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Carrying on: Hebrews 13

In Summary:

Coming to the end of Hebrews, the final chapter is the fairly typical hodge-podge of a concluding chapter. Hebrews 13 runs along that path, ranging from practical statements about hospitality to updates on the author’s travel plans. Knowing, most likely, that people tend to remember the end of a letter (or sermon) better than the middle, Hebrews ends with rapid-fire reminders.

This includes a command to honor marriage; an enigmatic statement about ‘entertaining angels;’ a reminder that Christians are pursuing something greater than an earthly city; and a warning about strange teachings. That warning, Hebrews 13:9, rings true even today. We ought not be ‘carried away’ believing that we are strengthened by anything but grace.

Hebrews concludes with the exhortation to carry on. Most of the sentences are action-oriented, whether it is the command to “go out to Him” in v. 13 or to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise” in v. 15, we see actions to take. The temptation many of us succumb to is that we should shelter-in-place until the storms of the moment pass us by. Hebrews speaks today that we ought not do that.

In Focus:

Each nugget of instruction here is worth a bit of time, so take the time yourself to read it and do just that. Make good observations and examine how it applies. But for me, for now, I would put the focus on Hebrews 13:18-19. Why?

It’s a plea from the author of Hebrews. Sticking with my personal opinion that we are dealing with a sermon collection bound up and sent as a letter, I take this section as part of the add-ons for the letter. The bulk of Hebrews is theological and based in the oral presentation, but this is a personally written request. He asks that the believers pray for him and his fellow workers. (Yes, Greek nerds, it could be an editorial “we.”)

What do they need? A good conscience, a term he’s already used about serving God in Hebrews 9. They don’t want an erased memory for a good conscience, though. The desire is honorable conduct which brings the good conscience. The conscience follows the conduct. The author wills that he and his companions would carry on in such a manner that deserves a good conscience.

And apart from the power of God, he knows this is impossible.

In Practice:

Why focus here? I would have the same request in prayer, as should anyone who teaches, preaches, or leads in a church. It’s inseparable from Hebrew 13:17, where the readers are instructed to obey their leaders. It is a shameful and destructive thing to have leaders who are not concerned for doing their work honorably.

Or who believe that they can do it without divine intervention.

Alongside this, though, it’s not merely a need for front-and-center leaders. All of us believers have the responsibility to conduct ourselves honorably. It is a testimony to Jesus when we reflect His righteousness in how we handle everything we do.

This includes how we, as believers assembled in groups called churches, conduct our business affairs. We must be sure that we are behaving ethically and honestly. This includes the letter of the law (check your tax behaviors!) and the spirit of fair dealing. Too many times, we expect charity while giving none.

All through, this comes back to prayer. Prayer: where we come before a Holy God and acknowledge and embrace our need for Him. His power, His guidance. Without these, a church isn’t worth much at all. Neither am I.

In Nerdiness:

We can’t leave Hebrews 13:1 untouched in nerd notes. “Entertained angels?” What? We’ve got no good answer to this. It reflects some ancient mythologies where the gods came down in disguise to test hospitality. It evokes Lot in Genesis, taking in the angels.

Or you take the Revelation-based view, where “angel” is used in its more literal sense of “messenger” and we interpret it as referring to earthly messengers to people. Like preachers. Though how one could be unaware they have a preacher in the house is hard to fathom. The fried chicken went somewhere.

Then there’s Hebrews 11:23. Which refers to Timothy being released, and we assume it means from prison. It could also be from a contract or an obligation…but it’s probably prison. It also tells us Timothy didn’t write Hebrews.


Unless he’s using a cultural construct of referring to himself in the third person out of humility and uses this verse to give a clear name for who wrote the book. Which is, according to some, possible. 

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