Having spent twelve chapters arguing that what we have in Christ is superior to the old covenant and urging the readers not to give up on this salvation we have received, the author turns now to practical application and exhortation.
The first part of this is the way we treat each other in the Christian community, with an encouragement to brotherly love. There are several aspects to this: hospitality to strangers, remembering those in prison or otherwise persecuted for the gospel, and honouring marriage.
Secondly, we are to be content with what we have. Rather than being greedy and striving for more money, we should trust in the promise that the Lord will not leave or forsake us and have confidence that this is enough for us.
Thirdly, we are to honour those in leadership, imitate their faith and continue in true doctrine. Jesus doesn’t change and we should not look to downplay or compromise what has been revealed in him in order to placate the spirit of the age. For the original readers this took the form of food laws and sacrifices from the Old Testament. The precise details may be different for us but the principle remains.
Finally, we should be willing to bear reproach as we ‘go to him outside the camp’. This was the primary concern of the letter and the author returns to it once again. As the culture around makes living for Jesus unfashionable and opposition increases, this letter is an encouragement to stay the course and hold fast to the faith.
Towards the end of the chapter the author prays for his or her readers, and asks that God will equip them to do his will. We are not expected to live out these teaching by our own strength, but rather as we are strengthened by God he enables us to stay the course and to keep the faith.
Some Key Points:
- As we live for Christ we should engage lovingly in community, be content with what we have, honour our leaders and keep true doctrine.
- In many cultural contexts, following Jesus means bearing reproach and this is something we should be willing to do, just as Jesus himself bore reproach.
- We can live this way with the Lord as our helper, and fully equipped by him to do his will.
- Show Brotherly Love – Highlight the different aspects of brotherly love mentioned in the passage (hospitality, identifying with the persecuted, honouring marriage) and help your congregation think through how they can do these things in increasing measure.
- Encourage Those Bearing Reproach – This passage, like much of the letter, is encouraging the readers to stay strong as they bear reproach for the faith. This is a difficult thing, and it would be good to encourage and commend those in our congregations who are currently in such circumstances.
- Pray For Equipping – As the author of the letter felt it was necessary to pray for his or her readers to be equipped to do God’s will, so we should pray the same for those in our congregations.