5 Warnings in Hebrews

Positonal Statements

By Randall J. Runions

I       Introduction

 In the Hebrews texts, there are five different passages that can clearly be called warning passages. When one looks further into the meanings they will see that god is serious about faithfulness. The Hebrew Christians were in danger of apostasy. The author, who has been questioned, (for it is possible of many) wanted to warn the Christians not to turn back into Judaism. The author had great concern about this. for this purpose the author through the Holy Spirit, wrote the book of Hebrews.

 

II    Warning One - Hebrews 2:1-4

A.     Background

 The setting of this text is clearly parenthetical. It opens with "Therefore" showings it's relation to chapter 1. The recipients of this have probably been exposed to some form of persecution for nearly a quarter of a century.

The Jews mentioned in this passage "were despised by the Jews as traitors to Israel and were therefore, anathema, they were misunderstood by the Romans and had no standing in the state department of religion, and were castigated as atheists.1   

 The group mentioned was to be considered a group of misplaced people, for they consistently encountered tension in all areas of life. They began to get tired of the struggle they were enduring. The people of faith began to have apathy and indifference as to their Christian faith.

 The author of Hebrews urges the recipients of the message to give heed to what they had heard. "The peril of indifference is indicated and the need of anchorage to the son's revelation is pointed out."2

   What may be pointed out in this passage is that the writer wanted to arouse Christians out of their neglect and lethargy.

 These Christians seemed to be preoccupied with their problems in that they would surrender the best to accept the worst. Indifference to God is equal to disrespect. When we fail to heed His commands and voice, this constitutes the essence of disobedience. The stress of this epistle is that one is to grow in the essential marks of the Christian life.

B.          Exposition

 As mentioned previously "therefore" links the passage to what preceded it. Therefore (δια τουτο/ dia touto), because Jesus is superior to prophets and angels and because of the new revelation is superior to the old.3  

 The phrase "to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard" shows that much was spoken by God in the Old Testament through many people but today He speaks through His Son. The "things spoken of" in this is equivalent to the things brought by Jesus Christ. We come to another important part of the verse which states "Lest haply or at any time we drift away (μη ποτεπαραρνομεν / me potepararvomen). Some people translate drift and slip the same. This can have many different meanings. MacArthur shows how it can be used of something flowing or slipping past, as of a ring slipping off a finger or something slipping down and getting caught in a difficult place.

 A third idea found in this passage is of something which has careously been allowed to slip away.4  With familiarity, truths have a tendency to loose their influence, the result being involuntarily and gradual backsliding. This is perilous to the life of a believer for his testimony is damaged and the cause of Christ is compromised.

   A part of this text that character styles; language selection has been popular through out ages is the phrase, "How shall we escape," (πος ‘εμεις εκφενξομεθα / pos hemeis ekpheuxometha).If we "neglect" (αμελεσαντες/ amelesantes) "so great salvation"  (τελικαντης σωηριας/ telikautes soterias). God anchored this new law. it would be difficult to surpass the logic of this question. When Jesus came to the earth he did things that would make him move believable. The person who rejects Christ shall experience a terrible punishment for neglecting to do what they knew should be done. many people reject the salvation of Christ, but many more reject it because it is so easy to slip or drift. A man must do absolutely nothing to be lost and go to hell. The idea intended by the expression in this verse is the gospel. "The gospel was delivered unto those that heard it, infallibly by the ministry of the apostles; this was from their Divine inspiration.5  Our protection against drifting or slipping is to be anchored to Christ. The Holy Spirit will be our rudder and guide us into all truth.

 

III  Warning Two - Hebrews 3:7 - 4:16

A.                Background

 This begins the second warning. After what had been said about faithfulness and continuance the Christians at this point are urged to not fall short of what God offers them.

 Moses was a faithful man and led the people out of Egypt. not all that left with Moses were faithful or believed his testimony. The unbelief these people had was what ultimately led to their destruction. Christ was far superior to Moses but not all of his followers are following his example. When sin has been allowed to grow in the life of the believer they get in danger of loosing their spiritual blessings.

 The warnings addressed in this passage were not written to discourage but to encourage the people to trust God. God is at work but should not be taken for granted.

B.                 Exposition

 Some commentators take the rest of the verse 7 (after the wherefore) to be a parenthesis. The word "wherefore" is related directly to the "harden not your hearts" in verse 8. "Harden not" (μη σκληρυνετε / me skerunete) taken from the verb has the thought of to dry up, or too hard or stiff. "God's will is expressed in His call, and it should not fall upon hard hearts, or stubborn wills."6  We see plural "hearts" mentioned but it has the idea that each individual heart must make their decision for themselves.

 Verse 10 has the word "wherefore" which is not found in the Psalm quoted but is used to clarify a connection. The writer shows his grief. A.T. Robertson states, this means "extreme anger and disgust."7  The use of the word "προσοχθιζω" (prosochthizo) is only used in this verse and verse 17. Jehovah did not have the happiest attitude toward the first generation out for Egypt.

 Verse 13 tells them to beware, because sin is very "deceitful" (απατει/ apatei). It would like to trick or be fraudful against you. "Apostasy is their peril and it is a trick of sins." 8 

Verses 14 and 15 again remind the believers of the need for staying in continual fellowship with Christ, if they are going to experience what was originally intended for them. The believer should stay patient and be firm to the very end. This has nothing to do with one loosing salvation.

Verses 17-18 speaks of the disobedient ones and how they did not see the promised land. The ones who did not get to see the land were those "that believed not." Though their rebellion at KadeshBarnea they were deprived of the privilege. As a result, they wandered for thirty-eight years in the barren wilderness and died there.9  

 The continuation of the warning is intended through Hebrews 4:16. The first verse in the chapter has a "therefore" and refers to "Israel's unbelief and consequent failure to enter God's Canaan rest."10  

 In verses 3 and 4 we see that rest is based upon God's creative work. The phrase "If they shall enter into my rest is a literal translation of the Greek which is simply an idiomatic use of a strong negative and therefore, it should be translated, "they shall not enter."

   The warning text is finished in verse 16. The KJV translates "Come boldly" while the NAS translates "draw near." Robertson translates it (προσερχομεθα ουν / proserchometha oun) present active middle violative subjunctive of προσερχομαι (proserchomai), "Lets keep on coming to."12 By the sacrifice of Christ, God's throne of judgment is turned into a throne of grace.

The "throne of grace" is in contrast to the "throne of judgment" where the Lord's majesty is displayed.

The Christian should come regularly to this throne with full confidence, for the "time of need is now."

 

IV  Warning Three - Hebrews 5:11 - 6:20

A.                Background

 It is at this point we come to the third warning that has been interjected. This warning deals with the perils of spiritual degeneration. The church was in danger of drifting to a dangerous position. The major part of the problem was that the Christians had a lack of spiritual knowledge. The lack of spiritual knowledge led them to a point of weakness in spiritual matters.

 This book does not contrast two types of Christians, native verses innative, but Christianity verses Judaism.

B.                 Exposition

 These Christians had become sluggish and did not have any get up and go.  The "of whom" (περι ‘ου / peri hou) does not particularly refer to Melchizedek per se but to Christ who is after the order of Melchizedek.

   The Christians had become dull to the spiritual matters and they needed the teachers to teach them         again.   The             "first     principles          of         the        oracles             of         God" (τηςαρχηςτον λωγιον θεου/ tes arches ton logion theou) refers to the very first beginnings the abc's of the Christian's walk and life. They did not understand their own Old Testament revelation. A child is beautiful, but one that never grew up would be heartbroken. This is what has happened to many. The foundation is so very important because your whole building is placed upon it. What the writer is saying in Hebrews  6:1-2 is that the "unbelieving Jews should let go completely of the immaturity, symbols of the Old Testament and take hold of the nature perfect reality of the New Covenant."13  

 Another serious warning is addressed in verses 4-8 of this chapter. The question is:  Who are those who have once been enlightened? There is no mention of theme as being sound. We have no mention of them experiencing the works of salvation, justification, new birth, sanctification nor any other work. What it amounts to is that these people had intellectual perception of the biblical truth.

 These people had not received the Holy Spirit. Many people have been "made partakers of Him in spiritual gifts, who are never made partakers of Him in His saving graces."14  These people had seen the "powers" of the kingdom and "tasted" them. To see these without receiving would increase their guilt. These people have put upon themselves guilt.  "It is impossible to renew them again" (αδυνατων παλιν ανακαινιζειν/ adunaton palin anakainizein).  When one rejects Christ at the peak of his understanding and conviction, he will not accept Christ at a lesser understanding; he has in a sense made salvation impossible.

 After one of the most severe warning given in Holy Scripture, the author uses the word "beloved." He wanted the readers to know that Christ's justice is always tempered by love, mercy and grace.

 In a review of the warning passage there must be "earnestness of faith, the energy of love and endurance of hope, for only by these we can have a continuous Christian life."15 

 

V  Warning Four - Hebrews 10:20-31

A.                Background

 Now we have the fourth message of warning in Hebrews. The thoughts of this passage are connected to the previous verses. In this passage we have mentioned the dangers of apostasy and how they are forcibly indicated. The underlying idea is that the message of the Gospel should not be despised.

 The writer of Hebrews knew God was also a God who hated sin and would bring judgment. He wanted his readers to know of the absolute salvation Jesus brought.

B.                 Exposition

 "If we sin willfully" (‘εκουσιος ‘αμαρτανοντων ‘εμεν / hekousios hamartanonton hemon) what he is stating is that there is forgiveness for all sins committed whether of presumption or ignorance. The main idea behind this passage is the deliberate, conscious will of sinful man. This is done in place of good. Christ made the only effective sacrifice for sin and it was made once for all. When one turns away from the sacrifice leaves no sacrifice but only the sin. The wage of that is death.

 There is a second judgment for this apostasy. "Since apostasy is the worst sin, it will have the worst judgment."16  The judgment will be great on the ones who turn their back on God. In verse 28 when one uses the exegetical argument from the greater to the lesser, the reader is asked to decide the punishment of the greater sinner. The reference for this is taken from Deuteronomy 17:2-7, using the thought of those who were guilty of idolatry.

   The apostate is one who will reject the Father, "Who hath trodden under foot the Son of God" (‘ο τον ‘υιον τον θεου καταπατεσας / ho ton huion tou theou katapatesas). This phrase is a continuous repudiation of God's final revelation. This is no ordinary case of backsliding as spoken of in chapter 6 but willful, persistent apostasy.

 The apostate will reject Jesus. The apostate will regard the blood of Jesus as valueless. The Gospel in all its freedom and grace does not in the slightest degree alter or modify the character of God as Holy.

        The one who turns his back on God has left him nothing else to do but bring judgment.

 

VI  Warning Five - Hebrews 12:18-29

A.                Background

 This passage is the fifth interjected warning that closes the series of warnings. It could be said that the theme of this passage could be "warning, encouragement and assurance."17  The people who are in danger of slothfulness and weakness need to be warned. The passage shows how the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant. The author shows how privilege carries responsibilities. The new covenant is quite different as shown in verses 22-24.

B.                 Exposition

 In verse 25 we see the author making a point stating, grace is a free gift but it is bound to a life of seriousness and faithfulness. The word in the verse "refuse" (παριτεομαι / pariteomai) has the idea of asking or begging. The Israelites didn't like God speaking to them through Moses. This made them become disobedient. These people in their disobedience live in a "wilderness of regret."

 In verse 27 we find how the author argued the incentive that Christ is the better investment. After the final shaking spoken  of in the verse and the passing of all the visible earth and heavens, the heavenly cites in which the Christians have a part will be unshaken. The Christians after hearing this should draw neigh unto God, for we have a lot to be grateful.

                            Verse 29 has his readers approaching God with a reverent fear and awe. Our God is a

"consuming fire." The author wants the readers to know that the God of the Old Covenant is also the God of the New Covenant. Those who turn a deaf ear to God's call should beware "for God is a consuming fire" (πυρ καταναλισκον / pur katanaliskon) all will be burned up that cannot stand trial by fire.

 


VII  Conclusion

 One will notice through these warnings the seriousness of apostasy. The writer warned the readers from turning from the true to the false. The true characteristic of a believer is perseverance. When the hard times come the believer is only strengthened through those hard times. in these warnings one will never see a true believer forsaking Christ. We notice through these warnings that through the trials we can depend on the Lord. People look for the easy way out so often and it would have been easy to go the way of the world but true Christianity would never condone that. It should also be noted that one is not to mix error of Judaism with Christianity for salvation is by grace and grace alone, not of the works of man.