Following Christian Leaders
7 Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Don’t be led astray by various kinds of strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established by grace and not by food regulations, since those who observe them have not benefited. (Hebrews 13:7-9)
In these three verses, the author encourages believers to imitate the faith of their spiritual leaders and avoid false doctrines. With the sentence, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you,” the implication is that these are leaders who faithfully served God and have passed away. Being able to see their full testimony of their lives, “as you carefully observe the outcome of their lives”, the author challenges the believers to “imitate their faith.” Bible commentator Thomas D. Lea wrote, “Steady spiritual reflection on the life o f a committed believer can teach us lessons of faith, commitment, and priority.”
Then, in verse 8, the author cites the best leader to follow, Jesus Christ. Although past Christian leaders have passed away, Jesus Christ remains. He is unchanging and “is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Believers have access to the example of the consistency of Christ. Jesus Christ completed the work on the cross, presently works as our High Priest, and will come back again to call all of His followers to reside with Him forever in heaven.
As a contrast to both past Christian leaders and Christ, the author warns in verse 9 to avoid “various kinds of strange teachings.” The implication of the phrase “not by food regulations,” suggests that during this time, there were some individuals insisting that “true” believers needed to observe additional food laws to have grace. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” There is no additional thing needed to obtain grace. Also, for this particular case, Paul addressed a similar issue in 1 Corinthians 8:8, “Food will not bring us close to God. We are not worse off if we don’t eat, and we are not better if we do eat.” God’s grace will provide the spiritual strength for His believers.
So, may we observe the testimonies of faithful believers who have gone to heaven, imitating their faithfulness to Christ. May we walk with Christ each and every day, being encouraged by the truth that He will never change and will always fulfill His promises. Being steadfast in our relationship to Christ and being encouraged by the testimonies of past believers, may we stray away from false doctrines that are contrary to God’s Word.
Isaac De Guzman