What does Hebrews chapter 13 mean?The final chapter of the book of Hebrews offers instructions for Christian living and a farewell which includes both a prayer request and a benediction. Chapter 12 ended with an encouraging reminder about the nature of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:26–29). This passage begins with a series of statements applying Christian principles to daily life, then transitions into a short-hand summary of the letter's major points.
The writer commends concepts such as love, charity, sexual purity, and contentment. These are all ideas promoted heavily in other New Testament passages. The principles given here are grounded in the letter's prior themes, such as the constancy of Christ. The common theme of this group of instructions is mostly actions or attitudes (Hebrews 13:1–6).
Next, this chapter presents instructions for spiritual living. The two major points given here are the need to respect one's spiritual leaders and the importance of faithfully maintaining sound doctrine. Just as the heroes of the faith were mentioned in chapter 11, this passage refers to more recent leaders as those to be emulated in our walk with Christ. Also, the writer makes a strong point about the constancy of the gospel. Jesus Christ does not change, and neither does the truth. Christians, therefore, ought to be careful not to follow novel, strange, or changing doctrines (Hebrews 13:7–9).
From there, the writer returns to drawing comparisons between elements of the old covenant and the ministry of Jesus Christ. Earlier in this book, it was explained that rituals and sacraments of the Levitical law were meant to symbolize the "real" plan, enacted through Jesus (Hebrews 8:5–6). In this section, a parallel is shown between the disposal of sacrificed animals and the crucifixion of Christ. Animals offered to consecrate Aaron's priesthood were burnt outside the borders of Israel's camp (Exodus 29:14). Jesus, whose sacrificial death reconciled us to God (Hebrews 2:10; 9:24–26), was executed outside the borders of the city of Jerusalem (John 19:17–20).
In making this comparison, the writer once again encourages the reader to "hold fast" in the face of persecution, choosing to be identified with Christ rather than with the world (Hebrews 11:24–26). This leads back to another reference to spiritual leadership, reminding believers to cooperate with teachers, rather than frustrating them (Hebrews 13:10–17).
After this appeal, the writer asks for two personal prayer requests. Showing great humility, he requests prayer that his actions be honorable and his conscience clear. Secondly, he wishes to be able to visit the original readers of this letter as soon as possible (Hebrews 13:18–19).
Finally, the writer pronounces a blessing on his readers. This, again, seems to echo the themes found throughout the rest of this book. Peace, Christ's role as an example, the eternality of the new covenant, God's will expressing itself in our lives, and the glory of God are all part of this prayer. Then, in an interesting remark, the writer essentially apologizes for giving such a brief treatment to these deep subjects. After a few other minor comments, the book of Hebrews closes with a phrase found frequently at the end of Paul's writings, wishing grace upon the readers.