Chapter 13

This last chapter mainly consists of exhortations suited to the doctrine of the earlier parts of the epistle.

Verses 1-6.—Once it was a nation with which God was in relationship, and in those days His command was for each to love His neighbour. But now He has a family called out of all nations, by which He is known as Father, whom He tells, as His children, to love one another as brethren. And this love must not be in word, but in deed and in truth. If some go forth to testify for Him, we are to welcome such stranger-brethren, “that we may be fellow-helpers with the truth.” And to us also it is given to be in hearty sympathy, and to identify ourselves fully with the suffering saints of God, not excusing ourselves from taking their part, because of some imperfection we see in them, or because we think they are going “too far.” The aim of each is to be purity, whether in single or married life, “for God hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7, 8). And to such godliness let us add contentment, for we are only pilgrims here. It is but little we need, and how can we lack it when God hath said—“I will not, not leave thee, neither will I not, not forsake thee.” With the assurance given by these five “nots,” we need have no shadow of doubt of His watchful, Fatherly care, but boldly say, “The Lord is my helper.” Not merely think but utter it, so that our hearts may be lifted up and refreshed, and others who mark our faith, encouraged.

Verses 7-9.—“Remember your guides,” literally, “those who are leading you,” for until “we all come unto the unity of the faith,” the Lord will raise up in the assemblies of His saints, those who will speak to them “the Word of God.” Although there are none now authorized to appoint such, they may easily be discerned by the spiritual. Their message comes to the soul in power, and, as they follow and lead on after Jesus, we are enjoined to “remember” (ver. 7), “obey” (ver. 17), and “salute” (ver. 24) them. And if some who once thus guided us have passed away, yea, possibly had their days shortened by their faithful service to the Lord and His saints, He Himself remains, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” To keep the eye steadily on Him, is the best preservative from evil doctrine. If you are occupied with Christ you will not be carried about or drift with the new doctrines which are invented every year by crafty men. Grace alone is what keeps saints right.

Verses 10-14.— The spotless Victim, whose blood was sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat, was cast forth without the camp; the further within, into the presence of God, that blood was brought, the more thoroughly without was the body of the Victim cast. “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp,” taking our place in association with Him, outside the camp of Judaism, clean outside the world’s religion, even should it entail reproach. But what matters it, if the reproach is “His”? It is “unto Him” we are to go; this will more than compensate for what we may lose or suffer. Gleaming yonder is the city, where “an hour with our God” will make up for all the sneers and reproaches borne for Christ down here.

Verses 15-16.—Thus in happy fellowship with God, a double stream of living water shall flow from us; first, upwards to God in praise; then, outward toward others, in blessing. To confess His name in worship, is well-pleasing unto Him, so also is doing good to others. Both are called “sacrifices”; they are joined together; let us not put them asunder. Thanksgiving and thanks-living, worship and service, spirituality before God, and untiring efforts to serve others, must be constantly combined.

Verses 17-19.—There are under-shepherds, faithful men, who watch with unceasing care the flock, for well they know the devices of the devil, who most frequently appears in the garb of an angel of light, to tempt and turn aside from the path. What a solemn responsibility and holy work such watchmen have!

Verses 20-21.—Finally, we are cast upon God Himself, in His beautiful character as the “God of peace,” here, as elsewhere, at the very close of the epistle, as if He would thus remind us that His presence thus is to be known and enjoyed in the way of obedience (see Phill. 4:9: 2 Thess. 3:16). “The Great Shepherd of the sheep” is the title given to “our Lord Jesus” in resurrection. As the Good Shepherd, He gave His life for us (John 10:11); as the Great Shepherd, He loves to befriend and guide us; as the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), He will appear with crowns of glory for those who have served Him here among His saints, it may be, with little earthly cheer, patiently awaiting His own commendation and reward. And as He to whom God has given such power and glory, served God down here perfectly, up to “the blood of the everlasting covenant,” so can He now, according to His heart’s desire and expressed will (John 17:24), serve us. And thus, God, perfectly fitting us together, as the words “make you perfect” mean—each unto our several places in the Body of Christ, the Church, so that in every good work we may do His will—He works in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight “through Jesus Christ.” Thus we end, as we began, with the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus. Well may the Holy Ghost add—“to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”