Hebrews 13

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Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 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. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you.

Observation

  • The readers were to continue in brotherly love.
  • The readers were to be kind and helpful to strangers.
  • By being kind to strangers some have entertained angels and did not know it.
  • The readers were to remember those in prison as if they themselves were in prison.
  • The readers were to remember those who are mistreated.
  • They were to remember those who are in prison and mistreated because they make up one body.
  • Marriage was to be honored by everyone.
  • The marriage bed is to be undefiled.
  • God will judge the sexually immoral.
  • God will judge the adulterous.
  • The readers were to keep their life free from money.
  • The readers were to be content with what they had.
  • The reason for being content with what they had as well as being free from money was because Christ will never leave them.
  • Christ will never give up on them.
  • They can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper.”
  • They can say with confidence, “I will not fear.”
  • They can say with confidence, “What can man do to me?”
  • They were to remember their leaders. The one who spoke the word of God to them.
  • They were to consider the outcome of the live of their godly leaders.
  • They were to imitate their leader’s faith.
  • Jesus Christ has been and always will be the same.
  • They were not to be led way by strange and different teachings.
  • It is better when the heart is strengthened by grace rather than food.
  • Food does not benefit those who are devoted it.
  • Those who serve the tent have no right to the alter we have.
  • The bodies of the animals used in the sacrifices by the priest were buried outside the camp.
  • Jesus suffered outside the city.
  • Jesus suffered to sanctify the people with His blood.
  • Because Jesus suffered to make us holy we bear the disapproval he endured.
  • Since we do not have a lasting city here, we seek a city that is to come.
  • We are to continually praise God through Jesus Christ.
  • The readers are to continue to do good and share what they had.
  • Doing good and sharing what they had were sacrifices to God.
  • Doing good and sharing what they had pleased God.
  • The readers were to obey their leaders.
  • Their leaders keep watch over their souls.
  • Their leaders were to give an account for them.
  • They were to obey their leaders so the leaders could give the account joyfully
  • It was to their benefit if their leaders could give a good account about them.
  • The writer asked for the readers prayers.
  • The writer and those with him had a clear conscience.
  • The writer and those with him desired to act honorably in everything.
  • The writer requested prayers so that he could rejoin them sooner than planned.
  • God is a god of peace.
  • God brought Jesus from the dead.
  • Jesus is the great shepherd.
  • Jesus blood is a blood of a covenant that is eternal.
  • The writer asked that God give the readers every good thing so the readers could do God’s will.
  • The writer asked that God work in both him and the readers do what pleases God.
  • Glory belongs to God forever.
  • Timothy had been released.
  • The writer and Timothy would see them soon.
  • They were to greet all their leaders and the saints.
  • Those in Italy sent them greetings.

Interpretation

The writer begins this chapter with the exhortation, “Let brotherly love continue.” Nothing floats away more easily than love. When we think of ourselves more than we should, we think of others less than we should. We cannot be Christians without being brothers. The writer is not talking about a feeling or emotion. Rather he is talking about a love which binds the household of faith together.

Yet even as we are to care for each other and we are not to ignore the stranger. At this period in history many Christians were fugitives and had left their homes for the name of Christ. Therefore, entertaining a stranger included but was not limited to Christians who were refugees. The reference to having entertained angels is a reference to Abraham and Lot. The argument can be made that this is a pretty rare occurrence. But as Christ Himself said when we receive someone in His name we receive Christ Himself.

Nothing can give us a greater sense of compassion than to put ourselves in the place of those who are in distress. That is why the author says we are to think of those in bonds as though we are in bonds with them. Since we are all members of the same body we ought to feel each other’s ills.

The author goes on to state clearly God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Marriage is set in opposition to sexual immorality and adultery and marriage is set as a remedy for that evil. Marriage is honorable. God has blessed marriage as a union of a husband and wife. God instituted marriage Himself. Therefore, it follows that any other union different from this would be condemned is by God.

Next the author tells us to be content with what we have. We are to be content with what the Lord has given us. No matter how much a greedy man has he will always want more. To a man who looks to the things of this world for fulfillment, there is no such thing as enough. He will always want more. Only Christ can fill a heart. And Christ will never leave or abandon us. It is for that reason we can say with confidence that the Lord is mine or more appropriately I am the Lord’s. With Jesus I have all I want or need. No one can take Him from me. I have nothing to fear. What can anyone do to me? Even if they take my life I will be with Him. It is as Paul said in Philippians 1:22, “to die is gain.”

Christianity is a history based faith. The writer, therefore, points us back to history, to our fathers in the faith. There must be something that anchors our faith and that is Christ. He is unchanging. He is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. If we are not holding on to Christ we hold only vanity.

When the writer says Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever he is not referring to Jesus in his humanity. As Jesus grew from baby to child to adolescence to adulthood He underwent changes. Placed in context he is referring to the knowledge of Christ through the ages. Christ is the foundation of the church. Christ’s revelation of Himself to the fathers to us and to our descendants is unchanging. There are diverse doctrines but we are not to waiver since the truth of Christ is firm. It is popular today to claim that Christianity cannot be true because it claims to be the only truth. The claim goes on to say there are many truths. But truth by definition is exclusive.

This is not to claim the church is infallible or cannot error. Nor are the church fathers inerrant neither individually nor collectively. The church is made up of fallible humans. But God, in His sovereignty, uses fallible creatures to communicate His infallible words or doctrine. We then ought not to reject the teaching of the Fathers but test them against scripture. Doctrines which lead us away from Christ, which deny His sovereignty, His grace, His mercy, divinity and humanity are doctrines that we are to reject and not allow them to lead us away. There are many examples of doctrines that we have been taught in the church itself which deny the sovereignty and grace of God as well as denying the sinfulness of man. The most common is the idea that we must invite Jesus into our hearts and allow Him to change our hearts. Not only does this deny the grace of God it also defies logic. Our hearts first must be changed in order to invite and allow Christ in, in the first place. Nonetheless this is the most prevalent doctrine of salvation taught in the church today, that we must cooperate with the Spirit in order to be redeemed rather than salvation being the work of Christ alone. The most prevalent doctrine of salvation taught in the church today denies the sovereignty, and grace of God. It denies the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, as well as denying the sinfulness of man. The most prevalent doctrine of salvation taught in the evangelical church today turns us away from Christ and to ourselves.

The majority of evangelical churches today are in defiance of the point the author of Hebrews is making. The author points back to the 16th chapter of Leviticus where a sacrifice was made for atonement of sin. But this atonement was made once and for all by Christ. There is no long any need of vain ceremonies.

The author then ties all this back to what he said at the beginning of the chapter, we are to show hospitality to strangers. One reason to show hospitality to strangers is we are strangers ourselves. “Here we have no lasting city.” (v14) We are simply passing through looking forward to our final destination.

The argument could be made that since salvation is by Christ alone and nothing to do with us, we are to do nothing. But the author says there is much for us to do. We are to offer sacrifices, sacrifices of praise, doing good and sharing what we have. Why? For our salvation? No! We are to do them because they please God.

The author admonishes us to obey our leaders. It is clear from the context, both textually and historically he is referring to leaders in the church as there were no Christian civil leaders at that time. The author says we are to both honor and obey. He is speaking only of those who faithfully execute their leadership in the church. Simply having the title pastor or reverend or priest does not make one a leader in the church. Many use the title of pastor to destroy the church. There are even atheists who are pastors. The title does not make them leaders. Many with the title “pastor” primary concerns are the preservation and advancement of an organization rather than the cause of Christ. While we are to obey our pastors we ought to find out who and what they are. The author, who is obviously a leader in the church, asks for prayer that he and those whom he is with may fulfill the duties of their office with a clear conscience and act honorably.

Application

Hospitality is a virtue that is nearly lost today. We have hotels and motels and restaurants. The entire concept of hospitality has become an industry. We even refer to it as the hospitality industry. The ancient concept of hospitality has all but disappeared. I have even consoled myself in my lack of hospitality with the thought, “I do not have the gift of hospitality.” But we are not to show hospitality if we have the gift of hospitality. We are to show hospitality. We are to show hospitality to our Christian brothers as well as to strangers.

The early church was known for showing hospitality. The culture marveled at how they loved each other. Today, no so much. We love to fight. We horde and protect our earthly things. We act like we have reached the Promised Land. We believe we need to grab all we can. We forget we are strangers just passing through.

It is not uncommon to have articles appear in magazines, newspapers and online that claim that Christianity must update its self if it is remain a viable force in the culture. The anchor of Christianity is Christ. Christ does not change. If the church is to be a viable force in the culture it cannot change. By that I mean the church cannot change if change means to no longer preach Christ’s sacrifice and his atoning grace. If the church no longer does that it is no longer the church. The idea that Christianity must change to survive is to claim that the church should stop being the church. Where Christ’s atoning sacrifice is no longer proclaimed there is no church it is simply an organization no matter what it calls itself.

We need to not only preach the sufficiency of Christ, we need to believe it. Showing hospitality pleases God. If we believe in the sufficiency of Christ then giving to others is not a problem. When we understand all the grace He has given us. We cannot help but want to give some out. Therefore recognize you are a sinner how you have done nothing to merit His grace. Only then can you begin to recognize the tremendous grace you have received.

 

 

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