Has your life been transformed by the love of God? Are you trusting in His grace and kindness to carry you through the difficult moments of your life? If yes, then how is your character and conduct proving it? In this summary of Hebrews 13, we will look at some of the pieces of evidence that reveal a person who is walking by faith in the work of Christ.
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What is the Main Message of Hebrews Chapter 13?
The main theme in this last section of the book is about living by faith. The writer has presented the examples of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, and encouragement to faith in Hebrews chapter 12. Now, in Hebrews chapter 13, he describes the evidence of faith that should be seen in our lives if we are truly walking by faith.
Chapter 13 begins as a continuation of Chapter 12. Remember, the scriptures themselves are inspired, the chapter and segment divisions are not. Sometimes it seems as though the placement of the chapter breaks doesn’t make much sense.
The author had just said
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Chapter 13 begins with more commands to follow. This practical section begins with six exhortations concerning practices that should be developed.
Hebrews 13:1 – Love For the Brethren
Let love of the brothers and sisters continue.
I love that the author began this section with the foundational commandment to love each other. Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 8:10). It also offered comfort to these people who had suffered rejection from their fellow Hebrew friends and family for their commitment to Jesus.
The fellowship of believers is not based on family bloodlines, race, or age; it is based on the spiritual life and union we have in Christ.
Hebrews 13:2 – Showing Hospitality
Do not neglect hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
This verse is a great reminder of the importance of hospitality, emphasizing that we should be welcoming to strangers. This is a contrast to what the author had just encouraged them to do in showing brotherly love.
The ancient Greek word for hospitality is translated, “love for strangers.” Brotherly love means love for all our brothers and sisters in Jesus, not just those who are currently our friends.
Not only are we to love fellow believers that we know, but also those who we don’t know; those who are strangers. An example of this may be a new family visiting your church. Invite them over to share a meal with your family after the service.
He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the stranger by giving him food and clothing. – Deut. 10:18
The mention of angels serves as a reminder that our acts of kindness may have heavenly significance. By welcoming strangers, we imitate Christ’s love and open the door to potential blessings.
Verse 3 – Caring for Imprisoned Believers
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are badly treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
This verse is referring to those who have been imprisoned because of their faith in Christ. Christians are called to empathize with those who are suffering, whether they are imprisoned for their faith or mistreated in any way. We are encouraged to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and to remember their suffering as if it were our own.
We must not forget to pray for the persecuted church. There are brothers and sisters in Christ, across the globe, who face persecution for their faith daily. We need to do what we can to remain aware of current events and things happening in the world that cause persecution and suffering for God’s people so we are equipped to pray and intercede for them.
for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my eager expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. – Philippians 1:19-20
Persecuted believers need our prayers, not just for deliverance, but also for endurance. We must pray that God be glorified through their circumstances and they have the strength to stand firm in the midst of them.
Verse 4 – Honoring Marriage
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.
This verse highlights the sanctity of marriage and the importance of keeping the marriage bed pure. We learn from Ephesians 5 that the relationship between husband and wife is designed to illustrate the union of Christ and the church.
God placed a seal of honor on the covenant of marriage from the beginning.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
This passage is one of the many places where the Bible celebrates sex because it strengthens the bond of this one-flesh relationship.
This word undefiled means: free from that by which the nature of a thing is deformed and debased, or its force and vigour impaired.
We see this word come up 3 other times in the New Testament. We must bestow a similar honor and sanctity to the marriage bed as we do to the following:
- Jesus our High Priest is undefiled – Hebrews 7:26
- Looking after orphans and widows is an undefiled religion – James 1:27
- Our eternal inheritance is unfading and undefiled – 1 Peter 1:4
We live in a culture that does not dishonor marriage. I would say that it honors and celebrates the very things that God says defiles marriage.
We must be careful not to follow the ideologies of the world regarding marriage. Let’s value God’s idea and plan for marriage.
Verse 5-6 – Living With Contentment
5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever abandon you,” 6 so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
It’s interesting to look at how the word “character” in this verse is used in other places in the New Testament. It’s referring to the manner and way you live your life. It’s the same word used to describe how Jesus ascended into heaven.
This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven. – Acts 1:11
It comes back to the idea that what we truly believe will be manifested through our actions. Does the way I live my life prove that I’m trusting God? Or, would it suggest that I’m placing my trust in people, power, or possessions?
The life of a person truly trusting God – His strength, power, and provision – will be marked by contentment.
Verse 7-8 – Remember Your Leaders
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their way of life, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.
I’ve always found this verse interesting. Aren’t we supposed to be imitating Christ, not people? Shouldn’t we be following His example and His ways? Yet, this verse is telling us to imitate others.
This is why context is crucial. Yes, it’s ok for us to follow after and imitate others. However, we must be wise in who we choose to follow. We imitate those who imitate the unchanging Christ.
Verse 9 – Warning Against False Doctrines
Do not be misled by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
Many places in the New Testament warn against false teachings and false doctrines. Remember what we have learned about the Hebrews up to this point. They had become dull of hearing and were under pressure to return to the old sacrificial system. The author wants them to remember that righteousness is not based on the law, but rather through faith in Christ.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. – Romans 3:21-22
The most dangerous lies are those that intertwine truth. This is what was happening in the days of these Hebrew Christians, and it’s what we still see happening in our culture today. Our spiritual enemy loves to wrap up lies and deceptive ideas with the illusion of truth. And he’s good at it. We must know truth. Knowing God and knowing the truth He has spoken in His word is best way for us to identify and stand firm against the deception of the enemy.
Verses 10-14 – The Suffering of Christ
10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the Holy Place by the high priest as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood. 13 So then, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
These verses draw a parallel between the Old Testament sacrificial system and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
I had mentioned back in the summary of Hebrews 12 that the author is writing to Jewish Christians who were facing persecution. They had walked away from Judaism and were facing opposition. There was a danger that they might interpret their suffering as a sign of God’s displeasure. They might become discouraged and give up. Worst of all, they might be tempted to return to the temple and its ceremonies.
The author reminds them that Christ, Himself suffered. While his suffering was ultimately for God’s glory, in the moment of His death He was considered accursed. His suffering was a reproach.
If we want to follow after Him we must be willing to carry His reproach. As believers, we may not always be esteemed in the eyes of the world. We will face trials, ridicule, and suffering. Will we, like Moses, choose Christ over the ways of the world?
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. – Hebrews 11:24-26
Christ’s reproach purchased our glory. His blood has made us righteous before the Father so we can now keep our eyes fixed on our eternal reward.
Verse 15-16: Sacrifices Pleasing to God
Through Him then, let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips praising His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
We have been given holiness and royalty in God’s Kingdom. We learn in 1 Peter 2:5-9 that all believers are priests. We have the altar of the cross and Jesus as our High Priest. As priests, we offer sacrifices to God.
Fortunately, we don’t offer bloody sacrifices for sins (Jesus took care of that), but we offer sacrifices of praise and sacrifices of loving others.
Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. – Romans 12:1
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Hebrews 13:17-19: Obeying and Praying for Leaders
Obey your leaders and submit to them—for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account—so that they may do this with joy, not groaning; for this would be unhelpful for you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. 19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you more quickly.
In the previous sections, we saw that we are to remember our leaders and imitate them as they lead us to Christ. In this section, the author elaborates on this idea by telling his readers to obey their leaders. Leaders of local churches are given the responsibility to shepherd and watch over their flock.
Verses 20-25 – Final Benediction
Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, that is, Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 22 But I urge you, brothers and sisters, listen patiently to this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 Know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. 24 Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. 25 Grace be with you all.
What a beautiful benediction. Especially as we consider, again, who the author is writing to. He reminds them that God is a God of peace. Under the old covenant, these believers had not experienced true and lasting peace. But now, the eternal covenant inaugurated through the blood of the great Shepherd had come. They were free to experience the peace, joy, and hope that only comes through the word that God has spoken in His Son – a word that declares freedom, forgiveness, and eternal life through faith in Christ.
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