“Let brotherly love remain”
Today’s Text Hebrews 13
This final chapter of Hebrews begins by continuing the practical exhortations and instructions that began in chapter 12. It concludes with the ethical admonitions and personal information that the epistles of the NT usually close with. The presentation of arguments is over now, and even though the letter did not begin with the usual sort of opening, it concludes with the usual sort of closing.
Points of Interest
13:1-6: Verse one literally reads “Let brotherly love remain”. In the next two verses is a twofold example of what brotherly love looks like in practice: hospitality and thinking about those who are less fortunate. The idea of hospitality in v. 2 can be summed up by saying, offer friendship to one another. More has been written of course about entertaining angels, and that reminds us of Jesus’ words in Matt. 25:35. In v. 3 we see the idea of the less fortunate expressed as “those in prison” and those who are “mistreated”. We should bear in mind that the author is referring to people who are in prison and mistreated for their faith in Jesus Christ, and again we have an echo from Matthew 25. Brotherly love can be summed up as putting the interests of others ahead of our own. While the first three verses give us examples of what we should do, verses 4-6 tell us what we should not do. First, we should realize that holiness does not allow for sexual immorality; sexual immorality is something that kills relationships, and it is clearly not putting the interests of others ahead of our own. As for the love of money, we should be content with what we have, for loving money will kill our relationship with Christ Himself.
13:7-8: The leaders spoken of here are said to have proclaimed the Word of God, so we can infer that the author is speaking primarily of those whose ministries lie within the areas of preaching and teaching. The proclamation of God’s Word is the central aspect of the Great Commission both before and after someone enters into relationship with Christ, and is worthy of respect and imitation. Verse eight is one that is often written about, but in context it is telling the reader that as Jesus is constant and dependable, so is the example of those who proclaim His Word. Paul told the Corinthians to follow his example, for he was following the example of Christ. So it was with the “leaders” spoken of here.
13:9-16: The author has made extensive remarks in this letter regarding the temptation to return to the old (OT) ways. In doing this, he has repeatedly shown the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old. Here, he makes one last appeal to the people to move away from the Old Covenant practices, recognizing the total and utter superiority of the New. He begins by talking about “foods”. Even though the NIV adds the word “ceremonial” to “foods”, the Greek text does not contain this word, thus we can infer that the meaning is in reference to which foods are clean and which are unclean. (Lev. 11) Verse 10 refers to the food sacrifices that the priests ate, and there is no counterpart in the New Covenant; thus they are not permitted to eat from the altar of our Covenant (the cross). The next two verses refer to the OT practice of bearing a sacrifice outside the city to be burned on the ash heap (Lev. 4) and comparing it with Jesus who was crucified outside the city. We do not bear the sacrifice, but instead we bear the disgrace of His crucifixion though suffering for our faith. By this we are made holy through His shed blood. In verse 15 we see that we offer sacrifices of praise and good deeds, not of animals, verse 16 exhorts the people to continue offering sacrifice in this way, for it is pleasing to God. We must understand that all of this centers on the example of Jesus who put the interests of others ahead of His own interests: brotherly love.
13:17-25: Verse 17 is one that is not “politically correct” today; thus it may be problematic for some. Earlier we were called to “remember” our leaders; here we are commanded to “obey” them. Those who lead through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God have an awesome responsibility and are not only responsible for their own lives, but for watching over the lives of the members of their flock. Those members can make this a “joy” or they can make it a “burden”. Making it a “burden” for the leaders will not be a benefit to those who do so; in fact it is disobedience to God Himself. Frustrating the efforts of your leaders will result in your loss. Verses 18 ff. are the closing personal remarks and greetings.