OUR LOVE AND REVERENT SERVICE TO GOD MUST BE COUPLED WITH CULTIVATING:
– AGGRESSIVE LOVE TOWARDS THE BRETHREN
– MARITAL FIDELITY AND
– CONFIDENT CONTENTMENT
How do we behave towards our Christian brethren? How do we treat our spouse? What is our perspective towards wealth and material possessions? All of these are practical areas where the reality of our faith is tested. If we start to lower our standards and slide away from the truth in these critical social duties, we make ourselves susceptible to falling away from the faith. These are all areas where we need to be purposeful to cultivate and maintain Christ like love and dependence.
F. F. Bruce: What follows in Ch. 13 resembles the usual assortment of ethical and practical admonition and personal information with which New Testament epistles tend to close. Why this document should end like an epistle although it does not begin like one is a general problem of introduction.
I. (:1-3) PRACTICAL EXHORTATION TO AGGRESSIVE LOVE
A. (:1) Summary: Love for the Brethren
“Let love of the brethren continue.”
Speaking of brotherly love (philadelphia)
Hewitt: the action of some readers in neglecting the assembly for Christian worship and fellowship revealed a danger of the Christian bond of love being severed, and so the exhortation to continue was of special importance.
J. Ligon Duncan: He’s talking about a Gospel-based love for one another because you’re brothers and sisters in Christ, and that means loving people who are not like you but who are part of your church family and part of your Christian family and we ought to be deliberate in that.
F. F. Bruce: If a weakening of faith and resolution among the recipients of this epistle led to a weakening of the bonds that united them to their fellow-Christians, this would add urgency to the plea that brotherly love should continue among them.
S. Lewis Johnson: You’ve heard people say, “I love all the saints; but some I love better at a distance.” Well, that’s not Christian love. “I love them all, but there are some I don’t like.” Well, that’s not Christian love either. Those may be facts about our human experience, but they’re not Christian expressions. It certainly is not the ideal. “Let brotherly love continue.” In fact, we all know that the only way in which we can love brethren is by the divine love that is in our hearts by virtue of the work of the Holy Spirit. And so we all need to call upon the Holy Spirit within to enable us to love our Christian brethren and sisters.
Lists 3 specific cases where we need to be reminded to persevere in our love for the brethren – these are cases where we might easily overlook our responsibilities
B. (:2) Love for Strangers
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,”
The primary reference (since the context is brotherly love within the body of Christ) was probably to itinerant Christian ministers or other Christian brethren who were travelling for business or other purposes.
F. F. Bruce: Inns throughout the Roman Empire were places of doubtful repute . . . and would provide very uncongenial company for Christians.
David Guzik: Hospitality is an important virtue, and often it is commanded of Christians and leaders (Romans 12:10-13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Peter 4:9). In the ancient world, “motels,” where they did exist, were notorious for immorality. It was important for traveling Christians to find open homes from other Christians. This was simply a practical way to let brotherly love continue. Because of the free offer of hospitality, Christians had to watch out for people just masquerading as Christians so they could leech off the generosity of God’s people. As time went on, Christian leaders taught their people how to recognize these kind of deceivers.
2. Reason = Opportunity
“for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Gen. 18-19; Matt. 25:44-45
Kent: The author does not mean that Christians should entertain strangers chiefly with the hope of being honored with supernatural visitors, but he has mentioned this feature to show how God is pleased when this sort of love is displayed.
C. (:3a) Love for Prisoners
“Remember the prisoners,”
Mohler: In the first century, prisons were not places one was sent to for any length of time. Prison was a place where one was held for trial or for debts. If you were in prison, you were most likely there because of your failure to repay a significant debt. Jesus’s parables make this clear. You were more or less incarcerated until you could come up with enough money to buy your release. Otherwise, you would eventually be sold into slavery.
2. Reason = Identification and Empathy
“as though in prison with them,”
Kent: The passage may reflect the tendency of some in times of persecution to show indifference to their persecuted brethren, and thus escape suffering themselves. This would be especially tempting to Jewish Christians who were toying with the idea of reverting to Judaism.
Pulpit Commentary: The Hebrews were to “remember” the saints who might be in prison. They were to do so “as bound with them;”–a beautiful expression, breathing the aroma of true Christian sympathy. They were to pray earnestly for them, if possible visit them, minister to their wants, and strive to secure their liberation. Brotherly kindness would lead them to conceive of themselves as occupying the position of the sufferers. It would cause them to realize the “bonds” of their brethren as an affliction personal to themselves, just as the elder Brother’s love does (Acts 9:4). But, since imprisonment is not the only calamity to which believers are exposed, the apostle proceeds to bespeak sympathy for all who in any way “are evil entreated” for Jesus’ sake. We ourselves are liable to the same adversities which our brethren endure. Let us, therefore, identify ourselves with them. It is not enough that we contribute to public charities. Neither do we discharge all our duty when we employ some person as our proxy to care for the sufferers. True Christian sympathy requires that we bring ourselves into personal contact with them. Strength is often received from the glance of a sympathizing eye, or the grasp of a loving hand, or the utterance of a tender word of holy comfort
D. (:3b) Love for the Mistreated
“and those who are ill-treated,”
In the text, this exhortation is combined with the one above relating to love for prisoners; but I have broken it out separately because it follows the same pattern of Reminder followed by Reason
These are brethren who have been persecuted or otherwise mistreated because of their faith in Jesus Christ
2. Reason = Family Empathy
“since you yourselves also are in the body.”
Kent: they were still in a physical body and thus susceptible to similar treatment. There is no warrant for understanding en somati as though it meant “the body of Christ,” as that idea is not as clear in this passage as the explanation above.
II. (:4) PRACTICAL EXHORTATION TO MARITAL FIDELITY –
ADDRESSING LOVE WITHIN THE CONFINES OF MARRIAGE
“Let marriage be held in honor among all,
and let the marriage bed be undefiled;”
you need to have a high view of the sanctity of marriage as an institution ordained by God
F. F. Bruce: Here is no exaltation of celibacy as something inherently superior to marriage; the marriage union is divinely ordained, and its sacred precincts must not be polluted by the intrusion of a third part, of either sex.
Kent: the order to keep marriage honorable and the marriage bed undefiled by any act of unfaithfulness implies that marriage is inherently pure unless sin sullies it. Thus ascetic views which impugn the sanctity of marriage are also ruled out by this passage, even though that was probably not the chief purpose of the writer at this juncture.
Kent Hughes: Christian sexual morality was unique in the pagan world and a source of wonder. And it has become increasingly so today in a world that considers adultery irrelevant, purity abnormal, and sex a “right” (however and with whomever one may get it) and that has invented the egregious term “recreational sex.” We Christians are called to be outrageously pure—to be a source of wonder and even derision to this glandular world. From the beginning to the end of Hebrews, the abiding concern of the author has been to so instruct the tiny Hebrew church that it would stay afloat on the increasingly hostile seas of first-century Roman culture. Their ship was a microscopic dot on the massive billows of the official pagan/secular enterprise—and eminently vulnerable. It appeared to outside eyes that the external forces could sink it at will. But the author knew that the internal threat to the church was far more deadly. In fact, he knew that it could ride out any storm if things were right on the inside. He knows that nothing will sink a church faster than moral wavering in respect to sex, materialism, or mental outlook. Here is intimate advice regarding how to keep our ship afloat. It is so essential that any church that ignores it will founder and possibly even sink.
“for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Society would do well to take this admonition seriously; you might think that your indiscretions are not detected, but God will judge in the end.
MacArthur: God is serious about sexual purity–very serious. You may fool around with illicit sex, you may fool around outside your marriage, and you may get away with it from the judgment of man standpoint, but you’ll never get away with it from the judgment of God.
Ray Stedman: Nonconformity to the world must certainly involve these areas. The loose sexual standards of our generation and the intense materialistic spirit of this age constitute a constant peril to our hearts, and we must beware of them. We must realize that God has undertaken to sustain the sacredness of marriage and that He unceasingly, unrelentingly judges violations of it. Therefore, we dare not heed the fine sounding declarations being made today about a “new morality,” as though we had passed beyond the ancient standards and they no longer had significance.
As this writer reminds us, God judges the immoral and adulterous. He does not mean that God looses lightning bolts from heaven against them, or that he causes terrible diseases to come upon them; these are not the forms of judgment. But we can see the judgment of God in the terrible tempest of mental pressures and crackups which sweep like a plague across this land. They are due to the breakdown of moral standards. The certain deterioration of life is the judgment of God when sex standards are violated. It is the brutalization of humanity, so men become like animals and live on the level of animals. This is so apparent in our day.
III. (:5-6) PRACTICAL EXHORTATION TO CONFIDENT CONTENTMENT — ADDRESSING THE LOVE OF MONEY
A. (:5a) Command
“Let your character be free from the love of money,
being content with what you have;”
Hewitt: The Christian’s habits of thought and life in connection with money are a touchstone of his character. Such habits must be free from covetousness and avarice, for the love of money can be as detrimental to a man’s spiritual life as sensuality.
Kenneth Wuest: The word “content” is the translation of arkeo “to be possessed of unfailing strength, to be strong, to suffice, to be enough,” finally, “to be satisfied, contented.” The underlying thought is that one should be satisfied with that which meets our need, and not desire a superfluity. The cognate noun of this verb is compounded with the personal pronoun “self” in Philippians 4:11 to mean “self-sufficient.” This latter word was used by the Stoics to express the favorite doctrine of the sect, that man should be sufficient to himself for all things, able by the power of his will to resist the shock of circumstance. Paul was self-sufficient because he was Christ-dependent. The word “content,” therefore, in our Hebrew passage means more than “satisfied.” It refers to the ability of the Christian dependent upon the Holy Spirit, to be independent of outward circumstances.
Donald Guthrie: Contentment means more than passive acceptance of the inevitable.
B. (:5b-6) Encouragement
1. (:5b) God’s Promise
“for He Himself has said,
‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’”
Kent: Encouragement is found in the promise of God made to Joshua, and recorded in Deuteronomy 31:6, 8: I will never desert you, nor ever abandon you. The same promise was cited by David to his son Solomon (1 Chron. 28:20). The assurance of God’s personal presence and care should prevent materialistic notions that wealth alone can solve our problems.
2. (:6) Our Confidence
“so that we confidently say,
‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?’”
Mohler: The source of our contentment is not the security and comfort we get from owning enough things; it’s that we serve a God who takes care of us. We serve a God who will never leave or forsake us.
J. Ligon Duncan: if God is the one who is my helper, sovereign God, what can man do to me? So for those reasons, for the presence and the providence of God, for the character and the sovereignty of God, we don’t love money.