Chapter 13:7-12 (ESV) - Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 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. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 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. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
Question to consider: Is doctrine really that important? Why or why not?
We continue today to talk about what worshipping the Lord with reverence and awe looks like. We’ve talked about brotherly love which covers hospitality to strangers, caring for prisoners, and empathizing with those who are persecuted for Christ. We’ve talked about marital love which covers honoring the covenant and maintaining sexual purity. Today, we talk about doctrinal purity. Yes, we worship the Lord when we practice doctrinal purity.
The first point the author makes is to remember our church leaders who preached the gospel to us and demonstrated what a new life in Christ looks like. Although we should definitely remember them in their physical needs and in our prayers, the writer is asking us to remember their teachings and imitate their faith. This makes finding faithful shepherds of utmost importance. Here are some key traits for a leader worth following:
In case you think that our views on hospitality, sexuality and doctrine should change in order to keep up with the culture, the author reminds us that Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. If that is unclear, the author explicitly tells the reader to not be led away by strange and diverse teaching. At that time, not only were the Jewish Christians considering a return to the sacrificial system, but they were encouraged to continue with the dietary laws and Sabbaths. The dietary laws were meant to keep Israel separate from the other nations since they were to be God’s people and the ancestral line of Christ. Once Christ came and brought salvation to every tribe and nation, all foods became permissible. So the author warns them that it is only by God’s grace that our hearts are strengthened and that dietary laws no longer mean anything.
In fact, the author points out that those who are devoted to the dietary laws and calling the Jewish Christians to do the same have received no benefit from their actions and are not even worthy to eat the food from our altar. Our altar would be the cross, and the food of which he speaks is communion. Christ’s body and blood was broken and shed for us outside the gate to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Lord God, guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus so that we are not deceived by the false teachers who have dominated the church landscape today. Help us to be surrounded by faithful teachers and create a passion in us to know and understand your word. Teach us to be your disciples who long to worship you in spirit and in truth and to share your truth with others. Amen.