This is the final chapter of Hebrews and the last post is this Bible Study series. Like many New Testament letters there are some parting words of wisdom and encouragement. Some of these wisdom sayings are similar to what we find in other letters but some are unique to Hebrews.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Only Hebrews 13 talks about entertaining angels in this way. Throughout scripture, the appearance of angels evokes fear responses when the angel(s) show their true form. But there are occasions in the Old Testament in which angels appear in the form of ordinary men and only later revealed themselves. And while he is not an angel, think about the disciples who spoke with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They demonstrated their faithfulness and offered hospitality and did not recognize Jesus until he was ready for them to.
Let marriage be honorable, keep free from love of money, these statements form a laundry list of things Jesus, Paul or any of the epistle writers might say. The discussion about eating from the altar (recall Peter describing believers as a royal priesthood) and what is killed outside the camp continues the theme of Hebrews to portray Jesus as our great high priest and atoning sacrifice in the terms of the Old Testament Hebrews that followed Moses in the wilderness. There is sort of a new wrinkle though. Jesus is not shown in this chapter as one who opens the veil and brings us inside but rather as one who suffers outside the camp. We are invited not into the Holy of Holies but outside the camp to suffer with him. That is what happened to Jesus in this world and we are reminded this world is not our home. We will suffer and be rejected by the world now and be invited in God’s presence later, into the true holy places that the temple and tabernacle of this world were patterned after. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
Finally we end with what could be the most compelling evidence that Hebrews was written by Paul. Whatever camp you fall into, and recall from 13 weeks ago that I’m not going to tell you which is right, we need to look at the scriptural evidences. The writer of Hebrews reminds everyone to pray for believers in prison. We have a historical account in Acts of Paul’s journeys and imprisonments and know that some of his letters were written from prison. We have a plea in verse 19 prefaced with that I may be restored to you the sooner. Then in the final benediction Timothy is mentioned and the writer’s desire to visit the recipients of the letter with Timothy. Could the writer be anyone but Paul?
Of course it could. Paul was often thrown into prison with others who were traveling and preaching with him. Paul and Silas for instance. Obviously Timothy did not write this letter but he too was in prison (having just been released). Many Christian believers late in the first century was imprisoned, Paul himself at one time traveling from city to city with arrest warrants for them. Though he asked believers to pray for those imprisoned, this writer never actually said he was in prison. If the writer is not Paul it is certainly someone who wrote in a Pauline style, not surprising when we study the nature of Paul’s ministry. He planted churches and trained leaders to serve in them. He was a mentor to many that are named in his letters and probably many others that are not listed. I say things in my sermons and prayers that my dad used to say and if I occasionally sound like Michael Spencer that’s because he was my mentor and Bible study teacher for many years.
The Book of Hebrews does more than any other New Testament account to illustrate that Christ is our great high priest who offers a more excellent sacrifice. It gives meaning to the old covenant sacrificial system by showing all of that was meant to teach us who Jesus is and what he does. Questions, comments and complaints are always welcome.