For an introduction to this series, click here.
November 19, 2007
OK, I have to admit that this last chapter feels very Pauline. There are a lot of disparate instructions thrown together. But they are really good. Perhaps Barnabas or whoever wrote this book was familiar with Paul's style. Luke certainly would have been familiar with it. Or since this was probably written before most of Paul’s letters, maybe Paul imitated the writer’s style.
"Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." (13:1-3)
If that is not an encouragement for hospitality, I don't know what is. Being in prison was a fact of life for many Christians of that time. A lot of us don't know people who are being persecuted today. But I have a feeling it will be coming, and sooner than any of us realize.
"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?' Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." (13:5-7)
I like passages like this, where familiar teachings are juxtaposed with each other. We know we are supposed to be content and not greedy. But do we realize that the reason why is that the Lord has promised never to leave us? That is a real comfort. The Lord will provide the things that we need. Covetousness and discontentment is in reality a lack of faith in what the Lord has provided for us.
"We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (13:10-16)
This is a neat summary of what the writer has been saying throughout this whole book. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament. This does not mean we should absolutely toss it, but it means that we should exercise the liberty we have to live our lives in honor of the Lord. Clearly the sacrificial system is done away with in Christ, but notice two types of sacrifices we can give: praise and giving to others. We often don't think of those as equivalent to a burnt offering, but that's what the writer seems to be saying here.