Online Text Sermon - Going Outside the Camp, Hebrews ch.13 vv.12-13
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Going Outside the Camp|
|Text||Hebrews ch.13 vv.12-13 |
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"Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." (Hebrews 13, 12-13)
"Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." (text)
The key to understanding these words, I think, is contained in this word 'camp' which you noticed occurs also at verse 11, where the writer says that "the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought to the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp" (Hebrews 13, 11). And indeed, not only does he refer twice here in this passage to 'the camp', but he alludes to the same subject under the figure of a gate in verse 12. "Jesus", he says, "suffered without" or outside "the gate". So then, we have these two references to the camp and one reference to the same thing, only using the word "gate". What does this writer mean?
He must be referring to the Jewish nation. You recall that in the book of Numbers and elsewhere in the early chapters and books of the Old Testament, that the people of God were organized into twelve tribes. And as they were marching through the wilderness between Egypt and the promised land that they had a certain formation. The twelve tribes had to position themselves in a certain order. They each had their particular location within the camp of Israel. Three tribes on the north, three on the south, three on the east and west. And the tabernacle or place of worship was in the centre. There the priests and the Levites were to officiate. And as they moved forward following the pillar of fire and the cloud, symbolizing the very being of God, they moved in that order and when they encamped, they encamped in that formation. So we may safely conclude that the reference to a camp here, is a reference to Israel, to the Jewish nation which was also, of course, in the Old Testament time, a church. It was 'the Church' of the Old Testament that had its own form of worship and its own modes of discipline. That, then, I believe, is the clue to the meaning of what the apostle is here referring to.
Now, he is saying to the Christians to whom he writes, that they as Hebrew Christians (and you remember this is the epistle to the Hebrews), that they as Hebrew Christians had a particular problem and he was helping them to face their particular problem. Now, what was this problem? It was the great danger that having moved out of the Jewish religion of the Old Testament into the Christian religion of the New Testament, their temptations was, to hanker for the religion that they had left. Their danger was that they might go back. That they might be so homesick for what they have learnt and been taught as children and young people about the sacrifices and the feasts and the offerings and the modes of worship of the Old Testament, the form of a church. Having become Christians, they may be dissatisfied.
You can understand, my friends, how these Hebrew Christians must have been tempted to go back to their old religion. After all, when they became Christians, they had to appreciate that the New Testament church did not simply consists of Jews as the Old Testament church. It consists of all the nations. And they had learnt that the nations were unclean and they had great difficulty at first in appreciating that when Pentecostal comes, the distinction between Jews and Gentiles was virtually at an end. And they were tempted, like Peter, to despise those who came from a Gentile background. And that they will be very readily open to the temptation to go back to their Jewish distinctiveness. Even the apostle Peter was guilty of this! In the epistle to the Galatians and chapter 2, we are informed that 'Peter dissembled' (Galatians 2, 11-13) when certain leaders came from Jerusalem to Antioch and met with the Christians there. They gave Peter to understand that he must not eat with these Gentiles believers. He must separate himself according to the Old Testament modes and practices. And even Peter, the great apostle, succumbed to that temptation. How much more readily then might others who are Hebrew Christians be tempted to turn their back upon the Christian faith and go back to their Old Testament forms of worship with its gorgeous ceremony which always appeals to the ascetic nature of men! And to their sacrifices and to their priesthood and to their feast days and their covenant ceremonies.
Well, this epistle to the Hebrews is one long sustained argument why they must not do so. And the argument is very simple - Christ is the substance of which all the Old Testament ceremonies were but shadows. Christ is the substance of which all the ceremonies and the offerings and the sacrifices were the pointers to tell us that He would come. The sacrifices and the ceremonies were only like a child's picture book, educating the people of God in their infancy until the Lord of Glory, Christ our Saviour, came down into the world to live and die for us, to arise and to ascend to the Father. And to fulfil all these types and to fulfil all these ceremonies and bring them to an end. And to universalize the church. So that they would no longer be the church of the Jews which was national but the church of the whole world which is international. And in a properly understood sense, ecumenical - which is simply the Greek word for 'worldwide'. Although it is not always used in that sense today. And catholic with a small "c". Not meaning Roman Catholic but meaning a church belonging to all the whole earth.
This epistle to the Hebrews was a warning not to go back. It was a warning not to become sentimental about the shadow of the past. Not to cling on to those things that God has now removed. Not to try to go back to the ceremonies of the childhood of the church but to go on to perfection. There was the danger that they would turn back and become ashamed of Christ because there was a price to pay for the Jew to become a Christian, even in these early days just as true millennial later. There is high price to pay for a Jew who denounces Judaism and becomes a follower of the despised and crucified criminal, as the Jews often regard Him, who you and I know as Christ, the Saviour of the world. So they were under this temptation, I say, to go back to the camp and to go back to the people of God of the Old Testament, not realizing that to do so would be apostasy and it would be to lose salvation. Because God has said "if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." (Hebrews 10, 38)
Now, my friends, you are well aware that the book of Hebrews contains terrible warning passages, Chapter 6 and Chapter 10 especially. Terrible warning passages! They are famous and they are unforgettable. All those who read it know them well. Terrible warnings! And the warnings are to those who might be tempted to go back from Christianity to something else, in their case, to Judaism.
So right at the end of this epistle, where my text occurs, the writer says this, "Let us go forth therefore unto him (Jesus Christ outside the camp) without the camp, bearing his reproach." (Hebrew 13, 13) Let us, he said, be prepared to be misunderstood by our fellow country men. Let us be prepared to have our behaviour misunderstood by our neighbours and our formal friends. Let us be prepared in going out of our old Jewish religion into the new Christian way, let us be prepared like Jesus, Himself, to go outside the camp bearing His reproach. There is a reproach in becoming a Christian. There was for the Jews, there is for us all. Christ has always been evil spoken about. And those who follow Him will always be evil spoken of in this world. But we are, he says, to "go forth therefore unto Him". The word 'therefore' refers to the fact that Jesus did something which makes it an honourable thing to go outside the camp. Well now, that is the meaning, I believe, of these words. And I want to apply them, and to relate them and to show their relevance in three ways today.
First of all, my dear friends, I want to relate these words to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. That is necessary because the writer himself does so. He makes, in verse 12, a reference to Jesus suffering outside the gate. That's the first application and reference. The second one is, this, I want to apply these words particularly to the persons to whom the apostle was writing to, namely, those early Jewish Christians or Hebrew Christians. And then, thirdly, I wish to apply these words to the people of God today in situations and circumstances in which they may at times happen to find themselves.
1. TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
First of all, then, I apply these words and relate these words to Christ Himself. Let me read again the text, "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." (Hebrews 13, 12-13). He relates these words to Jesus Christ in this way - that Christ was rejected by the Jewish people of whom He was one. All the Old Testament scriptures were the preparation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the prophecies, all the promises, all the sacrifices, the shadows, the types - they were all like finger boards telling to you and all, Christ is coming to save the world. He will come and it describes Him in all sorts of wonderful ways. They tell us, and it tells them, He was to be born at Bethlehem. He was to grow up a Nazarene. He was to live a perfect life. He will be full of the spirit of God. He would work great miracles. He would die, bearing the sins of His people. He would be buried but rise again on the third day and He would ascend to heaven. He would cut in pieces all His enemies. All of these things were told in details in the Old Testament. You could write the essence of the life and death and the resurrection of Christ without the New Testament, simply reading back into the Old and from the Old.
But here is one of the strangest texts of history - that the Jews did not recognize Christ when He came! It was the greatest crime of all humanity, that when He came, they were blind to His identity. They did not know Him. John, you remember, puts it like this, "He came unto his own, his own received him not" (John 1, 11). They were blind to Him because of prejudice and their love of traditions, not from God. They did not know that He was the Lord of Lord and they crucify Him with those blood terrorizing words, sounding from their ignorant lips "His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matthew 27, 25). The curse they invoked upon themselves! Now Isaiah has said that this is what the Jews would do. And he came closer to this event. He speaks of Christ in prophecy "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him" (Isaiah 53, 3).
Now when we come to the New Testament Gospel, this is what we see. We are shown Christ as a young man preaching in His own hometown church or synagogue. He is preaching His maiden sermon to a community that knew Him and His family well. And you would probably think, in such a home church, he would receive a very patient and sympathetic hearers. After all if people of ones own town cannot receive patiently the sermon of one of his own young man where on earth can a preacher expect some sympathy? And our Lord stood up and began to preach from the book of Isaiah Chapter 61. And they were furious! They rose up in absolute wrath and they marched into the brow of the hill and if it was not for His supernatural power whereby He walked through the midst of them, they would have dashed him in pieces there and then for His trial sermon as a young preacher! It showed the power of this hatred which they had toward Him. They rejected Him.
When you come to look at our Lord's miracles, the same exactly is true. The Jewish people rejected Him. And what miracles there were, all of them were done by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord said so, "if I with the finger of God cast out devils" (Luke 11, 20). Meaning to say, the finger of God meaning the Spirit of God. And the Jews attributed His miracles to the power of the devils. 'He does His miracles through Beelzebub, the prince of the devil,' they said. They rejected all His claims. He claimed to be God coming in the flesh, the God-Man. And He kept on saying it in carefully guarded language. He was never too explicit about it but He made it clear who He was. He said to them, "I and my father are one" (John 10, 30). And they took up stones to stone Him. When He said before the high priest and the Jewish Sanhedrin, that the day would come when He would stand upon the heaven and all the clouds above Him and He would come, and every eye would see Him, the high priest rent His garment in pretended indignation and he shouted "blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses?" (Matthew 26, 65). And they marched Him to be crucified. They rejected Him. They rejected His claims. And supremely, they rejected His holy and blessed person. They did not want Him to be the Lord of their life. And they nailed Him up to the cross, the most painful and terrible of all forms of death.
Now that's referred to at verse 12, "Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood" (text). It's a reference to the blood of Christ. What did He do? Well, said the writer, "he suffered without the gate". That means to say, our Lord allows the Jews to treat Him as not worthy to live or die within the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the black sheep of the Jewish nation. It was the citadel of the Jewish nation, it was the great capital which they glory in. But this man was unworthy to die there. He was unworthy to disfigure the beautiful city with its capital. So they drove Him out of the city and they crucify Him outside the city. As the hymn says, 'Without the city wall'. Calvary was outside the city.
Now the writer tells us that our Lord did all of this and He suffered all of this, out of love for us. He did it that He might sanctify His people. He did it that He might cleanse the world of sin - all those whom God has given Him out of the world that He might give them the new birth, and purify their heart, and that He might give them justification by faith alone in His blood. That He might purify their life by faith. That He might give them an entitlement to the heavenly Jerusalem. For all of those and other reasons, our Lord allowed Himself to be put outside of the city. And indeed we have a picture of Him in the Gospels. And there was that board which was carried in front of Him by somebody. And the board has letters of Latin, Greek and Hebrew and was nailed later on top of His cross, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews" (Matthew 27, 37). There was the charge, the accusation written against Him that He had claimed to be the King of the Jews and therefore without any proper warrant to doing so and they nailed Him up there. Christ did this for us. My beloved friends, this Jesus gladly allowed Himself to be put out of His own nation, excommunicated by His own people, in love for us. He was denied the right of a citizen that He might sanctified us unto God. Now that is the application to Christ.
2. TO THE JEWS
The second application is the application to the Jews. I have said a little on this subject and therefore I can be more succinct. The Jews who became Christians needed to be encouraged and needed to be helped. They needed to understand certain things which were at the present time not clear to them. And the writer uses language to help them. Let me point to verse 9, "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, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein." (Hebrews 13, 9). Now there is a reference to something which these Hebrew Christians were not clear enough about. They were brought up to think of the importance of eating meats. They don't take pork, but they may take lamb, or beef or cow or certain kind. You can't do this but you may do that. Meats - that is what they were talking about, the sacrificial meats which you have as a Jews. They have to be kosher, that was what they say. You can't just eat any meat. It has to be meat well prepared in a certain way, kosher. The Jews were still concerned about that to this day. Well, they were so taken up with these details that they failed to appreciate something far more. But what really matters is not meats but grace. Now, grace is the supernatural power of God to change the life of men. It is the work of God's Spirit to renew our wicked nature into pure, sincere, godly, holy, god-fearing life. That is what the grace of God does. And the criticism which is in that verse, verse 9, the criticism there, is, that it is possible to be so taken up with the lesser thing as to omit the greater thing. This is what Christ, Himself, said to the Jews. They were busy cutting cumin and mint and these fine little herbs, cutting a tenth of every leaf with a knife meticulously and scrupulously but omitting the great part of the law - justice, mercy, patience. They were straying out of that. Like swallowing a camel. What matters in religion is the subject of the grace of God, the power of God in your life and mine. And these Hebrew Christians were in danger of getting their balances and their emphasis wrong. That's one thing.
Now, another thing is this, in verse 10, he takes another example. "We have an altar, whereof they (meaning the Jews who were not Christians) have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13, 10). "This altar that we have", what does he means? He is not referring to the high church of England or the Roman Catholic church, where you go into the church building and you have the stone pillars and you go right to the front, there you have what they call an altar. No, no, that's not in his mind at all. The altar refers to here of which he said, "We have an altar" - is Christ Himself! The God-Man is our altar! The great Mediator who sits at the right hand of God Almighty. He is our altar. In what sense? Well, in this sense - an altar was a place of sacrifice. When the worshipper in the Old Testament went to the altar, he took with him his little lamb and he had to kill it. And then the priest came along and did certain thing to it. He poured out the blood and he sprinkled it in various ways depending on the ritual and custom. And then you roasted this animal, you partake of it, you ate from it. Now all of that refers to Christ. He is our altar, in this sense - that we eat upon Him by faith, we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood by faith. Christ is the very food of our souls. No unbeliever whose religion is dead has that altar. The Jews have not got it because they have rejected Christ at this point in history. So every Christian has it. We have an altar. So an unbeliever, no matter how religious, has no right to partake of. And it is the Lord Himself, His blood is shed for us. His person is alive at the right hand of God for us, making intercession for us. And He is our blessed food. He is the manna from Heaven upon whom we feed. The bread of life, upon whom we feast our souls.
Now, this, the Hebrews needed to know. And they needed therefore to have that information so that they would not be ashamed of Christ nor would they be ashamed to go outside the camp. Which is his great exhortation, "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." (Hebrews 13, 13). We will receive ill treatment if we become whole hearted single-minded followers of the Lord Jesus. We will be reproached. There will be a price to pay. It is the reproach of Christ which all the people of God suffered from the beginning of the world. This is in the case of Moses in the Old Testament. He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt - for he had regard unto the recompense of the reward. When Moses grew to be a young man, he made his choice, by the grace of God. And that choice was not to be named with the sons of Pharaoh's daughter who had adopted him and brought him up. His choice, by grace, was to be among the despised people of God whom the world hated. He chose to be one of them and to suffer with them. Because he saw that there was another King high and holy where God would be all in all. And the people of God will be at rest eternally. And he saw that Christ was coming one day to make all these true and real and possible for us.
Well now, we are to have the same faith. We are not to be ashamed of Christ. We are not to be ashamed to go outside the camp.
3. TO CHRISTIAN TODAY
Lastly and thirdly, in my applications, I want to show how these words refer to Christians today. One of the saddest things that we see when we study the history of the church is that all churches decline. And the tragedy is this, all churches into tend to drift into apostasy sooner or later. This was true at the Reformation. The great Martin Luther, and the great Calvin, and the great John Knox of Scotland and the great Bishops that affirmed the doctrines in England, these reformers and others like them, they all had to make a choice. The choice was to stay in a church which was becoming progressively worst, progressively decline and more and more apostate and to have praise of men or on the other hand to leave and go out, outside the camp, and to suffer reproach for doing so. My friends, the English Bishops Latimer and Whitley and Cranmer who were burnt to death for their faith, they would never been burnt to death had they stayed in. Nobody would have done anything else other than to praise them. 'The great Cardinal Whitley', they would have said, 'the great eminent Cardinal Cranmer', they would have said. But no, no, these men decided the reproach of Christ was greater riches than all men's praises.
The same was true of Martin Luther when he nailed up his theses in 1517, in October of that year. You remember, he nailed these 95 theses of complains to the Castle Church's door and stirred up the whole world. And his complaint was that the church has gone wrong. There is something wrong in the church. Plenty of people had said that kind of thing before. But this was God's golden moment in history. And as Luther was busy nailing up his pins or nails into the wood of the door, what he didn't then know was that all history was changed through his action. He was beginning an action which is in our text, he was going forth unto Christ without the camp bearing Christ's reproach. It is very painful to do that.
The same thing happened in Scotland, in 1843, the Great Disruption. There's a very famous saying and a picture or painting to go with it. It's called 'here they come.' People are waiting to see what the Evangelicals would do in the Church of Scotland's Assembly of that year, 1843, in the month of May. They were waiting and then all of a sudden they saw them coming out, Thomas Chalmers and all the others, 400 of them come out of the Assembly. Here they come, they have to come out bearing the reproach. And they had to start a new church, Free Church of Scotland. But it didn't end there. In 1900 it happened all over again. 26 or 27 ministers of the Free Church of Scotland refused to go along with the decline and the higher criticism that was coming into the domination. Over 1,000 ministers were on the other side and there were only 26 or 27 on the right side but they were right. They refused to be coerced and bullied into submission. Or bribed or flattered into submission. Many were. All kinds of things were happening. People being enticed by the leaders in Edinburgh. They said to some of the men in the highlands, 'If you stay in with us we will give you some important position in the church. You can be a convener of a committee or you can be an editor of a magazine. You can have wonderful rewards', they said. And some fell for it but these men were not. And the effect was, they were locked out of their own assembly and they couldn't get in. In 1900 and they were locked out in the cold. And they had to hire a hall and they had to begin all over again. That's how the present Free Church of Scotland comes to exist. All the others declined very quickly from the evangelical faith and became worst.
Let me go back to something very touching and I must finish in a moment. In Scotland in the year 1733, there were four men driven out of the Church of Scotland of today and their names are worth knowing - Ebenezer Erskine, Alexander Moncrieff, James Fisher, William Wilson. They were forbidden to enter their own pulpits. The civil law of the day shut the parish churches to them because they have complained to the General Assembly that things were wrong and they wouldn't listen. So these men were driven out and they were eminent leaders. William Wilson began to preach to his people in another building. And he began a movement known as 'The Secession Church'. And he took this text, verse 13, "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach" (Hebrews 13, 13).
My beloved friends, there is reproach in going outside the camp. There is pain. These things are not to be done lightly. But when a church seriously moves away in doctrine or in government, or in worship, or in discipline from the foundation laid in the Word of God, the time comes sooner or later that those who want Christ decide they have to leave the camp. I say, it is a painful thing. But the Word of God warrants it, right here. When the circumstances justify and Professor Murray used to say, 'When there is justification for a church no longer to be affiliated, then it is also justification for that church to appoint its own office bearers and to start its own sacraments and to enjoy the full life of a Christian congregation.' As I close, I want to encourage everyone connected with this congregation. There are people all over Scotland today and missionaries too connected with us, and they have been through fire and water in the last month and indeed the last year. But my beloved friends, time must come when if we want Christ, we have to bear His reproach, and go outside the camp to get it.
Let me point to you finally, to the way he word this text. "Let us go forth therefore" (Hebrews 13, 13). And what are the next two words? Don't miss them out. He doesn't say 'let us go for the therefore without the camp'. He says, "Let us go forth therefore unto him" (Hebrews 13, 13). He is there waiting for us and He will receive us and help us. If the reason for our going is that we must do so because circumstances demand then we must.
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