Introduction: Imagine you are dying and you decide to write a last letter to your children. What would you write? Likely it would include advice for living that reflects what you have learned during your life. You want your children to live well, and avoid being injured by bad decisions. Hebrews 13, our study this week, feels like a last letter. Let’s dive into our study of Hebrews and see what advice for living it gives to us!
I. Brotherly Love
A. Read Hebrews 13:1. What kind of love is “brotherly love?” (I think we are about to find out in the verses that follow.)
B. Read Hebrews 13:2. In this day, strangers can be dangerous. What is Hebrews asking us to do for strangers? (To show kindness.)
1. We need to show kindness to our family and ourselves. How would you reconcile this with showing kindness to potentially dangerous strangers? (We should use common sense and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit.)
a. Should we be fearless because God is in charge and we are doing His will? (I had an uncle who was an officer in the Salvation Army Church. He was fearless with strangers, and he died of old age rather than at the hand of a stranger. He did experience some real danger.)
2. What do you think is meant by the reference to entertaining angels unknowingly? (There is an exciting possibility about entertaining strangers. You may have the unique opportunity to work with supernatural beings.)
C. Read Hebrews 13:3. Many think Paul was the writer of Hebrews. Paul was imprisoned many times. Do you think that this refers to those who are imprisoned for their faith?
1. We are asked to put ourselves in the place of the prisoners. What does that suggest about being imprisoned for being faithful? (We should look at this as if we might be punished for being faithful. What would we want others to do for us?)
2. Notice the reference to those who are “mistreated” and “also in the body.” What does this suggest about the nature of the prisoners? (It suggests that they are unfairly in prison (mistreated) and that they are members of the church (part of the body).)
a. Does this mean that when we go to visit people we don’t know who are in prison, we are taking the wrong approach to prison ministries? (It is good to share the gospel with those who are likely rethinking their approach to life. But, this particular advice in Hebrews on brotherly love seems to reference church members who are imprisoned for their faith.)
D. Read Hebrews 13:4. Hebrews tells us that the downside for not honoring marriage is God’s judgment. In your experience, is that the only problem – that God will ultimately judge?
1. Does this undercut righteousness by faith alone? (Everyone who has lived beyond middle age realizes that unfaithfulness in marriage brings a long list of woes. You hurt those you love the most. Sins of this nature are certainly forgivable, the problem arises when you decide to turn against God and become subject to judgment.)
E. Read Hebrews 13:5. Is this primarily advice to the poor or to the rich? (This applies to all, but in my experience the poor are more often not content. Some who are rich seem to never have enough money, but I see this mostly on television and not among people that I know.)
1. Does it make logical sense that the poor are more often not content? (The book Drive reports that there is an income point where being paid more does not bring greater motivation at work. If a lack of money creates constant problems in life, that (and a lack of trust in God) would cause discontent.)
2. What point is being made here? (Rely on God. Your life is upset if you are constantly looking to have more. Reliance on God’s provision gives you peace of mind.)
3. What is the cure for loving money? (Believing God when He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”)
F. Read Hebrews 13:6. This text seems out of place. The prior verses tell us to do or not do something. Is this still talking about not loving money? Or, is it related to all of the prior verses in Hebrews 13? (I think it refers to all of the prior verses. The prior verses are practical examples of what it means to follow God’s commandment that we love others as we love ourselves. If we follow God’s commandments that protects us from harmful mistakes. In that way, “The Lord is my helper.”)
1. Is this verse promising more than just God giving you helpful advice? (Yes. It reminds us that God is greater than any human foe. God will save us.)
II. Regard for Leadership
A. Read Hebrews 13:7. Does this refer to church administrators? (It defines these “leaders” as those “who spoke to you the word of God.” This is a reference to people like me, who remind you of the words of the Bible.)
1. What point is being made by “consider the outcome of their way of life?” (Correct teaching is reflected in practical outcomes. You can test the teaching by the life of the teacher.)
a. Is this a tactful way of saying avoid the teachings of those who have bad outcomes? (I think so.)
2. When we are told to “imitate their faith” does this mean imitate the lives of those teachers whose faith has a good outcome?
B. Read Hebrews 13:8-9. My denomination has what I would call an “evolutionary” view of God’s people. The doctrines of our church are the most refined understanding of the Bible – superior to the beliefs of those who have gone before us. What caution do these verses suggest for this view?
1. The irony is that some within my denomination also say, inconsistently, that the “evolution” should stop with our original doctrines. Our “pillars” should observed. Is this arrogance or a refined understanding of the Bible?
2. What point is being made when verse 8 says that Jesus does not change?
3. The “diverse and strange teachings” seem to have a specific context. What is it? (Teachings that weaken grace and promote certain eating practices.) Do you see things like that in your church?
C. Read Hebrews 13:10. Who are those who “serve the tent?” (This is a reference to the Levites and the sanctuary system.)
1. Why do they not have a “right to eat” from our altar? (Our altar is our belief in the sacrifice of Jesus who died in our place. If you do not accept Jesus, then you have no right to eat at that altar.)
2. Notice that Hebrews discusses this in terms of food. Does that give us further insight into Hebrews 13:9 and its comments about grace versus foods? (I think it does. Although our prior discussion is one understanding, this suggests that the real dispute is between grace and the approach to food that is tied closely to the sanctuary system.)
D. Read Hebrews 13:11-14. Why should we be “outside the camp?” Isn’t this a rather odd statement? (The idea is that we are not among the popular, but rather among those who suffer reproach as followers of Jesus. Outside the camp is a good place to be because our true goal is to live inside the New Jerusalem.)
E. Read Hebrews 13:15-16. How important is gratitude? What should be our practice? (Praising God and helping others reflects our gratitude.)
F. Read Hebrews 13:17. Is this primarily advice to us, or to leaders? (Leaders. It tells them that they will have to “give account” for their leadership, and that they should have the correct attitude.)
1. Does this require unconditional obedience? (The reference to being held accountable, and the reference to providing advantages to the members tells us that leaders can make mistakes that we should not endorse.)
G. Friend, will you take to heart the final advice in Hebrews? It will give you a life at peace.
III. Next week we begin a new series on the book of Genesis.