Hebrews 13:9
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Be not carried about.—The better reading of the Greek gives a meaning somewhat different, Be not carried away by divers and strange teachings. The ordinary reading may have come in from Ephesians 4:14. The “teachings” by which they were in danger of being led astray were various, and were all foreign to the one true word. The contrasts expressed in the second part of this verse and in Hebrews 13:10-11, throw light on the nature and source of the erroneous doctrine. Its subject was not “grace,” but “meats;” its promoters were connected with those who serve the Tabernacle. Hence the writer is probably speaking of doctrines and practices similar to those censured by St. Paul in Colossians 2:16-23. (See the introductory Note on Romans 14; also 1Timothy 4:3.) In Hebrews 9:10 we read of “meats and drinks” in connection with the Law of Moses; here the divers and strange teachings” must include human additions to that Law and perversions of its spirit.

With grace; not with meats.—Better, by grace, not by meats. Instead of being “carried away by strange teachings,” let your hearts be made firm and sure by grace. As the whole system of ceremonial observance is alluded to under the one term “meats,” so the blessings of the Christian faith are comprised under “grace,” a word used throughout this Epistle with peculiar significance. (See especially Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 12:15; Hebrews 12:28.) One human system of teaching will but lead on to another; grace will keep the heart firm in its loyal love to Jesus Christ, who is ever “the same” (Hebrews 13:8).

Which have not profited.—Literally, in which they that walked were not ‘profited. To the English reader the mode of expression must appear peculiar; in the Greek, however, there is little or no incongruity, for the word which we render “walk” is used most freely to denote a course or manner of life. Comp. Ephesians 2:10, “unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Here the meaning is, that those who have made these external observances the rule of their life have failed of the profit which they sought. (Comp. Hebrews 7:18-19.)

Hebrews

AN ESTABLISHED HEART

Hebrews 13:9.

This saying immediately follows the exhortation with which it is contrasted: ‘Be not carried away with divers and strange doctrines.’ Now, it is quite clear that the unsettlement and moving past some fixed point which are suggested in the word ‘carried away’ are contrasted with the fixedness which is implied in the main word of our text. They who are established, ‘rooted and grounded,’ are not apt to be swept away by the blasts of ‘divers and strange doctrines.’ But there is another contrast besides this, and that is the one which exists between doctrines and grace; and there is a still further subsequent contrast in the words that follow my text, ‘It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats.

Now I need not trouble you with the question as to what was the original reference of either of these two expressions, ‘doctrines’ and ‘meats,’ or whether they both point to some one form of teaching. What I rather want to emphasise here, in a sentence, is how, in these three principal words of three successive clauses, we get three aspects of the religious life - two of them spurious and partial, one of them sufficing and complete -’teachings’; ‘grace’; ‘meats.’ Turned into modern English, the writer’s meaning is that the merely intellectual religion, which is always occupied with propositions instead of with Jesus Christ, ‘Who is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,’ is worthless, and the merely ceremonial religion, which is always occupied with casuistries about questions of meats, or external observance of any sort, is as valueless. There is no fixity; there is no rest of soul, no steadfastness of character to be found in either of these two directions. The only thing that ballasts and fills and calms the heart is what the writer here calls ‘grace,’ that is to say, the living personal experience of the love of God bestowed upon me and dwelling in my heart. You may have doctrines chattered to all eternity, and you may be so occupied about the externals of religion as that yon never come near its centre, and its centre is that great thing which is here called ‘grace,’ which alone has power to establish the man’s heart.

So, then, the main theme of these words is the possible stability of a fluctuating human life, the means of securing it, and the glory and beauty of the character which has secured it. Let us turn to then thoughts for a moment.

I. First, then, mark what this writer conceives to be the one source of human stability.

‘It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.’ Now I have a strong suspicion that a great deal of preaching goes over the heads of the hearers, because preachers have not gauged the ignorance of their auditory, and that, howsoever familiar to the ear the key-words of Christian revelation may be, it by no means follows that there is any definite and clear idea attached to these. So I do not think that it will be a waste of time for just a minute or two to try and put, as plainly as I can, what the New Testament means by this familiar and frequently reiterated word ‘grace,’ which, I suspect, is oftener pronounced than it is understood by a great many people.

To begin with, then, the root meaning of that word, which runs all through the New Testament, is simply favour, benignity, kindness, or to put all into a better and simpler form, the active love of God. Now, if we look at the various uses of the expression we find, for instance, that it is contrasted with a number of other things. Sometimes it is set in opposition to sin - sin reigns to righteousness, grace reigns to life. Sometimes it is contrasted with ‘debt,’ and sometimes put in opposition to ‘works,’ as, for instance, by Paul when he says, ‘If it be of works then is it no more grace.’ Sometimes it is opposed to law, as in the same apostle’s words, ‘Ye are not under law, but under grace.’ Now, if we keep these various uses and contrasts in view we just come to this thought, that that active love of God is conditioned, not by any merit on our part - bubbles up from the depths of His own infinite heart, not because of what we are, but because of what He is, transcends all the rigid retributions of law, is not turned away by my sin, but continues to flood the world, simply because it wells up from the infinite and changeless fountain of love in the heart of God.

And then, from this central, deepest meaning of active love manifesting itself irrespective of what we deserve, there comes a second great aspect of the word. The cause gives its name to the effect, and the communicated blessings and gifts which flow to men from the love of God are designated by this great name. You know we have the same kind of idiom in our own tongue. ‘Kindness’ is the disposition; ‘a kindness’ is a single deed which flows from that disposition. ‘Favour’ is the way in which we regard a man; ‘a favour’ is the act or gift which manifests and flows from the regard. The water in the pitchers is the same as the water in the spring. The name of the cause is extended to all the lustrous variety of its effects. So the complex whole of the blessings and gifts which Jesus Christ brings to us, and which are sometimes designated in view of what they do for us, as salvation or eternal life, are also designated in view of that in God from which they come, as being collectively His ‘grace.’

All the gifts that Christ brings are, we may say, but the love of God made visible in its bestowal upon us. The meteor that rushes through space catches fire when it passes into our atmosphere. The love of God, when it comes into our manifold necessities, is made visible in the large gifts which it bestows upon them.

And then there is a final application of the expression which is deduced from that second one - viz., the specific and individual excellences of character or conduct which result from the communication to men of the blessings that flow to Him from the love of God.

So these three: first the fountain, the love undisturbed and unalterable; second, the stream, the manifold gifts and blessings that flow to us through Christ; and third, the little cupfuls that each of us have, the various beauties and excellences of character which are developed under the fertilising influences of the sunshine of that love-these three are all included in this great Christian word.

There are other phases of its employment in the New Testament which I do not need to trouble you with now. But thus far we just come to this, that the one ground on which all steadfastness and calm tranquillity and settlement of nature and character can be reared is that we shall be in touch with God, shall be conscious of His love, and shall be receiving into our hearts the strength that He bestows. Man is a dependent creature; his make and his relationships to things round him render it impossible that the strength by which he is strong and the calmness by which he is established can be self-originated. They must come from without. There is only one way by which we can be kept from being drifted away by the currents and blown away by the tempests that run and range through every life, and that is that we shall anchor ourselves on God. His grace, His love possessed, and the sufficing gifts for all our hungry desires which come through that love possessed, these, and these alone, are the conditions of human stability.

II. And so I come, in the second place, to look at some of the various ways in which this establishing grace calms and stills the life.

We men are like some of the islands in the Eastern Tropics, fertile and luxuriant, but subject to be swept by typhoons, to be shaken by earthquakes, to be devastated by volcanoes. Around us there gather external foes assailing our steadfastness, and within us there He even more formidable enemies to an established and settled peace. We are like men carrying powder through a conflagration; bearing a whole magazine of combustibles within us, upon which at any moment a spark may alight. How are such creatures ever to be established? My text tells us by drawing into themselves the love, the giving love of God; and in the consciousness of that love, and in the rest of spirit that comes from the true possession of its gifts, there will be found the secret of tranquillity for the most storm- ridden life.

I would note, as one of the aspects of the tranquillity and establishment that comes from this conscious possession of the giving love of God, how it delivers men from all the dangers of being ‘carried away by divers strange doctrines.’ I do not give much for any orthodoxy which is not vitalised by personal experiences of the indwelling love of God. I do not care much what a man believes, or what he denies, or how he may occupy himself intellectually with the philosophical and doctrinal aspect of Christian revelation. The question is, how much of it has filtered from his brain into his heart, and has become part of himself, and verified to himself by his own experience? So much, and not one hairbreadth more, of the Christian creed is your creed. So much as you have lived out, so much you are sure of because you have not only thought it but felt it, and cannot for a moment doubt, because your hearts have risen up and witnessed to its truth. About these parts of your belief there will be no fluctuation. There is no real and permanent grasp of any parts of religious truth except such as is verified by personal experience. And that sturdy blind man in the gospels had got hold of the true principle of the most convincing Christian apologetics when he said, ‘You may talk as long as you like about the question whether this man is a sinner or not; settle it anyhow you please. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind now I see.’ The ‘grace’ that had come to him in a purely external form established as a foundation axiom for his thinking, that the man who had done that for him was a messenger from God. That is the way by which you will come to a hold worth calling so of Christian truth, and unless you come to it by that hold it does not matter much whether you believe it or deny it all.

But, if there be such a living consciousness of the true possession of God’s love giving you these blessings, then with great equanimity and openness of mind you can regard the discussion that may be raging about a great many so-called ‘burning’ questions. If I know that Jesus Christ died for me, and that my soul is saved because He did, it does not matter very much to me who wrote the Pentateuch, or whether the Book of Jonah is a parable or a history. I can let all such questions-and I only refer to these as specimens - be settled by appropriate evidence, by the experts, without putting myself in a fluster, and can say, ‘I am not going to be carried away. My heart is established in grace.’

Still further, this conscious possession of the grace of God will keep a man very quiet amidst all the occasions for agitation which changing circumstances bring. Such there are in every life. Nothing continues in one stay. Thunder-claps, earthquakes, tempests, shocks of doom come to every one of us. Is it possible that amidst this continuous fluctuation, in which nothing is changeless but the fact of change, we can stand fixed and firm? Yes! As they say on the other side of the Border, there is a ‘low,’ place at the back of the wall. There is shelter only in one spot, and that is when we have God between us and the angry blast. And oh, brother, if there steal into a man’s heart, and be faithfully kept there, the quiet thought that God is with him, to bless and keep and communicate to him all that he needs, why should he be troubled? ‘He shall not be afraid of evil tidings.’ What?

In this world full of evil? Yes. ‘He shall not be afraid of evil tidings. His heart is fixed; trusting in the Lord.’ An empty heart is an easily agitated heart. A full heart, like a full sack, stands upright, and it is not so easy for the wind to whirl it about as if it were empty. They who are rooted in God will have a firm bole, which will be immovable, howsoever branches may sway and creak, and leaves may flutter and dance, or even fall, before the power of the storm. They who have no hold upon that grace are like the chaff which the wind drives from the threshing-floor. The storms of life will sweep you away unless the heart be ‘established in grace.’

Further, another form of the stability communicated by that possessed love of God is in regard to the internal occasions for agitation. Passion, lust, hot desires, bitter regrets, eager clutching after uncertain and insufficient and perishable good, all these will be damped down if the love of God lives in our hearts. Oh, brethren, it is ourselves that disturb ourselves, and not the world that disturbs us. ‘There is no joy hut calm’; and there is no calm but in the possession of the grace which is the giving love of God.

III. Lastly, my text suggests how beautiful a thing is the character of the man that is established in grace.

The word translated ‘good’ in my text would be better rendered ‘fair,’ or ‘lovely,’ or ‘beautiful,’ or some such expression conveying the idea that the writer was thinking, not so much about the essential goodness as about the beauty, in visible appearance, of a character which was thus established by grace. Is there anything fairer than the strong, steadfast, calm, equable character, unshaken by the storms of passion, unaffected by the blasts of calamity, un-devastated by the lava from the hellish subterranean fires that are in every soul; and yet not stolidly insensible nor obstinately conservative, but open to the inspiration of each successive moment, and gathering the blessed fruit of all mutability in a more profound and unchanging possession of the unchanging good? Surely the gospel which brings to men the possibility of being thus established brings to them the highest ideal of fair human character.

So do you see to it that you rectify your notions of what makes the beauty of character. There is many a poor old woman in a garret who presents, if not to men, at any rate to angels and to God, a far fairer character than the vulgar ideals which most people have. The beauty of meek patience, of persistent endeavour, of calm, steadfast trust, is fairer than all the ‘purple patches’ which the world admires because they are gaudy, and which an eye educated by looking at Jesus turns from with disgust, And do you see to it that you cultivate that type of excellence. It is a great deal easier to cultivate other kinds. It is hard to be quiet, hard to rule one’s stormy nature, hard to stand ‘foursquare to every wind that blows.’ But it is possible - possible on one condition, that we drive our roots through all the loose shingle on the surface, ‘the things seen and temporal,’ and penetrate to the eternal substratum that lies beneath it all.

Then, my brother, if we keep ourselves near Jesus Christ, and let His grace flow into our hearts, then we, too, shall be able to say, ‘Because I set Him at my right hand I shall not be moved,’ and we may be able to carry, by His grace, even through the storms of life and amidst all the agitations of our own passions and desires, a steady light, neither blown about by tempests without, nor pulsating with alternations of brightness and dimness by reason of intermittent supplies from within, but blazing with the steadfast splendour of the morning star. ‘ He that believeth shall not make haste.’13:7-15 The instructions and examples of ministers, who honourably and comfortably closed their testimony, should be particularly remembered by survivors. And though their ministers were some dead, others dying, yet the great Head and High Priest of the church, the Bishop of their souls, ever lives, and is ever the same. Christ is the same in the Old Testament day. as in the gospel day, and will be so to his people for ever, equally merciful, powerful, and all-sufficient. Still he fills the hungry, encourages the trembling, and welcomes repenting sinners: still he rejects the proud and self-righteous, abhors mere profession, and teaches all whom he saves, to love righteousness, and to hate iniquity. Believers should seek to have their hearts established in simple dependence on free grace, by the Holy Spirit, which would comfort their hearts, and render them proof against delusion. Christ is both our Altar and our Sacrifice; he sanctifies the gift. The Lord's supper is the feast of the gospel passover. Having showed that keeping to the Levitical law would, according to its own rules, keep men from the Christian altar, the apostle adds, Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp; go forth from the ceremonial law, from sin, from the world, and from ourselves. Living by faith in Christ, set apart to God through his blood, let us willingly separate from this evil world. Sin, sinners, nor death, will not suffer us to continue long here; therefore let us go forth now by faith and seek in Christ the rest and peace which this world cannot afford us. Let us bring our sacrifices to this altar, and to this our High Priest, and offer them up by him. The sacrifice of praise to God, we should offer always. In this are worship and prayer, as well as thanksgiving.Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines - That is, they should have settled and fixed points of belief, and not yield to every new opinion which was started. The apostle does not exhort them to adhere to an opinion merely because they had before held it, or because it was an old opinion, nor does he forbid their following the leadings of truth though they might be required to abandon what they had before held; but he cautions them against that vacillating spirit, and that easy credulity, which would lead them to yield to any novelty, and to embrace an opinion because it was new or strange. Probably the principal reference here is to the Judaizing teachers, and to their various doctrines about their ceremonial observances and traditions. But the exhortation is applicable to Christians at all times. A religious opinion, once embraced on what was regarded a good evidence, or in which we have been trained, should not be abandoned for slight causes. Truth indeed should always be followed, but it should be only after careful inquiry.

For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace - This is the proper foundation of adherence to the truth. The heart should be established with the love of God, with pure religion, and then we shall love the truth, and love it in the right manner. If it is the head merely which is convinced, the consequence is bigotry, pride, narrowmindedness. If the belief of the truth has its seat in the heart, it will be accompanied with charity, kindness, good-will to all people. In such a belief of the truth it is a good thing to have the heart established. It will produce:

(1) firmness and stability of character;

(2) charity and kindness to others;

(3) consolation and support in trials and temptations.

When a man is thrown into trials and temptations, he ought to have some settled principles on which he can rely; some fixed points of belief that will sustain his soul.

Not with meats - The meaning is, that it is better to have the heart established with grace, or with the principles of pure religion, than with the most accurate knowledge of the rules of distinguishing the clean from the unclean among the various articles of food. Many such rules were found in the Law of Moses, and many more had been added by the refinements of Jewish rulers and by tradition. To distinguish and remember all these, required no small amount of knowledge, and the Jewish teachers, doubtless, prided themselves much on it. Paul says that it would be much better to have the principles of grace in the heart than all this knowledge; to have the mind settled on the great truths of religion than to be able to make the most accurate and learned distinctions in this matter. The same remark may be made about a great many other points besides the Jewish distinctions respecting meats. The principle is, that it is better to have the heart established in the grace of God than to have the most accurate knowledge of the distinctions which are made on useless or unimportant subjects of religion. This observation would extend to many of the shibboleths of party; to many of the metaphysical distinctions in a hair-splitting theology; to many of the points of controversy which divide the Christian world.

Which have not profited ... - Which have been of no real benefit to their souls; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 8:8.

9. about—rather, as oldest manuscripts read, "carried aside"; namely, compare Eph 4:14.

divers—differing from the one faith in the one and the same Jesus Christ, as taught by them who had the rule over you (Heb 13:7).

strange—foreign to the truth.

doctrines—"teachings."

established with grace; not with meats—not with observances of Jewish distinctions between clean and unclean meats, to which ascetic Judaizers added in Christian times the rejection of some meats, and the use of others: noticed also by Paul in 1Co 8:8, 13; 6:13; Ro 14:17, an exact parallel to this verse: these are some of the "divers and strange doctrines" of the previous sentence. Christ's body offered once for all for us, is our true spiritual "meat" to "eat" (Heb 13:10), "the stay and the staff of bread" (Isa 3:1), the mean of all "grace."

which have not profited—Greek, "in which they who walked were not profited"; namely, in respect to justification, perfect cleansing of the conscience, and sanctification. Compare on "walked," Ac 21:21; namely, with superstitious scrupulosity, as though the worship of God in itself consisted in such legal observances.

Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines: the doctrine of Christ being immutable, it is but necessary to dehort his subjects from deserting it, which the apostle doth here; that they should not be wheeling or whirling about with an unstable and inconstant motion of judgment, faith, and practice, about such human doctrines which are vain rules to lead to God, such as are different in nature from Christ, one and the same rule, and those very numerous and various, strange and untrue, taught by false apostles and teachers, taken out of Gentilism and Judaism, and added to the Gospel by them, as necessary, together with Christ, to justification and salvation, Matthew 15:9 2 Corinthians 11:3 Ephesians 4:14 2 Thessalonians 2:10,12 1 Timothy 4:1-3 2 Timothy 4:3,4 2 Peter 2:1,18,19 Jude 1:12.

For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; for the goodness of heart establishment unto God is no less than full and complete salvation of the soul, 1 Corinthians 15:58 2 Peter 3:17,18. And this is only wrought by grace, the free love of God put out in Christ, for regeneration and preservation of souls unto life eternal, carried in the simple doctrine of Christ, which is always the same, 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17 1 Peter 5:10.

Not with meats; doctrines of meats and ceremonies, which are divers, and strange from Christ’s, cannot make the heart agreeable to God, but only distract and divide it from him; for whatsoever is not in and from Christ, is strange to God, and abhorred by him, Galatians 5:2 Colossians 2:18,19,23 2 Timothy 2:16 Jam 1:8.

Which have not profited them that have been occupied therein: those who did converse in these various and strange doctrines, professing and constantly practising them, observed times, and meats, and ceremonies, have not been profited by them; for being carnal and eartidy, they could not justify them as to their state God-ward, nor could they renew or sanctify their souls, nor yield any advantage to their spiritual life; and being perishing, could not profit to the attaining of eternal life, Romans 14:17,18; compare 1 Corinthians 6:13. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines,.... The word "divers" may denote the variety and multitude of other doctrines; referring either to the various rites and ceremonies of the law, or to the traditions of the elders, or to the several doctrines of men, whether Jews or Gentiles; whereas the doctrine of the Scriptures, of Christ, and his apostles, is but one; it is uniform, and all of a piece; and so may likewise denote the disagreement of other doctrines with the perfections of God, the person and offices of Christ, the Scriptures of truth, the analogy of faith, and even with themselves: and "strange" doctrines may design such as were never taught by God, nor are agreeable to the voice of Christ, nor to be found in the word of God; and which are new, and unheard of, by the apostles and churches of Christ; and appear in a foreign dress and habit: wherefore the apostle exhorts the believing Hebrews not to be "carried about with them"; as light clouds and meteors in the air, by every wind: for so to be, is to be like children; and discovers great ignorance, credulity, levity, inconstancy, uncertainty, fluctuation, and inconsistency:

for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; with the doctrine of grace, which is food for faith, and does not leave men at uncertainties about things; but establishes the heart, with respect to the love and favour of God, and builds souls upon the foundation, Christ; so that they are not at a loss about the expiation of sin, justification, and salvation; but firmly look for, and expect eternal happiness by Christ, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God:

not with meats; referring to the distinction of meats among the Jews; or the sacrifices ate both by the priests and by the people; or the whole ceremonial law which stood in divers meats and drinks:

which have not profited them that have been occupied therein; they were only profitable to the body; and could be of no other use to the soul, when they were in force, than as they led to Christ, and were regarded by believers; for they were of no advantage to hypocrites and carnal men; they could not sanctify, nor justify, nor cheer the spirits, nor establish the heart; and are of no manner of service at all, since the death of Christ, whereby the whole ceremonial law is abolished.

Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. {6} For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with {d} meats, which have not profited them that have been {e} occupied therein.

(6) He speaks to those who mixed an external worship and especially the difference of meats with the gospel which he clearly condemns as repugnant to the benefit of Christ.

(d) By this one form which concerns the difference of clean and unclean meat, we have to understand all the ceremonial worship.

(e) Who observed the difference of them superstitiously.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 13:9. The exhortation itself, for which preparation was made at Hebrews 13:8, now follows.

Διδαχαῖς ποικίλαις καὶ ξέναις μὴ παραφέρεσθε] By manifold and strange doctrines do not be seduced, borne aside from the right path. As is shown by the connecting of the two halves of the verse by the γάρ, expressive of the reason or cause, the διδαχαὶ ποικίλαι καὶ ξέναι are related to the βρώματα mentioned immediately after as the genus to a species coming under particular notice; and, as is manifest from Hebrews 13:10 ff., both belong to the specifically Jewish domain. By διδαχαὶ ποικίλαι καὶ ξέναι, therefore, the ordinances of the Mosaic law in general are to be understood, the observance of which was proclaimed among the readers as necessary to the attainment of salvation, while then under βρώματα a special group of the same is mentioned. ποικίλαι the same are called, because they consist in commands and prohibitions of manifold kind; ξέναι, however, because they are opposed to the spirit of Christianity.

καλὸν γάρ] for it is a fair thing, i.e. praiseworthy and salutary.

χάριτι βεβαιοῦσθαι τὴν καρδίαν] that by grace the heart be made stedfast, in it seek and find its support. For no other thing than the grace of God is that which determines the character of the New Covenant, as the law that of the Old, Romans 6:14, al. Erroneously, therefore, Castellio and Böhme, χάριτι means by thanksgiving or gratitude towards God; yet more incorrectly Bisping and Maier: by the Christian sacrificial food, the Holy Communion.

οὐ βρώμασιν] not by meats. This is referred by the majority, lastly by Böhme, Stengel, Tholuck, Bloomfield, Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 158), Alford, Moll, Ewald, and Hofmann, to the Levitical ordinances concerning pure and impure food. But only of the sacrificial meals can οὐ βρώμασιν be understood. For rightly have Schlichting, Bleek, and others called attention to the fact that (1) the expression, Hebrews 13:9, is more applicable to the enjoyment of sacred meats than to the avoiding of unclean meats. Schlichting: Cor non reficitur cibis non comestis, sed comestis. Ciborum ergo usui, non abstinentiae, opponitur hic gratia; that (2) it is said of the Christians, at Hebrews 13:10, in close conjunction with Hebrews 13:9, that they possess an altar of which the servants of the Jewish sanctuary have no right to eat; that, finally, (3) at the close of this series of thoughts, Hebrews 13:15, the reference to the sacrifices is retained, inasmuch as there, in opposition to the Levitical sacrifices, it is made incumbent on Christians through Christ continually to offer sacrifices of praise unto God. Tholuck, it is true, objects to this reasoning: (1) that βρώματα may denote “the clean, legally permitted meats, with (the mention of) which is at the same time implied the abstinence from the unclean.” But this expedient is artificial and unnatural; since, if we had in reality to think of the Levitical precepts with regard to food, in the exact converse of that which happens the avoiding of unclean meats would be the main idea brought under consideration. (2) That the connection of Hebrews 13:10 with Hebrews 13:9 would only apparently be lost, since one may warrantably assume the following line of thought: “Do not suffer yourselves to be led astray by a variety of doctrines alien to the pure truth—surely it is a fairer thing to assure the conscience by grace than by meats, by means of which no true appeasement is obtained; we Christians have an altar with such glorious soul-nourishment, of which no priest may eat.” But this supposed thought of Hebrews 13:10 would be highly illogical. For how does it follow from the fact that Christians have an altar of most glorious soul-nourishment, that no priest may partake of the same? Logically correct, certainly, would be only the thought: for we Christians possess an altar with such glorious soul-nourishment, that we have no need whatever of the Levitical ordinances regarding food. Then again, at Hebrews 13:10, nothing at all is written about “glorious soul-nourishment;” but, on the contrary, the design of this verse can only be to make good the incompatibility of the Christian altar with the Jewish. (3) That the exhortation to the spiritual sacrifices, Hebrews 13:15, may be more immediately referred back to Hebrews 13:10. But Hebrews 13:10 stands to Hebrews 13:9, in which the theme of the investigation, Hebrews 13:8-15, is expressed, in the relation of subordination. The following οὖν, Hebrews 13:15, may therefore serve for the introducing of the final result from the whole preceding investigation. (4) Finally, that it cannot be perceived how the participation in sacrificial meals could have been looked upon as a means of justification. But the participation in the sacrificial meals was certainly a public avouchment of participation in the sacrifices themselves. Comp. 1 Corinthians 10:18. Very easily, therefore, might the author be led finally to take up this preference of his readers for the Jewish sacrificial cultus in this particular form of manifestation, which had hitherto remained unnoticed in the epistle.

The supports, too, which Delitzsch has more recently sought to give to the referring of οὐ βρώμασιν to ordinances regarding clean and unclean meats, are weak. For that βρώματα is a word unheard of in the sacrificial thora, but familiar in the legislation regarding food, and that βρῶμα is used elsewhere in the N. T. of that which is prohibited or permitted for eating, does not in any way fall under consideration; because our passage claims before everything to be intelligible per se, nothing thus can be determinative of its meaning which is opposed to its expression and connection. That, however, the author cannot by διδαχαὶ ποικίλαι καὶ ξέναι have meant the ordinances of the law in general, because he has recognised their divine origin, and therefore could not have indicated them with so little reverence, is a mere prepossession. For the Apostle Paul, too, speaks of them, as is already shown by Galatians 4:9 f., Hebrews 5:2, with no greater reverence. We are prevented from thinking, with Delitzsch, of “erroneous doctrines invented in accordance with one’s own will, though it may be attaching themselves to the O. T. law,” by the relation in which διδαχαῖς ποικίλαις καὶ ξέναις stands to βρώμασιν, Hebrews 13:9, and this again to ἐξ οὗ φαγεῖν οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἐξουσίαν οἱ τῇ σκηνῇ λατρεύοντες, Hebrews 13:10.

ἐν οἷς οὐκ ὠφελήθησαν οὑ περιπατοῦντες] from which those busied therein have derived no profit, inasmuch, namely, as by such partaking of the sacrifice they did not attain to true blessedness.

ἐν οἷς belongs to οἱ περιπατοῦντες, since these words cannot stand alone, not to ὠφελήθησαν.9. Be not carried about …] Lit. “With teachings various and strange be ye not swept away.” From the allusion to various kinds of food which immediately follows we infer that these “teachings” were not like the Gnostic speculations against which St Paul and St John had to raise a warning voice (Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 2:8; 1 John 4:1), but the minutiae of the Jewish Halachah with its endless refinements upon, and inferences from, the letter of the Law. This is the sort of teaching of which the Talmud is full, and most of it has no real connection with true Mosaism.

it is a good] “a beautiful, or excellent thing” (kalon).

with grace] By the favour or mercy of God as a pledge of our real security.

not with meats] Not by minute and pedantic distinctions between various kinds of clean and unclean food (Hebrews 9:10). The word bromata, “kinds of food,” was never applied to sacrifices. On the urgency of the question of “meats” to the Early Christians see my Life of St Paul, 1. 264.

which have not profited them that have been occupied therein] These outward rules were of no real advantage to the Jews under the Law. As Christianity extended the Rabbis gave a more and more hostile elaboration and significance to the Halachoth, which decided about the degrees of uncleanness in different kinds of food, as though salvation itself depended on the scrupulosities and micrologies of Rabbinism. The reader will find some illustrations of these remarks in my Life of St Paul, i. 264. The importance of these or analogous questions to the early Jewish Christians may be estimated by the allusions of St Paul (Romans 14.; Colossians 2:16-23; 1 Timothy 4:3, &c.). No doubt these warnings were necessary because the Jewish Christians were liable to the taunt “You are breaking the law of Moses; you are living Gentile-fashion (ἐθνικῶς) not Jewish-wise (Ἰουδαικῶς); you neglect the Kashar (rules which regulate the slaughter of clean and unclean animals, which the Jews scrupulously observe to this day); you feed with those who are polluted by habitually eating swines’ flesh.’ These were appeals to “the eternal Pharisaism of the human heart,” and the intensity of Jewish feeling respecting them would have been renewed by the conversions to Christianity. The writer therefore reminds the Hebrews that these distinctions involve no real advantage (Hebrews 7:18-19).Hebrews 13:9. Διδαχαῖς, with doctrines) So Paul, Ephesians 4:14.—ποικίλαις, various) which differ from the one faith in the one and the same Jesus Christ. There was variety in the Levitical worship; ch. Hebrews 9:10.—ξέναις, strange) which differ from the faith of your ministers (τῶν ἡγουμένων). The Levitical rites were now also strange to their present faith, Hebrews 13:9-14; and the apostle was now forgetful of their oldness (The Old Testament). He does not therefore call them old, but strange.—μὴ παραφέρεσθε) be not carried away [Neben hin.—Not. Crit.] So παρὰ in composition, ch. Hebrews 2:1. The antithesis, βεβαιοῦσθαι, to be established, 1 Samuel 21:13 (14), ויתהלל, LXX. καὶ παρεφέρετο. Ecclesiastes 1:17, הללית Theodotion translates παραφοράς.—καλὸν γὰρ χάριτι βεβαιοῦσθαι τὴν καρδίαν, for it is good for the heart to be established with grace) A categorical sentence: χάριτι βεβαιούμεθα (κατὰ) τὴν καρδίαν, we have the heart established by grace; to which the antithesis corresponds, not with meats; but the modal expression, good, is added from the feeling of the apostle, to give a point to the admonition. So Paul, Romans 6:17, note. Καλὸν, good, beautiful (becoming), salutary: also pleasant, without strange variety; and profitable. The antithesis, have not profited.—χάριτι, with grace) grace, which becomes ours through Christ, who offered His body.—βεβαιοῦσθαι) to be established. Στηριχθηναι, to be supported, is a kindred word, just as the heart, according to the Hebrew phraseology, is supported by bread or the staff of bread; Jdg 19:5; Isaiah 3:1; Psalm 104:15, etc. That is here denied of meats, and is claimed for grace.—οὐ, not) Judaism and Christianity do not agree.—βρώμασιν, with meats) An Extenuation,[91] as ch. Hebrews 9:10. Those meats are also denoted which were eaten in the holy place. The antithesis is, to eat, Hebrews 13:10. The Jews have their own meat; and we have ours, which is most healthful to us.—ἐν οἷς, in which) Construed with περιπατήσαντες.—οὐκ ὠφελήθησαν) comp. ἀνωφελὲς, ch. Hebrews 7:18.—οἱ περιπατήσαντες, they who have walked) long and much.

[91] See App. The same as Litotes.Verse 9. - Be not carried away (so, according to the best authorities, rather than carried about) by divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, in which they that were occupied (literally, that walked) were not profited. From the exhortation to imitate the faith of the departed leaders, the transition is natural to warnings against being carried away from it by new teachings. The faith, which was their faith, remains unchanged, as Jesus Christ remains unchanged; why, then, these doctrines, new and strange (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11; Galatians 1:6-10)? What these doctrines were is not shown, except so far as is intimated by the word βρώμασιν ("meats"), which reminds us at once of similar warnings in St. Paul's Epistles (cf. Romans 14:2, 14, 21; Colossians 2:8, 16-723; 1 Timothy 4:3). These passages seem to refer in the first place to purely Jewish distinctions, still held to by Jewish Christians, between dean and unclean or polluted meats; and further to a new kind of asceticism, not found in the Old Testament, but based probably on notions of the impurity of matter, which led to entire abstention from flesh or wine, and also in some (1 Timothy 4:3) from marriage; also, as appears from the passage in Colossians, a false philosophy about angels and the spiritual world. We may perceive in these allusions the germs at least of later Gnostic heresies, such as found (as that of the Ebionites) their first congenial soil in Jewish circles; Oriental theosophy, or neo-Platonic philosophy, being supposed to have been engrafted on Jewish modes of thought. Some, misled by what is said in ver. 10, see in the word βρώμασιν an allusion to those sacrifices of the Law which were eaten by the worshippers, against any fancied obligation to partake in which the readers are supposed to be warned. But the word is never so applied in the Old Testament or the New (see above, Hebrews 9:10; Leviticus 11:34; 1 Macc. 1:16; Romans 14:15, 20, 31; 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 8:8, 13); nor would such error be likely to be classed among "strange doctrines." The drift of the warning is that the religion of the gospel does not consist in any of these notions or observances, the supposed importance of meats being specially noted, and that to make them its essence is a misconception of its whole meaning, and a departure from the faith: "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). Be not carried about (μὴ παραφέρεσθε)

A.V. follows T.R. περιφέρεσθε. Rend. "carried away." The present tense indicates a present and active danger.

With divers and strange doctrines (διδαχαῖς ποικίλαις καὶ ξέναις)

For "doctrines" rend. "teachings." These teachings represent various phases of one radical error - the denial of Jesus's messiahship and of his messianic economy as superseding Judaism and all other means of salvation. Among them the writer's mind would naturally turn to the prescriptions concerning clean and unclean meats and sacrificial festivals. See next clause. These teachings were various as contrasted with the one teaching of the gospel; they were strange as they differed from that teaching. Comp. Galatians 1:6-9. For ποικίλαις see on 2 Timothy 3:16.

That the heart be established (βεβαιοῦσθαι τὴν καρδίαν)

There is an emphasis on heart as well as on grace. These strange teachings all emphasized externalism, in contrast with Christianity, which insisted upon the purification of the heart and conscience. The contrast is strongly stated in Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 9:14, and the Epistle constantly directs the readers to the heart as the true point of contact with God, and the source of all departures from him. See Hebrews 3:8, Hebrews 3:10, Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7, Hebrews 4:12; Hebrews 8:10; especially Hebrews 10:22. Hence, the writer says, "it is good that the solid basis of your assurance before God be in the heart, purged from an evil conscience, so that you can draw near to God with a firmly-established confidence, with a true heart, in full assurance of faith": Hebrews 10:22; comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Timothy 2:22.

With grace, not with meats (χάριτι οὐ βρώμασιν)

The heart is the proper seat of the work of grace. Free grace is the motive-power of Christ's sacrifice (2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 1:15); it is behind the blood of the new covenant, and is the energetic principle of its saving operation. See Romans 5:2, Romans 5:15; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:7, Ephesians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:29. With meats stands for the whole system of ceremonial observances, in contrast with grace, working on the heart. See Hebrews 9:10. This ceremonial system yielded no permanent benefit to those who lived under it. See Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 10:2, Hebrews 10:4.

Which have not profited them that have been occupied therein (ἐν οἶς οὐκ ὠφελήθησαν οἱ περιπατοῦντες)

Lit. in the which they who walked were not profited. Περιπατεῖν to walk about is often used to express habitual practice or general conduct of life. See Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 10:3; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:7; Colossians 4:5.

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