The Book of Hebrews #68 chapter 13:1-4
The Book of Hebrews
Christian Ethics, Part 1:
Love, Sex, and Marriage
Hebrews 13:1-4
 
Tonight we begin our study of the last chapter of the book of Hebrews and it’s been a long time coming.  If I’ve numbered correctly, this is the 68th time we’ve met to study a portion of this book.  IT’s not the first time I’ve preached through the book of Hebrews, but it is certainly the most in-depth study I’ve ever done, and it’s the only time I’ve ever intentionally looked at it from a Jewish point of view.
 
This 13th chapter is packed full of practical information.  It is actually a study in Christian Ethics. And Christian ethics is nothing more than how a believer behaves. So this is where the application of everything that has preceded this chapter comes to bear on our lives.  The doctrinal study is over; the warnings have been heard’ the invitation has been extended and for those who embrace Jesus as Messiah, here’s what it will look like as it is lived out.
 
Now we ought to be concerned about living our faith for two primary reasons.  One is the impact that has on a lost world.  The design of Christianity is that the world should see and take notice of the difference they see in our lives compared to those around us, and having noticed they ask what makes the difference.  That, then gives us an opportunity to share our faith and people get saved themselves.
 
But Hebrews 13 reminds us it is important for us to do good works, not only because some people get saved, but because God gets glorified.
verse 21
 
So just keep in mind that is where the author is aiming as he pens this 13th chapter.  And if we are going to point people to Jesus and bring glory to God, it is essential that we know what to do and what to avoid.  And that’s what we have here.  It is a very careful statement regarding the practical ethics of the Christian life that wins people to Christ and gives glory to God.
 
I don’t think we can understand how important it is that we live our faith.  There have been enough fakes and imposters down through the years to embarrass Christianity.  There is a desperate need for authenticity.
 
I heard one pastor telling about preaching in prison one time and after he finished and man came up and
said, “Man, that was a terrific sermon, I really enjoyed it, it was great. Praise the Lord.”
 
The preacher said “You a Christians?” And he said “Yes, I’m a Christian?” The preacher asked, “What are you doing here? Did you get persecuted for your faith?” He said, “No, I had 20 or 30 traffic tickets and I never paid them.” And he went on to tell his story.  After he finished, the pastor said, “Do me a favor. Don’t tell anybody you’re a Christian. Keep your mouth shut, will you, because you’re just messing up the testimony for the rest of us.”
 
If you’re not going to live like a Christian, then don’t go around telling people you are one.  Just keep your mouth shut or change your conduct.
 
 
So that is the focus of this chapter.  It is practical instruction in Christian ethics.  Before we get into the text, I want to give you one more word of general observation regarding the book of Hebrews.  In the first 11 chapters, there is not one specific command given to Christians.
 
The only exhortations are found in five specific warnings given to those who are close, but not yet saved.  The rest is pure doctrine and theology. IT is a theological explanation of the superiority of Christianity over Judaism.  It is a comparison in doctrinal and Scriptural terms of the new covenant compared to the old covenant.  It focuses on the better priesthood, the better promises, the better sacrifices and so forth. It is all doctrine.
 
Then in chapter 12, we begin to see some application. We are encouraged to run with patience and accept God’s discipline, follow peace and holiness, examine those you see in the church and make sure that they’re really saved. So there are some general things that you find there in chapter 12.
 
Then in chapter 13, as we will see, he gets specific.  Now it seems to me there is a lesson or two to be learned from that.  We go at it a little bit backward in that we want people to perform right before they ever get the information.  Our primary responsibility as a church to believers is to teach them the Word of God.
 
It’s not visiting the sick or fixing meals for funerals or having fellowships and get-togethers.  We are to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.
The other lesson is our expectations and commands are to be based on the Bible.  There is no other basis for expecting someone to perform a certain way other than the basis of sound doctrine. It is first doctrine; then it is duty. It is first the statement of position; then it is practice. There are no ethics if there is no doctrine.  That’s why people are so profoundly screwed up in the way they live.
 
They have no moral foundation; there are no underpinnings of absolute certainty.  Anything goes in their behavior because they have no doctrinal foundation. Ethics always follow doctrine in the New Testament.
 
People say, well, the world would be such a beautiful place if we would forget all of our doctrine and just love each other. That makes me sick at my stomach.  That won’t work. You can’t just put a whole bunch of people in a big room and say, “Just love each other.”
 
Why not?  If there are no absolutes, they won’t know how to love each other. One guy thinks love is one thing, and somebody else thinks love is doing something else.  And what someone feels is appropriate is what turns somebody else on and what you wind up with is conflict and chaos instead of love because there’s no foundation. If there are no absolutes, then there will be no morality.  There is no morality without a standard, and there’s no standard without God.
 
Now that means chapter 13 isn’t an afterthought or just kind of tacked on.  Chapter 13 is the pinnacle of the book.  It is that which brings completion to the teaching.
And it is saying, “Because we have this superior faith based on the superiority of Jesus Christ, here’s what is required of you.”
 
So let’s begin by looking at the ethics of chapter 13. And they really go all the way down through verse 19, and we’ll break it up and just take a little of it tonight.
 
1. The Ethics
 
verses 13-19
 
Now the term ethics means the standard of conduct or moral judgment. There are classes in ethics, and in most cases they haven’t got the faintest idea what the ethics are.  More and more, formal education has come to deny the existence of absolute truth and instead embraced “situational ethics”.
 
Whatever accommodates the situation, that’s the ethics you apply.  You’re situation is different from mine and mine from yours and who are you to say what is right or wrong for me and blah, blah, blah, on it goes.
 
But as Christians, we believe there are absolutes and they are founded on the unchanging, inerrant, infallible Word of God.  And from those Scriptural teachings, we develop our ethics
 
The ethics of this chapter are divided into three categories, and they’re very simple categories, but they help us to kind of pigeonhole some of these thoughts.
 
First, there are ethics in relation to others. Those determine how we treat other people.
 
Second, there are ethics in relation to our self.  Those impact how we act toward ourselves.
 
And third, there are ethics in relation to God, how we act toward God.
 
So let’s begin with ethics in relation to others. How does God expect us to treat other people?  If you know Christ and have experienced the New Covenant and understand the difference between Sinai and Calvary, then here is what is required of you.
 
The first ethic is
 
1. Sustained Love
 
verse 1
 
Now this is the obvious starting place.  The supreme ethic for the Christian to follow is that he love his brother. Brotherly love is one word in the Greek and it’s the word Philadelphia.  It comes from two words, phileō, to have a great affection for, adolphas, brother, from the same womb. So it means to have a great affection for those who came from the same womb.
 
Now this has a rather interesting application.  All through the book of Hebrews, he has been telling them to separate themselves from Judaism.  The new covenant all you need.  It is sufficient and complete.  Just separate from Judaism.
 
Now for those who had done that, they were being persecuted by the Jews.  So as a result of their faith they are being troubled by those they’ve separated themselves from.  But they are encouraged to let brotherly love continue.
 
There is a lot of disagreement about who that addresses as far as the object of their love.  I personally believe he’s talking about the church in verse 1 and I’ll show you why inn a moment.
 
There is a possibility that the author is talking about the Jews who are persecuting them and how they need to continue to show brotherly love to them also.
 
One of the most common references you find in Scripture to the Jews, even by the Christians, is to speak of them as brethren.  Paul uses the term quite often, even though he is referencing Jews who weren’t saved.
 
Jews are unlike any other people group in that, in the purest sense, they are “adelphos”, from the same womb. They are all physically children of Abraham. So it may be that in one sense he is saying don’t develop a hatred for your own people.  Even if they persecute you, just continue to love them as brothers.
 
But I think there’s a greater significance than that and that is we need to love our brothers in Christ for they are, though not physically from the same womb as us spiritually speaking.  We have been born again.  We’re all brothers in Christ and as such, let brotherly love continue.
 
Now the word “continue” is a critical word in the verse.  It doesn’t say, “Get brotherly love started.”  It doesn’t say, “Generate brotherly love”.  It says, “Let brotherly love continue”, which implies it is already there.
 
And you can usually tell when somebody has received the love of God because they love to be at church and be around other saved folk.  It’s only after they’ve been around a while that get cantankerous and choose sides and create division in the church.  That hardly ever happens with baby Christians. They just enjoy the fellowship and love everybody.
 
How can that happen so quickly?  How can you take someone who is completely uninterested in the church and its members and suddenly they want to be around them all the time?  It is because God comes to live in us and God is love.
 
You and I don’t have to go scrounging around on a scavenger hunt trying to find the goodies that God has stashed.  They all come with Christ.  It’s a package deal.  So regarding any Christ-like quality I never have to manufacture it or wish I had it or be envious of those that demonstrate it.  I’ve already got it and all I’ve got to do is let Jesus be Lord in me so it becomes evident.
 
That’s why the author can say, “Let brotherly love continue.”  That love was given to them at salvation.  It’s a result of obeying the truth. Just let it continue.
Now this group had already demonstrated that love.
 
Look back to chapter 6:10
 
Obviously they had brotherly love, and they had demonstrated it.  Now he says, “Let it continue.”
 
Then he adds another dimension in verse 2
 
First we are to let brotherly love continue, but we are also to love those who are outside of the community of faith and even to those we don’t know.  It’s a very similar though to that of Galatians 6:10 where Paul writes, “Let us do good to all men, especially to them that are of the household of faith.”
 
No one is excluded and if you follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, it even includes our enemies.  Here he speaks directly of strangers.  You say, I tried that and I got taken! Join the club.
 
What if a guy stumbles in and says I’m destitute and this and that, and I need $10. You suspicion he want s to buy drugs or alcohol but he gives you a sob story about feeding his family. So what do you do?
 
First, you use your head.  But if you aren’t sure, I think we are under obligation by God to love the guy, help where we can and let him worry about the consequences of what he does with the money.  By so doing, God will honor you for loving a stranger and deal with him if he’s a liar and cheat.
 
Listen:  everybody gets taken. But that’s what happens when you love somebody.  It gets stepped on, but that doesn’t mean that we eliminate it. Don’t get sour on love just because people have burned you.
 
 
Now in the context of what is written here in Hebrews we need to remember in those days Christianity was very mobile.  So were wandering around because their families had disowned them and they were without work because of their faith.
Others were doing missionary work and carrying out the Great Commission.
 
There was a great need for accommodations in both regards.  Generally those accommodations were found in the homes of other Christians.  And the appeal of verse 2 is just love everybody.  Make sure you love fellow believers and pay attention to everyone else so you don’t miss an opportunity to represent Christ in the world.
 
Then he adds this little footnote about the possibility of entertaining angels and not being aware of it.
The truth is, you never know who’s knocking on the door.  He is drawing their minds back to Genesis 18 where Abraham had three visitors come in, and it turned out to be God, and two angels.  Later on, Gideon and Minoah did the same thing.
 
Several years ago a man out in California driving down a freeway saw a lady with a flat tire on a big Lincoln. He didn’t know her, but he knew that she couldn’t handle a flat tire. So he pulled over, introduced himself and fixed the flat.
 
A couple of weeks later a truck pulled up to his house, a guy came up to his door, and said, “We have a color television set to deliver.”  They brought in this big, beautiful color television along with a little note that was signed, “Thank you for fixing my flat,”  Mrs. Nat King Cole.
Now it doesn’t always happen that way.  Ernie Perkins tells the story of Wand and him helping a friend with a doctor bill.  It was $700.  And would you believe the very next day, a check came in the mail?  That didn’t happen.  Sometimes we just do what God tells us to do whether there is anything in it for us or not.
 
But the idea here is you love your brothers and sisters in Christ and do your best to take care of strangers, and God will take care of you.  You never know what God might do in response to your obedience.
 
In fact, Jesus said, when you do it to others, you do it to me.  We often don’t think about it, but how you show your love to a stranger reflects how you love the Lord.
 
Sustained love is basic to the Christian ethic.  Next week we’ll see what else we’re supposed to do as followers of Jesus Christ.
 
Let’s pray
 

 

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