DUNCAN/Remember those who led you
Please turn to Hebrews 13:7. The author of Hebrews is telling us in this verse how to finish the Christian life well. Throughout this letter, the author exhorts his readers to keep believing that Jesus is better than anything else and persevere in the faith. And the older you get in the Christian life, the more that exhortation makes sense because the Christian life does not necessarily get easier as you mature. New challenges arise that you have never encountered before. Old challenges return with new intensity. Discouragements surround you even into your own heart. And in that context, the author of Hebrews gives us Biblical encouragement for enduring to the end. Specifically, in verse 7, he says that he wants us to "remember", "consider", and "imitate" the Bible-speaking, faith-fueled living, and finish line-crossing godly Christian leaders who have led us in the faith and who have now finished the race. In other words, he tells us to look to the leaders who led us with the Word of God in order to encourage us to cross the finish line. He says that we should look at their lives, look at what they believed, look at how they lived, look at how they finished, and be encouraged and imitate them.
I. Continue to Remember.
First, the author of Hebrews says, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God." He is exhorting us to continue to remember our faithful shepherds who preached the Bible to us. We are being called to a proper regard for and ongoing remembrance of those who first instructed us in the faith. They are here described as "those who led," that is, spiritual shepherds, leaders, and pastors. Furthermore, it is important to note four important things about them. First of all, they faithfully exercised the ministry of the Word. Their ministry was not their own ideas or their own opinions; it was the Word of God. They were teaching us the Bible. Secondly, they lived consistently with their faith. Specifically, he says, "consider the outcome of their way of life." They practiced what they preached. Thirdly, they were personally known to the congregation. The author of Hebrews says, "Remember them." Now you cannot remember somebody that you never knew. So the very fact that he says "remember" means that you had a personal relationship with them. And fourthly, notice that they have already finished their course on earth with their faith intact. Possibly they have moved on to plant another church or maybe they have already gone home to be with Jesus. Also notice, by the way, he does not say, "Remember your leader." Instead, he says, "Remember your leaders." We live in a day and age of Christian personality cults where Christians will follow one figure and that one figure becomes a spiritual hero. However, in Hebrews chapter 13 verse 7, we are called to remember our leaders. And the present tense of that exhortation, "remember," indicates that we are to continue to remember. We are to remember them with affection and thanksgiving, and we are to continue to learn from them. So he says, "Remember your leaders." Why? Because the way they lived can encourage you and the emphases of their ministries can strengthen you.
II. Consider the Result.
Next, he says, "consider the outcome of their way of life." In other words, the author of Hebrews is saying, "Consider the result of your spiritual leaders' lives. Carefully observe how they live. Take careful notes of how they finish. Reflect on the manner of their living, the way they live, the way they die, the way they finish the race." And the author of Hebrews wants you and I to cross the finish line by believing the Gospel and trusting in Jesus. He wants us to think about, carefully consider, reflect upon how our spiritual leaders lived and finished. And note that it is assumed here that true Christian leaders will live lives that reflect their faith and what they teach. One thing I can say about my predecessors is that they were the real deal. What they preached is how they lived. And my friends, that ought to encourage you in your Christian walk. Sham leaders and fallen pastors do not disprove Christianity. In fact, they prove that Jesus was right when He warned us that there would be sham leaders and fallen pastors, hypocrites and wolves. Jesus warned us this. Paul warned us this. Peter warned us this. But seeing godly men like my predecessors fight the good fight and finish the race strengthens my arms. Thus, being able to look at how men live out what they believe, especially when they invest it in our hearts, encourages us to go on to the end.
III. Imitate the Faith.
Lastly, he says, "imitate their faith." Now you might have expected him to say, "Imitate their life" because he has just been talking about the way their conduct their life. So why does he switch to faith? Because he understands that the way we live flows out of what we believe. The way of life flows from faith. What you believe informs how you live. The truth informs your practice. Your doctrine informs your duty. Your theology informs your ethics. And so their way of life, the way they lived, the outcome of their way of life, and the result of their conduct flowed from their faith. So he says, "Imitate their faith because if you imitate their faith you will imitate their life." Thus, he is telling us to follow in their footsteps of faith and believe what they believed in order to live the life they lived. Regarding this verse, John Calvin says "They," speaking of these faithful leaders, these ones who led, "They rendered a faithful testimony to sound doctrine though their whole live as well as in death." That would be a pretty good epitaph. Is that the epitaph for which you are striving? If you will look back to your faithful leaders who first taught you the truth, who spoke to you the Word of God, who practiced what they preached, and who crossed the finish line, there is encouragement for you because the things that you are going through they got through, and that is a very hopeful thought. May we thank God for the encouragement that He gives us through godly spiritual leaders who speak to us the Word of God, and may God continue the legacy of their lives in our faith for generations to come.