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Hebrews

Last Minute Reminders

Hebrews  13

As a father who has now seen three kids off to college, I always have something to say at the last minute. It’s usually “don’t forget to call your mother.” It’s usually ignored.

Paul has some last minute reminders here, also. It would be wise of us not to ignore these.

1Keep on loving each other as brothers. 2Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. 3Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

4Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;

never will I forsake you.ӣ

6So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?ӣ

7Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

9Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. 10We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

17Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

20May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

22Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.

23I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.

24Greet all your leaders and all God’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.

25Grace be with you all.

Person to Person

It’s interesting to note the progression here, as if Paul were telling us to extend our love into larger and larger circles. We’ll begin at the center.

Brotherly love

It is a most familiar commandment, to love one another. Often, however, it gets watered down to something like “smile at each other.” There are many things that could be said of this; here are three:

  • First, please note that Paul tells them to “keep on” loving one another. It is not a sometimes thing. God intends for us to do this continually. We should not need to be stirred by passionate appeal to love each other; we should know this as a first duty.
  • Indeed, it is the mark of the disciple. Christ told us that the world will recognize Christians – real Christians, that is, not just Sunday morning admirers – by the fact that we love each other. Do they?
  • On a personal note, it is greatly pleasing to a teacher to see his students doing this. It means he has succeeded in some small degree.

Let’s take time for a war story. One Sunday I came in to hear some of the ladies discussing an accident involving one of their four year olds. It seems he caught a twig in his eye while riding his tricycle. Off to the hospital! Some of the other ladies in the class went with the mother, to encourage and comfort her. Happily, it all turned out well.

I was a little upset about this. I make hospital calls. My students explained (rather heatedly): “It was Thursday night. That’s Betty’s night with you.” I realized that they had learned both lessons – take time for your wife, and love one another.

Entertain strangers

The point about angels refers back to Abraham, who did so. But consider how like God it is to make a statement like this. Some of those strangers might just be visitors from God. He moves in mysterious ways. By this he hopes to encourage us to spread our love from within our circle of Christians out to those on the outside. Sometimes, such hospitality can result in salvation itself. Hospitality is a neglected virtue in our busy time.

Prisoners

Paul here gives us a specific instance of the Golden Rule. We are to treat those in prison as if we were in prison too. Note that this applies not only to prisoners, but those who are mistreated outside, too. How can we do this? Prisons have visiting rooms; the mistreated need company.

  • Remember this: you should not be ashamed of the prisoner’s chains. So many of us stay away from this because it’s likely that some people will think we should be behind bars too. (Some of those people who think so are prison guards, by the way). But what are we doing, thinking of men’s opinions, when we are doing God’s will?
  • There is a pleasant surprise in store. Prisoners relish the time they have with visitors – and become quite fond of the only ray of sunshine in their lives.
  • We need to remember prisoners as “the least of these, my brothers.” Then Christ will consider such work as blessing upon himself.

Life in this World

Paul now turns to the things of daily life. Marriage and money afflict most of us at one time or another. Paul can’t resist the chance to put in the obvious. It must therefore be important.

Marriage

Paul now gives two commands about marriage:

  • First, he commands that marriage be respected by all. You might think this rather a minor thing. After all, the television shows we watch portray marriage as rather silly. We forget that the attitude of those around us – especially those with the authority of the church – influences our attitude. The divorce rate in the church is slightly higher than in the world – perhaps this is one reason why. We don’t take it seriously.
  • Next, he commands that the marriage bed be undefiled. In other words, one partner only – your wife (or husband, as may be). So simple a statement; why is that Christians think adultery is OK as long as it is romantic?

The seriousness of the situation is shown in this: commands about money and marriage here are the ones he connects with the Day of Judgment.

Money

Again, you must note the verb here: “Keep” our lives free of the love of money

  • “Keep” – it’s a continuous struggle.
  • “free” – no halfway measures will do; it’s love or not.
  • “love” – here is the real problem – a love which interferes with all others.
The Christian’s Defense

Paul has just commanded two things, in marriage and in money, that most Christians today would look upon as impossible. But he points out the ready defense available to the Christian:

  • God will be with you. What a blessing this is! In your marriage, remember that he is with you and want your marriage to be life long. Do it God’s way; it works. In your money, remember who will provide for you.
  • So why do we refuse? Is it not because we think God powerless to help? We are worried about what people will think, what we will do for the next rent check – and forget who is ruler of all. What can you fear with Him beside you?

Your Leaders

It’s a good place to start an argument. Just sit down and write out exactly how you expect the preacher (or the elders, or whoever) to behave. There is no sense of that here. Rather, Paul tells us how we should deal with those appointed over us in the church.

To be imitated

If indeed such leaders are worthy, then they should be models to us. How would you know? Look at the results in their lives! You wouldn’t think to much of the preaching of a man going through his fourth divorce. But if the life is good, then shouldn’t you imitate it?

The reason is pretty simple. If you do things the same way – God’s way – you will get the same results. Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” That’s why the results are so consistent.

So you will learn sound doctrine

Doctrine, you will recall, is the road map of life. Every one is looking for sound doctrine – but only if it is easy. What shall we do?

  • First, don’t run after the latest and greatest of teachers. There is always someone out there who will tell you what you want to hear. Don’t ask, “Is it popular? Is it fashionable? Does it promise me something for nothing?” Ask instead, “Is it true?”
  • Be prepared to make sacrifices for the truth. Paul gives two instances here: praising God (he means in public, in front of your friends, and so one) and good works.
To be obeyed in submission

Our first reaction to this is “Why?”

  • First, because they are accountable to God. If you are a “team player,” you know that the person in charge carries a great responsibility. Your task is to make sure he carries it with no extra load from you.
  • Indeed, we are to so submit to them that their work becomes a joy. (The same principle works in marriage.)
To be prayed for

That sounds rather obvious. Prayer, it seems, costs so little that it would be a reasonable thing to ask for. But there are two adverbs implied here:

  • The first is “constantly.” Don’t do it just once in a while; do it every day.
  • The second is “specifically.” Sometimes we don’t know the specifics. But when we do, then we should bring them to Almighty God and ask for his caring mercies.

Benediction

Paul closes his letter with a benediction. Normally, these are considered an afterthought, not worthy of attention. It is not so.

The character of God

Paul brings to our mind two of the great attributes of God: peace and sacrifice. Peace, that your lives may be bathed in his peace. Sacrifice, that you will remember the sacrifice of Calvary, made for you and me.

May God equip you

We go from adverbs to prepositions in this section. God is to equip us:

  • “with” everything good. God does not arm his servants with the weapons of Satan – for to pick up Satan’s weapons is to become a servant of sin. Rather, he armors us with good.
  • “for” doing his will. The object of this equipment is not so that we can sit back and relax, knowing that nothing can harm us. It is, rather, so that we can do what he commands. God’s supply for God’s purposes!
Work what is pleasing

More prepositions!

  • “in” us. This is not something to be applied to the outside, like a straight jacket. It is something he works in us, so that we may become more like him.
  • “to” Him. What we do should be pleasing to Him. We are not to pay attention to the opinions of this world. He is our guide and friend, and that forces a choice.
  • “through” Jesus. Can we do this on our own? Not that I’ve noticed. We can, however, be pleasing to God through the power of Christ.
To whom be the glory

One last thing: we must never forget that our good works are not necessary to God – but they do bring him glory. When he returns, this is how he will know his own.

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