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Hebrews 13:9

“Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.”

Immediately after reminding us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8), the author of Hebrews in today’s passage moves into a warning against strange teachings. This movement is quite natural, for the only way we will remain grounded in the truth of Christ is if we are convinced that Christ and His teaching are unchanging. Because Jesus never changes, we need never stop holding on to Him, for He is a steadfast rock on whom we can stand in all the storms of life. We do not need to find something different from or in addition to the truth of Christ. The truth of Christ gives us everything we need to live faithful lives in this present evil era. As John Owen comments, “A constant clinging to the truth about the person and work of Christ will stop us from listening to various strange teachings that damage our souls.”

Hebrews 13:9 can apply to any teaching at odds with what we find in the biblical Christ; however, this verse indicates that the specific teaching in mind here has to do with eating and drinking. The author tells us that our hearts are strengthened by grace, not by foods, which implies that at least some people in his original audience believed that they could find spiritual fortification in what they ate and drank. We cannot be certain of the specific content of this false teaching. Some commentators believe that the audience of Hebrews, like people in other New Testament churches, believed that only certain foods were holy and acceptable to Christians (see Rom. 14:1–4). Other scholars think that the author of Hebrews is warning here about the old covenant sacrifices. In this case, Hebrews 13:9 is a further warning against apostasy for the original audience, for going back to the old covenant sacrifices, some of which were eaten by the worshiper, would be to abandon the grace available in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (see Ex. 12:1–28; Heb. 10:10). The second option is perhaps slightly more likely, but we do not know for sure.

In either case, the basic point for us is the same. Salvation and the spiritual strength that attends it do not come through anything but the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Following a specific diet will not redeem us. Looking for hope in other saviors will do us no good. Only Jesus, to whom nothing can be added, is our salvation. We can be made right with God only through receiving and resting in Him alone, by placing our faith only in Him. Salvation is solus Christus—in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8–10).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We are tempted to believe that we will be acceptable to God if we follow a particular plan for spiritual growth in addition to trusting in Jesus. Whether it is extra rules for diet, prayer, engagement with popular culture, or anything else, we can so quickly get distracted from the grace that is available in Christ alone. Let us cling to Christ this day and not add to the requirements for salvation. All we need to do is trust in Jesus alone.

For Further Study
  • Leviticus 11:7–18
  • Mark 7:1–23
  • Romans 14:17
  • Colossians 2:16–23

The Unchanging Son of God

The Altar of Christ

Keep Reading Time

From the September 2020 Issue
Sep 2020 Issue