Online Bible Commentary
Good Works Please God and Glorify Christ
Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly. 23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. 25 Grace be with you all. (NIV)
This final passage in the book of Hebrews contains the benediction and final greetings from the writer. The writer knew those to whom he wrote and they knew him. Even though the writer of the book was kept anonymous, it is my belief that the writer was Paul and that he was writing to the Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem.
The benediction from Paul to the first century Hebrew Christians is a blessing of “the God of peace” (v. 20a). It was a blessing made possible by the blood of the resurrected Christ which established the New Covenant (v.20b).
The literal translation of the Greek in verse twenty-one is as follows: “perfect you in every good work for the to do the will of Him, doing in you the thing pleasing before Him, through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory to the ages of the ages. Amen.” The blessing was to perfect, or equip, believers for every good work. This perfection was so that Christians do the will of God, which pleases God and glorifies Christ forever. The perfection comes “through Jesus Christ” working in our lives in the form of His spirit, the Holy Spirit. This benediction is similar to that which Paul wrote in his previous writing to Timothy: “So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2Ti. 3:17).
The writer urges the Hebrew Christians to “bear with my word of exhortation” (v. 22a). This is a reference to the whole letter, the book of Hebrews. The word translated “bear with” is the Greek word “anechomai” which means “to put up with or endure”. It is a reference to endure in the exhortations, to put them into action.
The writer writes: “I have written to you quite briefly” (v. 22b). This is a reference to the length of the letter. The book of Hebrews is neither the shortest nor the longest letter of Paul. Perhaps he means here that he could have said much more on these subjects. The letter is chock full of Theology and could have been much more detailed.
The writer informs the readers “that our brother Timothy has been released” (v. 23a). Paul thought of Timothy as the son he never had, so keeping track of Timothy, and writing about him, would definitely be Pauline. The Greek word translated “released” was commonly meant to be released from confinement, such as prison. It is believed that Timothy came to help Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. In his parting words to Timothy in Paul’s previous letter, he wrote: “Do your best to come to me quickly” (2 Ti. 4:9). It is believed that 2 Timothy was written late in 66 A.D. So Timothy would probably have come to Rome early in 67 A.D, after the winter of 66-67. Travel was usually not undertaken with winter approaching. It appears that Timothy was imprisoned for a short time in 67 A.D., but then released.
The Roman Emperor Nero reportedly vowed to stop persecuting Christians late in his life. Because of this vow he may have released Timothy in 67 or early 68 A.D. Nero died in June, 68 A.D. Paul may have expected to be released himself, after seeing Timothy released. He wrote “If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you” (v. 23b). The reference to “if he arrives soon” likely meant before the winter. Timothy, upon his release from prison, may have traveled back to check on the church at Ephesus where he had been previously helping to weed out false teachers. So when Paul writes about Timothy “arriving” he may have meant Timothy returning back to Rome from Ephesus. This is all speculation, but it would seem to connect the dots.
The letter ends with greetings. The writer extends greetings to the “leaders and all the Lord’s people” (v. 24a). He also sends greetings from “those from Italy” (v. 24b), those helping him with his ministry. He ends the letter with the typical Pauline blessing of “Grace be with you all” (v. 25). Paul ended every one of his letters with a reference to grace (Ro. 16:20, 1 Cor. 16:23, 2 Cor. 13:14, Gal. 5:18, Eph. 6:24, Phil. 4:23, Col. 4:18, 1 Th. 5:28, 2 Th. 3:18, 1 Tim. 6:21, 2 Tim. 4:22, Ti. 3:15, and Ph. 25).
The benediction in this letter was a blessing of equipping for doing good works. We are not saved by good works. Good works are the result of our salvation. They spring from allowing the Holy Spirit to live through us. We can quench the work of the Holy Spirit in us through sin. So obedience and good works go hand in hand. We cannot have one without the other. The Lord is looking for, and expecting, our cooperation. It is up to us not to let Him down. Our good works please God and glorify Christ.