The Book of Hebrews is a tense letter. It’s gloriously tense, but tense nonetheless. There is an issue on the ground that the writer is dealing with. Many in the congregation are feeling the pull away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ back to their familiar system of Judaism. There are social, financial, and religious pressures abounding. The pinch is pronounced.
The writer’s strategy is to lift high the banner of Christ’s unmatched sufficiency, beauty, and utter supremacy. In each case he shows Jesus to be a better priest, king, sacrifice, and mediator of a New (and better) Covenant. And with each emphatic statement he blasts holes, by way of comparison, in and through the supporting structures of what was alluring them. Wherever you turn, if you turn from Christ, you turn to something less.
I find it fascinating how he begins to land the plane in chapter 13. After providing a number of clear responsibilities for the believer in verses 1-6, he begins to talk about the family life of the congregation. What fascinates me is he tells them to look back before he tells them to look ahead.
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)
These leaders here are those who spoke the word of God to them. The writer of Hebrews is reminding the congregation to not forget those who have gone before them. More than likely these leaders that he is referring to, have now gone on to be with the Lord. They were no doubt instrumental in the planting of this church, and perhaps even the conversion of many of these people.
The leaders’ faithfulness is tied to their speaking the word of God. This is the most valuable friend anyone can have, but especially in a church. This is so very precious for 3 immediate reasons, 1) It is not a widespread practice. 2) It is of the utmost benefit to the hearer, 3) It glorifies God.
So then, this congregation is told to bring them to mind. You’ll notice 3 verbs jump right out at you in verse 7: Remember, Consider, and Imitate. This is what he wants them to do with regard to these faithful pastors and church leaders.
- Remember the leaders. Christians are to bring them to mind, specifically how they labored in the word and doctrine, faithfully bringing the scriptures to the congregation.
- Consider the outcome of their way of life— how did they end? Did they finish? They most certainly did. They had completed the course that the church is being called to run. These guys are in the clubhouse and their testimony encourages those on the field to finish well.
- Imitate their faith. Copy. Replicate. Do what they did. This is similar to the faithful saints in Chapter 11 that reminded Christians to press on to the heavenly city. These church leaders, like faithful leaders (1 Pet. 5.4) provide an example for the church to emulate.
This is such an important step that we too often neglect or at least forget. Think about your own congregation, if you were facing such a pressure packed situation, do you think you would you point them back to the previous generation? It is common today to embrace the prominence of the now. We tend to act like we think that we are the most important generation. We rarely look over our shoulders unless we are looking down our noses or tickling our curiosity. However, for Christians, looking back is vitally important for marching ahead faithfully. There is great value today in looking back to yesterday. This is one reason I so enjoy reading biographies of faithful men and women from church history.
Instead of being enamored with what is new or who is new and up and coming, Christians would be well-served to look back. We should resist the impulse to enamored with the new guys and find ourselves encouraged by the old guys, even those who are in the clubhouse. After all, they finished!