“Conclusion” – Hebrews 13:15-25

March 24th, 2019

Hebrews 13:15-25

“Conclusion”

Aux. Texts: Ephesians 2:1-10

Call to Worship: Psalm 100

 

Service Orientation: We were created to do good works.  But, we can only do good works when we do them in Spirit and Truth as an act of worship and love.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:   For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. — Ephesians 2:10

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 15) It is striking to note that the Hebrew word “bara” signifies “to create,” while “barak” means “to praise,” intimating that the praising of God is the chief end of our creation. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1219)
  • (v. 17) “They keep watch over you” is more literally “they keep watch for your souls,” where it is a question of whether NIV (also NEB) is right and “souls” (psychōn) is simply a periphrasis for “you,” or whether, as a number of commentators think, the thought is of the spiritual life. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 153)
  • (v. 18) The tense of the verb “pray” is present imperative, meaning a continual action of uplifting the writers in prayer before God. We should pray continually for Christians who are undergoing difficult times or who are working to spread the gospel.  Instead of just praying once and considering our job finished, we should pray often for them.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 244)
  • (v. 18) Jonathan Edwards compared man’s conscience with a sundial: “As the sundial cannot make the hour known when the sun does not shine upon it, so conscience is not a plain or safe guide to duty unless it is enlightened by God’s Word.” Man’s conscience should be directed to the Scriptures, much the same as the needle of a compass invariably points north.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 432)
  • (v. 18) The good conscience of which he speaks is probably the fruit of a sense of duty done, a responsibility well discharged. Like Paul he could say: “our conscience assures us that in our dealings with our fellow-men, and above all in our dealings with you, our conduct has been governed by a devout and godly sincerity, by the grace of God and not by worldly wisdom. . . I order that our service may not be brought into discredit, we avoid giving offense in anything” (2 Cor 2:12; 6:3, NEB).  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 386)
  • (v. 19) It is implied that some circumstances are preventing a reunion between him and his readers, but there is no indication what these were. What concerns him is the certainty that events might be affected by the prayers of the readers.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 278)
  • (v. 20) The word “peace” is often used as equivalent to “prosperity,” happiness in general; and “the God of peace” may be considered as equivalent to–“the God who is the author of happiness.” The proper signification of the word, however, is “reconciliation;” and I think there can be but very little doubt that it has its proper primary signification here.  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 719)
  • (v. 20) Regarding the superior person of Christ as the God-man, “Jesus our Lord” is “the great Shepherd of the sheep.” This image of Christ comes from Psalm 23, where the Lord God is the Shepherd who provides for His sheep (Ps 23:1), nourishes and refreshes them (Ps 23:2-3), and protects them from their enemies (Ps 23:5; see also Jn 10:11-15).  This association between Jesus as “our Lord” and as the “great Shepherd” is a final strong affirmation of the deity of Christ.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 228)
  • (v. 20) The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews mentions the resurrection of Jesus once, in the benediction. (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 430)
  • (v. 20) The Resurrection is linked with “the blood of the eternal covenant” (cf. Isa 55:3; Zech 9:11). It is interesting to see how the thought of covenant persists to the end.  It has been one of the major themes of this epistle.  The adjective again brings out the point that this covenant will never be replaced by another as it replaced the old covenant.  It is perpetual in its validity.  And it was established by blood.  The author never forgets that.  For him the death of Jesus is central.  At the same time, his linking it with the Resurrection shows that he did not have in mind a dead Christ but one who, though he shed his blood to establish the covenant, lives for ever.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 155)
  • (v. 20) “Blood of the eternal covenant.” Through the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, God announces his intention to establish an everlasting covenant with his people (Isa 55:3; 61:8; Jer 32:40; 50:5; Ezek 16:60; 37:26).  This covenant is everlasting because it is sealed in blood–to be precise, the blood of the Messiah.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 430)
  • (v. 20) Two major themes dominate the epistle: the high-priestly work of Christ, summarized in the expression blood, and the covenant that is eternal. In this verse, once again and for the last time these themes are highlighted.  God’s covenant with his people will remain forever.  That covenant has been sealed with Christ’s blood which was shed once for all (9:26; 10:10).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 430-31)
  • (vss. 20-21) We have reached the close of the Epistle. The writer gathers up all his teaching in the two verses of this beautiful closing prayer.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 537)
  • (v. 21) That is the idea here–to repair things so they can be useful (NIV- equip). Matthew uses the word to describe fisherman “mending their nets” (Mt 4:21, NASB).  Paul uses it in Gal 6:1 regarding “restoring” a brother–that is, putting him back in place.  It was used in classical Greek for setting a bone.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 246)
  • (v. 22) He calls his epistle the “word of exhortation” (“my” is inserted by NIV, RSV). A similar expression is found in Acts 13:15, where it clearly means a homily.  So the point of it here may be that this letter is rather like a written sermon.  “Exhortation” (paraklēseōs) includes the note of encouragement as elsewhere in the letter.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 156)
  • (v. 22) Certainly the letter is not short, so he must be comparing its length to what it could have been had he written his full mind on all aspects of the subject of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. There is evidently some self-consciousness on his part–not over the need to apologize for the length, but rather for not having said enough.  He is like a professor who is so filled with his subject that he must beg pardon for not saying it all.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 256)
  • (v. 22) In those days when few could read and there was no NT, listening was the only way to learn and be exhorted. To listen for an hour wasn’t long at all.  That’s the amount of time it would take to read this letter aloud.  So for its purpose, it is actually brief.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 340)
  • (v. 22) He had given them a compressed summary, literally, “few words” about the teaching of the law and the Gospel, which they ought to take in good part. (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 269)
  • (v. 22) How are we to “suffer the Word of Exhortation”? Psalm 119 supplies a detailed answer!  By frequently reminding ourselves that compliance therewith is the way of true blessedness; by constantly calling to mind the Divine authority with which it is invested; by owning and bewailing our perverse disinclination thereto; by earnest prayer for enabling grace; by meditation daily thereon; by begging God to make us go in the path of His commandments; by diligent improvement of the grace given.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1293)
  • (v. 23) Timothy is in fact the only Christian mentioned by name in the whole epistle. (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 280)
  • (v. 23) What it was that prevented him from being “restored” to them is not said, but evidently the obstacle was considerable. Some have suggested that he had been imprisoned for his faith.  We know too little of the circumstances to rule this out, but there is nothing to indicate it.  Others think it was sickness.  We simply do not know.  The language seems to show that it was something outside the writer’s control and that it needed a good deal of prayer.  The problem was with the writer, not the readers, because he specifically asks for prayer for himself.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 154)
  • (v. 23) Timothy seemed to be faltering in his faithfulness when Paul wrote his second epistle to him. Thus, in 2 Tm 1:6-2:12 and 3:12-14, the apostle encourages him to endure persecution and not to fear it.  It is likely that Hebrews was penned soon after 2 Timothy, and we see that this man of God had responded well to Paul’s previous exhortation.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 454)
  • (v. 24) “The saints” (hoi hagioi; NIV, “God’s people”) is a common NT description of the people of God, but it is found in this epistle again only in 6:10. It means God’s people as those consecrated to him, set apart to do him service.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 157)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What final thoughts does the writer of Hebrews want to convey before finishing Hebrews?

 

Answer:  The sacrifice God really wants is a sacrifice of praise from a grateful heart, good works from a heart of love for others, submission to God’s authorities out of a reverence for God, and prayers for the Body of Christ.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Worship

 

The best of our duties, wrought in us as they are by Divine grace, are not acceptable to God simply as they are ours, but only on account of the merits of Christ.  The reason for this is, that Divine grace issues through an imperfect medium: sin is mixed with our best performances.  The light may be bright and steady, yet it is dimmed by an unclean glass through which it may shine.  We owe, then, to the Mediator not only the pardon of our sins and the sanctification of our persons, but the acceptance of our imperfect worship and service: “To offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2:5) states that aspect of truth we are here emphasizing.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1285)

 

So, in conclusion – Jesus makes it possible for us to:

I-  Offer to God a sacrifice of praise from the heart – not from sheep.  (Hebrews 13:15; see also: Ps 51:17; 92:1; 104:33; Prv 15:8; Hos 14:2; 1 Pt 2:5, 15)

 

A praiseful heart is eloquent for God.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 465)

 

First in the sentence stands the phrase through Jesus.  That is significant.  Because of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, the need for offering sacrifices to God had ended.  Are Christians, then, without sacrifices and without a priest to present these offerings to God?  No.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 423)

 

As always, God is more interested in the attitude of the heart, expressed through genuine words and deeds, than in mere external rituals performed by obligation.  Beyond singing praises and thanksgiving to God, the text adds “doing good” and “sharing” as aspects of authentic, spiritual worship.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 223)

 

God wants us to offer ourselves, not animals, as living sacrifices–daily laying aside our own desires so that we can follow him.  We do this out of gratitude that our sins have been forgiven. We do this through Jesus because he alone makes our sacrifices acceptable.  We do this with praise because we have been made acceptable to God through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 239)

 

In systems like Judaism sacrifices were offered at set times, but for Christians praise goes up all the time.  Since a loving God is working out his purposes all the time, there are no circumstances in which praise should not be offered (cf. 1 Thess 5:18).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 151)

 

Praise is called a sacrifice because it is a very sacred and solemn thing.  People who came to the altar with their victims came there with the hush of reverence, the trembling of awe.  We cannot praise God with levity.  He is in heaven, and we are upon the earth; He is thrice holy, and we are sinful.  We must take off our shoe in lowly reverence and worship with intense adoration or else He cannot be pleased with our sacrifices.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 469)

 

Praise is the rent which God requires for the use of His mercies (C.H. Spurgeon).(Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1218)

 

A heart crushed is, to God, a fragrant heart.  Men condemn those who are contemptible in their own eyes, but the Lord seeth not as man seeth.  He despises what man esteems, and values that which they despise.  Never yet has God spurned a lowly, weeping penitent (C.H. Spurgeon).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1209)

 

When discouragement tethers our feet to the stakes, when fatigue numbs our spirit, when relentless circumstance hounds us moment by moment and day by day, the mature disciple discovers that praise both produces and releases energy.  If only we could understand this, we would not wallow in the mire of self-pity and whine our way through the dark valleys, whimpering pathetically like spoiled children.  By His power and grace, let us continually, through all circumstance and through all time, bring forward this sacrifice of praise and offer it upon the altar of our hearts.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 250)

 

To come to God the Father we must go through the Son (Jn 14:6).  Set free from the burden of guilt and sin, we want to express our thanks to God.  This we do through Jesus.  We offer to God not the material sacrifices that Christ made superfluous but the continual confession of praise and thanks.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 423)

 

As believers in Jesus, who is the substance of all the outward types, we have, henceforth, nothing to do with altars of gold or of stone: our worship is spiritual, and our altar spiritual.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 464)

 

You cannot always be speaking His praise, but you can always be living His praise.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 464)

 

But as it was the Apostle’s design to teach us what is the legitimate way of worshiping God under the NT, so by the way he reminds us that God cannot be really invoked by us and his name glorified, except through Christ the Mediator; for it is he alone who sanctifies our lips, which otherwise are unclean, to sing the praises of God; and it is he who opens a way for our prayers, who in short performs the office of a priest, presenting himself before God in our name.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 350)

 

The ancient peoples sometimes argued that a thank-offering was more acceptable to God than a sin-offering, for when a man offered a sin-offering he was trying to get something for himself, while a thank-offering was the unconditional offering of the grateful heart.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 198)

 

As our “Altar” is not one of wood or stone, brass or gold, but Christ Himself, so our “sacrifices” are not the fruits of the ground or the firstlings of our herds, but the adoration of our hearts and the devotion of our lives.  The contrast, then, is between the outward and ceremonial and the inward and spiritual.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1209)

 

When the worshiping Israelite approached the tabernacle or temple, he did not come empty-handed, but brought with him a thank-offering.  Then “let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God.”  When the saints come together for public worship, it should be not only for the object of having their empty vessels filled and their hungry souls fed, but with the definite purpose of offering to God that which will please Him.  The more closely we walk with God, and the more intimate be our communion with Him, the easier the performance of this pleasant duty.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1215)

 

Unbelief is the deadly enemy of praise.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 469)

 

As you are happy in the Lord, you will be able to praise His name.  Rejoice in the Lord, that you may praise Him.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 469)

 

They couldn’t help but ask, “Don’t Christians offer God anything in the way of sacrifice?”  Of course they do, says the writer, and he mentions three sacrifices NT believers offer to God.  First of all, there is the matter of giving thanks.  In OT times a worshiper with a grateful heart would bring an animal to God as a thank offering.  But the use of animals to give thanks has been made obsolete by the death of Christ.  Yet the principle of giving thanks obviously remains.  Under the new covenant, instead of giving thanks through an animal, the believer gives thanks through Christ.  He is the sacrifice through which we now praise God.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 333)

 

It is one thing to express one’s indebtedness to God; it is quite another to allow other people to know how much he means to us.  In a spiritually ignorant society, like our own, regular attendance at Christian worship presents the Christian with an opportunity to witness.  As we too offer the fruit of our lips, people with no clear faith may become aware that we too acknowledge his name.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 261)

 

II-  Do good works.  Sacrifice for others.  (Heb 13:16, 20-21; see also: Isa 1:12-20; ch 58; Hos 6:6; Mic 6:7-8; Mt 5:16; 25:14-46; 1 Cor 13:1-3; 2 Cor 5:9-10; 9:6-15; Gal 6:9-10; Eph 2:1-10; Phil 2:12-16; Heb 6:10; Jam 1:27; 1 Jn 3:17-18)  

 

As Westcott here says, “The work of God makes man’s work possible.”  There is a similar thought in Phil 2:12-13.  The whole process of doing God’s will can be achieved only through Jesus Christ, which completely removes any grounds for satisfaction in merely human achievement.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 279)

 

Every act of kindness we do in Jesus’ name can be laid at God’s feet as a sacrifice to Him.  It meant something for the readers to learn that kindness to others could be a sacrifice which pleased God.  Sacrificing was so much a part of their lives they needed some way to present an offering to God.  In the persecutions of those early days, many believers lost all of their possessions and were left in poverty.  But God’s grace, working in the hearts of their fellow Christians led them to sacrifice what they had in order to share with them.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 334)

 

Heidelberg Catechism Question # 91 What do we do that is good?  Answer: Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for his glory; and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition.  (Jn 15:5; Heb 11:6; Lv 18:4; 1 Sm 15:22; Eph 2:10; 1 Cor 10:31; Dt 12:32; Isa 29:13; Ez 20:18-19; Mt 15:7-9)

 

Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve.  Sometimes the high and powerful are served because that will ensure a certain advantage.  Sometimes the low and defenseless are served because that will ensure a humble image.  True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.  It has heard the command of Jesus to be the “servant of all” (Mk 9:35).  Brother Francis of Assisi notes in a letter, “Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my lord.”

Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims.  It can serve only when there is a “feeling” to serve (“moved by the Spirit” as we say).  Ill health or inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve.  True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.  It knows that the “feeling to serve” can often be a hindrance to true service.  The service disciplines the feelings rather than allowing the feeling to control the service.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 129)

 

Believers experience fellowship with other believers when they make their resources available to those in need.  Being rich in good works may not necessarily benefit our financial statement, but in the long run it will be a far more valuable asset in God’s eyes.  Taking care of each other’s emotional, financial, and physical needs are sacrifices [that] are very pleasing to God.  In Phil 4:18, Paul refers to the financial gifts brought to him by Epaphroditus as an acceptable sacrifice that pleases God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 242)

 

Christ has given us the poor and needy that we may show in them what we would like to do to Him, if He were on earth.  Let the Christian study to combine a life with God in the Holiest with lips that praise and confess Him.  And this, again, with deeds of love and kindness and Christian help that prove that the Spirit of Jesus is in us, that we are walking in practical fellowship with His self-sacrifice.  And let every act of love and kindness be laid at God’s feet as a sacrifice to Him.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 534)

 

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have.  The word is “communicate,” or “to hold all things in common.”  That is not communism.  Communism says, “What’s yours is mine.”  But Christianity says, “What’s mine if God’s; therefore it’s yours.”  There is a difference–a readiness to hold all things in common for the Lord’s sake.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 190)

 

God justifies the ungodly.  And that means that when you are justified, when you are absolutely righteous and loved, absolutely accepted, in yourself you are absolutely unworthy, absolutely sinful, you’re ungodly, and therefore there is within you absolutely nothing that is the basis of this justification. Nothing!

Now, people have a lot of problems with that.  They say, “O my goodness!  I’ve got to be good a little bit.”

I once had someone say to me, “If I believe what you believe I would have no incentive to live a good life.”  And by the way, there are plenty of people who have said that to me over the years.  If I believe that I was totally saved, and it had nothing to do with the way that I lived, if it was completely free then I would have no incentive to live a good life.

And here is the proper (I think) response: If when you lose all fear of punishment, you also lose your incentive for living a good life, then the only incentive you had to live a good life was fear.  See, if when you lose your fear, you lose your incentive to be good, then the only incentive you had to be good was the fear.

And here is the ironic thing.  The fear is selfish.  Fear is always selfish.  Because I might lose, this might happen, that might happen; I’d better be good.  But what is goodness?  Goodness is unselfish living, unselfish service to God, unselfish service to be poor, unselfish service to my neighbor.   I’m scared that I might be lost unless I’m, good, but what is goodness but being unselfish.  But don’t you realize that’s incredibly selfish.

When you live a good life so that God will bless you and take you to heaven, it is by definition not good.  Because it is all for you.  All for you.  You’re not helping the poor, you are helping yourself.  You’re not helping God, you are helping yourself.  This is the reason why the Belgic Confession, an old reformation document from the 17th century puts it like this:

Far from making people cold toward living in a holy way, justifying faith so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

Did you hear that?  Let me tell you what that is saying.  Put on your thinking cap.  And don’t laugh too much when I tell you.

If you think your good deeds are good, if you think your unselfish good deeds are good, they are no good.   In other words, if you think they are good and God owes you something then they are not, by definition, by your own definition, your selfishness is really selfishness.

But if you say all my good deeds are worthless.  I need to be saved by grace.  I am saved by grace.  Now I want to please God.  I want to resemble God.  I want to delight God.  I want to be near God.  Well, how do I do that?

By serving Him.  By serving other people.  But, if you think your deeds are good, they are no good.  But, if you think that your good deeds are absolutely worthless and you are saved by grace, that makes your deeds good.  If you think they are good they are no good and if you think they are no good they are good.   If you think they are worthless, but you are doing them just to please God, then they actually please God. (Tim Keller; sermon: “Justified by Faith”)

 

It is entitled God Free!  The Meaning of Justification, and the illustration is borrowed in turn from a book by Loraine Boettner (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination) who borrowed it from W. D. Smith (What Is Calvinism?).  These writers imagine a sailing ship manned by a crew of pirates.  The pirates are on good terms with one another.  They work hard at their jobs, are honest among themselves (according to a certain “pirate code”), help one another, and even defend one another.  Their hard work really is hard work.  Their kindness to each other really is kindness.  But all these “good” actions are also and at the same time “bad” or wrong behavior, because they are aimed at maintaining themselves in violation of international maritime law.  Their good deeds are highly selective; they do not help everyone, only themselves or those like themselves.  They actually rob, maim, and murder many other people.  And even their kindnesses to each other grows out of their rebellion, expressing and actually reinforcing it.  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 1, 330)

 

Mistake number 1 – Is to think that you can get to heaven by good works.

Mistake number 2 – Is to think that you can get to heaven without good works. (Alistair Begg;  sermon Living with Significance – Pt. 2)

 

Disciplined service is also the most enduring kind of work.  Unlike some things we may do, service to God is never done in vain.  The same Paul who agonized to the point of exhaustion while serving God reminds us, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 120-21)

 

When, therefore, love does not prevail among us, we not only rob men of their right, but God himself, who has by a solemn sentence dedicated to himself what he has commanded to be done to men.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 352)

 

Equip you with everything good for doing his will.  The first thing he prays is that they will be equipped, that is, made fit and able.  It is as if he said, “This is a thing that you in yourselves are not prepared for; no matter what light, power, freedom may be in you, this will not make you suitable for this.”  What he prays is that they will be enabled to work as God requires them to.  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 268)

 

God is the God who both shows us his will and equips us to do it.  He never gives us a task without also giving us the power to accomplish it.  When God sends us out, he sends us equipped with everything we need.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 201)

 

“Doing good” is an important aspect of the NT doctrine of the Christian life.  In their understandable fear of “salvation by works,” evangelicals have sometimes minimized this important feature of Christianity.  Jesus expected his disciples to do good works and the early Christian people were deeply influenced by this practical aspect of Christ’s teaching.  The apostle Paul clearly taught that God has ordained that his people should practice good works.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 261)

 

Let your gift be an outburst of a free and gracious spirit, which takes a delight in showing that it does not praise God in word only, but in deed and in truth.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 465)

 

Lest we make the mistake of thinking that such verbal and worshipful praise is the completion of our witness, our exhorter quickly reminds us that worship must not be an excuse to forget good works and to share.  Isaiah so clearly coupled worship and justice (Isa 1:12-20), pointing out that justice and righteousness are also sacrifices which are pleasing to God and demanded by Him.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 251)

 

Pride in his good deeds, rather than remorse over his bad deeds, was keeping the older son out of the feast of salvation.  The elder brother’s problem is his self-righteousness, the way he uses his moral record to put God and others in his debt to control them and get them to do what he wants.  His spiritual problem is the radical insecurity that comes from basing his self-image on achievements and performance, so he must endlessly prop up his sense of righteousness by putting others down and finding fault.  As one of my teachers in seminary put it, the main barrier between Pharisees and God is “not their sins, but their damnable good works.”  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 77)

 

III-  Obey our leaders.  (Heb 13:17; see also: Zech 11:4-17; Jn 13:20; Acts 20:28; Rom 13:1-7; 1 Cor 3:12-15; Eph 4:11-17; 1 Thess 2:19-20; 5:12; 1 Pt 5:1-5) 

 

Obedience and submission, even to men, for the Lord’s sake; these, too, are elements of the self-sacrifice, which is well-pleasing to God.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 534)

 

It is an indisputable fact–pastors as a group are one of the most abused and hurting segments of modern society.  Admittedly, sometimes the misery is self-inflicted due to sloth and ineptness.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 239)

 

When a man is placed in the rule of a local church, our submission and obedience to him is equivalent to submission and obedience to Christ.

When you do not have Spirit-filled leaders who rule well or submissive people who follow well, you have chaos and disunity in the church and open the doors to all sorts of spiritual problems.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 445)

 

They receive the Lord’s blessings by obeying the leaders God has given them.  If they all respond favorably the work of their leaders becomes increasingly joyful.

When the members refuse to obey and fail to respect their leaders, the work in the church becomes burdensome.  The members ought to realize that neither they nor the leaders own the church.  The church belongs to Jesus Christ, to whom the readers are responsible.  Should they make the work and life of the leaders difficult, they would be the losers.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 426-7)

 

The greatest joy that can come to any pastor is to see those whom he leads, firmly rooted in the faith and growing in Christ.  A day awaits every pastor (or leader) when he will have to account for what he has done as a shepherd.  If he can present faithful servants to the Lord, it will be his thrill to see them honored.  But if he has to watch his people lose their reward, that day will bring him pain.  By attitude alone, a congregation can make or break a pastor.  If they support him and submit to his authority, they’ll reap the benefit.  But if they abuse him, they’ll lose too.  Everyone loses when a dedicated pastor is abused.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 335-6)

 

For members of the Body to be in constant rebellion against their pastors and elders prevents proper learning and proper growth.  It brings spiritual barrenness and bitterness.  A person who never brings joy will never have joy.

To cause our leaders grief is harmful to ourselves as well as to them and to the church as a whole.  It is unprofitable for you.  When we do not have a loving and obedient spirit, God is displeased, our leaders are grieved, and we lose our joy as well.  Paul’s joy in faithful believers was always related to their joy.  “Rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me” (Phil 2:18).  You will never find a truly happy pastor apart from a happy congregation, or a happy congregation apart from a happy pastor.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 447-8)

 

Those rulers are appointed by God, standing in His immediate stead, so that the Lord Christ declared, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent Me” (Jn 13:20).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1241)

 

The members of a Gospel church are no more required to receive the pastor’s teaching when it be flagrantly opposed to Holy Writ, or to submit to any ruling of his which is manifestly dishonoring to Christ and injurious to His people, than they are to yield to a mandate of Nebuchadnezzar if he sets up an image to himself and commands all to fall down and worship it, or if an ungodly husband required from his wife anything contrary to the laws of nature.  No, it is not a blind and implicit obedience which is here enjoined for that would be quite contrary to the whole tenor of Gospel obedience, which is “our reasonable service.”  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1242)

 

The more labor any one undertakes for our sake and the more difficulty and danger he incurs for us, the greater are our obligations to him.  Such is the office of bishops or elders; and the heavier the burden they bear, the more honor they deserve.  Let, then, our gratitude be evidenced by giving them that which is their due.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1243)

 

A pastor’s sweetest joy is to see those in his church walking with the Lord and bearing fruit.  And, contrarily, one of the saddest tragedies that can come to a pastor is that of spending years of his life working with those who do not grow, do not respond to spiritual leadership, and do not walk in the truth.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 445-6)

 

Perhaps more than any other prophet, Jeremiah knew the grief caused by rebellious, stiff-necked people.  He is called the weeping prophet for good reason.  At his call God promised to make the prophet “as a fortified city, and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests and to the people of the land.  And they will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:18).  All these opponents together could not silence Jeremiah or frustrate his ministry, for God was always with him.  But even God could not prevent them from breaking the prophet’s heart.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 446)

 

Even the Son of God was not spared grief.  Satan could not conquer Him and the scribes and Pharisees could not confound Him, but the people could grieve Him.  Their hardness of heart and rejection caused Him to cry out, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” (Lk 13:34).  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 446)

 

To the Philippian Christians the apostle could say, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all” (Phil 1:3-4).  The reason was not that they were inherently a nice group of people than the Corinthians (though they may have been) but that they held to sound doctrine and were submissive to their leaders.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 447)

 

There is a lovely legend of Moses which tells of a thing he did when he had fled from Egypt and was keeping the flocks of Jethro in the desert.  A sheep of the flock wandered far away.  Moses patiently followed it and found it drinking at a mountain stream.  He came up to it and put it upon his shoulder.  “So it was because you were thirsty that you wandered away,” said Moses gently and, without any anger at the toil the sheep had caused him, he carried it home.  When God saw it, he said: “If Moses is so compassionate to a straying sheep, he is the very man I want to be the leader of my people.”  A shepherd is one who is ready to give his life for his sheep; he bears with their foolishness and never stops loving them.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 201-2)

 

Such awesome responsibility challenges the shepherd, demanding that he give the best he can in every sermon and lesson, every visit and contact.  Such serious responsibility also makes demands on every sheep in the flock.  When the sheep follow willingly, the shepherd’s task is joyful.  When they balk or even disobey, the shepherd’s joy turns into groaning, and forward motion for the flock slows or even stops.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 180)

 

They keep watch over you.  This word is unique to this place, and it denotes a watchfulness with the greatest care and diligence, even if this involves trouble or danger.  Jacob kept and watched the flocks of Laban at night.  But these leaders, literally, “keep watch over our souls.”  This summarizes the whole duty of the pastoral office.  It is as if he said, “The work of these leaders is solely to take care of your souls: to keep them from evil, sin, and backsliding; to instruct them and feed them; to encourage their obedience and faith, and so lead them safely to eternal rest.”  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 266)

 

This “giving of an account” refers to the last day of universal account.  But attention needs to be paid to their present duties.  First, they must give an account of their work.  They are not owners, but stewards; they are not sovereigns, but servants.  They must give an account of their work and of the flock committed to their charge to the “great Shepherd of the sheep” (verse 20) and to “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Pt 5:4).  Second, they must behave as men who are entrusted with this responsibility and are accountable in this way.  Such people act with care and diligence.  Third, every day they must give an account to Jesus Christ for the work they have been entrusted with.  If those in their care thrive, if they flourish, if they go on to maturity, they give an account of this, and thank Christ for the work of his Spirit and grace among them. If those in their care are diseased, slothful, and have fallen into sinful ways, they still have to give an account to Jesus Christ.  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 267)

 

As we have frequently observed, there is repeated emphasis throughout this letter on the necessity of obedience to the revealed word of God.  Naturally, the writer is not inculcating blind, unthinking obedience to everything a Christian teacher says, otherwise there would be little point in issuing the warning he has just given about “diverse and strange” doctrines.  In NT teaching there is clear recognition that discernment is obviously necessary and also that obedience to the revealed word of God is essential.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 264)

 

His meaning is, that the heavier the burden they bear, the more honor they deserve; for the more labor any one undertakes for our sake, and the more difficulty and danger he incurs for us, the greater are our obligations to him.  And such is the office of bishops, that it involves the greatest labor and the greatest danger; if, then we wish to be grateful, we can hardly render to them that which is due; and especially, as they are to give an account of us to God, it would be disgraceful for us to make no account of them.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 363-4)

 

Though false teachers had “varied and strange teachings” (Heb 13:9) that differed from each other, they all had the same goal: to alter “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3).  To contend against these false teachers and to promote sound doctrine and right living, Jesus gave to the church gifted leaders–apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  These leaders equip the church for ministry and help them grow in to the image of Christ, so that they would no longer 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 4:11-14).  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 223)

 

It would be “unprofitable” for the church to rebel against their leaders in disobedience, causing them grief in their God-appointed tasks of teaching and preaching sound doctrine.  Why?  Because Christ Himself ordained leadership in His body to help it grow and mature.  Without these leaders, the church’s growth would be stunted and its members would be easily led astray into false teaching (Eph 4:11-17).  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 224)

 

Christians are to be discerning in their hearing of God’s Word.  They must never accept something as true just because a preacher or leader says it.  At the same time, they are to be eager to obey and to submit to authority.  Such ought to be one’s first impulse when the leader and the people are right with God.  Such churches will sail well, because all hands will be coordinated to point the ship in a single direction.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 238)

 

If a leader is a dedicated minister of the Word of God, he proves thereby that Christ has given him authority.  And if Christ has entrusted him with the task of assuming leadership, the people need not question his authority (Acts 20:28; Eph 4:11; 1 Pt 5:1-3).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 426)

 

Let us also add that, young men aspiring unto the ministerial office need to think twice about entering a calling which demands ceaseless self-sacrifice, unremitting toil, and a love for Christ and His people which alone will sustain amid sore discouragements.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1243)

 

IV-  Pray for the Body of Christ.  (Heb 13:18-19; see also: Lk 18:1; Rom 15:30-31; 2 Cor 1:10-11; Eph 6:19; Col 4:3; Phile 1:22; 1 Thess 5:17, 25; 2 Thess 3:1; Jam 5:16)

 

Prayer for each other is one of the principal parts of the communion of saints.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1257)

 

If Apostles needed the prayers of the churches, how much more ordinary ministers!  “Brethren, pray for us.”  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 713)

 

Prayer makes things possible; it moves the hand of God.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 448)

 

In our often overly individualistic approach to the Christian life, when people ask us for prayer, we might assume something must really be wrong with them.  In the back of our minds we might think, “Why doesn’t she just pray for herself?”  However, as we grow and mature in the faith, we realize that praying for one another is a core purpose of the body of Christ.  Jam 5:16 says, “Pray for one another,” and Paul was not ashamed to say to the Thessalonians, “Pray for us” (1 Thess 5:25; 2 Thess 3:1).  They knew that abundant Christian living and fruitful Christian ministry were empowered by faithful Christians praying.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 226)

 

I’m convinced that the dynamic life of the congregation I serve is explained by God’s grace answering the humble prayers of ordinary believers who seek God’s blessing for all we do.  That is the story of power and prayer.  I am utterly dependent on the way the prayers of such saints have changed my life and ministry.  I think the same is true of our whole church.  We are what we are by the grace of God at work through the prayers of these saints who lean on God for our sake and for the sake of all we long to see happen in our ministry, both locally and globally.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 129)

 

The man who comes up to God’s house having prayed for God to bless the preacher is not likely to go away unprofited.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 466)

 

God is sovereign, but prayer makes things possible that otherwise would not be possible.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 449)

 

It is not a matter of superiority or inferiority as Paul indicates (1 Cor 12:14-26), but of interdependence.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 251-2)

 

We are to pray always, without ceasing (see Lk 18:1; 1 Thess 5:17).  Two things are included here.  First, there should be freedom from appointed times, seasons, and places.  The sacrifices under the law had their times and places prescribed to them, apart from which they were not accepted.  But as far as we are concerned every place and every time is equally approved.  Second, diligence and perseverance are included.  We should be careful to do this, that is, continually, as occasions, opportunities, and appointed seasons require.  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 265)

 

From this we learn that if we desire others to pray for us we must set the example of praying for them.  We cannot expect to be benefitted by other men’s prayers unless the spirit of supplication dwells in us also.  In this matter the Lord will give to us good measure pressed down, shaken, overflowing (Lk 6:38), according as we give unto others.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 475)

 

Now he asks for prayer.  That may seem odd to us, that the greater should ask from the lesser; or, to turn that presupposition around, does not the superior pray for the inferior?  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 251)

 

The power and superiority belong to God, not to any of us.  It is not out of our resources that we pray prayers of intercession, but out of God’s inexhaustible grace.  The point we should remember is this: God has created us as interdependent people interacting in a community that functions like a body.  Each part of the body has its abilities, which it offers to the whole; yet each part is dependent upon the other members of the body for its supply of strength.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 251)

 

If ministers desire the prayers of their people, then let them see to it that they are not backward in praying for those God has committed to their charge.  This is an essential part of the minister’s functions.  It is not sufficient that he faithfully preaches the Word: he must also fervently and frequently ask God to bless that Word unto those who have heard him.  O that all who are called to the sacred office may feelingly exclaim “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sm 12:23).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1265-6)

 

He knows that if the readers pray for him, the bond of unity between himself and the recipients of his letter is strengthened.  And if they pray, they indicate that the message he conveys has been well received.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 428)

 

How different the modern church would be if the majority of its people prayed for its pastors and lay leadership.  There would be supernatural suspensions of business-as-usual worship.  There would be times of inexplicable visitations from the Holy Spirit.  More lay people would come to grips with the deeper issues of life.  The leadership vacuum would evaporate.  There would be more conversions.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 239)

 

God’s leaders face temptations that most other believers do not face to the same degree, because Satan knows that, if he can undermine the leaders, many others will go down with them.  If he can get them to compromise, to weaken their stand, to lessen their efforts, to become dejected and hopeless, he has caused the work of Christ great damage.

Paul did not hesitate to ask for prayer.  “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6:19).  How much more do God’s ordinary ministers need the prayer of their people.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 448)

 

He was not being egotistical or arrogant, but simply saying that, to the best of his own knowledge, he had ministered to the people faithfully–not perfectly, but faithfully.  He not only needed their prayers; he had earned their prayers.  He had a right before God to expect them to pray for him.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 448-9)

 

The metaphor of the church as a body is employed by the NT to represent both our union with Christ and mutual dependence: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor 12:21).  We need each other: “We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom 12:5).  We need each other’s gifts (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Cor 12-14; Rom 12).  We need each other’s graces (as in the many “one anothers” found throughout the NT: love one another, be kind to one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc.).  We need each other’s fellowship.  So we are warned, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together.”  The writer to the Hebrews sees the public assembly as the primary place in which the mutual stimulation to “love and good deeds” takes place: “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 330-1)

 

Worship Point:  The worship that God desires is in Spirit and in Truth; overflowing with gratitude and thanksgiving.  Not from a sense of obligation or duty. (Rom 12:1-2; Heb 12:28)

 

If our praise of God in word is not accompanied by doing good and sharing, it is not acceptable to Him.  Worship involves action that honors God.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 443)

 

In worship we find fresh reasons and desire to serve.  Isaiah didn’t say “Here am I.  Send me!” until after his vision of God.  That’s the order–worship, then worship-empowered service.  As A. W. Tozer put it, “Fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works.  That is the divine order and it can never be reversed” (Harry Verploegh, Signposts: A Collection of Sayings from A. W. Tozer, 183).  The work of service is too hard without the power we receive for it through worship.

At the same time, one measure of the authenticity of worship (again, both personal and corporate) is whether it results in a desire to serve.  Isaiah is the classic example here also.  Tozer again says it best: “No one can long worship God in spirit and in truth before the obligation to holy service becomes too strong to resist” (Verploegh, 183).

Therefore, we must maintain that to be Godly, we should discipline ourselves for both worship and service.  To engage in one without the other is, in reality, to experience neither.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 121)

 

The heart must be emptied of sin before there is room for the Savior.  The heart must renounce this evil world before a holy Christ will occupy it.  It is a moral impossibility for one who is still in love with his lusts and the willing servant of the Devil to appropriate Christ and present Him to God for his acceptance.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1211)

 

Differences of opinion are inevitable while we are in the flesh–permitted by God that we should have occasion to be “forbearing one another in love” (Eph 4:2).  That form of church government which accords most closely to the NT, and where every detail is scrupulously correct, would be valueless in the sight of God unless it were conducted in love and its worship was “in spirit and in truth.”  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1237)

 

Gospel Application:  If it were not for the work of Jesus Christ on the cross we probably would be hating and despising God – not loving God with grateful hearts.  God wants to give us a peace that passes all understanding that can only come by faith in Christ.  (Isa 26:3; Jn 16:33; Phil 4:7)

 

In this letter we have seen what peace is.  The nearest modern equivalent is “mental health.”  That is what you are after, is it not?  In Christ we are in touch with the God of mental health, the God who intends life to be lived on a peaceful level.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 191)

 

The Bible teaches that justification is by faith alone, yet ultimately there is only one way anybody is ever saved in the presence of God, and that is through works.  The question is not whether we are going to be saved through works; the question is whose works.  We are saved through the works of the one who alone fulfilled the terms of the covenant of works.  That is why it is not just the death of Christ that redeems us, but it is also the life of Christ.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 178)

 

When a man’s mind and heart are distracted and he is torn in two between the two sides of his own nature, it is only by giving his life into the control of God that he can know peace.  It is only the God of peace who can make us at peace with ourselves, at peace with each other and at peace with himself.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 201)

 

What is the chief obstacle which an awakened and convicted soul encounters?  Why, the greatness of his sins, his heart telling him that he is beyond the ready of mercy, and it is naught but the accusations of a guilty conscience which produces that sense of hopelessness in the heart.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1259-60)

 

What strictness of conscience God requires from His servants: as the least bit of grit in the eye hinders its usefulness, so any sin trifled with will trouble a tender conscience.    (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1262)

 

The true way to Christianity is this, that a man first acknowledges himself by the law to be a sinner, and that it is impossible for him to do any good work.  For the law says: You are an evil tree, and therefore all that you think, speak, or do, is against God.  You cannot therefore deserve grace by your works: which if you are about to do, you double your offense; for since you are an evil tree, you cannot but bring forth evil fruits, that is to say, sins.   “For whatsoever is not of faith, is sin” (Rom 14:23).  So he who would merit grace by works going before faith, goes about to please God with sins, which is nothing else but to heap sin upon sin, to mock God, and to provoke His wrath.   When a man is thus taught and instructed by the law, then is he terrified and humbled, then he sees indeed the greatness of his sin, and cannot find in himself one spark of love of God; therefore he justifies God in His Word, and confesses that he is guilty of death and eternal damnation.  The first part then of Christianity is the preaching of repentance and the knowledge of ourselves.”  (Martin Luther; Galatians, 92)

 

Obviously the doctrine of justification by faith only is absolutely essential.  There has never been a revival but that this has always come back into prominence.  This doctrine means the end of all thinking about ourselves and our goodness, and our good deeds, and our morality, and all our works.  Look at the histories of revivals, and you will find men and women feeling desperate.  They know that all their goodness is but filthy rags, and that all their righteousness is of no value at all.  And there they are, feeling that they can do nothing, and crying out to God for mercy and for compassion. Justification by faith.  God’s act.  ‘If God does not do it to us,’ they say, ‘then we are lost.’ (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 55)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Seek God continually.  Endeavor to seek God until you see Him as a God you can’t exaggerate. Then, continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise and good works because your heart and soul can’t help itself.  (Mt 12:34; Lk 6:38)

 

Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves.  His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him.  Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 31)

 

This spiritual sacrifice of thanksgiving we are to present to God continually.  The sacrifices under the law could only be presented at particular times, and in particular places; but our spiritual services may be presented at any time, in any place.  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 706)

 

How can one keep the law?  Jesus well knew the answer to this question, and that is why he told those who wanted to know how to work the works of God to put their confidence in the one God had sent (Jn 6:29).  He knew that we cannot keep the law by trying to keep the law.  To succeed in keeping the law one must aim at something other and something more.  One must aim to become the kind of person from whom the deeds of the law naturally flow.  The apple tree naturally and easily produces apples because of its inner nature.  This is the most crucial thing to remember if we would understand Jesus’ picture of the kingdom heart given in the Sermon on the Mount.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 142-3)

 

The word “obey” in our text means an obedience which follows a being persuaded: the mind is first carried along with the preacher so that it believes, and then the will acts–note the marginal alternative in Acts 5:36 for “obeyed” is “believed.”  “And submit yourselves” seems to us to have reference onto the spirit in which they were to obey–obedience was not to be merely an outward act, but prompted by submissive hearts.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1241)

 

“Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight.”  By linking the two sentences together we are taught the most important lesson that there cannot be conformity to the will of God in the life, till there be conformity to Him in the heart.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 1282)

 

In order to external good works, there must be internal good principles.  In order to conformity to the law of God in the life, there must be conformity to the will of God in the heart.  That in us which is “well-pleasing in God’s sight,” is just a mode of thinking and of feeling which is conformable to His will.  The way in which God does this, is not by miraculously implanting such a mode of thinking and feeling within us.  That God could do this, if it so pleased Him, we have no reason to doubt; but He acts according to the laws of our intelligent and moral nature.  In His word He has given us a plain, well-accredited revelation of His mind.  By the influence of His Spirit, which our depravity renders absolutely necessary, He leads us to understand and believe this revelation.  The revealed mind of God, understood and believed by us, becomes our mind; and our mind being brought into accordance with God’s mind, our will, according to the constitution of our nature, is brought into accordance with God’s will.  It is thus that God, by His word and Spirit, “works in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight.”  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 722-3)

 

God save us also from self-righteous judgmentalism…There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline.  Legalism says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God,” while discipline says, “I will do this because I love God and want to please him.”  Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered. (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 114)

 

A life spent trying to produce works of righteousness and holiness will not produce them. . . and will be focused on the source of those works–the self.  But a life focused on the works of God will be focused on the source of those works–God.  So the secret is to not focus on your work for God.  The secret is to become the work of God.  Cease striving to do the work of God. . . and start letting your life become the work of God.  Let your doing become the doing of God.  Stop struggling to produce good works for God and let God produce His good work in you.  Let His goodness cause your life to become His good work.  Let everything you do and are begin with Him. Let your righteousness be the outflowing of His righteousness.  Your love, the outflowing of His love, and your life, the outflowing of His life.  And your life will become as beautiful as a lily of the field.  (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 152)

 

Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.  The overflow is experienced consciously as the pursuit of our joy in the joy of another.   We double our delights in God as we expand it in the lives of others.   If our ultimate goal were anything less than joy in God, we would be idolaters and would be no eternal help to anyone.  Therefore, the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed.   And if you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 121)

 

Our intent is determined by what we want and expect from our action.  When we do good deeds to be seen by human beings, that is because what we are looking for is something that comes from human beings.  God responds to our expectations accordingly.  When we want human approval and esteem, and do what we do for the sake of it, God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it does not concern him. . . .  On the other hand, if we live unto God alone, he responds to our expectations–which are of him alone.  Os Guinness, the well-known Christian thinker and leader, has said of the Puritans in American history that they lived as if they stood before an audience of One.  They carried on their lives as if the only one whose opinion mattered were God.  Of course they understood that this is what Jesus Christ taught them to do.

But the principle of “the audience of One” extends to all that we do, and not just to deeds of devotion or charity.  The apostle Paul charges us to do all our work, whatever our situation, “with enthusiasm, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that he is the one who rewards you and whom you serve.”  Indeed, we are to do all that we do “on behalf of the Lord Jesus, in that way giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Col 3:17-24).  Even more so for our “rightness.”  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 190)

 

The kind of people who have been so transformed by their daily walk with God that good deeds naturally flow from their character are precisely the kind of people whose left hand would not notice what their right hand is doing–as, for example, when driving one’s own car or speaking one’s native language.  What they do they do naturally, often automatically, simply because of what they are pervasively and internally.  These are people who do not have to invest a lot of reflection in doing good for others.  Their deeds are “in secret” no matter who is watching, for they are absorbed in love of God and of those around them.  They hardly notice their own deed, and rarely remember it.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 192)

 

That the Son, who is God, should be our Redeemer; that the stupendous miracles of the incarnation and the atonement, the resurrection and the seating of a man on the throne of God, should be wrought, that the Holy Spirit of God should be poured out from heaven,–all was with one view, that we should be brought to do the will of God.  The whole relation between God and the creature depends on this one thing: without it there can be no true fellowship with God.  It was for this Jesus became man: Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.  It was through this He redeemed us.  It is to make us partakers of the power to do this, that, as Mediator of the covenant, He puts the law in our heart, that we may do the will of God on earth as in heaven.  It is for this alone He lives in heaven: the only proof and measure of the success of His work is that we do the will of God.  Without this, all His work and ours is in vain.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 541-2)

 

So What?: Your worship, your witness, your prayers, your life will be inept and ineffective until your heart is overwhelmed with the knowledge and experience of God’s grace, goodness, patience, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and love.

 

The man who has not learned to praise, with whom it never breaks out spontaneously, has not learned to know his God aright, has not yet tasted the joy of a full salvation.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 546)

 

In order to have this praise you will need a deep and ardent admiration of the Lord God.  Admire the Father–think much of His love; acquaint yourself with His perfections.  Admire the Son of God, the altogether lovely One.  And as you observe His gentleness, self-denial, love, and grace, allow your heart to be wholly enamored of Him.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 470)

 

JESUS:

The SOURCE

OF ALL GOOD

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