Practical Living with Eternal Perspective - Part 1
Read: Hebrews 13:1-16
Culturally acceptable, Non-confrontational, Popular, Fluid…
Hopefully these aren’t “pillars” on which your life and the local church stand. The Hebrew readers have come to an understanding, as you should, that the demands of God on a true Christian’s life aren’t easy. They have been taught for 12 chapters about the superiority of Christ in His person, His priesthood, His sacrifice, and His provisions for them. Now they are about to learn what that all means practically for them. What is acceptable with God is not some kind of “popular” Christianity.
The Hebrew writer builds towards v13, which is the key to the chapter and the key to the book of Hebrews: Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. A Hebrew lived in fear of being cut off from among the people (i.e. Ex 12:15, 19; 30:33, etc.), but now outside the camp is the place of nearness to God.
V1-16 - Christian Living Outside the Camp
Normal Christianity will not align with the cultural norms around you.
V1-3 take up Hospitality. First, in relation to brothers. There must be an unwavering love for one another as believers since we are from the same “household of faith”.
Next, the subject is strangers. The word for a “stranger” is not in the text, but nearly every translation supplies it. We should be willing to share what we have with others. The Western norm finds hospitality inconvenient, whereas hospitality should be the Christian standard. When is the last time you had someone into your own home? For Abraham, the unnamed example in the verse, the result was that he had the immense privilege of serving heavenly guests including the Lord Himself.
Lastly, prisoners for Christ. We should have a care for others who are faithful to God and are prisoners for it. We can remember to pray for those in persecuted lands. If we live in a persecuted country, we shouldn’t fear associating with them.
V4 is about Matrimony. Marriage is honourable and was instituted it at creation. Celibacy isn’t higher Christianity. The will of God may be singleness for some, and the will of God may be marriage for some. You are not a failure if you aren’t married, though the world would have you think so and sadly some Christians also. To be faithful to one person of the opposite gender is very strange culturally, but it is living with an eternal perspective. To not live with your boyfriend, girlfriend or fiancé before marriage is unheard of in the world. The norms of Roman culture and the present Western world aren’t what we live by. Rather God has given marriage, and “whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
V5-6 are instructions about Money. These are challenging verses. First, do not love money and be content with what you have. How strange in every culture! Why? Because the Lord said, “I will never (ever) leave thee, nor (ever) forsake thee.” And then when our needs are supplied we may boast in the Lord.
Next in v7 are the guides of the past. People who have taught us in the past and have passed on have left a legacy that should be followed. Their life is not just words, but is also works. The ones in the verse have lived out their own teaching and finished well. Great men and women for God leave a vacancy for younger men and women of the faith to leave a lasting positive impact on the next generation. What kind of legacy will you leave?
But men are just men. So the writer in v8 brings in the unchanging lead of Jesus Christ, “the same, yesterday and today and for ever.” Culture and norms are always changing, but Christ never changes. A life like Christ’s is always relevant to God and will bring eternal unfading reward.
Not everyone who claims to be “Christian” should be followed. There is a danger of unchristian teaching. These teachers stress things of no eternal value. For the Hebrews, it was food laws. We should be more concerned with what comes out us, rather than regulations on what goes into us. (Matt 15:18) Are we?
V10-16 divulges into the rights that only believers have. We have a special altar. The Hebrew people had an altar, and so do we. Our altar is the substance – Christ. The OT priests ate specified parts of the offerings brought to the altar. We are able to enjoy the things of God concerning His Son because we have been sanctified by the blood of Christ.
But notice that the altar is not inside the camp, inside the gate, or inside the court of the tabernacle. It is outside the camp, and outside the gate, formerly a place of uncleanness and the place where the sin offering was made. Yet because it is where Christ is, it is not a place of separation from God but a place of separation to God.
What we might expect in the final four verses that we are considering are commands to go forth, and to worship God. Instead there are requests that require our consent. The writer states that the natural response to the person and work of Christ in the believer is to “go forth.” To live a life “outside the camp” means not moving in alignment with the world, religion, and even many Christians. It is a life with eternal perspective, seeking a city to come.
Again, the worship in v15 is not commanded. Worship cannot be mandated. In technical terms, like v13, there is no imperative. No command. There is a subjunctive. It is what we could, should, would and ought to do – “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually…” How often are praises to God on our lips? Not just shallow “thank you.” But why are you thankful? For saving you? Why is that important? Think deeply about God and spend time considering of the excellence of His person. Worship is the response of the heart.
Lastly, v16 points out that sacrifices to God aren’t just with words, but with works also. Obeying the commands of v1-9 out of a love for God is worship. The requirements for pleasing God aren’t beyond our reach– they are simply the sacrifices of doing good and sharing with others.
Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.
How could you work hospitality into your regular weekly routine?
In what ways can you encourage single Christians? What sorts of things should you guard against in case you discourage or stumble them?
What does ‘outside the camp’ mean today?