Being A Sufferer with Christ”

Hebrews 13:8-17

Jesus calls His followers to bear His reproach

so people can see His power and grace.

Be Established by Grace

Be Focused on the Coming Kingdom

Be Submissive to Rule

Be Established by Grace

Hebrews 13:8-10, NKJV

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.

Hebrews 13:8 is one of the most profound declarations of Christ concerning His eternal existence and consistency before the Incarnation, throughout His earthly ministry, and as the risen King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is an echo of the opening verses of the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2, NKJV). John identifies the “Word of Life” which He speaks of in his Gospel account as being Jesus as well as the “Word” which became flesh and dwelt among mankind (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1-4). Christ was present with and in God the Father along with the Holy Spirit of God before the creation of the angels. The world is exactly the same now as when He walked the earth and also now as He prepares for His return.

The character of Christ never changes, His will remains consistent, and His judgments are true in all times, cultures, and places whether they are spiritual or physical. This means that Jesus was not “created” at His birth like the rest of humanity, even though He was completely human Himself (Hebrews 2:14-18). It also means that Jesus is the one and only Son of God who came from the Father and returned to Him again (John 3:16, 13:3). Proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever also reveals that He alone is the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world since He is the perfect image of God the Father (John 1:29-30; 2 Corinthians 4:3-5; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-3).

Mormonism claims that Jesus Christ is one with God the Father in purpose, but He and the Father are two separate beings. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim Jesus was created first before all other things and is the only thing God the Father created who then created everything else. Islam outright reject that Jesus has any connection with God other than He was one of the great teachers about God. All these differences about Jesus Christ are challenged by the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This in itself makes Him God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit since Almighty God is the only One who never changes.

The writer of Hebrews warns his readers about being carried away by various strange doctrines. There were plenty in the first century that attempted to make the infinite completely understandable in the finite. Eternity is beyond the comprehension of mankind in their sinful state (Isaiah 64:4). Perfect holiness, righteousness, and justice will continue to escape the grasp of the human mind as long as it is under the curse because His ways and thoughts surpasses that of all mankind (Isaiah 55:8-9). There were people claiming in the first century that Jesus had not come in the flesh but was only a spirit appearing to be human which denied His physical death upon the cross for the forgiveness of sins. There is and never will be a shortage of fanciful human ideas that will attempt to make perfect sense out of things that are beyond their understanding.

The only way to be at peace with the mysterious things of God that must be accepted by faith alone is to be established in grace, rather than forcing God into the knowledge and understanding of mankind. The grace of God revealed through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit profits the one who is established in it both now and throughout eternity with the Father in the kingdom of heaven. Being established in grace is to comprehend that God is sovereign over all things and accepting there are certain things that will remain a mystery now and possibly forever. Grace is more than receiving something better than what is deserved. Grace is also being at peace with the idea that God knows much more than His creation will ever be able to fathom.

Those who develop, chase after, or believe false doctrines about Jesus Christ profit themselves nothing. Joining in with the condemnation of all who have rejected the majesty, authority, deity, humanity, and work of Christ Jesus is the only result of all their zeal and activity. The grace of God profits a person through redemption from the control of sin over them. They transfer their ownership from their sin nature to God the Father who pours out His Spirit upon all who will turn to Christ Jesus in faith steadfastly.

The altar of God which those who place their faith in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins is not covered with the blood of animals. It is saturated in the blood of Jesus the Christ, the Lamb of God. Those who are established in grace are welcome at this altar where the law of God has been satisfied. Those who are still seeking to be justified before God by law have no right to come to the Lord’s Table and eat with Him.

The Lord’s Table where the followers of Christ eat the communion meal do so with glad hearts because they have been saved from the wrath of God by His grace revealed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who was slain for those who seek to inherit the kingdom of God from the foundations of the world (Matthew 25:34; Revelation 13:8, 17:8). Eating the Lord’s Supper is to claim that salvation is based entirely upon the fact that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, has died on behalf of their sins, and rose again in victory over death and the grave. There are no fanciful notions about the majesty of mankind, but a celebration of the grace of God through Christ.

The facts about who Jesus Christ truly is must regulate the way in which His followers conduct themselves in the world. This is for more than witnessing to others about Christ, but keeping the followers of Christ concentrating on walking in the Spirit faithfully every day. Therefore, since Christ is perfect it means that His followers must change their ways and stop insisting that God should accept their ways as acceptable (Matthew 6:9-10; John 13:15-17). It means to view Scripture as the most important resource book written by mankind by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which makes it perfect for everything the follower of Christ needs in their life (Psalm 119:9, 89, 103-105; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Christ’s perfection and eternal qualities should also convict those who call Him Savior and Lord to imitate Him by praising God the Father in obedience even in their thought life because that will change a person’s entire attitude quickly and cause it to remain steady (Philippians 4:6-8).

Doing these things in response to the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever will go a long way to increasing praise for God and growth in their walking in accordance with the Spirit of God rather than in submission to their sinful hearts.

Be Focused on the Coming Kingdom

Hebrews 13:11-14, NKJV

For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

There is little attention given to the sacrificial system recorded in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus in many congregations in the twenty-first century. This is a travesty since it truly helps the followers of Christ understand what He has done for them and the call that has been placed upon their lives to be living sacrifices who are offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 2:5). The sacrificial law of the Old Testament has indeed been satisfied by Jesus’ atoning death upon the cross. Yet, it is important to understand what was taking place in the sacrifices in order to understand what it was that Jesus has done for all who will accept Him as their substitution so that His death will satisfy justice and righteous judgment of God the Father on their sin.

The writer is speaking here of a specific sacrifice rather than the sacrificial law as a whole in speaking of the animals that were burned outside of the camp. The Sin Offering would have the fatty portions of the animal burned upon the altar and the rest of the animal would be taken outside the camp where the ashes were laid to be burned there (Leviticus 4:8-12). The Sin Offering looks forward to when Christ would be made sin for all people and His suffering outside of the gates of Jerusalem. The blood was taken into the sanctuary by the high priest and placed on the horns of the incense altar and sprinkled seven times with his finger in front of the veil to the entrance of the Most Holy Place (Leviticus 4:5-7).

The blood of Christ was taken into the sanctuary that was built and established by God for the forgiveness of sins once and for all for those who place their faith in Jesus Christ and give themselves over to His authority in all things (Hebrews 9:11-12). The reality of the atonement which Christ has obtained through His death and resurrection means there is no longer any condemnation and wrath left for those who are in Him (Romans 8:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). This allows the followers of Christ to be focused on and give priority to the eternal things of God rather than satisfying the sinful nature of their hearts and the standards of this present world.

This in no way means that the children of God should be unconcerned about the present world, but to keep the things of this world in their proper perspective for all of it will be passing away (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Revelation 21:3-5). The implications of living for Christ means preparing for life in the kingdom of God rather than behaving as though this life with its youth and material possessions are to be held onto at all costs.

There is nothing wrong with having things if they are used properly in the ministry revealing God to the world and growing closer to Him. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job were extremely wealthy men, but used their wealth as a tool to reveal the majesty of God by how they employed them in ministry. They were not dependent upon the wealth they possessed but on God who gave them the wealth they had to work with. Each of these men went outside the “camp, bearing His reproach” as to foretell of what Jesus Christ would do by refusing to use their wealth for themselves. They instead denied themselves and put it all at risk to be obedient to God.

Dependency upon the Lord allowed them to freely serve the Lord without hindrances. God never expects people to serve Him with things He never gave them, but with all the resources He has placed before them. Therefore, all things must be viewed as tools in revealing Christ to the world and the invitation of the Gospel to enter into His eternal kingdom. This calls people out of the materialistic camp of this world which confines and only offers false hope in things that will waste away and be destroyed instead of standing the test of eternity.

Focusing on the kingdom of God will not make a person to be of no earthly use, but causes them to be of greater value in the world then before they were a child of God. The behavior and attitude of followers of Jesus Christ are the things that add value and worth to the meaninglessness of life people without Christ must endure (Matthew 5:13-16; Ecclesiastes 1:12-18, 12:13-14). Focusing on the kingdom of God allows people to see the provisions God has provided for them and to share with others around them in order to give people hope (Matthew 6:31-33; Luke 3:10-14). These things are outside of what is typical of the attitude of the people who are living for themselves rather than living for God.

There will be persecution that God’s children will face in this world. Jesus said the people will hate those who love Him because they hated Him (John 15:19-25). Apostle Paul was inspired to remind Timothy that all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Apostle Peter was inspired to encourage believers to endure suffering as a calling of God the Father to join Jesus Christ in His sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-19). Suffering is part of the Christian walk with the Spirit of God in a world in rebellion to their Creator. There is no question that suffering is part of life in this world, but the reason for suffering is certainly different.

Suffering for doing things wrong or illegal is to cause problems and misery for self and is pointless. Suffering for doing what is right in the eyes of God at the hands of people who are rebelling against God is of greater worth because it has purpose. The suffering Christ did on the Roman cross outside of Jerusalem was greater than anything any one person has ever or will ever experience. It was Jesus’ extreme suffering at the will of God that brought about the greatest gift and benefit ever given to mankind which was forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with the Father, and freedom from the wrath of God (Isaiah 53:10-12; John 3:16-21).

The suffering of followers of Christ is beneficial. It reveals the forgiveness of Christ to those who are forgiven when they have caused personal injury to God’s child (Ephesians 4:31-32). Suffering for Christ allows people to see a glimpse of Christ’s peace He gives to His people through their difficulties (John 14:27). The suffering of Christians also gives evidence of God’s ability to overcome the worst of situations to work them out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28-39). Therefore, the calling to join in the sufferings of Christ is a privilege and honor and ought to be rejoiced over rather than avoided (Acts 5:40-42; James 1:2-4).

The know-how and accountability necessary to be able to suffer along with Christ in this world takes training and fellow believers to encourage, correct, and support one another on this journey with the Lord. The Holy Spirit supplies the ability and strength for the followers of Christ for any of this being possible which is why we must look to Him to raise up leaders in the body of Christ to rule over the Church with godliness and to retain a kingdom focus.

Be Submissive to Rule

Hebrews 13:15-17, NKJV

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

The task of a leader can be a thankless position at times. It seems that leaders take the blame when things are going poorly and their investment in people is ignored when all is well. Leadership is a call to suffer in a unique way because an example has to be illustrated in the lives of leaders in the body of Christ for others to follow. Apostle Paul asks those he shared with as a leader of the Church to, “...just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1, NKJV).

Jesus did nothing for Himself or for praise from mankind, but to please the will of the Father and to receive praise from Him (Philippians 2:1-11). Leadership in the body of Christ is for the soul purpose of following the will of God regardless of whether or not people are happy and comfortable. There are many contented and pleased people who are content with their chosen destination of eternity in Hell under the judgment of God for their sin. They will resist the truth and correction from those who God has placed in charge over them to lead and be living examples of how a person is to follow Christ and walk in His Spirit.

Christ-like leadership is humble above all else because that is the standard which Christ has set in His ministry on this earth. This means those who lead are not tyrants who dictate and abuse those they rule over but serve as the least of servants in the household of God (Matthew 20:25-28; Mark 9:35). Christ made many people unhappy and uncomfortable in their life because He pointed out sin in their lives by speaking the truth in love. His intention was to bring healing and salvation, but the immediate result was pain and heartache over the sin He revealed to people. Leaders and teachers are held under greater judgment due to their positions and ability to lead people to God or away from Him based on what they are leading people to do (James 3:1-2).

Obedience to those who are set as rulers over the Church can be difficult when respect for the position they hold is lost. Every decision that Christ made was perfect and in the center of God the Father’s will at all times. The disciples and people did not always agree with what He did and said. (Mark 1:35-39; John 4:27-34). The disciples never argued or refused to follow Jesus because they respected and trusted His direction. They recognized Him as the Son of God even though they could not completely grasp the fullness of this concept.

Human leaders are certainly not perfect as Jesus is and must be held accountable with Scripture. They must be recognized as people called by God to lead His Church which means they are to be respected. Even Jesus proclaimed that the Pharisees were to be obeyed because of their position rather than due to their integrity (Matthew 23:1-7). Jesus did not abolish the Pharisees even though they were corrupt. He commanded the people to be obedient to the will of the Father in spite of those who are in leadership who are not being submissive to the Lord’s commandments (John 15:10-11; Acts 4:18-20).

The leaders in the body of Christ have a high calling, but one that they are empowered by God to do rather than having the ability in themselves to do. Praise the Lord He supplies all that is needed for life and to fulfill the calling He places upon His people’s lives (Philippians 2:12-13). No one can do the will of God in life or serve Him without the Holy Spirit within their lives and submitting to the Spirit’s leading in them. Leaders in the body of Christ are to exemplify this in their public and private life. (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Fighting against those in leadership is to go against God’s established order in the body of Christ and society.

It is just as defiant to refuse to step up into leadership positions after the Lord has repeatedly opened up the opportunity to serve in those areas. Everyone is disqualified from service according to the standards listed in Scripture since there is sin all people deal with in life. It is not the absence of sin that God is looking for in leaders, but individuals who are striving to live up to those standards of God, even though they hopelessly fall short of them daily, that is important. This is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to when he reminds them not to forget, “ good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16, NKJV).

These sacrifices must be first seen in the leadership that has dedicated themselves to the will of God in the leading of the body of Christ. The praises of God must be heard and seen clearly in the lives of those who are leading His people which is a sacrifice of praise unto the Lord in every and any circumstance that is encountered in life. This is made more difficult when those who are being led are being stubborn and selfish about their personal preferences over what is good for the whole body of Christ.

Leaders are being held responsible for those who they lead and will have to give an account before God like everyone else for themselves but also for those they were put in authority over. Sin in the body of Christ must be identified, repented of, and restoration and reconciliation are to be worked towards. Many refuse to acknowledge the sin in the first place and often simply decide to replace the leader or refuse to sit under their authority and move on. This is what the religious leaders attempted to do with Jesus by killing Him and the people tried to do by ignoring Him. Jesus cannot be ignored or eliminated for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Jesus Christ is God; He is unavoidable; He is the ultimate Ruler and must be obeyed; His kingdom must be promoted here upon the earth by His people who have had their hearts established by His grace. Does this describe how you are living in response to the truth about who Jesus Christ is, was, and forever will be?