The Church of the Firstborn – Hebrews Part VI

Reference: Hebrews 12:4 to 13:25

In the concluding part of the letter to the Hebrews, the author reminds their Jewish audience of the disciplining hand of God. Quoting from the book of Proverbs, the author goes to great lengths to make the point that God’s discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. Through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, we were reunited with our Father. As part of His family, we will be disciplined when we go wrong (Hebrews 12:6). Just like our earthly fathers, God loves us and wants us to lead a life that will make Him proud to call us His children.

Till the time God does not discipline us, we go on sinning thinking that our ways are straight. Only by following His will in our lives will we keep on the right path towards Holiness. Our goal is not to emulate the faith of any person living or dead but to match in the holiness of Christ. That is an impossible task and the level that God expects from us. We can only achieve that level by walking in His ways and adhering to His discipline and correction.

Discipline has a negative connotation because of our association with that word while living in this sinful world. God’s discipline is not only punishment, but the purpose is to let us know our faults and help us with ways to correct them. Repetitive ignoring of discipline is what leads to punishment. Sometimes we even lack the self-awareness of our free-falling state. We are called to take His word to the ends of the earth. But if we are not able to listen to His rebuke and correct our ways, we will lead His sheep into the wrong sheep pen. Let us head to His rebuke and ask Him to help us return to His fold.

“Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Hebrews 12:13 (NIV)

A Note of Encouragement

The author encourages their reader to make every effort to live in peace with everyone, to ensure that no one falls from grace and that no bitter root defiles their fellowship like sexual immorality and godlessness. Are we our fellow believer’s keepers? What gives us the right to interfere in the personal lives of others around us? These verses have been used to carry out spiritual vigilantism where people without knowing the background and current state of affairs, stick their noses in matters of their fellow believers.

It is imperative that the church and its leaders make straight their paths else the entire fellowship will descend into a downward spiral. Within the confines of the church, we should ensure that the grace of God is not taken lightly. But when it comes to individual families, we should not intervene until and unless we get a clear sign from God. It is only through His leading that we can deliver His peace. Let us wait for God’s leading for our lives before we descend into self-appointed causes of spiritual justice.

Mount Sinai & Zion

The author draws a parallel between two mountains that represent God’s promise to His people, mount Sinai and Zion. Mount Sinai was the first major resting point during their journey to the promised land. Moses conversed with God on the mountaintop while the Israelites made camp at its base. They were instructed by God to not approach the mountain and whoever (person or animal) would even touch the foot of the mountain would be put to death. Thus, Mount Sinai inculcated fear in the hearts of the nomadic tribes of Israel. When Moses approached the mountain to receive the commandments from God, he said that the sight was terrifying and that he trembled with fear. In contrast, we approach the mount of Zion not with the help of Moses or any other human being but with the confidence we have in the blood of Jesus.

Mount Sinai represented the old covenant while Mount Zion is ushering in the New Covenant because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The old covenant was difficult to follow and led to fear God without realizing the purpose of the covenant. They did not do things from the joy of their hearts and were content with milk rather than desiring a solid and mature diet. To them, God was similar to an idol that they would sacrifice before, and they even replaced God with an actual idol when Moses had gone up to mount Sinai. They did not want to become responsible children of God but were more than happy being slaves of the kings and princes of the world.

On the other hand, our access to Mount Zion means that we have attained Spiritual maturity.
We are shown the value of God’s will in our lives and then are motivated to take up that path that leads to Him. Our journey towards this mountain is self-driven rather than externally propelled. The author addressed Jesus as the firstborn of God as we are invited to be part of the Church of Jesus. Esau denied his rights as the firstborn, but Jesus fulfilled His duty of being God’s firstborn when He helped us (His younger brothers and sisters) gain access to Mount Zion. The difference between Mount Sinai and Zion is similar to the blood of Abel and the blood of Jesus. While Abel’s blood was calling out to God for justice, Jesus’ blood is justifying us before our Father.

Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Hebrews 12:24 (NIV)

Final Instructions

In the last part of the letter, it almost seems like the author ran out of time or ink as they give running instructions that cover a wide range of problems occurring in the Church. They ask their readers to be hospitable to strangers, honour the sanctity of marriage, free themselves from the love of money and not be carried away from teaching that is not rooted in Christ’s message.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7 (NIV)

The author also urges believers to have confidence in their leaders and submit to the authority that God has placed over them. The cause of the recent exodus could have been a failure of the leaders as well to bring the true Gospel to the people. These verses have been used to create a cult-like atmosphere in some churches today. It is good to have structure and hierarchy in the Church, but we cannot aim our sights on any mortal being. If we have to imitate the faith of someone it can only be Christ and not our earthly leaders. They can guide us in the way that leads to God but they cannot lead us to Him as Christ already has that role. No one should take the place of God in our lives, not our family members, not our friends and not our church leaders. If we need a role model to inspire our faith it can only be Christ as humans are bound while living in this sinful world.

While recounting their own journeys in Christ, some leaders don’t give the whole picture to their congregation. They don’t disclose their genuine condition in the past and paint a rosy picture of their struggles. While their experiences will help people give up their own vices, they do not let people know about their desperate situation and how they were helped only by the grace of God. People cannot simply apply their steps to come out of their own problems. For everything they need to come to Christ who will help formulate a plan unique for their set of problems and struggles. their end goals. This part is missing in their testimonies where they use their own experience to gather the masses or sell books rather than redirect everyone towards God. Let us look to the holy mountain and as part of the church of the firstborn mirror Christ as we approach God on the top of the mountain.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)

Discussion Questions

  • How does God’s discipline help us share in His Holiness?
  • Why are we responsible for the actions of the people around us?
  • What is the Difference between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion?
  • Should we be imitating the faith of mortals?
  • Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, seem like the motto of a cult. How can believers avoid falling into this trap?


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