Skip to main content

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. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…

Abraham Lincoln Quoted by Jesus! Mark 3

Mark records a curious event in his third chapter (link). If you look at Mark 3:25, you'll see that Jesus quotes the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. After all, one of the highlights of the Lincoln years is his famous speech regarding slavery in the United States where he used the phrase that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." This speech was given in 1858 when he accepted the nomination to run against Stephen A. Douglas for Senate, but is still remembered as the defining speech regarding slaveholding in the United States. I recall being taught in school how brilliant and groundbreaking the speech was, how Lincoln had used such wise words to convey his thought. Yet the idea was not original to Lincoln. Rather, it was embedded in Lincoln from his time reading the Bible. Now, I have read varying reports about Lincoln's personal religious beliefs: some place him as a nearly completely committed Christian while others have him somewh…

Book: The Gospel Call and True Conversion

A quick note: This book, The Gospel Call and True Conversion, is currently available on Kindle for $4.99. This is the second in a series of 3, and the first, The Gospel’s Power and Message, is available for $2.99.The Gospel Call and True Conversion. The title of this book alone sounds intimidating, and adding that it’s written by one of the heavyweights of American Reformed Christianity, Paul Washer, does not lessen the intimidation factor. Washer is known to be a straightforward preacher—for good or for ill.What did I find in The Gospel call and True Conversion? I found some things to like:1. Paul Washer is passionate for the truth. He wants to know the truth. He wants to proclaim the truth. He wants the truth heard. He wants you to know the truth. This is good. It is good to see someone not try to base theology on popularity or as a response to modern events, but to base it clearly on truth. 2. There is a strong emphasis on the reality that true conversion (from the title) will resu…