5 Calls for Church Reform

What I write is not equally true for all churches or readers across the internet. I write in love primarily to the churches of the LCMS as a whole, my closest brothers, though the Words of God that I point to are true for all. Exhortations like this are best discussed and addressed at the local level where there is better specificity, but the problems that I call out here are problems that I see everywhere. I myself have no authority beyond my own household, and I am only a young man writing in a small corner. But these need to be called out by someone. I write with the hope of spurring discussion among my own local circles, as I in parallel pursue face-to-face conversations on these topics.

There are times for laying out logical proofs. Here, however, I try to avoid making any substantial argument of my own that would cause someone to claim that these appeals are my words rather than God’s. I desire to simply point to God’s Word with respect to 5 areas that I do not think our church culture takes seriously, though in places I do make tangential personal commentary for the sake of communicating the contrast.

This is not a matter of justification by works or attaining salvation through keeping the letter of a law. This is about faithfulness to God’s Word, which must follow from saving faith in Christ, the Word made flesh. But where can faith be living where faithfulness is willfully rejected? So faith must receive all of God’s Word.

If what I say is wrong, bear witness to the wrong. The calls should stand or fall by the authority of God’s Word alone.

The 5 all revolve around the image of head and body unity that God has instituted:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

John 17:20-23

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-28

How is the body to operate?

  1. It is written:
    “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-33)
    And again it is written:
    “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. . . . let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:1-7)
    And again,
    “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:2-5)
    • But while the families of our churches are sometimes taught this design for God’s creation in sermons and studies, which of our daughters actually seeks a husband whom she can gladly call lord rather than merely friend? Which of our sons seeks a wife whom he can husband with fear and sacrificial lordship? Which of our fathers act like their headship means more than simply paying the bills? We must take God’s Word seriously, that the Word of God may not be reviled on our account.
    • Yet there are those who do still keep this estate according to God’s Word, and they are to be commended.
    • But it is to be expected that many will not when most of our churches do not teach this conduct outside of the occasional wedding day sermon, nor do they exemplify this order of head and body in their corporate conduct.
  2. For it is written:
    “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. . . . I am writing these things to you so that . . . you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:2-7, 14-15)
    And again,
    “. . . appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:5-9)
    • But we say, “If a man is divorced or his children have left the faith or he has no experience as the head of a household, yet he has a seminary degree and can pass an academic examination, then he is qualified to shepherd God’s household.” And so we nullify the Word of God. For many such men now sit in the seat of shepherd over Christ’s flock.
    • We say, “The duties of the pastoral office are to teach the Word and to administer the sacraments.” This is clearly part of the duties. But we seem to ignore the weightier duty of managing the household, for God’s Word says, “if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” We should maintain the former without neglecting the latter, or else we reduce church membership to that of a consumerist individual subscription service in which the pastor is merely the paid service distributor and all members are merely individual subscribers.
      • From the same Scriptures we should likewise encourage our congregations to view themselves as a household. Members should be taught that their membership in a congregation is more than merely an individual subscription to a service of Word and Sacrament but is also a membership in a visible household and family fellowship within the larger body and family of Christ. If we do not, we should not complain if any of our members without warning severs their congregation membership to join another more attractive congregation, for such is in keeping with the individual-subscription model. If we do not teach members to regard each other as siblings of one household, we should not be surprised if members sit in their pews in the manner of theater-goers who come to receive their individually-subscribed goods and then depart without recognizing each other, nor should we be surprised if our members see no value in the common cup or broken bread during the Lord’s Supper.
    • We should not encourage men to pursue the ministry simply because they show interest or academic growth in the study of God’s Word. (Would that all our members showed such interest and growth!) Rather, we should so encourage men because they show the qualities of a good household shepherd. For Paul writes that the qualifications of a pastor are more broadly those of managing a household well. Not all who are given the gift of teaching are given the gift of shepherding, which includes not only instruction in sound doctrine but also respectable leadership and good parenting of the families of God.
    • Similarly, we should consider the example that we set in how we call our pastors and what this teaches our members regarding the household of God. If the congregation is a household, as Paul has written, then it is also one family and body with many members, and the overseer is part of that body. Therefore, he should not be encouraged to jump congregations any more readily than a member should be encouraged to jump congregations. But it affects the whole body of the household more when the head is decapitated and replaced than when other members are replaced. And as it currently stands, our synod encourages congregations to call pastors away from their existing households in order to fill vacancies in others. This is doubtless a complex practical matter, but clearly this practice teaches and assumes that the head of the household is properly divorceable from his household’s body as a normal matter of practice.
      • One might respond, “The apostle Paul traveled about from congregation to congregation.” And yet Paul himself was not primarily a local overseer but was an apostle and missionary evangelist, in accordance with the distinctions he makes in Ephesians 4:11 and in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Yet, even as apostle, Paul considered his relationship with the congregations he planted, including their elders and overseers, to be patriarchal, as it is written when he sends Timothy as his representative, “ I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:14-17)
      • Further, it is clear that Paul served as a “pastor of pastors”, or a “head of heads”. This follows from his office as both an apostle and church planter. That means his scope of headship is broader than that of a local overseer. And that means the geographic scope of his headship is broader. That means he must travel as part of his vocation, and when he travels he does not leave the scope of his existing headship. This is not the case for the average local overseer whom Paul or his representatives appoint. Their vocation and geography is just the local congregation, and so travel is not part of their vocation. Rather, if they leave their local congregation to join another, they do leave the scope of their previously established headship
  3. Again, it is written,
    “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3-16)
    And again,
    “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)
    And again,
    “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” (1 Corinthians 14:33-38)
    • But our churches say, “If a woman has a degree or title or even if she simply has acceptable words in themselves, then she is permitted to teach our congregations in our Bible studies, to teach our pastors at conferences, and to teach all members young and old at our other church functions.” Regardless of the motives, it is common knowledge that this is the practice across the synod, as it is seen openly at youth NYG and HT conferences and at pastoral Doxology conferences and beyond. And so we nullify the Word of God in our practice.
      • Perhaps we forget that both teaching and function within one body with many members is more than simply the words we say but is also the example and means by which we do them. And the example of our broader church body will influence the practices in our congregations and individual families. Let all be done in good order, in the order God created the organs of His body to operate.
      • But not all congregations follow this practice, and to the degree that any hold to God’s design out of faithful and loving hearts they are to be commended.
    • Some say, “Paul was appealing only to cultural standards of his day that do not apply to us anymore.” And yet Paul clearly writes that he appeals not to men but to God’s unchanging Word for a practice that is to be held in all the churches, despite the cultural corruption that surrounded the Corinthians.
      • We should not be surprised when people rise up in the church today and assert that women should not only teach but also be pastors. For this is the logical conclusion of our existing disregard for God’s Word outside the pastoral office.
    • Yet this existing practice has created a dilemma: Most husbands of our families are not trained to exercise Godly headship at home, especially with respect to teaching and answering questions for their wives and children, for generations have now passed since this responsibility was required of them.
      • And should we then be surprised when our youth grow up without faith or understanding of the hope that is in us?
      • Or do we expect that men with sinful natures will step up to this cross of responsibility in Christ’s image for their wives on their own when they are not called or taught to bear this fearful duty?
    • Even if any of us does not appreciate the goodness of God’s mandate, let us still follow both Luther’s and Mary’s example and say simply, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God,” and, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
  4. It is written,
    “And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.’ . . .
    “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? . . . And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:15-31)
    And again it is written,
    “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 3:16-23)
    And again,
    “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts 4:32)
    • This is not a specific accusation against any particular practice. Rather, this is call to recognize that it is rare among us to see any member openly regard another brothers’ material needs as his own in a substantial way.
    • It can be wise to save up when all needs are met, as Solomon did in his kingdom. It is faithful to save up when a known need is on the horizon, as Joseph did before the famine. And it can be good to celebrate and to enjoy the good gifts God has given us in times of blessing, as the father did for the prodigal son. But when a brother near you is in need, that should become your need as well. What good is it to save up $5000 during times of blessing if you refuse to spend it when your family faces an unexpected cost of $4000? So also, what good is it if you close your heart to your brother in Christ as if he were not also your family when he has a similar need that he cannot repay on his own? But each circumstance calls for wisdom and stewardship.
      • Yet who among us in our churches, if he finds he has been blessed with ample goods beyond his needs, does not store it up in virtual barns or else spend it on expensive travel and vacations that do not last, even when their church struggles to pay its mortgage or they know of brothers in Christ who struggle for daily bread?
    • There are many individuals among us who do treat their brothers in Christ as family in their material needs. They are to be commended. But this practice should be made more open so that we teach the next generation by our example that this is good and pleases God our Savior. If we do not, our culture still continues to teach our youth to think of all as individuals, not as family, and to teach us to win life by dying with the most toys.
    • In deed and truth we should not store up possessions for many years merely so that we can pretend assurance for our own futures, which are not ours to control. Rather, we should daily pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We should be willing to lighten the burdens of our poorer brothers even if it means we risk that we share in their suffering.
    • But how many of us who have the world’s goods interact with brothers outside our wealthier circles so that we can even have the opportunity to open or close our hearts to them?
  5. It is written,
    “So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:14-20)
    And again it is written,
    “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit . . . ? You have not lied to man but to God.’” (Acts 5:1-4)
    And again it is written,
    “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. . . . Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (1 Corinthians 11:20-33)
    And it is written,
    “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. 
    “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:13-18)
    • We should take these passages seriously so that we truly regard a gathering of brethren in Christ’s name as one body, His body bearing His name, and not as merely a collection of individuals who each singly bear His name.
    • If when we read the passage from James we then talk only about oil, or we read the passage from Paul on the Supper and then talk only about the real presence in the bread and wine, we show that we still think of ourselves merely as individual subscribers to Christ’s service. We neglect to notice the call for the body of Christ to act with and for one another in unity as members of Christ’s body, bearing His name together in holiness. We should do the former without neglecting the latter.
      • But in which of our churches can one find that the leaders of a congregation gather together as one not merely to conduct business or service activities but to bear Christ’s name as a collective representative of His body in holiness and authority: to visit a member and pray over him together or to hear confession and absolve him together?
    • One might say, “It makes no difference whether the leaders of a congregation pray for and visit the sick individually or together.” While it is written that the prayer of even a single righteous person has great power, yet it is also written, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20)
      • Is it not common sense that Christ is not only present in Spirit where two or three gather in His name, but that when they gather together publicly as one body bearing His name they corporately do bear Christ’s name before others? That is, when acting as a group, any good or ill that they do together brings glory or shame to God’s name alone and not to any individual among them, so that God’s name truly may be glorified. And Christ has given the Church authority to bear His name not only in reputation but in power.
    • One might say, “The pastor visits the sick and hears confessions. He is the one who acts in Christ’s stead for us.” This acknowledges the pastor’s headship over the household while distancing oneself from participation in the actions of the household under his and Christ’s headship. Yet in which of our churches can one find members that confess their specific sins even to the pastor alone? This practice has clearly become rare, though perhaps it is returning among us.
      • How can we say we are willing to confess our sins to Christ and yet not be willing to admit specific fault to Christ’s body? The church is Christ’s body to be the means of Christ’s service and work here on earth. Or is it that we know that the members of Christ’s body around us cannot be trusted to receive a confession as Christ would, with true love and forgiveness that only builds up and does not tear down? Or perhaps Christ’s body can be trusted after all, and you have simply not given Him the chance?
    • But there are some among us who do confess our sins to each other as if to Christ Himself and do pray corporately for each other as those who bear Christ’s name. These are to be commended.

As a whole, our people have inherited the ideals of individual independence, perhaps in fear of what can occur when headship is abused. But only through God’s design of head and body in His image can we be one even as He is one.

As a whole, our churches of the West do not stand out from the world as they ought. We must be holy, set apart as one from the world and viewed as weird to the people who are of the world, for our God is holy. We must take God’s Word seriously, bot because our outward works justify us before God but because of faith. Christ is Lord.

“You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” (Romans 2:23-24)

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (Jude 20-23)

Search the Scriptures, my brothers, and ever press on toward the upward call of Christ. Now may we all continually pray for each other, for wisdom and holiness and love, and may the love of Christ be with and among us all. May His Way be all in all for us, now and to the eternity with Him that is our undying hope. Amen.

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.

Hebrews 13:1-22

EDIT 11/1/23: An introduction is added and the target audience clarified. The main points for #1 and #5 are clarified. The response to Paul’s example is added to #2. The summary is at the end is clarified.
EDIT 11/4/23: Grammar fixes. Some switch to 1st person plural. Extended discourse on Paul’s example in #2.
EDIT 11/6/23: Commenting on justification and faith. Adding intro from John 17. Cleaning up organization of points. Cleaning language to sound less imprecisely accusatory.