Hebrews 13


“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 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 honoured 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, because God has said, “Never will I leave you never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:1-8

As we come into Hebrews 13, we are left with several curiosities. The first is the quick, short nature of the commands in this chapter. After developing his points throughout the lesson, the author of Hebrews gives seemingly random, scattered instructions.

The writer is also drawing a sharp contrast that the chapter break obscures. Look at how Hebrews 12 ended, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Then look at verse 1 of chapter 13, “Let brotherly love continue.” Quite a contrast! So what is the author of Hebrews doing?

I believe the author is giving exhortations to us to do these things because God is a consuming fire and because we are in God’s kingdom. These are some of the things that we need to do to remain in God’s unshakable kingdom. Don’t think that you are part of God’s unshakable kingdom if we are not doing these things.

1. Love each other.

We are commanded to have brotherly love for each other. We are to have a love for each other like the ideal love that should be found in a family. And why not? We are the family of God! God is simply telling us to act like it. You are family! Act like it! Don’t think you are in the unshakable kingdom of God if you are not treating others with brotherly love.

2. Do not neglect hospitality.

Often the force of this command is lost because of the explanation given for hospitality. Before that explanation is addressed, let us not neglect the command. We are not part of God’s unshakable kingdom if we are not acting hospitably. We need to go out of our way to make sure other people feel comfortable and welcome.

That is true when they come here to worship and when we get to know them. It is awful to go to services where the people act like they do not care if you are there. When we see people, welcome them. Welcome them here and welcome them into your lives.

But the writer gives us a positive reason for acting hospitably. God rewards hospitality. The situation with Abraham is one of many instances where we read about hospitality being rewarded. Rahab welcomed the spies, who were strangers, and by providing for them was spared the destruction of Jericho. The emphasis is not on the angels, but on the reward, Abraham received by being hospitable.

Jesus taught the same point to His disciples in Matthew 25:40 / Matthew 25:45, where Jesus said that what we do toward one another is what we are doing toward Jesus. This is not saying that you need to be hospitable because you never know if you are serving an angel. Rather, a blessing from God comes to those who are hospitable.

This action will show us to be like Abraham, children of his and therefore part of God’s covenantal family.

3. Put yourself in the shoes of those who are suffering.

Third, we are not in God’s unshakable kingdom when if we are not compassionate and active toward those who are enduring hardship. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our fellow brethren. When they are suffering, we need to suffer with them.

We are to be so closely connected that anything that happens to you should be as if it happened to me. It is a call for a greater amount of sympathy and compassion.

I believe this is talking about Christians who were suffering and enduring mistreatment for the Lord’s sake. The end of Hebrews 13:3 reminds us that we are to be connected. These people are part of the body of Christ. When one member of the body suffers, all of the members of the body feel that pain. We are together as God’s family.

4. Marriage held in honour.

We live in a world where sexual relations are freely given away to every person we may have a mild concern. However, God declares that marriage is the only place for sexual union. This is how marriage is held in honour. Marriage is not to be defiled. We are not to commit sexual immorality and so defile ourselves. God will judge the sexually immoral and the adulterous.

Hold marriage in honour. Keep your pants on until you are married. Once married, stay faithful to your spouse and have no relations with any other person. We are not part of God’s unshakable kingdom when we do not hold our marriages in honour.

5. No love of money.

Fifth, we are not part of God’s unshakable kingdom if we have a love of money. We need to be content with the things that have. We need to be content with the amount of money that we have. We need to be content with our possessions.

The writer tells us that we need to enjoy what we have and stop ignoring the good things we have. I have considered that this is the essence of the problem. When we have a love of money and possessions, it is because we are not appreciating what we have. We want a new television because we do not appreciate the one we have.

We want a new car because we do not appreciate what we have. We want a new house because we do not appreciate the house we have. Our lack of contentment ruins us. We are unable to enjoy and appreciate the things we have because our lack of contentment keeps putting our eyes on the things we do not have.

I like the words from “Soak up the Sun” by Sheryl Crow, wherein one verse says, “It’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”

Those who are in God’s unshakable kingdom enjoy and appreciate what they have, seeing these possessions as God’s gift to us.

I have often been surprised at the connection between Hebrews 13:5-6. Verse 6 is connected to verse 5 with the word “so” or “therefore.” But how is contentment connected to the fact that we can say with confidence, “The Lord is our helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

But isn’t the point about trust? Where is your confidence? What do you trust in? Do we have our hope and trust in possessions and wealth? Or do we have our hope and trust in the Lord? It is hard to know until our possessions and wealth are stripped away from us.

Those who are in God’s kingdom and are free from the love of money can boldly say, no matter what happens, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

But those who are not in God’s kingdom panic. Their trust is in the possessions and wealth of this world. So when life gives us a seismic shift, we fear and we lack confidence because we have put our trust in the paycheck, house, car, and other stuff.

We need to strive to live with less rather than desiring more. We need to stop being accumulators and be good givers and sharers. We will be satisfied when we realize that God is sufficient to meet our needs. A love of money is a statement that we do not trust God to take care of us, that we need to do it ourselves, and must provide for ourselves, rather than rely upon God to give it.

But God is reliable. He will not leave us. He will not forsake us. God is with me no matter what people may do to us. Do not rely on physical helpers. Rely on God. We are not in God’s unshakable kingdom when our trust does not fully rest on God.

6. Follow the faith of the apostles.

Finally, we are not in God’s unshakable kingdom when we do not look to the faith of the apostles and model our faith after theirs. I believe that these leaders are the apostles because of the phrase, “those who spoke to you the word of God.”

This seems to point to those who are greater than the author. He does not say to look at me but look at those who taught you and led you. I think this is the apostles.

The second reason this seems to be looking to the apostles is because of the next phrase, “Consider the outcome of their way of life.”

The language suggests that these people have died. Look at how they lived. These are words used about those who have gone on before us in life. I believe that the writing of Hebrews took place around 68-69 A.D.

Most, if not all, of the apostles except John would be dead by this point. You are not in God’s kingdom when you are not looking at the faith of the apostles and other heroes of the Scriptures and imitating that faith.

Tying into Hebrews 13:8, follow the example and words that they taught you and showed you. Follow their example. Follow their teaching. Jesus does not change. Don’t worry about any new teachings that come along.

Just look at the teachings and faith of the apostles, and follow them in faith. In a changing world, we can trust in the unchanging Jesus.

“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.” Hebrews 13:9

The author has previously spoken about remembering the apostolic leaders who spoke to them the word of God and imitating their faith. Keep to the teachings you have been taught and do not move from them. Verse 9 continues this thinking.

“Do not be led astray by all of the diverse and strange teachings that are out there”. Hebrews 13:9

Particularly, the problem was that there was a teaching that said, they were strengthened by food, and not by grace. True life is in grace, not in food regulations. We are in the family of God by grace, not by the foods that we eat. We see this problem more expressly described in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

We live in a world that continues to fill itself with strange teachings. We have people claiming that Jesus was married and had children, contrary to any biblical or extra-biblical evidence. We have religious people claiming that the Scriptures are not trustworthy, being edited and distorted from the original message.

We have preachers teaching that if you enlarge your vision and conceive it in your heart, God will give it to you. They say that God wants to give you your dream house if you will only visualize it and believe it. We live in a world that teaches that God is merely a hobby. Show up for services once in a while and you will appease God.

God is our idol and we do what we want and He will be happy with that. We have people like Oprah teaching that all spirituality leads to God. All that matters is being spiritual. Even within our own brethren, there are strange teachings about the church and salvation.

Don’t be pulled away from the Word of God. The apostle’s teaching is what is important. We cannot hold to traditions. We cannot grab on to every new doctrine. Neither extreme will help our faith. Hold on to the Word of God.

“We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.” Hebrews 13:10-13

This is a tricky point that I think many miss. So let us carefully comb through these words to see the point that the author is making. We have a special altar that those not under Christ do not have access to. The Old Testament priesthood does not have access to this altar. By implication, I think this is saying that the sinful nation of Israel does not have access to His altar.

Verse 11 recalls the Old Testament system. The blood was taken into the holy place as an offering for sin and the body was taken outside the camp. Leviticus 16:27. Jesus parallels this. The writer has already told us that through the death of Jesus, he went into the realities of heaven, not the copies of the earthly tabernacle. The cross is the altar upon which the sacrifice for sins was made.

Through the cross, we are made holy and set apart. But crucifixion was done outside of the city walls because the Jews thought that it was a defilement, based upon the Law of Moses. This is why the author says Jesus suffered outside the gate. He is referring to suffering outside the gates of the city. He suffered for sins and bore insults to be an offering for atonement.

Now notice verse 13, “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.” Now, on the surface, this sounds like a fairly straightforward teaching. Enduring suffering like Jesus suffered. We need to go to Jesus. Let us make the sacrifice that He made. Let us go down the road that Jesus walked, carrying the cross to our death.

It is not us who live, but Jesus who is living in us. Let us carry the cross and disregard the shame as we go to Jesus. This is not a message of moving to what is comfortable for us. This is a call for us to move to Jesus despite the suffering.

But notice how we are to go to Jesus. We go to him by going “outside the camp.” He is calling on his readers to leave Jerusalem and all that it stands for. Leave the physical city and go to Jesus. Leave the Law of Moses and go to Jesus.

The point seems to be similar to the point made by Paul in Galatians 4 when he used an allegory to show that the people should leave the Law of Moses, leave Sinai, and leave the physical nation and go to the spiritual, heavenly Jerusalem. The author of Hebrews has made the same point.

“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14

Hebrews 13:14 shows that our interpretation is correct. Leave Jerusalem because we have no lasting city here. Rather, we see the city that is to come. Go outside the city. Leave behind the physical and go to Jesus, the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. Our hope is in the eternal city, not in Jerusalem. Paradise is not here.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Hebrews 13:15-17

So what should we do since we are leaving physical Jerusalem with its sacrifices? Do not offer the physical sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. But we still have to offer sacrifices. But these are not the sacrifices of animals. It is not the sacrifice of blood.

Now we all must offer the continual sacrifice of praise to God. Our praise is now our offering to God. Notice that he explains what this offering looks like. It is “the fruit of our lips” that God desires. Our sacrifice is praising God with our lips. Our sacrifice is the confession of our lips of who He is.

Are we making our offering? We still need to come to God with our offerings. But are we remembering to offer worship with the fruit of our lips? Are we confessing Him to people we know? Are we acknowledging Jesus to the world? The fruit of our lips must not be filthy, improper words. We must have lips that offer the sacrifice of praise.

The second sacrifice we must offer is “doing good and sharing the things we have with others”. These are sacrifices that please God. Animal sacrifices are not the things that please God. Are we offering these sacrifices? Are we doing good toward others?

Are we giving the possessions and wealth that God has so generously given to us? Our possessions are not for us to spend on ourselves selfishly. We have things to do good for the kingdom of God and to share with others.

Third, “obey your leaders and submit to them”. I believe these leaders are the shepherds of local congregations. They are watching over our souls, which fits Paul’s instructions in Acts 20:28.

They have to give an account in regards to their charge and shepherding over us. It is our responsibility to yield to them and obey them. They are looking out for us.

We need to let them shepherd us with joy, not with pain and groaning. Shepherds are to help us. They are an advantage for our souls. Why would we want to treat them badly or ignore their guidance and instructions? We need to work together with our shepherds for the goal of expanding God’s kingdom in the hearts of the people.

“Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:18-21

The writer is now concluding this lesson and he has some final remarks. He asks for the prayers of the people. They have a clear conscience about the things they are doing for the Lord. But the desire to act honourably in all that they are doing. The author is also hopeful to be with these Christians again.

Verses 20-21 are a powerful doxology. It summarizes our hope in the resurrection of Jesus and our hope by the blood of the eternal covenant, the bloodshed by Jesus our Saviour. May we in this hope be equipped for every good work so that we will do God’s will.

“Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly. I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. Grace be with you all.” Hebrews 13:22-25

The final verses offer some personal information. Timothy has been released. He apparently had been imprisoned. Perhaps Timothy is one of the leaders we studied in Hebrews 13:7 that they were to remember by way of their teaching and faith. Keep your eyes on the eternal city. Leave the physical and go with Jesus to the cross.

1. Hebrews 13:23. It is reasonable to believe that this is the Timothy that was Paul’s son in the faith, 1 Timothy 1:2.

2. It is reasonable to believe that Timothy was a close friend of the author.

3. He desired to see Timothy and them.

1. Hebrews 13:24. The author has nothing but goodwill to the elders and Christians to whom this letter is written.

2. The letter was written in Italy, and the Christians there send their greeting.

1. Hebrews 13:25. This is a typical closing asking that God’s grace be with them.

2. The only way for Christians to abide in the grace of God is to abide in the doctrine of Christ, 2 John 9.