In our study of Hebrews chapter thirteen, we will look at how the Christian life is a life of love. Paul concludes this letter to the Jewish believers with an encouraging picture of what it means to live the Christian life.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
The Hebrew word for love here is hesed and it speaks of a loyal love. This is a sacrificial care for our fellow Christians because of our relationship through Jesus Christ. Paul urges us to hold on to this love because it is going to get tougher and tougher for a Christian to walk the walk in this world. As times get tough, the flesh tries to get us to focus on ourselves and what we need but Paul urges us to follow Christ's example and serve in the tough times.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
That loyal love extends to those that we have not even met before. The body of Christ is a very large body and we do not even know most of its members. Several people such as Abraham, Jacob, and Joshua were visited by angels that took the form of men. It is just as possible that God might send an angel to you in the form of a person that you don't know.
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.
This love (hesed) is demonstrated to our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith. Would you be willing to trade places with an imprisoned Christian so that they might go free? Maybe not, but that is truly the love that is being referred to here.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Paul makes the distinction between this type of love and the physical relations between a man and a woman. The marriage that he speaks of is the union of a man with the woman that God created just for him. This is second only to our individual relationships with God and comes before our relationships with others. We should be close to our brothers and sisters in Christ but we are only united with our spouse.
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?'
Paul warns that one of the biggest enemies of this hesed type of love can be the love of money. The love of money comes from a false sense of security that it gives a person. It can become what we put our trust in instead of God and so become an idol. The love of money also can affect out relations with others as we are unwilling to help the needy if we are concerned about the cost of the help.
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.
Paul urges the Jewish believers to remember those that had shared the gospel with them and to imitate their faith. At this time, it was not easy to be a Christian or to share your faith. These people did so because the gospel had penetrated their heart. Paul reminds the believers to hold onto Jesus who is unchanging and not go back to the Law.
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. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
The strange teachings were efforts to add parts of the Law to the grace of God. The Judaizers wanted people to hold onto parts of the temple worship practices but Paul reminds them that our altar is in heaven not in a manmade building. He makes a clear statement that those who remain in the old ways and reject Jesus have no right to the kingdom of heaven. When you try to add any part of the Law to grace, it ceases to be grace and it is only by grace that one is saved.
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.
This loyal love is loyalty to Jesus Christ and not the ways of men. Paul urges the Hebrew believers to accept the "shame" of being a Christian. They were trying to be accepted by the Jews at the same time that they were trying to follow Christ. Paul reminds them that Jesus was rejected by the Jewish religious rulers and He said that the rulers would hate them as well. The same thing applies to us who did not come out of a Jewish background. We are called to follow Jesus and not a religious system. If and when we decide to do that, the religious establishment will hate us just like they hated Jesus. Paul reminds the Hebrews that they must go to Christ outside the camp and we must as well. Today, there are those who want to bring a lot of the Jewish practices into the Christian faith but they do not fit. As a Christian, we trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ to save us but that is incompatible with the idea of following a religious system to be saved. There are even many today that will tell Jews that reject Jesus as the Messiah that they will get another chance to accept Him after they die. That, my friends, is a lie that is straight out of the depths of hell. Telling people what they want to hear instead of the truth of the gospel is not loyal love (hesed). Real hesed is loving them enough to tell them that they must accept Jesus Christ or they will be condemned. It is not popular but it is the clear truth that is contained in the gospel.
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
The city of Jerusalem is probably the most controversial piece of land in the world. Many forget that there will be a new Jerusalem and that is the one that is most important.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.
Because of the fact that Jesus delivered us from sin and death, it is natural for praise to come out of our lips through our hearts. Here, Paul describes it as "fruit of lips" and, just as fruit appears on a healthy tree, praise for what God has done will come out if our walk of faith is healthy. We see that this praise is done in the open and not as some kind of "closet Christian". Even in the face of extreme persecution, the early disciples stood up and boldly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Our willing joyful service is also a form of praise to God. This loyal love flows out of a heart that has been gripped by His grace. This giving of our time and resources is pleasing to God as we demonstrate His love to the world.
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.
What does Paul mean by having confidence in your leaders? In our world today, we are taught that a leader must go to some college where he or she is qualified to be a leader in the church. This is not what Paul is talking about. He is speaking of the fact that their lives demonstrate what they are teaching. The greatest test is whether they demonstrate the loyal "hesed" love that Paul has referred to. Submitting to their authority is not blindly following someone because they have been given a diploma from some college. It is a respect for the fact that the leaders are in their position by the will of God. If He wanted them removed, then, He would do so. That being said, if we do not have confidence in them, we should move on and trust that God will deal with them.
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.
Paul was a man of prayer and we see that he was not too proud to ask people to pray for him. He asked them to ask God to make a way for him to visit them.
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.
Paul's prayer for the people recounts the power of God to make things new. He asks that that same power be in the believers to follow the will of God.
Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written 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.
Paul closes with news of Timothy and the hope that they would see them soon.