrew Christians is incapable of change.  That’s why they can safely imitate the faith of their former leaders.  That faith never changes.  If the Lord doesn’t change, then the truth about Him can’t change.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 328)

 

A church that adequately recalls its godly leaders and considers the outcome of their way of life and attempts to imitate that way of life will sail well!  Remembering, considering, and imitating the virtues of departed believers is of greatest spiritual importance both to one’s family and to the broader family of the Body of Christ.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 227)

 

Whether the author referred to Paul and Peter is speculation.  What we do know is that the leaders “spoke the word of God” to the people.  They were, then, preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ and had been instrumental in building the church, that is, the body of Christ.  These founding fathers had passed away, but the readers still remembered their labors.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 414)

 

A constant clinging to the truth about the person and work of Christ will stop us from listening to various strange teachings that damage our souls.  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 259)

 

The author never loses sight of his goal.  Weakening Christians were to be encouraged, wandering ones warned.  That is why he points his readers back to their former leaders.  “Keep on remembering your leaders who spoke the word of God to you,” he urges.  Their faithful proclamation of divine truth had brought the readers much benefit in the past.  Benefit could be had also in the present time of persecution by thinking back to those leaders and their teachings.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 174)

 

There is an itching, nowadays, after originality, striking out a path for yourself.  When sheep do that, they are bad sheep.  Sheep follow the shepherd, and, in a measure, they follow one another when they are all together following the shepherd.  Our Great Master never aimed at originality; He said that He did not even speak His own words, but the words that He had heard from His Father.  He was docile and teachable.  As the Son of God, and the servant of God, His ear was open to hear the instructions of the Father, and He could say, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn 8:29).  Now, that is the true path for a Christian to take: to follow Jesus, and, in consequence, to follow all such true saints as may be worthy of being followed, imitating the godly so far as they imitate Christ.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 455)

 

Did your Lord undergo no radical change when He became incarnate?  Did He experience no great change at His resurrection?  During the days of His flesh, He was “The Man of sorrows:” is He so now after His ascension?–one has but to ask the question to perceive its absurdity.  This statement, then, is to be understood with certain limitations; or rather, it is to be interpreted in the light of its setting, and for that, not a novice, but an experienced expositor is required.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1163)

 

If they will reflect on what that truth meant to those who first brought the gospel to them, it should inspire them to emulate their example.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 327)

 

II-  An unchanging, superior salvation that begins at the altar. (Heb 13:8-12; see also: Ex 20:24-26; 24:6; 27:1-8; 28:42-43; 29:12-21, 43-44; Lv chps 1-10; 16:27; 21:23; 22:22; Nm 16; Dt 27:5-6; Mt 5:23-24; 23:18-20; Rom 14:17)

 

How extraordinary, indeed shocking, to the Hebrew mind, to be told that he did this in order to sanctify the people through his own blood, precisely on this unsanctified territory!  The very concept must have seemed self-contradictory.  The location of Calvary was one of defilement, not sanctification.  But the presence of God’s Holy One (Heb 7:26; Acts 2:27) made holy what was previously unholy and introduced a completely new perspective.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 579)

 

All through this letter the writer has told us again and again that such observances are simply empty shadows; they are pointing toward something, but the something they point toward is the real value, not the shadows.  As he says here, We have an altar from which those who serve the tent (i.e., who indulge in shadow-acting) have no right to eat.  You cannot have both the shadow and the substance; it is either one or the other.  You cannot feed on the reality if you place value on the mere picture.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 188)

 

The writer recognizes that Jews who have become Christians have forfeited the right to continue at the Jewish altar, but he assures them that Christians have an altar, at which Jews who are not Christians have no right to eat.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 273)

 

Christ is outside the camp of Judaism, and the readers are encouraged to go to him where he is.  To remain within the camp of Judaism would be to be separated from him.  Here there may be an allusion to Moses’ pitching “the tent of meeting” outside the camp and to the people’s going out to it (Ex 33:7).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 151)

 

The Jews held that the way Christ died proved him to be accursed (Dt 21:23; Gal 3:13).  The readers must be ready to stand outside Judaism with the Christ who bore the curse for them “outside the camp.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 151)

 

The brazen altar was the way of approach to God, for it was there that the Lord promised to meet His people: “There I will meet with the children of Israel” (Ex 29:43): how that reminds us of the Savior’s declaration “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (Jn 14:6)!  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1176)

 

When the author mentions “rules about foods,” he gives us a clue as to the essential error–trusting in OUTWARD ORDINANCES as a means of gaining spiritual strength.  The word FOOD becomes a symbol for humanly devised means of drawing near to God.  Some today suggest that abstaining from meat is a godly discipline which produces greater holiness.  Contrariwise, the word GRACE refers to the invisible help Christians can receive from the Lord through the Holy Spirit.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 329)

 

The animals involved in the Jewish sacrifices were clearly slain INSIDE the camp.  Their blood was taken inside the camp and then their bodies were carted out and burned.  Jesus, on the other hand, died OUTSIDE the city.  The difference in where these deaths occurred is the writer’s point.  When he says that Jesus died “outside the city,” he means He died outside Judaism.  The Lord was utterly rejected by Israel.  Judaism didn’t want Him.  He was taken OUTSIDE and crucified–as if He were refuse.  Therefore, His death was totally outside the Jewish system; utterly removed from it.  Inasmuch as He was EXCLUDED from Judaism, and slain “outside the city,” those who want Him must also separate themselves from Judaism and go OUTSIDE the Jewish system to get to Him.  The Jewish altar is earthly and physical, while the Christian altar is heavenly and spiritual.  The two are mutually exclusive.  If a person wants the benefit of animal blood, he has to find it INSIDE the camp.  If he wants the benefits of Christ’s blood, he has to go OUTSIDE the camp.  He can put his trust in one or the other, but he cannot have it both ways.  It’s either Christ or Judaism.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 331-2)

 

The proof is, “The highest and holiest kind of sacrifice was that which was offered on the great day of atonement for the sins of the people of God.  Of that sacrifice even the priests were not permitted to eat.  The blood was brought into the holy place, and what was not burnt on the altar was consumed without the camp, or without the city.  The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was a sacrifice of this highest and holiest kind.  It was a sacrifice for sin–it was a sacrifice for the sins of the whole spiritual people of God; and to mark it as the antitype of the sacrifice for sin on the great day of atonement, He suffered without the gates of Jerusalem. On this sacrifice we Christians are permitted to feed.  We eat the flesh and we drink the blood of the Son of man, offered in sacrifice for our sins.”   (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 698)

 

By suffering outside the gate, moreover, Jesus identifies himself with the world in its unholiness.  While we are unable to draw near to God because of our sin, God draws near to us in the person of his Holy One who on our unholy ground makes his holiness available to us in exchange for our sin which he bears and for which he atones on the cross.  Through the shedding of his blood outside the gate he sanctifies his people: he makes them holy–the concept of sanctification here, as through the removal of defilement and guilt, and thereby of setting apart as holy unto the Lord, those who by their disobedience and ingratitude have alienated themselves from their Creator (cf. Heb 2:11; 9:13f.; 10:10, 14).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 579)

 

In order to resist “strange teachings,” believers must be familiar with the correct teachings.  Christians today have an advantage of having the entire Bible and Bible study tools.  When we hear an interesting new doctrine, we should be sure to study it ourselves and become certain it is true before we are “carried away.”  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 236)

 

Those who imagined that spiritual growth came through a special menu had not only become ignorant of the necessity of grace for growth, but they actually blocked strengthening grace by their proud little rules.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 228)

 

Theology has nothing new in it except that which is false.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 457)

 

We identify with him, for through him we are made holy (Isa 52:11; Ezek 20:41; 2 Cor 6:17).  He bore disgrace to set us free from the guilt of sin and to remove the curse from us.  That means that the world of sin vents its hatred against us for going to Jesus (Jn 17:14).  Christians are not taken out of the context of a sinful world but are placed in it to be witnesses for Christ.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 422)

 

We not only eat His flesh, but we do what none of the priests durst do with regard to any of the sacrifices, we drink His blood.  We enjoy the full measure of benefit which His sacrifice was designed to secure.  We are allowed to feed freely on the highest and holiest of all sacrifices.  Our reconciliation with God is complete, our fellowship with Him intimate and delightful.  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 701)

 

Those who cling to the external and ceremonial observances of religion have no right to the privileges that belong to those who come to the spiritual altar; they cannot share that secret.  Those whose religion consists in outward rites and ceremonies can never eat of the spiritual altar at which spiritual men eat, for they do not understand the Scripture and they still serve the Mosaic tabernacle.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 458)

 

The old system of the tabernacle accomplishes nothing eternal, nothing spiritual, and nothing that can contribute to our salvation or sanctification.  It never has in any permanent way.  Christians have an altar completely distinct from the system of animal sacrifices at the tabernacle.  Here “altar” is used as an image for the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  Those who exchange the full atonement of the cross of Christ for the temporal, ritual cleansing of animal sacrifices thumb their noses at the Messiah.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 221)

 

Now it appears to me that the Apostle says, “We Christians are allowed to feast–spiritually, of course–on a sacrifice belonging to that class of which not only no ordinary Israelite, but no priest, was under the law allowed to taste.”  The sacrifice referred to is plainly the sacrifice which our Lord, as our great High Priest, offered up once for all, even the sacrifice of Himself.  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 696-7)

 

Eating the flesh of the sacrifice was, I apprehend, emblematical of two things, or perhaps, to speak more accurately, of two aspects of the same thing.  Eating of the sacrifice was a natural emblem of deriving from the sacrifice the advantages it was intended to secure–expiation of ceremonial guilt, removal of ceremonial pollution, and access to the external ordinances of the tabernacle and temple worship.  As the altar is in Scripture represented as God’s table–Mal 1:7; Ps 1:12, 13; Ezek 39:20; 41:22–eating of the sacrifice is emblematical of being in a state of reconciliation with God: sitting at His table, and eating of the sacrifice which had been presented to Him, interested in the blessings promised, and secured from the evils threatened, in the Old Covenant.  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 699)

 

Not by ceremonial foods.  Literally, “not by foods.”  The heart cannot be strengthened by ceremonial foods.  For the apostle immediately says they are of no value to those who eat them.  This does not mean that there are two ways to become spiritually strong, one by grace, the other through ceremonial foods.  Rather, grace is the only way, though some people have stupidly supposed that it might happen through ceremonial foods.  The apostle often makes the distinction between the value of grace and the lack of value in ceremonial foods.  “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).  “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (1 Cor 8:8; see also Col 2:16; Heb 9:10).  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 261)

 

Apparently some false teachers had been teaching these Jewish converts that they still needed to keep the OT ceremonial laws and rituals (such as not eating certain foods).  But these laws were useless for conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires (Col 2:23).  The believers’ hearts (referring to their inner selves) should be strengthened by grace, not by the foods they did or did not eat.  Laws could influence conduct, but they could not change the heart.  The ceremonial foods might fulfill a ritual, but they are of no value to those who eat them.  Lasting changes in conduct begin when the Holy Spirit lives in each person.  Since God’s approval is secured by grace, it was valueless to keep these ceremonial laws.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 236-7)

 

The writer to the Hebrews is convinced that real strength comes to a man’s heart only from the grace of God and that what people eat and drink has nothing to do with their spiritual strength.  So then in the Church to which he was writing there were some who placed too much importance on laws about food.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 196)

 

The NIV has rendered the last part of the verse somewhat freely, “by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.”  The original has only the noun foods.  Nevertheless, the general context allows for the explanatory adjective ceremonial.  Also, the original has the reading “which are of no value to those who walk.”  That is, those who adhere to food regulations receive no benefit from them.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 417)

 

For the writer, the altar is the cross on which Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice to God.  And to the Christian the cross is a symbol that represents the completed work of redemption.  As the author of Hebrews repeatedly confirms, Christ offered his sacrifice once for all (9:25, 26, 28; 10:9, 12, 14).  The clause we have an altar, then, stands for the cross, which symbolizes the redemption Christ offers his people.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 418)

 

Once more the writer draws attention to Christ’s sacrifice, using the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement as the basis.  Some may have thought the Christian way an impoverished one, lacking the sacrifices that were central to religion in the ancient world.  But Christians do have sacrifices, none the less real for being spiritual and not material.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 149)

 

Most religions of the day had food regulations, as did the Jews; but usually this meant that some foods were regarded as “unclean.”  The foods were not regarded as “good for our hearts.”  So it seems likely that what the worshipers took to be the beneficial effects of some sacrificial meal are in mind.  The author denies it. The real life of man is not sustained on the level of things to eat.  It requires the grace of God.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 149)

 

God knows that the greatest battle His church faces is purity of doctrine, because that is the basis of everything else.  Every bad practice, every bad act, every bad standard of conduct, can be traced to bad belief.  The end result of the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and of believers becoming unified in the faith and maturing in Christ, is that “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14).  A church that is not sound in doctrine is unstable and vulnerable.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 436-7)

 

Being spiritually concerned about food is unnecessary under the NT.  In fact, insisting on dietary regulations for religious reasons is against the gospel.  Paul uses the harshest possible words to describe those who propagate such ideas.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 437)

 

The food from the Jewish altar is material food, but from the Christian altar it is Christ himself, a difference which has clearly deeply impressed the writer.  The question of right (exousia) is inextricably bound up with the exposition of faith earlier in the epistle.  Faith brings a right through God’s grace to which unbelief has no access.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 273)

 

The writer to the Hebrews believed with all the intensity of his being that no food can bring Christ into a man and that Christ can enter into him only by grace.  It is quite likely that we have here a reaction against an overstressing of the sacraments.  It is a notable fact that the writer to the Hebrews never mentions the sacraments; they do not seem to come into his scheme at all.  It is likely that, even thus early, there were those who took a mechanical view of the sacraments, forgetting that no sacrament in the world avails anything by itself and that its only use is that in it the grace of God meets the faith of man.  It is not the meat but the faith and the grace which matter.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 198)

 

It is grace which strengthens the believer’s heart, not subscription to rules and the avoidance of prohibited foods.  There is no room now for material sacrifices, animal offerings, sacred meals and hallowed altars.  All that is over and gone.  Christians have determined to give central importance to one great aspect of their faith: Christ died for them.  He was sacrificed for us and shed, not the blood of bulls, but his own blood.  Those who stay within the narrow confines of Judaism and serve its tent, or tabernacle, can derive no benefit from the only sacrifice which really matters.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 257)

 

What makes the teachings “wild,” is that they do not square with what they have been taught about the unchanging Christ.  If He remains unchanged, then the message about Him cannot be changed.  Therefore, if any new truths come along which vary from the original message, they must be false.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 329)

 

The author is emphasizing here that those who wish to remain under the old covenant cannot share in the great sin offering of all time, the sacrifice of Christ.  To serve the tent is to remain under the old covenant and such people have no right to eat the eternally satisfying provisions of the new.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 257)

 

An established heart is the opposite from one which is “carried about,” which term is used again in, “that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men” (Eph 4:14).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1166)

 

An “established heart” is one which is rooted and grounded in the Truth, securely anchored in Christ, rejoicing in God.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1166)

 

It is good for the heart to be established with grace, for it promotes the believer’s spiritual growth, secures his well-being, and greatly contributes to his comfort.  It is also a preservative against error, an antidote against unbelief, and a choice cordial to revive the soul in seasons of distress.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1171)

 

The man who released the goat had to wash his clothes and take a bath before entering the camp (v. 26).  The bodies of the bull and the goat had to be taken outside the camp and burned (v. 27).  The person who burned the hides, flesh, and offal of these animals had to wash his clothes and take a bath before he could return to camp (v. 28).  All this was done to point out that sin pollutes.  The sacrifices themselves were considered polluted, even though the blood of these animals was sprinkled on the ark in the Most Holy Place.  Hence, the priests were not allowed to eat the flesh of these sacrifices because these animals represented sin.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 419)

 

Outside the city gate of Jerusalem, Jesus paid for our sins by suffering the agony of hell on the cross when he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).  Through the shedding of his blood, Jesus removed the sin of his people and made them holy.  That is, by fulfilling the stipulations concerning the removal of sin on the Day of Atonement (Lv 16:27-28), Jesus cleansed his people and sanctified them.  The author of Hebrews briefly summarizes the purpose of Jesus’ suffering: “to make the people holy through his own blood.”  In many places he has explained this point and therefore has no need to elaborate on it now (see 2:11; 10:10, 14; 12:14).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 421)

 

III-  The promise of a better life.  (Heb 13:13-14; see also: Phil 3:19-21; Heb 10:34; 11:10, 16; 12:22, 27-28; 1 Pt 1:17; 2:11; Rv 21:22-27; 22:1-5)  

 

Phil 3:19-21 teaches that our citizenship is in heaven.  We should not be so tied to earthly privileges that we forget our heavenly loyalties.  1 Pt 1:17 and 2:11 teach us to live as foreigners and strangers in the world.  We should not be so attached to our worldly possessions that we forget to obey Christ.  Life on earth is temporary; Christians live here as foreigners (11:10).  It would not be appropriate for Christians to grow comfortable here.  Jobs, money, homes, and hobbies should not become the most important parts of their lives.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 238-9)

 

We are not at home in this world because we are made for a better one. — Vance Havner

 

In view of what has been before us, it is quite clear that the “one” City, that we seek, is Heaven itself, various aspects of which are suggested by the figure here used of it.  It is an abiding, heavenly, everlasting “City,” which the believer seeks, and the same is referred to again and again in this epistle–in contrast from the temporal and transitory nature of Judaism–under various terms and figures.  This “City” is the same as the “better and enduring substance” in Heaven of 10:34.  It is that “Heavenly country” of 11:16.  It is “the City of the living God” of 12:22, the seat and center of Divine worship.  It is the same as “those things which cannot be shaken” of 12:27.  It is “the Kingdom which cannot be moved,” in its final form, of 12:28.  It is the “Inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for us” (1 Pt 1:4).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1206)

 

In Gn 4:17 we read that Cain “builded a city,” and where is it?–destroyed thousands of years ago by the Flood.  Thebes, Nineveh, Babylon were all powerful and imposing cities in their day, but where are they now?  They no longer exist, yea, their very site is disputed.  Such is this world, my reader: “the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Cor 7:31), and one day “the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pt 3:10).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1203)

 

This was not an earthly city, but a city with eternal foundations.  This contrasts with the tents in which Abraham lived.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 185)

 

The patriarchs didn’t care whether they inherited the land or not.  Their hopes were fixed on something infinitely greater than a piece of real estate.  They’d been promised a SPIRITUAL INHERITANCE which exceeded anything this world could offer.  They viewed their lives as a journey to that inheritance.  It was because of this that they gladly acknowledged themselves as pilgrims and strangers, not only in the land of Canaan, but in the whole world as well.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 258)

 

A worldly spirit in the Church or the Christian is a deadly disease: it makes the life of faith impossible.  Let us count it our worst enemy, and live as foreigners, who seek the city which is to come.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 440)

 

May we not say, too, that the Son who invites us to join him “outside the camp” himself first left the “camp” of heaven, which is the true and abiding camp and to which he returned in triumph; and that he came to our unholy ground for the purpose of removing the defilement of his people and for the consecration and renewal of the whole creation, so that in the eternity of his glorious kingdom all will be one “camp,” one “city,” without blemish and without bounds, because there will no longer be any such things as unholy territory, and the harmony of heaven and earth, of God and man, will be established forevermore?  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 582-3)

 

Christ went outside the city gate and suffered.  We must go after him, and to him.  This means we have to relinquish all the privileges of the camp and the city for his sake.  We have to leave them behind and go to him.  We must cling by faith to his sacrifice and through this sanctification, in place of all the sacrifices of the law.  We must own him under all that reproach and contempt that were heaped on him during his suffering outside the gate.  We must not be ashamed of the cross of Christ.  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 264)

 

The city metaphor suggests that togetherness is an essential ideal of the Christian faith, which will nevertheless be fully realized only in the future: we seek the city which is to come.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 275)

 

These Christians must now recognize that they too must go outside the secure confines of Judaism, which was a “safe religion” officially recognized by the Roman authorities and usually left in peace.  Believers in Christ must go forth as he went forth, bearing the abuse he endured, and so fully identifying themselves with his sufferings.  Let it be clearly noted that they must go to him, not “for him,” for that is where Jesus is, in the hostile Christ-rejecting world.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 258)

 

The main point the apostle makes here is that a moral and religious purpose is served by going from this camp.  These Hebrews valued nothing so highly as their moral and religious life and their citizenship in Israel.  They could not understand how all the glorious privileges given of old to that church and people should stop so that they had to forsake them.  So most of them continued in their unbelief about the Gospel; many would have combined its teaching with their old ceremonies.  But the apostle shows them that by Christ’s suffering outside the gate or camp, they were called to something quite different.  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 264)

 

The history of Judaism had already shown that even Jerusalem, the city of God, and its magnificent temple dedicated to the glory and worship of God, were destructible; and soon it would prove again, with the approach of A.D. 70, the transitoriness of the restored city and temple.  It is imperative, therefore, that these Hebrew Christians, tempted as they are to insulate themselves from the reproach and the reality of the cross “outside the gate” by retreating to the traditional respectability and apparent solidity of a system which Christ’s coming has rendered obsolete, should learn that here, in this present world order, we have no lasting city.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 580-1)

 

That He might sanctify His people, He suffered outside the camp.  Christ’s separation was in order that His people might be separated.  The Head is not of the world, and shall the members be of it?  The head is despised and rejected (Isa 53:3)–shall the members be honored?  “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15).  The world rejects Christ–shall the world receive us?  No, if we are truly one with Him, we must expect to be rejected too.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 461-2)

 

 

Worship Point: Our worship of God begins at the altar and is acceptable only in Spirit and in Truth.  It is through Jesus Christ alone that our pathetic worship is acceptable to God.

 

If you want to make it into God’s presence you must first make it past the altar. —  Ron Phillips

 

You can go no further than the Altar without Jesus but with Jesus you begin at the Altar and can go directly into the Presence of Almighty God (Jn 14:6; Eph 2:18; Heb 10).  (See Pastor Keith’s message August 15th, 2010 “The Altar)

 

The foundation of religion lies in an altar, for that is where atonement for sin was made.  And through it all our worship is offered to God, which cannot be accepted in any other way.  So the apostle affirms that we also have an altar, but not one that makes a distinction between meats, verse 10.  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 260)

 

His feeding, in short, is on the crucified Christ.  This is plainly declared in Jesus’ great discourse on the Bread of Life in John 6: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven,” he says; “if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6:51).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 576)

 

Some, it would seem, had been shaking the confidence of the Hebrew Christians to whom this letter was sent by alleging that Christianity compared unfavorably with Judaism because it had no altar.  This evokes the rejoinder from our author that we have an altar, namely, the cross on which the sacrifice of the Son took place, and that this is the reality which answers to the shadow of the high-priestly offering on Israel’s Day of Atonement; and, further, that there is this significant distinction, in addition to the important differences mentioned earlier in the epistle, that whereas the Levitical priests have no right to eat of their sin offerings, we Christians, who together constitute a holy priesthood (1 Pt 2:5), enjoy the privilege of partaking of Christ’s sacrifice, which is the true and perfect sacrifice for sin.  This privilege does not belong to the Levitical priests, though it can be theirs also if they transfer their trust to Christ and his sacrifice.  At the same time, it is a privilege which the recipients of this epistle will forfeit if, senselessly, they turn back from the new to the old covenant and trample under foot the blood of their sanctification (cf. Heb 10:29).  The sacrifices of which those Aaronic priests partook imperfectly prefigured the all-availing sacrifice of him who is the Lamb of God and were incapable of effecting more than a ceremonial and external cleansing; whereas the one sacrifice of which we partake purifies us inwardly from all sin (Heb 9:9f., 13f., 26; 10:1-4, 10-14; cf. 1 Jn 1:7, 9).  Their eating was physical; ours is spiritual.  Their eating, further, was partial, and it was limited, because there could be no eating of their sin offerings, which were incompetent to convey what they portended since the brutish victims were unfitted to take the place of sinful mankind, and it was only with the provision by God of the totally sufficient sin offering of his incarnate Son that such eating at last became a possibility and a reality.  Our eating, by contrast, is total and unrestricted.  We, as John Brown observes, “are permitted to feast on the whole sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  We not only eat his flesh, but we do what none of the priests durst do with regard to any of the sacrifices, we drink his blood.  We enjoy the full measure of benefit which his sacrifice was designed to secure.  We are allowed to feed freely upon the highest and holiest of all sacrifices.  Our reconciliation with God is complete, our fellowship with him intimate and delightful.”  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 575-6)

 

The most that can be said is that our author may be pointing to the truth of Christian experience which is independently attested in the Eucharist–that Christ is both the sacrifice and the sustenance of his people, and that as sacrifice and as sustenance alike he is to be appropriated by faith.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 380)

 

The deeper he enters within the veil, the more will he feel withdrawn from the spirit of the camp and the party.  And the more he goes forth unto Him, bearing His reproach, the more will he find access through Him to enter in into His glory.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 532)

 

Gospel Application: Jesus graciously gives the Holy Spirit to all those who trust in Him and make Him Lord of their lives.  The Holy Spirit will help believers persevere against all opposition.

 

 

The Altar again symbolized God’s faithful presence and never ending desire to be reconciled to His people. (Lv 6:8-13)  Jesus is the altar, the sacrifice and the priest who reconciles the profane with the holy (Rom 3:21-26; 5:1-21; 2 Cor 5:18-20; Col 1:19-23; Heb 2:17; 7:11-10; 9:26; 1 Pt 3:18)

 

For the Jews to whom Hebrews was written, separation from the world system meant separation from Judaism.  God, so to speak, was no longer in the camp of Judaism.  Whatever significance and importance the Old Covenant and traditional ceremonies, regulations, and standards of Judaism once had, they are now invalid.  God now does His work completely outside the camp of Judaism.  The moment Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the Temple was torn in two, and the Temple, the altar, the sacrifices, and the ritual ceased to be a part of God’s program.  These were now a part of the world system, a part of man’s religion, man’s way, man’s work.  God cast them aside and they became as pagan as any sacrifice in the temples of Baal or Diana.  A Christian Jew had no more right to hold on to Judaism than a Gentile Christian had to hold on to the worship of Jupiter.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 442)

 

The altar which we now have is Christ alone, and his sacrifice.  For he was both priest, altar, and sacrifice, all in himself.”  (John Owen, A Study Commentary on Exodus, 2:183)

 

Our inward being is not fit for the altar of God even after we have been “born again” and made partakers of the “Divine nature.”  Who is there among us but knows that the carnal mind–the old man–is still there as well?  And this would of itself mar and disturb our peace and communion with God, even were this evil principle never to bear its fruits in the form of active sin. The presence of evil there would be unbearable to a soul knowing the nature and character of God but for the virtues of the great peace-offering.  But, blessed be God that in the riches of His grace He has given us to know that our worthless, sinful selves are blotted out and buried out of His sight, and that the sin that dwells within us is covered by the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, thus enabling us to commune with God in peace, in spite of all that we feel and see ourselves to be.  We walk with God in the light, not because we never sinned, or have no sin in us, but because “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”  (John Ritchie, Tabernacle in the Wilderness, pp. 48–49)

 

It is “the altar at the door” (Lv 4:7), because there was no way of approach to God but by passing that altar; there was no access to God but on the ground of sacrifice.  Sinner!  Let the full weight of this solemn truth fall upon your conscience.  There is no way to God but by the blood of Christ.  There, at the gate of the court, stood the transgressor yonder, at the western end, Jehovah of Israel sat upon His throne; blood and water stood between.  They yell out the need of atonement and cleansing ere the sinner can come nigh to God.  The bright flame of fire, burning night and day upon the altar (Lv 4:12, 13) was the first sight that met the sinner’s gaze as he cast his eyes towards the dwelling-place of God.  The altar must be satisfied, its claims all met in full, before he could advance one step on his way to God.  (John Ritchie, Tabernacle in the Wilderness, 28)

 

We have.  That is, “we, who believe in Christ according to the Gospel and worship God in spirit and truth also have an altar.  We have everything in substance that they previously only had in name and shadow.”  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 262)

 

Inasmuch as believers are indwelt by the Lord Himself, their union with Him is perfect.  To try to improve on it with rules about foods is ridiculous.  In an effort to show how pointless it is, the writer says that Christians have an altar from which the Jewish priests are not allowed to eat.  Now what is the Christian altar?  An altar is the place of sacrifice.  The place where the sacrifice for our sin was made was the cross.  Yet we’re not to think of the cross in a literal sense.  People still partake of that same sacrifice long after the wooden cross has vanished.  How?  By faith alone.  Our altar is spiritual.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 330)

 

Just as the waters of Niagara roll over the falls and plunge down to make a river below, and just as that river flows ever down to the even lower ranges of its course, then glides to still more low-lying areas where it brings life and growth, so it is with God’s grace.  Grace’s gravity carries it to the lowly in heart, where it brings life and blessing.  Grace goes to the humble.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 228)

 

The unbowed soul standing proudly before God receives no benefit from God’s falling grace.  It may descend upon him, but it does not penetrate, and drips away like rain from a statue.  But the soul lying before God is immersed–and even swims–in a sea of grace.  So while there is always more grace, it is reserved for the lowly and the humble.  Legalisms, even “little” ones such as dietary rules, impede grace.  Humility invites the elevating weight of grace!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 228-9)

 

Actually, the grace we imbibe comes directly from the cross of Christ, for in verse 10 the preacher adds, “We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat,” referring to the cross because in a Christian context the sacrifice must be on the cross–the sacrificial altar of our faith.  Our spiritual food is nothing less than the life of Christ!

The force of these thoughts is phenomenal.  Jesus Christ is eternally the same and eternally contemporary.  Therefore, do not get mixed up with strange teaching such as that leading to spiritual diets.  Our nourishment comes from grace, which comes directly from the altar–the cross of Christ.  This meal goes to the humble!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 229)

 

People cannot partake of both covenants.  This was an important point for the Hebrew Christians, who were considering practicing Jewish ceremonial laws in addition to their faith in Christ.  To revert to Jewish practices in order to gain God’s approval, these people would lose their right to participate in the new covenant.  They would have “no right to eat” in the new covenant.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 238)

 

No outward observances can sustain the inner life: it is by grace alone, grace that comes from the throne of grace, that the heart must be established.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 529)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Immerse yourself in godly teaching and submit to godly teachers.  Never stop pursuing the Kingdom of God made accessible by Jesus Christ and His superior salvation.

 

Find a church whose teaching is Christ-centered, where the Bible is believed.  Commit yourself to lifelong learning.  Understand Christian theology so you can tell “strange teachings” from truth.  The best defense against disruptive ideas is not the absence of learning, but constant learning.  Faith grows when people say, “Lord, what can I discover today?”  Find a small group unafraid of open talk, where questions are welcome and discussion is vigorous.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 237)

 

To speak God’s Word is the grand duty of the Christian teacher–not to indulge in philosophical or theological speculation, nor to tickle the ears of men with sensational topics of the day.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1156)

 

It is only in the degree in which we “speak the word of God”–in which we clearly exhibit its meaning and evidence, in which we bring man’s mind into contact with God’s mind–that we discharge our duty to our Master, or promote the real spiritual improvement of our hearers.  To have made a single doctrinal statement of Scripture better understood and more firmly believed–to have made a man in his conscience feel more strongly the obligation of a single religious or moral duty–is in reality doing more solid good than sending away an audience delighted and astonished with the ingenuity of the preacher’s speculations, the force of his reasoning, the splendor of his imagery, and the resistless force of his eloquence.  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 688)

 

So What?: You want a life that is truly life?  Never stop seeking Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of your faith.  Come and keep coming to the altar.

 

In every state of the church, in every condition of believers, He is the same unto them, and will be so unto the consummation of all things; He is, He ever was, all in all unto the Church.  He is the Object, the Author and Finisher of faith, and Preserver and Rewarder of all them that believe, and that equally in all generations” (Condensed from J. Owen).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1163)

 

The logic goes like this: the sacrifices offered on the Jewish great Day of Atonement were a prophetic type for the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29).  On the Day of Atonement a bull was slain to atone for the sins of the priest and his family, and a lamb likewise was sacrificed for the sins of the rest of the people.  The blood of these sacrifices was taken into the Holy of holies, but both the carcasses were taken outside the camp and burned up (Lv 16:27).  Therefore, those under the old sacrificial system could not partake of this great offering as a meal.

But Jesus, the ultimate atoning lamb, was sacrificed outside the camp–outside Jerusalem’s walls, on Golgotha–as an offering to God.  This means two great things: 1) All those who remained committed to the old Jewish system were excluded from the benefit of partaking of Christ’s atoning death.  And, 2) Jesus’ death outside the camp means that he is accessible to anyone in the world who will come to him.  Jesus planted his cross in the world so all the world could have access.  And there he remains permanently available!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 229)

 

In the days of the Exodus, those who were ceremonially unclean had to stay outside the camp.  But Jesus had suffered humiliation and uncleanness outside the Jerusalem gates on their behalf.  It was time for Jewish Christians to declare their loyalty to Christ above any other loyalty, to choose to follow the Messiah whatever suffering that might entail, to “go out to him outside the camp.”  They needed to move outside the safe confinement of their past, their traditions, and their ceremonies to live for Christ.  Since Jesus was rejected by Judaism, they should reject Judaism.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 238)

 

JESUS:

THE ALTAR

 

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