Exhortations for Christian Living
Love for Believers (13:1-6)
1 Let brotherly love abide. 2 Be not forgetful of hospitality; for by it some have unawares entertained angels. 3 Remember prisoners, as bound with them; those that are evil-treated, as being yourselves also in the body. 4 Let marriage be held every way in honour, and the bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers will God judge. 5 Let your conversation be without love of money, satisfied with your present circumstances; for “he” has said, “I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee.” 6 So that, taking courage, we may say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid: what will man do unto me?” vv.5-6 What the Lord says to us “I will not leave thee” and what we say to Him “The Lord is my helper, etc.” are both quotations from scripture! Peace in our daily circumstances has much to do with our familiarity with the Word of God.
Respect for Leaders (13:7-17)
Imitate Their Faith (13:7-8)
7 Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God; and considering the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come.
(Final Exhortation: Leave the Camp for Christ) (13:9-15)
9 Be not carried away with various and strange doctrines; for it is good that the heart be confirmed with grace, not meats; those who have walked in which have not been profited by them.
10 We have an altar of which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle; 11 for of those beasts whose blood is carried as sacrifices for sin into the holy of holies by the high priest, of these the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 Wherefore also Jesus, that he might sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate: 13 therefore let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach: 14 for we have not here an abiding city, but we seek the coming one.
What is the camp? The camp here is a figure taken from Israel’s history. The blood of the sin offering was carried withing the holiest, but the bodies were burned outside the camp.1 Two extremes are brought together… the perfect suitability for God presence through the blood, and the utter scandal and shame of the burning body. In Judaism, the people could have neither. They could not enter the holiest, and they could not be where the body was burned. The Holy Spirit connects this with the circumstances of our Lord’s crucifixion. He was led outside the Jerusalem city gate, and there suffered. Paul uses the “camp” of Israel as a symbol for all that Judaism had become; religion apart from Christ. In Christianity, we possess both of the things the camp was separated from: access into the holiest, and the shared rejection of Christ. The call to “come forth” is to Jewish converts, exhorting them to leave Judaism entirely. They were to have nothing to do with the system that rejected Jesus. Does this have any practical meaning to us today? Of course. In the early centuries of Church history, great sectors of Christendom failed to do exactly what this verse commands. They refused to leave the camp of Judaism. As a result they ended up with many of the outward forms of Judaism; robes, candles, music, the sacerdotal order, etc. We are called to leave all that, and go forth unto Jesus, the rejected One. He alone can satisfy the void that natural religion tries to fill. To summarize: the camp is Judaism apart from Christ. Many sectors of Christendom have not abandoned Judaism in a moral sense, and we see the Judaistic principles of the camp reflected in their worship and ministry.
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually to God, that is, the fruit of the lips confessing his name.
Provide for Leaders (13:16)
16 But of doing good and communicating of your substance be not forgetful, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Three Christian sacrifices with which God is well pleased:
- Our person (Rom. 12:1)
- Our praise (Heb. 13:15)
- Our possessions (Heb. 13:16)
Submit to Leaders (13:17)
17 Obey your leaders, and be submissive; for “they” watch over your souls as those that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not groaning, for this would be unprofitable for you.
- This reference to “outside the camp” refers to the sin offering, not to the removal of the tent in Exodus 33. In the case of the tent (which wasn’t the full Tabernacle), it was removed only temporarily because the Lord’s presence could not be associated with the defilement that had come in, but was seen later (Num. 1) back in the camp.