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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Hebrews 13:1-3 Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them, which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

The Christian virtue of brotherly love is a commandment of God, and is second in importance only to this commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matt. 22:37). The miraculous virtues of some first-century followers of Christ came to an end when their purpose was fulfilled, but charity (love) never faileth (1 Cor. 13:8). From the day that bitterness existed with Cain toward Abel, God has commanded brotherly love among all mankind, even to this very day in which we live. It is a virtue that is timeless; it is a law of God that will endure forever.

The kind of love described in the lesson text, is "brotherly love." This could refer to the love that should exist within one's immediate, physical family; it could refer to love between brethren, or fellow Christians within the family of God; it could refer to both of these but also include the universal love for all mankind that is required by God, such as was demonstrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, described in Luke 10:30-37. The latter is more likely to be the application, because the example given in the lesson text shows brotherly loveby the demonstration of hospitality to strangers. It is also likely that the Hebrew Christians, to whom this letter was written, needed a lesson on extending their love for Gentile Christians, to the same extent as they loved those of their own heritage.

New Testament Christianity ushered in a new commandment of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. That commandment was That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34). This was a new law, in that it opposed the interpretation of the Law of Moses by the Jewish leaders, which taught the children of Israel to hate all people of Gentile nations. Brotherly love is a tenet that all Christians must accept, and practicat all times, in order to become, and remain, a faithful child of God. And, as a Christian, we are required to let brotherly love continue. This Christian virtue is never to be abandoned or withheld from a fellow human being, regardless of the circumstances of life.

Our love for God is continually tested by how we apply His commandment to love one another. From His Holy Wore, we know, that to love God, we must love others. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loveth God love his brother also (1 John 4:20-21). Brotherly love is a theme found throughout the New Testament. See Rom. 12:10, Phil. 2:1-2, 1 Pet. 1:22 and 3:8-9, 1 John 2:9-10 and 4:10-11.

Just how does God test our love for others? The world is filled with those that, for various reasons, are in need of loving care. The lesson text tells us that some are in bonds, and others suffer adversity, which could refer to any number of physical misfortunes. How we, as Christians, respond to the needs of others is God's test of our love for Him. The apostle John taught this lesson emphatically. Consider what he wrote to fellow Christians: But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17-18). Godly love for others is the same as if the strangers in need, that we meet daily, are angels of God. How we respond to their need demonstrates our love for God. On this we all will be judged.

Who can deny this to be the meaning in the teaching of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 25:31-46? When we meet strangers that are hungry, thirsty, in need of clothing, sick, or imprisoned, do we show compassionate love, and fill their need? God tells us that we have this obligation. When we fulfill this debt, we demonstrate our love for God; when we ignore their need, we fail God's test of love. Whatever you do for your fellow human beings will always be the same as if you are doing it to God. This is His test. Those that fail shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous (those that pass His test of love shall go) into life eternal (Matt. 25:46). Fellow Christian, take heed! Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.