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Lowell Brueckner

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Yesterday, Today and Forever


 (An expository study of the book of Hebrews)

Chapter 13

 1. 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?

7. Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.


 Lasting counsel

 The writer now gives some counsel, as he brings his letter to a close. In the first place, he encourages the continuance of brotherly love, which, obviously, already existed in the Hebrew Christian church (1). The Greek word for the combined term brotherly love, as you can easily predict, is philadelphia. Without question, love is the motivating force behind Christianity, but it must be the love that has its roots in God Himself. Human love cannot fulfill the purposes of God, or reach the levels of service necessary to successfully meet the needs of His children. There is intimate friendship among them that is unequaled anywhere else in society. In fulfilling this command, we are never far from the high priestly prayer of Christ, whose desire was “that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn.17:26). 

 Secondly, he advises the entertainment, or hospitality, towards strangers (2). This must be conducted in the Holy Spirit with discernment, in order to avoid freeloaders and scams. However, strangers are vulnerable away from their environment and may need our help. Cases come to my mind of stories that, to me, have no conclusion. I remember finding a young American beside the road in Mexico, repairing something on his VW van. I invited him to our home, where he told us of being run over by a vehicle years before, destroying his kidneys. His physical situation was delicate, but he was a believer, who stayed with us a couple days, until his van was fixed. He drank an enormous amount of lemon juice to keep his kidneys clean. As I mentioned, I don’t know the end of the story, I only remember the blessing of having this man in our home.  

 My dad, living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, often told a story of something that took place shortly after his conversion to Christ. A man came to the door, holding a piece of paper with an address scribbled on it. “I can’t make it out,” he told the man, but dad’s answer to every little dilemma was prayer. He said, “Come in, we’ll pray for the Lord to help us.” He believed that prayer should take place on one’s knees, so he dropped to the floor and the visitor knelt beside him. Then, my dad looked again at the paper and admitted, “No, I still can’t make it out.” The man looked him in the face and said, “This was the address.” Dad closed the door behind him and went to the window to watch, as he left. There was no one to be seen on the porch or sidewalk. He had disappeared and Hebrews 13:2 came to him, Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.


 I have often taught that our homes should be centers of evangelism, where unbelievers can be welcome and opportunities can arise to share the gospel with them. A wife of an army commander often visited our house in Germany and eventually surrendered to the Lord. Later she testified, “I always felt there was Someone in that house, besides the people who lived there.” Here in Spain, a TV personality came into our home with cameramen and other personnel. After a two-hour interview, he commented, “I feel peace in this house. Can you explain it to me?”

 Prisons are great mission fields, where hearts are often open to receive the gospel. Also there is a special atmosphere of love, among prisoners, who have found Jesus. With our son, Dan, I met with believers in a prison in Vermont and was privileged to speak to them. Christian love is supernatural and immediate. After my message, I jokingly told them, “I wish I could stay with you… but preferably in another setting.” We laughed together. As we learned, these Hebrew Christians had not yet experienced bloodshed for their testimony, but apparently they knew of prisoners in chains, persecuted for the sake of the gospel. They were to keep them in their thoughts and prayers. Physical pain eventually reaches all human beings, so while we are well, we need to carry the burdens of the sick, the persecuted and the incarcerated (3). 

I am aware, as I write, that Christian good works are not performed by an effort to be involved in them, just for the sake of involvement. There is a certain egotism in “do-gooders”, who think that they will be rewarded for helping the less fortunate. There are also unconverted people, who are naturally humanitarian. Christians understand that the Lord will send people across their paths, because He knows that they can help them. He may also send them out to people in need. We need to know two things: 1) To truly help people, we must be empowered and given wisdom by the Holy Spirit and 2) spiritual needs far outweigh physical or financial needs. James gave us two examples to follow, because of their works, namely Abraham and Rehab, and we do well to think on those examples.

 I don’t remember ever hearing a politician suggest that sin might be behind the problems of a nation, until I read an article by Vice-President Mike Pence. He wrote about adultery being the cause of an unstable society. When a husband or wife is unfaithful, it often leads to divorce. Children, then, are raised in a broken home, which, statistics show, often leads to complications in their relationships with others. It is easy for them to get involved in delinquency, bringing chaos into neighborhoods and cities. The home is the foundation of all society, but especially Christian society, and the husband and wife are the pillars in the home. Marriage is honorable, says the writer, and fornicators and adulterers will not only bring ruin to their home, but they can look forward to the judgment of God (4).

 In Christ, motivation overrules performance. Why people do what they do, is as important, or more important, than what they do or do not do. A covetous motivation can enter any of the areas given in the first four verses. One hears of leaders of humanitarian organizations, who receive exorbitant salaries. It seems inconsistent, doesn’t it? Others may be covetous of praise for their self-sacrifice. In every case, covetousness must be dealt with and rooted out of Christian service. The antidote is contentment... to be content with our position, especially that which doesn’t catch the eyes of the public, and content with our income. Paul instructed his young co-worker, Timothy: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with them we shall be content” (1 Ti.6:6-8).

 Now, this writer’s answer to covetousness might be a little surprising. He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (5) Covetousness, as well as discontentment, stems from a lack of faith in trusting the Lord. They are the results of insecurity. The covetous person may think, “I have to take care of myself. I have to build up security in money or possessions, in case calamity strikes.” He is doubting God’s promise to care for him. Here is the believer’s confession: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear (6, from Ps.118:6). Trust the promise, hold to the Helper, then fear and unbelief will not drive him to seek security from the world. This confession will even cover attacks against him and his family or, as Paul declared, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?(Ro.8:31-32). Even under the attacks of enemies, God will be the supply for those who trust Him. There is nothing for the person, who has the Lord, to covet. He has everything.

 You may be noticing that I am not only commenting on the commands which are given us in this chapter, but in some cases, I am also referring to poor interpretation of these commands. At times, more harm can be done by misreading Scripture, than can be done by ignoring it. This certainly is true in the area of leadership.

 Members of the church have a responsibility to follow the faith of those who have delivered the word of God to them, but what if there is no example or a poor example of faith by leadership? The obvious conclusion is that leaders must give an outstanding example of their faith in the gospel and in the lordship of Christ, if they expect their congregation to follow them. The people must see the fruit of their faith: The outcome of their conduct (7). Faith must not deteriorate, as the generations pass. The verse indicates also that church leaders must, first of all, be evangelists; their congregation should be made up of converts, to whom they have delivered the gospel.

8. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

9. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

10. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp.

12. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.

13. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.

14. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

15. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.


Outside the camp Christianity

 In verse 8, we have the absolute foundation of the faith, which all must follow: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The doctrine of this letter is that Jesus Christ is the unchanging God, co-equal with the Father. Therefore, He is the same as the One presented in the Gospels and His word is also unchanging. What He did then, He will do now; what He taught then, He still teaches. The future is absolutely reliable in Him, therefore we will not fear the coming events through to the end.

 Join verse 9 to verse 8. The teaching of Jesus is as unchanging as His person, the same yesterday, today and forever. Beware new teaching; the apostles laid a firm foundation of doctrinal truth. If our teachers have not given us that foundation, we must return to the old paths of Scripture (Jer.6:16). The statement of John Wesley stays with me: New doctrine is false doctrine. New revelation and teaching based on dreams and visions are unreliable. Run from them! No one has the right of personal interpretation of Bible truth.

 Be established by grace… wonderful advice! Grace is the essence of salvation, Christian living and biblical truth. Beware of overemphasis of works and service, of “holding on”, “keep fighting”, etc. The gospel emphasizes what God has done for us, not what we must do for God… that is grace. The heart of the believer must be cemented in grace. Food doctrines have been grossly propagated in our day. You will find them to be a stronghold among the cults. Stay away from them, because they will not feed the inner man. Oh believer, memorize this verse and stand on it: “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph.2:8-9). Don’t miss God attitude towards us in verse 7… “The exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us.”

 Our altar is the cross; the Hebrews’ former religion cannot approach it (10), nor can any religion. No one ate of the sin offering, but the believer eats Christ’s flesh and drinks His blood (Jn.6:53). The cross is the central theme of the gospel and we must be careful never to stray from it. This also is foundational doctrine. We do not live the gospel, apart from the cross, which provides life to the soul and spirit, and is the way of life for a Christian. It is strength in weakness and wisdom to the foolish.

 The Hebrew types pointed to gospel reality. In the sin offering, the blood of sacrificial animals was brought into the sanctuary and the bodies were burnt outside the camp (11). The blood is sprinkled in the Holy of Holies, that is, in the presence of the matchless holiness of the Father and Jesus suffered, not only outside of Jerusalem, but outside of Jewish religion and popular thought. He is accepted by the Father and rejected by the world (12).

Do not stand with those, who try to preserve the status quo. We belong with Him outside the camp, strangers and pilgrims, rejected and hated by the world, but beloved of the Father (13). Go to Him; let nothing stop you! Like Moses, we choose the reproach of Christ over the world’s advantages. It is not only for Moses to choose, it is a choice that must be made by the general body of believers. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we have here no continuing city, something every believer needs to know and live in a practical way (14). How is it that some, who claim the faith of Abraham, do not follow his example, as to their lifestyle? Some have two, three homes and more, and some are worth in the millions of dollars.

 Praise is defined as the fruit of our lips; worship is distinct (15). Worship requires no words and is an expression of the heart. It is accompanied by that, which is most costly to the worshipper, and the appropriate physical position is prostration. However, praise flows to God from our lips in overwhelming gratitude for all the lavish gifts of His love. I think, it is worth taking space to share a song, which came to my mind yesterday. 


One day a plain, village woman, driven by love for her Lord,

Recklessly poured out a valuable essence, disregarding the scorn;

And once it was broken and spilled out, a fragrance filled all the room,

Like a prisoner released from his shackles, like a spirit set free from the tomb.


Lord, You were God’s precious treasure, His loved and His own perfect Son,

Sent here to show me the love of the Father, just for love it was done;

And though You were perfect and holy, You gave up Yourself willingly,

You spared no expense for my pardon, You were used up and wasted for me.


Broken and spilled out, just for love of me, Jesus,

God’s most precious treasure, lavished on me;

Broken and spilled out, and poured at my feet,

In sweet abandon, Lord, You were spilled out and used up for me.

                    Steve Green


16. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

17. Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

18. Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.

19. But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.

20. Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

21. make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

22. And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words.

23. Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly.

24. Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.

25. Grace be with you all. Amen.


More counsel, a benediction and greetings

 This is a summary of what we were taught in the first few verses of the chapter. God is pleased with a willing and unselfish attitude. It is the fruit of the new nature and can never be expected from the nature of fallen Adam. As I commented earlier, good works must be directed and performed through the Holy Spirit without the interference of the ego. What greater sacrifice can there be than that of Abraham offering his only, beloved son. There could only be one possible reason for this kind of obedience. He loved God more than his son. Rahab risked her life to protect the Israelite spies, taking advantage of the opportunity that God gave her to serve in His purposes. We read of Abraham’s history of God’s work in him, but we also must conclude that God had been moving for a long time in Rahab (16).

 The writer repeats the necessary obedience and submission to those, who watch for the souls of the believers. This service is willingly performed by a congregation, as a response to leaders, who love the people and souls, of those whom they serve. The atmosphere is one of joy (17). The key is the attitude of the pastors, who follow Peter’s exhortation:   “The elders who are among you I exhort… Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseer, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 P.5:1-3). Those who fulfill those principles, will not lack the love and loyalty of their people. Those who do not, should not expect any submission from them.

 The highest activity of the church is prayer and the writer recognizes his need for it (18). He believes that he can expect this most expedient help from the Hebrew church, because he has a clear conscience of honorably serving God and them. Specifically, he asks that they direct their prayers towards the possibility of a visit to them (19). That will happen, as a result of their prayers.

 He pronounces a benedictory prayer for them from the God of peace; peace is His attribute from eternity to eternity. We can expect then, that peace will conquer over wars and contention. It will happen in the Thousand-year Reign of Christ, and throughout eternity, world without end, there will be peace. His power is seen in the resurrection of Christ, who conquered death and is the first fruits of those who sleep. It is the ultimate proof of all that was accomplished on the cross. He is triumphant over death, triumphant over all.

 Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd”, in a wonderful discourse in the 10th chapter of John. Notice the definite article the… not a good Shepherd, but the unique Shepherd of Psalms 23. Isaiah reached one of his poetic peaks, when he prophesied: “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young” (Is.40:11). It brings us immense comfort, when we realize that we are part of His flock. Our inspired writer calls him the great Shepherd and this needs to be included as part of the fruit of our lips. His care for us doesn’t stop when we get to heaven: “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rv.7:17). He is the good Shepherd throughout eternity.

 The blood of the everlasting covenant is that precious lifeblood, which was generously given to cover all our sins! “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt.26:28). The new covenant is fixed in heaven and everlastingly endures. Can there be a more blessed benediction than this? (20). It is inspiration and motivation for love service to Him.

 Once more, I must emphasize that good works are not human efforts to gain heavenly approval. They are designed in heaven, to fit into the new creation and are provided for the new creature to walk in: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph.2:10). None of them are earthly and they do not originate in the will of man. They come our way and we walk in them; they are supernaturally natural. They alone are well pleasing in His sight, and have come to us through Jesus Christ. They give Him glory, because He is the source and His person is manifested through them. Human efforts are never enough, therefore God has equipped us from heaven. Surely included among these good works are the gifts of the Spirit, which operate through the church for its spiritual edification and towards the miraculous conversion of the lost (21).

 Writing very personally to the Hebrew saints, he appeals to them to accept his letter. First of all, it is given through the inspiration of a Person of the trinity… it is from God. Then their reception or rejection will have eternal consequences, for these are matters of eternal life and death. His soul is tied to his teaching (22).

 Whether or not the writer is Paul, he is acquainted with Timothy, and gives the latest information available from the New Testament about him. Timothy has been in prison and has recently been released. He will travel with the writer, when he visits the Hebrew church (23). All the advice that Paul gave to him about being courageous in a spirit of power, love and a sound mind, has served Timothy well (2 Ti.1:7).

 The letter is written to the individual members of the church. The Scriptures are not only for leaders, but wives (Eph.5:22), little children (1 Jn.2:18), young people and all (1 P.5:5), comments Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, and he believes that it was principally written to Hebrews in Jerusalem. So special greetings go to church leaders throughout Judea.

 If the writer did not give the usual greetings at the beginning of the letter, he does so now. At this point we learn that he is writing from Italy and sends greetings, not only from Rome, but from Italy, in general (24). His wishes concern the great Christian virtue, grace. There is no higher desire than that our fellow believers may experience grace – grace upon grace.   


Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt;

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.


Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,

Threaten the soul with infinite loss;

Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,

Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.


Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,

What can avail to wash it away?

See! There is flowing a crimson tide,

Whiter than snow you may be today.


Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe;

You who are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?


Julia Johnston (1910)


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