Summary: An expository message admonishing believers to a life of praise and good works.
“Praise That is Pleasing”
August 25, 2002
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Fort Worth, Texas
The Text: Hebrews 13:15-16
The Text Summary:
The author of Hebrews admonishes believers to a lifestyle of offering praise to God; the praise that pleases Him begins with appreciation for His blessings and results in actions that glorify Him.
The Message Outline:
I. The admonition to a lifestyle of praise to God.
a. Offering praise to God is the believer’s joy and duty.
b. Authentic praise necessarily involves sacrifice.
1. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant:
a. Burnt offerings.
b. Grain offerings.
c. Peace offerings.
d. Sin and guilt offerings.
2. The sacrifices of the New Covenant:
a. The death of Christ (Rom. 5:6-10; Is. 53:4-12; Mk. 14:22-26).
b. The “death” (self-offering) of the believer (Rom. 6:3-13, 12:1; Matt. 10:38-39).
II. The anatomy of praise to God.
a. Authentic praise begins with the (grateful) heart and moves to the (joyous) lips.
b. Authentic praise progresses from an attitude of gratitude to actions that glorify God.
1. “Do good” is to obey the Lord.
2. “To share” is to distribute in the Lord’s name.
III. The acceptance of praise by God (“for with such sacrifices God is well pleased”).
The story is told of a young French soldier, during the First World War, who received a serious wound during the Battle of the Somme. The young man’s right arm had been so severely damaged that it had to be amputated. The soldier was a magnify-cent specimen of manhood, and the surgeon was heartbroken that the young man would thereafter go though life maimed. The physician waited by the bedside of the officer to tell him the bad news about his arm when he regained consciousness. When the lad’s eyes opened, the surgeon said to him: “I am sorry to tell you that you lost your right arm.” “Sir,” the officer said with tears, “I didn’t lose it; I gave it—for France.”
Adopting a lifestyle of offering and sacrifice is the exactly the point of Hebrews chapter 13, verses 15-16. Here, the anonymous author of this letter to a group of Hebrew believers, admonishes his readers to develop a lifestyle of offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God. But the admonition doesn’t end there, but rather only begins there. The epistle’s author, in these two short verses, is actually describing the kind of praise that pleases God. The kind of praise that pleases God, he will argue, is a praise that is continuous; praise that begins with a grateful heart for blessings received, and moves to expression in song and prayer and testimony through joyous lips; and praise that progresses from words that glorify God to deeds that glorify Him.
By way of background, you will recall that the Book of Hebrews was penned by an anonymous author under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to a group of Jewish Christians who appear at the time of the letter’s composition to be weakening in their commitment to Christ, because of persecution and social pressures, and are contemplating a return to Judaism. The author of this epistle is well aware of the disastrous consequences of that course of action, and so writes a polemical letter to persuade these faltering believers to stay united to Jesus Christ. The argument of the entire letter is quite simple. Jesus Christ is superior to angels, to the prophets, to the Law, the sacrifices, the temple, and the priesthood. In fact, he will actually argue that all of those Old Covenant principles and ceremonies were only instituted temporarily by God to point to the coming redemptive work of Jesus Christ anyway. They never were intended to be permanent, but were transitory and their end—their fulfillment—was Christ. Consequently, the letter argues, don’t exchange the superior for the inferior, the eternal for the temporal, or the end for the means.
Chapter 13 of the letter to the Hebrews is the last portion of this epistle. Unlike the previous 12 chapters, the author here abandons the logical progression of his argument and instead concentrates his closing remarks on short, pithy, words to encourage specific behavioral changes in his readers. He reminds them that marriage is honorable and that the immoral are liable to judgment. He admonishes them to treat strangers hospitably, because Abram and Lot by doing so were actually entertaining angels unawares. He requests their prayers, reminds them of the blessings of the eternal covenant which we have inherited by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, warns them to tolerate no false doctrine, and encourages these disciples to respect and honor those who are over them as teachers of the Word of God.
And buried in this treasure-trove of Gospel instruction, warning, and encouragement, we find these two pearls of great price: Hebrews 13:15-16: