The Gospel is truly “good news.” But it can be corrupted by adding to it some aspects of religious observations or rituals or regulations that add man’s own efforts to the salvation offered freely by God through faith in Jesus Christ. This has always been a problem in the Church and remains a problem today. Many still argue that our true salvation is by faith and works. Jesus did his part and we must do our part. What exactly are the parts that we must add is a conglomeration of confusion. It seems every specific sect has their own ideas as to what we “must” do to be saved in addition to what Jesus has accomplished for us. This is what the writer of Hebrews warns us against in Hebrews 13:9. He writes, “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.” The voices of religion today certainly present a plethora of “diverse and strange teachings.”

None of those teachings do a thing to strengthen our hearts. No, on the contrary! The demands of religious fervor or strict ritual observances along with many other ideas just confuse us and discourage us. Only through the full “grace” of God offered freely in Jesus Christ do we find true strengthening of our hearts. Grace is what “strengthens” our hearts. Law does nothing but condemn us. Fruchtenbaum, a former Jew, points this out well. He writes, “The author states: for it is good that the heart be established by grace. The heart should be established by grace as over against being established by the Law. Spiritual maturity will come by means of the teachings of the Messiah not by means of going back to the Levitical system.”[1]

The Levitical system has failed to make anyone acceptable to God. But in Christ we have confidence regarding our eternal destiny which enables us to live at peace with God and others today. The passage speaks about “food” not benefiting anyone in any way. Homer Kent observes, “Paul wrote to the Colossians about those who made unwarranted judgments about meat and drink (Col. 2:16). He told the Corinthians that meat per se has no spiritual value either positive or negative (1 Cor. 8:8).”[2] The author wants us all to remember that we have come to “Mount Zion” and have not returned to “Mount Sinai.” The law has been fulfilled in Christ and we can find our acceptance by God in our connection with Christ by faith and faith alone! No religious ritual or observation will win favor with God. As Pentecost says, “The writer previously stated, ‘The law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God’ (Heb. 7:19). Faith will provide a foundation so that the one living by faith might enter into rest and peace even in the midst of conflict.”[3]

[1] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 191–192.

[2] Homer A. Kent Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1983), 282.

[3] J. Dwight Pentecost and Ken Durham, Faith That Endures : A Practical Commentary on the Book of Hebrews, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000), 218.