The Expository Files


Instruction With Promise

Hebrews 13:1-6

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 the letter.

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 superior Savior.

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 reality.

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 things.

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 great gain.”

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:
Remember them.

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 (in Christ).

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 instruction.

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 Day!”

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 (Heb. 13:12).

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