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ESTABLISHED BY GRACE – Hebrews 13:7-10

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 25, 2017 under PM Bible Study |

PM Home Bible Study Group; May 25, 2017

Hebrews 13:4-6

Theme: The writer of Hebrews instructs believers in the moral purity that should characterize God’s people during times of cultural pressure.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

In this closing chapter of the Book of Hebrews, we have been considering the practical exhortations that the writer has been giving to his believing readers. These practical exhortations have a specific context: given as they were to Jewish Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith in Jesus.

These Jewish believers felt a great deal of cultural and social pressure to abandon their faith in Jesus Christ and return to their old patterns of Judaism under the Old Covenant. But throughout this letter, it has been the burden of the writer to remind them that the Old Covenant that was given through Moses is no longer in effect; and that Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant—which is a far superior one, and which has completely replaced the old one. More than just warning them not to fall backward, he is exhorting them to go forward into a deeper level of trust in Christ with confident obedience.

These practical exhortations, then, need to be seen as helping followers of Jesus maintain their faithfulness while under cultural and religious pressures. In verses 1-3, the writer gave them instructions regarding relationships with one another in the body of Christ during such times of persecution; and in verses 4-6, he gave exhortations to them regarding moral purity while under pressure. And now, in verses 7-10, we find exhortations regarding their integrity to the doctrine of salvation by faith in God’s grace though Christ—and all while under the trial of pressure from those who sought God’s favor through ceremonial works and religious rituals.

This is a pressure that we—even as Gentile believers—feel today. In spite of the seeming cultural disregard for orthodox forms of religion in our time, there are nevertheless unbelieving people all around us who still aggressively pursue an outward appearance of ‘righteousness’ on the basis of things that they insist everyone else abstain from, or causes they insist everyone else advocate. The follower of Jesus is just as much under pressure in a secular or paganistic society as he or she would be in a culture that is enmeshed in religious ritualism. Paul warned in 1 Timothy 4:1-5;

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

Paul then urged Pastor Timothy that if he instructed God’s people on these things, he would be “a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (v. 6). The words of the writer of Hebrews, then, are very much applicable—and in a very similar way—to our own modern situation as believers.

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Note that the writer first urges his fellow Jewish followers of Jesus …


A. He tells them, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you …” (v. 7a). This is the first of three times in this chapter that the writer will make reference to those who ‘ruled’ over his readers. The word “rule”, however, may be better translated “lead”. That these are meant to be understood as ‘spiritual leaders’ is clear from the fact that—in the later part of verse 7—these particular leaders were said to have spoken the word of God to them. They are mentioned again in verse 17; and once again in verse 24. But in these last two references, it appears that the ‘leaders’ are still alive and active. In verse 7, it appears that the ministry of the ‘leaders’ in question is completed—perhaps by the fact that they had gone on to be with the Lord through death. It may not be that these faithful teachers and preachers of the word were still present with the readers, but the memory of them was still very much a reality to them.

B. If we have had spiritual leaders in our lives that led us faithfully, and taught us biblically, and who had set a godly example for us, we should be very grateful. Paul was able to remind Timothy of the godly example left for him by his grandmother and mother who had taught him the Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:15). He also had the example of Paul himself in sound words (1:13) and in faithful suffering for the gospel (1:8). The readers of this letter to the Hebrews also had great examples to remember. And as Jewish believers, they particularly had the great heritage of faith that had been passed on to them by the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ described in Hebrews 11. Here, the writer of Hebrews urges his readers to call these particular leaders to mind, “whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (v. 7b). These ‘rulers’ (who were Jewish believers, as the context would suggest) lived for Jesus—perhaps even in times of suffering; and perhaps even by giving their lives for their faith. And by remembering the outcome of their faithfulness, the readers who were also suffering persecution and pressure may also be encouraged. Paul passed this same kind of encouragement on to Timothy when he wrote;

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

How important it is that we carefully ‘consider’ not only the godly faith in Jesus that was exhibited in the good spiritual leaders God has placed in our lives, but also the outcome of that faith!

C. And we can do this with great confidence; because as the writer then goes on to assert, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (v. 8). This is a promise about Jesus Christ that the writer has already asserted in Hebrews 1:10-12; quoting directly from the words of Psalm 102: 25-27;

Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,

And the heavens are the work of Your hands.

They will perish, but You will endure;

Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;

Like a cloak You will change them,

And they will be changed.

But You are the same,

And Your years will have no end (Psalm 102:25-27).

This same, eternal, unchanging Jesus is also the Second Person of the Trinity through whom the law of the Old Covenant was given; and so there is no inconsistency in placing faith in Him who, in His pre-incarnate state, first gave the law of the Old Covenant and who then, in His incarnation, came to earth and fulfilled it on our behalf and provided full atonement for us through the cross. And it’s very strategic that the writer makes this point about Jesus in respect to those faithful old teachers whose example is to be followed. It’s not that the readers were to imitate the faith of those leaders as a thing in and of itself; but rather, they were to trust directly in the Lord Jesus Christ just as those leaders themselves had done. The same Jesus that was powerful for them in the past is the same Jesus who is powerful for us today—and for all who will trust in Him personally and directly; for He Himself promised His followers, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

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So; in a time of persecution and pressure, the readers are exhorted, in a positive sense, to follow the godly examples of those who went before them, and led them, and showed them how to give their all for a faithful Savior. And now, in a negative sense, the writer goes on to exhort them …


A. In the light of the example of those who clung faithfully to the faith once delivered to the saints, the writer urges his readers, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines” (v. 9a). The nature of these “various” and “strange” doctrines is most likely explained by the reference in the rest of this verse to “foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them”. This suggests that these believers were under pressure to—among other things—adhere rigidly to Levitical dietary laws in accordance with the regulations given through Moses. And it is certainly not wrong in and of itself to either eat those foods, nor is it wrong not eat them. As Paul said elsewhere that “food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (1 Corinthians 8:8). All things have now been declared “clean” to the follower of Jesus—even to Jewish followers (see Acts 10:9-16). Jesus Himself even taught that “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:11). Rather, the error is in becoming ‘occupied’ with them as a means of obtaining God’s favor.

B. There is an ever present danger for the follower of Jesus to be drawn away from the simplicity of justification by faith in Christ alone, and to get caught up in pressure to follow rituals, and ceremonies, and religious regulations, and the ‘do-s and don’t-s’ of the letter of the law. As Paul warned in Colossians 2:16-23;

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:16-23).

In a very similar way, the writer of Hebrews urges his readers, “For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them” (v. 9b). We are to “stand” in grace before God through Christ (see Romans 5:2), and not by mere external things like ‘foods’.

C. It may be that “foods” are here presented as a figure of speech for the whole observance of the rituals and regulations of the Old Covenant. And in the light of this, notice what he then goes on to tell his readers. In contrast to those who seek God’s favor through those old rituals and ceremonies associated with the tabernacle of the Old Covenant, he writes, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” (v. 10). Under the Old Covenant, the altar of the tabernacle was the center of the Old Covenant rituals and offerings and sacrifices under the law. But in Christ, all of that has been fulfilled; and we enter into full acceptance and fellowship with God through Him alone. No one who still relies on those Old Covenant principles can ever be acceptable before God; “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16a). We, in Christ, then, have an altar in which a complete sacrifice has been made—Jesus Himself being that sacrifice. And thus, the rituals of the Old Covenant are no longer in effect.

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It is a great honor and a great joy to stand before God as 100% acceptable in His sight through Christ alone. This is a doctrine worth clinging tightly to, and giving our all for. And so, we should never allow ourselves to be drawn away from it—even in times of greatest persecution and pressure.

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