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Question and Answer

Prison Evangelism

Question:

In Hebrews 13:3 there is reference to those in prisons (and other places, of course). My understanding is that those who are in prison are fellow Christians who are being persecuted for their Christian beliefs. While I believe that we must evangelize everywhere and all people, it would seem that the people spoken of here are fellow Christians. Is this correct?

Answer:

I agree with your understanding of Hebrews 13:3. The admonition in that verse comes out of the situation described at the end of chapter 10 (vv. 32-34, see also 6:9, 10) and the character of the church in the world as pilgrims and aliens (13:9-14 with chapter 11, esp. vv. 8-10, 13-16, 24-27, 38; 12:1-4).

The book of Hebrews is a unity, all of it encouraging Jewish believers in Christ to remain steadfast in their devotion to Him despite all opposition and persecution. This means being devoted to one another in Christ so that we encourage one another to spiritual faithfulness (3:12-14, 10:24, 25) and aid and comfort one another when persecution comes—including standing up for abused brethren and even visiting them in prison, despite the risk to oneself.

Yes, the Great Commission directs us to proclaim the Gospel everywhere and to all people (including people in prison). But passages like Hebrew 13:3 and also Matthew 25:31-40 (with 10:16-24) teach us to have a special regard for even the least of Christ's brethren, our brothers and sisters in Him, when they are rejected and persecuted by the unbelieving world.

Of course, it is not always physically possible to visit brethren in prison for Christ, but at the very least we can pray for them and maybe do more (letters of encouragement, public pressure on governments, etc.).

I hope this is a helpful response. Feel free to come back for more—either follow up on this or other questions.

The Lord bless and guide you.


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