Agonizomai: Heb 3:7-12 Christ - Preached as Means of Preservation

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heb 3:7-12 Christ - Preached as Means of Preservation

Heb 3:7-12 Christ - Preached as Means of Preservation

Heb 3:7-12 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works 10 for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.”’ 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

And here we have a perfect picture of what the theologians call "means" at work. We are neither saved nor preserved apart from means. The preaching of Christ is one of the means by which salvation comes. The exhortations and warnings of scripture are part of the means by which the saints are guided and kept unto that Day.

Here, the wavering Jewish professors are warned and exhorted about the dangers of their flirtation with apostasy. Yet the warning itself is the means by which the true believers will be turned from their dangerous path. And those who turn, if they turn at all, will do so by means of faith and obedience, for apart from these it is impossible to please God. Those that have ears to hear will hear, and the rest will be hardened and may prove themselves never to have been truly children of the King.

But see the overarching grace in the warning, which goes out to all. Those who eventually fall away are no less the genuine objects of the message than those who are turned back into the right path by it. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But this is not the whole picture, for apart from God’s saving and sanctifying grace, none would ever come and none would ever abide in Him. So there is both a general and an effectual call - there is both common and saving grace. And God alone knows definitively which He is working in particular people.

Take, for example, the Israelites who were delivered from Egypt - as the writer does here. They were all called out of Egypt, including those that perished in the wilderness, and about whom God swore that they would not enter His rest. In other words they would not be found in Christ, in Whom all the saints rest from their own labours. (that is, their spiritual labours to rest in justification and glorification by God in Christ).

This is a serious admonition. Many are indeed called. Many answer the call - but few persevere to the end, by which they would prove themselves to be genuine children, regenerated and kept by the power of God. Many answer in a fleshly way. They hear the advantages to their flesh of deliverance from some present tribulation - but when that tribulation is removed and some other takes its place, they become disheartened and cold - and they eventually fall away. Were they saved and then lost their salvation? No! Of course not! For it is impossible for them to be snatched from the Saviour’s hand - even by themselves.

Until a person desires not simply to be delivered from his circumstances, but to be delivered from his very self - from the sin that is embedded at the very root and core of his own being - he cannot be regarded as a child of God. He is a carnal person with outward goals that outwardly coincide with others who are on the true journey of saving and sanctifying faith through (that is to say "by means of") tribulation. Most of the Israelites that came out of Egypt brought at least a measure of Egypt with them in their hearts. The tribulation they encountered, at least some of which was brought about by their unbelief and disobedience, served to confirm those of true faith by increasing their separation from the world, and to harden the merely outward professors and show them to be what they always were underneath.

This is the way of things. It is how God has ordained life to unfold and sheep to be known from goats in this earthly journey. The true children will (ultimately) be confirmed and grown through the very same tribulation that offends and hardens the false professor. It may happen quickly - or it may take a lifetime, but God knows and God is the judge. We, on the other hand, are to listen, to hear, to respond and to obey. If we do, it will be by the grace of God. If we don’t, it will be due to our own intransigent, resisting, wilful, disobedient and rebellious hearts.

The admonition to take care lest an unbelieving heart in us leads us to fall away is not, repeat not an admission that people can be saved one minute and lost the next. It is the warning means by which true sheep are guided towards the eternal fold. They hear their Shepherd in the admonition, and they follow Him.


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