As usual with New Testament letters, Hebrews builds on the teaching of grace with how to put it into practice. This passage has 9 tips for great disciples
1 Brotherly love
The first exhortation is for brotherly love – Philadelphia in Greek! Far from being just a soft cheese, the exhortation is the first because loving one another is key. Jesus summarised the whole of the Old Testament law as Love God and love your neighbour. Like Paul, this author of Hebrews uses love the brothers instead of love God, because you may be able to fake loving God, but not loving fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is immediately visible! And to love others we need to be loving God and drawing strength from Him.
Second is the exhortation to “not neglect showing hospitality to strangers”. The rather awkward wording is due to the fact that most Christians have diluted the word “hospitality” to having bring and share meals at church baptisms and inviting christians round for dinner parties. The word hospitality is philoxenia is a compound word made up of the two words “love” and strangers or foreigners. We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and we are love foreigners and strangers so they get the opportunity to become part of the Church family. Who knows, you may entertain an angel along the way!
3 Remember those in prison
The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish believers in Christ under persecution. They were tempted to give up for an easier life, while some of their brothers had already been imprisoned for their faith. Don’t forget them!
Today there is a remarkable move of God in our prisons through the Alpha Course, with many actual criminals repenting of their sin and coming to faith.
4 Keep marriage pure
Sexual immorality is as rife now as it was then. We are exhorted to honour marriage and keep our vows if married and stay pure if not.
5 Don’t be greedy with money
Money isn’t the root of all evil – the love of it is (1 Tim 6:10)
An exhortation to contentment is hard in a culture where the average person sees 6,000 advertising messages a day! Contentment is doable because the promise attached is that God will never leave us or forsake us. It is not the end of the world if you can’t have that new shiny thing.
6 Remember your leaders
Think about their lifestyle and imitate it – that’s a challenge for you the reader and me a leader!
7 Don’t get into weird teachings
Jesus Christ hasn’t changed, so neither has the message. Any new teaching is suspect. The challenge is that people have a tendency to dilute grace and add legalism, so when we recover New Testament values and doctrines they may seem new!
The author expands on that tip by talking about food and sacrifices – the temptation for those early Jewish believers was to go back to Judaism with its food laws, Sabbath regulations and circumcision. They were suffering reproach (v13) for going outside the Jewish camp into grace.
8 Obey your leaders
Similar to remembering them, the exhortation is to obey godly leadership. The elders will stand before the Lord to give account for what we have taught. Make it easier by obeying what we teach from Scripture!
9 Pray for us