A Final Appeal (Hebrews 13:22-23)
I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.
After the beautiful benediction (Heb. 13:20-21) the letter now ends. As it does, we see the pastoral heart of the author. And we find out that this is not a normal letter as we would think of it. It is a word of exhortation; it is a sermon.
I Appeal to You
The ESV translates this opening phrase as I appeal to you, but other translations translate it as I urge you (See the NASB and CSB). He is making an urgent call to them. But why is he so urgent?
He wants them to bear with his word of exhortation. He wants them to receive it. The same word Greek word that is translated bear with is used in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching.” The word endure in 2 Timothy is the same as bear with here in Hebrews.
Here the author is exhorting his readers to do the opposite. He urges them to endure what he has written to them. This truth does not deserve a one-time reading only. They need to stick with it. They need to endure in it,
What he has written is not to be moved on from quickly. They need to think about what he has written and not look for something new.
Word of Exhortation
I’ve been calling Hebrews a letter, but it is more than that, it is a word of exhortation. This phrase “designates what we call a sermon: a spoken exposition and application of Scripture.” (Dennis Johnson, ESV Expository Commentary)
The author is really the preacher and he has sent them a sermon (See Acts 13:15 and 1 Tim. 4:13). Here is the heart of a pastor. This is not just a letter to let them know how he is doing. This is an opening and application of God’s word for the good of these people. Therefore, they need to endure with what he has written. There is no reason to move on from this quickly because this letter is opening God’s word for them and teaching them how to apply it to their lives.
As an aside for a moment, let this be a reminder to us all that the preaching of God’s word has always been important and necessary for the life of the church. Christians of every generation have faced the temptation, and some have given in, to downplay the importance of preaching. Preaching is important to the life of the church not because of the act itself but the content. Biblical preaching is an opening, an exposition, and application of the Bible, God’s revealed word.
The preacher preaches through this letter and exhorts them to “not fall away from the message the first received.” (Thomas Schreiner, Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation)
The reason he urges them to bear with his word of exhortation is that he has written to them briefly. There is more he could say but he will not at this time. We know he intended to be brief because twice in the letter previously he gives the impression there was more he could say but he would not elaborate at that time (See Heb. 9:5; 11:32).
Now would be a good time to pause and ask ourselves how we are bearing with this word of exhortation. How are you enduring with the truth that is taught in Hebrews?
To extend this thinking even further, what about the sermons you hear each Sunday? And perhaps for some before you can answer that question you need to answer this one, do you hear a sermon often? It is best to hear one each Sunday with a local body of believers, but do you hear them? It is so easy in this world of quick moving information to move on. Too often our experience is that most of the content of the sermon is forgotten by the time we finish lunch on Sunday.
What can you do to endure, to stick with, to internalize the sermons you hear?
I Have Good News
Their close friend has good news for them before the letter ends. Timothy has been released from prison. Indirectly this shows that the preacher was practicing what he preached. Earlier in chapter 13, he exhorted his readers to remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and in 10:34 he speaks of their compassion for those who are in prison.
Perhaps they learned this from his example. He was compassionate toward those who were in prison. He remembered them and he delivers good news to them that Timothy is now out of prison. He hopes that when he comes to them (See Heb. 13:19) Timothy will accompany him on the trip.
As we bring this article to a close, we should all ask ourselves two questions.
- What step will you take, with God’s help, to bear with the sermons you hear week in and week out?
- How will you give yourself earnestly to hearing God’s word preached?