By: Daniel Goepfrich
Carrying Out Love for One Another
Hebrews 13 ends the letter with final instructions about carrying out “the greatest of these” (1 Corinthians 13:13) – love. The writer insisted that “brotherly love must continue”(Heb. 13:1). Without giving a lot of detail, the writer offered some very practical ways that we can love one another – in-home hospitality (Heb. 13:2); believers in prison (Heb. 13:3); strong, godly marriages (Heb. 13:4); contentment, rather than greed and covetousness (Heb. 13:5-6); support of church leadership, especially those who teach faithfully (Heb. 13:7-9, 17); and sharing with the poor (Heb. 13:16).
Most of these instructions deal directly with our local church communities. We will not live well in an increasingly wicked and hostile world without close relationships in our local churches. The writer already emphasized the increasing importance of Christian gatherings as we get closer to Jesus’ return (Heb. 10:25). Christians who do not prioritize gathering with their church community do damage to their spiritual maturity.
The writer finished his letter with specific prayer requests (Heb. 13:18-19) and a benediction, praying that God would grow them in the outworking of his will (Heb. 13:20-21).
Jesus the Great Shepherd
The closing description of Jesus as “the great shepherd of the sheep” is an appropriate conclusion for this letter. As the Son (chapter one), Jesus is Jehovah “my shepherd”(Psalm 23:1). As the Man (chapters 2-4), he was the “good shepherd [who] lays down his life for the sheep”(John 10:11). And as the High Priest (chapters 5-10), he is the one who provided life and sustains his sheep by offering his own life, instead of sheep and goats, to “equip [us] with every good thing to do his will.”
“To him be glory forever. Amen.”
“Some have entertained angels” is often linked to Abraham’s hospitality in Genesis 18, but there are other occasions in the Hebrew Scriptures where this occurred as well (see Genesis 19 and Judges 6 and 13 for other examples).
Throughout the New Testament, “brotherly love” and “one another” always refer to fellow Christians, not unbelievers. Although Christians should certainly serve unbelievers when possible (Galatians 6:10), our primary responsibility toward them is to share the gospel, whereas ministry is always directed toward other believers.
Each Thursday, DPH runs a Chapter-by-Chapter blog by Daniel Goepfrich, progressing readers chapter-by-chapter through the New Testament. This series is taken from New Testament Chapter-by-Chapter, published by Trust House Publishers, a division of DPH. Daniel serves as Pastor of Oak Tree Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, and blogs at www.TheologyIsForEveryone.com
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