A fascinating chiastic structure emerged from the 13th chapter of Hebrews this morning:
1a) Heb 13:1-8, Exhortation to good works:
–> 1) Heb 13:1-6, Brotherly love, hospitality, service, holiness + exhortation against covetousness;
–> 2) Heb 13:7, Remember those who rule over you (spiritual authorities who have spoken God’s word to you);
–> 3) Heb 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever;
1b) Heb 13:9, Let the heart be established by grace, not with foods;
1c) Heb 13:10, The altar we have from which we partake, not of this world;
central axis) Heb 13:11-13, “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;”
2c) Heb 13:14, The city we seek, not of this world;
2b) Heb 13:15, By Him let us continually offer praise to God, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name;
2a) Heb 13:16-21, Exhortation to good works:
–> 1) Heb 13:16, Do good and share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased;
–> 2) Heb 13:17-19, Obey those who rule over you (spiritual authorities who watch over your souls);
–> 3) Heb 13:20-21, Jesus Christ + the blood of the everlasting covenant + to whom be glory forever and ever.
The A pair: Brotherly love, hospitality, service to those who are imprisoned, faithfulness within marriage and the forsaking of fornication and adultery (any [s-x]ual relationship outside of the marriage covenant) – the exhortations of Heb 13:1-4 – this is doing the good works of Heb 13:16. When we keep our lives free from the love of money (since we can be content, knowing Him whose promise we have, that He will never fail us, Heb 13:5-6), then it is possible to share all that we have with others (Heb 13:16).
The admonition concerning those who rule over us in Heb 13:7 and 13:17-19, concerns those who are in spiritual authority over us. This passage is not speaking of political, civil, or national authority. For it is spiritual authorities – pastors, teachers, elders and the like – who speak God’s word to us and watch over our souls. The political authorities do not concern themselves with such things. It is right to obey a civil authority when such obedience does not transgress God’s Law, but this passage cannot be used to support the position that every civil authority must always be obeyed no matter what (which I do not believe is a biblical position).
It is interesting that the matching elements before and after Heb 13:8, that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, force its pairing with Heb 13:20-21:
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
These pairings that seem incompatible upon first glance, are the ones have a lot to teach us, if we will meditate on them and allow the Holy Spirit to open our understanding concerning them. That Jesus Christ is unchanging, is the exact same attribute of the God of peace who brought Him up from the dead (see Heb 1:10-12, which the author of Hebrews asserts is a passage concerning the Son). His blood of the covenant, is THE blood of the EVERLASTING covenant. There is one eternal covenant between God and man, enacted from the foundation of the world, for Jesus Christ has been crucified from the foundation of the world. The distinctions, “old” and “new” covenant, even though the author of Hebrews used them himself in this letter for aspects of it before and after Christ, is really an artificial distinction.
The B pair: That which establishes the heart, is not food. This is not an exhortation to dismiss the dietary laws (they benefit the body), but rather, do not let pursuit of food be the desire or goal of the heart, as it is with some people today (either those whose god is their belly, or those who, even though with good intentions, make correct eating the focus of their life). But let the fruit coming out of our lips, not coming into our lips, help establish our heart by grace: continual praise and thanksgiving to God. Anyone who struggles with a weak heart, discouragement, wavering or doubting, running and back and forth between doctrines and unable to be settled, would benefit from establishing their heart by grace, in continual praise and thanksgiving to God. I think those who struggle with such things will find, upon examination, that the fruit of the lips of genuine praise and thanksgiving to God, is a missing or diminished element.
The C pair and the central axis highlight for us that Jesus is not of this world. His sacrifice was outside the city of this world. Our citizenship is likewise not of this world, therefore do not hesitate to go forth to Him outside the gates (of the cities of this world). Yes, the world will reproach us as it did Him, so do not let fear of reproach stop us.