BRINGING CONTINUAL SACRIFICE OF PRAISE TO GOD (Heb. 13:15)
That we bring the sacrifice of praise to God through Jesus Christ follows of necessity from the great sacrifice of Christ which He brought without the gate at Jerusalem. That is the God-intended intent, purpose, and design of salvation itself. The highest and chief end of salvation is the glory of God, the glory of His grace. (Eph. 1:6) That is the end of the work of God’s sovereign grace and election in all His redeemed people. Such is the force of the particle “wherefore” in the text. For in the context the writer made it abundantly clear and lucid that, if we are not to be carried away, we must cling to Christ Jesus Who is yesterday, today, and forever the same. All of salvation culminates in the great day of atonement when all is purified in the sacrifice, which is brought at Calvary without the city-gate of Jerusalem!
Were it not for this Jesus, there would be neither praise to bring nor any avenue and way unto the Father to bring it. The text places this very emphatically on the foreground. He is the high priest Who must place our prayers and praise upon the altar of incense in the holy place before the throne, the ark of the covenant. Hence, it is through (dia) Him. No one can come to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6) Repeatedly the Scriptures emphasize this point, and we do well to take notice of this. Is this not the Christ Who ever lives to pray for us as the High priest Whose office has no end? His is a priesthood with unbroken continuance. (Heb. 7:3) After He has died for our sins His office before God in the most holy place of heaven has not ended. Shall there be any praise that can come to God and be acceptable, holy, free from all sin, then Christ must purify our praise and place it upon the altar of incense with the prayers of all saints! (Rev. 5:8; Rev. 8:3, 4) Hence by Him, and by no one else, can we bring our-praise to God! The Holy Spirit would have us see this when He takes it all out of Christ and gives it to us, leading us into all the truth of the gospel. Wherefore we read in I Peter 2:5: “Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (italics added) And, again, we read in I Peter 4:11, “. . . if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability that God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the praise and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (italics added) Confer furtherRom. 1:8; Rom. 16:27; Col. 3:17. From all this it is abundantly clear what the Scriptures teach concerning our sacrifices of praise through Christ Jesus and through Him alone.
It should the meanwhile not be overlooked that this sacrifice is to be brought continually. There is a reason for this admonition to-incessant thankfulness and praise. In the Old Testament economy of the shadows this sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise had to follow the sacrifice of the sin offering brought for sin by the priest and high priest. In Lev. 7:11-15 Moses speaks of the ordinance of the thank offering. (tseebhach-todah) Writes Westcott on page 443 of hisThe Epistle to the Hebrews: “In this connection dia tantos (continually) has a peculiar force. That which was an exceptional service under the Old Dispensation is the normal service under the New.” Even the Jewish teachers, says Westcott, gave expression to the thought: R. Pichas, R. Levi, and R. Jochanan said in the name of R. Menachem of Galilee: One day all offerings will cease, only the thank offering will not cease; all prayers will cease, only the thanksgiving prayer will not cease. This is, indeed, according to what Jeremiah the prophet says in Chapter 33:11, “The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth forever; and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause” to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.”
It is, therefore, .quite clear that the only sacrifice which still remains in the New Testament is the sacrifice of praise of those who are ingrafted into Christ with a true faith. This is the sacrifice of believing hearts which confess with the mouth. (Rom. 10:8-10) The word has in Jesus’ sacrifice, and by His glorification and outpouring of the Spirit, been brought very nigh unto us, even in our mouth and heart. This is the fruit of the lips. It is “fruit” which is the beginning of the full harvest. We now have Pentecostal grace. It is the firstfruits of the eternal song, in heaven. That is why it is called “confessing” in the Greek. It is saying the same thing concerning God, Christ, God’s people, the sanctuary in the temple, as God does. We recall His goodness, His mercy, and His greatness forever. It is the beginning of the eternal confession of heaven before the great white throne of His grace and majesty.
DOING WELL AND COMMUNICATING (Heb. 13:16)
It is true that the chief part of thankfulness is prayer and song and the extolling of the Lord’s greatness and mercy. This is beautifully expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism’s answer as to what constitutes true prayer. However, there is another part of thankfulness. This is that we keep the commandments of God, particularly that we love our neighbor as ourself. This is what the writer here refers to when he writes to the Hebrew believers that they must not “forget” to do well. They must not be Christians who like to go to church and pray and sing, but they must have a living faith which reveals itself in good works. (James 2:14-26; I John 3:18) And of this the Hebrew Christians and we also must not be “forgetful.” Often this is not intentional forgetfulness. The writer uses the term “to forget” also in Hebrews 13:2concerning the love which must be shown to strangers. For these strangers are perhaps angels, and they may even be more: saints in Christ.
The term to do good seems to be of a wider implication than is the term “communicate.” The term seems to look at all kinds of beautiful deeds. (eupoias) We must do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That is the implication of our part of the covenant which is written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. If we say that we love God, and do not love the brother, we lie, and the truth is not in us. And, therefore, this admonition is so very serious. The genuineness of our doing good to our neighbor manifests itself in whether we “communicate.” There is much giving and adieu in this world which is not “communicating.” Many millions of dollars are doled out by government agencies, insurance policies which are not “sacrifices” which are well-pleasing to the Lord. They are not placed upon the altar of consecration. This communicating to the necessities of the saints is on a very high spiritual plane. It is much more than good business with high interest. It is walking in the light as God is light, in Whom there is no darkness at all. It is covenant fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. It is that which is accompanied by perfect joy, a full cup of bliss. (I John 1:1-4)
It is not difficult to understand that the writer underscores this doing good and communicating with the sacrifices of praise. This is the very essence of redemption from sin and the house of bondage. We must remember the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, that they may eat from the altar of the LORD’S mercies. (Ex. 22:21; Ex. 23:9) When we have a collection in the church for the poor, this is placing first ourselves, and then also our gifts as dedicated to the LORD and to His loving care for the poor, the weak, and the indigent. Every church service should have such a collection. That is part of our Sabbath Day keeping. (Lord’s Day XXXVIII) “. . . and contribute to the relief of the poor as becomes a Christian.” The Hebrews must enter into the rest of the completed work of Christ, and not harden their heart. (Heb. 3:3) And they must enter into the rest “today.” And so we must also in this very present time communicate and walk in what we confess to believe concerning the communion of saints and the life everlasting.
The writer underscores that God must be well pleased with our “sacrifices.” That, too, we must not forget. All things are naked and opened before the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do. Think of God’s rejecting the sacrifice of Cain and His accepting the sacrifice of Abel. The Lord abhors the sacrifice of the wicked also in Israel. (Gen. 4:5a; Ps. 50:8; Prov. 15:8; Prov. 21:3; Isaiah 1:11) To do justice and righteousness is better than sacrifice and is more acceptable to the Lord. When the writer here says “with such sacrifices” God is well-pleased, we should heed and take notice. For such sacrifices are the manifestation of the Lord’s love toward His saints as a revelation of His own self-love in perfect holiness in the ontological Trinity. This is the love manifested in the cross to us in our poverty and worthlessness, when God loved us even when we were yet sinners. And now we ought thus to love each other if God so loved us. (I John 4:20, 21)
We must not forget also to bring these sacrifices of doing good and to communicate “through Him,” that is, because of His suffering for us without the gate. We do this good, first of all, to the household of faith and also to those who are without. This is the outreaching love of Christ in His saints, so that with all the saints we may know the length and breadth, the height and depth of the love of God. The saints in heathen landscontributed to the poor in Jerusalem by a great collection. (II Cor. 8:1-24; II Cor. 9:1-15; Acts 11:29, 30)
Too much ritual in the divine services is not good. However, it might be well that when collections are taken for the poor, more attention be focused on the great meaning and implication on the offerings for the poor, and that we be deeply mindful that when once any money or gifts are placed on the altar of consecration, these are mingled with the prayers of all saints. Such money is no longer ours, but it is the Lord’s; and the widows, orphans, and the stranger should feel that when the deacons come to visit them, they have had a visit from Christ Himself. And we should give in the knowledge that one day we shall hear from the lips of Christ, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink, I was a stranger and ye took me in: naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me. . . . And the king shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:34-40)