This month we will conclude our study of Hebrews as we examine chapter 13. You may remember that the Jewish Christians who made up the original audience of this epistle originally embraced the Gospel and the new covenant it brings with great enthusiasm. Some even willingly suffered persecution and imprisonment for the sake of Christ (10:32–34). However, under continuing persecution this audience began wavering in their faith. A few began to consider abandoning Christ and going back to the old covenant system.
In order to prevent this from happening, the author of the epistle wrote to exhort his audience to remain faithful to the new covenant. After all, since Jesus is so much greater than either the angels or Moses (1:1–3:6), those who leave Him will be in a worse position than that faithless first generation of Israel that was cut off from the Promised Land (3:7–4:13). Not that those with true faith can lose salvation. Rather, this warning had to be cast in general terms because the author could not have been sure of the reality of anyone’s faith, although he did know that true believers always persevere (4:14–6:12).
One way that God bolstered their perseverance was by reminding them of the superiority of the new covenant inaugurated by Christ’s sacrifice (6:13–10:18) so that they would be motivated to cling to Jesus. Similarly, He moves us to place our faith in this Jesus, the promise for which the old covenant saints waited (10:19–11:40). These saints cheer us on, bearing witness to our need to strengthen ourselves to finish the race of faith by obeying God’s commands (12:1–29).
Today’s passage continues to describe practical ways in which we might strengthen ourselves to finish the race. In 13:1, we are told to continue to love fellow Christians. As we love other believers, and, as we are loved in return, we encourage one another to keep running the race. Without this encouragement we might not continue. Verse 2 tells us to be hospitable to strangers because we may in fact be entertaining angels without being aware of it. This verse no doubt alludes to Genesis 18 and the appearance of angels to Abraham near the oaks of Mamre. Abraham was hospitable and was blessed with news of Isaac’s birth. If we are not hospitable to those in need, we might be denying angels and the blessings that God can grant to us through them.
Many of us go to church with people who, though they are brothers or sisters in Christ, are actually strangers to us. Take some time to get together with a church member who you do not know well. Have dinner or attend a Bible study or some other activity together. In doing this you will practice brotherly love and hospitality.