Proper 17 • Hebrews 13:1–17 • September 1, 2013

By Dale A. Meyer

Caveat Cultor

A summary you can expand into the sermon: caveat emptor is an old Latin warning, “Let the buyer beware.” This text suggests, caveat cultor—“Let the worshipper beware!”

Beware of worship? No. Worship is where God especially gives us his gifts for life and salvation. In worship we hear a word different from other words. “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you” (13:7). In worship we come before our Savior. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8). In worship God gives us grace: “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” (13:9). True worship is more than rote ritual, like pagan or Jewish sacrifice (13:9, 11). In worship we center ourselves upon the sacrifice of Jesus for us. “Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood” (13:12). In worship we are motivated to live for God in our families, our neighborhoods and our community, even if that means suffering. “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore” (13:13). Everything in our lives, pleasant and unpleasant, is put into an eternal perspective in worship. “Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (13:14). Don’t beware of worship; beware of quitting worship when you leave church.

Caveat cultor, worshipper beware of quitting worship by acting like your sins are okay because God has forgiven them. God for Jesus’s sake justifies you; God does not justify your sins.[1] “You must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11).

Caveat cultor, worshipper beware of quitting worship by not living the commandments. “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers . . . Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (13:1–5). Keeping the commandments, said Philip Melanchthon, a close friend and coworker of Martin Luther, “is the true worship of God.”[2]

And caveat cultor, worshipper beware of quitting worship by quitting the daily effort to advance in your spiritual life and sanctification. Some recipients of Hebrews had become complacent about “fighting the good fight.” It’s the struggles you have during the week, struggles against sin, and struggles to keep the commandments, that impel us back to worship.[3] God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” (13:6, from Joshua 1:5). Caveat cultor—worshipper beware—lest leaving church you leave him!

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 50.
[2] Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2008), 716.
[3] Ibid., 717–718.






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