LESSON 13 - Heb. 13:1-8 - THE NEVER CHANGING CHRIST
INTRODUCTION: last week, in Heb. 12:18-24, as we continued the writer of Hebrew's general theme of explaining why the New Covenant of Grace is superior to the Old Covenant of Law, he made a comparison using the figure of two different mountains: Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. On one hand, Mount Sinai and the Old Covenant depicted a fearsome place that represented the separation required between a sinful people and a holy God. The overriding purpose of the Old Covenant was not salvation, but to impart understanding of human sin and institute a sacrificial system that allowed people to receive limited atonement for their sins. On the other hand, Mount Zion and the New Covenant represented a removal of the barrier separating man and God. It was made possible by the shed blood of God's Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross at Calvary, which covered all the sin of humanity once and for all time. When Jesus ascended to heaven, God accepted His superior sacrifice and seated Him at His right hand as our forever High Priest. In doing this, God established a New Covenant of Grace that offers forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation to all who accept Christ as Lord and Savior. This week, as we conclude our Hebrews study in Chap 13:1-8, we'll hear the writer end his appeal with series of real-world, practical instructions on living the Christian life.
Read Heb. 13:1-3 - LOVING YOUR CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS
1 Let love of the brethren continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
v. 1: "Let love of the brethren continue." - This is one of the dominant themes of the NT, both then and now. It's appropriate that it's mentioned first, because a person who loves his or her fellow Christians will be hospitable and sensitive to those in need. The word for "love" (Gk. philadephia), literally means brotherly love and emphasizes deeply-felt friendship and concern for others. It is an intentional type of love between believers that implies more than emotional feelings; it's a decision. Have you ever known any Christians who were hard to love, but you decided to love them anyway? At the very base of it, this type of love is strong evidence of a person's relationship with Christ.
APPLICATION 1: The command to love fellow Christians in not optional. The use of the word philadelphia-brotherly love-means we make a deliberate choice to love our Christian brothers and sisters, regardless of whether they deserve it. You might not agree with them or enjoy their company, but you are spiritually obligated to give them the love of Christ.
v. 2a: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers," - The word for "hospitality" (Gk. philoxenia) literally translates to love for a stranger; It's the opposite of xenophobia. This would be more of a stretch for Christian Jews, who were brought up to view Gentiles as 'unclean' and tended to be unwelcoming towards strangers. The writer is urging them put their prejudices aside and offer hospitality to any "strangers" in need of help. Hospitality is a Christian virtue that blesses both the one who gives and the one who receives.
v. 2b: for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." In this context, the word "angel" means messenger, in the sense that we might accommodate someone who brings us a message from God, like a visiting preacher or a missionary. And it's even possible that you might one day even entertain a visitor, who, unbeknownst to you, is an angel sent by God! It could happen.
v. 3: "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." - Many scholars believe this letter was written after 64 A.D., during a time of widespread persecution of Christians by the authorities within the Roman Empire. And people imprisoned during that time were often forced to depend on others outside the prison for food and the basic necessities of life. In fact, the readers of this letter might have been at risk for ill-treatment, prison, or both. You might recall that Paul urged Timothy not to be ashamed of him because he was in prison (2 Tim. 1:8). Even today, if we have Christian brothers or sisters who get themselves in trouble with the law and even get incarcerated, we should not abandon them.
APPLICATION 2: Hospitality illustrates Christian love in action. It isn't limited to Christians but expends to any "stranger" in need of help. When we do this for people, it can very possibly give us the opportunity to meet their greatest need-the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hospitality can also provide us with the opportunity to reach out to people who are being mistreated or are in prison.
Heb. 13:4-6 - MAKE SURE YOUR CHARACTER IS FREE...
4 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. 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, NOT 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?"
v. 4a: Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; - This presents yet another bedrock standard of the NT: The sanctity of the marriage bed. We are commanded to honor marriage, both our own and those of our neighbors and co-workers. This means that we not only honor the marriage vows we made before God but also the vows made by others. This means treating your own spouse with respect and kindness, and it means avoiding the temptation to engage in sex with someone other than your spouse. Just consider how different the world would be if people would faithfully honor their marriage vows. Husbands and wives would not have to fear that their spouse might commit adultery. There would be fewer broken hearts and divorce rates would drop significantly. More children would have both a father and a mother in the home. And there would be less poverty due to division and loss of assets.
v. 4b: "or God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers." - People who are sexually immoral and commit adultery will not only suffer negative consequences in this life but will face judgment for those wrongs before Christ at the Bema seat in the next. For a Christian, this isn't a loss of salvation (which is impossible) but a loss of spiritual rewards in eternity.
APPLICATION 3: Our marriage vows before God are non-negotiable. Marriage between one man and one woman has been part of God's plan for the human family since the creation. It requires absolute sexual fidelity between man and wife with no exceptions. For a Christian, failure to abide by this will bring God's judgment in this life and a loss of spiritual rewards in the next.
v. 5a: "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money," - The love of money (and all the things money can buy) translates to greed. Just like sexual temptation, greed can lure people astray in their Christian walk. There's nothing wrong with ambition-the desire to be successful and fruitful in whatever occupation you choose. What the writer means by "love of money" is the unchecked lust to always have more and more and more, reaching the point where the lust for more takes over and controls you. It can even induce otherwise honest people to seek dishonest gain.
v. 5b: "being content with what you have;" - This is the key: Contentment has more to do with who you are on the inside than what you have. Being "content" is a divine prescription for true happiness, whereas, love of more money and more possessions is a prescription for life on a treadmill. Many people today with heavy mortgages, vehicle loans, and credit card debt are living on a very thin edge of solvency. They've accumulated all these things, but they aren't content. Being laid-off or losing their job would bring certain financial disaster-it happens to lots of people every day.
v. 5c: "for He Himself has said, 'I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER ABANDON YOU,'" - Here is the true and enduring source of Christian contentment, a relationship with the living God who promises that He will never desert us or abandon us. Everything in this world: Money, material possessions, luxury, entertainment, etc. are all perishing and ultimately count for nothing. We have something of inestimable value that no one can ever take from us-eternal security. Everything this world offers us is secondary and ultimately, irrelevant. AMEN?
APPLICATION 4: Being content with what you have is the key to true happiness. Being "content" is a divine prescription for true happiness, whereas, love of more money and more possessions is a prescription for life on a treadmill. The true and enduring source of Christian contentment is a relationship with the living God who promises that He will never desert us or abandon us.
v. 6: "so that we confidently say, "THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID, WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?" - This is a quote from Ps. 118:6 that ties-in with the previous verse on contentment. It could be paraphrased to say: Since I have the LORD (YHWH)-who created the universe-on my side, what can anybody on earth do to me? What do we have to fear? Paul expressed the same idea: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rom. 8:31). In other words, one believer plus God equals a majority. God has got our back covered. Therefore, we have no reason not be content. Yes? On this verse, C.H. Spurgeon said: "I defy the devil to mention circumstances under which I should be miserable."
Read Heb. 13:7-8 - JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME FOREVER
7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
v. 7: "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." This is another major NT theological premise: Honoring, respecting, and following the leaders whom God has appointed over us. The writer has previously cited a long list of OT saints who led entire nations. The phrasing used identifies them as spiritual leaders who have shown themselves to be faithful to the word of God in their particular leadership roles, and the phrase, "spoke...to you," implies godly leaders who have had a personal impact on you or me. The challenge here is for you and me is put our personal differences aside and become godly followers who voluntarily submit to-i.e., place ourselves in rank under-these leaders, especially in the context of leadership within our own church; and when we voluntarily support them, we "imitate their faith." Like the old Johnny Mercer song, we need to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, 'cause that's what it's all about!
APPLICATION 5: Before we can honor the godly leaders appointed over us, we must first become godly followers. In practice, in the context of our church, this means we decide to put any personal difference aside and voluntarily submit to (place ourselves under) the authority of these leaders. This is the minimum that God expects from us.
v. 8: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." - In his final words, the writer issued an ending statement that epitomizes everything he has taught us (and his Jewish audience) previously about the superiority of Jesus Christ as our forever High Priest and the superiority of the New Covenant He made possible, which not only saves us, but is available right now to every lost soul in this world. Jesus Christ is the content of the message preached to these Jewish converts and also the same message each one of us heard 20 centuries later, making it the same "yesterday, today, and forever." This message-the gospel of Jesus Christ-never changes-and any attempt to add to it, subtract from it, or modify it in any way is absolutely false.
APPLICATION 6: The content of Jesus Christ's message never changes. The message-the gospel of Jesus Christ-preached to the Jewish converts of this letter is the same message preached to us 20 centuries later. Any attempt to add to it, subtract from it, or modify it in any way is absolutely false.