As the author of Hebrews comes to a conclusion of his letter, he reminds and strengthens the believers’ understanding of what true worship of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ means.
In his comparison (which he did throughout the entire letter) of the old order (i.e., the old covenant) with the new, “it becomes clear that traditional ways of thinking about ‘religion’ must be radically transformed by the gospel” (Peterson, in loc.).
There are two main “themes” in verse 7-16:
a. vv. 7-8: Leadership and Perseverance
b. vv. 9-16: Genuine Christian Sacrifice
And to these we will turn now.
Leadership and Perseverance
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
7 Though there are three mentions of leaders in this passage (vv. 7, 17, and 24) the latter two seem to refer to different leaders than the ones being talked of here. It seems like that those completed their Christian race and are now with the Lord.
Thus the author can exhort the readers to consider the outcome of their way of life with another exhortation, namely to imitate their faith. If such is the case the following verse is of great encouragement.
8 The sense would be: “Jesus, who helped the former leaders to finish the Christian race (cf. 13:21), is the same forever. His help is always timely (cf. 4:16). As he has helped your former leaders, he can help you too.”
Peterson remarks that “[l]eaders come and go, but Jesus Christ, whom they trusted and followed, is the same today as he was yesterday. He will also remain the same for ever (cf. 1:8–12)” and this is the “ultimate foundation for Christian faith and obedience” (in loc.).
Genuine Christian Sacrifice
9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
9-10 Since Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever the author warns the readers not to be led away by diverse and strange teachings. These teachings seem to concern foods which were already negatively mentioned in 9:10.
These foods have not benefited those devoted to them. It maybe that certain foods and with it some rituals were presented to the audience as being helpful for the sustenance of their spiritual walk; “Yet, it is by God’s grace, and not rules about food, that our hearts are to be strengthened” (Peterson, in loc.).
Now the author turns back to the theme of the high-priesthood of our Lord and Savior to whose altar we have come. He states that those who serve the tent have no right to eat from this altar of ours. It is on the altar the animals were sacrificed and thus the altar here by metonymy of adjunct is put for the sacrificial death of Christ.
11-14Again the picture of the Day of Atonement is employed. The writer observes that the bodies of those animals which are sacrificed are burned outside the camp(see Lev 16:27). So Jesus also had to suffer outside the gate; i.e. outside of Jerusalem(see John 19:20). This again is the usage of the literary device of type (sacrifices in the OT) and antitype (Jesus Christ – the perfect sacrifice).
To leave the camp and to bear the reproach he endured means to leave the boundaries of Judaism, to bear the shame of the cross, and follow him who can really sanctify the people through his own blood.
Again the author states that here we do not have lasting city but we do we seek the city that is to come; the city which cannot be shaken and which we are to inherit (cf. 12:28).
15-16 Only through him can we continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God (see also verse 21). This sacrifice is fruit of lips that acknowledge his name; to glorify God is to praise Him and thank Him for who He is and what He has done.
Another form of sacrifice is pleasing to God is to do good and to share what you have. This looks back to verses 1-6 of this chapter. This sharing and doing good is not limited by the author to any specifics but remains broad and general, so that it is everything we have is to be shared with others.
As Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we can have assurance of his help which is always timely and his sustaining power which he so graciously provides.
If we would only cling to him, we would know what it means to please God and to do what is right in His eyes. We need to take up our cross, to be the reproach of society and endure the hardships of this life. To allude to Peterson’s comment in the introduction we need to be radically transformed by the gospel. All of our being needs to be radically transformed by the gospel. And when this happens we see our brothers and sisters in need, have compassion, do good and share what we have.
Peterson, David. “Hebrews.” New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. Ed. D.A. Carson, et al. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.