Commentators point out that up to this point the letter seems to be a joint effort of several Hebrew men who were greatly distressed or pained to see their fellows desiring to cling to the Mosaic manner of worship still taking place in the temple. The letter is a gentle but firm exhortation for their fellow Hebrews to heed and obey the truth in Jesus Christ. However, these closing words are distinctly Pauls, as he makes personal requests.
V. 18. Good conscience
We cannot get this close without saying a few things about the conscience:
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified (lawful for use, Lev 11?) by the word of God and prayer.
Paul lists two Devilish Doctrines: 1) forbidding to marry and 2) abstaining from meats, i.e., veganism, which says that it is more healthy to abstain from meats, and maybe even dairy. Some years ago, the doctor told my dad that if he wanted to heal properly and quickly, he needed to eat red meat.
The conscience has been neutralized by psychology, as men are taught to transfer their guilt onto society, the state, parents, &c. Thus, they are guilt free without admitting sin and without Christ. Being guilt free releases one to perpetrate is heinous crimes without a second thought. Transferring guilt is by no means new, for Paul warned Timothy of corruptors of the faith under the guise of science falsely so called. (1 Tim 6:20)
The Spirit warns of a generation with no conscience. (Ps 78:8, Pro 30) The wicked intentionally sear the conscience as with a hot iron by every means possible: statist education, media, entertainment, work place, &c. The wicked know that searing the conscience leads to chaos, which they plan to use to remold society into their New World Order that will control everyone.
The Elect cannot understand the lack of guilt in this generation, for they are unable to think in that manner.
Bettie has three nephews and a niece who were born and reared in Brazil. At the urging of a professor he had met previously, one nephew came up to audition for a three year scholarship in the doctorate program in music (piano) at BGU in Bowling Green OH. BGU only accepts 5 candidates a year into the music program, and he was one. He stayed with us for a week before going back to Brazil. There is a place between us and town where a lady, who enjoys working with chickens, sells eggs with a conscience box. He was absolutely amazed that a conscience box could exist here. (We are in a rural area.) Brazil was settled by criminals kicked out of Europe, and the US was settled by believers kicked out of Europe. Brazil must have high guard dogs, fences, broken glass or barbed wire toped walls and many locks to protect from the thieves, but here there is still some Christian character left. (My dad used to say that a lock only keeps an honest man honest.)
Several times in Pauls letters he mentions he has a clear conscience, and in v. 18 he mentions it again as he asks for prayer, e.g., Acts 23:1. In Acts 24:16, he worked to have a clear conscience, as we must do. Romans 2:15, men must work to suppress the conscience. Notice Peter said that it is better to suffer wrongfully than to violate the conscience. (1 Peter 2:16, 3:16)
Paul shows us that only as we have a good conscience and in all things live honestly, can we expect the Spirit to use us, and honestly request others to pray for us.
How many have we met who knowingly live dishonest lives, yet they expect the prayers of others, and expect God to answer those prayers? We certainly cannot say that God will not answer those dishonest prayers, for who can know the mind of the sovereign God of mercy?
The New Testament says a great deal about the necessity of faith and of a good conscience in order to fight the good fight of faith. (1 Tim. 1:18-20) With a clear conscience, Paul desires prayer that he might be restored to them.
Vv. 20, 21 sums up the message of this letter to the Hebrews: Peace with the Father cannot be found in the blood of bulls and goats as was being offered in the temple according to the Old Covenant made with National Israel at the Mount. The peace of a clear conscience before the Father is only possible through the blood of the everlasting covenant made between the Father, Son and Spirit before the foundation of the world.
The God of Peace is presented in stark contrast to Jehovahs presence on Sinai, the mountain of fire and smoke. Though Jesus Christ is the same God in both instances, the difference is the shedding of his blood which made him the great shepherd of the sheep; that is, those he purchased with his own blood according to the everlasting covenant. (Isa 53)
So completely is God appeased that there is a new covenant procured and constituted, namely, the Christian Covenant, called here "the everlasting covenant." First, because it shall never be repealed and continueth unalterable, the called obtaining by it the title and possession of an eternal inheritance (#He 9:15). Second, because Christs atoning blood is the foundation of this covenant, and as the virtue of it never ceaseth, therefore is it made effectual to secure its end, namely, the eternal salvation of sinful men who are converted and reconciled to God. This new covenant is also designated "the Covenant of Peace:" "I will make a covenant of peace with them"(#Eze 37:26). First, because in the same this peace and reconciliation is published, and offered to us: "The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ"(#Ac 10:36 and cf. #Eph 2:17), because in this covenant the terms of this peace between us and God are stated: God binding Himself to give to sinful men forgiveness of sins and eternal life upon the conditions of repentance, faith, and new obedience. (Pink)
Isaiah 54:10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
The reader is urged to keep his eyes upon Jesus as he runs the race toward perfection, maturity, as was described earlier in this letter. The Lord does not imply that the believing reader is already perfect nor can he be perfect before he gets his new body, but he is to press on toward perfection. (See Philip 3:12) Paul also looks forward to perfection in the eternal sense.
The believers assurance of perfection, maturity, is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
V. 21. Make you perfect The Hebrews have been told that it must be Gods divinely supplied grace that keeps one faithful. That grace is only available through Jesus Christ, and his blood of the everlasting covenant. It was the blood of Jesus Christ that activated that everlasting covenant of peace. The shedding of his blood fulfilled covenant, and placed in the Elect a new heart and desire to please the Father in all things.
It is the God of peace who must make his people perfect; that is, mature. He perfects his people by bringing tribulation or allowing tribulation to come upon them. (Ro 5:1-5, Ro 8:29, 1 Pe 1:7, 2 Pe 1, &c.) It is not ones knowledge of Gods Word that identifies maturity. Rather, it is his faithfulness in doing what is well pleasing in his sight, (not mans sight) regardless of the state in which he finds himself. (See 1 Cor 10:31)
That working in the lives of the believers is Gods supernatural grace at work; thus, we are assured that God works all things after his will in order to form the image of Jesus Christ in the Elect. Believers are to be comforted in the knowledge that He alone controls the amount and kind of tribulation that comes upon them. (1 Cor 10:13)
V. 22, exhortation: The word of exhortation (t?? ????? t?? pa?a???se??). His description of the entire Epistle. It certainly is that, a powerful appeal in fact. (RWP)
"Suffer the Word of Exhortation." In its local meaning to the Hebrews this expression comprehended the entire contents of the Epistle which Paul had addressed to them, for, from beginning to end, it was in the nature of an earnest entreaty that they would relinquish the now effete system of Judaism, and remain steadfast in the profession of Christianity and the performance of Gospel duties. (Pink)
Exhortation includes the entire Word of God as given to mankind. Hebrews is an earnest entreaty that through the work of Christ, all would relinquish the hold of the world, flesh and the devil, for their eternal wellbeing is at stake.
Though the truth of this letter may have been painful to the Hebrews, both the ones who wrote it, and to those to whom it was addressed, it was a powerful Scriptural appeal meant to convince them to turn from the Old Covenant made with National Israel, and turn to the New Covenant made with the New Israel of God, the Gospel Church.
Abandoning the Hebrew/Jewish manner of worship meant abandoning their nation and their families. It no doubt brought the heartbreak of separation that Christ had warned about. Moreover, they would be looked down upon and shunned if they did not remain faithful to the Temple. How many today refuse to make that break from the religious traditions and errors and to the truth for fear of being ostracized by their friends who remain committed to error. (Pastors particularly have found that when they depart from the common religious system of error to follow the truth, those who remain committed to error will shun them.)
There was a faithful Methodist church member who lived across the street from the church in Linden. He knew that the truth was not being taught, but he could not leave because his wifes mother had played the organ there. So they had to stay and support the church. (They had a good and honest preacher for a short time. But he rearranged the choir chairs without the approval of the proper committee, so they got rid of him.)
Paul tells them that Timothy is now free, and will visit the churches shortly.
He concludes with his normal affectionate benediction to their godly, faithful ministers and all the saints.
Grace be with you all. Amen.
Let us conclude this study in Hebrews with this lengthy summery of the book by Barnes:
There is no book of the New Testament more important than this, and of course none whose want would be more perceptible in the canon of the Scriptures. Every reader of the Old Testament needs such a guide as this epistle, written by some one who had an intimate acquaintance from childhood with the Jewish system; who had all the advantages of the most able and faithful instruction, and who was under the influence of inspiration, to make us acquainted with the true nature of those institutions. Nothing was more important than to settle the principles in regard to the nature of the Jewish economy; to show what was typical, and how those institutions were the means of introducing a far more perfect system the system of the Christian religion. If we have right feelings, we shall have sincere gratitude to God that he caused the Christian religion to be prefigured by a system in itself so magnificent and grand as that of the Jewish, and higher gratitude for that sublime system of religion of which the Jewish, with all its splendour, was only the shadow. There was much that was beautiful, cheering, and sublime in the Jewish system. There was much that was grand and awful in the giving of the law, and much that was imposing in its ceremonies. In its palmy and pure days, it was incomparably the purest and noblest system of religion then on earth. It taught the nature of the one true God; inculcated a pure system of morals; preserved the record of the truth on the earth, and held up constantly before man the hope of a better system still in days to come. But it was expensive, burdensome, precise in its prescriptions, and wearisome in its ceremonies, #Ac 15:10. It was adapted to one people a people who occupied a small territory, and who could conveniently assemble at the central place of their worship three times in a year. It was not a system adapted to the whole world; nor was it designed for the whole world. When the Saviour came, therefore, to introduce whom was the design of the Jewish economy, it ceased as a matter of course. The Jewish altars were soon thrown down; the temple was rased to the ground, and the city of their solemnities was destroyed. The religion of the Hebrews passed away to be revived no more in its splendour and power, and it has never lived since, except as an empty form. This epistle teaches us why it passed away, and why it can never be restored. It is the true key with which to unlock the Old Testament; and with these views we may remark, in conclusion, that he who would understand the Bible thoroughly should make himself familiar with this epistle; that the canon of Scripture would be incomplete without it; and that to one who wishes to understand the Revelation which God has given, there is no portion of the volume whose loss would be a more irreparable calamity than that of the epistle to the Hebrews.
Ignorance of what Hebrews teaches has led to many false doctrines that have denatured the church from victory to defeat; this ignorance has left many professed Christians if not dead in their sins, then totally discouraged about the future.
Let us be alive unto God, with the sure confidence that we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ. The very gates of hell must fall when the Elect faithfully fulfill their calling in Christ Jesus, as they stand and fight the good fight of faith in the power of his freely given and abundant supernatural grace in every situation.
By His Sovereign Grace Alone,