9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
The author has previously spoken about remembering the apostolic leaders who spoke to them the word of God and imitating their faith. Keep to the teachings you have been taught and do not move from them. Verse 9 continues this thinking. Do not be led astray by all of the diverse and strange teachings that are out there. Particularly, the problem was that there was a teaching that they were strengthen by foods, and not by grace. True life is in grace, not in food regulations. We are in the family of God by grace, not by the foods that we eat. We see this problem more expressly described in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
We live in a world that continues to fill itself with strange teachings. We have people claiming that Jesus was married and had children, contrary to any biblical or extra-biblical evidence. We have religious people claiming that the scriptures are not trustworthy, being edited and distorted from the original message. We have preachers teaching that if you enlarge your vision and conceive it in your heart, God will give it to you. They say that God wants to give you your dream house, if you will only visualize it and believe it. We live in a world that teaches that God is merely a hobby. Show up for services once in a while and you will appease God. God is our idol and we do want we want and he will be happy with that. We have people like Oprah teaching that all spirituality leads to God. All that matters is being spiritual. Even within our own brethren there are strange teachings about the church and about salvation. Don’t be pulled away from the word of God. The apostles’ teaching is what is important. We cannot hold to traditions. We cannot grab on to every new doctrine. Neither extreme will help our faith. Hold on to the word of God.
10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
This is a tricky point that I think many miss. So let us carefully comb through these words to see the point that the author is making. We have a special altar that those not under Christ do not have access to. The Old Testament priesthood does not have access to this altar. By implication, I think this is saying that the sinful nation of Israel does not have access to his altar. Verse 11 recalls the Old Testament system. The blood was taken into the holy place as an offering for sin and the body was taken outside the camp. Jesus parallels this. The writer has already told us that through the death of Jesus, he went into the realities of heaven, not the copies of the earthly tabernacle. The cross is the altar upon which the sacrifice for sins was made. Through the cross we are made holy and set apart. But crucifixion was done outside of the city walls, because the Jews thought that it was a defilement, based upon the law of Moses. This is why the author says Jesus suffered outside the gate. He is referring to suffering outside the gates of the city. He suffered for sins and bore insults to be an offering for atonement. Now notice verse 13:
“Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” Now, on the surface, this sounds like a fairly straightforward teaching. Enduring suffering like Jesus suffered. We need to go to Jesus. Let us make the sacrifice that he made. Let us go down the road that Jesus walked, carrying the cross to our death. It is not us who live, but Jesus is what is living in us. Let us carry the cross and disregard the shame as we go to Jesus. This is not a message of moving to what is comfortable for us. This is a call for us to move to Jesus despite the suffering.
But notice how we are to go to Jesus. We go to him by going “outside the camp.” He is calling on his readers to leave Jerusalem and all that it stands for. Leave the physical city and go to Jesus. Leave the law of Moses and go to Jesus. The point seems to be similar to the point made by Paul in Galatians 4 when he used an allegory to show that the people should leave the law of Moses, leave Sinai, and leave the physical nation and go to spiritual, heavenly Jerusalem. The author of Hebrews has made the same point. Verse 14 shows that our interpretation is correct. Leave Jerusaelem because we have no lasting city here. Rather, we see the city that is to come. Go outside the city. Leave behind the physical and go to Jesus, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Our hope is in the eternal city, not in Jerusalem. Paradise is not here.
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
So what should we do since we are leaving physical Jerusalem with its sacrifices. Do not offer the physical sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. But we still have to offer sacrifices. But these are not the sacrifices of animals. It is not the sacrifice of blood. Now we all must offer the continual sacrifice of praise to God. Our praise is now our offering to God. Notice that he explains what this offering looks like. It is the fruit of our lips that God desires. Our sacrifice is praising God with our lips. Our sacrifice is the confession of our lips of who he is. Are we making our offering? We still need to come to God with our offerings. But are we remembering to offer worship with the fruit of our lips? Are we confessing him to people we know? Are we acknowledging Jesus to the world? The fruit of our lips must not be filthy, improper words. We must have lips that offer the sacrifice of praise.
The second sacrifice we must offer is doing good and sharing the things we have with others. These are sacrifices that pleases God. Animal sacrifices are not the things that please God. Are we offering these sacrifices? Are we doing good toward others? Are we giving the possessions and wealth that God has so generously given to us? Our possessions are not for us to spend on ourselves selfishly. We have things to do good for the kingdom of God and to share with others.
Third, obey your leaders and submit to them. I believe these leaders are the shepherds of local congregations. They are watching over our souls, which fits Paul’s instructions in Acts 20:28. They have to give an account in regards to their charge and shepherding over us. It is our responsibility to yield to them and to obey them. They are looking our for us. We need to let them shepherd us with joy, not with pain and groaning. Shepherds are to help us. They are an advantage for our souls. Why would we want to treat them badly or ignore their guidance and instructions? We need to work together with our shepherds for the goal of expanding God’s kingdom in the hearts of the people.
18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The writer is now concluding this lesson and he has some final remarks. He asks for the prayers of the people. They have a clear conscience about the things they are doing for the Lord. But they desire to act honorably in all that they are doing. The author is also hopeful to be with these Christians again.
Verses 20-21 are a powerful doxology. It summarizes our hope in the resurrection of Jesus and our hope by the blood of the eternal covenant, the blood shed by Jesus our Savior. May we in this hope be equipped for every good work so that we will do God’s will.
22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you. (ESV)
The final verses offer some personal information. Timothy has been released. He apparently had been imprisoned. Perhaps Timothy is one of the leaders we studied in Hebrews 13:7 that they were to remember by way of their teaching and faith. Keep your eyes on the eternal city. Leave the physical and go with Jesus to the cross.