Online Bible Commentary
Imitate Their Faith
Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. (NIV)
The writer of the book of Hebrews is in the process of exhorting the first century Hebrew Christians to obedient living. In this passage, he exhorts them regarding their religious life.
First, he encourages them to “remember your leaders” (v. 7a). He is referring specifically to those Christian leaders “who spoke the word of God to you” (v. 7b). He is exhorting them to honor their teachers, much as he exhorted them to honor marriage in the previous passage.
The readers can best honor their teachers by “imitation” (v. 7c). They are being called to imitate the “way of life” and the “faith” of their teachers. They should “consider the outcome” of the way their teachers lived their lives. The outcome may have been that they were martyred for their faith, or, perhaps, that they impacted eternity just by being a good Christian example to follow. The Hebrew Christians are also to imitate the faith of their teachers. This faith would have been unshakeable, even in the midst of persecution.
The faith of their teachers would have been enduring, and unchanging. It would have been Christlike in nature. It would have been like Jesus, “the same yesterday and today and forever” (v. 8). This is the kind of faith that the writer is calling for the Hebrew Christians to have. This is the kind of faith that they would need in the midst of persecution aimed at bringing them back to Judaism. The writer’s intent in this letter was to encourage the Hebrew Christians in their faith so that they did not cave to the pressure to return to Judaism.
Next, the writer reinforces his case by denouncing the rituals of Judaism. He warns them “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (v. 9a). These “strange teachings” are the rituals of Judaism as written in the Law of Moses, the Torah. These are mostly rituals regarding food and drink. The book of Leviticus is full of such rituals.
Instead, the readers are “to be strengthened by grace” (v. 9b). They are to look to the grace of Jesus Christ. They are not to look to ceremonial cleansing rituals. The writer instructs that “eating ceremonial foods…is of no benefit to those who do so” (v. 9c). These rituals represented nothing more than legalism, following a set of rules and regulations in order to become holy. None of us can live up to a set of rules and regulations in order to achieve holiness. Holiness is produced by grace, and nothing else.
That is not to say that we should not yield to the Holy Spirit living within us and resist sin. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and we should yield to that conviction. He helps us to be holy, if we follow His prompting and don’t give in to sin.
Just as the first century Hebrew Christians were called to imitate the faith of their teachers, so are we. We all have had teachers, and maybe even mentors, who have been instrumental in helping us on our Christian walk. They have not only taught us, but also have walked the talk in the way that they lived. We honor them by imitating them. It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So, imitating the walk and faith of our teachers would be a wonderful way to honor them for the hours of preparation and effort that they put into teaching us the word of God. Imitating their faith not only honors our teachers but, even more importantly, honors God. After all, we should always be striving to please God.