Agonizomai: Heb 13 - 01-03 - Christ - In His Messengers and Saints

Monday, May 24, 2010

Heb 13 - 01-03 - Christ - In His Messengers and Saints

Heb 13 - 01-03 - Christ - In His Messengers and Saints

Heb 13:1-3 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

This is a sermon to the Hebrews. Consequently the exhortation to "let brotherly love continue," though also in the Christian context, is encouraging them to love their fellow Jews. The Writer has spent considerable time detracting from Old Testament Judaism, showing it as inappropriate for the gospel age, but he is careful not to put down the Jews on the basis of their nationality alone. He is simply criticizing the idea of a return to Judaisitic practices now that the Messiah has come and fulfilled all things. But the Jews themselves are beloved for the sake of the fathers, to whom the promises were given, and ought to be loved by all who hold fast to Christ. And, of course, in the larger Christian context, we are to show love and mercy to all men, especially to the household of faith.

The Hebrew Scriptures contained many instances of theophany or of angelic visitation. Abraham on the plains of Mamre comes to mind, {Ge 18:1-9} just before the destruction of Sodom. Angels appearing in a form of human disguise, or in such a form as to be misidentified as human, are not the same as angels appearing in their unveiled glory, as happened to Mary and Zacharias. It is possible for angels to pass among us unnoticed until their message has been delivered. And it is possible for Christian brothers to cross our paths without us knowing their kinship in Christ - either because they have not yet been revealed in Christ, or because they have not revealed themselves.

Angels are messengers of God, and their appearance, covert or otherwise, is principally as messengers; they have a message to deliver. Yes, they carry on invisibly in the spiritual realm, waging war in the heavenlies in ways which we can only glimpse through divine revelation, as did Elisha’s servant, {2Ki 6:15-17} but in the realm of men their appearance is usually connected to the deliverance of a message.

And the ultimate message comes in the "disguise" of the ultimate Messenger. Jesus came in his prophets. And Jesus comes in his saints to bring Himself as the message. All Christian brothers are indwelt by Christ. This is not an overt thing. We often cannot tell by outward appearance, nor sometimes even by demeanour, whether a person is a Christian or a pagan. Our duty, then, is to be hospitable to all, lest we do injury to one in whom Christ comes to us. {Mt 10:40-42 25:34-36}

And we go on to the question of those in prison. Now, while I respect those today (like Chuck Colson) who do evangelism in the form of prison ministry, I would emphasize that is not what is being referenced here. "Remembering" those in prison harks back to a prior acquaintance. It was the saints who were being imprisoned for their faith. And it was easy to neglect them for fear that visitors would also come under scrutiny. It was the same with those who were being openly persecuted, or had been punished corporally. Open association with such people was identification with them. Yet the saints were to love their brethren enough to comfort and, if necessary, share in their suffering and persecution. After all, all the saints share in common the fact that, while we are citizens of heaven, we still dwell in mortal flesh and are all likewise subject to the same sufferings at the hands of men.


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