Let’s look at our work in light of His work. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the [Judgment] Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:23-25) Since we have superior privileges (Heb. 10:19-21), these also come with greater responsibilities (10:22-25). We are urged to enter into these greater privileges (10:22) to hold fast to our profession of Christ as Savior because God’s promises will come to pass (10:23), and to encourage one another, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (10.24-25).
The reason we must do these things is because if we willfully sin having full knowledge of the sin and its consequences, God is forced to chasten us (10:26-29) because of His very nature (10:30-31). He cannot and will not let His children get by with this any more than we could let our children get by with this.
The Hebrews are thus encouraged to persevere in patience (10:32-39), because the Word of the Lord stands sure and all who please God must patiently endure, living by faith. In fact, real faith produces patient endurance (11:1-3), and this is seen in every era of the Old Testament (11:4-40). All of the Old Testament saints are a witness to us that the race can be run (12:1), and the only way to have rest is through patient endurance even as was true of the Lord Jesus Christ (12:2) . When we consider Christ and His sufferings, our sufferings and struggles are mild (12:3-4). But God has a purpose in the believer receiving discipline with patient endurance, and that is the maturity of His child (12:5-11).
This carries us through the fifth warning. “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” (Heb. 12:12-17)
We are all a part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy” (v 26). In this exhortation, we are warned that we are responsible for our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (vv 12-13) We are to go on. We are to look unto Jesus (v 2), and setting our eyes on Him, not wander from the course set before us. Some in the body are paralyzed (physically, emotionally or spiritually), and are traveling along with greatest of difficulty. As a part of the body, we must minister to the spiritually lame, so they may be healed. Then the whole body may move out and move on together, without some being left behind.
We are not to be defeated and discouraged. “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (vv 14-15) “Peace” indicates there is to be no quarrel, no animosity between ourselves and anyone else. “Holiness” signifies we are to be set apart for the Lord. We are not to criticize someone else; we are to pray for them.
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (v15) Whenever I fail to appropriate grace for the needs of the day, I will fail when testing and temptation come. God has provided grace to meet it, but if I have failed to appropriate it, then I will react according to my sin nature.
If God brings something into our lives, He will also give us grace to overcome it and gain the victory (2 Cor. 12:9). These Hebrew Christians were going through trials and testings, but they had failed to appropriate God’s grace so as to stand up under the testings. Thus they were living defeated lives. They had failed of the grace of God. Bitterness in the heart leads to murmuring with the tongue. And murmuring is one of the most dangerous sins because it always affects others and leavens the whole camp. It starts with one, but it ends defiling many. This is what happened in Israel over and over again.
So it is always, when I fail to appropriate grace, there will be a root of bitterness in my heart against God who has allowed this “trouble” to come, and it will ultimately come out in my speech. So the believer has an obligation to weaker ones in the assembly (12:12-13) and to himself (12:14). He must know the three dangers that are before him (12:15-16) which may be illustrated by Esau’s decision which was irrevocable even though he regretted it later. Esau had neither faith nor patient endurance, and he was cut off by one act from the place of blessing (12:17). By application, if the Hebrews returned to the old system of the Temple, they go to that of utter “terror” (12:18-22), and they leave in contrast the place of privilege and grace, and the heavenly city which is the reward of those who faithfully endure (12:22-24).
Therefore, patiently endure, offering spiritual worship as a believer-priest, knowing God purifies dross (12:28-29). This is the warning to the Hebrews lest they also make an irrevocable decision that would cut them off from blessing. Now the added truth is stated that this decision of sinning willfully is an irrevocable decision. If the Hebrews commit this, they will never be able to go back and change it later on regardless of tears or anything else. They will have turned from God’s blessings not found in Judaism, and will never be able to come back to the place of blessing now enjoyed. They will settle for a blasted life, and they will have disqualified themselves from any place of leadership ever again in the assembly. The sin can be forgiven, but the effects will continue on and on. Esau, for one sin, was cut off from God’s blessing. Take heed!
It all starts with a little thing of failing to appropriate the grace of God. But there are no little things in the Christian life. Let us look diligently so that none of us fail of the grace of God; and so that no root of bitterness springs up trouble us, whereby many may be defiled. Let’s lift each other up, pray for each other and strengthen the body. It’s way too easy for me to think that it’s okay if I miss church because I have already had my time in the Word and in prayer. But the gathering of the saints is not to make us feel better; it is to strengthen the body. Who might need a warm hello or a hug from me this morning? I have to be there, ready to listen, ready to love and ready to strengthen someone else who needs it.