By William V. Beasley
One of the great themes of the Epistle to the Hebrews is the superiority of the new dispensation over the old one. This is taught each time; with but one exception (6:9), the word “better” (Gr., kreitton “better; i.e. a. more useful, more serviceable . . . b. more excellent. . .” – Thayer, 359) is found. The English word “better” is found thirteen times in Hebrews. In fact, “better” is found more often in Hebrews than in any other New Testament book. It is found more only in Proverbs (20 times) and Ecclesiastes (23 times). The gospel dispensation is shown to be superior by having, among other things, a better.- (1) Hope – 7:19; (2) Testament – 7:22; (3) Covenant – 8:6; (4) Promises – 8:6; (5) Sacrifices -9:23; (6) Possession – 10:34; (7) Country – 11:16; (8) Resurrection – 11:35.
After having demonstrated the superiority of the new covenant, the author shows (Heb. 13:10-14, our text) that it is in fact exclusive. It is not a question of degrees (good, better, best) and of being able to choose. The “better” is the one and only one.
It is a question of “We” versus “They.” “We” are Christians, those of the new, better covenant; “They” are those people remaining in Judaism, serving at the physical tabernacle. The “altar” is by metonymy (a figure of speech; li., change of name), Christ himself. To eat (partake) of the altar is to partake of the sacrifice on or of the altar (see Jn. 6:53-55). Remember: “they have no right to eat” (13:10).
A reason is given from the Old Testament to explain why “they have no right to eat” (13:10). “For” (13:11) ties what is to be said back with what has already been said; the sin offering was to burned “without the camp” (13:11; see Exod. 29:14; Lev. 4:12, 21; 9:11; 16:27). I do not know if the Jews, as they burned the sin offering without the camp, understood the significance of their actions or if they understood the import of the Old Testament passages or not. The Hebrew writer did; it was to typify the coming Messiah’s death. “Wherefore” (13:12) ties this verse with what has just preceded. “Jesus . . . suffered without the gate” (13:12; see Jn. 19:17). The suffering of Jesus without the gate/camp disassociated him and all blessings in him from the old covenant. The blood of Jesus was shed for those who lived under the old covenant (Heb. 9:15), but that ceased when the old was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). All who would come to Jesus, both Jew and Gentile, must come to him without the camp (13:13), i.e., outside of Judaism, outside the precepts of the old law.
The application in context is, as we have already said, to Judaism, to the law of Moses. The Jews were now free from the man-made corruptions of the law of Moses; they were to come to Jesus separate from the law of Moses as it was revealed by God. They were set free from all of the law (Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:13-17 [“shadow” – Heb. 8:5; 10:1]).
Jews had to come to Jesus without the camp,- they had to leave the religion of the law of Moses, Judaism. No right thinking man would advocate that Gentiles, who never were under the law of Moses, are to go back to Judaism. Sad to say some do so teach (premillennialism, dispensationalism). To appeal to the law of Moses for authority to do anything is to attempt to go back under the old law (Gal. 5:4).
This principle (“without the camp”) plus other passages of Scripture shows that other applications can be/should be made. We can be impressed with the exclusiveness of the gospel system (Eph. 4:4; 1:22-27; Matt. 10:34-39; 15:13; Jn. 14:6).
One must come to Jesus without the camp of paganism and/or idolatry. One cannot come to Jesus and continue to serve at the altar of an idol (Matt. 6:4). I have read of American Indians who practice their native religion . . . and are members of some denominational church. They have not, in fact, come to Jesus. To come to Jesus one must leave the idol (Col. 3:5) of modern America, covetousness.
Jesus is to be found, as a Redeemer and constant Guide, only when one is without the camp of worldliness. The worldly man is a “profane person” (Heb. 12:16; see also 1 Tim. 1:9; 4:7; 6:20). The fornicator is not the only profane person. This would include all who: (1) Treat the religion of Jesus Christ with contempt; (2) Are “too busy” for the Lord, worship services, speaking to others about the Saviour; (3) The “Here and Now’ers.” Worldliness also refers to all liars (Rev. 21:8). Included are the religious liars, those who know (?) more about what pleases God or is acceptable to him than God himself. These reveal themselves with such statements as: “I know the Bible teaches ________ , but I believe ” or “I wouldn’t trade what I feel/have in my heart for . . . Truly, man must learn to “Let God be found true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).
“Let us therefore go forth unto him without the camp” (13:13) of denominationalism (Eph. 4:4 [1:22-23]; Matt. 15:13). Denominationalism is the exact opposite of that for which Jesus prayed (Jn. 17:20-21). Can we obey 1 Corinthians 1:10 while we teach different doctrines (different from one another and different from the word of God)? Wear different religious titles? Are members of different churches (so-called)? How can we obey the precept of Romans 3:4? We must learn to give Book, Chapter and Verse for all that we believe, teach or practice. We must learn to respect the silence of the Scriptures (Heb. 7:11-14).
Jesus Christ suffered without the gate, showing that one must come to him without the camp of Judaism in order to be saved (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16).
Let us, you and me, determine to come to Jesus without the camps of idolatry/paganism, worldliness and/or denominationalism that we might serve God in the one body, the one church.
To do so will place you in the position of “bearing his reproach” (Heb. 13:13), and also give the promise of dwelling in the Heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 13:14).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 15, pp. 466-467
August 6, 1992