Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
This passage is not easy to understand as the author refers to ″all kinds of strange teachings″ (literally ″many-colored″)54 that were presumably circulating in the church (Hebrews 13:9). We can only guess what some of these were. The author mentions ceremonial foods (see Leviticus 11); it is likely that some people were practising the old Jewish dietary laws believing that doing so would be spiritually edifying. The author refutes such thinking by saying that it is ″of no benefit″ (Hebrews 13:9). We are not spiritually strengthened by material food; only by God's grace.
The writer also refers to the fact that on the Day of Atonement, the priest had ″no right to eat″ the meat of the sacrificial animals (Hebrews 13:10). This must be totally consumed by fire outside the camp (v. 11; see Leviticus 16:27). Bible commentator William Barclay conjectures that some people might have been teaching (wrongly) that the bread eaten at the Lord's Supper actually became the body of Christ.55 Whatever the case may be, the author turns our attention to the fact that Christ was crucified and offered as a sacrifice outside Jerusalem (fulfilling the Old Testament practice in Leviticus 16:27). We are to go to Him outside the camp (meaning we have to leave popular practices that are unbiblical so that we can truly turn to Christ and His sacrifice).
Jesus bore the disgrace and we must do the same (Hebrews 13:13, see Luke 9:23). The author adds the note that our salvation lies outside the earthly Jerusalem (and the temple rituals in it; Hebrews 13:13). Instead, our hearts must be turned to the ″enduring city″, the ″city that is to come″ (v. 14; see 11:10, 16). Our faith must rise above the horizons of ritualistic religion to Christ our Saviour.
We are urged to offer a different kind of sacrifice, ″a sacrifice of praise″ (Hebrews 13:15). Not only must our faith be that of profession of praise, but we must also offer Christ our obedient and faith-filled deeds. Two are mentioned here: doing good and practising generosity (″share with others″, v. 16). Glorifying God in worship, good deeds done to others, and showing generosity to those in need-these are sacrifices that God is pleased with (v. 16).
54Morris, ″Hebrews″, 149.
55Barclay, ″The Letter to the Hebrews″, 197.
What strange teachings are you aware that may be circulating among Christians today? Assess them in the light of Scripture.
Reflect on how you are glorifying and praising God, doing good, and practising generosity. Is there any area where you can, by God's grace, do these more and more?