"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Heb. 12:28-13:4)
We saw examples of faith in Hebrews 11 and found encouragement for hope in Hebrews 12; now we see evidences of faith through love of other believers in Hebrews 13 along with other applications in the final chapter of this great epistle. Yet, if we disconnect from the wealth of spiritual resources from Christ, in Christ, and through Christ seen in all the other chapters we will be impotent in carrying out the commands called for in this closing chapter. For Jesus is not only superior to prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron, He gives us a superior power to live out the Christian life. "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word" (Heb. 1:3) including "all things" He calls us to do for His glory. It seems that the church of Ephesus was rebuked for this very reason – doing good things for Jesus but forgetting Him, their first love and source of love for others. (Rev. 2:1-5).
This is how we can "offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." "Let love (Gr. philadelphia) of the brethren (all believers- saved family members, friends, even enemies) continue." (Gr. philadelphia – love of brothers or sisters in Christ.) This does not preclude love for the lost but God calls us to especially love believers, those like us who love Him. "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people (the lost included) especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Gal. 6:10) There are many exhortations in Scripture to love other believers (Rom. 12:10; I Thess. 4:9; I Pet. 1:22; II Pet. 1:7).
How to – "Let love of the brethren (believers) continue" – Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers." ["This might refer primarily to believers who were fleeing from persecution and were hard-pressed to find food and lodging; to entertain them was to expose the host and hostess to danger. The verse may also be understood as a general encouragement to show hospitality to any believers who need it." MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Heb 11:1] The thought of entertaining angels as we minister to strangers probably refers to Abraham when he did entertain angels unaware and one of those was the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ (Gen. 18:1-15). But the word for angels (Gr. aggelos) can also mean a human messenger from God. As we open up our heart and possibly our home to a believer we have never met we may receive a special word or blessing from God through them. So we should never judge from outward appearances.
How to – "Let love of the brethren (believers) continue"- "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." This probably refers to prisoners who were jailed because of their testimony for Jesus (Heb. 10:34) but if any believers we know are imprisoned they need our prayers and if nearby, our visits, Christian books, encouragement, etc. This also includes those who are mistreated or persecuted for their faith as we read about more and more of this happening outside the USA. Many believe that we will see more persecution of the saints in our own country.
How to – "Let love of the brethren (believers) continue"- "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." In the time of these Jewish believers, marriage was generally not "honored" by most of the people in their culture. Divorce was easy for men, others forbade marriage (1 Tim. 4:1-5) while others allowed it but restricted sexual intimacy (1 Cor. 7:1-5). On the other hand the pagans practiced prostitution openly and religious prostitution as well. And how can we honor marriage in our world today that is becoming more and more tolerant of "same sex" marriages, fornication, adultery and divorce?
The word for honor (Gr. timios) means precious or of great value. It is of great value because it was first of all instituted by God (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:3-12), and now God uses marriage to portray the relationship of the church (as a bride) to the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33). "This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church." (Eph. 5:32; Rev. 19:7; 22:17) It is a reflection of His passionate love and faithfulness to us, His spouse, both in the OT and NT. (Hosea 2:19) Married couples are simulators of the gospel as both parties commit to passionately love "a sinner" to the end. So as we honor our spouse we reflect the gospel and the very character of God to our children, friends and a watching world. As husbands we are called to love our wives as Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us (passionate, sacrificial and committed love) and the wives are to respect their husbands and follow us as we follow Jesus. (Eph. 5:23-33) "Marriage is to be held in honor among all." We also love other believers as we honor their marriage and treat it as something precious and of great value. Yet singleness is also honorable as believers commit themselves to Christ (the Eternal Bridegroom) and, like married couples, wait until heaven to experience fully His passionate love for all eternity.
Sexual purity and faithfulness honors our spouse and demonstrates our love: "Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints. Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting – all of which are out of character – but rather thanksgiving." (Eph. 5:1-3) That which God values greatly He will fiercely protect by severely disciplining those who mar His character revealed in marriage by having sex outside of marriage (passion without commitment-fornication); and by those who break their vows in marriage (adultery). ["Those who are married should be faithful to their vows and thus keep the marriage bed undefiled. In spite of modern man's smug laxness in this area, the fact remains that any sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage are sin. And it is a sin which God will inevitably judge. No form of immorality will escape." MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995]
"Let love of the brethren (believers) continue"- Why is this commanded here and elsewhere in the Scriptures?
First of all, we must show brotherly love because this is one of the two great commandments of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. (Matthew 22:36-40).
Second, loving other believers is an evidence of our faith in the Lord Jesus – of being a disciple of Jesus, and it reveals Him to others. (John 13:34-35)
Third, loving other believers shows that the law of love is written on our hearts empowering us to fulfill our responsibilities to our brothers/sisters in Christ. "Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (See Rom. 13:8-10)
Fourth, brotherly love is commanded because it doesn't come naturally or easily and drives us to Christ for His power. (Gal. 2:20)
Fifth, difficult times were coming then (and now) and these are times when love can grow cold. (Matt. 24:9-12)
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:7-12)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. This is how we can "offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." "Let love (Gr. philadelphia) of the brethren (all believers- saved family members, friends, even enemies) continue." Why is this so important to God and to us?
2. Who might be a stranger to me, thus providing me with the opportunity to obey this text? How much effort do I expend seeking to welcome and embrace newcomers to our church?
3. What am I doing to show love to other believers who are suffering or persecuted or in prison for the faith?
4. How can we honor marriage in our home and in a world that is becoming more and more tolerant of "same sex" marriages, fornication, adultery and divorce? If I am single, how is my lifestyle consistent with purity in marriage?