The book of Hebrews concludes with a series of brief, pointed commandments – the summary of all the “proofs” meant to help these Jewish Christians remain committed to Christ instead of turning back to Judaism. These commandments form a simple, reasonable summary, rooted in the fact that Jesus and His church are the fulfillment of everything toward which the law of Moses had pointed Israel. There are eight distinct commandments, together with six statements of exhortation and instruction that should remind them of everything they stood to lose if they turned back from the gospel to Judaism, and all of this forms a lesson in how they should apply what they have been taught.
There are five “positive” and three “negative” commandments:
• DO continue loving the brethren, vs. 1. The word for brotherly love is “philadelphia,” and it emphasizes the warm family relationship and perspective these Christians should have and maintain toward each other and all other (i.e., Gentile) Christians.
• Do NOT neglect to practice hospitality, vs. 2. The reference to angels, which would resonate vividly for these Jewish Christians (cf. Genesis 18-19), has often overshadowed the actual point here, which is that hospitality is supposed to be a characteristic of Christians!
• DO “remember” (consider, keep in their minds) those in bonds and those experiencing adversity (“torment”), vs. 3. In the context these descriptions would refer particularly to brethren (suffering for their faith), but not only to brethren. Brother Tom Wacaster notes that “strangers” (vs. 2) come to us, whereas we must “go” to those in bonds (cf. Matthew 25:36).
• DO “remember” those who – in the past – have “ruled over” (led, commanded) and spoken God’s word to them, and imitate their faithful examples, vs. 7. For the original readers, this looks back to the apostles and firstgeneration evangelists/elders who had taught them the gospel, but the emphasis is in the second part of the verse – follow, copy their examples of faithfulness.
• Do NOT be “carried away” (“blown to and fro”) by various kinds of alien doctrines, vs. 9. The contrast in this verse is between being “moved around” and being “established” (grounded) with grace, and it emphasizes how many different ways Satan tries to distract and misdirect us.
• Do NOT “forget” (neglect) acts of benevolence and sharing, vs. 16, because they are sacrifices that please God. This instruction looks back to the sacrifices offered to God in vs. 15 as the basis of the actions here.
• DO obey (trust in, be persuaded by) and submit to (yield to) those currently leading you, vs. 17. This commandment is reinforced by its logical appeal to each Christian’s own self-interest; godly “rulers” (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17) act for our benefit by “standing guard” for our souls and accepting a measure of responsibility for us (not simply for their own ego or power).
• DO pray for “us,” vs. 18 (for the inspired writer, who was obviously known to the original readers, cf. vv. 19 & 22- 23). This commandment would apply exclusively to the original readers in its specific context, but the principle of Christians praying for one another is well-established throughout the new testament.
Together with exhortations and instructions about marital purity (vs. 4), contentment in how we live in the material world (vv. 5-6), the consistent example of Jesus (vs. 8), the fellowship privilege in Christ that was NOT available to those still practicing Judaism (vv. 9-11), the sanctification in Christ that surpassed what could be obtained under Moses’ law (vv. 12-13), and the admonition to “raise your view and praise God!” (vv. 14-15), these eight commandments focus the readers’ attention on the simple fact that literally every blessing they had enjoyed as Jews was merely a shadow of what they had gained by becoming Christians.