The book of Hebrews is a treatise on the superiority of Christ. This superiority is summarized in the opening words of this letter. In Heb. 1:1-2 the scripture says, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” Throughout this letter the inspired writer expounds on this superiority. He shows the Lord to be superior to the angels, superior to Moses, and superior to all the prophets who preceded Him. The capper to this argument is the superiority of the Lord’s sacrifice, and the superiority of His covenant to the Law of Moses.
The purpose of this letter was to encourage Jewish Christians to not go back to the trappings of the Law of Moses. They had been liberated from that law when they obeyed the gospel, and they needed to be growing in the faith in Christ in order to become mature. At the end of this letter the writer offers a variety of exhortations. Each of these exhortations underscores the superiority of Christ and the higher standard to which Christians have been called. One of the first exhortations of Chapter 13 is particularly interesting, and is worthy of our consideration because we are generally not living up to it today.
In Heb. 13:2 the scripture says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Like much of what is written in the book of Hebrews, this statement has an Old Testament reference underlying it. In Gen. 18, Abraham entertained three men who happened to pass by his tent. These men were very likely God the Father, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit, who were on their way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. In other instances, Gideon was visited by an angel of the Lord (Jdg. 6), as were Manoah and his wife (Jdg. 13). In each case the visitors were invited to wait while a meal was prepared for them. After serving the meal, the visitors went on their way, after delivering God’s message for that particular occasion.
This Old Testament antecedent is the basis for the exhortation to “show hospitality to strangers” in Heb. 13:2. The Greek word that is rendered “hospitality” in this verse literally means love of strangers. We who are Christians are commanded to demonstrate this kind of love because of whose we are. Of course many of us consider ourselves to be hospitable because we are friendly, and we warmly greet visitors to our worship assemblies. However, hospitality is much more than this. It is not coincidental that in each of the Old Testament precedents for hospitality a meal was prepared and served to the strangers.
Unfortunately, few of us today are as accommodating to strangers as in these Old Testament examples. The sad truth is that we rarely host our friends for a meal, much less complete strangers. The key, however, is in v. 1 where the scripture says, “Let love of the brethren continue.” Brothers and sisters in Christ may be strangers, but because they are fellow Christians, we should show our love for them. In the context of Heb. 13, this means inviting them for a meal, at the very least.
If we begin to show this kind of hospitality, we will become much closer as a body of believers in our local church, and we will also be an encouragement to fellow Christians with whom we are not yet acquainted. The superiority of our Savior, the superiority of His sacrifice, and the superiority of His covenant, requires a higher response from us. Therefore, we must not neglect to show hospitality.