We begin to see the writer of the letter to the Hebrews begin to wrap up his message on the superiority of Jesus to any religious system with a few exhortations. They are things every father would want for his children and so might be seen as a continuance of the idea that God is a good, good Father who wants only what’s best for us even in times of stress, trial and sorrow. How do we treat others in the reality of walking together hand in hand through the valley of the shadow of death? We have a common bond. Hardship and death is something we all share and we should be concerned for the welfare of each other. As he begins his concluding remarks in Hebrews 13:1, he instructs his readers and us to “Let brotherly love continue.” In Verse 2 he adds, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Our God loves us. He is positively disposed towards us through all life’s trials. He’s not a policeman hiding behind a billboard trying to catch us doing something wrong. He’s not a boss trying to get the best performance from us that he can. He’s a loving father, looking out for our welfare. He demonstrated that love for us on Calvary. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Saving faith begins with that presupposition. We must understand God’s attitude toward us is always one of love. Without that we’ll never be able to love him back nor love our neighbors. We must have love before we can give love. 1 John 4:19 assures us of this truth. It says, “We love because he first loved us.” Brooks comments on this, “The one Greek word which it translates (as opposed to other words for ‘love’) is distinctively Christian in its biblical use. It is certainly the case that true ‘brotherly love’ must flow from the good spring and the gracious principle of God’s first love to us.”[1]

It appears by the word “continue” that the congregation of former Hebrews were indeed showing love to one another and the author wants that to continue. But from verse 2 it seems they were not as active in their reception of strangers. McGee says, “The basic thought of this verse in the Hebrew epistle is that we are to extend love to strangers by showing hospitality to them. We ought to be careful that our love is exercised with judgment, but we need to recognize that there are folk around us to whom we could be very helpful. We should extend our love to them, and in doing this we might meet some very wonderful people.”[2] He assumes that the “angels” that might be encountered when showing hospitality are human “messengers” from God. But the times in the Old Testament when people entertained “angels” they were actually supernatural beings. Abraham, Jacob and Joshua are a couple who did so. The word translated “angels” in verse 2 literally means “messenger” so it could mean either. The angels that Abraham entertained brought him good news. They informed him by divine decree that he was going to have the son of promise the next year. As Obrien observes, “The point for the hearers of the discourse is that strangers to whom they show hospitality may ‘prove to be true messengers of God to them, bringing a greater blessing than they receive.’”[3]

[1] Richard Brooks, The Name High over All: A Commentary on Hebrews, Welwyn Commentary Series (Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP, 2016), 424.

[2] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary: The Epistles (Hebrews 8-13), electronic ed., vol. 52 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 138.

[3] Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 507.