GOING OUTSIDE OF THE CITY TO BEAR CHRIST’S REPROACH—continued (Hebrews 13:13)
When the believers pass through that gate in which they separate themselves forever from the types and shadows as a way of salvation, then they will glory in the cross of Christ through which they have been crucified to the world, and by which cross the world is crucified to them. (Gal. 6:14) This makes for a new ground of boasting; all other teachings are strange and heretical. But this also calls forth the hatred and scorn and derision of those who glory in works, and not in the cross. Here is the borderline between the sons of the flesh and the sons of the promise. And the sons of the flesh ever are full of enmity against the sons of Sarah, Jerusalem which is above. (Gal. 4:21-31) But they will not be heirs with the sons of the free-woman, but shall be cast out. (Gen. 21:10) But those who remain within the gate are really the sons of the bondwoman, Hagar, who are cast out of the inheritance of Isaac and the “Seed” which is called in Him. (Gen. 21:12) Against this back-ground we must see the “reproach” which the Hebrews Christians will need to endure when they cling to Christ, the Head, and will not allow any man to judge them in “meat and drink, or in respect of a feast-day, or of a new moon, or of sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come.” (Col. 2:16, 17) This is the glorious prospect of those who heed the injunction, “Let us go forth, therefore, unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.”
But Jesus had said, “In the world you shall have tribulations.” (John 16:33a) Often Jesus told His disciples that they would need to suffer for His sake, for righteousness’ sake. That would be inwardly blessed. For the “reproach of Christ” is the reproach wherewith He was reproached of the world, the seed of the Serpent. But never is that reproach so bitter and fierce, as when this comes from those who have heard the Christ preaching His Cross as the condemnation of all human pride, and of those who would glory in the flesh and not in God. We must here, “outside of the gate,” look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy which was set before him, endured the Cross and despised the shame and was set down on the right hand of God.
Then we lift up our eyes to a better city, which has twelve gates whither the twelve tribes of Israel enter in. Outside of this city will be all the unbelievers who “reproached” the church of the living God in the world, and mocked and persecuted her unto the death. For without are the dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, which includes also those who reproach the church for Christ’s sake. These make a lie; these have strange and manifold doctrines by which the church must not be carried away. (Phil. 3:2; Rev. 22:15) The writer to the Hebrews stresses that “we have here no abiding city.” Never did we have here an abiding city. All the history of the earthly city of Jerusalem testifies to this fact. We have here but to read all the prophets as they predict the fall of the earthly city in the captivity to Babylon. Jerusalem is a heap of ruins, a den of dragons, when sacked and destroyed by the hordes which come across the Euphrates. (Jer. 9:11) She is desolate and without an inhabitant. No, we seek, with great longing, one which is about to come. This Jerusalem will descend out of heaven. It is the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We do not look back, but we look forward with our eyes riveted upon that heavenly city. We seek the things above, where Christ is. Our citizenship is in heaven. (Hebrews 11:9, 10; Phil. 3:20, 21) Here in that heavenly city we will have the true tabernacle of God with man. (Rev. 21:3) In this hope of better things let us go forth outside of the gate bearing Christ’s reproach, in order to be rewarded with him with the crown of life after we have endured and been approved. (I Peter 1:6, 7; James 1:12) Rejoice then with joy unspeakable outside of the “gate” of all unbelief which is disobedient to the Son and which will not see life, but will remain under the wrath of God!
THE ONE SACRIFICE LEFT FOR US TO OFFER THROUGH CHRIST (Hebrews 13:15)
Christ is the end (telos) of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. He that believes hath eternal life; He has passed from death into life and shall not come into condemnation. If we confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in our hearts that God hath raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved. (John 3:36;John 5:24; Rom 10:4-10) The believer confesses unto salvation. From the fullness of his heart his mouth speaketh. This speech is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of faith. And this speech is a spiritual sacrificewhen directed to God in thanksgiving.
The writer to the Hebrews mentions here that we must bring sacrifices of praise to God. He puts it in the “let us” form. He includes himself amongst those who go outside of the gate to bear Christ’s reproach. He will lead them personally outside of the city and teach by word and by good example. And here outside of the gate, and by the power of the cross of Christ, by the death and resurrection of the Son of God, through which he has been renewed unto the image of God, he will bring sacrifices of praise. That is the only sacrificeleft in the New Testament church. Yes, it is a sacrifice. It is laid on the altar of incense before the throne of God. It is praise which is presented to God. It is holy singing and confession and prayers, all the days of our life, but especially on the New Testament Sabbath Day, the Day of the Lord. No, he will not be judged in Old Testament new moons, meats, drinks, sabbaths of the lunar calendar. These were a “taskmaster” to Christ, which hemmed him in till the time appointed. He clings to Christ, the Head, from which all the body grows with the increase of God. (Col. 2:19; Eph. 4:16) Those who have gone forth outside of the camp of O.T. Israel’s laws and shadows have the spirit of the risen Lord. They are ingrafted into Christ the Head, and it isimpossible that he would not bring forth fruit of thankfulness. (Rom. 6:1-7) For we are not under law (upo nomou) but under grace (upo charin). This means that he must bring the sacrifices of praise to God. He is here not tied to the Old Testament priesthood of Aaron, but he is in the living spiritual priest hood in Christ Jesus. He is an office-bearer who can come into the temple to bring his sacrifice. It is the fruit of hislips. And upon these lips God has placed His praise,Soli Dee Gloria; it the praise of the glory of grace. (Eph. 1:6) It is the song than which there is none greater: the Song of Moses and the Lamb, telling redemption’s story of the sovereign love and grace of God. Here is no glorying of the wise in his wisdom, nor of the rich in his riches, nor of the mighty in his might; but here is a glory in this, that we know that God is the Lord, who exercises lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth—at Calvary, where Christ becomes unto us the wisdom of God, righteousness, sanctification and complete redemption. Eternity will not be long enough for the redeemed to bring the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of the lips. In God’s eternal tabernacle which is heavenly, we will bring these sacrifices.
And they will be “acceptable to God”. In the dawn of history, when the Son of God was gathering His church, there was a sacrifice which pleased God. It was the sacrifice of Abel. (Gen. 4:5; Heb. 11:4; I John 3:11, 12) God was not pleased with the sacrifice of Cain. Why? He did not bring it through Christ. The writer to the Hebrews emphatically places on the foreground that these sacrifices must be “through him”. (Di’ autou) He alone is the way to the Father, whether that be now on earth as we walk by faith, or presently in glory when we shall see God face to face in the face of Jesus Christ. “No one cometh unto the Father, except through (by)me.” (di’ emou) On this one point the Lord is very emphatic: by Me, and by no one else! And no sacrifice of praise is acceptable in all the earth and heavens if it is not brought through Jesus, Who suffered without the gate for our sins. There is no sacrifice of praise which is not connected with the sin-offering. The whole burnt-offering only means something after the sin-offering has been brought outside of the camp of Israel.
PRACTICAL SERVICE OF GRATITUDE PLEASING TO GOD (Hebrews 13:16)
The Lord is not well-pleased with a dead faith which does not reveal itself in good works. Faith without works is death! The writer to the Hebrews has this in mind when he says, “but do good and to communicate forget not”. To “do good” is a translation of a word which means to do well, to do beautiful deeds. We think here of the alms deeds which Dorcas did, when she made coats and garments for the poor. Such mercy is truly beautiful. We often forget this. We feel that if only we go to church punctually, listen to the sermons, and sing of the wonderful love of God, that this is sufficient. It is all dead works if we close up our bowels of mercy for the poor and needy. Then all our speaking of the wonder of what Christ did for us outside of the gate is tinkling brass and a sounding cymbal. How does then the love of God dwell in our hearts? If God so loved us, how ought we to love one another. (I John 3:16, 17) True sons of Abraham will walk in the footsteps of a living faith which believes in God even when all seems dark and impossible. So also in the church we must have a faith which believes in God, that God gives us abundance, that those who have nothing have no lack. (II Cor. 10:6) God has His secret blessing upon the liberal soul. He puts it into his hands to distribute it to the poor. With such sacrifices God is well-pleased.
For in such sacrifices there is a “communication”. The translation “to communicate” is not good here. In the Greek text there is not a verb or infinitive noun. The Dutch translates “mededeel-zaamheid“. This refers to the inner quality and propensity to exercise the fellowship of goods as an expression of the love of Christ. The resultant notion can be then to communicate goods, necessities to the poor. This, too, we must not forget. We live in an age when we allow all kinds of organizations to rob us from these joys. We must allow this to be our spiritual sacrifice of love and mercy. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
This, too, we must do and perform through Christ. In the power of His death and resurrection we must do so. And we must be thus, through Him, an imitator of Him, Who had compassion upon the multitudes. This is not a mere social gospel, which is no gospel, but this is the working out of our thankfulness with fear and trembling, looking for the reward of grace. Then it shall be said: “what ye have done to the least of these which are mine, ye have done so unto me.” That will be in the city which we are seeking, the abiding city!