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).
15 Were they told that they had no sacrifices and no altar? But of course they still had sacrifices to offer, even if there remained no more sacrifice for sin. The sacrifice of thanksgiving had once been accompanied by an animal sacrifice in the temple—it was a form of peace offering, according to Lev. 7:12. Animal sacrifices had been rendered forever obsolete by the sacrifice of Christ, but the sacrifice of thanksgiving might still be offered to God, and indeed should be offered to him by all who appreciated the perfect sacrifice of Christ.88 No longer in association with animal sacrifices, but through Jesus, the sacrifice of praise was acceptable to God. The dissociation of this sacrifice from animal sacrifices had already been adumbrated in an Asaphite psalm:
If I were hungry, I would not tell you;
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving;
and pay your vows to the Most High;
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.
The sacrifice of praise is further described as “the fruit of lips which acknowledge his name,” in language borrowed from the Septuagint version of Hos. 14:2 (MT, LXX 14:3). In the Masoretic text of that passage the sacrifice of praise is a substitute for animal sacrifices; so the ERV/ARV translate it: “so will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips.” In this spirit the Qumran Rule of the Community declares that when the prescriptions of the community are carried out in Israel, “to obtain favor for the land apart from the flesh of burnt-offerings and the fat of sacrifice, then the oblation of the lips according to right judgment shall be as a sweet savor of righteousness, and the perfection of one’s ways as an acceptable free will offering.” At Qumran, however, this did not involve a total repudiation of animal sacrifices on principle. Similarly, while Philo provides parallels to this insistence on the sacrificial value of thanksgiving and deeds of piety, and holds that sacrifice is acceptable only if it is the expression of true heart-devotion, he does not suggest that the sacrificial ritual itself can be dispensed with.92 Our author’s treatment of the sacrificial ritual as antiquated is due to his understanding of the finality and perpetual efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ.
15–16 The pastor has used both theme and style to weave these two verses together as a seamless robe. Notice the chiastic arrangement of verbs and their complements in the Greek text: (A) “let us offer” (B) “a sacrifice of praise”; (B1) “doing good and sharing” (A1) “let us not forget.” The first words in the Greek of v. 15 are “through him,” referring to Jesus the mediator of these sacrifices. The last word in v. 16 is “God,” the one who is pleased with these offerings. Thus the praise of v. 15 and the good works and mutual concern of v. 16 taken together constitute the sacrifices that are pleasing to God. These are the sacrifices appropriate for those who partake of Christ’s “altar” (v. 10) and live in ardent expectation of the heavenly City (v. 14).
The worship of the faithful does not consist of those rituals based on false teaching mentioned in v. 9 above. They are not to be “borne away” by those teachings, but to “bear the reproach” of Jesus and to “offer” the sacrifice of praise and good works “through” him. Verses 15–16 are the positive counterpart to vv. 11–13. Within the context of the unbelieving world, the life of faith is best described as going out to Christ and bearing “his reproach” (vv. 11–13). When considered, however, in relation to God and the Christian community, this same life is most appropriately represented as the offering of praise and good works to God through Christ (vv. 15–16). These verses are the pastor’s final description of the life of faith so forcefully advocated throughout his sermon. Such sacrifices are not sacrifices for sin but sacrifices offered to God through the cleansing power of and in grateful response to the once-for-all, sin-removing sacrifice of Christ (cf. 12:28). Thus, this replacement of animal sacrifices with praise and good works is not based on mere rational argument, as in some contemporary Jewish and pagan writers, but on the work of Christ.72 The sacrifices of the Old Covenant were offered perpetually because they were never effective in removing sin (10:1–4). The sacrifices of praise and right living described in these verses are to be offered perpetually because Christ’s obedient self-offering has effectively done away with sin.
This understanding of these verses is confirmed by the pastor’s definition of the “sacrifice of praise” as “the fruit of lips that confess his name.” Throughout this sermon he has been urging his hearers to persevere by maintaining their “confession” of Christ before an unbelieving world (3:1; 4:14; 10:23; cf. 11:13). Now he affirms that the “fruit of lips confessing his name” is also the “sacrifice of praise” pleasing to God, and thus the ultimate act of worship.75 “His name” may be a reference to God’s “name,” but it is probably a reference to the “name” of the “Son” of God (cf. 1:4). In either case, to “confess his name” is to affirm and offer praise for the ultimate revelation of God in his Son.77 In the OT God’s people praised him by “confessing” his goodness revealed in his great acts of redemption. Now they praise him by “confessing” all that he has done in Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of those earlier blessings. This kind of praise is an expression of “godly fear” (12:28) because it acknowledges God’s rightful place in the lives of the faithful. Thus to maintain one’s confession in the Son of God as all-sufficient High Priest is both the means of perseverance in this unbelieving world and the ultimate act of worship that is pleasing to the living God.
“Do not forget” takes the hearers back to v. 1, where they were encouraged not to “forget” the ministry of hospitality. One Greek article unites “doing good” and “sharing” as a grand description of the way the faithful are to treat each other. “Doing good” suggests kind deeds.80 “Sharing” encompasses the mutual concern already stressed by the pastor (10:24–25) as well as the sharing of material goods. The combination of these two words creates a rich and comprehensive description of the mutual practice of doing good in every way to one another within the community of the faithful.82 By this expression the pastor recalls in summary form the brotherly love, devotion to hospitality, ministry to the needs of the suffering, sexual integrity, and generosity born of trust in God that he enumerated in vv. 1–6. He uses the term “such sacrifices” to contrast both the good works of v. 16 and the praise of v. 15 with the animal sacrifices of old. Generous treatment of others joins the praise of God as the sacrifices “with which God is pleased.” Divine approval is the ultimate motivation for the life of faithfulness.84 Attridge provides an apt summation of this passage: “Having a share in Christ’s altar means finally to follow him on the road of suffering, to worship God through sacrifices of praise, and to devote oneself to loving service of other members of the covenant community.”
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.
15. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
First in the sentence stands the phrase through Jesus. That is significant. Because of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, the need for offering sacrifices to God had ended. Are Christians, then, without sacrifices and without a priest to present these offerings to God? No.
We are exhorted to go to Jesus outside the camp. He is our eternal, faithful, and merciful high priest. He represents us in the presence of God, and he prays for us. To come to God the Father we must go through the Son (John 14:6). Set free from the burden of guilt and sin, we want to express our thanks to God. This we do through Jesus. We offer to God not the material sacrifices that Christ made superfluous but the continual confession of praise and thanks. Whereas Jesus offered himself once, we present our praises continually. Our entire life ought to be a song of adulation expressed in words and deeds.
The Israelites expressed their thankfulness by offering cakes of bread to the Lord as a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Lev. 7:12). But Christians show by a dedicated life of obedience their thankfulness to God. The Ten Commandments are not a set of dos and don’ts; rather, for the Christian, they are rules for thankful living.
How then do we live before God? Paul and Peter have something to say on this subject:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. [Rom. 12:1]
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thess. 5:18]
You also, like living stones, are built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 2:5]
The author of Hebrews specifies what the sacrifice of praise should be: “the fruit of lips that confess his name.” The expression fruit of lips comes from Hosea 14:2, where the prophet urges the people of Israel to return to the Lord and pray, “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.” And the phrase confess his name may be taken from the Septuagint translation of Psalm 54:6, “I will praise [confess] your name, O Lord.” God reveals himself in his name, and therefore his name is revelation. The psalmist makes God’s revelation known to the people. Similarly the author of Hebrews intimates that a life of praise should be a continual confession of God’s name.
16. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Living a holy life consists of loving the Lord with heart, soul, and mind, and of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. The early Christians illustrated their love for the Lord by devoting themselves to the teaching of the gospel, the worship services, communion, and prayer (Acts 2:42). But they also showed their love for their fellow man by sharing everything they had (Acts 4:32). In fact, they took care of the poor so that “there were no needy persons among them” (v. 34). Love for the Lord has its counterpart in love for the neighbor. These two go hand in hand. When we say that we love the Lord, we must be ready to help our neighbors in need. This is what the Macedonian believers did. Says Paul, “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service [showing generosity] to the saints” (2 Cor. 8:3–4).
The readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews had neglected their ministry to the needy (see also 13:2). Praising God in the local worship service they observed, even though some people stayed away (10:25). But praise and love were not always put to practice in relieving the needs of the poor (6:10; 10:33–34). The writer tells the readers “to do good and to share with others.” He sees these deeds of love and mercy as sacrifices of praise. And with these sacrifices God is pleased.
When the author says that God is pleased with good deeds, he reminds us of his description of Enoch’s life. Enoch was commended for his intimate fellowship with God (11:5). Also we are reminded of our duties to care for the needy, for if we keep the royal law—“Love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8)—we do well and please God.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 443–444). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Bruce, F. F. (1990). The Epistle to the Hebrews (Rev. ed., pp. 383–384). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Cockerill, G. L. (2012). The Epistle to the Hebrews (pp. 704–707). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (pp. 243–244). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of Hebrews (Vol. 15, pp. 423–424). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.