As you read this last chapter in Hebrews, you get the impression that the writer had a great deal of miscellaneous matter to discuss and saved it till the end. In chapter 12, we were rejoicing on Mt. Zion; and now we are discussing such everyday topics as hospitality, marriage, church officers, and who was the last one to be released from jail. But in the Bible, there is no division between doctrine and duty, revelation and responsibility. The two always go together. The emphasis in this last section of the book is on living by faith. The writer presented the great examples of faith in chapter 11, and the encouragements of faith in chapter 12. Here in chapter 13, he presented the evidences of faith that should appear in our lives if we are really walking by faith and not by sight. We will study four such evidences as we study chapter 13.
The basis for this fellowship is brotherly love. As Christians, these Hebrew people no doubt had been rejected by their friends and families. But the deepest kind of fellowship is not based on race or family relationship; it is based on the spiritual life we have in Christ. A church fellowship based on anything other than love for Christ and for one another simply won’t last. Where there is true Christian love, there will also be hospitality (v. 2). This was an important ministry in the early church because persecution drove many believers away from their homes. Also, there were traveling ministers who needed places to stay (3 John 5-8). Many poor saints could not afford to stay in an inn; and since the churches met in homes, it was natural for a visitor to just stay with his host.
Love also expresses itself in concern (v. 3). It was not unusual for Christians to be arrested and imprisoned for their faith. To identify with these prisoners might be dangerous; yet Christ’s love demanded a ministry to them. To minister to a Christian prisoner in the name of Christ is to minister to Christ Himself (Matt. 25:36, 40). In our free country we are not arrested for religious beliefs; but in other parts of the world, believers suffer for their faith. We need to pray for them and share with them as the Lord enables us!
The home is the first place where Christian love should be practiced (v. 4). A Christian home begins with a Christian marriage in the will of God. This means loyalty and purity. Sex outside of marriage is sinful and destructive. Sex within the protective bonds of marriage can be enriching and glorifying to God. In these days, when sexual sins are paraded as entertainment in movies and on television, the church needs to take a stand for purity of the marriage bond. A dedicated Christian home is the nearest thing to heaven on earth, and it starts with a Christian marriage.
If we love God and others as we should then we will have a right relationship to material things (vv. 5-6). Times of suffering can either be times of selfishness or times of service. It’s not easy to take “joyfully the spoiling of your goods (Heb. 10:34). But with economic and ecological problems in our world today, comfortable Christians may soon find themselves doing without some luxuries that they now consider necessities. The word covetousness literally means “love of money”; but it can be applied to a love for more of anything. Contentment cannot come from material things, for they can never satisfy the heart. Only God can do that (see Luke 12:15). When we have God, we have all that we need. The material things of life can decay or be stolen, but God will never leave us or forsake us.
The affirmation of faith in verse 6 comes from Psalm 118:6. This is a messianic psalm and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, so we may claim this promise for ourselves. It was a source of great peace to the early Christians to know that they were safe from fear of man, for no man could do anything to them apart from God’s will. Men might take their goods, but God would meet their needs. The important thing is that we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Helper, and that we not put our trust in material things. Contended Christians are people with priorities, and material things are not high on their priority lists.
Hebrews 13:1-6 Reflection Questions:
Do you have the gift of hospitality, if so how often do you use it for the body of Christ?
Do you have a gift for those (of all ages) who are in incarceration?
Do you struggle with covetousness? Are material things a high priority for you?
If you were to lose everything (maybe like Job) would you be contended with your relationship with Jesus?