Attention! has pledged to build one church a year in Uganda. Help us double that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Hebrews 13

Verse 1








Let brotherly love continue. (Hebrews 13:1)

This is one of the shorter verses of the Bible but worthy indeed of standing thus alone as a divine injunction of the greatest importance. Westcott divided the various exhortations listed in this chapter into the three categories of: (1) social duties (Hebrews 13:1-6); (2) religious duties (Hebrews 13:7-17); and (3) personal instructions of the author (Hebrews 13:18-25). Significantly, love of the brethren stands at the head of the list of all obligations.


Our brother! He stands before us, like ourselves, made in the image of God, an heir of eternal life, and a beneficiary of the blood of Christ; and our love should reach out to him with all of the emotional thrust of which the heart is capable. Like me, he is compassed with infirmity, tormented by temptations, pressed with the cares of life, frustrated and defeated in many of his fondest hopes, seeing those eternal realities which he so passionately desires to believe, as through a glass darkly, being oppressed daily by the confusion and darkness that becloud man's mortal journey, and caught up like all other people upon the escalator of time moving him inexorably to the terminus of his pilgrimage. Mortal? Yes, but immortal too, destined to live forever in joy or in remorse, needing our encouragement, our love, our aid at every step of the way, standing to benefit by our loving prayers, and to be strengthened by the handclasp of our brotherly affection. Who can withhold his love from a brother? Only the reprobate (1 John 2:11). And who is my brother? Not him alone who belongs to my little circle, but the "stranger," as taught in the next verse, that man we may never have seen before, but a man in extremity, needing love and compassion in a world that has little of either, such a man as that befriended by the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:33) - and all this, of course, is but another way of saying all people. Every man is my brother; for, if I miss him in Christ, I shall hit him in Adam!

This verse teaches three things: (1) that the Hebrews addressed here had such love of the brethren; (2) that it is God's will that such brotherly love should have been continued; and (3) that there were manifestly some dangers that it might be permitted to wane. All kinds of things can cause brotherly love to fail. Differences of opinion, selfishness, conflicts of interest, lack of personal association with brethren, an awareness of sins in others more than consciousness of our own sins, spiritual pride, vainglory, ambition, love of ease or luxury, and just about every other state or inclination of the natural man; but it is the glory of the Christian faith that love of the brethren will surmount every barrier.

Here is the secret of a growing and effective church, and there is none other. If the disciples truly love one another, the resulting fellowship will be such that people shall desire to break into it, as contrasted with a communion appealing to them by persuasive argument alone, into which, if they enter at all, it is with reluctance. More people can be loved into the fellowship of Christ than will ever be enticed into it through other means. In the Manhattan Church of Christ, an elderly lady had attended for years, sitting unmoved through many an invitation, but she at last decided to be baptized; and, discussing her motivation which led to it, she spoke of several things; but then, with a tear, she spoke of another Christian lady who was her friend and frequent companion, saying, "Yetta holds my hand when we cross the street!" Ah, there it was. The factor that turned the scales of destiny was outgoing love and concern for one person on the part of another.

Verse 2

Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

This might be a reference to the conduct of Abraham and Lot who granted open and ready hospitality to certain strangers who proved to be not men at all, but angels (Genesis 18:1; Genesis 19:1). This verse teaches that men given to hospitality toward strangers will, at times, entertain persons who are in every way a blessing and honor to the host. It may seem at first that this is a low motive for hospitality; but, as Young noted:

If it be considered, we shall see that it is not so much a motive to hospitality as to unremitting watchfulness in hospitality. Let the stranger be ever in your mind. Let no one slip by your gates, or go away knocking in vain. What will it avail to admit a thousand who bring you nothing but their needs, if you let one go who will bring you blessings far more than anything you can do for him?[1]

In Bardstown, Kentucky, a Catholic priest granted hospitality to a stranger who stayed for several months. The stranger made no effort to contribute anything to that wilderness parish; and when he left, he gave only his thanks. Some years afterward, a great shipment of some of the world's most beautiful paintings arrived at the little church, where they were lovingly received and exhibited, and where thousands of people touring the United States still pause and enter to view them every year. That stranger was a prince of France in exile; and when he returned to that land, one of his first acts was to send a royal gift to the parish priest of Bardstown.<1a> The true king, Christ himself, in the person of his disciples, is often the seeker of hospitality at the hands of Christians; and, although the duty of hospitality is one of the most exacting and difficult requirements of the Christian life, it should be exercised faithfully in respect of the commandment of God, and in the framework of another of the divine laws that Christians should be "as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

[1] D. Young, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 21, Hebrews, p. 415.

<1a> Prince Louis Philippe of France spent a part of his exile at Bardstown about 1800.

Verse 3

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, them that are as being yourselves also in the body.

Christians are commanded to identify with the imprisoned and remembering that, as long as one is subject to the limitations of the flesh, the misfortune that comes to others may come likewise to himself. The author had already admonished his readers concerning the imprisoned (Hebrews 10:33,34) and returned to the subject here for emphasis. Westcott believed that:

The character of the precepts suggest that the society to which they were addressed consisted of wealthy and influential members. The two special illustrations of the practical exhibition of "love to the brethren" point to services which such persons especially could render; and the warnings which follow regard the temptations of a similar class of luxury and love of money.[2]

If Westcott's deduction is allowed, it would account for the fact that, whereas some of the Christians had been imprisoned, some of the more influential had escaped such a persecution; hence the commandment for the more fortunate to identify with the less fortunate.

Verse 4

Let marriage be had in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

The moral status of fornication and adultery is one; both are sinful. No technical difference deriving from the marital status of one or the other or both of the participants in such a sin can make any difference at all. Both sins alike, however they may be distinguished as different, are condemned; and they are treated in this verse as one in guilt and penalty. For more on this subject see under "Fornication" (Hebrews 12:16).

Many of the ancients translated this place as a declaration that "marriage is honorable in all," thus making it a declaration of the rights of all to enter the marriage state. The judgment of most modern scholars is reflected in the rendition given above, making it an exhortation that all should honor the marriage state. The teaching, however, leads to the same conclusion as in the old versions; for one may not lawfully depreciate the marriage state and contradict its holiness and sanctity by deeming it a contamination in some, such as priests, or by imputing to it any less holiness than pertains to any other lawful condition.

Verse 5

Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee.

Paul declared the love of money to be the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10); and the proof of the fact is on the front page of every newspaper ever published, where is recorded, day by day, the sordid record of how every possible crime men are able to commit is committed for money. The love of money springs from sinful discontent with one's status in life, his possessions, the extent of his luxuries and comforts, or his lack of the power money might bring; but there is a corollary of that discontent, namely, a lack of trust in the providence of God. Not relying upon the promise of the Lord for his protection and blessing, the child of God mistakenly supposes that he may be able himself to supply what is needed or desired, through the means of accumulating money, thus hoping to acquire the security and confidence that have been forfeited through lack of trust in God. The author here seeks to strike down both supports of the love of money: (1) the discontent of people, their passionate and burning desire always for more and more, and (2) their lack of reliance upon the promises of God.

And, concerning the promise of the Father, the author here quotes Deuteronomy 31:16; Joshua 1:5; and Psalms 118:6. "He will not leave thee nor forsake thee." The utter folly of making money, whether actually possessed or merely desired, the basis of any security in the present life is in the very nature of riches themselves which "make themselves wings and fly away" (Proverbs 23:5). In the last analysis, covetousness, or the love of money, is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). It makes ourselves, or what may be accumulated by us, to be the center of trust, and not the Lord, thus supplanting him in the very center of one's affections.

Verse 6

So that with good courage we say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: What shall man do unto me?

This is from Psalms 118:6 and is cited as a further support of the premise that believers should trust in the Lord, not fearing what people may be able to do to them.

Verse 7

Remember them that had the rule over you, men that spoke unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith.

Nothing is of more moving and lasting power than a faithful example; and the author calls to mind the noble elders and ministers, already passed to their reward at the time he wrote, but who were remembered for the noble example of their faith; which, from the words here, would seem to have issued at last in some dramatic exhibition of it, as perhaps like that of Stephen's martyrdom. The lives of such noble leaders were to be imitated, not necessarily in regard to all their deeds, but rather in the supreme matter of their unwavering faith.

Verse 8

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


Christ is the changeless one, and this universal truth is called into view at this place for the purpose of persuading the readers that the same Christ who had preserved a previous generation in their trials would no less preserve and bless them in theirs. The profound fact of the unchanging Christ will reward a more particular attention to it.

Why is Christ changeless? Because he is God (see under Hebrews 1:8), and changelessness is an attribute of deity. God said, "For I, Jehovah, change not" (Malachi 3:5). Also, because Christ is perfect, there can be no change; for to change perfection is to mar it.

What consolation for Christian hearts is the changelessness of Christ! Soon or late in every life, there appears the great emotion to "hold to God's unchanging hand." True, change can be quite desirable and exciting for the young and inexperienced; but when swift and basic changes accompany the failure of earthly prospects, the loss of health, the death of loved ones, or the onset of age, the soul of man seeks a haven of rest and finds it in the unchanging love of Jesus. When revolutionary fires sweep the earth, kingdoms rise and wane, or tides of evil engulf nations and civilizations, then the changeless Christ shines as the pole star in a firmament of darkness, an unchanging hope in a sea of troubles.

The changelessness of Christ means that the system he delivered is also changeless. The gospel is the same; the plan of redemption is changeless; Christ's rules for the church, its government, doctrine, purpose, and hope - all, like Christ who gave them, are changeless. His wise and benevolent purpose for humanity, his great love, his assurance of the resurrection and life eternal - all are the same. Why? He is the same yesterday and today, yea and forever!

How fortunate, then, are Christians who may find amidst the "wreck of atoms and the crush of worlds" the changeless and invariable glory of the Son of God! His throne is eternal; he was present, and a participant, in creation itself. The heavens are the work of his hands; they can, and will, perish; but he changes not. They shall wear out like an old garment, and he shall change them and roll them up; but in the words of this author in Hebrews 1:12, concerning Christ, "Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."

Verse 9

Be not carried away by divers and strange teachings: for it is good that the heart be established by grace; not by meats, wherein they that occupied themselves were not profited.

There is, to be sure, a certain complexity in divine revelation; everything is not on the surface, and no casual or perfunctory reading of it will provide full understanding of it; but despite this, the vast body of scriptural truth is frequently referred to as "truth," in the singular, by the divine writers, emphasizing its essential unity and cohesiveness (2 John 1:1:9, etc.). Contrasted with this relative simplicity of the truth, the diversity and novelty of all kinds of theories, teachings, and speculations of people clamor incessantly for the Christian's attention. The mention of "meats" suggests the various Old Testament restrictions concerning things clean or unclean were demanding and receiving attention from the Christians who received Hebrews, despite the fact that all such restrictions had been removed (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

The proclivity of the whole human race to save themselves by some kind of diet is an amazing characteristic of "homo sapiens". Long after Christ himself made "all meats clean" (Mark 7:19), even the apostle Peter protested a vision from heaven, saying, "Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean" (Acts 10:14). There were possibly large numbers of the original readers of Hebrews who could have said the same thing. The long centuries of preoccupation by Roman Catholics with their "fish on Friday" syndrome, various vegetarian cults, and right down to the latest enthusiasm for polyunsaturates or protein diets, to say nothing of the aversion of millions of Asiatics for swine's flesh - all these things show how deeply ingrained in human nature is preoccupation with meats. How far better it would be if people could be established by grace, that is, concerned with the knowledge and love of God, instead of being caught up in the observance of some diet, especially where religious considerations are involved. Long ago, the Master taught that it is not what people eat, but what they THINK that causes most of the real troubles besetting the race of man. Should we say that it's not what men eat, but what's eating them, that hurts! What a man eats is of secondary importance, "because it goeth not into his heart, but into his belly, and goeth out into the draught" (Mark 7:19). No wonder, then, that preoccupation with meats is a thing with utterly no profit in it.

Verse 10

We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat that serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned without the camp.

This is an astounding argument. Very well, he seems to say, "You people who want to eat according to the rules of the old order, hear this. Even the priests of that order could not partake of the bodies of the animals used in sin offerings, for they were burned without the camp. Very well, the true sin offering is Christ, who suffered without the camp, fulfilling the type; and they of the old order have no right whatsoever to partake of Christ, unless they shall repudiate the old order and identify themselves with him who suffered without the camp. Thus, the writer's argument is conclusive and overwhelming. Let his readers forget about keeping old rules and restrictions; to keep them is to make Christ unavailable to them. See under "Day of Atonement" (Hebrews 9:8).

Verse 12

Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate.

The author is still dealing with the atonement provided by the blood of Jesus (see under Hebrews 9:8). It is the necessity of Jesus' suffering without the gate, or beyond the camp, that is stressed here. That necessity arose from the typical significance of burning the bodies of the animals used in sin offerings, at a place outside the camp of Israel, and later outside the city. The great Antitype fulfilled that very pertinent detail in the place of his sufferings outside the city of Jerusalem. Macknight noted that

The Israelites' having cities to live in at the time of our Lord's suffering, "without the gate" was the same as "without the camp" in the wilderness. Wherefore, criminals, being regarded as unclean, were always put to death without the gates of their cities. In this manner, our Lord and his martyr Stephen suffered.[3]

Verse 13

Let us therefore go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

On the "reproach of Christ," see under Hebrews 11:26. The immense significance of Christ's suffering "without the camp" lies in the fact that it totally dissociated him and the blessings available in him from the old institution. Not only in the manner of his death was the Lord made a curse (Deuteronomy 21:23), but also the very place of his death, without the city, beyond the pale, richly symbolizes the total break away from the old system. The old law failed signally in this, that it cast forth, upon what amounted to the city garbage dump, the holy Christ himself! This was according to prophecy; but it was the sin of Israel, as well as the sin of all people, that fulfilled the prophecy; and their only means of recovering grace in the sight of God was to reverse their decision, to go beyond the camp, identify with him whom they had cast out, and accept the mercy of God in Christ.

That the original addressees of this epistle were most likely citizens of Jerusalem may be deduced from the writer's assumption of their full knowledge of so many things that would have needed an explanation if others had been the recipients. Thus, "the gate," mentioned in Hebrews 13:12, and suffering "without the camp," as here used without explanation, indicates the writer's confidence that his readers knew all about these things.

Verse 14

For we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come.

The temporary and ephemeral nature of all earthly possessions is in view here, focusing the mind of Christians upon the eternal city that cometh down from God out of heaven. For more on the "City Foursquare," see under Hebrews 11:10. The tendency of all people to view their earthly life and dwelling as all there is is materialism. It is the vision of the eternal things that provides the only safe antidote for the prevailing virus of materialism; and the spread of Communist ideology during the current century may be accounted for only upon the basis that people have a lack of faith in God and the things "unseen as yet." Communism is primarily a manifestation of that blind materialism which is the philosophical heart of their system, which reduces man to the level of a turnip, or a pig, makes him as expendable as a sack of potatoes, or a shovel full of coal, and which grants to the individual the right of life itself, only upon sufferance of the godless and fickle state. They have rejected the destiny of man as being a home with God beyond the stars and have anchored their dreams in the mud-flats of earth. Which should a man choose, the stars with God, or the mud-flats with Marx?

Verse 15

Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name.

The sacrifice of praise is another kind of sacrifice, being differentiated from the sin offering, supplied by Jesus in his atonement; and this other type of offering is similar to the various thank offerings that were made under the Law, but with this difference: theirs were offered only on certain stated occasions and according to certain established rules; but ours is offered at all times, "continually," in words of praise and thanksgiving, with confessions of Christ's love, mercy, and blessing, plus all other forms of giving God the glory through oral testimony. It has been repeatedly revealed in Hebrews that a Christian's conversation, in the last analysis, is not merely a measure of his devotion but also a means of increasing both his own faith and that of others. (See under Hebrews 3:13.) Every hour of every day the child of God should seek occasions to speak humbly and lovingly of the wonderful blessings in Christian service, of the love and mercy of God, of God's goodness, and of the peace and joy in believing.

Verse 16

But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased.

The other type of offerings that distinguish the Christian service was described above as "oral"; but here is revealed the necessity of going beyond merely oral testimony. It is not enough merely to talk a good Christian life! One must also live it. One's moral deeds and liberality in the grace of giving should keep pace with his oral profession; and the admonition to "communicate" is not a reference to anything verbal but to the old-fashioned grace of giving. It means that a Christian is obligated to give liberally, purposefully, continually, prayerfully, and faithfully, of his money and other possessions for the forward movement of the faith. A child of God who fails in this duty must be adjudged lacking in a vital area of duty. For thoughts on tithing see under Hebrews 7:8. The use of such a word as "communicate" in this place also enjoins the personal involvement of the Christian in deeds of philanthropy and aid of such persons as missionaries, with whom a personal contact, by means of communication, is to be established.

Verse 17

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that should give an account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. for this were unprofitable for you.

The divine injunction to obey persons in authority covers obedience to powers; and even the policeman is hailed in the scripture as "a minister of God to thee for good" (Romans 13:4); but the obedience required in this verse is submission to the elders of the church. Such men are known in the New Testament by at least six, possibly seven, titles. The words "bishop" [Greek: episkopos] translated "overseer," "presbyter" translated "elder," "pastor" translated "shepherd," and "steward" are all scriptural designations of the kind of ruler mentioned in this verse, although some doubt may be attached to the last of these, if used as a title. Paul referred to himself and to others as "stewards of the mysteries of God," making such persons a class of men and declaring that "It is required of stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:1,2). Moreover, he said of an "elder," called "bishop" in this verse, that "the bishop must be blameless as God's steward" (Titus 1:7); and the apostle Peter extended the terms to include, at least in some sense, all Christians, calling them "good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10). The terms "presbyter" and "bishop" as used in the New Testament refer not to two offices, but only to one, as proved by a comparison of Acts 20:17,28, where, in the first place, Paul is said to have called for the "elders of the church," and in the second reference, addressing the same group, he said, "The Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, etc." Thus, there is the most solid scriptural basis for applying all these terms to the same class of church rulers. From Acts 20:17,28, the terms "bishop" and "presbyter," together with their translated derivatives "overseer" and "elder," are all unquestionably New Testament designations of a single office, that of the ruler mentioned in the verse at hand. To this also agrees the unanimous testimony of the earliest Christian writers, Chrysostom, Clement of Rome, and Jerome. To quote only one, Chyrsostom said, "Presbyters of old were called bishops ... and the bishops presbyters."[4] "Pastor" is used in Ephesians 4:11, being there distinguished from the office of evangelist, apostle, and prophet, and therefore, by a process of elimination, appearing to be another name for "elder" or "bishop." Since the term "shepherd" is but the translation of "pastor," it rounds out the entire list of seven designations for one office, that of "them that have the rule," as mentioned in this verse.

That this office, controlled, as to them that may be appointed to it, by the enumeration of their qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9), is one of the most crucial importance in the church, is evident in the command of the Lord that Christians must submit to it. Every society must have some kind of government; and the Lord has chosen to elevate to that responsibility in the church men of faith, ability and reputation to bear the burden of government of the church. Every Christian should be loyal, faithful, and obedient to such men, who themselves must give an account to God, and who do not lord it over God's heritage, but in patience, love and forebearance, seek only that which contributes to the happiness and spiritual prosperity of the community of believers.

This is a good place to register a protest against that specimen of believer who, in every sense, is a free-lancer, considering himself as a member anywhere he hangs his hat, appropriating to himself the right of free and easy criticism of the elders upon any pretext and drifting from group to group as occasions arise in which he may draw away disciples after himself. The verse here is a stern reminder that there is such a thing as authority in the Church of Christ, and that one may flout it only at great risk to his soul's salvation. As Barnes said:

The meaning is that they should so obey, that when their teachers come to give up their account of them, they need not do it with sorrow over their perverseness and disobedience; "for that is unprofitable for you." That is, their giving up their account in that manner ... would not be of advantage to you, but would be highly injurious. This is a strong mode of expressing the idea that it must be attended with imminent peril to their souls to have their religious teachers give an account against them. As they would wish, therefore, to avoid that, they should render to them all proper honor and obedience.[5]

Despite the above, there is nothing in this injunction that for a moment would require Christians to submit to unfaithful, unsound, sinful, or deceived elders; and it must be taken into consideration as a fact that some occasions arise when the faithful servants of the Lord should separate themselves from any group of overseers whose leadership clearly moves away from Biblical norms and in sinful and unrighteous directions, in which case, not merely a soul is lost, but a church! "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."

[4] Chrysostom, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), "Homily on Timothy."

[5] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1963), Hebrews, p. 324.

Verse 18

Pray for us: for we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, desiring to live honorably in all things. And I exhort you the more exceedingly to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.

The use of the plural "us" suggests that the author is associated with others and desires that all of them should be the beneficiaries of the prayers of the readers; but, since he shifted to the emphatic singular a few words later, it may be more properly understood as an editorial pronoun, like the editorial "we." This request for the prayers of his fellow Christians postulates a number of valid deductions: (1) Despite all the stern warnings in Hebrews, and the rebukes administered therein, the writer still holds his readers to be bona fide Christians in covenant relationship with God. Whatever their actual lapse, or threatened failure, they were yet safely within the body of the redeemed and were considered to be such persons whose prayers would benefit the devout author of this great epistle. (2) A second matter of interest is the basis upon which the author predicated his request for prayers, namely, that he was at the end of the things he could do himself toward the attainment of the object mentioned, and also that he had a clear conscience. As Westcott said, "The prayers of others will not avail for our neglect of duty. They help, when we have done our utmost, to supply what we have failed to do, and to correct that we have done amiss."[6] The author, therefore, reinforces his right to ask their prayers with the affirmation that he has a clear conscience and that all of his efforts have been directed to living "honor ably in all things." (3) Another deduction regards the increased efficacy of prayers offered by many, as contrasted with prayers offered by only one, or a few. The scriptures teach that the prayers of many may prevail where the prayers of one, or only a few, might not. Even an apostle depended on such reinforcements as prayer (Romans 15:30; Philemon 1:1:22); and if such a person as Paul needed such help of his prayers, how much more is it true of others? Nor can it be explained how such a thing is possible, any more than it can be explained how the wrapping or winding of a wire, carrying an electric current, around a magnetic field, should so fantastically increase the velocity of the current.

That I may be restored to you the sooner is not a reference to the imprisonment of the author, that idea being ruled out by what is said a little later in Hebrews 13:23; but it implies that circumstances beyond his control had hindered him until that time. It could have been illness, the press of duties, some unfinished project that he could not leave, or one of many things. Whatever it was, there was, as indicated here, a patient, humble submission to events as they had developed, and a casting of the whole problem upon the will of God through prayer.

Verse 20

Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

This magnificent doxology is one of the noblest in holy writ and inspires the deepest emotions of love and gratitude to God. The expression "God of peace" is used by Paul in a number of places (Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Brought again from the dead is a reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, this being the one place in the whole epistle where it is specifically mentioned, although it is implied on every page of it. Just so, there is only a single reference to the cross (Hebrews 12:2); but the fact of it underlies practically every sentence in the whole book. As Westcott said, "The writer regards the work of Christ in its eternal aspects."[7] The reference to Christ as "the great shepherd" is a reminder to the rulers mentioned above that they are, after all, themselves under a shepherd and must give an account to him.

The eternal covenant is the new covenant, contrasted with the old which was abrogated; and the blood of that covenant is the blood of Christ by which the central atonement contained in it was procured, and which blood is symbolized and celebrated in the observance of the Lord's Supper. Jesus himself said on the night in which he instituted his supper, "This is the blood of the new covenant, shed for many unto the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Commentators are divided on whether "to whom be glory" is a reference to Christ whose name stands nearest the words in the doxology, or a reference to God who is the subject of the whole doxology and whose name stands at the beginning of it. It could not possibly make any difference, seeing the two are one; thus, glory ascribed to Christ is also glory ascribed to God.

Verse 22

But I exhort you brethren, bear with the word of exhortation: for I have written to you in few words.

I exhort you brethren is equivalent to "I beseech you therefore brethren," that being the way Paul began the exhortation in Romans 12:1. The "few words" applied to the entire epistle, called here delicately (by paraphrase) a little exhortation! The strong Pauline cast of this whole chapter was noted in the introduction; and the whole thrust of this part of Hebrews is so strongly marked by the familiar style, personality and theology of the great apostle to the Gentiles that no translation can obscure it. It is as though one were reading an extension of the book of Romans, or some other of Paul's epistles. Let them deny it who will, it is not amiss, as did Milligan, to draw the analogy thus:

In this, as in many other instances, we see the very delicate, gentle, and masterly touches of Paul's pen; who being himself the apostle to the Gentiles, and somewhat estranged from his Hebrew brethren, deals with these as gently as the case would permit.[8]

Verse 23

Know ye that our brother Timothy hath been set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.

There are two areas of ambiguity in this verse. "Know ye" could mean "Ye already know" or "Please do know"; and "set at liberty" could mean either that Timothy had been released from prison, or that he had been freed of an assignment, or completed a task. Scholarly opinion is in general disagreement, as there are technical difficulties in whatever construction is chosen in each case. If it is thought, for example that Timothy was released from prison, there is the absence of any definite knowledge that he was ever in prison. If it means, on the other hand, that he was released from a task, there is also only conjecture to support it. Such problems are of little concern, the central thought being perfectly clear, namely, that Timothy, having been freed from whatever impediment had previously hindered him, was expected by the author, who fervently hoped that his arrival would be in time to enable both of them together to travel for a personal visit with the recipients of this epistle.

The bearing of this verse on the question of authorship was discussed in the introduction; and here it remains to say only that, of all the persons whose names have come down to us through the ages from that distant time of the apostles, none of them was any more likely than Paul to have had authority to speak for Timothy on so important a matter as a projected trip to Jerusalem.

Verse 24

Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

This is an expression of courtesy and concern addressed to the elders of the church, or the presbyters of the congregation to which this epistle was directed. If even an apostle would not neglect such a mark of deference and respect to the elders of an established church, how much more should others be diligent to manifest every courtesy and consideration toward the elders of God's church. See the note on Hebrews 13:17.

The saints it should be noted, were not the canonized dead but the living members of the congregation; and they were to be saluted, or greeted, in the writer's name.

They of Italy are understood to be persons at that time living in Italy, from which place it is supposed Hebrews was written. This is a far more natural and logical understanding of the words than the view which makes the Italians mentioned here to be former CITIZENS of Italy, at the time of writing being residents some other place, and who wished to be remembered to the Christians in Jerusalem. These points are noted in the introduction. It is the view of this writer that the easiest understanding of the verse is best, namely, that they were Italians, living where one would expect Italians to live, namely, in Italy, perhaps in Rome; and that the writer, not an Italian, most probably Paul, residing in Italy at the time of writing, included the greetings of his fellow Christians of Italy to the saints in Jerusalem. Learned opinion may be brought forward to support this simple view, although scholars are by no means unanimous on this point. Delitzsch, as quoted by Milligan, said:

If the author was then in Italy, and at the same time was not a native of Italy, he could not have selected any more appropriate designation for the Italian Christians properly so-called.[9]

Verse 25

Grace be with you all. Amen.

This was Paul's customary way of concluding a letter except for the omitted signature. See Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 16:23; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 6:18; Ephesians 6:24; Philippians 4:23; Colossians 4:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:18; 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 4:22; Titus 3:15 and Philemon 1:1:25. In this light, Paul's benediction of grace, as in this final verse, has much of the quality and significance of a signature - Paul's!

Grace means the favor of God, especially with regard to his mercy in sending his only begotten Son to suffer and die for people. The grace of God is exclusive only in the sense that some shall fall short of it (Hebrews 12:15), for the scriptures affirm that it has indeed appeared unto all people (Titus 2:11), being therefore available for all who will properly seek and apply for it. This all-comprehensive word of summary for the entire system of salvation provided by God for sinful mortals is a fitting word with which to close the passionate words of this loving letter.

You all is an expression often criticized by the ignorant, as though there were in it some suggestion of tautology or circumlocution; but this is not the case. As a matter of fact, the English language affords no way of indicating the plural of the word "you" except by the inclusion of another word to denote who is meant. Thus, the expressions "you two," "you both," "you three," or "you all" are not merely grammatical, they are the only grammatical means of conveying the exact meaning.

Amen. This proud and devout word that stands at the end of many a prayer is here used to conclude the epistle to the Hebrews. It sounds a note of consciousness that God observes and takes cognizance of the affairs of men. When the Pilgrim fathers landed on the bleak shores of Massachusetts in January, 1621, they brought with them the Mayflower Compact, signed earlier aboard ship. It began with the solemn words, "In the name of God. Amen." The very word is hallowed in the song and story of faith. It is sounded in the halls of Congress, pronounced fervently on the field of battle, enunciated over the grave, and murmured by the dying. It is a blessed word.

And how shall it be pronounced? Ah-men, or A-men? One might say it makes no difference; and, for many, that is surely true. However, this writer would like to express a preference. Once he was invited to offer prayer for the opening of one of the daily sessions of the Congress of the United States, the invitation coming from Chaplain Brasscamp. Inquiry was made of the chaplain as to the proper pronunciation; and the chaplain, who always said "A-men," explained it by saying that this is the traditional AMERICAN WAY to pronounce it. The Pilgrim fathers, the founding statesmen, and the great body of religious leaders of the American Republic, throughout two and one-half centuries of American history pronounced it "A-men." Most of our own fathers said, "A-men"; and the kind of sophistication that considers it a little more "cultured" to say "AH-men" is absolutely ridiculous. This writer, who had often wavered between the pronunciations, has never, since that May morning in 1953, pronounced it any other way than "A-men."

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.