Hebrews 13:1-6

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Hebrews 13

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 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.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

 When I was a kid I heard a pastor pass along a story that Dwight L. Moody shared during his amazing ministry in the 19thcentury in Chicago.

In Chicago a few years ago a little boy attended a Sun­day school I know of. When his parents moved to another part of the city the little fellow still attended the same Sunday school, although it meant a long, tiresome walk each way. A friend asked him why he went so far, and told him that there were plenty of others just as good nearer his home.

“They may be as good for others, but not for me,” was his reply.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because they love a fellow over there,” he replied.

I heard that a long time ago and I have never forgotten it: “Because they love a fellow over there.” And I think the reason I have remembered this is not the quaint phrasing of it—“Because they love a fellow over there.”—but because it is so self-evidently true.

When the church demonstrates the love of Christ, the church has the power of God in its midst.

We are most like Christ when we love, and the love of Christ draws people in.

It is telling indeed that as the writer of Hebrew begins His letter’s conclusion He offers a number of challenges, a number of charges, a number of commissions. And the first of these is the commission to love.

The Commission to Love

In giving this commission to love, the writer of Hebrews paints five different portraits of what this should look like.

Love One Other

First, the church is to love one another with familial love. The author writes:

Let brotherly love continue.

There are just four words here, but they are rich and heavily loaded. First, the word for “love” used here is the Greek wordphiladelphia, “brother love.” Not agape, though we need to strive for this type of love too, but brotherly love. By using this word the writer of Hebrews was showing that the church is now a distinct social group, a family among the families, a people among the peoples. The church, in other words, is an authentic family in which love is exercised.

Let us be clear: a Christian in America has more in common with a Christian in Somalia that he does not know than he does with his own blood kin who have rejected Christ. You are tied to that believer on the other side of the planet in a way that you are not tied to your own relatives who reject Christ. And you are in more of a family with the believer down the street than with your unsaved family under your own roof! Why? Because the blood of Jesus is stronger than biology! Because the blood of Jesus makes us truly a family!

Secondly, note that they are commissioned to “let” this love continue. The love of God wants to be operative in the church. Those who are born again were made to love one another! Let love continue! You do not have to conjure it up and kickstart it. The love of Christ is here! Now! So let the love of Christ grow, and flourish, and flower, and spread!

Church, we must love one another! We must be a family! Jimmy Draper

If there is one reason why Christianity is dragging and depleting its energies today, it is because we have lost our brotherly affection for one another. We do not like each other. The greatest hostility that most of us have ever experienced has come from other Christians. We become competitive. We become hard and calloused toward one another. We are not tender, nor concerned, nor compassionate toward one another. We enjoy castigating someone else. We do not like the way they act, the things they do. In fact, we simply do not even like them. We justify ourselves by saying, “God said I had to love them, but he did not say I had to like them.” But God really says we have to do both. If we do not love a Christian brother, we cannot like him. If we do not like him, we do not love him.[1]

I ask you now: do you love the brethren? Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Is the church, to you, a family? If not, why not?

Love the Stranger

But it is not just love of the brethren. We are also to love others. Listen:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

In context, this may refer to traveling Christian missionaries, as many commentators note, but certainly it applies to strangers in general. The church is not to have a posture of suspicion. We are to be discerning, to be sure. But the church is to be a place of radical hospitality. This extends to our daily lives but it also extends to our corporate gatherings. I believe this church is filled with the kindest people in the world. Furthermore, I frequently hear visitors speak of how welcoming this church is. But every now and again I do hear the opposite: those who come for a week or a few weeks and say that they did not feel welcome, that nobody spoke to them. Let me simply remind you that we are called in scripture to “show hospitality to strangers.” This includes, at the least, the basic kindness of greeting and speech and care.

The early church strove to be hospitable. Sometimes this led to them being taken by swindlers and hucksters. Philip Hughes gives an interesting historical example of this.

The second-century satirist Lucian speaks scornfully of the devotion with which the Christians cared for the bogus prophet Proteus Peregrinus when he was in prison, and relates how, after his release and the resumption of his activity as an itinerant preacher, he had “ample source of funds in the Christians, through whose ministrations he lived in unalloyed prosperity.” Their founder, he explains, “persuaded them that they were all brothers of one another…so that if any charlatan and trickster who knows how to turn things to his own advantage comes among them he quickly acquires sudden wealth by imposing on simple folk.”

Being duped by a charlatan is, of course, most unfortunate, but Hughes makes an interesting point about Lucian’s mockery.

This may be sarcastic testimony to Christian gullibility, but it is also, ironically, evidence of the spirit of brotherly love and liberality displayed in Christian circles. The vulnerability that goes with the truly hospitable nature is never fully obviated by the adoption of precautionary measures, nonetheless, Christians should continue to be of all people the most hospitable.[2]

To be sure, the hospitable may sometimes be taken in. I repeat: hospitality is not averse to discernment. But let me also add that such is the nature of love. To love is to risk being used. It will unfortunately happen at times. But better to love and sometimes be deceived than not to love. The church is called to love the stranger.

Let us not leave this verse until we comment on the amazing conclusion to it:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Wow! You never know who the stranger really is. He or she might just be an angel, perhaps in distressing disguise. Do not disdain the stranger. Love the stranger.

Love the Struggling

Love the stranger and love the struggling!

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

A number of us recently did a mission in Wrightsville Prison. I have never done a mission or ministry in a prison when I did not feel unbelievably blessed and encouraged. And I do not mean this in a patronizing way. To set aside one’s pretensions and suspicions and to simply love on men and women who are struggling, whether through their own fault or not, is a powerful and beautiful thing!

We are to remember those who are in prison, yes, but we are to do so “as though in prison with them.” Not, in other words, haughtily, arrogantly, with a better-than-thou attitude! You are not better than the prisoner. You may be a prisoner one day after all! Who knows? Love the prisoner as you would love your dearest friend.

So, too, the mistreated. Have compassion on the outcast, the rejected, the despised, the abused. Have mercy! For the love of Christ have mercy on the weak and the lowly! Are we not all weak and lowly, after all? Are any of us mighty or strong, after all?

Ray Stedman writes:

We must feel with the prisoner or the mistreated, the shame, hurt and hopelessness they often experience, and minister to them out of an awareness that we too could have been where they are, had our circumstances been the same as theirs.[3]

Indeed! Love the prisoner and the mistreated.

Love with Purity

Now he moves to the faithfulness of love, specifically within marriage.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

“Let marriage be held in honor among all” does not mean that all must get married. Some marry, some do not. But marriage itself should be honored. In its original context, this may have been intended as a corrective against (a) those extreme ascetics in the church who were viewing marriage as some how carnal or unholy and/or (b) on the other hand, those who were married but were giving themselves over to adultery and unfaithfulness.

Both are perversions of marriage: the extreme ascetic who sees marriage as fleshly and beneath a spiritual person and the libertine who sees it as non-binding when it comes to his or her own behavior.

Let us be clear: the evangelical church in North America has a sex problem. It is a real problem. I recently told my wife that I am exhausted with church scandals. I bet you are too. We should all—pastors, deacons, laity—emblazon these words on our hearts: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

This is love: to love your spouse rightly and faithfully and wholesomely. To love your husband or your wife with an exclusive marital love.

Do not Love the Temporal

It is most interesting that right after we are warned about sexual sin we are warned about the love of money.

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.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Do not love money. Money will not last. It is not a fit object for your highest affections! Stop loving it! Stop selling your soul for it. Be content! Paul, in Philippians 4, writes:

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

If we do not obsess over and do not become lovers of money then we can truly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear, what can man do to me?”

I mentioned that it is interesting that the writer of Hebrews warns against the love of money right after warning against sexual sin. The two have something in common: both tempt us to take what is not ours for the gratification of the flesh. Sexual sin and monetary sins often go hand in hand.

Such should not be the case with the church of the living God! We must not love and pursue sinful pleasure or sinful gain. Why? Because we have Christ? Is He not enough? Thomas Schreiner writes:

Part of what it means to be devoted to the city of God instead of the city of man is to be content with what God has given, to give him thanks and praise each day for the gifts granted.[4]

Indeed! Many years earlier, Augustine wrote:

So keep a moderate amount of money for temporal uses; treat it as journey money…Notice above all what he put first: “Free from love of money,” he says, put your hand in the purse in such a way that you release your heart from it.[5]

I love that! Put your hand in your wallet but not your heart! Your heart belongs to Christ!

So I ask you a simple question: is Christ enough for you? Is He treasure enough for you? Is He wealth enough for you? Are you content with Christ even if you have nothing else?

Is He enough?

Church, may we love Jesus enough that we do not pervert our love with unfit objects.

Love Jesus.

Love one another.

Love the stranger.

Love the imprisoned and mistreated.

Love your own spouse.

And do not love money.

If we get our loves rightly ordered then they will say of us, “They love a fellow over there.”

May that be true of us.

 

[1] Draper, James T. Hebrews. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1976), p.363.

[2] Philip Edgcumbe Hughes. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p.564.

[3] Stedman, Ray C. Hebrews. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Ser. Ed., Grant R. Osborne. 15 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), p.150.

[4] Thomas R. Schreiner, Hebrews. Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), p.413.

[5] Heen, Erik. M., and Philip D.W. Krey. Hebrews. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Gen. Ed., Thomas C. Oden. New Testament X (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), p.231.

One thought on “Hebrews 13:1-6

  1. Thank YOU, thank ya, thanks and Amen!!!!!!!!!………. oh, WOW………. well, well, well, oh me, oh my, my, my, Laudy Laudy pastor, weins can hardly wait to see what you might do next. A wee bit of “little” baptist in all lower case and a No. 2 washtub of Bapticostal wildness is good for all of us. Some of us kicked the “box” to the curb a long, long time ago and ran like a half crazed madman towards Jesus………… abandoned……… oh, GOD, have mercy on me, a sinner and oh, God, have mercy on us all for we barely can grasp who you are on a good day and the rest of the time some of us just stumble along hoping to do something, anything for Jesus Christ; go Wym :-)

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