Monday, February 06, 2006

Hebrews 13:1-16

We come to the closing chapter of this treatise written to instruct and encourage Jewish Christians about Jesus and faith in Jesus. Here the author sums up his major themes and aims elaborated in previous chapters. Thus we find – and do well to read and re-read, to ponder and take to heart – these pithy statements of belief and exhortations to action. As we read and take to heart, we should note two fundamental principles threading through Hebrews and these final remarks.

One principle concerns the vital connections between worship, belief, and practice. Compare verses 1, 9, and 15. Verse 1 speaks to right practice. Verse 9 addresses right belief. Verse 15 deals with right worship. These verses exemplify how the author intermingles the importance of worship, belief, and practice. They intrinsically connect with each other. We must not separate our worship, belief, and practice. We must not think the Christian life consists in one or the other, or in one or two more than another. They reflect and reinforce each other in the life of faith. Right worship, belief, and practice weave a seamless cloth of true and mature faith. We should seek to grow in each, and in all together, to grow in faithfulness to Jesus.

The other principle, perhaps less obvious, concerns the marginal character of Jesus’ life, and hence the marginal character of faithful life in Jesus. Compare verses 11 through 13. I do not mean “marginal” in the sense of unimportant. I mean it in the sense of outside the mainstream of what the world or culture deems valuable and desirable. Jesus died outside the city, outside the walls enclosing Jerusalem, the center of religious and national life in Israel. This, along with the manner of his death, disgraced him. It represented repudiation of him by the centers of power, authority, and respectability in the world. We, his followers, can expect no other than Jesus received. We must not seek “the center of the city,” else we turn our back on Jesus.

Yet we have, as this author writes, great encouragement. The city of this world is fragile and temporary, however much the city and its residents pretend to be strong and permanent. We are only resident aliens in this worldly city. We are moving to live in a new city, founded on Calvary, built to last on the rock of an empty tomb, where worship, belief, and practice dwell together in perfect and endless glory.

Gregory Strong

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