Take Care That You Do Not Fall Away

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

Hebrews 3:12

Pleading with the Hebrew Christians of the early church to not abandon Christianity due to pressure from Jewish persecution, the Hebrew writer reminds them that they are the house of Christ…but on one condition:  “if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Hebrews 3:6).  Despite what Calvinism promises, Christianity has never been a religion promising unconditional salvation under the doctrine of “once saved, always saved no matter what.”  On the contrary, these Hebrew Christians had, by virtue of obeying the gospel and becoming Christians, received salvation and forgiveness of sins.  Yet all of that was now in jeopardy should they give into Satan’s machinations and “fall away from the living God” by going back into Judaism.

In order to clearly show how God’s plan in giving the Old Testament in the first place had always been Christianity, throughout Hebrews the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to cite Old Testament passages to bolster his points.  Now citing that divine Spirit inspiration (cf. 2 Peter 1:19-21), the Hebrew writer quotes Psalm 95:7-11 in Hebrews 3:7-11 in an effort to encourage the Hebrew Christians to stay in the Christian faith.  This is the passage in which the inspired Psalmist reminds Old Testament Israel of their rebellion against God while wandering in the wilderness.

Our hearts have always been Satan’s target, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  Old Testament Israel allowed their hearts to be hardened through their constant rebellious grumbling against Moses’ leadership (cf. Exodus 15:24; 16:1-12; Numbers 14:2, 29; 16:11, 41; 17:5, 10).  God has never been pleased when his creation grumbles and complains (Philippians 2:14), and he was displeased with Israel too (Hebrews 3:10).  James teaches that sin always starts in the heart (James 1:13-16), and so it was with Israel.  Their rebellious nature and their continual complaining were the result of hardened hearts which “always go astray,” leading them to not know God’s ways and put him to the test (Hebrews 3:8-10).  This is why God “swore in (his) wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest’” (Hebrews 3:11).  He made them wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that entire generation had died, and then allowed their children to enter the promised land of Canaan (Hebrews 3:15-19).

Using that Old Testament account as an illustration, the Hebrew author now warns Christians to “take care” that they too not have “an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).  Apostasy – falling away from God – is always a danger for the Christian.  It is the consequence of unrepentant sinful attitudes and actions which result from weak faith.  It will lead to Christians missing out on their eternal promised land of rest, just as that generation of Israelites missed entering the promised land of Canaan.

Again reminding Christians that “we have come to share in Christ” only “if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end,” the Hebrew writer commands them to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13-14).  Having fellowship with Christ means that Christians are, in a sense, partners with him.  Yet that partnership depends on a strong faith, holding on to the confident hope and assurance they had when they started with him.  Christians should always remember that Satan lost them the second they came up out of the watery grave of baptism (Romans 6:1-5), and the devil wants them back more than anything.  He will always be trying to get them back by tempting them to sin rebelliously and unrepentantly (cf. Hebrews 10:26-31).  So followers of Jesus must always exhort and encourage each other to stay faithfully and penitently obedient.

Sin is deceitful.  It sounds delightful, promising, and many times seem like it is the right thing to do.  Yet sin lies.  It hardens.  It leads one to lose their relationship and partnership with God.  Christians will avoid the deceitfulness of sin if they follow Jesus instead by penitently obeying his teachings and precepts in the New Testament.

Are you following Jesus’ teachings in Scripture?  Or has sin deceived you into following the teachings of men which come from Satan?