Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (13:15–16)
Sacrifice was extremely important to the Jew. It was God’s provision for cleansing of sin under the Old Covenant. Many Christian Jews were no doubt wondering if God required any kind of sacrifice under the New Covenant. They knew Christ offered the one and only sacrifice for sin. But they were used to many kinds of sacrifice, and perhaps God still demanded some offering, some sacrifice, even of Christians.
Yes, He does, they are told. He demands the sacrifice of our praise and of our good works in His name. He demands sacrifice not in the form of a ritual or ceremony, but in word and in deed—in our praise of Him and in our service to others.
God no longer wants sacrifices of grain or animals. He wants only the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. The psalmists knew a great deal about this sort of sacrifice. If their writings could be characterized by any single word it would be praise. “I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (Ps. 7:17). “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him” (43:5). “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the peoples; and I will sing praises to Thee among the nations” (108:3). All of the last five psalms begin with “Praise the Lord,” which in Hebrew is hallelujah. The sacrifice God desires is the cry of our lips in praise to Him.
The Christian’s sacrifice of praise is to be offered continually. It is not to be a fair-weather offering, but an offering in every circumstance. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).
John warns us that “the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). In other words, if our praise of God in word is not accompanied by doing good and sharing, it is not acceptable to Him. Worship involves action that honors God.
Isaiah gave a similar warning to Israel. When the people asked God, “Why have we fasted and Thou dost not see?” the Lord replied, “Is this not the fast which I chose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isa. 58:3, 6–7).
Praise of God in word and deed are inseparable. Lip service must be accompanied by life service. “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). The only acceptable sacrifice we can offer to God with our hands is to do good to one another, to share, to minister in whatever ways we can to the needs of others in His name. “Little children,” John says, “let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).
A Sacrifice of Praise
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Heb. 13:15)
Often a single verse captures the message of a book of the Bible, especially one of the New Testament epistles. The Book of Romans gives its theme up front, in one of the Bible’s great statements: “In [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’ ” (Rom. 1:17). The message of Galatians is succinctly given in 2:16, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” First John 2:3 gives the message of that letter: “We know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” If we were to pick a single verse to synthesize the Book of Hebrews, it might well be the first verse from our passage in this chapter: “Through him,” that is, Jesus, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.”
Unlike Romans or Galatians, Hebrews is not focused on the doctrine of justification. It certainly agrees with that great teaching, and even advances beyond it. But as William Newell accurately states:
The subject of Hebrews is not our justification, not our being delivered from condemnation: but our being brought into the glad company who are worshiping and praising God, Christ leading this worship.… In Hebrews as in no other book, is set forth a believing human being left here for a few years of pilgrim existence as to earth, but really occupied with Heaven, with the throne there … with the Great High Priest there, Jesus, the Son of God.
This can be demonstrated by a brief summary of the book’s contents. No sooner does chapter 1 establish the supremacy of Christ than chapter 2 gives Jesus his main designation in this book, the forerunner or pioneer of our salvation (2:10; 12:2). This is what Hebrews teaches about Christ, that he goes before us, blazing the trail we are to follow into the presence of God, removing every obstacle, satisfying every requirement, actually bringing all those he saves as worshipers before the Father in heaven. Hebrews 2:12–13 places the words of Psalm 22 on Jesus’ lips: “ ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise’.… And again, ‘Behold, I and the children God has given me.’ ”
In chapters 3 and 4 the main exhortation is that we should not do as the Israelites did before us, turning back from the Land of Promise, but rather we should press on in faith, following Christ to our heavenly destination. Chapter 6 tells us that God’s covenant oath is anchored in heaven as our great hope, and it is secured by Jesus, who has gone before us (vv. 19–20). Chapter 9 uses the illustration of the tabernacle, with the inner sanctum sealed off by the veil from the outer room; the point is that now Jesus has opened up the way to the holy of holies, where God himself dwells. Unlike the Jewish priests, who brought only the blood of bulls and goats, which could not remove the curtain, Jesus opened the way once for all by bringing his own blood. His own perfect sacrifice not only removes the barrier, but also sanctifies us to draw near to God; it serves to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (9:14). Hebrews 10:19–22 concludes from this: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain … and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” That being the case, the author now says, “Through [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” (Heb. 13:15).
These words, together with the whole body of teaching in Hebrews, make clear how futile it is to offer service or sacrifice to God except “through Jesus.” Apart from the trail he has blazed by his life and his death, apart from the access he has won for us with his blood, all the obstacles of our sin and God’s holiness stand firm against us. God’s wrath remains in deadly opposition to us, so that no one is received by God except “through him.” This verse makes clear what “through Jesus” the Christian life is all about: drawing near to God and living sacrificially unto him, offering a sacrifice of praise.
This statement comes on the heels of yet another defense of Christianity against the accusations of Judaism. This has been a constant concern in this book, that the Hebrew Christians should not fall back into former ways, ways that no longer provided access to God because of their rejection of Jesus. The Jews, it seems, had been deriding Christianity because it lacked the outward rites in which they took so much confidence. Hebrews 13:9 indicates that the Jews scoffed because the Christians did not partake of their sacred feasts and observe their scrupulous laws concerning food. But the writer says in verse 10, speaking of faith in Christ, “We have an altar from which [they] have no right to eat.” Apparently the Christians were ridiculed because they offered no sacrifices to God. Our writer responds by pointing out the all-sufficient sacrifice already offered by Jesus in our place: “Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Heb. 13:12). Nevertheless, he now points out, Christians do have a sacrifice we offer to God, namely, the spiritual offering of our whole lives, a sacrifice not for forgiveness of sin but of gratitude and praise.
In terms of Old Testament Judaism, this sacrifice refers to the thank offering, which was offered not to make atonement for sin but in gratitude for salvation and for the many gifts God has given. In fact, the Greek words used in verse 15 for “sacrifice of praise” are the exact words used by the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by the early church) in Leviticus 7:12–13, which prescribes the performance of such thank offerings. Jews wishing to express gratitude to God offered bread or cakes or grain to be used by the priests in God’s service. This is the kind of sacrifice Christians offer to our Lord: we freely offer our goods and our selves for his service and praise. This was the highest expression of religion in Judaism, an occasional and special mark of piety, but now it is to characterize the whole of our lives as children of God. Paul, in Romans 12:1, speaks in this way of our whole response to the grace of God in the gospel: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
What a contrast this is to the way many view Christianity. For many, the highest aspiration is simply to “get saved.” If they can just make it into heaven, that will be good enough for them. But this is not all that Christianity is about. Justification, a doctrine we rightly emphasize, is not the end of our salvation, but rather the means to a life of pleasing service unto God. Justification is often called the hinge on which the door of the gospel turns, and that is certainly true, but it is a door that is meant to be opened, to give us entrance into the presence of God, that we may live with joy and awe as royal children in this world, and offer our lives as sacrifices of praise for his service and pleasure. Jesus said that the Father is seeking worshipers to worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24). It is for this that we are saved, to live sacrificially unto him, to offer a lifestyle of worship, for the blessing of others and for the glory of his name.
Does this mean that Christians are to engage only in religious work, that all of us are to quit our secular careers and enter vocational Christian ministry? The answer is No. Instead, this means that all work really is religious, involving the worship of one god or another. For followers of Christ, it means we can no longer live for ourselves, but as Paul says in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
People complain that some Christians are “too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good.” But the opposite is more accurate, that many professing Christians are “too earthly-minded to be of any heavenly good.” Our passage says, “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God”—that means seven days a week and in every kind of human endeavor.
The Calves of Our Lips
When Paul spoke in Romans of our lives being offered as living sacrifices, he went on to make the general statement that we are to live in a godly rather than a worldly manner. “Do not be conformed to this world,” he wrote, “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). The writer of Hebrews focuses this specifically on the manner of our speech: “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15).
The basic point is that we are to praise God and profess the Christian faith with our lips. This is not just about our gatherings for corporate worship, but encompasses our whole manner of speaking, all of which either confesses or denies his name. Through our speech, our whole attitude is revealed with devastating accuracy. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). What is in your heart will come out your mouth; the only way, therefore, to have a clean mouth is to have a clean heart. Clean and wholesome speech, therefore, indicates a whole life lived to the praise of God.
So powerful is our speech as a gauge of our true spiritual condition that Paul used it in Romans 3 as a summary of natural man’s depravity: “ ‘Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness’ ” (Rom. 3:13–14). That alone sufficiently describes Western culture today; behind the veneer of our prosperity, the common manner of speech reveals a rot of the soul.
Some of the worst sins committed against God are committed by the tongue. Some of the greatest harm done to other people is done by the tongue. “Sticks and stones may break my bones,” we say, “but words can never hurt me.” That is simply untrue. James says, “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.… It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6, 8). All of us can think of things said to us, perhaps recently, perhaps years ago, that have scarred us deeply, that have created a whole world of evil in our lives. We likely have done the same to others. Words are powerful weapons, but also powerful instruments of blessing and worship.
Verse 15 uses the expression “the fruit of lips.” This is a quote from Hosea 14:2, which speaks of God’s people offering him “the calves of our lips” (kjv). The obvious reference is to sacrificial offerings, and our lips are seen as altars upon which our hearts give worship to the Lord.
Far more valuable to God than any outward religious display we offer, is that we should sacrificially devote our speech to him. This is something we should seek in prayer and cultivate as a Christian duty. Ask God to sanctify your lips, that they would be servants of his will and a source of pleasure to him. Of course, this will require the sanctification of your heart, which is the whole point. In large part we measure our heart sanctification by the sanctity of our speech, as gossip and coarse joking and cursing and complaining give way to encouraging, edifying, wise, and God-praising words.
One hard-driving, foul-mouthed military officer was converted to faith in Jesus Christ. Right away he realized that his mouth required a radical renewal, and he turned to the Lord for grace. A few years later a junior officer who had served under him years before was transferred into his unit. After some weeks the younger officer asked to meet with him and said this: “I used to hate you because you were so hard on us and you spoke so harshly. But I have been watching you and from the way you interact with people and the way you speak, it is obvious that some radical change has come over your life. I wanted to ask you what it is.” Obviously, the Christian officer was greatly encouraged by this assessment of his changed life and was glad for the opportunity to speak about Jesus Christ and his power to save and transform. In the same manner, Christians are to testify to Christ, whether we happen to be talking about him or not.
The Goodness of Sharing
Verse 15 speaks of our lips as instruments of worship, but verse 16 turns to practical deeds of love and kindness, and especially to generosity with our material wealth: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” This includes an eagerness to act kindly toward others, and to work for the spiritual and temporal benefit of other people. It especially speaks, however, of a readiness to show generosity to those in need, to give freely of our wealth because we know that this pleases and glorifies God, and because we love others more than our money.
False religion is always exposed by its attitude toward possessions. “You cannot serve God and money,” Jesus said (Matt. 6:24). James 1:27 adds, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This is not works-righteousness, but the true and spiritual worship that God demands all through the Bible. The prophet Micah also dealt with this contrast between external religion and true religion. Micah is asked, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” To this he replies, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:6–8).
We see from this how practical, how earthy, true spiritual worship is. George Guthrie writes, “Money is an area that tests the authenticity of our devotion to God. The heart that is too close to the back pocket is out of place and grows numb to the good gifts and provisions of God. [Our use of money] provides an arena in which great spiritual vitality can be grown and demonstrated.” Just as with our speech, it is only when the heart has been weaned from the world and drawn close to God that we can use our money as an instrument of sacrificial worship and service.
Ultimately, it is for God that we seek to live like this, since such true spiritual worship will often go unnoticed and unheralded in the world and even in the church. It is God we serve when we minister to others, and put their well-being ahead of our own financial gain. Corrie ten Boom tells a story about the example set by her father, a poor but godly shopkeeper. One morning their family had gathered for prayer, asking God to send them a customer to buy a watch, so they could pay bills that had come due. A customer did come, picking out a quite expensive watch, casually remarking as he paid that another merchant had sold him a defective watch. Casper, Corrie’s father, asked to examine that watch, and pointed out that only a minor repair was needed. Assuring the man that he had been sold a fine-quality watch by the other merchant, Corrie’s father refunded the money as the man returned the watch he had intended to buy.
Little Corrie asked, “Papa, why did you do that? Aren’t you worried about the bills you have due?” Her father replied, “There is blessed and unblessed money,” adding that God would not be honored if he allowed another man’s reputation to be wrongly harmed, especially since the other merchant was also a believer. He assured the little girl that God would provide, and just a few days later a man came and bought the most expensive watch they had, the sale of which not only paid their bills, but also paid for two years of Corrie’s education. What an excellent reminder this is that in the context of financial pressures and temptations our godly use of money will teach our children what it is to trust the Lord, while also revealing to God the fervency of our own trust and devotion.
Follow the Leader
Our passage ends with an exhortation to submit to spiritual leaders established in the church. This seems to be distinct from the calling to offer spiritual sacrifices, and serves to conclude the exhortation that began in verse 7 with an earlier reference to leaders. Especially in a self-reliant culture like our own, submission to God-ordained authority is a true spiritual exercise and an element of our worship of the Lord.
In the Bible, all submission, whether of citizens to rulers, children to parents, or wives to husbands, is done unto the Lord. It is a sacrificial act of worship and trust. Verse 17 gives two commands, accompanied by compelling reasons for godly submission: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
The first of these commands—“obey”—mainly speaks of receiving the teaching given by spiritual leaders. The Greek verb (peithesthe) is also used for “being persuaded.” “Submit” speaks of yielding to proper authority established by God. These we offer to God as worship, receiving the truth and yielding to our leaders.
Six reasons are given for this obedience and submission. The first is found in the word “leaders,” which may also be translated as “guides.” True spiritual leaders are those who go before the flock into the Word of God, into prayer, and into the Christian life. Just as the great message of Hebrews is that Jesus is our all-sufficient guide leading us to God, so also our Lord has appointed leaders in the church to guide us on his behalf. This is especially linked to the idea of being persuaded, because Christian leaders are guides into the Word of God. We should not say, “I believe it because Reverend or Doctor So-and-so said so,” but rather, “I have been taught that this is the Word of God, it has been explained to me by my pastor, and my conscience now is bound to God to believe and obey.”
Second, we submit to spiritual leaders because their authority comes from Christ. Ephesians 4:11–12 says, “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” This authority is spiritual and moral, not temporal or worldly. As Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Since Christian leaders, particularly deacons and elders, are called to serve the church, we are to receive them as authorities established by Jesus himself.
Third and fourth, these leaders “are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” Many people have a security company to help them protect their possessions. When the company gives advice about the security of the house, the homeowner obediently responds. Others have a financial advisor who watches over their wealth. If the advisor sends information, the investor reads it and takes action on it. If advised to change investments, the investor does so. But the leaders mentioned in Hebrews watch over our very souls. They are gifted by God for rule and Christian teaching. They lie awake at night—that is what the verb “keeping watch” literally means—pondering our spiritual well-being, how they might help and support us in the faith. What better reason could there be for us gladly to follow their teaching and rule? Furthermore, as undershepherds they must give an account to the Chief Shepherd. They are not serving for their own benefit but for ours, and they are called to give an account. Our response, then, is to help them through obedience and faith.
Fifth, our obedience is what makes spiritual leadership a joy and not a burden. Without a doubt, the single greatest discouragement any pastor faces is a congregation that will not believe what he is teaching from the Word of God. This is what wears a minister down: not hard hours of labor, but frustration with a hard-hearted flock. The greatest gift a Christian can give to a spiritual leader is a readiness to believe and to obey God’s Word.
Finally, this verse concludes that it is no advantage to us for our ministers to be burdened by division and strife and unbelief in the church. The text uses a market term and says, “That would be of no advantage to you.” Surely there are few richer blessings in life than a unified, godly, spiritual church to which we belong, and each of us plays a vital role in building up such a body.
If we turn this verse around, it serves as a useful primer for those who would undertake spiritual leadership. We are to be guides in the Word of God and the Christian life, practicing what we preach and setting a godly example. We bear the burden of authority and therefore of responsibility. It will keep us up at night, thinking about the sermon to preach and the sheep who may be going astray, knowing the sorrows of many hearts and weeping for those who suffer. No wonder that the church has long considered as a prime illustration of Christian leadership the shepherds who were keeping watch over the flock on the night Jesus was born. Hugh Latimer, the great English Reformer, said, “Now these shepherds … they keep their sheep, they run not hither and thither, spending the time in vain and neglecting their office and calling.… I would that clergymen … would learn this lesson by these poor shepherds; which is this, to abide by their flocks and by their sheep, to tarry amongst them, to be careful over them … and feed their sheep with the food of God’s Word.” To this we add the knowledge that we will give account for our care of our flocks. Ministers should think about that when tempted to sin or neglect; though we bear authority, it is in Christ’s name and therefore must be Christ-like.
Even the strongest of men realizes his need of grace for a calling like this. Paul himself said, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). No wonder, then, that the writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “Pray for us” (Heb. 13:18). If obedience is our duty to Christian leaders, surely prayer is the greatest ministry anyone can offer for a pastor or elder or deacon. The writer of Hebrews adds, “We are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things” (Heb. 13:18). Surely this comment only thinly veils a desire for prayer in just these matters. “I see what is the duty of a pastor and I think I am on target,” the pastor is saying, “but please pray that I might be faithful, serving God with a clean conscience and living honorably as an example to the others.”
If you do not pray for these things regularly for your pastors, then you fail to realize both their importance for the church and the frailty of their sinful nature, which like yours is flesh in all its weakness. We are living in a time marked by gross sins among spiritual leaders, the damage of which has been inestimable, and we should cry to God that such a thing should not occur in our church. We need to pray for the protection of our leaders, both from spiritual attack and the normal dangers of life in this world. After the death of a famous and outstanding Christian leader, a member of his congregation said to me, “It never occurred to me that a man like him needed my prayers.” Let the lesson sink in, and pray for your leaders.
Heaven on Earth
At the funeral of the great Puritan Richard Sibbes, Izaak Walton remarked, “Of this blest man, let this just praise be given: heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.” This should certainly be true of Christian leaders whom God provides to teach and lead his flock. Whenever the church is strong, whenever she boldly stands for God, there always are such leaders, bold and true to his Word, setting the example and preaching persuasively in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The writer of Hebrews was able to direct his readers to the memory of such leaders among them, “who spoke to you the word of God” and whose example was worthy of imitation (Heb. 13:7). But the best of leaders will always be frustrated in ministry unless the people of God gladly hear what is taught from the Word, believe and put it into practice, committing their lives to God through prayer and worship and service. This is the whole of the Christian life, and it is a mighty, blessed thing. Indeed, when shepherds and sheep live in harmony before the Lord, what Walton said of Sibbes may be true of us all, that heaven will be in us even while we walk upon the face of this earth.
13:15–16 / There are forms of sacrifice—spiritual, and not literal—that are still pleasing to God. To these the author now calls his readers. The first he mentions, utilizing ot language, is a sacrifice of praise. This expression is used a few times in the ot to indicate a particular category of literal sacrifice (e.g., 2 Chron. 29:31), but it also becomes a figure of speech for a grateful heart (e.g., Ps. 50:14, 23). This continual sacrifice is to be made through Jesus (lit., “him”), and it is further defined as the fruit of lips that confess his name. Barclay’s translation is appropriate: “which publicly affirm their faith in him.” In this instance, the sacrifice of praise first called for will be the readers’ faithfulness to their Christian confession. Only in this way can they show their thankfulness to God for what he has done. There are, however, other sacrifices with which God is pleased, the spiritual counterpart of the sacrifices of the old covenant. These include actions such as to do good and to share with others. The readers are not to forget these common Christian virtues. This, and not through the sacrifice of animals (cf. 9:8f.), is the way that faithfulness to God is to be manifested.
Be worshipful (13:15–16)
When these great personalities of Old Testament times offered sacrifices, they did so anticipating a better sacrifice (9:23). But, says the writer, although the one perfect, complete, unrepeatable sacrifice has been made by our great high priest, other sacrifices ought to be presented to God day by day. These offerings are made not in order to secure redemption, but to please God. It may not be too fanciful to see in these verses four sacrifices which Christians need to offer continually.
The first is the sacrifice of thankful praise. Through him, that is through Christ who suffered for us and lives for ever, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God. The busy rush of modern life often robs us of time for quiet reflection about all that we owe to God. The godless do not ‘give thanks to him’ but Christians should do so. Just to reflect on the teaching of his chapter alone surely inspires praise to God. Do we not want to praise him for the ‘brotherly love’ (13:1) which has been shown to us in our Christian lives and for the generous hospitality we have often received (13:2)? Have people not cared for us in our needs, and shown compassion when we were in trouble (13:3)? Some of us thank God especially for loyal and loving partners in marriage, or for the fine example of a happy relationship we have seen in our own parents (13:4). Do we not want to praise God that he has met our material needs (13:5a) and assured us of his providential and protective care (13:5b–6)? Many of us bless God for outstanding preachers, teachers, Bible class leaders, Sunday School teachers, Christian parents and friends, who shared with us ‘the word of God’ and we praise him not only for the imperishable things they proclaimed, but also for their radiant Christian example (13:7). Every believer wants to offer a sacrifice of praise for the gift of Jesus, the changeless Lord, for his saving death, his present help, and his future plan (13:8). Can we not praise him for the sound doctrine imparted to us in the past and available to us today in holy Scripture, and for the fact that so many times our hearts have been ‘strengthened by grace’ (13:9)? All this, and so much more, should inspire our adoration and prompt our thanksgiving so that, not occasionally, but continually, that is whenever these great facts cross our mind, we should offer a sacrifice of praise to God. Sacrifices of this kind were not unknown in Old Testament times and ought to have a prominent place in our own lives.
Secondly, we can offer the sacrifice of unashamed witness. Such sacrifices are represented as the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Here is another aspect of our sacrificial worship. If the sacrifice is made by our lips and not only in our hearts, then it becomes vocal and public; other people are soon aware of it. Although the phrase obviously amplifies the sacrifice of praise, it does express another aspect of Christian gratitude, and one which might have been specially relevant to the first readers of this letter. They are to use their lips, literally ‘to make confession’ (homologountōn, the verbal form of the noun used in 4:15; 10:23). Possibly, as Manson suggests, they did not want to expose themselves to the kind of harassment which would inevitably come their way if they openly confessed their faith and acknowledged Christ’s name. It is one thing to express one’s indebtedness to God; it is quite another to allow other people to know how much he means to us. In a spiritually ignorant society, like our own, regular attendance at Christian worship presents the Christian with an opportunity to witness. As we too offer the fruit of our lips, people with no clear faith may become aware that we too acknowledge his name.
Thirdly, there is the sacrifice of compassionate service. Another offering ‘which God approves’ (neb) is that of doing good to others: ‘Never forget to show kindness’ (neb). Such loving ministry to the needs of others was characteristic of this church’s past (10:33–34) and present (6:10) life. Here our writer pleads that this form of daily sacrifice must be offered devotedly and regularly. ‘Doing good’ is an important aspect of the New Testament doctrine of the Christian life. In their understandable fear of ‘salvation by works’, evangelicals have sometimes minimized this important feature of biblical Christianity. Jesus expected his disciples to do good works and the early Christian people were deeply influenced by this practical aspect of Christ’s teaching. The apostle Paul clearly taught that God has ordained that his people should practice good works.24Finally, Christians are expected to offer continually the sacrifice of generous giving. They are to share what they have. The fact that this word share (koinōnias) is used may suggest that its author is thinking of those monetary offerings which were made in New Testament times on behalf of needy people. The term soon came to be employed in this technical sense, much as we might talk about a ‘fellowship fund’. Our imaginative financial support of the Lord’s work is a Christian sacrifice still to be offered, not only regularly, methodically and proportionately, but cheerfully as well. It is not at all necessary or even wise, however, to restrict this form of sacrifice to ‘the collection’. Christians have other opportunities to offer this sacrifice by sharing with others, believers and unbelievers, some of the good things that God has so generously given to them.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 443–444). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Phillips, R. D. (2006). Hebrews. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 609–619). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
 Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (pp. 243–244). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Brown, R. (1988). The message of Hebrews: Christ above all (pp. 259–262). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.