Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
various military branches of our government expect that their members will perform
their duties. The Army private is to follow orders, not originate them. The
chain of command reaches up to the generals and admirals themselves, as even
they are ultimately under the command of this country’s “Commander-and-Chief,”
the President of the United States. Duty is paramount, no matter what the soldier’s
rank. A similar situation exists for the Christian.
book of Hebrews forcefully reminds Christians that our relationship to God in
Christ is far better than any which existed in the Old Testament. On that basis,
the writer does not hesitate to challenge Christians in the closing verses of
the book. These concluding words, abrupt in tone and pointed in comment, call
believers to perform their Christian duties before God.
have the first duty of displaying Christian love
(13:1-3). The exhortation to love is brusque and implies that concern for each
other has begun to weaken. Since we are brothers in Christ, we must not stop
loving each other. A question naturally arises at this point: how do we show
this love? That is directly answered in two ways.
is encouraged as one way to show love. Showing loving “hospitality”
to others is focused toward “strangers,” since you cannot logically
expect them to reciprocate. The possibility even exists that you may show hospitality
to an angel. While this clearly happened in the Old Testament to such people
as Abraham, Lot, and Manoah, the implication is that it may still happen today.
actively sympathetic toward needy persons is another way to show love. “Remember”
has the idea of remembering by giving aid and assistance. We are to focus attention
in this area toward those believers who are in prison or who are being mistreated.
Once again, we show this love with no expectation of getting anything in return.
second duty is found in verse four. We are to display
established marriage, and its sanctity must be upheld by believers. In all respects
and circumstances, marriage should be considered of great value and sexual relationships
properly maintained within it. We live in a sexually permissive society, as
seen in the recent spate of “gay” marriages across the country as
well as the openness of promiscuous sex which is commonly flaunted. The half-time
exhibition of the Super Bowl which “featured” Janet Jackson is only
the tip of a large iceberg. While this grieves our hearts, the world too often
accepts it and smiles on it. God, however, will judge.
third duty occurs in verses five and six: display Christian
contentment. The believer’s behavior is governed by God’s presence,
not by financial wealth. Our materialistic society stresses wealth as the way
to joy, contentment and success. Yet, Hebrews challenges us to be content with
what we have because no matter how little (or how much) it is, God Himself is
with us. Experiencing the presence of God is what provides true contentment
in life. With God as our Helper, we need not fear whatever comes from the hand
have a fourth duty, which is to “remember” our spiritual leaders (13:7-8),
keep them actively in our minds. The church’s spiritual leaders give forth the
Word of God and have faith which believers must imitate. The exhortation here
is two-pronged: leaders must set the right example, and believers must follow
them. As the leaders and believers fulfill their obligations, Christ will be
honored. He is the ultimate source and goal of our faith, and He never changes.
final duty is to offer spiritual sacrifice to God through Christ (13:15-16).
A contemporary chorus by Kirk Dearman reflects this emphasis: “We bring
the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord; we bring the sacrifice of
praise into the house of the Lord. And we offer up to You the sacrifices of
thanksgiving; And we offer up to You the sacrifices of joy.” In the Old
Testament the “thank (praise) offering” was rarely given (Lev. 7:12),
but Christians can offer this spiritual sacrifice “continually.” Today
God desires the “fruit of our lips;” He wants our words to be of the
nature that confess His name, exalt Him for the God He is. As we do this, we
will naturally “do good” to others and “share” with them
of the blessings God bestows upon us. This will cause others to remember that
the true God lives.
we live in a sin ridden society which neglects, ridicules, and often blasphemes
the true God of the Bible. Our society, however, is not that much different
from the New Testament Roman Empire. How do we influence society? By living
up to the duties God sets forth before us.
brief provided by: R. Larry Overstreet, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Northwest Baptist
Seminary, Tacoma, WA.