JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…the way of life…”
September 3, 2012, 1:51 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

The Letter to Hebrews has dramatically painted a picture of the reality of Christ Jesus our Lord in the life of His ekklesia, His gathering, to help them move forward through the conflicts of life living by Him together. Each of the apostolic writings help to encourage the body to stay focused on Jesus, who is our life, our Reality. This letter does so in a unique way using the various Old Testament types and figures to see how everything points to Jesus as the way of life.

In this closing section of Chapter 13 the author seems to write more proverbial anecdotes, in a similar way James did in his letter decades earlier. But I would like for us to see that as we read the rest of this letter, what appears to be commands are really the way of life of Jesus Christ. Each is an expression of living by faith with love, the expression of Christ. If we fix our eyes on Jesus and by faith love one another than others will see literally the life of Christ expressed, they will see Jesus! They will see “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,” His Son. The Father speaks to us, speaks to this world, only “by his Son.”

In the occupied cities of the Roman Empire, living in that day and age, what would Jesus’ life look like expressed by His body?

Christ would “not forget to show hospitality to strangers.” If anyone has ever lived in an area of the city that was prone to criminal activity this would be something one would not want to do for fear of their lives. But we move forward in faith with love. Discernment is important. By faith we show hospitality “for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” For the Hebrew believer the image would immediately bring to mind the story of Abraham. Not only did Abraham and Sarah show hospitality to strangers, who were indeed angels, but one of whom was “the Lord.” Abraham’s hospitality consisted of baking “some bread” “of the finest flour” and preparing “a choice, tender calf” to give to the strangers. To show hospitality is a hallmark of living by the life of Christ, it is how the brothers and sisters gathered together. Because Christ lives in us we give our best to Him through one another. Also remember that the brothers and sisters met from house to house and they enjoyed doing so. To live by Him is to live in a familial relationship with one another. And not only are they gathering together but because Christ is in one another, they are indeed showing hospitality to Christ! For any brothers or sisters who feel alone because of the lack of fellowship, not knowing any brothers or sisters in your neighborhood, perhaps if we might open our home to others, being hospitable to strangers, we might indeed find fellowship. To keep on loving the brothers and sisters is to show hospitality to strangers, for that stranger may indeed be a brother or sister in Christ.

In contrast, one of the most inhospitable places to be at was in a prison. Dependent upon the city many prisons were in caves or in the lower parts of the city, perhaps under a fortress of the ruler, in a dungeon. To be bound in darkness would be in a literal place full of hopelessness. Christ would “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” These brothers and sisters had already been encouraged earlier in the letter, in that they had “suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” Throughout the life of God’s people “some have faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.” The world has attempted to kill and destroy Christ’s expression. In Christ, we are no longer prisoners of our flesh and the world we are now free to live by Him together by faith with love. But we must also realize that we are a body and what happens to one member affects the others. If a brother or sister is mistreated we know it in our spirit. To keep on loving the brothers and sisters is to “remember our brothers and sisters who are in prison as if you were together with them,” because Christ is our life; we really are together with them.

Interestingly the author now goes to a matter that probably describes one of the most intimate aspects of relationships between human beings – marriage. But marriage is really the way of life out from God. It is God’s most intimate picture of life in Him. God’s view of everything He created is viewed through His Son and His expression through His Bride. The Old Testament shows this picture even in the beginning with Adam and Eve. Christ keeps His marriage with His Bride undefiled by His life. However, the Bride must stay focused on Her Bridegroom. Everything controlled by the flesh contaminates, is destructive and anti-Christ. The Old Testament shows time and again and in many instances in horrific detail how His people, pictured as a Bride, dishonored Him by not keeping their marriage with Him pure or uncontaminated. They became focused on religion or on someone or thing. Some of these same images are even expressed in the New Testament, none more so than in Revelation. Sadly throughout the life of His people this has played out time and again. It is for this reason it was all taken to the cross. How we need eyes to see the reality of what Christ did on the cross. How we need a larger view of Jesus and His life in us.

Marriage between a husband and a wife, a man and a woman, is a quintessential picture and figure of the Son and His Bride. When marriage is not considered as such it can become one of the most destructive forms of relationships, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Because the Son has only one Bride and His Bride is called to fix her eyes only on Him then likewise “marriage should be honored by all” the brothers and sisters. For this reason “true” marriage is counter cultural. We do not force God’s view of marriage onto the world; instead we live His life before the world. This is demonstrated both in actual loving marriages between husbands and wives and in how the body lives by Her Head.

The world has taken marriage and made it religious and made it a travesty and made it into a financial liability. Whatever culture defines or says about marriage it says through the flesh, it is contaminated. Christ’s life is “free from contamination” (1) and as the author mentioned earlier in the letter the only one who “meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” Christ desires only His Bride. Christ desires to live in Her and She desires to live by Him, this is seen as “the marriage bed kept pure” or undefiled. The author actually pictures the Bride as being married to the Son.

To lose our focus on the Son is to have our focus on some other one or thing and is to act like an “adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” This word “adulterer” means someone “who has unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another,” to be in Christ and to follow after the flesh, whatever that may be, is adultery. (2) Christ even pointed out that adultery wasn’t just a physical act of “unlawful intercourse” but emotional as well. The word “sexually immoral” or “fornication” refers to any “illicit sexual intercourse.” (3) This can mean intercourse between those who are unmarried (John 8:41) to incest (1 Cor. 5:1) which is improper for God’s people who represent Him. It breaks Christ’s law of unselfish love.

As Paul wrote to the brothers and sisters in Corinth who were involved in such matters: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body…Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

To the ekklesia in Colosse Paul wrote that the body must put it to death, see that it was taken to the cross and buried by Christ. We now live in newness of life by His life. Living in Him, our way of life will express purity towards Him, one another, even in marriage, against whatever culture may say. Remember that whatever culture or religion may say about marriage it says through the flesh not by the Spirit. If we follow the flesh to fall back to religion, to lose sight of Christ, is to have “intercourse” with the world and there will always be destructive consequences. To keep on loving the brothers and sisters is to honor “true” marriage not just in this world with one another but as a type of our way of life together in the Spirit.

Lastly the author brings up “money.” “Let your way of life be free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Money, specifically the love for money, has been the downfall of many. It perhaps is one of the key motivators of the flesh that has caused such tragedy not just in the world but also in the body of Christ. This contamination caused the ekklesia to move from the simple way of life of living by Christ together to being enslaved in a system focused on buildings, tithes, and other financial burdens forming a codependency that has fostered the division of the body between clergy and laity. We could replace the word “money” for something or some person and the point is clear. It is to lose our focus on Christ. Christ kept His life free from the love of money and was content to live by His Father’s life, which is to have everything. Christ was and is singularly focused on His Bride and He did so by His Father’s life. The body of Christ as she lives by her Head will live free from the love of money and will be content to live by the Spirit of Christ, which is to have everything. “Because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”

When our way of life together is the life of Christ we will only listen to Him no matter what the flesh or the world says or does to us. Christ will be seen in His fulness together. Christ will be our everything! He is the way, the truth, and the life! We will keep on loving the brothers and sisters! While others may desert our Lord to follow after the flesh and the things of this world Christ asks us one thing: “You do not want to leave me too, do you?” But we speak the words of Simon Peter to the Lord: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

(1) The Greek word translated “pure” means “undefiled, free from contamination.” W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 650.
(2) Ibid. 14.
(3) Ibid. 252.

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