In These Last Days: The Message of Hebrews
“Let Brotherly Love Continue”
Lesson #13 for March 26, 2022
Paul concludes his letter with several admonitions for his audience to “let mutual love continue” (Heb. 13:1, NRSV), to “show hospitality to strangers” (Heb. 13:2, NRSV), and to “remember those who are in prison . . . [and] those who are being tortured” (Heb. 13:3, NRSV). Paul also admonishes his readers to ensure that “marriage be held in honor” (Heb. 13:4, NRSV), to “keep your lives free from the love of money” (Heb. 13:5, NRSV), to “obey your leaders and submit to them” (Heb. 13:17, NRSV), and to “pray for us” (Heb. 13:18, NRSV). Throughout the letter, Paul repeatedly calls on his audience to “exhort one another every day” (Heb. 3:13, NRSV), “to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:24, 25, NRSV), and to see “that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15, NRSV). The letter, as a whole, is a “word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22, NRSV).?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 171.†§ [Note that the brackets and the content in brackets in the paragraph above are in the Bible study guide.]‡
Hebrews 13:2-9,17-19: 2Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. 3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are. [Is it safe to welcome strangers into your home in our day?]
4 Marriage is to be honoured by all, and husbands and wives must be faithful to each other. God will judge those who are immoral and those who commit adultery.
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 6Let us be bold, then, and say:
“The Lord is my helper,
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”
7 Remember your former leaders, who spoke God’s message to you. Think back on how they lived and died, and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. [sic] 9Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way. It is good to receive inner strength from God’s grace, and not by obeying rules about foods; those who obey these rules have not been helped by them….
17 Obey your leaders and follow their orders. They watch over your souls without resting, since they must give God an account of their service. If you obey them, they will do their work gladly; if not, they will do it with sadness, and that would be of no help to you.
18 Keep on praying for us. We are sure we have a clear conscience, because we want to do the right thing at all times. 19And I beg you even more earnestly to pray that God will send me back to you soon.?American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Hebrews 13:2-9,17-19). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].†‡ [We will read much of this section of Hebrews 13 again and discuss it, later.]‡
In addition, Greco-Roman society was lax in regard to sexual ethics. A double standard was common: this allowed men license in their sexual relationships as long as they were discreet. Paul warns, however, that God will judge adulterers. Believers should not let social conventions establish their own ethical standards.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Monday, March 21.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11: 9 In the letter that I wrote you I told you not to associate with immoral people. 10Now I did not mean pagans who are immoral or greedy or are thieves or who worship idols. To avoid them you would have to get out of the world completely. 11What I meant was that you should not associate with a person who calls himself a believer but is immoral or greedy or worships idols or is a slanderer or a drunkard or a thief. Don’t even sit down to eat with such a person.?Good News Bible.*†
1 Corinthians 6:9-10: 9Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts 10or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves—none of these will possess God’s Kingdom.?Good News Bible.*
Ephesians 5:5: You may be sure that no one who is immoral, indecent, or greedy (for greed is a form of idolatry) will ever receive a share in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.?Good News Bible.*†
1 Timothy 1:9-10: 9It must be remembered, of course, that laws are made, not for good people, but for lawbreakers and criminals, for the godless and sinful, for those who are not religious or spiritual, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10for the immoral, for sexual perverts, for kidnappers, for those who lie and give false testimony or who do anything else contrary to sound doctrine.?Good News Bible.*
Revelation 21:8: [God (“the one who sits on the throne”) said:] “But cowards, traitors, perverts, murderers, the immoral, those who practise magic, those who worship idols, and all liars—the place for them is the lake burning with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”?Good News Bible.*†‡
Revelation 22:15: But outside the city are the perverts and those who practise magic, the immoral and the murderers, those who worship idols and those who are liars both in words and deeds.?Good News Bible.*
1 Timothy 6:10: 10For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.?Good News Bible.*†
2 Corinthians 9:8: And God is able to give you more than you need, so that you will always have all you need for yourselves and more than enough for every good cause.?Good News Bible.*
Philippians 4:11-12: 11And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learnt to be satisfied with what I have. 12I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learnt this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little.?Good News Bible.*
Deuteronomy 31:6-8: [Moses, speaking to the people of Israel said:] 6 “Be determined and confident. Do not be afraid of them. Your God, the LORD himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”
7 Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the presence of all the people of Israel, “Be determined and confident; you are the one who will lead these people to occupy the land that the LORD promised to their ancestors. 8The LORD himself will lead you and be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you, so do not lose courage or be afraid.”?Good News Bible.*‡
Joshua 1:5: [God said:] “Joshua, no one will be able to defeat you as long as you live. I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will always be with you; I will never abandon you.”?Good News Bible.*‡
Joshua 1:16-18: 16 They answered Joshua, “We will do everything you have told us and will go wherever you send us. 17We will obey you, just as we always obeyed Moses, [For more than a short time, did the people really obey Moses? Or, Joshua? Or, God?] and may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses! 18Whoever questions your authority or disobeys any of your orders will be put to death. Be determined and confident!”?Good News Bible.*†‡
Hebrews 13:7-17: 7 Remember your former leaders, who spoke God’s message to you. Think back on how they lived and died, and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. [sic] 9Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way. It is good to receive inner strength from God’s grace, and not by obeying rules about foods; those who obey these rules have not been helped by them….
17 Obey your leaders and follow their orders. They watch over your souls without resting, since they must give God an account of their service. If you obey them, they will do their work gladly; if not, they will do it with sadness, and that would be of no help to you.?Good News Bible.*†‡
For Paul, the greatest act of remembrance and praise is emulation. In this way, Paul has added the founding leaders of the congregation to the list of faithful heroes whom believers should carefully consider. This list includes the heroes of faith of Hebrews 11, and Jesus, the consummate Example of faith, in Hebrews 12. The author further notes that Jesus is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8, ESV). He stands in stark contrast to false teachers who change with time and whose teachings become “various” and “strange” (Heb. 13:9, NKJV).
The call to remember the leaders inHebrews 13:7 is restated in more forceful terms at the end of the section. Believers are exhorted to obey the leaders, because they watch out for their souls. The leaders are described here as pastors who are in charge of the spiritual well-being of the congregation, their flock, and who will give an account to God for their spiritual state (see also1 Pet. 5:1–4,1 Corinthians 3:10–15). Certainly, too, the idea should apply to all our church leaders, as well as at all levels of the denomination today.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Tuesday, March 22.†§
Hebrews 13:9: Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way. It is good to receive inner strength from God’s grace, and not by obeying rules about foods; those who obey these rules have not been helped by them.?Good News Bible.*
Acts 15:7-11: 7After a long debate Peter stood up and said, “My brothers and sisters, you know that a long time ago God chose me from among you to preach the Good News to the Gentiles, so that they could hear and believe. 8And God, who knows the thoughts of everyone, showed his approval of the Gentiles by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he had to us [with the “tongues of fire” at Pentecost]. 9He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers [all the ceremonial laws including circumcision] which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”?Good News Bible.*†‡
Acts 15:19-20: 19 “It is my opinion,” James went on, “that we should not trouble the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20Instead, we should write a letter telling them not to eat any food that is ritually unclean because it has been offered to idols; to keep themselves from sexual immorality; and not to eat any animal that has been strangled, or any blood.”?Good News Bible.*† [Are these the beliefs by which one is saved? Certainly not! These are the minimal requirements to follow so that the former-Jews would be willing to sit next to a Gentile convert in church and not be repulsed.]‡
Romans 14:1-10: 1Welcome those who are weak in faith, but do not argue with them about their personal opinions. 2Some people’s faith allows them to eat anything, but the person who is weak in the faith eats only vegetables. 3Those who will eat anything are not to despise those who don’t; while those who eat only vegetables are not to pass judgement on those who will eat anything; for God has accepted them. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? It is their own Master who will decide whether they succeed or fail. And they will succeed, because the Lord is able to make them succeed. [Meat and wine that was taken to the marketplace was often offered to a pagan god before being sold. It was believed that eating or drinking those items that had been offered to those gods meant that one was worshiping those idols. Paul insisted that those idols could not affect the food in any way!]
5 Some people think that a certain day is more important than other days, while others think that all days are the same. We should each firmly make up our own minds. 6Those who think highly of a certain day do so in honour of the Lord; those who will eat anything do so in honour of the Lord, because they give thanks to God for the food. Those who refuse to eat certain things do so in honour of the Lord, and they give thanks to God. 7None of us lives for himself only, none of us dies for himself only. 8If we live, it is for the Lord that we live, and if we die, it is for the Lord that we die. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For Christ died and rose to life in order to be the Lord of the living and of the dead. 10You then, who eat only vegetables [which had not been offered to idols]—why do you pass judgement on others? And you who eat anything [knowing that the idols to which the meat had been offered have no power over us or over the meat]—why do you despise other believers? All of us will stand before God to be judged by him.?Good News Bible.*†‡
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1: 23 “We are allowed to do anything,” so they say. That is true, but not everything is good. “We are allowed to do anything”—but not everything is helpful. 24None of you should be looking to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
25 You are free to eat anything sold in the meat market, without asking any questions because of your conscience. 26For, as the scripture says, “The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord.”
27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you decide to go, eat what is set before you, without asking any questions because of your conscience. 28But if someone says to you, “This food was offered to idols,” then do not eat that food, for the sake of the one who told you and for conscience’ sake? 29that is, not your own conscience, but the other person’s conscience.
“Well, then,” someone asks, “why should my freedom to act be limited by another person’s conscience? 30If I thank God for my food, why should anyone criticize me about food for which I give thanks?”
31 Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory. 32Live in such a way as to cause no trouble either to Jews or Gentiles or to the church of God. 33Just do as I do; I try to please everyone in all that I do, not thinking of my own good, but of the good of all, so that they might be saved.
11:1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.?Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 6:19-20: We have this hope as an anchor for our lives. It is safe and sure, and goes through the curtain of the heavenly temple into the inner sanctuary. 20On our behalf Jesus has gone in there before us, and has become a high priest for ever, [sic] in the priestly order of Melchizedek.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Reading more from Hebrews 13:
Hebrews 13:10-14: 10 The priests who serve in the Jewish place of worship have no right to eat any of the sacrifice on our altar. 11The Jewish High Priest brings the blood of the animals into the Most Holy Place to offer it as a sacrifice for sins; but the bodies of the animals are burnt outside the camp. 12For this reason Jesus also died outside the city, in order to purify the people from sin with his own blood. 13Let us, then, go to him outside the camp and share his shame. 14For there is no permanent city for us here on earth; we are looking for the city which is to come.?Good News Bible.*†
The place outside the gate was the most impure of the whole camp. The carcasses of the sacrificial animals were burned there (Lev. 4:12). Lepers also were excluded from the camp (Lev. 13:46), and blasphemers and other criminals were executed there (Lev. 24:10–16, 23;1 Kings 21:13; Acts 7:58). These regulations presupposed that the presence of God was within the camp. Anything that was impure was cast outside because God was unwilling to see any “unclean” or “indecent” thing in it (Num. 5:3,Deut. 23:14).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, March 24.†§ [The place outside the camp where everything was burned was later called Gehenna from which some people get their ideas of hell.]‡
Paradoxically, however, Hebrews suggests that God’s presence is now outside the camp. The action of following Jesus outside the camp means not only “bearing His reproach,” or shame, but also going “forth to Him” (Heb. 13:13, NKJV) just as those Israelites who “sought the Lord” went “outside the camp” in the desert when Moses removed God’s tent from the camp after the golden-calf controversy (Exod. 33:7. NKJV). This account suggests that the rejection of Jesus by unbelievers also implied the rejection of God, as Israel did in the golden-calf apostasy (Exodus 32, Exodus 33). Thus, the path of suffering and shame also is the path to God.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, March 24.†§
After the descent of the Holy Spirit, ... [believers] rejoiced in the sweetness of communion with saints. They were tender, thoughtful, self-denying, willing to make any sacrifice for the truth’s sake. In their daily association with one another, they revealed the love that Christ had enjoined upon them. By unselfish words and deeds they strove to kindle this love in other hearts....
But gradually a change came. The believers began to look for defects in others. Dwelling upon mistakes, giving place to unkind criticism, they lost sight of the Saviour and His love. They became more strict in regard to outward ceremonies, more particular about the theory than the practice of the faith. In their zeal to condemn others, they overlooked their own errors. They lost the brotherly love that Christ had enjoined, and, saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. They did not realize that happiness and joy were going out of their lives and that, having shut the love of God out of their hearts, they would soon walk in darkness.
John, realizing that brotherly love was waning in the church, urged upon believers the constant need of this love. His letters to the church are full of this thought. “Beloved, let us love one another,” he writes; “for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins [“and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven” (GNB*)]. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” [1 John 4:7-11, KJV*]—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles* 547.3-548.2.†‡
Within democratic or representative political systems of governance, an exhortation to obey and to submit to the leaders sounds rather authoritarian. Should a claim like that be made today? If so, how should we as members of a worldwide church respond to it??Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 173.
1 Corinthians 11:1: Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.?Good News Bible.*
©2022, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. †Bold type is added. ‡Text in brackets is added. §Italic type is in the source. ¶Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. [email protected]
Last Modified: February 27, 2022
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