Hebrews 13:1-3… Continue in brotherly love. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
The author of Hebrews spent the first 10 chapters writing doctrinal truths. In Hebrews 11 he gave examples of the faithful believers of the past. In Hebrews 12 he gave great exhortations to faithful believers in the present based upon the actions of those in the past. In chapter 13 the writer puts together a hodgepodge of miscellaneous issues needing attention before he closes the letter. These issues concern love, hospitality, marriage, and church leaders – all of which will comprise the evidences of faith expected among those who call themselves Christians.
The first evidence is “brotherly love.” This is one word in Greek – philadelphia, coming from philos (fond affection) and delphos (brother). Brotherly love in the NT is to be the fruit all Christians display toward each other (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 1:7). It is brotherly in the sense that all Christians are related like family, and it is commanded in the NT as a fondness for persons belonging exclusively to the Christian faith.
The Greek literally says, “The Philadelphia must continue.” It’s as if “Philadelphia” was some kind of Christian fraternity, a singular group of people with the fruit of love (cf. John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17). They had brotherly affection towards each other, and though there were divisions existing among them due to the desire for some of them to apostatize, they were commanded to continue their fraternity, as it were, which was known by the fruit of love.
With this in mind, the author might very well have also had fellow Jews in mind who were not Christians. The Jewish audience who had converted to the Christian faith were to continue their love for their unbelieving Jewish brothers without turning from them. But the primary command in 13:1 is love for Christian brothers to continue, and because it must continue clearly means that it already existed. All Christians have love and need not pray for more. They only need to put the love God has poured into their hearts into full motion and love as Christ did.
The second evidence for true Christian faith is the fruit of hospitality (Heb. 13:2). The Greek word means “love of strangers,” and it too looks like a kind of fraternity. There was “the Philadelphia” and “the Philoxenias” – those who showed brotherly affection toward strangers. In the early church this ministry was vital because persecution drove many new believers from their homes. There were also traveling preachers who needed lodging (3 John 5-8). Overseers are required to be hospitable in order to hold the office of elder (Titus 1:8), but hospitality is for all saints to practice (Rom. 12:13). Some have even “entertained angels without knowing it,” as was the case of Abraham (Gen. 18) and Lot (Gen. 19). God may send undesirables to the brethren for lodging, and they may very well be angelic! Bottom line: a faithful Christian is hospitable.
A third evidence is concern for others (Heb. 13:3). Many Christians were arrested for their faith, and even though it was dangerous to identify with them, Christ’s love demanded it. Ministry to a Christian prisoner is ministry to Christ Himself (Matt. 25:36, 40), so any ministry of care toward brothers in need, whether in prison or not, is an grand opportunity for service.
Food for Thought
One of the popular mega-church preachers today refuses to preach doctrine saying that God did not send him to do so but only to teach love. But how can one love as Christ loved and understand true Philadelphia without knowing doctrine? The command to love is impossible without Christian doctrine! Let us be about the task of learning doctrine so that we can love.
Hebrews 13:4… Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Continuing the list of Christian evidences from Hebrews 13:1-3, v. 4 presents a fourth fruit which grows in the life of genuine Christians: an honorable marriage. In the Greek text the first word in the sentence is “honor” which is done that way for emphasis. This word “honor” is used in the NT to describe a well-respected teacher (Acts 5:34), valuable gems (1 Cor. 3:12), the blood of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:9), the promises of God which make believers partakers of His divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and it’s used in reference to the fruit of the ground that a farmer works diligently for (James 5:7). So “honor signifies something of great price, highly esteemed, and especially dear.” This is how the institution of marriage is to be thought of.
God created marriage in Genesis 1-2 in the beginning. And so because it is strictly a creation of God it is to be honored as God-given and existing solely between one man and one woman. Their marriage bed is to be undefiled (v. 4). The word for “bed” is koita, which can mean simply a literal bed, or it can refer euphemistically to sexual intercourse (Rom. 13:13). It can also be used in the sense of becoming pregnant (Rom. 9:10). In this context the bed has to do with the sexual relationship between two Christians, a man and a woman, in the covenant of marriage. Their sexual relationship must be “undefiled.” This word is used elsewhere in relation to Jesus Christ as the great High Priest who is “holy, innocent, and undefiled.” It is also used in James 1:27 to describe the eternal inheritance believers will one day receive in heaven. So the sexual relationship between a Christian husband and wife is to be the most pure relationship two human beings can have, for it is compared not only with heaven but with Jesus Christ himself!
Marriage has always been defiled by those who get married, but God has never changed his attitude towards such vile behavior. Those who defile the sexual relationship which is to exist honorably and beautifully within marriage are called either “fornicators” or “adulterers.” Fornication is the act of engaging in sexual immorality which includes sex prior to marriage. The Apostle Paul wrote: “in the letter I wrote you I told you not to associate with sexually immoral people…” (1 Cor 5.9), and he makes it clear in that context that he was only addressing professed Christians who do so as opposed to unbelievers. Adultery, on the other hand, is the sin that married people commit when they have sex with one who is not their spouse.
God is a God who judges sin and sinners. He has lovingly mapped out His requirements for those who call upon Him for salvation, so there are no excuses for those who ignore His teachings. Hebrews 13:4 plainly teaches that God will judge fornicators and adulterers. To judge is to evaluate, decide, and condemn. Now because God will pass the final judgment on sinners, it is the responsibility of other Christians to warn of God’s judgment. Unfortunately, this is often seen as unbiblical, for Christians are forbidden to judge (Matt. 7:1). In reality, warnings of God’s impending judgment are actually one of the most loving things one Christian can do for another.
Food for Thought
You may have sinned sexually at some point in your life, or you may have made a habit of it throughout your life. But sexual purity must take root when one comes to Christ. Many just don’t view marriage as God does, and that is to their detriment. God judges, and He demands purity. He also grants the power to obey Him fully through the Holy Spirit. If you sin willfully in this way, then maybe you aren’t truly a believer. So why not make it right while there is time? God is lovingly calling you to repent and to purify your marriage bed. It is ever-so holy!
Hebrews 13:5-6… See 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 forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?
Continuing the list of Christian evidences from Hebrews 13:1-4, the fifth evidence of a genuine Christian is that he is free from the love of money. The love of money is covetousness, found in most Christians, and yet it is rarely confessed as sin. Plain and simple, the love of money is an affront to God because it reveals a distrust in God. Money, in and of itself, is not a sinful thing; however, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). By it Achan lost his family and his life and the lives of at least 36 others (Josh. 7:1, 5, 25). Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, got greedy and obtained the leprosy that Naaman was cured of (2 Kings 5:15-27). And the worst of all was Judas Iscariot who betrayed the Lord Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
Some folks like to hoard money, others like to spend it on themselves and display their wealth, and others just get a rush from acquiring more and more. Yet they never seem to have enough! True Christians, however, must be free from the love of money. This English phrase comes from three Greek words: “a” (not), “phileo” (fondness), and “arguros” (silver). Together they mean “without fondness for silver.” Contrary to loving money, the genuine believer in Christ is “content” with what he has (v. 5). This word simply means “to be satisfied.” But being satisfied demands something by which to be satisfied with, namely the Holy Spirit which seals Christians with a guarantee of future eternal redemption (Eph. 1:13-14). So the error of putting one’s love and faith in money is that it tends to replace God as the anchor of the soul during times of need and trial. A genuine Christian is content simply with knowing Christ.
One of God’s promises to His children was that He would never leave them nor forsake them (Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5). The writer of Hebrews reminded his audience of the very same thing. They had no need of money to live effectively or abundantly. Christians who believe such can never lead properly or effectively, for money is their love. Effective leaders in the church, and all genuine Christians, have strong faith simply because they believe in God’s promise that He will never leave them. They don’t need a hefty bank account to assure themselves of security. The love of money really grants no assurance, it weakens the Christian’s faith, reduces his testimony to a system of rewards, and it actually worsens his ability to lead effectively.
When the text says that God will never “leave” His people it means that He will never send them back, relax His relationship with them, or let them sink. It is preceded by two negatives in the Greek text which emphasizes the impossibility. Literally, “I will not, I will not cease to sustain and uphold thee.” The word “forsake” refers to some circumstance in which a person may find himself helpless or abandoned, and there are three negatives before this word. Literally, “I will not, I will not, I will not let you down.” Now that’s emphasis!
The confirmation of faith in v. 6 comes from Psalm 118:6 which is a messianic psalm fulfilled in Christ and claimed by Christians. So since the Lord helps and has guaranteed His aid, there is no one to fear. This is a “confident” assertion showing absolute faith in God’s promise.
Food for Thought
Even the Christian church today has fallen prey to the love of money which is far too often their security blanket. One family in Eastern Europe told some American missionaries: “We are suffering, but you in America are very comfortable; and it is always harder to be a good Christian when you are comfortable. Be assured that we’re praying for you!” I hope they are.
Marks of Genuine Christians (vs. the World)
· Examples of faith (11); Exhortations to faith (12); Evidences of faith (13)
· Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
· Paul exhorts: “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8).
· Pliny reported that Christians did not commit crimes and paid their debts
· The world knows God by those who call Him their Father. They read us, not the Bible.
· Some say that doctrine is useless and divisive; all we need is love. Absurd! Silliness!
· Trying to throw away doctrine while keeping love… (foundation and house)
· A relationship with Christ a must in order to have the ability to live up to NT standards.
1. Believers love other Christians (13:1)
a. A fraternity: the Philadelphia which cements a congregation
b. Christ told us to love one another (agapao)
c. Warm faith naturally grows cold
d. It results in lack of fellowship (10:24-25)
e. Some pray for more love, but we have all the love we need!
2. Believers show hospitality to strangers (2)
a. Another fraternity: the Philoxenias
b. For traveling preachers (3 John 5-8)
c. Required for elders (Titus 1:8) and for all (Rom. 12:13)
d. Never know who! (Gen. 18-19)
3. Believers are sympathetic to those in need (3)
a. Service to them is service to Christ (Matt. 25)
4. Believers honor marriage (4)
a. Marriage is honorable…
i. Like a well-respected teacher (Acts 5:34)
ii. Like valuable gems (1 Cor. 3:12)
iii. Like the blood of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:9)
iv. Like the promises of God (2 Pet. 1:4)
v. Like the fruit of the ground (James 5:7).
b. Marriage bed to be Undefiled
i. Used for JC as the great High Priest (“holy, innocent, and undefiled”)
ii. Used in James 1:27 to describe heaven
iii. Christians not to even associate w/immoral people (1 Cor. 5:9)
5. Believers are free from the love of money (5a)
a. Not Covetousness (Ex. 20:17)
b. Love of $ the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10)
c. Examples: Achan, Gehazi, Judas
d. Some hoard, some display, some just acquire
e. Christians are content; our lives don’t depend on money (Luke 12:15)
6. Believers fear nothing (5b-6) (Quote from Psalm 118:6)
a. God does not abandon (Deut. 31:6, 8)
b. God won’t leave (triple negative: I will not…)
Warnings to the Rich:
· Matthew 19:23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
· Matthew 19:24 it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
· Luke 6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.
· Luke 12:16-21 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
· Luke 16:19-25 (rich man and Lazarus)
· 1 Timothy 6:9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
· 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all 1sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
· James 1:10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
· James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?
· James 5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon
· Revelation 6:15-17 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the 1presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
· The other NT Greek verb for love is agapao, which speaks of God’s unconditional love (John 3:16) and of the love produced in the heart of the true believer by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5), which is also the love described in 1 Cor. 13. The brotherly love described in Heb. 13:1, however, speaks of human affection and fondness toward each other. It is noteworthy that that the writer did not command unconditional love (agapao) toward the brethren like Jesus taught (cf. John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17).
· Love of the brethren (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9-10; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 1:7).