At the end of his letter, the writer of Hebrews is quite personal. He was obviously well known to his readers, although there is no clear way for us to identify him. His purpose was to call them to action: to keep on trusting in the Lord Jesus who far surpasses angels (Hebrews 1:1-2:18), Moses (Hebrews 3:1-19), the Sabbath (Hebrews 4:1-13), Jewish high priests (Hebrews 4:14-7:28), the old Covenant of law (Hebrews 8:1-13), the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:1-10), and animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9:11-39). Instead of trusting in religious symbols which they could see, the writer urges them to trust in Jesus Christ alone and honour His church, their brothers and sisters (Hebrews 11:1-40). Instead of resenting difficult circumstances they were to see them as part of the Lord's living discipline (Hebrews 12:1-29). Instead of seeking their own good, they were to honour their leaders and their spiritual siblings (Hebrews 13:1-25) The exhortation was given to a church under pressure from traditional religionists and an aggressively anti-Christian state, where some believers were starting to doubt the all-sufficiency of Christ.
These personal touches at the end of the letter are to encourage the believers to take seriously what was written about Jesus. The text is compacted, and even dense in some places, but that was for the sake of brevity so that the document was not too large to be transported easily. They needed encouragement – well, Timothy who had been in prison in Rome, had just been released. And the writer would join him in visiting the churches,
The church leaders needed encouragement too. Not just the stimulus of the doctrinal expositions in this letter, but the knowledge that they were not forgotten as they carried the heavy burdens of governing the churches and teaching faithfully in the face of pressure to compromise. We do not know where the recipients lived; they were outside of Italy, where there was a vibrant church despite the challenges of an anti-Christian state. Most of all they needed to be assured that the Lord's presence was with them and that His grace would see them through their troubles (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Pastoral leadership is difficult. It should be rooted in a deep love for the Lord and a love for His people. Not a sentimental love which seeks affection by giving affection, but a sacrificial love which is willing to face the challenges of living a godly life in a corrupt world (2 Timothy 4:1-5). It is both personal and pastoral, using the Scriptures to teach and train, rebuke and correct people who struggle to keep in step with the Spirit because their hearts are not soaked in the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But ministry is not a process; it is a personal relationship with Jesus and the people He loves. This writer knew how to instruct the mind, challenge the will and warm the heart. Is that how people describe you?
© Dr Paul Adams