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Hebrews 13:1-3- Let Brotherly Love Continue

This morning we have come to the last chapter in the book of Hebrews. Let’s begin by reading Hebrews 12:28-13:6. It says, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?

If you have been a regular attender as we have gone through the book of Hebrews you will detect that there has now been a major shift in the tone of this letter. Much of this letter throughout the first 12 chapters has been written like a sermon with cross references, exhortations, the exposition of scripture, and applications scattered throughout. Those 12 chapters were full of doctrine and theological truths which could strengthen and established a persons faith. As a result, the grace of God could then spring fourth from a believers heart effecting every area of their lives.

As I was preparing to speak to you from Hebrews 13:1-3 I read A.W. Pink’s commentary on the book of Hebrews. He said something that gave me reason to pause and carefully consider what he said. His commentary was written seventy-five years ago and he lamented the fact that most of the commentators and preachers in his day treated Hebrews 13 as an ‘appendix or postscript, containing sundry exhortations which have no direct relation to the body of this epistle’. {This is still lamentable among many present day commentators}

The word ‘postscript’ speaks of someone who writes a very important letter and then at the very end they write, “P.S. make sure you consider this, or do that, or remember this too, etc.” A postscript can leave us with the impression that Hebrews 13 contains something that the author of Hebrews almost forgot to tell us. Or that this chapter was just quickly added to the end of this letter but that its contents are somewhat detached from everything that came before.

Dr. Pink mourned the fact that so many were being taught that Hebrews 13 was considered in this way. Hebrews 13 has a different tone than what we have become accustomed to in this letter. This does not mean, however, that these practical exhortations and commands have casually been placed at the end of this letter because it is the acceptable thing to do for a letter that was written to Christians.

Dr. Pink said that if we approach Hebrews 13 in this way it would be a serious mistake which would produce devastating consequences in our churches and in the hearts of believers. He says, “It is a great pity that so many writers become slack when they reach the final chapter of this epistle, and simply imagine that the contents in this chapter are of less importance and value than those of the earlier ones.

If you will allow me to paraphrase Dr. Pink’s concern in my own words, “It would be a pity if the first twelve 12 chapters of this letter had turned our gaze upon Christ, and established our faith in Jesus and the Covenant of Grace and then not be instructed about how this faith and grace would naturally find expression in the life of believers.” Or "It would be a pity if after having our hearts once again turned to look upon Christ for grace we then came to Hebrews 13 and looked away from Him and became fixated upon ourselves."

We Need To Consistently And Persistently Respond In All Things With Faith

As we come to this section of Hebrews I would like to emphasize the necessity of keeping Hebrews 12:28-13:25 connected to the theology and the doctrine that have come before. Hebrews 12:28-13:25 must stay connected with what came before so that our sanctification is a fruit of our looking to Christ in faith and receiving His grace which enables us to do His will.

As we come to Hebrews 12:28-13:25 we see that the author begins to give us one exhortation after another about how we are to live. Therefore, I think it is appropriate to share with you again something about the nature of the type of faith that the author of Hebrews has tried to cultivate in us. The London Baptist Confession reminds us that true saving faith will respond differently according to the content of each particular passage {of scripture}- {True saving faith responds by...} obeying the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of of God for this life and the one to come. (LBC14.2)

True saving faith will help us to respond appropriately to Hebrews 13:22 which says, “I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation…”. If we do not participate in the means of grace that God has provided to us which will strengthen our faith we will not be successful at obeying this appeal to ‘bear with this word of exhortation’. Apart from faith we will not be able to long bear the commands in scripture, or tremble at scriptures threatenings, or embrace the promises of God. (Especially promises like John 16:33, ‘In this world you will have trouble’)

The book of Hebrews has given us many occasions to respond in saving faith in all three of these areas. We have trembled at the warnings. We have been given the opportunity to embrace the promises of God. And now we have an opportunity to obey the commands that are recorded in Hebrews 13.

We Need To Receive the Grace Of God For All Things

Not only do we need to live by faith but we must also ‘receive the grace of God’. Grace is emphasized not only at the beginning of this section in Hebrews 12:28 but also throughout the remainder of this letter to the very end. For example, do you remember what we looked at last week in Hebrews 12:28 which said, “Therefore, let us receive grace...”. We are to receive grace which enables us to offer to God acceptable worship in all of life with gratitude.

Then in Hebrews 13:9-10 we read, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.”

Finally, the very last verse in this book speaks about the need to continually receive the grace of God. We read in Hebrews 13:25, “Grace be with all of you.” All of us needs to be receiving God’s grace and sharing with others the grace of God so that they are strengthened and encouraged.

For a moment, let me draw your attention to Hebrews 12: 15 which says, “See to it (brothers and sisters in the church) that no one (person) fails to obtain the grace of God; and that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (plural).”

It is all of our responsibility to see that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. The verb translated ‘See to it’ or ‘Looking diligently’ is plural. All of us, not just a few of us, are to be see to it (present tense) that no person fails (present tense singular) to obtain the grace of God. Because of this responsibility that we all have James can write, "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his sould from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (5:19-20)

{Praise the LORD that the author of Hebrews has written this church to strengthen them. But if they are to remain strong and healthy they will need to learn to care for one another and share these truths at the appropriate moment.}

As we study Hebrews 13 we will continue to see that the author of Hebrews has woven throughout the text (directly and indirectly) the importance of faith and grace. There is, however, something else that he has interwoven throughout this portion of scripture. Notice that Hebrews 12:28 and Hebrews 13:20-21 both speak about offering to God ‘acceptable worship’. And erverything in between these verses is connected to what is ‘acceptable worship to God’.

Notice with me those two texts. Hebrews 12:28 speaks of ‘acceptable worship’ in this way, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship”.

In Hebrews 13:20-21 the author speaks about what God considers as pleasing (acceptable) in His sight when He says, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

Hebrews 12:28-13:21 Conveys That All Of Our Life Is Given To God As Worship

All that we do in our private life is to be offered as acceptable worship to the LORD.

All that we do in our families is to be offered as acceptable worship to the LORD.

All that we do in our vocations is to be offered as acceptable worship to the LORD.

All that we do in our relationships is to be offered as acceptable worship to the LORD.

All that we do in this church is to be offered as acceptable worship to the LORD.

All that we do in our hobbies is to be offered as acceptable worship to the LORD.

All the exhortations and commands in Hebrews 13 can be obeyed because our hearts are full of hope because we are receiving an unshakable kingdom. They can be obeyed from a heart of gratitude because this blessing is given graciously by Christ and not through the Law.

As we make our way through Hebrews 13 we will see how we are to...

  • by faith and grace love others (13:1)

  • by faith and grace show hospitality to strangers (13:1-3&16).

  • by faith and grace hold marriage with honor (13:4)

  • by faith and grace keep ourselves from sin and grow in sanctification (13:4).

  • by faith and grace steward our money and trust God when we lack finances (13:5).

  • by faith and grace fear the LORD and not men (13:6).

  • by faith and grace observe and obey godly leadership within the church and imitate their faith (13:7&17).

  • by faith and grace be strengthened by grace and not deceived by strange teachings (13:9-11).

  • by faith and grace turn away from the things of this world and draw near to Christ (13:11-14).

  • by faith and grace we are to do good and share what we have with others (16).

  • by faith and grace we are to pray to the LORD for ourselves and others (18).

You may be asking, “Pastor, why are you spending so much time on these things?

I believe that as we make our way through Hebrews 13 our carnal mind may tell us that we cannot do these commands. I believe that we will find that our flesh will resist these scriptural exhortations. I believe that the natural man will easily become discouraged and frustrated because of its weakness and inability to obey the LORD as we would desire. Therefore, we need to remember the importance of faith and grace as we live a life of acceptable worship to God.

Now let us turn our attention to the first command that we are given. The author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:1, “Let brotherly love continue”.

We are not commanded to let brotherly love begin; rather, we are told that we are to let brotherly love continue. We took a NCD survey here at church last year and one of our weakest scores was on having good structures within the church. We may struggle with structures but one area where I often hear that we are doing well in is that people feel loved when they come into our church. People are friendly, kind, hospitable and compassionate. The people here truly love each other. We can be so grateful that when it comes to loving others we have been taught by God (1 Thessalonians 4:9).

This type of ‘brotherly love’ is one of the chief characteristics of all of those who have been saved. It is part of the fruits of the Spirit that each believer is given when they come to Christ. The author of Hebrews has seen this type of love within this congregation in the past and he knows that this only comes by being a child of God. Therefore, he simply says to these Christians, “Let brotherly love continue.”

For a church to continue in love it will take special care and attention so that it will grow, mature, be healthy and made strong. Love must be fostered, nourished, looked after and cared for. Love can be easily wounded and harmed, therefore, we must do all that we can to see that it continues in all of our relationships with each other. To nourish love we must use spiritual graces as well as the practical outworkings of that grace.

The word that is used here for ‘brotherly love’ when used outside of the context of scriptures is always used in reference to a love enjoyed within a particular family. In the scriptures this word is not simply applied to those to whom we are family members with, but it is applied to all of those who are now our new family through faith in Christ.

Those in the church are referred to in many ways in the scriptures but the primary way we are referred to is as a family. Loving our family may come more naturally than it does for us to love those outside of our family. Therefore a Christian is to continue in love towards one another.

As Christians we do not share a blood-line or a family heritage together. In fact, we may not have very much in common with each other at all other than we have believed upon Christ. God is saving people from every tribe, every nation, and every tongue. When He saves us and unites us together in Christ by His Spirit we become a family and we are to care for each other and let love continue among us.

This type of love is to be expected among believers who are walking by faith and displaying God’s grace. Where this is happening the church is healthy and strong. Where this is not happening there is a spiritual problem in which the congregation needs to be exhorted in the scriptures so that faith and grace begin to be expressed in profound ways (repentance, reconciliation, peace, love, harmony).

The word that is used for ‘continue in love’ can also be translated as ‘abide’, ‘remain’, ‘persist’, ‘stay strong’, and ‘endure’. This is the same word that is used many times in John 15 where we are to ‘abide’ in Christ and bear much fruit. This command is given to a believer and they are to persevere in this love, abide in this love, persist in this love, stay strong in this love, and endure in this love even during difficult times and trials. These trials are God’s ‘difficult providences’ that He brings upon the children that He loves (12:7-15). If we know we are loved by God during these times we will be compelled to love others as well especially when they are experiencing a season of God's difficult providence.

Now, if Hebrews 13:1 gives us the principle of ‘continuing in love’, then verses 2-3 gives the original readers two illustrations as to how this might be done. As you consider these illustrations you soon discover that they would not have been easy to do. Even these illustrations are difficult to do apart from faith and grace.

First, Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”

In the ancient world traveling was not very safe (Consider Ezra 8:21-23). Even staying in the city square was not a safe place for Christians who were traveling. At this time you also had many Christians who were being dispersed from their homes through persecution and they needed places to stay. The expectation was that other Christians would show hospitality to these strangers. They were to provide for these ‘brothers and sisters’ both food and lodging.

Let me draw an application that we could apply today concerning hospitality. This verse is not simply about opening up our homes but it is about letting the grace of God open up our hearts to others.

When Paul was with the Corinthians he worked hard to provide for himself while he shared the gospel with them. Paul was not a burden to them but provided for his own needs. Paul testified that to the Thessalonians that he didn’t eat anyone’s bread without paying for it. So how could the churches Paul ministered to display hospitality if Paul worked night and day so that he could provide for himself and share with others?

Well, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to open up wide their hearts to him. The Corinthians needed to learn to be hospitable in the sense that they would not restrict their hearts and the fellowship that they could share together. In that context, it was not about a place to stay or food to eat as much as hospitality was about becoming a friend to Paul on a very personal level.

You know how easy it is to close our hearts and protect ourselves. You know how easy it is to be hurt and become jaded. You know how easy it is to have risked once and been hurt and then swear to yourself that this will never ever happen to you again.

It is easy for leaders to restrict themselves from becoming to vulnerable with the congregation out of fear. It is also easy for the congregation to be restrictive with the leader of the church. I’ll be honest, there are some people here in this room and I would have to admit that I am restricted with you. I must tell you and you must hear me, it has nothing to do with you. This is my sin which I need to confess and repent of. Then I need to walk by faith and express grace in the midst of my own personal weakness.

The motivation in this text is that If we will strive to treat with hospitality the strangers among us, those we have restricted the hand of fellowship from, God will bestow a great blessing upon us through those relationships. I don't think that the main point is that we may be interacting with an angel as much as it is that those we are kind to will often be a great source of God's grace into our lives.

How can we apply these words to our lives practically. We can ask,

  • Are there people here who are strangers to us us that we can show hospitality too?

  • Are there people who we are unacquainted with in church that we can connect with?

  • Are there people here who we have never spoken too that we can go start a discussion?

Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body.”

At this time prisoners depended upon the care and benevolence of those in the community who would look after them. Many Christians, because of their profession of faith, had begun to be persecuted and to be put in prison. A test of brotherly love would be to see if we will help them, visit them, provide for them, and minister to them even if this meant that we may be identified Christians and suffering the loss of things and even our liberty.

Brotherly love cannot forget those who are mistreated because of their faith. Brotherly love cannot disassociate from those whose strong faith has made them a target in this world. They are part of the body of Christ and we need to care for them.

The truth is, we have been so blessed to not have had to experience persecution and suffering for our faith. There are many Christians around the world who do face persecution, mistreatment, imprisonment and even death. We are the exception to the rule at this time. We know nothing of this type of persecutions and suffering. We have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our own blood!

So are we going to give up when the going gets tough? Will we turn our back on Christ when we experience far less challenges to our faith than others have and yet by faith and grace did not shrink back? How can we not be faithful under the little bit of pressure that we experience? We need to learn to live by the grace of God in these small ‘providential difficulties’ so that we can endure the bigger challenges to our faith that lay ahead for us.

We all have a tendency to shrink back when we see what it might take to love a brother and sister in their time of need. We may withhold our heart and step away from these difficult situations because we are overwhelmed by them. Our resources are so limited, our patience quickly runs out, so we need to operate by faith and receive the grace of God to do these things even in the fairly mild and predictable context in which we live.

Community Church, brothers and sisters, if we have faith and receive God’s grace we can live a life of acceptable worship to God in these things.


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