Along with emphasizing the office of Christ as our High Priest, the book of Hebrews provides a number of Christian-living principles that must be taken seriously. In the beginning of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul stressed how great Jesus Christ really is, and the importance of the Truth and calling true Christians have received. This is the reason we must never let it slip away (Heb. 2:1). Christian living requires fidelity to the call we have received.
A Christian-living responsibility that is often neglected is the matter of tithing. In reality, tithing is an act of worship, as is indicated in Deuteronomy 26:10: “And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God.” Also, in 1 Chronicles 16:29: “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” The eighth and tenth commandments include the principle of tithing. The eighth commandment states: “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15), and when one neglects tithing, the principle of the tenth commandment, which prohibits coveting, is violated. While one may not think of the failure to tithe as theft, the prophet Malachi wrote: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation” (Mal. 3:8–9).
Some believe that tithing is not required in the New Testament, and they believe in giving offerings rather than tithing. With some exceptions, most of those who adhere to this view give little or no offerings at all. God will judge each of us by the heart, and one who gives liberal offerings may be better off before God than one who tithes with a reluctant and unwilling spirit. Paul addresses the issue of tithing in Hebrews, chapter 7.
A summary of this Chapter is as follows: Prior to the time Israel was called out of Egypt and made a nation, Melchisedec was king of Salem and priest of the most high God. He received tithes from Abraham. In Hebrews 7: 1-3, Paul identified Christ as Melchisedec. The priesthood given to the nation of Israel was authorized by the God of the Old Testament (the One who became Christ, 1 Cor. 10:1-4) and was administered by the Levites. They were authorized to take tithes from the people. With the passing of the Old Covenant, a change was required in the law. What law? The tithing law! This tithing law was not done away, but changed. How? The Priesthood of Melchisedec was transferred to the ministry of the New Testament, which is authorized to take tithes.
Some believe that the change in the law of which Paul spoke was the Law of God, so that now one need not tithe at all. Yet, the context of the entire chapter demonstrates the great office of Melchisedec, who required tithes long before Israel was a nation. He is the One who authorized tithing to both the Levites and the New Testament ministry. The Law of God stands forever (Ps. 111:7-8). It has not changed. What is required now is obedience to that Law, in both the letter and the spirit.
Christian living requires sincere worship before God, and since tithing is a form of worship, Christians should take this responsibility seriously. There are sins of commission as well as omission (Jas. 4:17). To neglect tithing is a sin of omission.
Another Christian principle of living in the book of Hebrews is where Paul warned about the danger of falling away:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:23–31)
The text above shows that falling away can be precipitated by neglect, and that disassociating oneself from true believers is a first step. This is why Paul emphasized the need to remind ourselves of the beginning of our enlightenment—when we endured affliction in order to obey God. To remind ourselves fortifies our resolve to continue in the path God has given us.
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. (Heb. 10:32–36)
Hebrews 11 can be called “God’s Faith Hall of Fame.” The examples given in this chapter are truly inspiring. Exercising faith is an important part of Christian living. Paul defines faith in verse one: “Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence [conviction] of things not seen . . . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:1, 6). Two important facts are pointed out in this verse: (1) One must believe that God exists, and (2) that He rewards those who earnestly and continually seek Him. Jesus told His disciples never to give up on God. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint [be discouraged, wearied]” (Luke 18:1). Diligence and determination will often bring the result one desires.
Any parent should know the importance of guiding and disciplining children. But this biblical principle has been spurned and rejected by the so-called wise of this world. One need only look at the consequences of today’s youth to see the fruits of this false notion. God is our spiritual father, and He disciplines us.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Heb. 12:5–11)
The Christian principle here is that we need to gracefully receive God’s correction when He finds it necessary to discipline us. This discipline may be made known to us by studying the Scriptures, or by what we hear in sermons, or by negative circumstances in our lives. One should keep in mind, however, that negative circumstances can be caused by the devil. Whatever the reason, one should be asking God for help in ascertaining what could be the cause of adverse events and circumstances that may befall us. If at fault, we should be willing to change. In Hebrews 12:25, Paul emphasizes the need to pay attention to what God directs: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb. 12:25). The importance of being willing to be corrected is essential to Christian spiritual growth.
A number of other principles of Christian living are listed in Hebrews 13. The first of these is the need to be hospitable. “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:1–2). The idea that angels appear as women, or have wings, is not biblical. In cases where the appearance of angels is described in the Bible, they appear as men. They do not have wings (Judges 13:3–6, 9–10). Even in this age angels may have appeared to Christians, so in most circumstances being polite and hospitable is a godly virtue. One should pray for wisdom and discernment, though, at all times. This is a dangerous world in many places around the globe.
Christian living also means being moral. The standard that sets morality is the Law of God. Here is what Paul wrote about morality: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). The New International Version renders this verse as follows: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Many Bible admonitions are directed against adulterers. “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul” (Prov. 6:32). Adultery is a violation of the seventh commandment (Ex. 20:14), and those who disregard this commandment need to take heed: “But he that sinneth against me [God’s wisdom] wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36). Notice above, Hebrews 13:4 also includes fornicators. This means that all sexual activity outside of the marriage relationship is sinful and those who indulge in this practice will surely regret it.
The last Christian principle of living to be covered from the writings of the Apostle Paul is in Hebrews 13:9. Paul wrote: “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats [foods], which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” Today many people are unbalanced in their eating habits and fall sway to one new diet fad after another (divers and strange doctrines). In addition, many do not know how to eat properly, or allow their desires to dictate what they eat even if unhealthful. The Bible, in Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11, gives us instructions on what kind of flesh to eat. In addition, animal fat, blood, and flesh from animals that have died of themselves or have been strangled, should not be eaten. Common sense should lead one to seek a balanced diet, and the Bible shows many examples of what people can safely eat. Much of what is available today has been vitiated and is not good for one’s health. While one should be careful in this matter, there is no need to become obsessed. Remember what Paul said in Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy [Spirit].”
This series will now close with Paul’s encouraging statement of God’s intention for us, as expressed in Christian-living principles. God intends to “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will . . .” (Heb. 13:21).