be content with what you have, be strengthened by grace, Hebrews chapter 13, honor marriage, keep on loving, remember those in prison, show hospitality to strangers
Keep on loving one another as brothers. Hebrews 13:1
In this final chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the writer concludes his letter with a series of exhortations to his readers. He first encourages the believers to continue in brotherly love towards one another. Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all is to love God with all of our minds, our souls, and our hearts. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). As believers we are to love sacrificially as Jesus himself loved his disciples. John 13:34-35 records that He gave this new command, “… so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
There are accounts in the Old Testament where people have shown hospitality to strangers that were originally assumed to be men but later were revealed to be angels. One example is the hospitality that Abraham displayed when he saw three men standing near his tent.
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. Genesis 18: 1-2
To escape the hot afternoon sun, Abraham was sitting in the shade at the entrance to his tent that was pitched near some oaks trees that belonged to an Amorite named Mamre. He saw what appeared to be three men standing nearby. Acknowledging their importance, he hurried to meet them. Abraham then bowed low to the ground as a sign of respect and submission to their superiority. One of those three men was the LORD. We later learn in Genesis chapter 19 that the other two visitors were angels.
He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” Genesis 18:3-5
In ancient times the foot was protected only by sandals or soles, which fastened round the foot with straps. It was therefore very refreshing in Canaan’s hot climate to get one’s feet washed at the end of a day’s journey and rest under a shady tree. Although Abraham had 318 trained men at his command and many servants, he implores his visitors to allow him to personally serve them.
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. Hebrews 13:3
We are to identify ourselves with all who are oppressed and to empathize with their suffering, especially if they are being persecuted or have been imprisoned for their faith in Christ.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4
Marriage is the union of one man and one woman in wedlock, whereby they become one flesh. Fornication, which is engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage, and adultery, which is engaging in sexual relations with someone other than your spouse, are both sinful acts which weaken the institution of marriage.
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who submit to or perform homosexual acts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Those who are unrepentant and continue in sexual sin will be judged by God and suffer eternal punishment.
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 man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6
The writer of Hebrews warns his readers to keep their lives free from the love of money. The Apostle Paul in chapter 6, verses 9-10 of his first epistle (letter) to Timothy explains why the love of money is a dangerous snare:
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Born-again believers can be content with what we have because God will never leave us or forsake us. Yehovah (the LORD) is our helper and we need worry about our essential needs.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33
We do not have to worry about our needs being met nor do we have to be afraid of what men can do to us.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
Since we have been given eternal life in Christ, we do not have to fear death. The true believer shall have the gracious presence of God with him, in life, at death, and for evermore.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
The Apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to imitate his faith. He wrote the following to them:
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9
Godly leaders lead by example. The evidence of their faith is their godly character, acts of righteousness, humility, and servanthood.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
The immutability of God (His quality of not changing) is clearly taught throughout Scripture. For example, in Malachi 3:6 God affirms, “I the LORD do not change.” God is unchangeable in His nature, perfections, purposes, promises, and gifts. He, being holy, cannot turn to that which is evil; nor can He, who is the fountain of light, be the cause of darkness.
The immutability of God is necessary for His perfection. If anything changes, it must change for the better or the worse, because a change that makes no difference is not a change. For change to take place, either something that is needed is added, which is a change for the better; or something that is needed is lost, which is a change for the worse. But, since God is perfect, He does not need anything. Therefore, He cannot change for the better. If God were to lose something, He would no longer be perfect; therefore, He cannot change for the worse.
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 focus of chapter 12 of the Book of Hebrews is the exhortation for the readers to imitate the faith of their departed leaders. The natural transition here is for them to heed warnings against being carried away from it by new and strange teachings. They are to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The faith remains unchanged, as Jesus Christ remains unchanged.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Our hearts are strengthened by grace. In other words, we have assurance of our salvation because it is free gift received by faith. Whereas, eating clean foods, offering up sacrifices, or any other observance of the ceremonial law is of no benefit (a person cannot be saved by works).
We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. Hebrews 13:10
Then the Lord said to Aaron, “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion, your perpetual share. You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin or guilt offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons. Eat it as something most holy; every male shall eat it. You must regard it as holy. Numbers 18:8-10
Under the Old Covenant, the priests who served in the tabernacle and later on in the temple were given a portion of the sacrifices which were offered up on the altar as their provision of food. The Levitical priests (who hold to the Old Covenant sacrificial system) have no right, no permission, to “eat” at our altar (the Cross of Christ).
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Luke 22:19-20
Under the New Covenant our altar of sacrifice is the Cross of Christ and we partake of the elements of communion.
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 13:11-13
According to the Mosaic Law, the sin offerings were to be taken outside the camp of Israel. Exodus 29:14 reads, “But the flesh of the bull and its hide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.” In keeping with Old Testament law (Numbers 15:36) and Roman practice, executions took place outside the city. Therefore Jesus went out of Jerusalem to the place of execution.
All those who remained committed to the old Jewish system were excluded from the benefit of partaking of Christ’s atoning death. Jesus’ death outside the camp symbolizes that He is accessible to anyone in the world who will come to Him.
Jews considered one crucified to be cursed. Jesus was crucified as a traitor and a criminal. Through their sufferings, which included insult and persecution, the readers were bearing his disgrace.
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14
The Hebrew Christians are urged to go forth outside the city gate to Jesus. The Levitical sacrificial system which had its center in the holy city of Jerusalem was no longer theirs. They were excluded from its religious fellowship by embracing the faith of Him Who suffered outside the gate. The earthly Jerusalem will not endure but will be replaced by the heavenly city – the New Jerusalem,
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. Hebrews 13:15-16
We believers are to offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), praise God and exalt His name, and care for and share with others because these sacrifices are pleasing to God.
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 13:17
Believers are urged trust and to submit to the authority of their spiritual leaders such as apostles, pastors, and teachers.
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1
Because those in leadership, especially those who teach God’s Holy Word, are in a position to influence the thinking and behavior of others, they bear a great responsibility. They will be held accountable to live by the truth they teach, as well as being responsible not to lead people away from God’s Word with their own words. In light of their accountability, those who are benefiting from their mentors should humbly submit to their authority so that their work will not be burdensome but joyful.
Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. Hebrews 13:18-19
A good conscience resulting from honorable living produces confidence. The writer urges the readers to pray for him and his co-laborers. The more earnestly the people pray for their ministers, the more benefit they may expect from their ministry.
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 13:20-21
These two verses must rank among the most powerfully worded blessings found in the Scripture. They gather up the passionate concern of the writer for his readers’ spiritual growth and stress the major factors that make such growth possible: the God of peace, the blood of the eternal covenant, the resurrection of Jesus, His Shepherd care for His sheep, the indwelling life of God Himself, the equipping of the Spirit, the aim to please God, and the eternal glory and Lordship of Jesus. It is all there in one glorious outpouring of good wishes and confident certainty.
Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly. Hebrews 13:22
In his epistle to the Hebrews, the writer closes in a very tender and affectionate manner. He addresses them as “brothers and sisters,” not commanding them in an authoritative way but by urging them to bear with his word of exhortation.
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. Hebrews 13:23-24
These words tell us that the writer knew Timothy, and that he planned to visit his readers soon. It also tells us that he was residing in Italy, probably in the city of Rome.
Grace be with you all. Hebrews 13:25
Grace is a fitting closing remark considering that these believers were no longer under the law.