Summary: Sanctified by the blood of Jesus.
THE GRACE OF GOD AND THE REPROACH OF CHRIST
This short passage opens with an exhortation to beware of strange and diverse teachings (Hebrews 13:9a). The temptation for these Hebrew Christians was that they might return to laws about ‘foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances’ which had been imposed only as a type of what was to come (cf. Hebrews 9:10). Or worse, that they might take their eyes off Jesus (cf. Hebrews 12:2), and even return to the Law as an imagined means of salvation (cf. Galatians 3:3).
There is a danger when people tell us that what we have in Christ Jesus is not enough. This is why Paul exhorts us elsewhere, ‘Let no man deceive you with vain words’ (Ephesians 5:6); and ‘be not carried about with every wind of doctrine’ (Ephesians 4:14). The temptation for us, too, is that we might take our eyes off Jesus (cf. Hebrews 12:2).
In our present context, the writer commends good teachers, and encourages his readers to follow their faith, and to consider the end of their conversation: which is ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever’ (Hebrews 13:7-8). No, never mind these other teachings, “For it as a good thing that the heart be established with GRACE; not with meats, &c.” (Hebrews 13:9b).
“GRACE” has been a recurring theme throughout this letter. It is ‘by the GRACE of God that Christ tasted death for every man’ (Hebrews 2:9b). It is ‘the throne of GRACE’ which we may boldly approach ‘that we may obtain mercy and find GRACE to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16).
When people turn away from ‘the knowledge of the truth’ (cf. Hebrews 10:26) they ‘do despite unto the Spirit of GRACE’ (Hebrews 10:29b). So we are warned to beware ‘lest any man fail of the GRACE of God’, giving rise to a ‘root of bitterness’ (Hebrews 12:15). Otherwise, since we are ‘receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have GRACE, that we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear’ (Hebrews 12:28).
Here, “it is a good thing that the heart be established with GRACE; not with meats &c.” (Hebrews 13:9b). Elsewhere Paul refers to ‘the GOSPEL of the GRACE of GOD’ (Acts 20:24), which is exactly what Hebrews is all about. The letter ends, ‘GRACE be with you all’ (Hebrews 13:25).
So, no turning back to “meats, which have not profited them which have been occupied therein” (Hebrews 13:9c). No, “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the (earthly) tabernacle” (Hebrews 13:10). Just as “the bodies of those beasts whose blood was brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin” (on the annual Day of Atonement) “were burned outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:11; cf. Leviticus 16:27); “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate” (Hebrews 13:12; cf. John 19:17-18).
Jesus had our sanctification in view throughout. Listen to His prayer before He suffered: ‘And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth’ (cf. John 17:19). In a wonderful turn of phrase, our writer told us earlier that ‘both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: because He is not ashamed to call them brethren’ (Hebrews 2:11).
Not only did Jesus die for our sins, but He ‘was raised again for our justification’ (Romans 4:25). In other words, His resurrection is a testimony to the fact that His offering on our behalf has been accepted: the penalty of our sin is fully paid. Whatever we may have been before we came to Him, ‘but we are washed, but we are sanctified, but we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11).
We were reading some weeks ago about Moses, who ‘esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt’ (Hebrews 11:26). Our writer now says, “Let us go forth therefore unto Him (Jesus) outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13). Peter says, ‘If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you’ (1 Peter 4:14).
Affliction is momentary and bears no comparison with the glory to come (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17). Our writer reminds us that, like Abraham (cf. Hebrews 11:10), “here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Elsewhere Paul says, ‘Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (cf. Philippians 3:20).