We are studying the fourth warning passage in the book of Hebrews. This is the strongest of the warning passages:
Hebrews 10:26-27 (NKJV) For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
Before our author jumps into warning the readers of the danger of apostasy he gives them what I have called the "Divine Antidote to Apostasy" in verses 19-25. This is a Divine prescription for spiritual victory and it is given in the form of three exhortations:
1. Worship - "Let us draw near"- verses 22.
2. Perseverance - "Let us hold fast" - verse 23.
3. Fellowship - "Let us consider one another"- verse 24.
We looked at the first one in our last study, and we saw that we can draw near, because we have boldness based upon our position in Christ:
Hebrews 10:14 (NKJV) For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
Last week we looked at the first point, which was worship: if a believer is going to live the victorious Christian life, he must be a worshiper. The call to draw near to God speaks of our communion or fellowship with God. We saw last week that we draw near to God by spending time with Him through Bible study and prayer.
The second element in the prescription can be summarized in four simple words - let us hold fast. This is the theme of the book of Hebrews, and we see it repeated over and over again:
Hebrews 3:6 (NKJV) but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
Hebrews 3:14 (NKJV) For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
Hebrews 4:14 (NKJV) 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.
The call to "hold fast" is a call for endurance. The Greek word for "hold fast" is katecho, and it means: "to continue in, to hold down, to keep in memory". It was used in nautical circles with the meaning: "to hold one's course."
One very popular commentator says, "This is the human side of eternal security. We know that the Bible teaches that if we are God's, He holds us; but there's a human side of the paradox. There is a sense in which human responsibility is part of security too." What do you think about that? Do we have a part in our security? If we do, we're all in trouble! I thank God that as I read this commentary I knew better. To think that we had a part in our security would mean that we have no security. I certainly can't trust myself to remain saved. But I can trust Christ!
Hebrews 10:14 (NKJV) For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
He has perfected me forever! My security rests totally in the finished work of Christ - that's security! Our union with Christ can never be broken, but we can move in and out of communion. The readers are not told to hold fast to their union but to their communion.
The verse says that we are to "hold fast the confession of our hope." What is hope? For the English speaker, hope usually implies doubt. We might say, "I sure hope that he shows up," and we mean "I wish he'd show up." Biblical hope is distinguished from secular optimism, because hope is grounded in what God has promised. It is looking forward to things which are not present, but whose coming is certain. Abraham was one who held fast to his hope because of the promise of God:
Romans 4:18 (NKJV) "who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be."
His situation was beyond human hope; he and his wife were well past child-bearing age, yet God had promised them a son. Abraham had nothing to hold onto except the promise of God. Everything in a natural and physical sense was against God's promise, but Abraham held on to his hope, because he had a promise:
Romans 4:19-21 (NKJV) And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
The promise of God gave Abraham hope. Romans 8:24-25 expands on this idea of hope and endurance:
Romans 8:24-25 (NKJV) For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.|
As verse 25 makes clear, the hope of the future gives us endurance. Earlier in the same chapter, Paul said:
Romans 8:18 (NKJV) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
We can endure a lot when we have hope! Without hope, we easily cave in to pressures and trials, but when we know that someday things will be better, we can hang on through the tough times. The author of Hebrews tells us that hope is an anchor for the soul:
Hebrews 6:18-19 (NKJV) that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,
Our hope is an anchor that holds us steadfast in the storms of life just like an anchor holds a ship. Our hope is connected to a promise yet unrealized, and when we face trials we can grab the promises and hang on. God has promised to richly reward those who are faithful to Him in this life. We endure the trials and temptations of life by holding on to our hope which comes from the promises of God.
Our text goes on to say, "Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering" - Not wavering has the idea of unbending, firm in our hope. We can be unwavering, because "He who promised is faithful." Our hope will never be disappointed, because God always keeps his promises.
In the book of Psalms, which recounts, more than any other book in the Bible, the struggles of the godly and their total dependence upon God's faithfulness, we find reference to God's faithfulness some forty times. In the midst of the storms of life, we must holdfast to the promises of God:
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Believer, if your hope is fading, and you seem to be losing your endurance, study God's Word and be reminded of the promises He has made to you. God gave you His Word for this purpose:
Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Hope comes from God's promises. Learn His promises and you'll have hope. Believers, we are very forgetful and need to constantly be reminded of what we already know. As we are reminded of God's promises, we have hope; our hope gives us endurance in the trials of life.
Katerina Yasenchuk was 88 years old when she died in a Philadelphia nursing home. Katerina's story is a sad one of hope forsaken. In 1929 the police found her wondering around the streets weeping and in tears. She spoke to them in sounds that were incoherent. They couldn't understand her, so they took her to a mental hospital, and she was committed.
For about the first 6 years of her stay in the hospital she continued to speak in these unintelligible sounds, but in 1935 she stopped doing that altogether, and she spent the remainder of her time simply wondering around or staring at the walls. Eventually, after 47 years in the institution her commitment was reviewed and some language specialist succeeded in getting her to communicate with them, and they made an amazing discovery. Those unintelligible sounds that she used to make were not unintelligible at all, they were an actual language. They were the Ukrainian language. And the review committee discovered that Katerina had come to the United States at the age of 15 from the Ukraine and Soviet Russia. She had met a young man over here, and she had had a child. But then both the child and its father had died, and apparently Katerina had suffered a nervous breakdown, and it was in that condition that the police had found her.
Eventually, she was released and she spent the last 13 years of her life in a nursing home under the guardianship of a daughter of one of the workers at the hospital. By the time she was in her 70's, the very best years of her life were behind her, and her experience in America had become a sad tragedy. Katerina is an example of a person who gave up. She gave up, crushed by the loss of her loved ones, living in a strange land, unable to communicate even with those who were trying to help her. She stopped talking altogether and spent forty years of her live in silence. She gave up!
Believers, we are living in a world in which there are literally thousands of people who give up every year, many end their lives by suicide. But others go through the motions of living, without any real joy or hope. Sometimes even Christians give up. Crushed by life's problems they lose their hope and turn away from God.
Believers, if we are going to protect ourselves from the dangers of apostasy, we must draw near to God through Bible study and prayer, and hold on to hope. In other words, we must learn to worship and to have endurance. The third element in the prescription for victory is found in:
Hebrews 10:24 (NKJV) And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
This is a little surprising. It is my opinion that apart from the first two, trying this will actually cause apostasy.
Earlier our author has exhorted his readers to consider Jesus:
Hebrews 3:1 (NKJV) Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,
Now the readers are told to consider "one another". The word "consider" is from the Greek word katanoeo. Katanoeo is a compound word composed of kata, which means: "down" and noeo, which means: "to exercise the mind". It has the idea of thoroughly and carefully noticing someone or something. A good English equivalent would be: "to contemplate". Paul put it this way in Philippians:
Philippians 2:4 (NKJV) Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
This is a strong and emphatic exhortation: consider others, contemplate others. This is a theme that we see all through the Scriptures:
John 15:12 (NKJV) "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Romans 12:10 (NKJV) Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Romans 15:7 (NKJV) Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
Romans 15:14 (NKJV) Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
Ephesians 4:2 (NKJV) with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 5:21 (NKJV) submitting to one another in the fear of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 (NKJV) Therefore comfort one another with these words.
How can we fulfill any of these commands to receive, love, comfort, and forgive if we don't consider one another? If we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we don't know what others need, then how can we fulfill these exhortations?
Do you realize that, according to Scripture, individually you and I are personally responsible for the physical and spiritual welfare of each believer in this assembly? Don't think that the elders of Berean Bible Church are solely responsible for the spiritual oversight of this assembly. This exhortation is not given to the elders, it's given to every believer. We are all to consider others. We are to look to their needs, problems, and struggles. The spirit of rugged American individualism is incompatible with the church of Jesus Christ. American believers think that they have discharged their responsibility to the Lord, because they are individually living in holiness, but they are wrong. We are not only to look out for our own lives, but we are to consider others. Christianity is others oriented! But most of us care only about meeting our own needs; we ignore the many instructions in the Bible about our responsibility to others:
Colossians 3:16 (NKJV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Galatians 5:13 (NKJV) For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NKJV) Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
The kingdom of God is not designed for believers to exist in isolation from each other; we are interdependent. We need each other if we are truly going to be what God has called us to be. Each believer has unique abilities and insights that are invaluable for building up the body of Christ. Christianity is to be lived out in community, and God has created us to be dependent both on Him and on one another. God said in Genesis 2:18, "It is not good for a man to be alone." That principle does not only apply to the marriage relationship; none of us has the spiritual wherewithal to go it alone in our Christian lives.
Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV) As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
As we share our lives with each other we sharpen and encourage one another.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NKJV) Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.
We need each other, because that is how the Lord created us. We are to teach, to serve, and to bear the burdens of one another. If you think you have discharged your responsibility to the Lord simply by sitting in an auditorium and hearing the word of God taught, you are sorely mistaken, and you are in sin. To "consider one another" is to submit to the will of God and not to consider one another is to rebel against the word of God, which is sin. We cannot draw near if we persist in sin.
We are not only to draw near to God and holdfast our hope, we are also to consider one another, and we find this aspect very difficult.
Notice the purpose of our considering one another:
Hebrews 10:24 (NKJV) And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
"In order to stir up love and good works." The word "stir up" is from the Greek word paroxusmos, which is a strong word implying a real effort to prod each other into love and good works. This word appears only one other time in Scripture:
Acts 15:37-40 (NKJV) Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention [paroxusmos] became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.
Paroxusmos usually means: "irritation or exasperation". It is unusual to have it used in a good sense, and the choice of the unusual word makes the exhortation more striking. The KJV translates this word: "provoke." We provoke one another a lot by irritating and exasperating one another. But we do not usually provoke each other to love and good works; we provoke to anger, jealousy, and envy. When is the last time that you were provoked to love and good works by another believer? Or when is the last time that you provoked another believer to love and good works?
How do we stir up or provoke others to love and good works? Love and good works are stimulated in the lives of Christians by the considerateness and example of other members of the fellowship. As I look back through the years I can think of many believers whose faithful walk with the Lord Jesus Christ stirred me to imitate them.
This kind of "love", which is the Greek word "agape", is a product of community activity, for it is a virtue that requires others for its exercise. You may practice faith or hope alone, but not love.
This is an appeal to believers, yet love and good works are the product of the Holy Spirit. So why are we to stir up others? We are to do this because the Holy Spirit uses people to accomplish his purposes. We all have a responsibility to one another.
How are we to provoke one another to love and good works? He tells us in verse 25 through a negative statement and a positive statement:
Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV) 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.
On the negative side, we should not forsake our assembling together. We can't help each other much if we don't see each other. On the positive side, when we come together we are to exhort one another. The Greek word for "exhort" is parakaleo, which means: "to encourage, to comfort, beg, or beseech". It is the same word used for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It speaks of coming alongside to help. When we get together, we are to encourage one another, build one another up. Peter and James express it this way:
James 5:16 (NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
1 Peter 4:9-10 (NKJV) Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Do confession, intercessory prayer, hospitality, and service happen on Sunday morning when we gather? No! We come in, listen to a message, and leave. There are a handful of people who minister on a Sunday morning, but most believers just sit and learn.
What does Hebrews 10:25 mean when it says we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together? Most take this primarily to mean Sunday morning church service. The problem is I don't see this stuff happening on Sunday when we are here.
The assembling called for here is not primarily Sunday morning, because these things just can't happen when we meet on Sunday. The teaching on Sunday morning is very important, and we cannot abandon it, but this verse doesn't say we are to assemble to be taught. It says we are to assemble to exhort one another. This can only effectively be done in small groups, where we can get to know one another and help one another to live as God would have us to through provoking one another to love and good works, and by confessing our faults to one another, and praying for one another.
The familiar lecture format of Sunday school and Sunday morning services are totally ineffective for exhortation. We must gather together on Sunday morning to be taught God's Word by those who God has called to teach, but we need more; we need to have time when we can gather to share what we have learned, to question each other on the progress or failure that we are experiencing, to pray for one another. I am convinced that this needs to happen in small groups. I believe that this missing element is the cause of our shallow Christianity. The Church has become a traditional institution whose goal is to demonstrate ever larger groups of people coming together in ever expanding buildings. Even when we do come together outside of Sunday morning, we just talk about surface stuff. We don't question each other about our sins or victories. If someone ever should question a person about a sinful practice in his life, he gets very defensive and hostile. Our Christianity is very shallow; the writings of the early Methodists contrasts with our shallowness.
In The Rules of the Band Societies (an early Methodist meeting which consisted of no more than twelve, and no less than two) drawn up on December 25, 1738 the following statements give us insight into their groups' transparency:
The design of our meeting is to obey that command of God, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."
To this end, we intend,--
1. To meet once a week, at the least.
2. To come punctually at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
3. To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
4. To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt, since our last meeting.
5. To end every meeting with prayer, suited to the state of each person present.
6. To desire some person among us to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.
Any of the following questions may be asked as often as occasion offers;
1. What known sin have you committed since our last meeting?
2. What temptation have you met with?
3. How were you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
How would you like to be involved in a group like that? To tell you the truth, I have mixed emotions. I would love to be involved in that kind of a group because that is what true Christianity is all about. But on the other hand, it scares me; this is serious stuff, this is not playing church. This is the type of assembly that I believe the author of Hebrews is talking about rather than the shallowness of our Sunday morning meetings.
Before we can build one another up , there must be an understanding of each other's spiritual needs. Small cell groups provide a setting where this can happen. Cell groups are based on the scriptural concept of community. The essence of community is a sense of belonging. There is a powerful Christian camaraderie established when people belong to each other in a cell group (Acts 2:42-46). There's no real community in the traditional church structure, and those who create community must do so in spite of the organization's schedule. The early church recognized that there cannot be total participation by every member when the gatherings are large and impersonal, so they moved from house to house in small groups.
"Exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." - What day? He is referring to the second coming of Christ, the Day of the Lord. He is saying that they could see it approaching. Tied to the return of Christ was the destruction of Jerusalem.
Matthew 24:1-3 (NKJV) Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." 3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
The "these things" refers to the temple's destruction in verse 2. In verse 1, the disciples point out the temple buildings to Jesus. In verse 2, Jesus says, "'All' these things shall be destroyed." It should be clear that they are asking, "WHEN will the temple be destroyed? When will our house be left desolate?" After all Jesus had just said about judgment on Jerusalem, and then about not one stone not being left upon another, the disciples' response is, "When?" That makes sense, doesn't it? I would hope so. It is the second part of their question where things get sticky.
The second part of their question is," What will be the sign of your coming, and the end of the age?" To help us understand the question, we need to compare all three synoptic gospels.
Matthew 24:3 (NKJV)... " And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
Mark 13:4 (NKJV) ...."And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"
Luke 21:7 (NKJV) .... "And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"
Comparing all three accounts shows us that the disciples considered His "coming", and "the end of the age" to be identical events with the destruction of the temple.
Mark 13:4 (NKJV) "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"
Notice in the first part of the verse he says, "When will these things be?" -- referring to the temples' destruction. Then in the second half, he asks, "What will be the sign when all 'these things' will be fulfilled?" The sign of His coming and the end of age was the same as the "these things," which referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year AD 70. These are not separate questions that can be divided up into different time-events. The disciples had one thing, and only one thing, on their mind, and that was the destruction of the temple. With the destruction of the temple, they connected the coming of Messiah, and the end of the age.
Believers, we are also to assemble together for the purpose of provoking one another to love and good works. The supportive love of Christians for one another is a powerful factor in maintaining our spiritual vigor. If we would follow this prescription, we would be able to live victorious lives to the glory of God:
Hebrews 10:22 "Let us draw near" - Worship
Hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold fast" - Endurance
Hebrews 10:24 "Let us consider one another" - Fellowship
The Church is a body, an organism rather than an organization. Each individual's victorious Christian life depends on the other members of the body caring for him and holding him accountable. When we begin to consider one another, then God will show us what Christianity is all about. Traditional Christianity is ineffective; we must have community and caring.
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