Back to the Temple, to the Holy Place, Where We are The Church
When I finished up the section covering who we are as the Temple of God, I felt that I did not adequately emphasize a vital aspect of our being that is found in Holy Place life. In the Holy Place, where only the priests can enter, all who are true followers of Christ being Priests unto God in His Royal Priesthood, life in the Holy Place is Church.
We are The Church. We wash each other’s feet through encouragement and love as we enter together. We fellowship around the Showbread Table, Light each other’s lamps at the lampstand, and worship through prayer and song at the table of incense.
I was kicking myself for missing or failing to emphasize that, praying about doing an addendum, when God advised my heart to not worry about it. Now I know that He knew the last chapter.
So here we are, the final post of our trip through Hebrews, looking at who we are as the people of God in Christ. Until now, we have focused most on each of us individually. We are each tasked as priests, standing ready at the altar of sacrifice, poised to give an account of the hope we have and share with those who want it. We are responsible to watch with care for the image of God in us and encourage it in others as we wash holy feet. We enter the Holy Place on behalf of others, yes, but also in living our lives as honors God, fellowshipping with His people at the showbread table; checking our light and lamp oil at the Lamp Stand; praying and worshiping as incense at the table of incense. There we find our entry into the Holy of Holies for very personal time with the Father.
In the Holy of Holies, we visit with our Father about His Word, growing our personal understanding and surrender to His ways. We know and are reminded of His healing from the bite of sin’s serpent of death. We remember His loving care that meets our need as manna from His storehouses, all while being acutely aware of His mercy seat where Jesus ever lives to intercede on our behalf. Here, in our individual, very personal time with the Father through Christ, we are rested, revived, and replenished to return to The Church in renewed strength for ministry.
Now we see in chapter 13 who we are corporately. We are The Church. As I read Hebrews 13, the words speak to me, giving an excellent picture of what “Church” looks like. As I read these words, here is what stands out to me for us to realize about being part of The Church.
In Verse 1, we find our first, most vital responsibility as members of The Church: unfailing, unconditional love. We are to excel in living out the Agape love that flows from Father, through Son, to and through us individually, to each other. And guess who gets the first dose after love of God in all His forms? “ME!”
As we love God, His love flows to us to empower us to fully and truly love Him more. In this exchange, we come to know His Agape for us individually, as His beloved Child. His love for “me” empowers our love for self to be a love that rightly evaluates self, frees from self hate and self worship, and empowers a humility that equips our ability to truly love others. It is a love that does not fail as God’s righteous thoughts toward “me” and those in “my” sphere of influence equips our right relationships.
This love extends to empower our fulfillment of verse 2, “Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood–being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Thus, we open our homes for fellowship, bible studies, overnight guests, etc., giving hospitality out of Love’s flow.
Love is gracious, merciful, humble, and giving. True Love, as God defines it, motivates and empowers everything we think, feel, say, and do. Thus, Love’s “…hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. ….” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8 AMPC)
Out of love, we recognize our fellow countrymen and women, feeling the plight of those in persecution of every form. As The Church, we pray for and do all we can to help those imprisoned because of their faith (Verse 3)
As The Church, we recognize that our relationships are a picture of God’s Kingdom, beginning with the marriage bed. We hold human marriage in highest honor, knowing that as the Bride of Christ, our marriage in this life is to emulate that BLESSed union.
We know that adultery and any infidelity breaks the heart of God, as it mimics the separation of sinful man from their Holy, Creator God and His loving desire for our best good (Verse 4). Infidelity is the same sin toward our mate as idolatry is toward our God. It robs from our mate that which belongs only to them, and gives it to another. And this infidelity, though usually given to another person, can be given to things, just as an idol can be a thing or a pursuit that robs what belongs first to God or our mate.
As the people of God we hold God and His nearness as greatest value, knowing He who will never leave us, meets our every need. We do not give His glory to the monetary temptations of this world or hold any other treasure above Him, who cares for us affectionately and watchfully (Verse 5-6). This, too, fits the marriage bed, as we are called to cherish and nurture our mates.
As The Church, we work together to grow in our relationship to Triune-God, learning to truly love, honor, cherish, and nurture that Holy Union with God. ”So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?”
As The Church, we pray for and support the leadership of our assemblies. We call them to accountability for righteousness in their leading, and we follow their holy example, imitating their faith as we grow by their example, a faith that leans the entire personality on God to become the real individual He wants of us (Verse 7-8).
Verse 17 adds instruction to “Obey your spiritual leaders and submit to them continually recognizing their authority over you, for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account of their trust.”
Their “trust” is from God, the responsibility given as shepherds of their flock. We are charged to do our part “to let them do this with gladness and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you either.”
At the same time that we are to follow our leaders, helping them lead victoriously, learning and growing faith because of their example, making sure we do not become a source of hardship and sorrow by bucking their authority, we are to be watchful for false teaching. Verse 9-15 warns that there should not be alien traditions added to God’s Word of instruction. Nor are we to trust any other altar of sacrifice for sin than that of God’s Son. “It is good for the heart to be established and ennobled and strengthened by means of grace (God’s favor and spiritual blessing) and not to be devoted to” unnecessary rituals and sacrifices.
As The Church, we care about others, meeting the needs of others (Verse 16). We pray for the work of The Church, its ministries, evangelists, preachers, teachers, etc., ministering to their needs (Verse 18-19). Following these guidelines, we accomplish the fellowship of Holy Place ministry.
“Now may the God of peace, Who is the Author and the Giver of peace, Who brought again from among the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood that sealed and ratified the everlasting agreement (covenant, testament), strengthen, complete, perfect and make you what you ought to be and equip you with everything good that you may carry out His will; while He Himself works in you and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah); to Whom be the glory forever and ever (to the ages of the ages). Amen (so be it). …” (Verse 20-25).