The Letter to the Hebrews: Chapters 12-13

In our concluding study in the Book of Hebrews we’ll discover what the word discipline means and how it pertains to our relationship with the Lord. We’ll also see one of the most remarkable contrasts between Law and Grace to be found anywhere in Scripture, and receive the writer’s concluding exhortations.


Okay, in this session we’re going to pick up where we left off last time which was at the end of Hebrews 11 and then we’re going to begin Hebrews 12. So, let’s dig right into that and see what it has to say to us. If it’s anything like what the rest of the book has been, we’ll get quite a bit out of it here.

I think you can agree, having been through most of the book now, this is not for the faint hearted. This is not for the baby Christian. It’s not for the person who’s only trying to find out who Jesus is. This was a study that was chockfull of stuff and it is, as the writer said earlier, for people who are beyond the stage of needing to be fed milk and are looking for real meat.  

Okay, so Hebrews 12:1 says:

Therefore, Now, whenever—here’s a rule of interpretation that says whenever you see that word, you ask yourself a question: what is that word there for?  

And what it tells you is that this “Therefore” is pointing back to chapter 11. So the word “therefore” is a summary of chapter 11. Because all of the things we’ve told you in chapter 11 about faith—and remember, the whole chapter was devoted to that, to the great men of faith and to all the great things that they were able to accomplish solely by faith. 

So because of all of that:

since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,

Those are the people that were mentioned in chapter 11.

 let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 

This is a reference, I believe—and you’ll understand when we get to the end here—I believe that Paul was probably the author of this letter, although he doesn’t say so in so many words.  But this “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” is a pretty clear reference, I believe to 1 Corinthians 9:24. We know Paul wrote this. 

It says:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

All right now, some make the mistake of thinking this is a passage about salvation, and the way you get your salvation is to change your life and make yourself perfect. That of course, is not true; that’s not the context of the passage.  

Paul is writing here to the Church in Corinth. All these people already are believers and so therefore, what is this ‘ace they are running? Well, the race is for this prize. And the prize that (we’ve talked about this before) is to gain the crown of victory. This is the crown that all these runners in this race are after, the crown of victory.  

Now for the athletes, it was to beat all the other runners because only one of them could win that crown, the victory crown, called the victor’s crown. It’s actually the Greek word stephanos and it means the victor’s crown or the crown of the overcomer—the person who bested everyone else.

Now, in the Christian sense, the crown of the overcomers is given to the person who overcomes the old self. The context here is in the Olympic games and you see these athletes who came to run in the Olympic games, they were not satisfied to just be there. They had all qualified to be in this race. They had run in other races that qualified them to be here. And so they had a right to be very happy with their performance, but they weren’t. They weren’t happy with their performance because all they had done is qualify. They didn’t go into all the training that they had gone through just to qualify. They were after the victor’s crown. The thing that Paul was trying to say here in 1 Corinthians 9 is, “Don’t be satisfied just to have qualified.”

Now, for us, how do we qualify?  

We become born again, that qualifies us. That’s not the end of the race, it’s the beginning of the race because no one who is not born again can be in this race. Everyone in the race is a believer.  

Now, the difference between us and the Olympians is that only one of them could win. But with us, each one of us can win. We can all win the victor’s crown, the crown of the overcomer, the stephanos. We can all do that. And how do we do it? He says by defeating our old self. That’s how we do it. It has nothing to do with our salvation; it has to do with us defeating our old self, by putting aside all of our old bad habits, by putting aside all of our old ways.  

As Paul said in Romans 12:1 and 2 to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to not conform anymore to the things of this world, but to allow ourselves to be renewed and to offer our whole selves as living sacrifices to God to do with as He pleases. That’s how we do this.

So, Paul is saying, “I myself am in this race.” He wasn’t worried about his salvation; he knew all about the fact that his salvation was secure. But he was interested in more, he wanted to win the crown. He wanted to stand before the Lord at the Bema Seat judgment, and he wanted to receive the victor’s crown. That’s what he was talking about. 

And that’s the same thing this writer is talking about in Hebrews 12 where he says, “Let’s run with perseverance the race marked out before us.” That’s what he’s talking about because he is also writing to believers. He’s not writing to people who are unsaved; he’s writing to people who are already saved and now he’s saying, “In view of all the things that these people we’ve just talked about have accomplished by faith,” (And remember he talked about Abraham, and he talked about Moses, and he talked about all the great men of faith throughout the history of the Bible.) He’s saying, “in view of all that, let’s run with perseverance the race set before us.” And of course, because of the word, “therefore” we know what it takes to run the race set before us.  

And what do you think it is? Faith. It’s faith that is what it takes to run the race.  

And just like the athlete trains to strengthen his physical muscles to make himself stronger, and better, and faster, we as believers train by exercising our faith. And now you know why the Church is so weak and in such terrible shape today. Because they haven’t been exercising. 

For centuries we haven’t been exercising, and our faith is weak. That’s not what the Lord intended for us, nor is it what these writers have encouraged us to do. They say, “Don’t let your faith grow weak. You have to exercise, you have to persevere. Let your faith be strong.”  

And how do we do that? He says in verse 2:

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

See, He’s the source of it; He’s the example; He’s the One we look to. 

He says:

Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Who for the joy set before Him? How can you mention joy and enduring the cross in the same sentence? Well, you can because one is the action, and the other is the result. The action was enduring the cross; the result was something He was very joyful about.

Now, what did He get for enduring the cross?  

He got us! That’s right, he got us. You might not think that’s much of a prize. [laughing] But He thought it was worth it; He considered it a matter of great joy to be able to get us. 

In fact, He considered it such a great joy that He was willing to endure the cross to make it happen. You see, He looked at the result of His behavior, not at His behavior. That’s what the athlete does. He doesn’t look at all the hours, and hours, and hours of painful training he has to go through—he does it for the joy of victory.  

We do not understand what is in store for us and so, all we can look at is the action, which isn’t much fun. We don’t understand the joy. But he says we should look to Jesus because His example proves it to us. That if we look at the result of our actions, we’ll be much more enthusiastic and much more motivated to take the actions. Correct?  

I mean, you’ve all seen this happen in your own life. You’ve had something you’ve wanted, and you’ve worked hard for it and you’ve put aside other things and you’ve, quote, “sacrificed”—although you didn’t think you were sacrificing anything at the time—because your eye was focused on the end result. It was focused on what you wanted to have, not what you had to do. And he says, “That’s the way you build faith.” You don’t focus on what you have to do. You focus on what you want to have.  

Do you want to have the Lord call you forward at the Bema Seat Judgment and award you the crown of victory, and say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord.”?  

We all want that. We lose track of it, though. In the midst of trying to win the crown of victory the action is such that it clouds our view of the result. What the writer here is saying, “Focus on the result. Look what Jesus did as an example. He focused on the result. He got His bride. He was happy to pay the price because He got His bride. And that’s what He was looking at all during that time, that’s what He was doing. He was redeeming His bride.” 

And there was sufficient motivation there to justify enduring the cross. He scorned its shame!  

You know, only the basest and worst of criminals were crucified. In fact, it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen because the Romans thought all their citizens were too good for that kind of punishment. 

That’s why they couldn’t crucify Paul, you see, when they had to put him to death. He got beheaded—a much more humane way to die. It is; it only takes a second and you’re done. But the cross took hours. For some it took days. The emperors of Rome decreed that all Roman citizens were too good to have to endure such a penalty and to receive such scorn and shame.  And so, only the basest of criminals had to suffer that.  

Verse 3 says:

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You see, when you allow yourself to be transformed and when you put off the ways of this world in favor of what the Bible wants you to do, which is to live a victorious life in the Lord, you will be criticized by friends. You will be questioned by them. Some who aren’t as kind as others may laugh at you and ridicule you and make fun of you.  

The writer is saying, “Well, that’s what they did to the Lord. And yet, He was able to withstand that. And we should take His example to heart, and not be weary in our struggle.”

Whenever it appears the struggle is getting to be too much, there’s one thing you can always tell has happened—and that is you have lost sight of the end result and you’ve let the action overtake you. Because, as long as you’ve got your focus on the end result, you can undertake the action.  

In fact, they even say this in the secular world, you know. They say the last great obstacle to achieving your goal is a loss of purpose. Because once you’ve lost your purpose, you see, the action is no fun anymore. I mean, it’s not getting you anywhere, it’s not doing anything for you.  All it is, is action. But when you’re focused on the result, the action has a purpose. When you have your purpose in mind you can undertake any action to get it. But once you lose your purpose, there is no more drive. We call it burnout. All it is, is loss of purpose. We’ve lost sight of the goal. All right.  

In verse 4 he says:

 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 

Like the Lord did. You know, you haven’t had to go through that yet.

Verse 5:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son?

Okay now, every chapter so far has had a big problem in it, and here’s the one in this chapter.

This next couple of verses is a quote from Proverbs 3:11 and 12. We’re going to read it as it appears here and then we’re going to look at Proverbs 3:11 and 12 and see what it says there.  And you’ll see that there’s a problem; a problem that people have been wrestling over for generations.  

Here’s what it says in the book of Hebrews:

It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

And I’ll bet you, you know a hundred people who feel like they have gone through something like this, and maybe you yourself have endured this. Maybe you’ve even said, “The Lord is testing me. I know He’s testing me. He’s letting me go through this to strengthen my faith. I know that’s what’s going on.” And if you haven’t said it, you’ve heard it said. But my guess is, you might have said it yourself, once or twice in your life.  

Before we go back to Proverbs, let me help you understand this word, discipline.  

Do you know what the root word of “discipline” is? Where does the word discipline come from?  It comes from the word disciple and what is a disciple? A disciple is a student

When you were a student learning something, did it require some discipline to learn? You had to set aside time to study. Let’s say you wanted to learn how to play the piano. You had to put aside a certain amount of time each day for practice, you had to perform in front of a teacher to show your progress and that meant you had to prepare. There were some things you couldn’t do because you were trying to learn how to play the piano, so you were doing this instead of some other things.

We’re back to the concept of the athlete going into training, and we say about the great athletes who devote so much time and effort to their training, “Man, what discipline that person has.”  Well, the word “training” and “discipline” are alike. In fact, the Greek word here is the word from which we get pedagogue which means teacher. When we’re talking about discipline here, we are talking about being taught; we’re talking about being a disciple; we’re talking about learning and training. That’s the literal meaning of this word.  

And so, when you read that word discipline (which we all hate) you have to remember where it comes from. Don’t think about how it gets used or even how we use it: “You keep that up, my little man, and you’re going to get some discipline.” Well, Little Man doesn’t hear “training” in any of that, does he? What he hears is punishment. And we so often confuse the two. But the two words are not alike, and they’re not meant to be used alike. 

So, that’s the first thing I want you to see.  

The second thing I want you to see is what it really says in Proverbs 3:11 and 12 and then I’ll explain to you something that has happened along the way. 

Proverbs 3:11 and 12. Start with verse 11:

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not resent his rebuke,

That word rebuke, by the way, is conviction. That’s what that word means. You can understand the conviction of the Holy Spirit. That’s the same word. 

 and do not resent his rebuke,

because the Lord disciplines those he loves,

    as a father the son he delights in.

Now, look at that last verse, verse 12. The Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in. That’s something different from Hebrews 12:6:

because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

That’s quite a bit different, isn’t it?

And here’s the problem: we are reading Proverbs 3:11 and 12 as a direct translation from the Hebrew, from the Hebrew Old Testament. In our Bibles, the Hebrew Old Testament was translated directly into English. But all the Old Testament quotes you find in the New Testament don’t come from Hebrew—they come from the Greek version of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint version, which was only about a couple of hundred years old in the Lord’s time. But especially the books that were meant for wide distribution, draw on the Septuagint because in the Lord’s time everybody spoke Greek. 

That was the language; it was the language of the world, just like English has been the language of the world in our time. Now, something happened between the Hebrew, and the Greek, and the English that we don’t understand. Because I’ll tell you what—the version I just read to you that says, “He punishes everyone He accepts as a son” if you are reading a King James Bible, the word there is, He “scourges” everyone. Right?  

Now, do you know what it means to be scourged? That means, they tie you to a post and they take a whip that has several different cords in it, most of the time those whips were embedded with pieces of bone or metal. And they beat you, and when the whip strikes you the pieces of bone or metal embed themselves in your skin, and when the person administering the punishment pulls the whip away, he pulls the skin off. The Lord took forty lashes there and by the time they were done there wasn’t any skin left on His back. His rib cage was showing. That’s scourging.  

What father does that to his son that he loves? It’s a problem, isn’t it? And what father could justify doing that to his son based on this verse? Something’s wrong there. We don’t know how this happened—I don’t know, maybe somebody else does. I’ve studied this a lot because this verse is used quite often in justifying corporal punishment for children. And they don’t understand what the word means.  

And so, when they quote Hebrews 12:6 and say, “That justifies corporal punishment. The Lord punishes His children, so we have the right to punish our children in the same way.” And then when you show them what the verse actually means they back away a little bit because they realize, you don’t do that to a kid!

And so, all I can do tonight is to suggest to you that you rely on the Old Testament version, Proverbs 3:11 and 12, rather than on this when you are interpreting this for use in your life. 

And you see, when you do that it makes more sense in the context of the passage. Because it says, the Lord disciplines those He loves—remember the root is “disciple”—He trains those He loves as a father the son he delights in. That makes a lot more sense, and that’s what I would suggest you do here until somewhere, somehow, one of us finds some kind of a reconciliation of this. But frankly, I cannot understand how you would apply that from Hebrews 12:6 in the sense that you’ve got Proverbs 3:11 and 12 as a source for it. 

I would not scourge my son, no matter what this verse says. I would not do that. And I don’t believe the Lord ever intended that to happen. Because the context of the passage is, it’s the son he delights in. And no father would scar for life and do irreparable physical damage to a son he delights in.

Now, verse 7 seems to support that when it says:

Endure hardship as discipline;

Now, that’s a different story, isn’t it? Hardship is not the same as being beaten with a whip. Hardship I can understand, that is a discipline. But before we go on here, I want you to know that there are basically three reasons why we endure hardship. There are only three.

The first one is that it’s a consequence of our own behavior. Lots of people endure hardship because they’ve made mistakes, knowingly or unknowingly. They invested all their money in something that blew up and now they’re broke, and now they’ve got some hardship on their hands. They were unwise in their finances and they over mortgaged their house and then the values fell down and now their house is gone. 

You can’t blame God for those things, right? He didn’t do it. They went and robbed a Seven Eleven and they got caught and put in jail. That’s a hardship, not only for them but for their family; they didn’t do anything to deserve the situation they’ve been put in. You can’t blame God for those things. That’s a consequence of behavior.  

They ate the wrong foods all their life and they had a heart attack at forty eight and became invalid. That’s not God testing them, that’s a consequence of their own behavior. 

That’s one thing that happens.

Here’s another reason people endure hardship—it’s because this world is an evil place. And it ain’t fair. Hardship can befall the good as well as the bad, if there were such a thing. You know I’m talking in a relative sense when I say, good and bad. But hardship can befall anyone, at any time because of the way the world is. It’s a sinful, dark, unfair, evil place. And hardship can befall anyone at any time. We shouldn’t be surprised when we have to endure hardship. We should be surprised that we don’t, because of the evil in the world. That’s the second reason.

And there’s only one more, the third reason.  

We endure hardship because we get ourselves out of fellowship with God because of our sins. We carry around sins that we don’t ask forgiveness for, we put ourselves outside of God’s protection, and we’re fair game for the enemy.  

Now, most people don’t ever do enough for God to come into the enemy’s focus, because most people live lives that are irrelevant to the enemy. But once in a while you’ll see some great person who we all think highly of stumble and fall. And when we look, we find sin, unconfessed sin. And that person just happened to be doing too much good for the Lord. And so, when they got out of fellowship, they became a target and, boom, the enemy struck.

The Book of Job is all about this, by the way. God and Satan didn’t stand up there and have a little side bet on how much Job could take, the way a lot of people read the book. Job got himself out of fellowship with God because of his self righteousness. He thought he was too good to be a target to Satan. But he wasn’t, was he? At the beginning of the book.

It wasn’t until about verse (chapter) 38 or so that he started to realize what the problem was.  Then he shaped up and he asked for forgiveness. And the Lord gave him back seven times what he had lost. That’s the real story of the book. And I promised you I wouldn’t get off the track tonight but, you ought to think about that.  

Here was Job who God Himself called the most righteous man on Earth—but did that make him sin-free? No, because there were no sin-free people on Earth. God never wanted to do any of those things to Job. He doesn’t want to do any of those things to anybody. But Job put himself in a position where God, His hands were tied, if I can say it that way, because Job was out of fellowship. He was a sinner who didn’t believe he needed to confess.  

Now, here’s something I want you to understand. In all of these things, whenever you try to justify yourself, like Job did, what you’re doing there is you are blaming God and you are saying that God is not just. When you justify yourself, you condemn God.  

So, when you are enduring hardship, you don’t say, “God is testing me.” You say, “I’ve got to look at one of these three reasons because God doesn’t do this to people. He’s trying to show me something here and I’ve got to figure out what it is so I can fix it, so that I can get back into His good graces.”

But when you blame God for it—“Why did God do this to me? What did I do to deserve this?”—all those statements are in effect, condemning God. Because they’re saying, “I didn’t deserve this.”  

So, therefore:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—

Remember, this word, all the way through here is training; training, training, training. Think of that, keep that in mind.

then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

All right. What has the whole context of this been? It’s been using the people from chapter 11 as examples of their faith as we live our lives. When you’re enduring hardship, look at the reason. None of them are God’s fault. 

Romans 8:28 says, He wants only the best for you. He says He’s working everything together for the good of those who love Him. Everything; even that thing you think is an unfair bit of hardship. He’s working everything together for your good. 

In John 10:10 He says, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the fullest. Have it abundantly.” Does that sound like the same guy who is going to take things away from you and cause you to suffer just to strengthen your faith?

You see, there is so much conflict in the way we view God versus the way He is, that it’s almost hard to describe. Some people say, “Well, He made me sick so that I’d be humble.” They don’t read the part where it says, “God died so that you could be healed.” How do you reconcile those two statements? “God brought me this illness so that I would be humble. It’s a test.”

And yet, you read that God sent His Son to die, so that you could be healed. Why would He die so that you could be healed and then turn around and make you sick? What point is that? Their gospel goes like this: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever would believe in him could come and be punished. 

Doesn’t make any sense. And yet, would you think a majority of people have never thought that through?

All right. This world’s a bad place to be. There is sickness all over the place. None of it is God’s fault. He didn’t put any of it here. It’s all the result of sin. It started with the first sin and it has been building ever since. And it all came as the result of sin. God didn’t create the world with illness in it. He didn’t create people deformed. He didn’t create people who would have bad problems with their backs, and with their legs, and with their arms, and with their shoulders, and with their knees. He didn’t create people to be that way. That all has come about because of sin.  He sent His Son to die so that we could be free of it. 

So, the context here was faith. I sense a whole lot of conviction in the room here. I didn’t mean to do that to you. Remember, the context is faith. That’s what we’re talking about, faith.  

Verse 14:

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy;

Now, here he’s going to talk about things we can do here. This is how we run with perseverance the race that’s set before us.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

This story of Jacob and Esau is sometimes used to justify God being arbitrary. “Well, He felt like giving it to Jacob and so He did. ‘Esau, you’re out.’” But when you read the story it turns out to be a whole different thing. Esau came in from being out hunting and he was hungry. Jacob had just cooked up this whole thing of stew.

Esau said, “Give me some of that stew. I’m famished here! Give me some stew.” Jacob said, “Well, sell me your birthright first.” And what was Esau’s response? He didn’t say, “Hey! The birthright is holy. I can’t sell that to you! That is a trust. It’s a responsibility. It’s not some bauble to be wagered and traded for something.” 

He didn’t say any of that. What he said was, “What good will the birthright do me if I die of hunger? Now give me the stew!” And he traded the birthright. Later on, he was sorry he had done that.  

Now, I’m not justifying Joseph here. He really didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to trick Esau, because we saw in chapter 11 that Isaac blessed him by faith. (Jacob. Sorry, I said Joseph, didn’t I?) The fact that Jacob was a conniver notwithstanding. Esau disrespected the birthright.

Now, you see, the birthright is not just a chronological order. A birthright is a position; it was a status. The birthright—the firstborn inherited a double portion of the father’s estate. However many boys there were, they divided that by the number of boys, they added one, and the firstborn got two shares.  

He also, in return for that, by the way, was responsible for the mom, because the mothers always outlived the fathers. Because you see, the fathers, they would be thirty five, forty, forty five years old before they could afford to have a wife and family. But the girls were always in their teens, and so they way outlived their husbands.

It was the job of the firstborn to take care of the mother because there was no welfare, there was no old folk’s home, there was not that stuff in those days. The families were responsible.

When Jesus hung on the cross, He said to John, “This is now your mother.” What he was meaning is, “I’m giving you the responsibility for taking care of her because I can no longer do it.” He was the firstborn son, and it was his responsibility to take care of Mary. He was about to die. He transferred the responsibility to John, and all of his life John took care of Mary. Took her as his own mother into his own home because that was the responsibility of the firstborn, to see to that. Esau disrespected all that. Thought so little of it that he sold it, traded it for a bowl of lentil soup.

And later on—if we had the time, I’d take you back to the story—after  it was too late, Esau comes in crying to his father, “Please, please give me a blessing!” 

But what did he never say?  He never said, “I’m sorry I mistreated the birthright. I’m sorry I was disrespectful to you and to that position. That was a sin that I committed, and I ask your forgiveness for it. I repent of that. Please, forgive me.” He never said that. There was no repentance, even at the last moment there when he knew it was too late, there was no repentance, there was only regret that he didn’t get it. That’s all he was crying about. He didn’t get it. 

God was not arbitrary.  

By the way, you know what happened shortly thereafter? Jacob was taught about the rights of the firstborn. Because the morning after his wedding night he woke up and found the wrong woman in his bed! And when he went to Laban to say, “What happened here?” and Laban said, “Well, we usually marry the older ones off first.” He was teaching him about the firstborn, you see. So there were consequences to that just the same. He said, “Now, if you want to work another seven years you can have her.” The conniver was out-connived, wasn’t he?

Now, verse 18 here starts a contrast between law and grace which I think is an incredible mental picture.  

He says in verse 18 to them:

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

See, this is Mount Sinai, and what the writer was saying to these Jewish believers, “You haven’t come to that mountain. That mountain represents the law. You haven’t come to the law again.” 

Verse 22 he said:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See the contrast there? Here’s the law—dark, gloom, fear. There’s only two possible outcomes for keeping the law, fear and pride. Those are the only two possible outcomes. Fear and pride.

Either you’re going to wind up living your whole life in fear that you somehow sinned and don’t know, and the Lord’s going to get you at the proper time after it’s too late to do anything about it.  This is what the writer meant in Hebrews 10 when he said, “We have an expectation of judgment.” It doesn’t say we’re going to get it. He says, “Because we don’t confess our sins, the guilt builds up in our minds and we wind up with an expectation of judgment.” 

That doesn’t sound like the abundant life to me.

And then you have Mount Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God where thousands upon thousands of angels gather in joyful assembly to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of the righteous men made perfect.

Remember what he said in Hebrews 10, “By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Our righteousness imputed to us by faith made perfect by the death of the Lord. His blood shed in our place. To the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

What did the blood of Abel speak? “Your brother’s blood cries out from the ground,” God said.  What did He mean by that? “Who’s going to avenge me?”

It was Cain’s job to avenge the death of Abel, but Cain was the murderer. And so God had to step in and in His mercy, He let Cain live, although a much different life than He had planned for him.

But what does the blood of Jesus cry out? You are free. You are free from the avenger.  

  See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth,

Speaking of Mount Sinai in the desert—if anybody touches the mountain they die.  

how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

What’s going to remain after everything has been shaken? The Church.  

 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, 

See, that wasn’t just my opinion.

let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Chapter 13. These are closing admonitions, and they are pretty much self-explanatory so let’s go through them:

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 

Think of Abram in Genesis 18 when the Lord Himself and two angels came to visit him at the Oaks of Mamre. Think of Gideon; think of Manoah, who was the father of Samson, who was visited by a man who told him he and his wife were going to have a son who would begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.

Throughout the Scriptures, angels showed up as men and they were there to present information to men and those men greeted them as just strangers, but were kind to them according to the custom. Some of us may have done this not knowing it.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;

    never will I forsake you.”

How much would that cost if you could buy it?

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

    What can mere mortals do to me?”

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.

These are your ecclesiastical leaders, those pastors and teachers who mentor you and who are responsible for you.  

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

And of course, the ultimate example:

 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

He never changes; He never has changed, and He never will change.  

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.

Here he is using the dietary restrictions as an example of the law. That doesn’t strengthen you.  It doesn’t strengthen your faith. It does you no good.  

We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

He’s talking about communion. The priest who ministers at the table in the tabernacle cannot stand before the communion table and receive communion because that is a banquet reserved for Christians. It only has meaning to us and it has great meaning to us, but none to anyone else. No matter how good they are at keeping the dietary restrictions, meaning the law, they can’t come to our table and eat. That’s reserved for believers in Jesus.  

 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

He is calling them out of Judaism here. This whole thing has been to remember you are not in the religious system known as Judaism anymore. You’ve given your heart to the Lord, you’re beneficiaries of a much better covenant. He’s been saying this all the way through.  

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

When we express His love to others, it pleases Him. This is why we do it. We don’t have anything He needs, you understand; it doesn’t help Him at all when we establish certain laws and things for ourselves to try and make us think we’re better—“I’m not going to do this.” Or, “I’m not going to do that.” No, what pleases Him is when we express His love to others, when we do good things for them, when we look after others who are less fortunate, when we talk to others about Him. Not preaching at them. Not so we can put a notch on our pistol with another conversion, but because we’re grateful for what He has done for us.

That’s the only true evangelism. The rest is just a sales tricks; manipulation and coercion. That’s why it doesn’t do any good and that’s why nobody who does it feels good doing it. But when you go and help somebody who’s got a problem, and they say, “Thank you.” And you say, “Don’t thank me. I’m just repaying what the Lord has done for me.” You’ve got a conversation started, and maybe something will come of that.  

But remember, the outcome is irrelevant. You express the love, that’s your responsibility. It ends there. What the recipient does with it is up to them. You’ve expressed it. You care for the widows and the orphans, the fatherless; for those in prison. Remember, that’s what he’s been going through here. For those who are suffering, for strangers. These are the ways in which you express the Lord’s love into the world. 

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Again he’s talking about the leaders who are placed over you in the Church.  

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

This is the first clue that somebody who is writing this is being kept from them. Maybe he’s in prison; maybe that’s why he’s saying be kind to prisoners.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

A great doxology; a great benediction.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. 

Now, who’s Timothy? He’s the guy who travelled around with Paul, and he himself had been in prison and had now been released.  

If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.

Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy

Who’s in Italy? Rome. 

send you their greetings.

And then, with a word that nobody else in the New Testament used, he says:

Grace be with you all.

This was his mark. Look at all of his epistles. At the end, grace. You won’t find that—John used the word once, in a different context. Only Paul used it this way. But we’re not here to say that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, I’m just showing you some little hints that can lead you to go in that direction, if you’re so inclined. It doesn’t matter who wrote it because if God wanted us to know, He wanted it to be made public, He would have had the letter signed and it would have said, The Epistle to the Hebrews from Paul. But it doesn’t say that, it just says, The Epistle to the Hebrews. The writer has purposely maintained anonymity to get the point across.

Now look at that, we’ve come to the end of the Book of Hebrews. I’m just going to repeat a couple of verses here to give us a proper conclusion to this study.

Hebrews 13:20 and 21:

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.