Spiritual Duties

Hebrews 13:7-14

(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh in 1978.)

In our last study, we examined Hebrews 13:1-6. In verses 1-3, the writer exhorted the Hebrews to show love to other believers in Christ. The command was in the present imperative, meaning it is something that always must be done. He said, 'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.' The word 'stranger' refers to believers who we do not know. We must always show love to other brothers and sisters in Christ.

In verse 4, the writer turned his attention to the marriage relationship. He said, 'let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adultery God will judge.' The writer warned us that a sexual relationship is to take place within the bonds of a marriage between a man and woman only. Those who have sex outside of marriage, whether married or single, have defiled the marriage bed, and will be judged by God for their sin.

Finally, in verses 5 and 6, the writer addressed covetousness and contentment. He warned us, saying, 'Let your way of life be free from the love of money... .' Believers are not to be placing the desire for material possessions ahead of their relationship with Christ. Rather, we are to be 'content' with what we have. How are we to be content? We need to keep our eyes focused on Christ. He promises 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.' When we understand this, everything falls into place. We will be content no matter what our financial situation because of our eternal condition.

Hebrews 13:7-25

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ {is} the same yesterday and today, {yes} and fore ever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, though which those who were thus occupied were not benefited. We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest {as an offering for sin}, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, 1et us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking {the city} which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Obey your leaders, and submit {to them} for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief,for this would be unprofitable for you. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in a11 things. And I urge {you} all the more to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, {even} Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His wi1l, working in us that whlch is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom {be} the glory forever and ever. Amen. But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released; with whom, if he comes soon, I shall see you. Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. Grace be with you all.

Beginning in verse 7, the writer addresses the problem of believers being led astray by false doctrine. Verse 9 becomes the key statement in verses 7-14 as the writer exhorts the Hebrews to remain focused on Christ, and find all satisfaction in the revelation of His superiority.

Verse 7

Verse 7 begins with the exhortation, 'Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the outcome of their way of life, imitate their faith.' The writer is not referring to the Hebrew's current leaders, but rather to those who had led them in the past. These leaders are mentioned in Hebrews 2:3,4; 'How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.' This is the group of people the writer is referring to in chapter 13; the apostles and prophets, and their representatives who had communicated the Word of God to them.

They are told to remember those who led them in the past, particularly 'considering the outcome of their way of life, imitate their faith.' They are to pattern their lives after those who had taught them the Word of God. The same is true for us. We should be able to pattern our life after the person who led us to Christ, and those we lead to Christ should be able to pattern their lives after us. If we imitate the faith of a mature believer, we wi11 see the result of that faith manifested in our daily lives. When we trust God and rely upon Him so that our life will be patterned after others who trust and obey the Lord, we will experience consistency in our walk.


Verse 8 is perhaps the most famous verse in the book of Hebrews. The writer says, 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.' Some people use this verse to support their theory that Jesus is performing the same kind of miracles and healings today that He did when He was on earth. But this is not the meaning of this verse. How do we know? Jesus Christ spent 3 1/2 years in ministry on earth, in a fleshly body. He is not doing that today. The point the writer is making is that the character and nature of Christ is unchanging. His sufficiency for our salvation is settled for eternity. Jesus Christ is the one who saved Paul from his sin, and He is the same one who saves us from our sin.

What does this tell us? It tells us that our salvation does not depend on anything we do. When someone uses the excuse, 'God won't save me. I'm just not good enough.' We can say, 'It doesn't matter how good you are. Christ is the only one sufficient to save you from your sin. and He is the same '...yesterday, and today, yes and forever.' It does not matter how different the world is, Jesus Christ is the same for eternity.


The writer turns to the problem that he wants to consider in verse 9. He says, 'Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited.' The tone of this exhortation indicates that some of the Hebrews were already being 'carried away' by teachings that were not consistent with what had been revealed to them concerning Jesus Christ. This exhortation is extremely fitting for Christians today. False teaching has existed in every age, but as Peter writes '...there will be false teachers among you...' (2nd Peter 2:1), referring to the church age.

It seems that some Christians are more gullible than others regarding false teaching, and Christians in our age seem particularly gullible. Many Christians in our time willingly follow whoever claims to be a believer in Jesus Christ, regardless if this person's teaching is contrary to Scripture or not. The list, of these movements, includes psychology, the demonization of believers, Promise Keepers, the Roman Catholic/Evangelical Accord...etc. These movements are the trade marks of the 'Christian Faith' in our generation, yet not one of these movements is Scripturally sound. What does this say about our faith? It says that many of us have been 'carried away by varied and strange teachings.' What a tragedy this is.

We need to be careful because some of the false teaching, that we encounter, is not obvious. In fact, those promoting it will often point out verses that support their teaching. It is like counterfeit money. We need to be discerning in order to recognize the counterfeit, because although it looks good, it is worth absolutely nothing. The writer says, '...it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited.' The 'food' refers to the Mosaic system. In other words the writer is saying, eating and drinking certain things (the physical worship that was characteristic of the Mosaic system) does not strengthen us. It is the salvation provided by the person and work of Jesus Christ, through the grace of God, that gives us strength and ennoblement.

We saw this truth in Hebrews 9:8-10; 'The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the time then present, according to which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.' It is interesting that the writer wants to correct 'varied and strange teachings,' which actually consist of a misuse of the Old Testament. The question is 'Didn't God give the law? How can it be considered varied and strange?' Yes, God did give the Law, but it was only 'imposed until a time of reformation' that occurred through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

As we mature in Christ, we come to the full knowledge of Him (Ephesians4:ll-l3). As a result of this maturity, '...we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in Love we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ' (Ephesians 4:14,15). The emphasis is the maturity that comes through the teaching of the Word of God. As the Word is taught, it is to be applied in the life of a believer. When this application occurs, the transformation to spiritual maturity is put into motion, and the result is 'we are no longer to be children.'

Just as our physical children are easily influenced, so too are spiritual children. When our physical children are raised correctly, they begin to mature, and become more and more discerning. This is true for spiritual children as well. When we mature through the study of God's Word, we have the ability to recognize and avoid false teaching. For example, how do I know that Mormonism is false teaching? Have I read every book about the Mormons? No. Have I sat down and talked to many Mormons? No. but I do know that Jesus Christ is not Adam come back to life because the Bible tells me exactly who Jesus Christ is. In like manner, I know that the Jehovah's Witnesses are teaching false theology. How do I know that? Because they deny the deity of Jesus Christ. This teaching is in direct opposition to the truth of the Bible. The list of false teaching goes on and on -- Christian psychology, salvation by experience, the Ecumenical movement...etc. As believers, the only way to avoid being blown around by all this false doctrine is to be absorbed in the truth of the Word of God.


The writer illustrates what we have in Christ in verse 10. He says, 'We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.' We have to be reminded of what we have in Christ. He is complete. He is sufficient. He is adequate; yet we remain open to look at other kinds of 'religious' teachings. How foolish can we be. The writer says, 'We have an altar.' This is a reference to the cross of Christ, and what was accomplished there.

The point is, the Hebrews have no reason to turn back to the Mosaic system. They have the 'altar' of Christ, while 'those who serve the tabernacle (follow the Mosaic system) have no right to eat' from that altar.

VERSES 11-12

The writer continues in verses 11 and 12, 'For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp.' The writer is drawing a parallel to the picture of sin offerings seen in Levitcus 16 and the death of Jesus Christ. The priest would make the offering and then take the animal outside the city to symbolize the removal of sin and defilement.

In like manner, the writer then says, 'Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.' Just as the animal in the O1d Testament sacrifice was disposed of outside the city, Christ was also sacrificed and destroyed outside the city, portraying the fact that He was taking the sins of mankind upon Himself.


In verse 13, the writer says, 'Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.' The message to the Hebrews is 'in light of what Christ did for you, you need to leave the camp, and come outside the city.' The 'camp' refers to Israel. These Hebrews did not want to break away from the nation of Israel, so they were holding on to Judaism.

The Jews would have recognized the symbolism of Jesus going outside the city. They knew that the priest, laying his hands on the head of the animal during the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, symbolized the transfer of sin from the individual to the animal. That symbolic action has now been fulfilled through the person and work of Jesus Christ. He takes away our sin and defilement.

The problem is that Christians are called to identify with Christ, '...bearing His reproach.' We have Christians today, just like the Hebrews, who want to hold on to their past worship system so that things won't be so difficult. They ask 'Can't I be a Christian and continue to go to the Roman Catholic church?' Or 'I don't see what's so bad about Christian psychology. We worship the same God don't we?' Do we? This goes back to discernment. A mature believer would not tolerate an atmosphere that is contrary to Scripture. Yet, that is what a majority of believers are doing today, just so they do not have to endure 'reproach.'

The truth is, Christianity has become washed out. We do not go 'outside the camp' because we do not want to be offensive to anybody. The result is that we have a pitiful impact on the world. We say things like, 'I can't leave my church. This is where I've been going since 1 was a little kid. Besides, my parents would be offended.' Offending one's parents is not the issue. The issue is that when someone becomes a believer in the person and work of Jesus Christ, he belongs to Him. A believer is obligated to identify with Christ and stand for Him, regardless of the reproach and suffering that it brings.


The writer reminds us what our focal point is to be in verse 14. He says, 'For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.' The Hebrews could only see the price of commitment to Jesus Christ. They needed to be mindful of what they have in Jesus Christ. True, it wil1 cost them humanly speaking, to follow Christ, but the future reward is well worth it.

What is the future reward? It is 'the city which is to come.' This is the same city we saw in Hebrews 10 - the heavenly Jerusalem. If we are conforming to biblical Christianity, we will suffer for Christ. The blessing is that it will not matter because we are moving toward a city where we wil1 be in the presence of God for eternity. When one looks at it from this perspective, years of persecution on earth mean nothing compared to an eternity in the glorious future kingdom.

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Indian Hills Community Church

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