Saturday, November 9, 2013
Hebrews Chapter Three Part 4
3:12-14 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end
We now come to what many would consider a trouble passage, while others regard it is a proof positive that falling away can and does occur with genuinely saved Christians. But does it? What is this passage truly saying in the context of this chapter, and this epistle? We shall see.
First the writer begins by telling his brethren (fellow Christians) to take heed, to beware, to be on the lookout. Why? So there is not in any of them an evil heart of unbelief. The writer, in this same passage, refers to this as being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. If we pay sin heed, if we give our sin nature a firm foothold in our daily lives it will not stop there. It won’t stop because it doesn’t want subordination; it doesn’t want joint custody. It wants dominion, and means to have it, no matter what. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish,” Galatians 5:16-17.
An evil heart of unbelief which is provoked by the deceitfulness of sin has but one cardinal purpose: to remove you from God’s presence and will. We depart from the living God. “…Each one is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death,” James 1:14-15. The Bible is replete with saints who fulfill this passage vividly. King Saul, David’s predecessor, is an excellent example. Read 1st Samuel and watch as this young saint slowly turns from obedience to God’s will to a life of self-gratification provoked by sin’s enticement. Eventually he was killed because the Lord disciplined him unto (physical) death, 1st Samuel 31:4. Solomon suffered similarly, 1st Kings 11:9. King Uzziah likewise erred, 2nd Chronicles 26:16. Moses was even disciplined unto death for disobedience, Numbers 20:10-12; Deuteronomy 32:48-52. Ananias and Sapphira also were disciplined accordingly, Acts 5:1-10. The Corinthian church also apparently suffered this discipline because of disobedience led by sinful conduct, 1st Corinthians 11:30. But Paul affirms that this should not be taken as a sign that such are unsaved, but rather that such Christians are judged and chastened by God so that they are not condemned with the world; that is the world system that the Holy Spirit has called us out of, 1st Corinthians 11:31-32.
The writer of Hebrews also affirms that even this very act of discipline (even taken unto death) is a sure sign not of perdition, but of the fact that we are God’s children. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons,” Hebrews 12:7-8.
What is the remedy so as not to stumble down this path? To exhort one another daily, while it is called today (translation: waste no time doing this; don’t wait until you see sin to exhort each other). This is one good reason why later we read that we should never forsake the assembling of ourselves, Hebrews 10:25. If we are separated from our fellow Christians, who is there to exhort us to stay on the path? Fellowship, relational living with other saints, is the lifeblood of healthy, spiritual growth. We are all a part of the same body, and have no reason or right to say to the others, “I have no need of you,” 1st Corinthians 12:21. It seems to imply that when we are left alone the deceitfulness of sin has a stronger hold. The stray sheep is easy pickings for the ravening wolf.
We are only made partakers of Christ (again partaker means “sharer, participant or associate”) if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence until the end. Now one must briefly pause and ask: is this how hundreds of other verses in the Bible define salvation? Is this verse referring to salvation? I do not recall reading: “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me and holds fast the beginning of their confidence to the end has everlasting life.” No; the criterion is entirely singular. He who believes is saved; he who believes not is already condemned, Mark 16:16; John 3:36; 1st John 5:10-12; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9; 1st Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 3:26, etc.
We become fellow workers with Christ, through us God accomplishes His eternal purposes, if we walk with Him in the Spirit and deny the flesh. “Confidence” in this verse is the Greek “hupostasis” and means “a setting under or support; assurance.” On what did we rely on to begin with? What is the Christian’s support? It is Jesus Christ Himself. The gospel is about two things: Jesus, and what He did for us. If the gospel alone saves, and the gospel is only about Jesus, then it is the person and work of our Lord and Savior that preoccupies all questions about the efficacy of our salvation. Holding the beginning of this confidence is critical, because if we begin to drift away from what we have heard (Hebrews 2:1) error enters. Faith in Christ alone inevitably mingles with works to dilute the potency of living the life of faith. Works begins to supplant Christ since I must now “work” in some capacity to keep up my relationship with the Lord or make sure I don’t fall away. The focus of my faith shifts, subtly and slowly, to myself enthroned because the responsibility of my spiritual life’s destiny is left with me.
Yet this verse is clearly saying nothing of the matter. The writer impresses on his audience that with Jesus we begin; with Jesus as our focus we continue. A Christian must be emptied of self (selfless) so we can be filled with our Lord, and then through us Christ continues His work of reconciliation, of building His church. When the focus shifts from Jesus to anything else we cannot be selfless any longer. The room that the Holy Spirit had to work powerfully in us has been occupied by idols that contend with Him for our attention. Now we must choose: whom shall we hearken to?