Read the Passage: Hebrews 13
Listen to the Redeemed Mind Podcast: Hebrews 13
Moral Appeals (13:1–6)
In Heb. 13:1 the author moves toward concluding his letter by exhorting his readers to love one another. One practical way in which love can be shown is through hospitality, which includes caring for those with material needs. In this passage the author lists two groups in need of such hospitality: traveling strangers (cf. Heb. 13:2) and prisoners (cf. Heb. 13:3). While showing hospitality can be difficult in the midst of persecution, the author encourages his readers to be hospitable, “for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Heb. 13:2). This exhortation would have caused the original readers to think of the Old Testament examples of Abraham (cf. Gen. 18:1–3), Lot (cf. Gen. 19:1–2), Joshua (cf. Josh. 5:13–15), Gideon (cf. Judg. 6:11–24), and Manoah (cf. Judg. 13:6–20). Note in Heb. 13:3 the author writes that there should be a fellowship of suffering among the body of Christ.
Another area where Christian morals differ from the world is in regard to marriage. God designed and instituted marriage at creation as a fundamental ordinance for mankind (cf. Gen. 2:24). Internally speaking, believers must adhere to God’s design for marriage, for we were created to keep the morals that God has revealed; externally speaking, Christians must embrace this institution, for God often uses marriage to reveal truths about Himself (cf. Eph. 5:22–33; 1 Pet. 3:1–7). Given these stakes, it is understandable that “fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Yet another moral area where Christians oftentimes falter is in regard to money and contentment. Indeed, a lack of contentment can lead to covetousness. In Heb. 13:5–6 the author encourages his readers, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have” (Heb. 13:5; cf. Phil. 4:11–13; 1 Tim. 6:6–8).
Religious Directions (13:7–19)
In Heb. 13:7–9 the author addresses church leadership and reveals three duties of pastors. First, pastors are to lovingly lead the church. In democratic cultures it is easy to forget or even to deny that God has empowered pastors to rule and to lead the church—that is, they have authority in the Body of Christ (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9; 1 Pet. 5:5). Second, pastors are to faithfully teach the Word of God to the church. Some pastors and churches minimize this fact, as they focus mainly upon pastoral care rather than upon teaching sound doctrine (cf. Jer. 3:15; 1 Tim. 5:17). Third, pastors are to be an example in conduct for believers to emulate (cf. 2 Thess. 3:7–9; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Tim. 1:13). In Heb. 13:8–9 the author implies that as pastors lead, teach, and model godliness to the church, they are manifesting Jesus Christ, who is the unchanging head of the church (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1–4).
In Heb. 13:10–16 the writer gives a final analogy between Jesus’ sacrifice and the old sacrificial system. After animals were sacrificed, their bodies were carried outside the camp (cf. Lev. 4:21; 16:27). In a similar way, Jesus Christ was crucified outside of Jerusalem (cf. John 19:17). Since Christ’s self-sacrifice was superior in every way to that of the animals sacrificed under the old covenant (cf. Heb. 4:14–10:18), the author encourages his readers to forsake the obsolete sacrificial system and to “go forth to Jesus, outside the camp” (Heb. 13:13). In sum, the exhortation here is to leave the legalistic and worldly city and to flee to the city of God, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Heb. 13:14; cf. Heb. 11:13). In Heb. 13:17–19 the author discloses three duties of believers in regard to their pastors, which are: to obey them, to submit to them, and to pray for them.
Personal Benediction (13:20–25)
In Heb. 13:20–25 the author gives a personal benediction to his readers. First, in Heb. 13:20–21 the author blesses his readers. This blessing has a Trinitarian overtone, as the author references the Father who raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Heb. 13:20a), the Son who is “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20b), and the Holy Spirit who is the one who is “working in you what is well pleasing in His sight” (Heb. 13:21). Next, in Heb. 13:22 the author reveals that this letter has been “a word of exhortation.” This phrase is a technical term within Judaism for a doctrinal teaching (cf. Acts 13:15). Observe the fact that these readers knew the author, as well as Timothy who had “been set free” (Heb. 13:23), may indicate Pauline authorship of this letter. Finally, in Heb. 13:24–25 the author passes along greetings from fellow believers in Italy as well as wishing grace upon his readers.
- If you had the chance to briefly speak with a group of new believers about the Christian life, what topics would you discuss?
- Is it hard for you to share your material goods and time with others? What manifestations of love do you find it most difficult to display?
- Why are marriage and money two areas in which many Christians struggle to embrace and to maintain biblical morals?
- What does the author mean in writing, “It is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited” (Heb. 13:9)?
- What is the significance of the Bible repeatedly referring to Jesus as a great Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23:1; Isa. 40:11; 63:11; John 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4)?