Hebrews Chapter 13: Pastoral Advice, Brotherly Love

Nov 9th, 2009 | By | Category: Hebrews, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Hebrews Chapter 13: Pastoral Advice, Brotherly Love

Heb. 13:1 Let brotherly love continue.

Now Paul began to give pastoral advice, that is, advice on Christian living and practice. “Let brotherly love continue” is the normal idealistic state of Christian assembly. We will not consider exceptions to the general rule at this time except to say that sometimes admonitions and warnings are not only expedient but also absolutely necessary. With some, the general rule is always the rule, but there are exceptions.

Heb. 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

In entertaining “strangers,” some brethren “have entertained angels unawares” but what kind of “angels”? For example, they could be guardian angels or brethren of significance, such as one of the seven dispensational messengers to the Church. In the Bible, the term “angel” is applied to a variety of individuals. There is nothing to prohibit a guardian angel or a holy angel—and maybe someday even an unholy angel—from being on the scene.

Paul was saying to observe those we are entertaining, especially if we do not know much about them. Of course if we are in harmony with the Lord’s Spirit, we would probably be able to discern fairly quickly if something is wrong. Under normal circumstances, however, an “angel” could be a spirit being who has been allowed to materialize for a particular reason. In Old Testament times, such materializations occurred frequently. In the present age, some Christians have testified of unusual circumstances where assistance was rendered in an emergency that is seemingly attributed to a guardian angel. In addition, an “angel” may be someone important in God’s sight. If we turn down such an individual—if the Lord has sent him to be entertained and we give a cool reception—then we have missed a golden opportunity and have displeased the Lord.

In the apostles’ day, brethren sometimes came from a foreign country on an itinerary. When they entered a town, they were made known. Those living in the town could see that the visitors had information about other apostles or certain brethren. When the visitors introduced themselves, espoused consecration, and were seen to have similar religious views, it was natural for brethren living in the area to entertain them. Hospitality was extended for a day, a week, or longer. But even then, no matter how good or nice the “strangers” might be, if they overstayed their visit inordinately, it could develop into a sponging situation, which Paul warned against in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15. In fact, some became habitual spongers, but that was the exception. They traveled from town to town and did not work, getting knowledge and experience as they went. They just kept taking advantage of free hospitality. This attitude eventually developed into a paid ministry, and many have liked this type of life. On the one hand, Paul said there is nothing wrong in accepting remuneration, but on the other hand, he advised observing and thinking out the situation. If brethren entertained a busybody who did not want to work, they were setting a precedent and encouraging the individual in this way of life. Then the next brother (or sister) was embarrassed not to likewise extend hospitality.

Entertaining strangers was a practice in the early Church. The “strangers” knew about Christ and had perhaps even seen Jesus during his earthly ministry. There are exceptions, but verse 2 is stating a general rule that the Christian is expected to be hospitable. Brethren should be given to entertaining strangers if their circumstances permit.

Heb. 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Now Paul gave advice about brethren who were in prison. We are to remember Christians who are incarcerated because of faithfulness to the truth. One way to “remember” is to visit them and perhaps bring a little gift. When John came on the scene subsequently as the tarrying apostle, attitudes changed because of a doctrine called Docetism. The brotherhood began to look at people who were in prison as being at fault and did not examine the reason they were there. That attitude started in degrees. The reasoning was, “If they had been living the proper Christian life, they would not be in prison. Prison is for wrongdoers.” Instead the brethren should have reasonably inquired as to the reason for the imprisonment, which was not necessarily a stigma. Another reason for not visiting and showing kindness to those in prison for their faith was fear. Some feared that if they went to the prison, the authorities would seize them as well. The general advice is that when one of the brotherhood is in prison, we should empathize with him and either visit or send some kind of condolence and also pray for him.

Of course if a brother is imprisoned for true wrongdoing, Paul’s advice would not apply. If a crime has actually been committed, that would be an exception where we should not extend brotherly love. We should reason on the matter and not have fear, for if a brother has suffered for Christ or righteousness and is innocently incarcerated, then to visit him would be a golden opportunity to show brotherly kindness. In most cases, the imprisonment of brethren would be the result of faithfulness to the truth. That was the experience of many brethren in Europe during WWI and WWII. In summary, usually just the general rule is given with no exceptions, but we have to be careful. “Let brotherly love continue” would depend on the reason a person is incarcerated.

In John’s day too, illness was considered suffering for one’s own faults and wrongdoing. But what was Paul’s advice? “Remember … them which suffer adversity.” On the other hand, Peter said that suffering for wrongdoing is not meritorious but is like a natural law of retribution.

There are all kinds of “adversity,” for example, being opposed in our doctrine or ministry, illness, and accidents. Paul said that if one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.

Depending on the nature of the injury, the little finger can cause a lot of discomfort.

“Remember them … as being yourselves also in the body.” There are two ways of being “in the body,” and both are profitable to consider. (1) We usually think of the spiritual body and view others as members of the body of Christ. We empathize with such as being in the Lord’s family. (2) We want to do unto others as we would like them to help us if we were in their position. Therefore, if one is in the brotherhood, we suffer with him, seeing how difficult it would be if we were in similar straits, wanting and needing the help and prayers of the brotherhood.

Heb. 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

The pastoral advice continues, this time pertaining to marriage. In the past, some in the brotherhood reasoned that the sin of Adam and Eve was the physical act in having children. However, a reason for marriage is to avoid “burning,” which is a problem in the flesh (1 Cor. 7:9). However, the Lord certainly approves and recognizes marriage, as stated here. “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed [is] undefiled.”

The exception is that God will judge “whoremongers and adulterers.” “Adultery” occurs when a person who is married has physical intimacies outside of the marriage contract. One is to be faithful to his or her marriage partner, to whom the vow was made. Paul advised a person who is consecrated to marry one who is also consecrated so that they will be equally yoked. A “whoremonger,” which is different from an “adulterer,” has physical relations with more than one person and can also be given to inordinate affection, for example, lesbianism and homosexuality. God’s thinking on this subject is clearly stated in the Old Testament. Having the weakness is one thing, but accommodating that weakness is another matter. A sin may be in the mind, but when it manifests itself in a deed, the person is more accountable. As verse 4 states, “God will judge,” and we should not pry into the affairs of others and be busybodies except when a matter gets noised about and may do injury to or cast aspersion on the movement. At that point, something has to be done.

Heb. 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Heb. 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Verses 5 and 6 are coupled together in principle. “Conversation” is a part of conduct, so the more embracive thought is “behavior,” which includes actions and words. Our conduct is to be “without covetousness [desiring things that others have].” One of the Ten Commandments is, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, … wife, … manservant, … maidservant, … ox, … ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Exod. 20:17). Covetousness can also include desiring another’s influence or popularity. Instead the admonition is to “be content with such things as ye have: for he [Jesus] hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” While the subject of covetousness is very broad and has many ramifications, verse 8 narrows it down to Jesus as the focus of attention.

“I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Normally we think of this statement from the standpoint of violence or persecution, but persecution can take many different forms. For example, a landlord could pressure for rent money that one does not have, or a person’s property might be in jeopardy. But from a natural standpoint, especially back in those days, local people were much more meaningful than today. Being consecrated, we have our fellowship with the Lord’s people, so our relationship with neighbors is rather limited, for we do not want to be embroiled in foolish or empty conversation that would not be conducive to our spiritual welfare.

Comment: Another example would be where someone takes us to court. Again we should say boldly, “I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”

Comment: Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

Heb. 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

In what sense are we to “follow” the faith of those who “have the rule” over us and “have spoken” unto us the word of God, “considering the end of their conversation [conduct]”? The Lord used an individual to witness to and awaken us to the word of truth, but that does not mean we are bound to him for the rest of our life. But as long as the individual shows his earnestness in and devotion to the Christian life, we should pay him respect and be careful not to denigrate him inasmuch as the Lord used him in calling us—unless he departs from the truth and his conduct is changing. In all of this pastoral advice beginning with verse 1, there are exceptions. We do not dwell on the exceptions, but we should be aware of them in case problems arise.

Comment: The Diaglott reads, “Remember your leaders—those who spoke to you the word of God; and viewing attentively the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

Reply: Yes, Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1 paraphrase).

Heb. 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.

This principle of stability should apply to us as well so that we are ”the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” To the extent that others are reliable, they become more and more endearing to us. Constancy of character is greatly to be desired. For instance, Jesus said, “Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay” (Matt. 5:37). Generally speaking, when we are younger, we can do these things more easily, but as we age and our memories start to fail, sometimes our “yes” and “no” are violated. We hope that the Lord, who knows our frame, will forgive us (Psa. 103:14). God desires His people to be covenant keepers.

Heb. 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

Verse 9 gives pastoral advice on doctrine, whereas verses 1-8 pertain more or less to conduct.

“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines [plural].” This subject is very comprehensive, but we will treat it with brevity at this time. When advice is given from the platform, we personally do not like hearing too much storytelling. Flattery and unnecessary humor are also inappropriate (1 Tim. 1:4; 3:2,8,11; 2 Tim. 2:16). In real life, many people like fiction along different lines—Westerns, murder mysteries, romance novels, etc.—but the consecrated have to be careful. The primary motive in studying the Bible should be wanting and trying to know it more perfectly and completely. We should not be always seeking new thoughts. For example, we should not spend a lot of time on genealogies. A response to refute those who are preoccupied with lineages is, “We all come from Adam and Noah, so as far as antiquity is concerned, there should be no problem. We just do not know the in-betweens.” In other words, we should not be carried about with diversity of doctrines because of their strange attraction. What is desirable is to have “the heart established with grace; not with meats.” What is the thought of “not with meats”?

Comment: Paul was speaking to Judaizing Christians, who insisted on dietary restrictions.

Reply: Yes. This epistle was written to the Hebrews, who were given to picking at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Instead of just following the simple outline in Leviticus, they added all kinds of traditions and restrictions. Thus “meats” refers to dietary laws that become almost like a religion in itself.

This can be a problem with Christians too. In the past, whenever we saw a particular brother, the topic of conversation always seemed to gravitate to diet, so that the gospel became one of diet, not the good news of the Lord’s Word. All kinds of time-consuming abnormalities will attract our attention if we are not on guard.

Christians in the early Church had to be careful not to become inordinately interested in the ceremonial Law of the Old Testament, which prohibited the eating of certain foods. Being so fastidious about food took time away from studying the Scriptures and focused attention on matters that did not profit them as new creatures. For example, bodily exercise does profit, but it profits little (1 Tim. 4:8). Yes, we should have some exercise, but we should not be given to it.

With the sedentary lifestyle in this country, it is beneficial to take a walk or have some kind of change—but with moderation lest it encroach on spiritual things.

“Meats … have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” Our observation over the years has been that those who were given to dietary laws and inordinate carefulness usually did not live long lives.

Heb. 13:10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.

Heb. 13:11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.

“We have an altar, … for the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.” Of course the Hebrews were familiar with the ordinances of the Tabernacle and the Temple of the Old Testament. This good advice was given to Jews who had accepted Christ, but it is also beneficial for Christians today as long as they realize the ordinances of the ceremonial Law are not obligatory for them. However, there is a big difference between the moral Law and the ceremonial Law.

If verse 10 is read by itself (and not with verse 11 in context), the connotation is completely different because the ordinances for the sacrifices subsequent to the Day of Atonement were given to individuals of the nation. Also, when a sin offering was brought to the Tabernacle or the Temple, the entire animal became the priest’s with the exception of a few organs. Leviticus 6:30 states, “And no sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire.”

But in most cases when the blood was not brought into the Tabernacle, the animal of the sin offering could be eaten, for it was given to the priesthood. However, there were a few noteworthy exceptions where the animal could not be eaten, even though the blood was not brought in. For instance, if the high priest sinned, his sin offering could not be partaken of by either the priesthood or an underpriest. The emphasis was on the priest because he was the most notable “ecclesiastical” individual. And if the whole nation sinned, the sin offering could not be eaten. For instance, Moses appointed thousands of subsidiary rulers for the 2 million Israelites, thus providing a distribution of authority, which is not usually discussed.

Leviticus 8 was a notable exception, for no blood was brought into the Holy of the Tabernacle.

Blood was sprinkled on the Brazen Altar in the Court, and all the remaining blood was poured at the bottom of the altar. But as an exception, the animal was burned without the camp. In fact, Moses understood the instruction of Leviticus 8 because of Exodus 29, which definitely and sternly states that the animal had to be burned without the camp, and no blood was brought into the Tabernacle. Nor could the sin offering be eaten. For seven days, Aaron and his sons ate the ram of consecration, which was boiled, with a basket of bread.

In Leviticus 8, Moses did everything—he washed and clothed Aaron, slew and offered the animals, etc.—on behalf of Aaron and his sons. But in Leviticus 9, Moses instructed Aaron what to do, and Aaron then did everything. When it came to the sin offering, Aaron correctly burned the bullock and the goat without the camp, but in Leviticus 10, Moses scolded Aaron: “What? You burned the sin offering? You did not eat it?” Moses was incensed because Aaron burned the entire sin offering. Then Aaron said in effect, “My two sons, Nadab and Abihu, died today.

Would I have the stomach to eat the sin offering under such a circumstance?” Moses was content with that reasoning (Lev. 10:20). But actually Aaron acted correctly, for Moses had forgotten one thing; namely, even when the blood was not brought into the Tabernacle, there was an exception where the animal had to be burned without the camp. However, that exception applied only to Leviticus 8, 9, and 16. (Of course in Leviticus 16, the blood was brought into the Most Holy, so there would be no question.) Thus the type was preserved perfectly, for through Providence, the sacrifices of Leviticus 8 and 9 were done correctly.

Now we come to the main point: “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.” Throughout the Book of Hebrews, Paul had been talking about the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), when the blood was brought into both the Holy and the Most Holy and applied to the Mercy Seat. Verse 11 says, “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for [the] sin [of the nation on the Day of Atonement], are burned without the camp.” (In the antitype, the blood is for the sin of the world.) A fundamental lesson that has been overlooked all down the Gospel Age, particularly by those who have been indoctrinated with the gospel, is that contributions should be voluntary, but instead a paid ministry was instituted. Even Paul accepted voluntary contributions and did not reprimand those who helped him, but he certainly did not suggest a paid ministry.

Today some of the leading evangelists have expensive cars, homes, and property and travel extensively around the world, and they think this lifestyle is quite all right.

Paul’s saying, “We have an altar,” was addressed to the congregation as individuals, not to the elders. Earlier, in verses 5 and 6, Paul said, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he [Jesus] hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” The thought is that we do not fear the future, for “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34). We do not inordinately lay up for the future because the Lord will providentially take care of us. We do not disregard the future, but we are not to inordinately prepare for it. Regardless of one’s position in the body, we are pilgrims and strangers with no “continuing city” down here (Heb. 13:14; 1 Pet. 2:11). Our primary purpose is to lay up treasures in heaven, but that does not mean we completely disregard what the future might hold down here.

Paul was giving this instructional pastoral advice to the Hebrews, but there are also many profitable lessons for us as Christians.

Heb. 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

Based on the type, Jesus, the example in the antitype, spiritually fulfilled what was done under the Mosaic arrangement; that is, in order to “sanctify the people with his own blood,” he “suffered without the gate.” Most of his suffering whereby he was bodily injured, insulted, spat upon, etc., occurred in the closing days of his earthly ministry. During his ministry, most of the opposition consisted of snide, cynical remarks from the scribes and Pharisees, who could not injure him because he was more powerful than they. Jesus controlled the situation, but nevertheless, they found fault with him and tried unsuccessfully to use all kinds of reasoning to prove he was not the Messiah. By his words and actions, the right-hearted Jews could see that he was the Messiah without his actually having to say it.

Heb. 13:13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

Now Paul narrowed down his pastoral advice to Jesus’ followers. What did Jesus do? He walked from town to town and publicly witnessed. He did not have a bank account or a home.

He said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head [as a home]” (Matt. 8:20). Of course we cannot travel as Jesus did, much as we might like to, especially if we are married. (Paul, being in the single state, is a very good example of one who followed what Jesus did; he traveled from place to place, preaching wherever he was, and the Lord provided.) Women who accompanied Jesus ministered unto him and prepared his meals. Jesus fully trusted his Father for his relatively short full-time ministry of 3 1/2 years. In trying to follow Jesus, we provide things needful and honest for our families in the sight of all men (Rom. 12:17; 2 Cor. 8:21).

“Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” In principle, we should witness and serve the truth in some capacity as the door of opportunity opens. We should ask the Lord in prayer to let us know what field of endeavor might be suited for us in serving Him. There are many types of service, for example, visiting and praying for the sick and contributing for the welfare of others.

Heb. 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

We sing the hymns “Here o’er the earth as a stranger I roam; here is no rest, here is no rest” and “I’m a pilgrim and I’m a stranger, I can tarry, I can tarry but a night.” Christians who wrote those hymns kept the standard high.

Heb. 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

“By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.” For “giving thanks to his name,” the King James margin has “confessing to his name”—confessing that we are a follower of Christ. Giving thanks is a little easier to do privately, whereas confessing Jesus’ name and giving praise to God are both public and private.

“Let us offer … the fruit of our lips.” Fruit comes from within; it is an outgrowth. As an illustration, a fruit tree has a slow beginning from a seed, and eventually it brings forth fruit that is edible and appreciated by others and is helpful to them.

Q: Why is the word “sacrifice” used?

A: The thought is of public confession, which costs the Christian more than the rendering of private praise, especially back in the days of the early Church. Some nationalities praise God for everything, so after a while, the repetition renders the words meaningless, so how far should the praise go? We can praise God by obedience, witnessing, confession as well as profession, suffering for our faith, sacrificing, etc.

Heb. 13:16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Here is the thought of “sacrifice” again. Outward conduct—acts, deeds, confession, etc.—is beneficial to others. We “communicate” by giving temporal or material help in some way, such as money, visiting the sick, donating food, or extending hospitality. Today “communicate” has more the thought of speaking or writing to one another, which is a part of what Paul was referring to here. In other words, we are to be helpful to others in various ways, and “God is well pleased” with such sacrifices.

Comment: James 2:18 is pertinent: “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”

Comment: Paul said, “Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God” (2 Cor. 9:11,12).

Reply: Yes, “communication” is being of benefit to others.

“But to do good and to communicate forget not” reminds us of Galatians 6:9,10, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” To become weary would mean the cessation of, and the rest from, well doing. In other words, continue in well doing. As verse 15 said, “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.” For example, we can praise God with our lips, but others can praise God because they notice our conduct and example. Stated another way, being an example to others is a way of offering praise to God. God is well pleased both with the one who is setting the example and with those who observe the proper behavior.

Heb. 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Today we live in a libertine society where people do not want to be regulated or to obey parents or rules. The rule of life seems to be to do what pleases self. The lack of a standard and the desire for a standard are noticeable. In the Greek, the word “rule” includes the thought of concern for the welfare of others. For “them that have the rule over you,” other translations use the word “your leaders,” so the thought of “guides” and “elders” is included. We should respect them and submit to what is in harmony with God’s Word. Depending on circumstances such as age or infirmity, we are to give some consideration and deference even when they are perhaps not quite on the right track. With regard to the world, the Christian would not want to use an offensive title for civil rulers, but decorum such as “Your honor” or “Sir” is proper. This principle would also apply with those who might not be the best characters but are in a position of authority. In other words, we should respect the office.

Many years ago diplomats were schooled so that when in a foreign country, they would not offend their host, for they represented their home government. Accordingly, they were taught to use appropriate greetings and table manners and to eat whatever food was placed in front of them, and they were to eat as though the food was enjoyable.

Q: Is verse 17 spiritual as well as secular?

A: Paul was stating a general principle, namely, to give honor to whom honor is due, and the principle applies in both the world and the Church. Generally speaking, a certain deference is to be given. An example of an exception in the Church is where a fundamental doctrine like the Ransom is denied and we do not want to defile our conscience. A rule of thumb is to give respect but to be careful.

Q: Spiritually speaking, would a “ruler” be an elected elder, who watches for our soul and must give account? Paul said in 1 Timothy 5:17, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”

A: That is true here, but Romans 13:7 gives the general principle: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

Comment: Three times in this chapter, Paul mentioned those who “have the rule” over us.

“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation [conduct]” (verse 7). “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account” (verse 17). “Salute all them that have the rule over you” (verse 24).

Q: Elders are to watch for the souls of those in the ecclesia “with joy, and not with grief,” for the latter would be “unprofitable.” What would cause grief rather than joy?

A: Paul was just giving broad-brush principles. We are to be peacemakers as long as we do not compromise principle. However, if one is in a combative mood to start with, then the least little comment will cause friction. Such individuals are thorns and thistles, constantly criticizing.

Comment: If we were traveling abroad and disobeyed the laws of the land, we could be an embarrassment to our own country. Therefore, even as travelers, we are ambassadors for our country and should obey where principle is not violated.

Reply: Paul stated the principle that rulers were to be against the evildoer and to keep peace.

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom. 13:3,4). Incidentally, the type of government in the United States and England is radically different from the dictatorships that existed for thousands of years. And in the family relationship, the firstborn was like a ruler, even if subsequent children were superior.

Today we are living more and more in a permissive society that tolerates gross sin. The mood of permissiveness is even in our midst with an overemphasis on love. With regard to morals, there are many standards. When we go back to the Mosaic Law, nothing was said about the doctrine of the Second Presence, but it incorporates God’s thinking on principles and moral issues, many of which are overlooked by Christians.

Comment: Romans 13:1-3 shows how governments and civil rulers watch for our souls. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.”

Heb. 13:18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

Paul solicited the prayers of the brotherhood that he might live consistently according to his ideals. Didn’t he say that the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and unfeigned faith (1 Tim. 1:5)? Paul was honest; there was no deceit.

Comment: Paul also said, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16).

Reply: Yes, several times during his ministry, Paul used the standard of a pure conscience and honesty as the ideal. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, he included faith, hope, and love. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Paul had his own personality and manner of expression, but he was very much influenced by Jesus’ ministry and the principles of the parables.

Paul was “willing to live honestly.” In other words, he lived that way not grudgingly and not merely because of duty love. Since God’s principles were his principles, Paul truly loved to live honestly. We, too, pray that God’s will may be done in us, and we want to be filled more and more with His Holy Spirit and the spirit of His Son, our Savior.

Heb. 13:19 But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Heb. 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Heb. 13:21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We will start backwards with the clause “to whom [God] be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

This expression, which is found in several places in the New Testament in one form or another, is consistently used to refer to God. Of course the glory comes to us by or through Jesus, but it is God’s glory. To “the God of peace … be glory for ever and ever.” The semicolon after “through Jesus Christ” separates the last clause and shows that it refers to God.

In verse 19, Paul asked the brethren to pray for him, but what was his request? He asked for prayers that he would be released from prison. We do not know whether the Book of Hebrews was written during his first or his second imprisonment in Rome. If it was the second imprisonment, the prayer was not answered in the affirmative, for he was beheaded. In the first imprisonment, Paul was given an intimation that he would be released. According to the earliest tradition and by scriptural implication, he was released. The prayer was that Paul would “be restored to … [the Jewish Christians] the sooner” so that he would be at liberty to serve.

Paul wanted to be a blessing to the brotherhood, and whenever he went on his missionary journeys, his practice was to go to the synagogue first. Thus he obeyed the principle Jesus set forth: “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Matt. 10:6; Rom. 1:16; 2:10). Jesus taught in a simplified way, but his parables were profound. Evidently, Paul had a tremendous grasp of Jesus’ reasoning.

There is a problem at the end of the Book of Hebrews, for the Vatican manuscript is imperfect from Hebrews 9:14 on. Having been doctored, it is so garbled and defective that it is not trustworthy. For these chapters, some scholars have used later manuscripts, dating from the ninth or tenth century, instead of the fourth-century manuscript. At any rate, we can glean facts from the King James Version.

Comment: Where verse 21 begins, “Make you perfect,” the Diaglott has, “Knit you together.” Paul was saying, “Now the God of peace knit you together in every good work to do his will.”

This was an admonition to Gentile and Jewish Christians to work together in harmony.

Q: When did Paul die?

A: The date is disputed, but we would say about AD 67, just before the holocaust. With Paul’s decease and the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, which resulted in the Diaspora, the whole picture changed with regard to the Jew. Many, many Jews perished, and the others were scattered and separated.

“Now the God of peace … Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his [God’s] sight, through Jesus Christ.” The God of peace is “that great shepherd of the sheep.”

Heb. 13:22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.

Paul had trouble with his eyesight, yet he wrote this lengthy epistle. Therefore, what did he mean when he said, “I have written a letter unto you in few words.” He had tried to put in as few words as possible a tremendous amount of advice.

Heb. 13:23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.

Paul hoped to be released from prison, and he had asked the brethren to pray on his behalf. If he was released, he intended to return to the brotherhood with Timothy, starting in Ephesus.

In what way was Timothy “set at liberty”? We do not know if Timothy was also in prison, but if so, he was set at liberty first. If Paul was subsequently released, he would return with Timothy. As already stated, this manuscript is defective, but the implication seems to be, as stated in the NIV, that if Timothy arrived soon, Paul would come with him to see the brethren. The only personality mentioned here is Timothy. This epistle is unusual, for both the beginning and the ending are abrupt. Hebrews 1:1 omitted the usual salutation, and Hebrews 13:23-25 did not give the usual greetings from and to other brethren by name. Nor was this epistle addressed to a particular ecclesia. Paul wrote a general epistle to the Hebrews, that is, to Jewish Christians everywhere.

Heb. 13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

Paul was in Rome awaiting his trial and, hopefully, his release from prison. He was acquitted at the first trial but not the second. Thus he wrote this epistle from Italy.

“They of Italy salute you.” With Rome, Italy, being the capital of the Roman Empire, all of the provinces looked to Rome for leadership and government. With the epistle being written in a convenient place in the center of authority, this greeting went out to all of the satellites and provinces.

Heb. 13:25 Grace be with you all. Amen.

Verse 25 was characteristic of Paul.

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