It is a surprise to come to Hebrews chapter 13 after reading through such deep theology in the previous 12 chapters. All of a sudden, we are confronted with a whole long list of ethical exhortations which initially seem to have little reference to the theological truths that have preceded it. However, in the light of God’s grace that has been shown in the previous chapters, it means that believers as recipients of that amazing grace have obligations or responsibilities they need to fulfil. We look at these verses in the light of those responsibilities.
OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS OTHERS
1 “Let brotherly love continue.“ [philadelphia; φιλαδελφία] brotherly love, and in the New Testament, the love which Christians cherish for each other as brothers in Christ. It speaks of mutual kindness among members of the same family or in the same grouping.
Hospitality to strangers. 2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.“ Hospitality has always been a Christian duty and was widely practised in the New Testament church. Travel was dangerous in those times and believers were meant to care about those who had come into unfamiliar places. The Bible has many incidents where people provided for strangers without realising that these strangers were in fact, angels.
Caring for those who had been mistreated
3 “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Christians were to remember that in an imperfect world many people would be victims of injustice. They were to be supported and not just ignored. It was part of showing empathy, the willingness to put themselves into another person’s shoes, “as though in prison with them.” Likewise, those who had been mistreated were meant to be cared for, “since you also are in the body.” Their common humanity meant that they had human bodies just like those who had been mistreated. The need to provide healing for their suffering should have motivated them to seek to do so.
OUR PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD OURSELVES
Our bodies to be free of immorality
4 “Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” I remember reading many decades ago the comment from a senior Christian writer that the thing that will stand out most in the world, will be Christian marriages. It seems that his words are becoming more true year after year. What is required in Christian marriage is commitment to God and commitment to the one to whom you are married. The person guilty of defiling the marriage bed is either “sexually immoral” or ”adulterous”. The former is [pornos; πόρνος] meaning a fornicator whilst “adulterous” is from [moichos; μοιχός] meaning one who is unfaithful in marriage. True believers always continue to maintain their faithfulness to God and to their marriage partners.
Our desires to be free of covetousness
5 “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.” Part of the Decalogue [the 10 commandments God gave to Moses on Mt Sinai] was the command, “You shall not covet.” It is the desire to gain something that doesn’t belong to us whether it be a person or a material object or even a status which we don’t presently possess.
The writer here gives the reasons why we should not covet. We have to be content with what we have [which is God’s provision to us] and to be content with the promise of His provision and His presence. He will never forsake us. He quotes the words from Psalm 118:6, “So we can confidently say, ‘the Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6. Our trust is to be in God as El Shaddai the “All-sufficient One.” He is more than sufficient to meet all our needs.
OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THOSE IN LEADERSHIP
7 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The writer to the Hebrews was very keen to have his readers look to other human believers for inspiration as they ran their Christian race. Here he bids them to remember their leaders who had brought the gospel to them and whose faith they could imitate. But he also pointed them to Jesus as the example par excellence of faith. The great thing about Jesus was that He is unchanging, utterly reliable and always able to give them anything they needed for their Christian journey.
OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS GOD
Finally the writer urges them to focus on God Himself, 15, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” The writer has already shown in Hebrews that Jesus Christ offered the one complete sacrifice for sin to bring about the redemption of the world. No other sacrifice that humans could ever offer could add any value to that one perfect sacrifice. So why is he suggesting here that they offer a sacrifice to God? The sacrifice he suggests is the sacrifice of praise to God knowing that God loves to receive praise from His grateful creatures. It is “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” It is the verbal expression of the gratitude that believers feel for God’s working on their behalf to achieve their salvation and for providing them with the necessities of life.
He adds that there is another sacrifice that pleases God, 16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” The word used here for “doing good” is [eupoiia; εὐποιΐα] from a compound of [eu; εὖ] meaning good or well and [poieō; ποιέω] to make or to do. It means doing that which is beneficial for others including being generous to them. These are the sacrifices from God’s people that please Him
We have seen that the whole theme of this chapter is on the sacrifices that are pleasing to God and on our responsibility in offering them to Him. That involves the following:-
- Our responsibility towards others in showing love to them and in offering hospitality to them.
- Our responsibility to ourselves in living lives of purity in marriage and other relationships. And in being content with the Lord’s provision to us.
- Our responsibility towards those in leadership by remembering their contribution to our lives and in following their examples of faith.
- Our responsibility towards God by continuing to offer praise to Him for His mercy and grace towards us and by pleasing Him in doing good to others.
Blog No.411. Hebrews 13:1-8 and 13:15-16. Sacrifices Pleasing to God
[A reading for Sunday 28 August 2022] posted on Saturday 30 July 2022