A Systematic Expository Study on the book of Hebrews
STUDY 42: WARNING AGAINST BACKSLIDING AND APOSTACY
Hebrews 12: 15 - 17.
The epistle to the Hebrews is full of warning. There would be no warning if there were no danger. These exhortations and warning are for both believers and unbelievers. For the unstable Christians and backsliders - Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it (Hebrews 4: 1). For if we sin wilfully after that we have received knowledge of the truth, there remaineth... a certain fearful looking for a judgment and fiery indignation... (Hebrews 10: 26, 27). If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him (Hebrews 10: 38) For all believers - Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the Living God (Hebrews 10: 38). Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm UNTO THE END (Hebrews 3: 6).
The warning in the passage of study today is very strong. After showing us how indispensable holiness is, the Apostle calls us to diligence and watchfulness. In Hebrews 12: 14 he had said, “Follow peace with all men, and HOLINESS, without which no man shall see the Lord”. Now he says: “Looking diligently, lest...” (Hebrews 12: 15). The warning is against backsliding and final apostacy. After the experience of salvation and sanctification, holiness of heart and life, we still need to maintain a determined pursuit after holiness in our daily walk with God.
EXHORTATION AGAINST BACKSLIDING
Hebrews 12: 15; 3: 12; 4: 1, 11; Deuteronomy 29: 18; 1 Corinthians 5: 6; 1 Kings 14: 16; 2 Peter 2: 2; 1 Corinthians 15: 33; 10: 12.
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God (Hebrews 12: 15). There are three dangers highlighted in verses 15 and 16, each introduced by lest any. (1) Lest any man fail of the grace of God. (2) Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you. (3) Lest there be any... as Esau, who... sold his birthright. Each represents increasing stage of backsliding, degeneration and apostacy, the second and third growing out of the first. We are to watch against the first so as to escape the second and the third. The warning is addressed to everyone us: Lest any man fail. The only way to avoid backsliding is to keep on looking diligently. Though you are a real member of the family of God, a firm believer in all the doctrines of God’s Word, if you are not diligently and earnestly pursuing practical holiness, both of heart and life, you will never enter Heaven or see God.
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God. If it were not possible to fail of the grace after being called holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, brethren, beloved, sons (Hebrews 3: 1, 12; 6: 9; 12: 6, 7) , this warning would not have been given.
The vast majority of so-called Christians are not concerned about where they would spend eternity. Our diligence in the pursuit and possession of holiness will largely be determined by the value which we set upon our soul and its eternal rest.
Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you... The root of a tree is that part of it which is underground, hence the root of bitterness has reference to hidden, unseen, underground sin. Springing up - suddenly appearing visible - breaking into open manifestation. And thereby many be defiled. A little leaven will soon corrupt the whole lump. Backsliding and corruption, a root of bitterness or false doctrine in a member of a family may soon destroy the whole family.
ESAU’S SALE OF HIS BIRTHRIGHT
Hebrews 12: 16; Genesis 25: 29-34; 1 Kings 11: 1-4, 9; 1 Samuel 15: 2, 3, 9-11, 26, 28; 1 Timothy 6: 10; Mark 8: 36, 37; Jeremiah 6: 30
What a solemn warning concerning backsliding, apostacy and eternal loss! If the repeated warnings directed at the backslider are disregarded, he may become an apostate with no possibility of coming back to God. We see this in the fearful example of Esau. He was the firstborn of Isaac and was circumcised according to the covenant made with Abraham. A special blessing linked with the birthright would have been his. But Esau despised and sold the birthright for one morsel of meat. He preferred the gratification of the flesh rather than the blessing of God.
How many there are like Esau in the Church today! They prefer carnal pleasures to spiritual riches, physical gratification to their souls’ salvation. Such people, like Esau, are far more concerned about their bodies than their souls, about carnal pleasures than spiritual riches, about earthly comforts than heavenly consolations, about the good opinion of their fellowmen rather than the approval of God.
EXAMPLES OF LOSING ETERNAL BLESSINGS
Hebrews 12: 17; Genesis 27: 34-38; Luke 17: 32; 1 Corinthians 10: 1-6; 2 Timothy 4: 10; Ezekiel 18: 24-26; 33: 12, 13; 2 Peter 2: 20, 21;
Hebrews 6: 4-6; 10: 26-29.
Later Esau wanted the blessings but it was too late....he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry (Genesis 27: 34). Those tears were of no avail: he was rejected. His desire and demand for the blessing came too late. To backslide now because of the lust of the flesh, to depart from the Narrow Way now because of persecution and discouragement may mean the loss of eternal blessings. Afterward bitter regrets and anguish may not avail to secure the blessing. To gratify the lusts of the flesh for a brief season, and then suffer forever and ever in the lake of Fire, is the height of folly and madness.
Esau was not the only one who acted foolishly. Many other examples warn us of backsliding and its awful consequence. Balaam (Numbers 22: 10-13, 32) , Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16: 1, 2, 30-33) , Saul (1 Chronicles 10: 13, 14) , Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5: 1-10) , Demas (2 Timothy 4: 10) , and many others give us examples of being saved, later backsliding and becoming eternally lost! Jesus said, Remember Lots wife (Luke 17: 32).
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