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‘IN THE BODY ALSO’ – Hebrews 13:1-3

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on April 26, 2017 under PM Bible Study |

PM Home Bible Study Group; April 26, 2017

Hebrews 13:1-3

Theme: The writer gives us three necessary principles for relationships in the body of Christ during times of persecution and trouble.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

The writer of Hebrews had been seeking to encourage his Jewish fellow believers to stay true to their calling in Christ. For many of them, it has been a very difficult ordeal. As we can see from the things he has said in this letter so far, these Jewish believers were tempted to pull back from their devotion to Jesus because of persecution. As he said to them in 10:35-36; “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise …” Chapter 12 also contains several indications of the need for endurance during such times.

So; when we come to Chapter 13, we find a very practical section on the various areas of the Christian life in which faithfulness is required in times of cultural and social pressure for those who are followers of Jesus. And the first thee verses of this chapter seem to speak to what is needed in such times with respect to relationships within the body. This passage is very similar to what we find in 1 Peter 4:7-11—a passage that also speaks of Jewish believers in a time of persecution for their faith:

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:7-11).

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In the passage before us, the writer of Hebrews highlights three very basic and necessary dynamics for relationships within the body during a time of persecution …


A. In verse one, he writes, “Let brotherly love continue.” Certainly, love is to be an aspect of our Christian life in all cases. We’re instructed by our Lord to even love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). But when he speaks of ‘brotherly’ love (philadelphia as it is in the Greek), the context of this letter suggests that the particular sphere of love that he is speaking of is within the community of faith itself. The Lord Jesus especially commanded this of His followers when He gave the ‘new commandment’:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35-36).

The apostle John also wrote about this love in his first epistle—no doubt reflecting on this commandment from our Lord when he wrote the following words;

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11).

B. The apostle John expresses that this love is not to be a mere feeling. Clearly it is a feeling of affection (see Romans 12:10); but it is much more than just that. It is to be demonstrated in actual, tangible, mutual care. He looked to the example of our Lord in His love toward us and wrote;

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).

And it’s this kind of love that the believers are to ‘let continue’ among the body toward one another. But it’s not something that just happens—as if we are to simply relax and allow it to be. The verb is in the present active imperative; suggesting that we are to ‘let it continue’ by actively and habitually pursuing it as a characteristic of our life together. As Paul puts it in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10;

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more … (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).

May God indeed help us to pursue brotherly love with one another ‘more and more’!


A. The writer of Hebrews goes on in verse two to speak not only about those with whom we are familiar in the body, but also members of the body with whom we are not necessarily familiar. He writes, “Do not forget to entertain strangers …” The commandment here is ‘not to forget’ this important duty; or as it can be translated, “do not be neglectful” of it. In a day such as ours—when people grow more and more independent of personal relationships, and when people can live right next door to each other and still not really know each other—we as followers of Jesus are to be welcoming of those who are ‘strangers’ to us.

B. It’s important to understand that this is probably not proper to extend beyond its intention within the context of the faith. This verse would not be, for example, a proper biblical authority to point to in order to establish government or public policy regarding immigration (as is sometimes done). Such public policies may at times be needed; but this verse is particularly meant to be understood as speaking of a policy within the body of Christ; and ‘strangers’ here are most likely to be understood as those who are unfamiliar to us, but who nevertheless profess faith in the same Lord Jesus as us. During times of trouble and unrest—when the church is being persecuted—hospitality is more necessary than ever. Homes need to be opened up to fellow believers who may be suffering great turmoil—some of whom may even have lost all they have through oppression. The apostle Peter said that we are to show hospitality in such cases “without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). There may even be times when it is necessary to welcome and host those who were traveling in the service of the body of Christ. John seems to have been writing about this in his third epistle when he said;

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth (3 John 5-8).

C. And note that the writer of Hebrews adds this fascinating comment; “for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” This may be speaking to those occasions in the Old Testament scriptures when one of the Old Testament saints welcomed strangers into their home—only later to discover that those strangers were actually angelic visitors. Consider the stories of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18-19; or of the mother and father of Sampson in Judges 13. But the greater point of this is not that we might be entertaining angles (and thus have a significant feather in our caps). Rather, it’s that we are to be hospitable to all as we can; and especially to those of the household of faith—whether we suspect them to be angels or not. We should always remember the word of our Lord on this: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). (To be considered by the Lord to have welcomed Himself is much better than to have welcomed an angel; wouldn’t you agree?)


A. Finally, the writer urges us in verse three to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—” This does not necessarily mean a prisoner who is in prison because of a criminal act (although true Christian compassion would also surely include that). Rather, in this context, it seems best to understand this as a specific reference to fellow believers who are in prison as a result of persecution or hardship because of the faith. This seems to be clearly indicated by the phrase “those who are mistreated”; which can also be translated “harassed”. With such fellow believers, we are to consider ourselves bound together in the same chains as they. This may have been a very practical point for the writer; because he himself seemed to be suffering for the faith; as indicated by his request for prayer that he “may be restored” to his readers “the sooner” (13:19). Certainly Paul was in a similar situation; and asked his readers once to “Remember my chains” (Colossians 4:18).

B. And notice the motivation we are to have for this. The writer says, “since you yourselves are in the body also”. Our spiritual connection with one another in the body through Christ is so deep and so strong that it joins us together in our sufferings in a very real, truly united way. As the apostle Paul has put it in 1 Corinthians 12:24-26;

But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

If it’s true—as our Lord said—that we show the unbelieving world that we are His disciples by our love for one another, then just consider: When do we possibly show it to the world more than when we remember our brothers and sisters who suffer at the hands of that very same unbelieving world?

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May God help us, then, to be regular practitioners of these three important and necessary dynamics in the life of the local church—to pursue brotherly love, to welcome the stranger, and to have compassion toward the mistreated. It gives clear, unassailable evidence that we truly are—together—the body of Christ.

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