A Systematic Expository on the book of Hebrews
STUDY 9: WARNING AGAINST BACKSLIDING AND APOSTACY
Hebrews 3:7 - 19
The epistle to the Hebrews focuses on the better One. It compares and contrasts the Mediator of the new covenant, Christ, with all who were involved in the Old Covenant. Christ is revealed and proved to be higher, greater and better than angels, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Joshua and the prophets. The new covenant established by Christ is shown to be better than the old covenant. In fact the word better appears many times: “better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6), “better testament” (Hebrews 7:22), “better sacrifices” (Hebrews 9:23), “better things” through the blood of Jesus than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:24), “better promises (Hebrews 8:6), “better hope” (Hebrews 7:19), “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35), “better things provided” (Hebrews 11:40), “better and enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:34), “a better country” (Hebrews 11:16). Does that mean that the dealings of God with people under the old covenant have no lesson to teach us since we are under the new covenant? On the contrary, we have a lot to learn (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6-12; Hebrews 2:2,3; 4:1,2). The backsliding of Israel is used to warn the church of the danger of backsliding and apostasy (Hebrews 3:6-19).
WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT AGAINST HALTING HEARERS
Hebrews 3:7-11; Psalm 95:7-11; Numbers 14:1-4,11,22,23; Psalm 78:36,37,40-42,56-59; 106:13-15,21-29; Deuteronomy 1:31-35; 2 Kings 17:14,15; 1 Kings 18:21.
The history of the children of Israel was used by the Psalmist to warn the Israelites of his day. The inspired writer quotes from the Psalms to warn the Hebrew Christians. The exhortation and warning came to “holy brethren”, “partakers of the heavenly calling”, “partakers of Christ” (Hebrews 3:1,12,14). We are reminded of the unfaithfulness, disobedience and unbelief of Israel in the past and of the dire consequences that followed their failure to hold fast unto the end. In view of the lamentable backsliding of Israel, who despite God’s wondrous favours to them hardened their hearts, grieved Him and provoked Him to wrath, we are warned not to harden our hearts, not to provoke the Lord, lest we are disqualified from entering heaven.
“As the Holy Ghost saith”, in Hebrews 1:1, God the Father spoke: in Hebrews 2:3 the Son spoke: now in Hebrews 3:7, the speaker is the Holy Spirit. Linking together these three passages we hear all the Persons of the Godhead speaking to us. Observe the tense of the verb used in Hebrews; it is not “as the Holy Ghost said” but “saith”. Quoting what had been said and written more than 1000 years before, the present tense is used. God’s Word is an ever present, living message to God’s people in each succeeding generation.
“Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts”. “Today”, used here is not limited to 24 hours; it signifies the present time, it covers the period of time while we are alive here on earth (Hebrews 3:13; 13:8). Each time when we hear God’s Word, we must be tender and receptive - “harden not your hearts”.
WARNING AGAINST HARDNESS OF HEART
Hebrews 3:12-15; Romans 11:19-22; Jeremiah 7:23-28; Isaiah 44:20; Obadiah vs 3; 1 Samuel 6:6; Daniel 5:20; Hebrews 4:7; 3:8; Matthew 24:12,13.
“Take heed brethren”. Here the apostle gives a solemn and serious warning to believers, the “brethren” (Hebrews 3:12; 2:11,12; 3:1; 10:19; 13:22). He warns against the danger of “departing from the Living God”. This shows the possibility of a true child of God backsliding, falling away and finally perishing. The apostle drew the warning from the history of Israel in the wilderness. Those Israelites were saved, redeemed and delivered. They sang songs of praise to God and even once consecrated to serve and obey God (Exodus 15:2,16; 19:5,8). Yet many of them backslid and perished in the wilderness.
We are warned against being “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”. Sin is deceptive. Sin presents itself in another dress than its own. It deludes those who are tempted into a false estimate of themselves. It clothes its hideousness by assuming an attractive garb. By the deceitfulness of sin the heart is hardened. God’s Word speaks of “deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22), “the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22), the “ deceivableness of unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Beware, lest your heart be hardened (2 Chronicles 36:12,13; Proverbs 28:14; 29:1).
WILDERNESS WANDERERS HINDERED FROM HEAVEN
Hebrews 3:16-19; Jude vs 5; Numbers 14:22,23,28-35; 26:63-65; Joshua 14:6-14; Luke 13:23,24: Revelation 21:8.
Out of more than six hundred thousand men who left Egypt, only two of them entered the Promised Land; Caleb and Joshua. What is said about those who perished is terribly significant: (1) They hearkened not to God’s voice; (2) Their hearts were hardened; (3) Their rebellion, disobedience and unbelief brought destruction upon them. We must take heed that we “fall not after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:11). We are saved through faith; we are lost through unbelief. The heart is purified by faith; the heart is hardened by unbelief. Faith reconciles us to God; unbelief separates us from God.
“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19) - not because God was unwilling for them to enter or because He was unable to bring them in, because of their own unbelief cut them off. Unbelief and disobedience are two sides of the same coin. Backsliders and apostates forfeit eternal life by their unbelief and disobedience.
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