HEBREWS - Chapter 13 "Let Brotherly Love Continue"



Tuesday, May 28, 2024; March 27, 2012

Pastor Carolyn Sissom


We have come to the close of this wonderful epistle.  We have seen that the book of Hebrews was written to warn Jewish Christians not to turn their backs on Christ and return to Judaism.  Further we have seen that Jesus is superior to the prophets of old, better than the greatest of angels---why He even surpasses Moses!  But the biggest truth of all is to see that our Lord’s single sacrifice takes care of all sin forever!


We do not know what effect this letter had on those to whom it was written.  But we do know it has had a great influence on multitudes since that time.  The author never dreamed, of course, that his letter would one day become part of the New Testament and reach into lives for centuries.  However, the human heart remains the same.  Things haven’t changed much since the letter was written.  The circumstances may vary, but human attitudes are the same now as they were then.


If you were a Jewish Christian coming into the truth for the first time, you would be floored by the fact that Jesus’ one sacrifice is greater than all the countless sacrifices made on Jewish altars for 1400 years put together!  That means that never again will any sacrifice have to be made for sin again.  In view of that overwhelming fact, who in his right mind would want to go back to the killing of animals in endless offerings for sin?  Jesus has done it once for all!  It would be ridiculous to trade the real thing for those old Jewish shadows (Heb. 10:12).


Heb. 13:1: Let brotherly love continue.


The writer closes with a series of exhortations to his readers to live as befits those who have received the Holy Spirit.  Why?  Because with the Holy Spirit living in us, our lives become an extension of God’s own life.  The key element of the Christian life is love.


Heb. 13: 2-3: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.  Remember them that are in bounds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.


The writer mentions two ways in which this “brotherly love” was to be shown:


1.     Loving care for the stranger…they were told to keep their hearts and homes open to all in the family of Christ.  Due to the persecution of those days, it was hard for traveling Christians to find a place to stay.  Because of their faith, many believers were forced to leave their homes.  Others had to travel about in the course of handling their affairs.  Yes, I am sure he refers to the visitation of angels, but also to the angels of the apostles and prophets as they traveled teaching and preaching.

2.     Loving sympathy for the prisoner… In those days many were imprisoned because of their faith in Christ.  To be put in prison in those days was almost the sentence of death.  Conditions were terrible.  Consequently, believers were always trying to find ways to smuggle food and themselves into the prisons.  Anyone caught supplying food to them was to share the same fate as the one he was trying to help.  Yet that didn’t stop those early Christians.  They bribed guards, paid ransoms, anything to help their brethren.


Heb. 13:4:  Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.


In those early days, marriage was not highly regarded.  It is only when Christian love is applied to the marital union that it is exalted.  That is the reason the union of marriage between a man and a woman is under attack now.


The people of that time despised marriage in two ways:


(1) Religious fanatics shunned marriage because of the sexual aspect.   They thought they would become polluted.

(2) The second disdainful view is the same as we are seeing in the social culture of the 21st century.  Marriage was nothing more than a human invention; something people cooked up to protect the interests of the contracting parties.  Often fortunes were involved, as well as titles, and marriage was sort of “escrow” to insure against fraud.  Consequently many regarded marriage as nothing more than a piece of paper, with no binding moral obligation.  As a result, they felt free to explore other relationships and have more than one wife.


Marriage is a Christian institution ordained of God and its boundaries are sacred.  Christian marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His church.  Therefore, it is to be preserved in purity, each partner faithful to the other.  This meant no wife-swapping, no sex parties, and no third-party allowed to intrude.  Christian love makes marriage a holy thing.  This high view of marriage calls the church to stand boldly against the immorality of the world around us.


To encourage purity in the physical intimacy of marriage, the writer announces that God is going to judge all fornicators and adulterers.  Adultery speaks of unfaithfulness by either of the partners, whereas fornications covers the whole range of sexual aberrations, including sodomy, pornography, immodesty amongst family members and even inappropriate emotional intimacy (Lev. 18). 


The world condones immorality and feels that promiscuity adds spice to life.  God takes no such lighthearted view.  In plain language this verse says that any violation of the marriage bond will bring God’s judgment.  The Word clearly says it is because of these things the “wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience(Eph. 5:6).  Adultery and fornication bring sickness and premature death to the physical body.


Heb. 13: 5-6:  Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have; for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.  So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.


When you see a Christian coveting and grasping after money, possessions, hoarding, and focused on acquiring more and more, he/she is not walking in the grace of contentment, peace, and security in their present and future.  A Christian’s attitude toward money is a good barometer of his/her spiritual development.  It shows how real or unreal the promises of God are to him and our trust that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  In His sermon the mount, the Lord taught that our heavenly Father so cares for us that we need be anxious “for nothing(Mt. 6: 30-34).


 When it comes to protection, “If God be for us who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)


With all of a person’s needs in this life guaranteed by the Lord and the wealth of heaven awaiting us, how can we possibly be fearful or discontent?  We become content in all things.  This is impossible for the world to understand.  It is the peace of God that passes all understanding.


Heb. 13: 7-8:  Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.  Jesus Christ the same yesterday,  today, and forever.


Leaders come and go.  Each of us have our turn to lead in our generation and our appointed time.  But this is not true of Christ.  He is always present.  The former leaders have passed away, but Jesus remains on the scene.  In the midst of changing times, scenes, and ideas, He stands as a “Rock” ---for He is changeless. 


Verse 8 is breathtaking and beautiful for it speaks of Christ as the unchangeable revelation of God.  Jesus is himself the eternal guarantee that we will always be acceptable to God (7:25).  What this means to the readers is the Lord’s grace and power are permanently at our disposal.  Just as the Lord sustained the early church, he will sustain His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.


Heb. 13: 9: Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.  For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.


There have been and are many strange doctrines through the centuries since this was written.  If any teaching does not square up with the Word of God and the unchanging Christ, it is a false teaching. 


Interesting that here he interjects “rules about foods.”   When a person is in bondage, it is human nature to try to put others under the same bondage.  It is an error to trust in outward ordinances as a means of gaining spiritual strength.  Food can become a symbol of humanly devised means of drawing near to Godly discipline.  Contrariwise, the word Grace refers to the invisible help Christians can receive from the Lord through the Holy Spirit.   Don’t listen to any teaching that puts the emphasis on anything but faith in Christ.


13:10: We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle?


Christians have an altar from which the Jewish priests are not allowed to eat unless they accept the sacrifice of Christ.    Our altar is spiritual.  Those who seek the blessings in outward rules and rituals are excluded from this altar. 


13:11-13:  For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.  Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.  Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.


Golgotha was beyond the walls of Jerusalem.  The animals involved in the Jewish sacrifices were slain inside the camp.  Their blood was taken inside the camp but bodies were carried outside the camp and burned.   The Lord was born into Judaism, but was utterly rejected by Israel.  He was taken outside and crucified--- as if He were refuse.  Those who want Him must also separate themselves from Judaism and go outside the Jewish system to get to Him. 


The writer is here speaking to Hebrew Christians, Let us go forth therefore unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.    It means a complete break with all ties, an utter forsaking of all the sacred customs that had come down to them from generations before.  To go outside the city to that dirty old cross meant leaving their security and respectability and becoming identified with Jesus’ shame.  To Jew and Gentile alike the cross was a symbol of shame and an “accursed place.”


For many of us who left behind the security of our denominations and approval of our families, to receive and acknowledge the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, we understand what it means to follow Jesus bearing the reproach.   However, we count it all joy.


This crumbling world is not our permanent home; we’re just passing through on our way to our eternal home, the City of God.  We are citizens of heaven.


For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.  We have come unto the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem


13: 15-16:  By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.  but to do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.


The O.T. prophet, Hosea, describes the sacrifice of praise as the “fruit of our lips(Hosea 14:2).   If we were to dedicate our lips to continual fruit-bearing for the Lord, we would soon learn that it really is a sacrifice.  Also, kindnesses to others is a sacrifice which pleases God.  For the Christian who lives a life of continual praise, it should come naturally to him to share with others.  Praising and giving go together.


13: 17-19: Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you.  Pray for us; for we trust we have a good conscience in all things willing to live honestly.  But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.


All Christians are ministers of the things of God, for all have gifts of the Spirit and can help each other.  But there are those whom God ordains to guide and teach.  They go by such names as Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Evangelists, Teachers, Elders, and Deacons.   The respect for their authority and office is not to gratify their sense of power or to be exalted above any other member of the body of Christ.  They are leaders only because of God’s anointing and call.   It’s like the difference between an officer’s uniform and the man wearing it.  You don’t salute the man; you salute the uniform and the authority behind that uniform.  For the Ministers of the Church, that authority is Christ Himself.


The writer then requests prayer for Himself.  He has been faithful to present God’s truth in this letter without pulling any punches.  He has given them the stern side of the gospel as well as the exciting truth of what Christ has done for them.  He feels his conscience is clear in that he has been faithful to give them all that they needed. 


He knows he has challenged religious traditions that are 1400 years in the making.  He will offend many.  But in his own heart he feels he’s done a good job, yet humbly asks for prayer.


13:20-21: Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.


To this point, everything the author wanted to teach was based on the fact that Christ lives as our High Priest now.  For the first time in the letter mention is made of Christ’s resurrection, and this time He is pictured as being raised as the Great Shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”  Now as the Living Shepherd, He watches and tends His sheep.  No enemy is going to come along and steal them from Him.  The Great Shepherd will not allow the wolf (satan) to tempt any of His sheep beyond their ability to handle it (1 Cor. 10:13).


The Great Shepherd has but one flock.  Those who tend the flock in His name are under-shepherds.  The writer knew his readers would suffer for their faith in the days ahead.  It would be the task of the under-shepherds to see that they were not intimidated but remained steadfast in pure devotion to Christ.


This has been a book of warnings with the writer stressing the sterner, harsher side of the gospel.  Still, he doesn’t want his readers thinking of God as a stern judge only.  So, he begins his benediction, one of the most beautiful in the bible.   He addresses the Lord as the God of peace. 


13: 22-25: (paraphrased by C.S.L.) “Please brethren, bear patiently with my exhortation, for this letter really isn’t long compared to what I could have written.  I’m pleased to inform you that our brother, Timothy, has been set free, and if he comes to me soon, I will bring him with me when I come to see you.  Please give my greetings to your leaders and all of the Lord’s beloved ones there.  The brethren from Italy ask to be remembered to you.  God’s grace be with you all.  Amen.”


Surely the writer of the Hebrews is the Apostle Paul.


Pastor Carolyn Sissom

Eastgate Ministries Church. 10115 West Hidden Lakes Lane, Richmond, TX.


Scripture from K.J.V.; Text paraphrased from Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews by:  C.S. Lovett.

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