Instruction With Promise
Often, near the end of New Testament epistles, there is a concluding section
that strings together a variety of direct, practical admonitions. Brief
statements are “appended” to the body of writing, which convey to the readers
what to do and what not to do, based on the entire proposition and argument of
In the case of Hebrews, after the theme has been presented, explained and
argued (that Jesus is Superior to Moses, etc.), the writer concludes with
these direct admonitions to the readers:
1Let brotherly love continue. 2Do not forget to
entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
3Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since
you yourselves are in the body also.
4Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and
adulterers God will judge.
5Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you
have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
6So we may boldly say:
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”
This is not a tightly reasoned series of arguments (though it is certainly
based on all the argumentation in the previous chapters). This is not part of
an essay that has complex, technical or mysterious detail. This is simple,
practical, abbreviated admonitions to Christians: Let brotherly love continue,
remember strangers and prisoners, keep marriage honorable, and let your
conduct be without covetousness.
This is what God says to His people; people who have embraced the Superiority
of Jesus Christ. I want us to think about how instruction is tied to promise
in Heb. 13:1-6. My hope is, we will be so captivated by the promise God makes,
we will be glad to comply with His instruction, through the activity of our
faith in Christ.
How are these instructions related? Some commentators simply say, “there is no
connection.” It is like at the end of a conversation or letter – where you
might say, “Oh, by the way,” and then you list a few other things. One
commentator speaks of this, and says, about this passage, “a series of
apparently disconnected exhortations and other incidental teaching.”
I am thinking there is a connection; these simple admonitions do share a
common theme. See what you think.
This is all about Good Discipline In Relationships; discipline we are able to
have as we obey the Superior Savior, Jesus Christ! Your relationship to your
brothers and sisters in Christ; your relationship to people who need help you
can give; your relationship to your spouse, and your relationship to the
things of this earth – can all be superior – so long as you humbly serve the
Good Discipline In These Relationships, by
serving the Superior Savior:
1. In my relationship with Christians: “… let brotherly love continue…” Have
you ever started something you should have continued but you didn’t? It is a
typical issue of character to begin but fail to continue something that has
virtue. When we are baptized into Christ, there should begin within us a love
for others who are in Christ. I could read all the passages – but you are
familiar with the imperative, “love one another.” Our relationship with each
other as members of this church – for example – should be characterized by
this sincere and active love, and this love should continue; in fact, it
should grow stronger through diligence, experience and time. I can develop
healthy spiritual discipline in my relationship with other Christians, to the
extent I grow in my obedience to the Superior Savior.
2. In my relationship with people who need help: “Do not forget to entertain
strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember
the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated, since you
yourselves are in the body also.” It may be, we have active affection for the
people in our small circle of association – but outside that group, we are
virtually indifferent to others who are suffering. In the first century, there
were Christians who travelled under great risks; there were Christians who
were incarcerated; there were people mistreated by tyrannical political
leaders or religious authorities. The writer of Hebrews counsels his readers
to extend their love from their own small circle to others. Be mindful of
their needs; don’t forget there are people who legitimately need help you can
give. And this ties in with what Jesus said, you may recall, in Matthew 25 –
“I was in prison, and you came to visit me.” It is one thing to love the
people you know, who surround you - you know them well, and you see them on a
regular basis. The Bible warns us not to be limited or isolated or selfish.
But to remember there are others outside our little world - - others who may
need help we are able to supply. Verse 16 says, “…do not forget to do good and
to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
3. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators
and adulterers God will judge.” Before us here, the husband-wife relationship.
Remember the theme – Good discipline in these relationships by one’s
dedication to the Superior Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the discipline
necessary to keep purity and honor in marriage. We live in a world saturated
with sex. It is considered everyone’s right, to fulfill whatever lusts they
have. When you say to many people today, “You shall not commit adultery,” that
is not well received in our time . . . considered to be out of touch with
Sex has become an idol, and the threat to marriages and families is real.
Sanctity in marriage must be a priority to Christians, as we apply the
teaching of Christ, pray and work daily to avoid neglect or defilement.
How serious is this? “…fornicators and adulterers, God will judge.” God wants
His people to uphold His standard regarding husband and wife.
4. Our relationship to the things of this world. “Let your conduct be without
covetousness, and be content with such things as you have.” In life here on
earth - not only do we have relationships with people, but also – relationship
with things; the material things here on the earth. Money. Houses. Cars and
trucks. Clothes. Electronic devices. In the NIV, verse 5 reads: “Keep your
lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have…” It
doesn’t say – HAVE NO MONEY! The point is not that things on earth have no
meaning. Rather, “keep your lives free from the love of money.” And to that
this is added: “be content with what you have.” It is so easy to become
attached to our things. We can become slaves to houses and cars and all our
It can be a subtle slavery, that can render us unreasonable, unspiritual and
ungodly. What must be learned – through the discipline of the Word and the
example of Christ and Paul is Contentment! Paul exhibited this well (according
to Phil. 4:11,12). Paul wrote to Timothy - “…godliness with contentment is
This is all about good discipline in relationships, and we are capable of this
discipline as we live dependent on Christ and under His authority.
Our relationship with each other:
Let brotherly love continue.
Our relationship with people in need:
Our relationship with our spouse:
Keep Marriage Pure.
Our relationship with the material things of the earth:
Let your conduct be without covetousness.
This is not a random list of admonitions. There is, in this passage a vital
theme: good discipline in these common relationships of life by applying the
instructions God by His grace has given, and through our relationship with Him
Instruction & Promise
God has given very direct instruction to us about these things and as we
faithfully apply that instruction – we enjoy good discipline in our living!
NOW NOTICE: There is a promise from God that strengthens us in applying this
Let’s look into our Bibles - - the last part of verse 5, and into verse 6.
“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never
leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may
boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I
will not fear. What can man do to me’?”
As you look through this instruction, it is critical to know – God will help
you!! “The Lord is my helper.”
First, the Lord gave you this instruction to guide you in these relationships.
But it is not like the Lord just hands you a set of rules and says, “here you
go . . . you are on your own . . . I’ll check back with you on the Judgment
God not only gives us the instructions, He promises to help us and in fact,
the Lord specifically says: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God give
us the instructions. God promises to help us.
And there is even a third element of His grace: if we fail to keep these
instructions, we have the offer of forgiveness by the blood of Christ.
What a tremendously blessed people we are! God gives us instruction for wise
living. With that instruction, He supplies motive and promise and help. And if
we transgress, if we disobey, as long as we are alive – we can repent and
enjoy, in that activity of faith, the sanctification of the blood of Christ
Now I want to stress – God doesn’t leave us alone! His promise is, “I will
never leave you nor forsake you.” God is on our side. Through providence and
in ways we cannot see – God is helping us to be His faithful people, and to
live according to His instructions for wise living.
Prayer is a valuable resource through which God comes to our aid (see this in
Heb. 4:14-16, and 13:20-21). So as you become engaged in any duty God has
assigned, ask for His help. He promises not to leave you on your own.
Let brotherly love continue…
Do not forget people who need help…
Keep your marriage pure…
Don’t be a slave to things…
Good discipline in these relationships is completely within our reach –
because God gave us the instruction of His will, and He is with us. So we can
say, “the Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me.”
You may think – as you read the Bible – “the assignments are too hard; the
duties and standards just not within my reach; I can’t do it.” God says He
will help you. Christ died so you can be forgiven. Through study and pray, you
can be “complete in every good work to do His will.”
This is all “…through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 17.3; March 2010