Take care , brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:12-14).
The book of Hebrews contains some of the stern warnings in Scriptures against sin, drawing lessons from the Israelites who were saved from Egypt and later perished in the wilderness for disobedience towards God. These warnings are to ensure believers don’t presume on the grace of God. Believers are not to play trifle with the salvation they have received from the Lord, hence these numerous warnings.
The believer, purchased and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice is eternally secured never to be separated from Christ. Sadly, this truth is wrongly taken by some as a license to live their lives licentiously, disregarding the commands and laws of God. Anyone who thus lives, we may conclude has not truly known the Lord. The warnings in Hebrews are instructive for the believer to live victoriously and not under the bondage and slavery of sin.
Perhaps one of the least spoken about subject in our generation is the doctrine of sin–want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.¹ Sin is the breaking of God’s law and the Bible affirms that all humans are guilty of sin and without Christ, are separated from God (Romans 3:23). The believer who has come to saving faith in Christ is indeed saved, sanctified and set apart for “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”(Eph 2:10). However, there still remains in him residues of the fallen old Adamic nature which needs to be subdued and brought under control of the Spirit’s ongoing progressive sanctification. John Owen, in his book Indwelling Sin In Believers aptly captured the dangers of sin in a believer. He wrote:
Wherever you are, whatever you are about, this law of sin is always in you; in the best that You do, and in the worst. Men little consider what a dangerous companion is always at home with them. When they are in company, when alone, by night or by day, all is one , sin is with them. There is a living coal continually in their houses; which, if it be not looked unto, will fire them, and it may be consume them. Oh, the woful security of poor souls! How little do the most of men think of this inbred enemy that is never from home! How little, for the most part , doth the watchfulness of any professors answer the danger of their state and condition! ²
Sin is dangerous and not to be toyed with in its slightest appearance. Paul writes that “Abstain from all appearances of evil (1Thes 5:22 KJV). Peter admonishes that we should “gird up the loins of [our] mind, be sober… [and ] as obedient children, not fashioning [ourselves] according to the former lust…”(1Peter 1:13-14 KJV).
“Take care brothers…”(v.1a) the Hebrews writer admonishes. This is a warning to believers against the potency and power of sin not dealt with by submission to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Sin kills faith. It produces unbelief. Sin deceives. Sin hardens and kills our conscience. Like a sniper, sin, if not dealt with can take us out and lead to apostasy: “lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (v.1b). The battle against sin is both individual and communal. The author further tells us; “But exhort one another every day … that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”(v.13). Sin is deceitful. Its pleasure is temporal and cannot be compared to the eternal glory and reward that awaits us (Hebrews 11:23-28).
Unlike Cain who asked “Am I my brother’s keeper?”(Genesis 4:9), we as believers are each other’s keeper and must be engaged in watching over each other to ensure we finish this race together living victoriously over sin by the power available in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Our union with Christ is only true when we are actively engaged in resisting sin in cooperation with the Spirit’s work of progressive sanctification:
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:14).
1: Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 14
2: John Owen, Indwelling Sin in Believers, Vintage Puritan Series GLH Publishing Louisville, KY