- Locate the passage.
Hebrews 13 begins the final concluding section of the letter. 13:1–6 can be identified as a paragraph unit by its unity and symmetry. As far as the chapter itself goes, most see two major sections: 13:1–21 and 13:22–25
- Determine the structure of the text.
- Exegete the passage
Notice the lexical repetition of euarestös, “acceptably,” in Heb 12:28 with the verbal form of this same word in 13:16, translated “is pleased.” This same adjective also occurs in 13:21 in the benediction. Consequently, 12:28 is the key exhortation and Hebrews 13 gives specificity to it.
Hebrews 13 provides specific practical instruction on fulfilling the author’s command in 12:28 to worship and serve God: serve God’s people.
Verse 1 is a terse statement employing the present imperative followed by the direct object which reads literally in Greek “the brotherly love let remain.”
Verse 2 begins with another imperative which literally reads: “hospitality do not neglect.”
A third imperative to remember those in prison follows in v. 3.
With v. 4 the subject shifts to marriage and sexual purity. The main clause of v. 4 is both compound and verbless. Most commentators and translators take the author’s meaning to express an imperatival idea.
Verses 5 and 6 form a unit and prohibit material greed on the grounds of God’s perennial care for those who are his.
See Neva Miller, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Analytical and Exegetical Handbook, 423-29; J. Harold Greenlee, Hebrews: An Exegetical Summary, 569-80; and David L. Allen, Hebrews, 603-11, for more detailed exegetical and semantic analysis of the text.
- Let the structure of the text drive the structure of the sermon.
A case can be made for taking verse 1 as the general principle, followed by specific related examples in vv. 2-6. On the other hand, vv. 1-3 can clearly be seen in that way, but vv. 4-6 are more difficult to construe in that fashion.
I would suggest a sermon structure that reflects the imperatival structure of each verse (or two verses in the case of vv. 5-6) and the distinct theme associated with the imperative: