Today we return to our study of the book of Hebrews, resuming our look at this epistle in 13:7. The author’s focus throughout chapter 13 is on practical application, as he instructs us on how to live in light of the great salvation purchased by Christ Jesus our Lord. The stress is on godly living, and verse 7 points us to models of godliness that we can follow.
In 13:7, we read that we must “remember [our] leaders, those who spoke to [us] the word of God.” Here the author of Hebrews refers specifically to the evangelists, teachers, pastors, and elders who proclaimed the gospel to the original audience. Many of the first readers of this epistle were converted under the ministry of these leaders, and many of these leaders had since gone to be with the Lord. The audience of Hebrews could therefore evaluate the whole scope of their lives.
This aspect of evaluation explains the exhortation for the Hebrews to consider the outcome of these leaders’ faith and to imitate their faith. Plainly, the original audience of Hebrews could see that these leaders had fought the good fight of faith and had persevered to the end, trusting in Christ. Their fond memories of those who had been instrumental in their conversion would lead to warm feelings of affection for these leaders and a corresponding desire to be like them. Moreover, it was fitting and right that this audience should want to be like the leaders commended in Hebrews 13:7, for these leaders had been living models of Christlikeness. As John Owen comments: “We are not to follow mere men, not even the best of men, as our model and example in all things is Christ alone. But we can learn to emulate Christian graces where we see them displayed in Christian leaders.”
As noted above, the exhortation of Hebrews 13:7 is for us as well. Nearly all of us became Christians through the ministry of faithful Christian leaders or teachers. These individuals, whether they are pastors, Sunday school teachers, elders, deacons, Bible study leaders, grandparents, parents, or anyone else, are models of conduct for us insofar as they are models of Christ. Paul encouraged others to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), and we can become more like Jesus as well as we pattern our lives after the godly leaders we have known. In so doing we become more godly ourselves, providing an example for others to follow.