Hebrews 13:9-14 The new covenant destiny and mentality
The new covenant mentality involves setting our eyes towards the heavenly city while trusting God to provide for our daily needs. The destiny of new covenant believers lies with the outcasts and the down casts of society. Today’s passage teaches us to eat at the altar of Christ by taking up His cross and commission through which we receive grace for abundant living.
9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.
The reception of grace necessitates the posturing of the heart in full submission under the Lordship of Christ. When God sees the heart of one who is humble and meek, He releases grace unreservedly. The varied and strange teachings of some teachers serve to direct one’s attention towards sacrificial foods through which they supposed they could obtain blessings as opposed to grace for godly living.
Foods or sacrificial meals will not benefit those whose hearts remain unyielding and self-centered. On the contrary, God seeks out those whose hearts are pure and submitted under His Lordship and blesses them.
The depiction of eating from the altar (of Christ, the atonement Lamb) strengthens the heart of believers with grace for godly living. The old covenant laws allowed the Levitical priests to eat the daily sin sacrifices, but prohibited them from eating the annual atonement sacrifice. Instead, it was to be brought outside the camp to be burned (Leviticus 6:30). The priests, unaware of the law’s true intention was to exclude them from partaking the grace of Christ on the Day of Atonement. The altar of the atonement sacrifice is strictly meant only for new covenant believers, who acknowledge Christ as Lord. Eating from the altar (of Christ) involves reading the word daily and appropriating His grace through the Spirit for godly living.
Jesus said to the people who looked for physical bread,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” John 6:53-56
Therefore, “we have an altar” signifies the possession of a new covenant mindset as opposed to the old covenant mentality of earthly blessings and self-rule. Those who yield their hearts to God in full submission will eat of the bread of life and receive God’s manifold grace.
11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
Jesus’ cross event mirrored the sacrificial process on the Day of Atonement. The blood was brought into the holy place by the high priest corresponds with the cleansing effect of Christ’s blood that was shed through which He opened up for men access to God. The burning of the atonement animal outside the camp corresponds with Christ’s suffering outside the gate in an area of town where criminals were executed, a place dreaded by the public. The author underscored the portion of the law that required the atonement sacrifice to be incinerated outside the camp thus accentuating the extent of Christ’s condemnation and rejection by His own people. Jesus was classified as a blasphemer and a Sabbath lawbreaker who was to be stoned outside the gate. The necessity of the atonement animal to be burned outside the camp prophetically points to the shame, rejection and suffering of Christ.
13 So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
The author rallied all followers of Christ to identify with Christ’s reproach (disgrace) by living out the truth without compromise. It is expected that those who stand by the truth will be disadvantaged and sidelined. Christ was reproached and disgraced by evil men because He stood by the truth and refused to endorse their sins. He stood by His confession as being the Son of God and was judged for blaspheme. By bearing His reproach, believers become disciples of Christ by living out the truth and calling the world to repentance.
Christ did not strive for physical comfort, because He sought the heavenly place at God’s right hand. Christ’s earthly life was poured out with the sole purpose of fulfilling the Father’s will. As believers, we must not indulge ourselves in the pleasures of earthly life: For here we do not have a lasting city. But to seek a place at the Father’s right hand where Christ is: but we are seeking the city which is to come.
No single ritual or knowledge will cause us to obtain the salvation of God. Many partake in religious rituals hoping to benefit from it. They partake in the Holy Communion hoping to be healed of their diseases. They worship God weekly asking for His blessings. They immersed themselves in the doctrine of grace and baptize themselves in Jesus’ name believing that will secure them a place in heaven. These desires are legitimate and God will gladly bless His people. However, God’s blessings and salvation cannot be acquired by a religious act or by knowledge. That was why the old covenant priests were not allowed to eat the atonement sacrifices. The old covenant belief system involves securing God’s blessings and salvation through religious offerings and through a correct understanding of the law. However, salvation is not obtained by these, but by the right posture of the heart towards God through repentance. Therefore, only believers with a new covenant mindset of obedience and humility can partake of the atonement sacrifice which is Christ, the Lamb.
The new covenant mindset focuses on accomplishing God’s work on earth, while trusting God to provide for our personal needs. The old covenant belief system focuses on gathering earthly blessings for self-centered enjoyment. But the new covenant focuses on doing the Father’s will while enjoying abundant living on earth and obtaining eternal rewards in heaven. Many churchgoers were taught the new covenant doctrine but remain old covenant in their attitudes and focus. Hence, many focused their prayers towards promotion in their career, health for their family, and the gathering of more blessings. Their primary concerns are still rooted in the cares of the earthly life. They supposed the main purpose of the new covenant is to break the curses of poverty and free them to live off the goodness of God. They behaved as if they will spend eternity on earth. The author said, “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” The new covenant mindset involves following the footsteps of Christ, in forsaking earthly comfort in order to accomplish God’s will and to sit at His right hand in heaven. The question remains: Should we pray for our career, family and for more blessings? Jesus put it this way,
For the Gentiles (non-believers) eagerly seek all these things (career, blessings and wellbeing); for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:32-33
The new covenant mindset focuses on accomplishing God’s work on earth, while trusting God to provide for our daily needs. He will surely prosper the righteous and bless them in ways they cannot imagine. As long as we place our focus on doing His will, He will bless us with all the spiritual blessings in the universe (Ephesians 1:3). The path of truth and obedience is paved with the blessings and provisions of God.
Our destiny is found in the dirty and the unholy places on earth. Many believers kept themselves away from sinners and those who come from the lower strata of the society. They kept themselves to those of similar social status, interests and religion. They suppose that as a way of preserving their class, and keeping themselves “holy” and “untainted” by the vulgarities of the world. Yet, Jesus spent His last moments not in a decent place surrounded by loved ones. He was shamed and executed in the most inhumane place surrounded by tormentors. He was numbered with criminals and blasphemers of the world for that was His destiny. Even though He is God, He felt at ease with sinners and tax collectors. He did not separate Himself from them because He was perfect. In fact, sinners are the ones who welcomed Him, but it’s the “holy” ones who persecuted and murdered Him. What made Jesus glorious and perfect is His selfless love for the outcasts and His willingness to identify with their suffering.
- Do we sometimes over emphasize on being exact in the details of doctrine rather than being relevant and spot on concerning truths for godly living? The end of all doctrine is to live like Christ. If we focus on the principles and truths that govern godly living, we will eventually arrive at a balanced teaching that is both relevant and edifying.
- How much of your time is spent with people who are outside of your comfort zone? We should keep pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone in being able to connect with people of different race and background.
Dear Lord, I thank you for identifying with me and connecting with me in my weaknesses and imperfections. Use me to bring encouragement and help to those who are in dire circumstances. Help me to better understand the fears and mentality of people so that I could be a voice of truth and hope to them. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.