- Locate the passage.
The text is the section of three sections that conclude the letter in chapter 13.
- Determine the structure of the text
The text divides up into the following sections:
- Exegete the passage
13:7 A new discourse unit begins with v. 7 with the command to “remember your leaders.” Three times in this chapter the author refers to the “leaders” of the church: Heb 13:7, 17, 24.
13:8 Verse 8 at first blush appears unconnected to the context, and is so taken by some. However, further reflection reveals there is indeed a connection. It can be viewed as providing the grounds for the exhortation to follow in v. 9. It can be construed as providing the grounds or reason for the preceding statement in v. 7. It is best to see the verse as transitional, connecting to both v. 7 and 9, stating the object of the former leaders’ faith and the grounds for the exhortation in v. 9.
13:9-10 Verse 9 has troubled commentators because it seems so out of place, even in Hebrews 13. Yet there is a contextual connection to be drawn between the exhortation not to be “carried away” by strange teachings and the eternal faithfulness of Jesus mentioned in v. 8.
13:11 Verse 11 is introduced by the Greek subordinating conjunction gar (unexpressed in the NIV) which functions as grounds for v. 10 as well as explanation for the meaning of “altar.” Verse 11 is an allusion to or loose quotation of Lev 16:27. Leviticus 16 is the key chapter on the Day of Atonement protocol. The main point of the verse is found in the final statement concerning the burning of the sacrificial carcasses outside the camp. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest carried the blood into the inner chamber of the Tabernacle called the “Most Holy Place,” otherwise referred to as the “Holy of Holies.”
13:12 Verse 12 is introduced by the inferential conjunction dio, “and so,” introducing the result or conclusion to be drawn from v. 11.
13:13 The author now shifts to make application of this truth to his readers in v. 13. The Greek conjunction toinun, “then,” occurs only three times in the New Testament. Here it marks prominence, consequential deduction, and conclusion.
13:14 The use of the Greek subordinating conjunction gar, “for,” subordinates v. 14 to v. 13. The verse is chiastically constructed in Greek: “we do not have a permanent city; the city which is to come we seek.”
The upshot of Heb 13:9–14 is to contrast Judaism and its adherence to the Mosaic covenant and cultus with the new covenant inaugurated by Christ. Christians have an altar where the permanent effects of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross render the temple sacrifices ineffective. The blood of Christ, not the blood of animals, permanently atones for sin and renders Christ’s followers “holy.”
13:15 Verse 15 begins with oun, “therefore,” and serves to draw to a conclusion the argument begun in v. 9. The phrase “through Jesus” is fronted in clause for emphasis, with the NIV substituting “Jesus” for “him” in the Greek text. Christians are to offer continually (present hortatory subjunctive) to God a “sacrifice of praise” where the “sacrifice” consists in “praise.”
13:16 Verse 16 is connected to v. 15 by de, translated “and,” and serves as an expansion of contrast of the exhortation to offer a sacrifice of praise. “Do not forget” renders a Greek verb in this context which conveys the notion of neglect.
13:17 With v. 17 there is a shift in topic to the issue of the response of the readers to their church leaders. Verse 17 is one sentence in the Greek text. The author uses a double exhortation: “obey your leaders and submit.”
See Neva Miller, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Analytical and Exegetical Handbook, 428-46; J. Harold Greenlee, Hebrews: An Exegetical Summary, 580-602; and David L. Allen, Hebrews, 611-24, for more detailed exegetical and semantic analysis of the text.
- Let the structure of the text drive the structure of the sermon.
I. Exhortation to remember and imitate former leaders. (7)
A. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Dual function: grounds for
7 and grounds for vv. 9-12)
II. Exhortation against influence by Mosaic dietary laws and reasons for it. (9-12)
III. Exhortation to endure Christ’s reproach. (13)
A. Grounds for the exhortation in v. 13. (14)
IV. Exhortation to praise and thanksgiving coordinated with exhortation to good works. (15-16)
V. Exhortation to obey spiritual leaders followed by grounds for doing so. (17)