Friday, October 26, 2018

Hey Fletch … I need your help with Hebrews 3:12-15. I think God, through the writer of Hebrews, is warning against unbelief and hardness of heart. Is there a better way to put this, or could you give me a better understanding?

DRF—The book of Hebrews has challenging passages. There are plenty of views on those passages. Here is the passage that you have a question about:

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has an evil, unbelieving heart that forsakes the living God. But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception. For we have become partners with Christ, if in fact we hold our initial confidence firm until the end. As it says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:12-15

One principle of Bible interpretation is to consider a passage in light of other passages. For example, when reading Hebrews, one might consider Paul’s words:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 12:38-39

The passages from the NET Bible® show two sides of a complex issue. On the one hand, nothing can separate us from God’s love, yet we need to hold our confidence until the end of our lives. These seem to be contradictory.

My encouragement from the Hebrews passage is that it is addressed to “brothers and sisters,” which is simply ἀδελφός in the Greek. This is a warm and encouraging term to those who have trusted in and are following Christ. I hear the words of a wise pastor calling the people to not stray from the path of righteous living and thought.

As the author mentions rebellion, it calls to mind the many times that the people of Israel rebelled against God. They were still God’s people but suffered greatly when they rebelled. It reminds me of a child who rebels against their parents. The parents still love that child but there is time for discipline. That discipline today might be a “time out” or “no screen time.” The parent is trying to help the child grow up into a mature adult. A spiritual “time out” from God could be a good thing!