Friday, January 16, 2015

Hebrews 13: Sacrifices Pleasing to God


Heb 12:28-13:8 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever... 

Heb 13:15-21 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to GodObey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 

As his final conclusion, the author exhorts the readers to "offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe" (Heb 12:28-29). He then goes on to list a series of good works that we are to do as expressions of this worship, concluding in verse 16 that these good works are "sacrifices pleasing to God". In fact, in verse 15, he explains that worship is two-dimensional. It's something we do not only unto God but also unto our others, especially those who are poor and needy: "Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God" (Hebrews 13:15).

He rounds off his final exhortation with a benediction that the God of peace who "brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (v.20-21).

The whole goal of Christian life is to offer sacrifices of praise and to exhibit conduct that are "pleasing to God." Herein, the author lists the following as sacrifices pleasing to God:

  • "Let brotherly love continue": Expressing brotherly love for others, not just in church but to our colleagues, bosses, neighbours, restaurant waiters and waitresses, public employees, bus drivers, shopkeepers--in fact, anyone we meet in our daily social intercourse--is worship.
  • "Hospitality to strangers": Extending intentional hospitality to people who are strangers (foreign workers and visitors in church) is worship.
  • "Remembering those in prison... those who are mistreated": Ministering to those in prisons and the marginalized is worship. For when we minister to such people, we are ministering to Christ: "I was in prison and you came to me" (Mt 25.36). When we are doing good to the marginalized (including foreign workers and domestic servants), we are ministering to Christ.
  • "Marriage held in honor": Not compromising on the biblical idea of man-wife marriage, and keeping fidelity as a God-honoring value is worship: "let the marriage bed undefiled". 
  • "Keep our lives from love of money": In this profit-chasing economy, Christians are called to be motivated by a desire to bless and serve people--including our staff and subordinates--and not just use them as "factors of production" to make a profit for ourselves. We are to be "content with what you have", instead of always wanting more. Such attitude is worship.
  • "Remember your leaders": We are called to "obey our leaders and submit to them" so their work may be a joy, not burdensome. Such attitude is worship. Church members who spend their time criticizing their pastors and elders are offending God because they are not offering "sacrifices pleasing to God."
In short, our worship overflows from good words to good works. We can only genuinely celebrate God when we have genuinely celebrated His creation and creatures. What we do to His creation and creatures, we do to Him: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me" (Matt 25:40).

Father, help us to minister to You not just with words in church but also with works in the community. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your comments.