The Book of Hebrews #73 chapter 13:10-14
The Book of Hebrews
Christian Ethics, Part 6:
Separation and Sacrifice
Hebrews 13:10-14
 
We’ve covered two of the three sections regarding Christian ethics that are found in Hebrews 13.
 
First of all, in regard to others, we are to show sustained love and sympathy.  In regard to ourselves, we are to practice sexual purity, experience satisfaction and demonstrate steadfastness.
 
The third area is our relationship to God.  So what does God want me to do in regard to Him?  We find the answer in verses 10-14 
 
First is
 
6.  Separation
 
Now this section, even though it is relatively brief, is one of the toughest passages to understand in all the book of Hebrews.  Everyone you read seems to have a different opinion of what is being addressed here.
 
I will say, I’m not nearly as dogmatic about some of these things as I used to be.  Back when I knew it all, I could tell you exactly what it meant, but as I’ve aged, I’ve come to see some things differently.  So I’ll give you a couple of popular views and tell you what I think and if you want to pursue it on your own, then help yourself!
 
Verses 10-12
Now the meaning of these verses is pretty self-evident, right?  They don’t even need any explanation so we can just move on!  I told you it was a tough passage.
 
So what are we talking about here? First of all, we have an altar.  I got that much, but which altar do we have?  Therein lies some of the controversy surrounding these verses.
 
Some say this refers to the physical altar and that's why in some churches you have an altar. Those who believe that say the church must have an altar because it says, "We have an altar."
 
But notice how the altar is described.  This altar is an altar that those who serve the tabernacle aren’t allowed to eat from.
 
Now some say that is describing the communion table.  But that doesn’t make any sense. Why would those who serve not be allowed to eat from the table?
 
Then in verse 11 it talks about animals that are sacrificed outside and their blood being brought into the tabernacle by the priests.  That doesn't sound like the church at all, does it?  And the primary subject of the verses is on “not eating” from the altar.
 
So it doesn’t seem to be speaking of a physical altar in the church.
 
 
 
 
Then, some people say it refers to a heavenly altar. Revelation 6 talks about a heavenly altar. And the argument is that the author is talking about that altar in heaven.
 
But that doesn’t make any sense either  What does those who serve in the tabernacle not eating from the table have to do with the heavenly altar?  Nothing!  There’s no eating going on there anyway.
And what about the bodies of the animals?  What animals were ever burned on the altar in heaven?
 
So it doesn’t seem to address a heavenly altar either.
 
Then still others say it is a reference to Christ.  How could it refer to Christ as an altar from which they have no right to eat when Jesus Himself said you can't even know God unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood?
 
So that doesn’t seem to fit either. So let me tell you what I think it is and I think all of the evidence points to me being right.
 
I think He's talking about the idea of separation here. A Christian's obligation to God is to be separated from the world unto God and I think that's what He's getting at.
 
Let me show you why I think that.  First he says, “We have an altar.”  Now remember, He's talking to Jews, some have been saved and others haven’t.  But he is talking to them in nationalistic terms.  As a people they understood the altar.
 
And if you keep that context in mind, then the verse flow very well and make sense.
 
So he’s talking about the Jews having an altar.  Then he says, “those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat from the altar.”
 
So first of all, who were those who serve the tabernacle?  That references the priests.  Now the law of God stipulated that the priests could eat from the sacrifices.  That was their pay.  It was God’s provision for their service.  And there was one exception to that provision and that was the sin offering on the Day of Atonement.
 
All the other times when they made offerings, the priests ate what was left. But the sin offering, once it was made and the blood was sprinkled on the holy of holies on the mercy seat, the animals were taken outside the camp and burned. That's verse 11.
 
And there is where we find the explanation for thish altar it is.  It is a reference, not to a specific altar, but to a specific altar sacrifice.  And in simple language, he says, “We have a particular altar sacrifice and the priests aren’t allowed to partake of it.  Instead, the remains of the sacrifice are taken outside the camp and burned.”
 
So what?  It is a teaching illustration.  He's giving them an analogy to teach them a principle and here’s the principle:
 
You Jews who have trusted Jesus or are considering trusting Jesus need to be separated from the world.
 
And just like those sin offerings that nobody could touch and had to be taken outside the camp, God requires that you be separated from the camp of the world. That's essentially what He's getting at. He's simply drawing a little analogy and saying just like the animals in the sin offering were taken outside, the believer needs to be removed from sinful man.
 
That was a very vivid illustration to the Jews.  They knew all about the Day of Atonement and they had no desire to eat from the altar on that day anyway.  They wanted no part of violating the sin offering.  They wanted to make sure that everything went as planned on that day. 
 
Then he takes it a step further in verse 12 by identifying Jesus Christ.
 
Verse 12
 
To complete the illustration he draws their attention to Jesus.  He not only was the perfect fulfillment of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, He lived it out by His separation from the system.
 
In the Old Testament the Jews took those bodies of those sin offerings, both the priests and the peoples' offering, and they took them outside the camp. They didn't want a thing to do with those sin offerings. They separated them from themselves. Jesus did the same thing.
 
By the way, the system didn't want Jesus either.  They threw Him out. He suffered outside the gate. And He sanctified the people, with His own blood.
 
And just like the carcasses of those ancient sacrifices were burned outside the camp, Jesus was killed outside the city of Jerusalem on a garbage heap perfectly fulfilled the picture of the Old Testament.
 
And without stretching the illustration too far, I think it safe to observe that both sacrifices were rejected.  The sin offering was rejected; they didn't want to eat it; they put it outside the camp.  In like manner, Jesus was despised and rejected; they took Him outside the camp as well.  They wanted no part of either.
 
Then he drives home his point in
 
verse 13
 
We need to be separate from the system as well. Just as the Jews have an altar and sacrifice which nobody can eat and just as Jesus was rejected and taken out of the city, if you and I will follow Christ, we must be willing to be separate from the system and bear the reproach and the shame that both the sin offering and Christ Himself bore to be rejected by men.
 
Moses was an example of that as we saw in did it, chapter 11, verse 26.  Moses considered the stigma that rests on God's anointed greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt.
 
So the writer of Hebrews is saying to us in 13:13 that you ought to consider the stigma, the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of the system and live a life separated from it.  That's all He's saying. Christ was separated from men, you be separated as well.
Now, having said that, there is the possibility of another thing that may be in the mind of the author as he writes this 13th verse.  During the wilderness wanderings, God got fed up with the Israelites and Moses packed up his tent and moved outside the camp.  The symbolism is that of God moving outside the camp.  In fact, the pillar of cloud and fire would set down beside Moses’ tent outside the camp. 
 
Exodus 33:7-11
 
What is the significance?  In this situation, it is God Himself who moves out and separates Himself and the reason is Israel had, for the most part, rejected Him. So God set Himself apart and said if you come to Me you must come apart from the system.
 
And that is still the call of God today.  If you're going to come to Me you're going to have to come out from the world.  You're going to have to come apart from them and touch not the unclean thing and separate yourself unto Me.
 
And whether the analogy is the sacrifice in the Old Testament outside the gate, or Christ suffering outside the gate or the presence of God outside the gate, the message is the same and it is separation.
 
It is impossible to escape the biblical concept of biblical separation.  It doesn’t matter if it was Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah or the Israelites in the Promised Land or the early Christians in the heathen cultures of Greece and Rome or modern day believers anywhere in the world, God has always demanded that his people have nothing to do with the world’s system.
You can’t boil it down any more succinctly than does John in 1 John 2:15 when he says, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." Don't love the system.
 
Now for the original hearers of this letter, the system they are called to leave was Judaism. It wasn’t pagan, evil worldly practices.  It was an inadequate approach to God.  And he says to these Jewish readers, separate yourself from the system that is inadequate with the real thing.
 
The moment that Jesus Christ died on the cross, Judaism ceased to exist as a way to God and it fell into the category with everything else that professes to be able to get you to God without Christ.  And he is saying leave behind the system of law and legalism and all the ceremonial stuff and come outside the camp to Christ.
 
In fact, verse 14, he reminds them their center of attention is not Jerusalem.  It isn’t a continuing city.  In other words, there is no need to hang on to anything this world has to offer because none of it will last anyway.  We are seeking a city to come.  It is described in Hebrews 11:10 as a city whose builder and maker is God.  So it will be all right if you separate yourself from this world.  It’s all going up in smoke. 
 
So first of all, in relation to God, He requires separation.
 
Let's look at a second thing quickly. Our relation to God is not only this idea of separation but the idea of
 
7.  Sacrifice
verse 15
 
There is a naturally connection between separation and sacrifice and it’s beautiful how the Holy Spirit ties these two together. I think for a Jew converting to Christianity, the hardest hurdle to get over would be forsaking the sacrifices because that was the essential element for right relationship with God.
 
So the most expected question from a Jew considering Christianity would be, “What about the sacrifices?  Is anything to be sacrificed or is that concept gone?
 
So the author provides this wonderful information contained in verses 15-16.
 
There are two sacrifices God desires.  The first one is
 
- our speech
 
That’s verse 15
 
You know what kind of sacrifice God wants? He doesn't want animals, or grain or oil.  He wants the praise of our lips. And notice the little phrase "by Him." There's only one way to God and that is “by Him”.  And you cannot offer an acceptable sacrifice to God apart from Christ anymore than you can be saved apart from Christ.
 
We cannot enter His presence any other way. And so the believer priest comes into God's presence and he says, “Lord, I present to you my sacrifice” and he opens his mouth and praises the Lord.
 
So what comes out of your lips toward God? Lewt me give you an example of what should be coming out of our mouths:
 
Psalm 145:1-10
 
I will extol You, my God, O King;
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.
 
4 One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
5 I[a] will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.[b]
6 Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,
And I will declare Your greatness.
7 They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.
 
8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
9 The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.
 
10 All Your works shall praise You, O Lord,
And Your saints shall bless You.
 
On and on it goes.  That’s Psalm 145.  And if you don’t find enough there, then move on to 146 and 147 and 148 and 149 and 150!  Over and over you will find the psalmist offering the praise of his lips.
That is pleasing to God. When the cry of your lips is praise to God that's the sacrifice God desires.
 
Now notice the key word to it. "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually."
 
It is important to keep in mind we are constantly in the presence of God.  Therefore, it is not just singing a song or repeating a verse on Sunday, but what continually and perpetually comes out of our mouth at any given time in any location under any circumstance.  It is a continual sacrifice of praise from our lips.
 
You say, "But you don't understand my troubles." No, you don't understand your God. First Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God Christ Jesus concerning you." Give thanks in everything. Praising God in all things pleases Him.
 
Second thing He's pleased with is
 
- Our Actions
 
verse 16
 
It’s not just our words.  They are to be backed up with our actions.  While you're quoting Scripture and praising the Lord, be sure you're doing something to demonstrate the God is at work in your life
 
As an example, think about James 1:27.  In one verse, the Holy Spirit states everything religion is.
 
 
You want to know what religion is? There it is. You want to live a godly life? Go find some orphans and widows.  Visit them and keep yourself unspotted from the system.
 
Just live a good, clean life and minister to the needs of others. This is what God is pleased with. Now keep in mind he is not offering a plan of salvation, but a plan of sacrifice.  Get saved and then live like this.  Live a sacrificial life keeping in mind that everything you do in your Christian life is a sacrifice to God.
 
God says I want you to be separated and I want you to offer spiritual sacrifice pleasing to Me. Thanksgiving with your mouth, deeds of goodness and sharing with your life.
 
Let's pray

 

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