As humans, we remember very interesting things. Many of you can remember things such as addresses and specific dates because they have great significance to them while you might forget something more important to your immediate future. I know that I am guilty of this myself! Have you noticed that we also remember certain words more than others? Children also are guilty of this as you can tell them to do time and time again and they won’t listen and obey and the millisecond they hear something else or they hear that another friend doesn’t have to do what you tell them to do, they might throw a fit!
Our society values first and last words significantly as well. As new parents, Lindsey and I always talk about what Gabriel’s first word will be and we have a lot of excitement when we think about that moment! We also know that last words are significant in our world. We remember the last words someone says and we remember the last moment we have with someone. Why do we remember these things so well? Because of the attachment we have with the person. Forbes magazine did a study on why we remember last words and what we can do to make sure that we don’t live with regret when thinking about last words. They noted there are 5 things we can do:
Listen with all senses
Choose your words carefully
Check for completeness
Last words matter. As people, especially men, sometimes we have difficulty expressing our emotions and thoughts. I will always remember the first time that my grandfather told me that he loved me. Why? Because he only told me at the end of his life. It stood out! We remember last words because they are significant and they resonate with us whenever we think about a person.
Likewise, in Scripture, we see that the end of specific messages and letters, especially in the New Testament, the author leaves the people with a call to action. Paul is famous for this conclusions as he leaves people with a call to action and a reminder that he loves them. The conclusion of Hebrews is similar as the preacher capitalizes on the attention that he has gained and doesn’t waste this moment. The conclusion of Hebrews must be something that we pay attention to as we are given some final exhortations and commands to put into practice today. As we study our text today, consider how you can love others and focus on Jesus Christ.
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. 3 Remember those in prison, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily. 4 Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. 5 Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. 6 Therefore, we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 7 Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Love one another (1-3)
Love one another (1-3)
The first exhortation is found in verse 1 of our text and in the Greek it is comprised of 3 Greek words. We have a definite article, a noun and a verb. One way to read this opening verse literally from the Greek could be this, “The brotherly love must remain.” In the Christian Standard Bible they translate it to be, “Let brotherly love continue.” Whenever you are told to continue doing something, there can be a temptation to not do this. Perhaps this is an option that can be ignored! The Greek text destroys any such idea as we have an imperative verb (meno) that states that brotherly love MUST continue or remain in the congregation. Why is this so significant? Why must love remain in the body of Christ? Perhaps a better question for us is this: who is my brother that I am required to love? It can be easy to love some people and it can be much harder to love other people! As a result, we often like to think of passages like this in reference to people that we are friends with. I’ll love *that* person because I’m friends with them. What does it mean that someone is our brother, though? It means that you are to love everyone within the body of Christ because you are literally a family. Brotherly love exists within a family and the family of God is no exception!
In the Greek there are 4 different words for our word “love” and I am so thankful for this fact because I cannot stand it whenever someone says in the same sentence that they love pizza and they love their child. Do they mean that they love both the same? Of course not, but it’s the same word! The Greek helps to solve this issue as there are multiple words for this single English word. There is:
Eros - a romantic love
Storgae - an empathetic love
Agape - an unconditional love
Philia - a brotherly love
The New Testament often uses the word agape and agapao to refer to love. We see this word appear over 300 times! But, the usage of philia and phileo are second with 106 references in the New Testament. This is the love we see in Hebrews 13:1 - a brotherly love that MUST exist in the church between brothers and sisters in Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ makes us family!
The second exhortation and command is found in verse 2 as the preacher calls upon these believers to show hospitality. Speaking from first hand experience, hospitality is something that Morgan Baptist Church does a good job with, however there is still room to improve! Generally speaking, Christians often forget about how important hospitality is. Maybe you’re thinking that hospitality is a spiritual gift and only those with the gift have to exercise it - therefore you have a license to not be hospitable to others! That’s not the case, though. Think about the gift of evangelism, some people have this gift but all Christians are called to share the Gospel. The same exists with hospitality. Some people are better at it than others, but we are all called to share the love of Jesus with those who cross our paths. It is heartbreaking that mormons and muslims are more hospitable than Christians, generally speaking.
The early church lived out hospitality routinely. In the ancient world, hospitality had to be earned. The early Church, though, freely gave hospitality to all people - including the widow, orphan and poor. This type of hospitality must be continued in the Church today! Are you a hospitable person? Not just with opening up your home to others, but are you a person who is friendly with other people in conversation? This should be the mark of a Christian as we love other people. The preacher notes something interesting at the end of verse 2 about receiving angels as guests without knowing it. The Didache, the teachings of the 12 disciples, says this about hospitality: “Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord, but he must not stay more than one day, or two if it is absolutely necessary; if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when an apostle leaves you, let him take nothing but a loaf, until he reaches further lodging for the night; if he asks for money, he is a false prophet.” Even when they got burned, the Christians were called to practice hospitality. How can you do a better of practicing hospitality today?
Verse 3 shares with us another thing about loving others as we are called to love and remember those who are in prison. Again, this is an imperative command, not an option. Sometimes whenever people are in prison, it can be easy to forget about them or think that they genuinely did something wrong and deserve to be punished and you distance yourself from them. The idea in mind here is that many Christians were imprisoned for their faith in God. In the 1st century, prison was not what we often think of it in the 21st century. Prison was a place were you would go as you awaited a trial or paid off some debts. If you couldn’t pay off your debts, you would be sold into slavery. Aren’t you thankful that things are a little bit different today? Whenever someone from the body of Christ is imprisoned for their faith, the church has a duty to remember them and to support them. This is what we see in the New Testament whenever Peter and Paul are imprisoned - the church prays for them and sends them gifts.
Whenever a part of the body is in danger, we remember them and we lift them up! As Christians who are called to be like Jesus Christ, we must love one another. This extends from our brothers and sisters in Christ to strangers to others in our congregation as well.
Love within marriage (4)
Love within marriage (4)
Verse 4 is a loaded and popular verse as it gives the Biblical basis for marriage and a warning against sexual immorality. A couple of points for us regarding the Biblical picture of marriage:
Marriage was divinely ordained by God - Genesis 2:24
Marriage is to be between one man and one woman - Matthew 19:4-6
Sex is a great thing, in the confines of marriage - Genesis 1:28, 1 Corinthians 7:1-2
Anything else, according to the Bible, is wrong.
Our world does not understand what it means for marriage to be honored because marriage is not treated like a covenant, it is treated like a contract. Whenever there is a breach of the contract, whenever someone messes up and whenever the feeling is not the same as it once was, then either side can just quit because the contract has been voided. Is that what the Bible shares with us that marriage is a contract between two people that can stop at any moment? No! It’s a lifelong commitment between the husband, wife, and God. Sadly, marriage is not honored in that regard in our society. Further, the marriage bed is not treated as something pure because it is something given away left and right as though it is not significant at all.
In the New Testament, though, we see that sexual immorality, being unfaithful or sexual relations outside of marriage, is wrong. Even if the law of our land says that something is ok, what gets the final word as our ultimate authority? The Bible. If America says wrong is right and the Bible says that wrong is wrong, wrong is still wrong. If the Bible says something is wrong, there is no room for debate!
So what should be the Christian response in a world that is confused as to what marriage is and why marriage matters so much? Friends, there should be love in the marriage. Not a phileo love or brotherly love, rather, agape love - an unconditional love. If we are going to imitate Christ and if you are in a marriage union, your responsibility is to love your spouse unconditionally. Paul spells this out in Ephesians 5 where he says this:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her
33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.
Even though this is a radical concept to our world, it is Biblical. Rather than going by what our culture says is right, let us commit to be faithful to the Bible because we see that God will judge those who disobey what the Bible teaches on this subject. This is the 4th command in this text - honoring the Christian marriage is not optional, it is a command.
Love the Lord (5-6)
Love the Lord (5-6)
The next exhortation is found in verse 5 as we see that we are to flee from the love of money. As if the command to keep sex in the confines of marriage is hard enough for our world, the command to not love money slaps our culture across its face. Our world loves money! Our consumer society is so enamored with money that people love money more than virtually everything else. The situation was the same in the 1st century world as Jesus said this:
15 He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
Life is not found in the abundance of possessions, friends. The world promises that this will satisfy and that this thing will be the one thing that you are missing in life, but if you ask the people who have lots of things, what will many of them tell you? Things don’t satisfy. Things can help in some ways but they don’t satisfy our soul. Because of this what must we pursue? We don’t pursue greed, we pursue contentment. We must learn to be satisfied with what the Lord has given to us. To quote Spurgeon, “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes us happy.” Do you enjoy what you have or do you find yourself longing for the next thing? The next iPhone, car, pair of boots, coat, sewing machine. We all have the tendency to long for something more than what we currently have. The love of money is present in all of our lives because of our sinful nature. Yet, what is the promise from our Lord at the end of verse 5? Why do we not have to long for other things to satisfy us? How can we be content? Because God promises to never leave or forsake us. He promises to always be with us!
Look at verse 6. Who is our helper? Ourselves? Our spouse or friend? No. The Lord is! Therefore what should our response be? We don’t need to be afraid because we are untouchable. Do you hear the echo from Romans 8:31 here?
31 What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
The preacher quotes from Psalm 118:6 here and this passage should encourage you today to understand that God has promised to never leave or forsake you! How does this make you feel? It should lead you to go out and live for Christ and to love the Lord.
Do you find yourself longing for more or are you satisfied in Christ? We have everything we need in Jesus Christ. The Lord is on our side and He provides for His children.
Stay Focused (7-8)
Stay Focused (7-8)
Our final two verses force us to stay focused on the task at hand. Many times people ask kids what they want to be whenever they grow up. Other times people ask what your purpose is with your life. Consider that question as a Christian: What is your purpose? We all have different gifts and strengths but we have the same purpose as children of God. Our purpose is to know Christ and to make Him known to others. How can we do this? In a world that seems to be disinterested with Jesus, how can we make Him known?
One way we can do this is by remembering the leaders that went on before. Remember the example given to you by others. In the context of Hebrews 13, the preacher is telling his congregation to remember the faith of the people who came before them. Think back to the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, think back to people who have poured into your life. What can you learn from them and their faith? How can you invest in the lives of other people? How can you disciple others and help them grow to be more like Christ? Friends, these things are important but they require hard work and focus. In order to be a good leader, you must be a good follower.
Every leader you can think of is a sinner. Don’t idolize a leader to an unhealthy level, but as verse 7 reminds us, we should thank God for faithful leaders and we should strive to imitate their faith just as these people imitated the faith of those found in the hall of faith.
It can be hard to be faithful and to be consistent - however, our Lord and Savior is the same. He is faithful. He does not change. Therefore, those who teach and lead others have an obligation to not try to be a trailblazer and teach and preach something new - our message doesn’t change. Many people today are attracted to the seeker-sensitive, health-wealth, name-it-claim-it message, but friends that’s a false gospel. There is no such thing as a new and improved Christianity because Jesus Christ is the same and our message stays the same as well. Consider your circumstances today. There are genuine reasons that people can be concerned about their future right now. There are genuine reasons to be concerned about the future of your children and grandchildren, however there is no reason to worry about our future in Christ because He does not change. As Stuart Townend put it in his song, “In Christ Alone”
For I am His, and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
Do you belong to Christ? If so, take heart today because He is the same. He does not change! He never needs to be replaced. As One commentator puts it, Hebrews 13:8 tells us 3 things about Jesus
Jesus Christ is divine
Jesus Christ is immutable (does not change)
Jesus Christ is faithful to His people
Do you know Jesus Christ and are you sharing what the Bible says about Jesus to others? This requires focus and hard work. The most unloving thing a Christian can do is not share the love of Jesus and the truth of Scripture with other people.
Many non-Christians say that there is no evidence that God exists. We strongly disagree with them because we note that there is evidence based upon God’s Word as we studied in Hebrews 11. With that in mind, though, how are we supposed to share this truth with others? Paul says to speak the truth in love in Ephesians 4:15. Love matters, church. Sadly, our world doesn’t always see love whenever they talk with Christians. They receive judgment, condemnation, and hate. Certainly we don’t water down the truth of Scripture, but we share the love of Jesus with all people, even people who disagree with us and live a rebellious life of sin. Hear me, we obediently teach that sin is sin, but we speak the truth in love. As the hymn puts it, “They will know that we are Christians by our...” Nice clothes? Judgmental attitude? Fancy words? No. They’ll know that we are Christians by our love.
Love is the evidence of faithfulness. Brotherly love within the congregation, agape love within the marriage union and brotherly love that extends beyond the congregation to our community - even those who don’t know Christ as Lord. Listen to these last words from the preacher and let love reign supreme in the Church as we are living in a world that is so unloving towards others.