Summary: # 26 in series on Hebrews. Ethics cannot exist apart form a standard of right and wrong.
A Study of Hebrews
“Jesus Is Better”
Sermon # 26
“Public and Private Ethics”
At first glance Hebrews 13 may appear to be just a grouping of unrelated closing thoughts to the letter, but such is not the case. The writer of Hebrews now begins to give some ways in which believers can live out their faith. We now enter into the arena of ethics.
There is a lot of talk in our day about the need for ethics, but not very much is being done about it. The problem I believe is that we are approaching the whole idea backwards. Our modern world has kicked the Bible aside as being ill relevant and out of date. They have aside the only foundation for moral behavior but yet they want ethics. We even have something today called “situational ethics” – but if one’s conduct is determined by the given situation then it is not an ethical code. Ethics cannot exist apart from a standard of right and wrong.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that there is a standard for conduct is still the word of God.
In our last message on Hebrews we looked at how “Grace Is Better Than the Law.” There we compared two mountains; Mt Sinai, representing the law of the old covenant and Mt Zion representing the grace available through the new covenant. Chapter twelve ended in verse twenty-nine with the very ominous words, “For our God is a consuming fire.”
“Let brotherly love continue. (2) Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. (3) Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also. (4) Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (5) Let 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.” (6) So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Public Ethics (Within the Church) 13:1-3
The primary moral standard for a Christian is love and the particular love that is being talked about here is love of fellow Christians.
•Love the Brethren (v. 1)
“Let brotherly love continue.”
The word translated “brotherly love” is literally the Greek word (Philadelphia) it is composed of two root words phileo (tender affection) and adelphos (brother). This is a special New Testament word for love of the brothers and sisters in Christ. Brotherly love is the natural outflow of being saved. When a person is saved they are naturally drawn to fellowship with other believers.
The writer begins very simply with the injunction, “Let love of the brethren continue.” It is not they had never had it. The verb tense (imperfect present active) suggests that there had been a lull in their expression of love one for another, they are therefore to pick it up, and practice it once again. Perhaps in the hard day grind of living, their love for one another had diminished as they tried to live with a bunch of people who got on their nerves. The Church is made up of people with different personalities, backgrounds and interests. It is easy to love some people and then there others that we have work at it to love.
Brotherly love is so important that John says in (1 John 3:14), “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” The presence of brotherly love is an inner witness of validity of our salvation.
Jesus said that it was the presence of brotherly love that proved to the world that their faith was the real thing. John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This is not a love based on personal liking, but one based on a shared relationship.
•Love Strangers (Exercise Hospitality)
(v. 2) “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
Our first responsibility is to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but our responsibility does not end there. The word translated “entertain” in the NKJV is (philoxenias) or “love of strangers.” A stranger by definition is someone we do not know personally.
Let me share with you what the Life Application Commentary says about Hospitality. I also shared this with the Bible study on Wednesday because in our study of the Book of Romans (12:13) Paul exhorts the believers to be “given to hospitality” or literally to “pursue hospitality.” But I want to share again because I believe it has some powerful points to make about hospitality.