“Exhort one another daily, while it is called today: lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13.
“Familiarity breeds contempt,” it is said.
Like all sayings that is not always true – though it is generally a fact. And like all trite sayings it does not embrace all the facts.
Familiarity disarms us.
As youngsters some of you were fascinated by Bible stories – and some of you have breathed the atmosphere of a home familiar with outward Christian ways – and your ears have grown accustomed to religious expressions: “God willing!” – “Praise the Lord!” Grace at mealtimes; Bible reading and prayers.
To you, and to all who are familiar with sacred scenes, is the word of this Scripture sent: “Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
The whole epistle to the Hebrews can be said to be nothing less than an exposition of this verse. As Romans is largely doctrinal, Hebrews is largely exhortation.
There are two views necessary to the right understanding of the things of God: –
The empirical, that is the view from earth level, and the transcendental, that is the view from the heavenlies.
An example is this: “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life…” Acts 3:13-15.
Compare those verses with this verse: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain…” Acts 2;23.
Because this is not generally known we have difficulty in maintaining unity in Bible schools, peace in the churches, and tranquillity in the hearts of new believers.
God, Who knows the end from the beginning, knows NOW the saved ones, and in His mind the picture is complete. We only know the period described in the text: “While it is called TODAY.”
For us it is the scene of the field not the barn.
Ours is EMPIRICAL knowledge.
This Hebrew epistle speaks from the empirical viewpoint, and gives us a test to help us to a more accurate knowledge – the test of perseverance.
Persevering does neither save nor keep a man – it simply proves that the man is saved, that he is a Christian.
It is often amusing to hear two men of long standing arguing the merits of Free will and Divine Sovereignty. Both are true but impossible of reconciliation unless we admit the two viewpoints: Empirical and Transcendental.
It is amusing to hear a young Arminian pretending to deal with Romans chapter 9, and softening down the truths of election. And it is equally amusing to listen to a budding Calvinist disposing of this Hebrew Epistle.
I discovered many years ago that most preachers fall into the trap of preaching only what they fancy. For me, the two viewpoints I have given you are the complete answer and the only way to deal in honesty with otherwise apparently conflicting Scriptures.
We must not be tempted to turn this verse (Hebrews 3:13) into an exercise for theological discussion. The Devil delights to see Hebrews used for exercising the brain – instead of being used as God intended – for directing the life!
This verse falls into two parts.
- A condition – “hardened”.
- A cause – “sin”.
First, the condition: Hardened. Men speak about hardened criminals. Preachers speak about hardened sinners! This verse speaks about hardened CHRISTIANS. Not hardened SINNERS but hardened SAINTS – if saints they be.
There was a time when tears blurred your glance at Golgotha’s cross. Now you gaze unmoved. Dry-eyed.
There was a time when you blushed if you told a lie – now you lie and have no inward sense of shame.
There was a time when you respected the servants of Christ, now you despise their Master.
There was a time when you loved the Lord, now it is only rarely you seek His company in private.
The hardening process has gone forward – you have reached the dread condition – you are hardened. Sklerosis! That is the Greek work for hardened.
No tears, no conscience, no warm faith, no zeal – “SKLEROSIS!”
The most difficult people to reach with the Word, are those who know it best, and are not moved by it.
I have more hope for a harlot than for a professing Christian who has a heart of stone.
To avoid this dread disease of the heart we will consider its cause: “SIN!”
Always in the Book of Proverbs a sinner is a fool, and sin is folly.
Within the confines of this glorious Epistle sin has a special significance. To understand this verse we must uncover that significance.
Hebrews is an exhortation to FAITH – it points to the faithfulness of Christ as a reason for our faith (Hebrews 2:17; 10:23; 11:11). Its eleventh chapter features folk of FAITH.
The reverse of faith is UNBELIEF, and the nature of sin in this epistle is UNBELIEF: “an evil heart of unbelief.”
Some have a condition – “hardened” – for which we have seen there is a cause: “sin.”
Now the very word “hardened” presupposes a change. You do not harden diamonds – they are already hardened. You harden clay – soft and plastic things.
You were not always hard. Once you were pliant – capable of moulding – open to be impressed – Now there has been a change.
Now, change is brought about by process. What is that process? DECEIT – you have been deceived. “Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Faith is that which brings a man so into touch with Christ as to save the believer. But faith is not a mental grasping of facts – it is an embracing by the heart, and a yielding of the will.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:10.
You tell me you believe. We should watch our conduct, and we can judge our believing by our behaving.
If you are hardened, alas breaking must precede any softening, and breaking is a brutally painful work.
“Therefore, am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him. For God makes my heart soft, and the Almighty troubles me…” Job 23:16.