FAITHFULNESS TO GOD IN AN AGE OF APOSTASY
By Pastor Joe Jacowitz
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Heb. 3:12).
The apostle Paul makes practical applications to the believing Jews from the solemn passage that is a quote from Psalm 95. He warns them against the danger of apostatizing. This is clear from the expression, "in departing from the living God." The same Greek verb is rendered ''fall away" in Luke 8:13, and in its noun form signifies "apostasy" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Such apostasy is the inevitable result of giving way to an "evil heart of unbelief," which the apostle exhorts to "take heed" lest this catastrophe happen to us.
Verse 12 has been debated in Christendom throughout the centuries and one of the questions that emerges is "Can a true child of God fall away from the faith and lose his salvation"? The answer, of course, is no. But for our present purpose, without going into a study on eternal security, we will address the topic of the testing of the believer's faith.
"Take heed brethren. "This tender title of God's saints is a searching one. Some of Paul's hearers might object and say, "The scripture you cited has no application to us. That passage describes the conduct of unbelievers, but we are believers. Yet the text addresses them as "brethren" and exhorts them to "take heed." They were not yet out of danger though they rested in the wilderness. Those mentioned in Psalm 95 began well, as their singing the praises of Jehovah on the far shores of the Red Sea after they crossed it (Ex. 15). They vowed their faithfulness to the Lord: "all the people answered together, and said, all that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8); yet the fact remains that many of them apostatized and perished in the wilderness. Therefore, the searching relevance of this statement, "take heed brethren lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief."
"In departing from the living God." The reference here is plainly to the Lord Jesus Himself. The reason this Divine title is applied to the Savior in this verse is clear: the temptation confronting the Hebrews was not to become atheists, but to abandon their profession of Christianity. The unbelieving Jews denounced Jesus Christ as an impostor, and were urging those who believed in Him to renounce Him and return to Judaism. The apostle affirms that Christ is God in verse 4. He now warns them that leaving Christianity is far worse than returning to Judaism because it would be "departing from the living God." The deity of Christ was fully proved by the apostle in the preceding chapters of this epistle. The admonitions of Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3:12 apply to Christians today. Let us heed the exhortation of 2 Pet. 1:10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never fall."
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Heb. 12:14-15).
"Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him" (Heb. 2:1-3).
"Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10:38).
"Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience" (Heb. 4:11).
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:34-36).
christ our refuge and sanctifier
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:1-2).
"But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:11-15).
"Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:19-25).
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16).
"Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Heb. 2:17-18).