3:12-19

Hebrews 3:12-19

 

Hebrews 3:7-4:13 is the second of what some scholars call the five warning passages in Hebrews.  One of the more interesting views of these warning passages comes from Warren Wiersbe:

 

Each of these passages encourages us to heed God’s Word (“God … has spoken”) by pointing out the sad spiritual consequences that result if we do not. Let me list these passages for you and explain their sequence in the Book of Hebrews. I think you will see how they all hang together and present one message: heed God’s word.

Drifting from the Word—2:1–4 (neglect)

Doubting the Word—3:7–4:13 (hard heart)

Dullness toward the Word—5:11–6:20 (sluggishness)

Despising the Word—10:26–39 (willfulness)

Defying the Word—12:14–29 (refusing to hear)[1]

 

In this second warning passage are three specific commands:

--3:12 contains the command to "take care"... (a present imperative involving durative action. “Be seeing to it constantly, keep a watchful eye ever open,” [2])

--4:1 contains the command "let us fear"...

--4:11 contains the command to "be diligent"...

 

Hebrews 3:12 is one of most difficult verses in Hebrews to interpret...basically three possible ways to approach the verse--

·         Some view it as written to people who had heard the gospel but had not yet accepted the gospel...had said no to God so many times were in danger of hardening their hearts to point of being unable to respond to God's offer of salvation...while it is certainly possible to do that and while interpreting the verse that way solves some sticky theological problems, don't think that interpretation fits the context of this chapter... 

·         Others view verse as referring to Christians who are in danger of losing their salvation by falling away from God...on surface would appear to be what this verse and larger passage is saying...but there are a number of problems with that interpretation...

 

                        --conflicts with one of the main themes of Hebrews which is that Christians have eternal salvation because they trust a living Savior who constantly intercedes for them...one of the basic teachings of Hebrews is not that Christians are saved by holding to our confession but that holding to our confession is evidence that we are truly Christians...Jesus saves us and Jesus keeps us saved...but if He's done that, we won't turn our backs on Him...

 

                        --conflicts with the larger teaching of the NT about the security of the believer in Christ...

 

                        --doesn't fit the context of this chapter...

·         Others view verse as referring to Christians who are in danger not of losing their salvation but of losing their fellowship with God...think this interpretation makes the most sense in light of the verse's context and has the most direct application to our lives...

 

One of fundamental principles of biblical interpretation is that you should always look at a particular passage with context of its larger context...that's especially important in case of Hebrews 3:12...just prior to v.12 there is a quote from Psalm 95 about a significant event in the history of Israel...it's the story about the Israelites being led by God from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to the edge of Canaan, the Promised Land...but they balked at crossing the Jordan and taking the land, and because of their disobedience God caused them to wonder forty years in the wilderness until that generation of Israelites had passed away...they missed the opportunity of going into Canaan because they hardened their hearts to the will of God and failed to be obedient...

 

Reason that story is told so many times in Scripture is because in that story are some great spiritual lessons...many parallels can be drawn between Israel's history and the spiritual pilgrimage of Christians...for example--

--the period of Israel's bondage in Egypt parallels our bondage in sin before salvation...

 

--Israel's deliverance from Egypt by the blood of the passover lamb parallels our deliverance from sin by the blood of Jesus...

 

--and the land of Canaan, Israel's earthly inheritance parallels our spiritual inheritance in Christ...it is unfortunate that in some of our hymns and especially old gospel songs the land of Canaan is equated with heaven and crossing the Jordan with death...Canaan which was a place of battles and even defeats for the Israelites is not a symbol of heaven...but it is a symbol of the inheritance God has for his people...in case of Israelites the inheritance was a physical land...for us, is our a spiritual inheritance in Christ...

 

To whom does this passage relate: (1) believing Jews or (2) unbelieving Jews? The use of “brothers” in 3:1 and the added phrase “partakers of a heavenly calling” and “brothers” in 3:12 demand that it refer to believers.

What then is the warning relating to: (1) salvation or (2) faithfulness? In context it must refer to faithfulness; Jesus was faithful, they must be faithful. Hebrews views the Christian life from the end (cf. v. 14), not the beginning (like Paul).

The “falling away” of v. 13 must relate to continual faith and obedience. The Israelites had faith, but not functioning, obedient faith. They rejected God’s promise of the land flowing with mild and honey, not their faith in God. In this context “falling away” does not mean “falling from faith,” but “falling from faithfulness”![3]

 

Now, putting that all together,  Hebrews 3:12 is referring to those people who are "out of Egypt" but not yet "in Canaan" ...that is, they have been saved but because of a doubting and disobedient heart they are not experiencing the fullness or richness of their relationship with Christ...they were Christians but the joy wasn't there...they were Christians, but the fire had dimmed...they were Christians, but there was an emptiness inside them...

 

 

 

How can we avoid that in our lives?  What can we do to keep our relationship with Christ fulfilling and meaningful?  How can we keep our spiritual heart from becoming cold and hard?  One of the great things about the Scripture is that it does not merely point out potential problems...it also gives solutions to problems...and within these verses is a good formula for maintaining the vitality of our spiritual lives...here's a simple three step process—

 

·         First, need to trust God with details of our lives...the "evil, unbelieving heart" (The Greek order of words is “a heart evil with reference to unbelief.” [4]) in v.12 is not heart which refuses to believe intellectually...it is a practical unbelief...kind of unbelief which says, "There is a God, but I'm not sure I can trust Him with my life."...when Israelites refused cross Jordan and enter Canaan, wasn't because didn't believe in God...was because didn't trust God...starting point of maintaining spiritual vitality is doing as writer of Proverbs said:  "Trust is the Lord with all your heart..."

 

·         Second, need to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us in our spiritual commitments...notice the first phrase of v.13 - "But encourage one another day after day..."...the word translated "encourage" is a form of the word often used by Jesus to describe the Holy Spirit...means to come alongside another person to give help and support...this is one reason involvement in the church is important...in the fellowship of the church we give and receive encouragement...I've never known a healthy, vibrant Christian who is separated from the community of faith...that's why later in Hebrews we're told "not to forsake assembling together..."[Heb.10:24]...when we separate ourselves from the nurturing, encouraging atmosphere of the church, our spiritual lives invariably suffer...

 

·         Third, need to take advantage of the opportunities of the present...the phrase "as long as it is still called today" in v. 13 is reminder that every moment in our lives is precious...must not be presumptuous about time or opportunity...the Romans had a saying -- carpe diem -- which means seize the day...that's what Christians should do...it's one of the keys to maintaining spiritual vitality...we should not waste opportunities but live each day to its fullest...

 

                                                        

 



[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Heb 1:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader (Heb 3:12). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[3] Utley, R. J. (1999). Vol. Volume 10: The Superiority of the New Covenant: Hebrews. Study Guide Commentary Series (39). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[4] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader (Heb 3:12). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

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