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Hebrews 13:1-6 Part 1 (Hebrews 13:1-6)

Tim Douglass, May 6, 2018
Part of the Letter to the Hebrews series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

Due to technical difficulties we were unable to record the message this week. The following are some notes of the message.

The final chapter of Hebrews contains some specific instructions, some personal comments, and the writer’s farewell. We definitely have a shift from the more theological and abstract discussion of the majority of the letter toward practical directions for how we should live in a way that is worshipful toward God and honors Christ. We begin with brotherly love and we will go from there.

The first verse in this section consists of 3 words in Greek, one of which is just the definite article which might be translated as “the”. For all its brevity however, there is a great deal to think about in this verse.

To begin with, we are making a transition into a new section that is quite different from the rest of the letter, but it is still a part of the same communique, and we need to treat it within the same context. Doing so will help us understand some of what is meant but not explicitly said.

There are two things we should understand, first of all, what “brotherly love” means, and second, the implications of “continue”.

I’m sure that we have all heard messages about the three Greek words used for love - eros, which never appears in the Bible; agape, which is probably the one we most connect with; and phileo, from the root philos which also gives us philadelphia, the word that appears here in Hebrews 13:1. I think it is very important to bear in mind the distinction made by the use of the different words. There is nothing of the romantic in phileo, when we translate it as “brotherly love” we should think about the relationship aspect of “brotherly”.

Family is an interesting tie. There is of course frequently an emotional connection, but not always. But no matter what the emotional link there is always that blood tie, even if we seriously dislike our siblings we are attached to them. If we go into the culture of the time of Hebrews those family relationships are deeply complicated by societal and legal obligations. This was perhaps especially true in the Jewish community. The culture would require that the firstborn son care for the others and that if one was harmed the others would avenge it. To put that into a more general sense there was a requirement for mutual support and care, into which personal feelings didn’t enter.

This translates very easily into the relationship between believers, who are defined as the family of Christ, Jesus talks of being adopted and in Matthew 12:46-50 rather explicitly claims His followers as His family. The idea is one that Paul frequently expresses, consider Romans 12:10.

So, since this is a believing community into which Hebrews is written, they should be showing this type of relationship with one another. There is really no evidence that they have failed in it, although it may be implied here a little bit, but just bear in mind that this is speaking to a family in that sense.

Now this is where word “continue” comes in. The word used here is sometimes translated as “abide”, but it has that sense of “sit here and stay”.

“Keep on supporting and caring for one another and don’t ever stop” – TAD paraphrase

LET LOVE for your fellow believers continue and be a fixed practice with you [never let it fail]. – Amplified Bible

God would not have had the author include this unless it was important both at the time and now. Looking at the context I think I may have some insights that explain it.

One of the first things that people tend to do under stress is focus inward. When things aren’t going well we concentrate on our own problems and ignore everything else around us. I believe that the fear for these particular Christians is that as they started to face persecution they would isolate themselves and stop taking on each other’s burdens. This entire letter has been addressing the potential failings and encouraging the readers to keep them from falling into those things. As they are at risk for turning back to Judaism, they are also at risk of ignoring one another. This is a plea for unity and mutual support in the body. We shouldn’t think that this is speaking of love as a general thing toward all people, it really is focused on the believers in the church. (Not that it implies we shouldn’t love those outside the body of Christ, just that we have a primary obligation to love our brothers and sisters in Him.)

This is an instruction to Christians because love for one another is a part of what God requires of us. Not because it benefits us, although it does that, but because it echoes what Christ did for us. The brotherly love discussed in Hebrews derives from the love that Jesus is describing in John 13:34-35. Our love for one another is how we show God that we appreciate His love shown to us on the cross. It is also how we can show others a small glimpse of what Christ’s love looks like.

John 13:34–35 (NKJV)
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We come together for communion to remember the sacrifice Jesus made. It is truly His love we are remembering. As we show love for one another, as we show love to everyone we encounter we show that we remember the love of Christ that sent Him to the cross for us.

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About Tim Douglass: Tim is the pastor of Monitor Bible Church.
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Hebrews 13:1-6

1Let brotherly love continue. 2Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. 4Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. 5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (KJV)

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