Live Out the Faith

Life with Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, involves a complete transformation of relationships and values. Our attachment to people becomes deepened; our attachment to earthly things runs shallow. People are made in the image of God and will give an account to him that judges the living and the dead, so we should encourage them to look to Christ and treat them as image-bearers of the Creator. Things will be consumed in the great conflagration at the time the temporal garments of the present age give way to the new heavens and the new earth, where all will be fitted as the dwelling place of righteousness (“a kingdom that cannot be shaken” Hebrews 12:28; cf 2 Peter 2:10-13). Christians start living in the future now; we look to the new company with whom we have been joined and seek to hasten the coming of the Day of the Lord, the one who “is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).These practical admonitions are built on this profoundly comprehensive worldview.

I. 13:1 Let brotherly love continue. 

A. Brotherly love is a gift of the new birth; When we see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), we have implanted in us a love for all of its citizens.

B. This love, as a gift of the Spirit, engages all the moral energies of the new-born person and can, and should, be nurtured as the first-fruits of our citizenship in heaven. “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again” (1 Peter 1:22, 23). The work of regeneration, which renews our nature and transforms our vision, imparts all the elements of heavenly life into our souls, including this love for the saints, and works itself out into purer manifestations throughout our lives here.

II. 13:2 – Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

A. Not only do we show our love for the grace and glory of God by loving those who are fellow heirs of the grace of life, but sometimes God might allow us to be hospitable even to the more glorious inhabitants, to some of the “innumerable angels in festal gathering” (12:22)

B. Abraham as a man of faith entertained such angels, including the eternal angel, the Son of God Himself – Genesis 18:1-8, 22.

C. Hebrews begins with a clear statement of the infinite superiority of Christ to angels (Hebrews 1) and identifies angels as “ministering spirits . . . for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” It is credible that their ministry to us could be in the form of providing us with an opportunity to show kindness and compassion to a stranger in need.

D. The redeemed must keep a constant sense of their gracious reception to God even when we were enemies, ungodly, aliens, without hope, without God in the world, strangers to the covenants of promise (Romans 5:8-10; Ephesians 2:12, 13)

III.  13:3 – Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

A. Probably he is referring to fellow believers that have been imprisoned. Jesus put it as a mark of belief that Christians would go to those in prison (Matthew 25:36). Jesus called these his brothers. We should not be hesitant to identify with those who are suffering for righteousness’ sake. Believers are admonished in verse 13, “Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” As long as we are in the body in this world, we are not of the world.

B. Their attention to those in prison had not been lacking in former days, but the constant pressure of persecution tempted them to omit identifying with those that were already under persecution. “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourself had a better possession and an abiding one” (10:34). The writer encouraged them not to lose the eternal perspective and not to lose the joy of identifying with those that suffered for righteousness’ sake.

C.  Jesus connected a promise with ill-treatment from the world on account of him (Matthew 5:10, 11).

IV. verse 4 – Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

A. Marriage was the first human relationship established and thus must be honored as intended to bring joy, completeness, and perpetuity to the race of image-bearers. God brought Eve to Adam as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, establishing this as more important than that of parent and child. “A man shall leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife.” Persecution should not make them begin to exit their marriages, though, according to 1 Corinthians, the passing form of this present age means that persecution multiplies the concerns implicit within the necessary loyalties of marriage. In attitude, therefore, one must recognize that both man and woman in the marriage relationship must be willing to sacrifice themselves, see the earthly tie broken by martyrdom, without denying the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:28, 29)

B. The bed of marriage is intended for the pleasure of both man and woman united to one another by a vow of marriage. (See 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.) God made us sexual beings. One reason, obviously is for the propagation of future generations; another is that the pleasure of such union might be a type of the joy of the Christian’s eternal union with Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33)

C. Because of the original purpose and its intended symbolism, sexual union of any other kind is immoral and strictly forbidden by divine purpose and mandate” for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” “He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality.” “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; . . . because the Lord is an avenger in all these things” See 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

V. verses 5, 6 -Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

A. Another type of worldly attachment that we can let go for the sake of Christ is money. Money exists only for the sake of providing, in the commerce of this world, those things that we need. One must avoid loving money out of a pride in wealth itself. This is described by John as an element of love for the world that excludes love for the Father. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15, 16)

B. Jesus warned against worry for material provision (Matthew 6:31-33). He encouraged his children to realize that the omnipotent Father knows all of our needs, and sufficient to us all should be the provision of needs. Paul told Timothy, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:7)

C. To the rich Timothy was to give admonition not to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God himself who provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)

D. Thus our text points us to see in the Lord God the one who cares for us and in that way gives to us all that we can possibly need in this fallen, hostile, passing world. He will not leave us or forsake us and man can do nothing to harm us in the way of our eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus.

VI. verse 7 – Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

A. Here he seems to be reminding them of pastors that remained faithful to the end, were imprisoned and lost their lives. “Remember . . . spoke . . . outcome.” What they taught they had embraced in their heart and soul and went to death for the truth.

B. In remembering the godly sacrifice of their lives in confirmation of their teaching, those that were taught by such faithful witnesses, should imitate their faith. Learning the truth in sincerity will mean that one holds it even unto death and cannot be convinced by the greatest threats of this world that can be shaken to forsake that which cannot be shaken.

C. Remembering the teaching of the past and taking it to heart has to be continually renewed by a constant infusion of truth even now, so that we are not “led away by diverse and strange teachings.” (9) For the continual effecting of this spiritual necessity, the writer commanded,  “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” 9verse 17)

D. In the same way that temporal needs are met by the ever present, all sufficient Father, even so our faithfulness unto death will be supported by the immutable Christ. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

VII. In the throes of this conflict with the world and its temptation and threatening power, every believer needs confidence that all he needs, not only temporally, but for the unchanging eternal inheritance is given him on account of the grace of his savior. So the writer assured his readers, and even now assures us.

A. Christ has died to bring to effect all that God intended to give his elect from the foundation of the world. “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant”

B. He provides all the gifts and abilities and opportunities that we need to do his will in the present – “equip you with everything good that you may do his will” 

C. Through tribulation, temptation, threats and allurements from the world, God grants his Spirit to indwell us so that we pursue holiness and sense the pleasures that are ever rich and overflowing in the knowledge of Christ – “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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