16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16–19, NKJV).
Read today’s passage again, carefully. The writer has urged Christians to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Israel’s sins and failure to enter the rest of the promised land warns us (Heb. 3:6-15). Now, he summarizes for emphasis; Christians can fall and fail to enter God’s rest like Israel. (1) Israel rebelled after hearing God’s word (v. 16). We must hear God’s word, but that alone does not bring our souls into God’s rest. (2) God’s people do not escape wrath and punishment when they sin and rebel against God (v. 17). Israel’s sin stirred God’s wrath against them, and they died in the wilderness. Even so, Christians who “depart from the living God” will face His wrath (Heb. 3:12-13). (3) Without obedience, God’s people do not enter God’s rest (v. 18). Disobedient, rebellious Israel stands as a stark warning that Christians cannot live in disobedience without forfeiting eternal rest (Heb. 2:1-3; Matt. 10:28). (4) Unbelief is identified by disobedience (v. 19). Far from separating unbelief and disobedience, the Holy Spirit joined the two here. Unbelief produced Israel’s disobedience and God’s punishment (the forfeiture of Canaan’s rest). Even so, belief produces obedience leading to God’s eternal rest in heaven. Let us learn and live the lesson of Israel in the wilderness, lest we fall short of God’s rest like they did (Heb. 4:1, 11).
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8, NKJV).
Paul’s warning against deceivers who would plunder our spiritual treasures in Christ is not new (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 12-15). Let us give attention to “the basic principles of the world” that are not according to Christ and fuel this deception. The basic principles of the world are not the chemical elements that constitute the physical realm (2 Pet. 3:10, 12). They are the fundamental evil elements that oppose God, His purposes, and His truth. They enslave souls to the service of sin (Gal. 4:3). Consider four basic principles of the world: (1) Unbelief. It plunges souls into darkness, ignorance, and alienation from the true and living God (Eph. 4:17-19). Without faith, we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). (2) The traditions, commands, and doctrines of men. Human philosophies appeal to the intellect, often seem plausible, yet are “empty deceit” that cannot save us and protect us from sin (Col. 2:8, 20-23). (3) Carnality and its works. The evil world is composed of the lusts of the flesh, of the eyes, and life’s pride. These stimulate all manner of works of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17; Gal. 5:19-21). Carnal-mindedness opposes God and causes spiritual death (Rom. 8:5-8). (4) The will of men instead of the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2-3). Elevating our cravings and will above God is a fundamental element of the world. Be encouraged and beware; Do not let anyone plunder your spiritual treasure in Christ (Col. 2:1-3).
Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief. (Proverbs 14:13, NKJV)
Today is April Fool’s Day (April 1), the traditional day of playing light-hearted pranks on friends and even strangers. Laughter and good humor is good, but even as we laugh, our hearts may sorrow and grieve. As we seek out laughter and entertainment, we may be making decisions that will ultimately bring us sorrow and grief. These are the decisions that reveal foolishness instead of wisdom. We ought to pause and ask ourselves whether we are making choices that are heaping up for ourselves sorrow, grief, and eternal regrets (Rom. 2:5). The Bible says the real fool says, “There is no God” (Psa. 14:1). To ignore the truth of God’s presence and power is a fool’s errand (Rom. 1:18-23). The Bible says real fool chooses to be deceived by intoxicants. God says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). Broken lives, broken homes, and broken souls testify to the evil of this behavior (Prov. 23:29-35). The Bible says the real fool believes life is all about the things he possesses. Jesus explained that life is not about what we possess (Lk. 12:15). God said to the man who had laid up many goods for many years, “Fool!” because he had not been rich toward God (Lk. 12:20-21). An April’s Fool Day prank may fool us, but we must not fool ourselves by choosing foolish and sinful things and calling them good.
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:34, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Question: Did God forgive the murderers of Jesus in their unbelief? No, for without faith in Jesus as the Son of God, they would die in their sins (John 8:24). Did God forgive the murderers of Jesus in their ignorance? No, they killed Jesus “in ignorance,” and their failure to know the truth prevented their salvation (Acts 3:17). You don’t have to know everything to be forgiven, but you do have to know some things. When did not forgive the murderers of Jesus? The answer is in Acts 2:36-41, where about 3,000 believed the gospel message “that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). The murderers asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (v. 37), and were told to “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38). The sinners who received his word were baptized and added together to form the church (v. 41, 47). God’s desire to forgive sinners combines with repentant faith that is baptized. Then, sins are forgiven. If not, when were the murderers of Jesus forgiven?
30 “Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:30–32, NKJV)
This confession by the apostles, that Jesus came from God, was the last confession of faith they made before His death. However, within hours, they would act counter to the faith they confessed. Fearful unbelief would grip them and cause them to scatter, leaving Jesus alone and arrested in Gethsemane. We do well to take a lesson from this, as we confess our faith in Jesus. Like them, our faith can falter. When it does, we must return to the Lord like they did. Otherwise, our soul will be lost in unbelief. When Peter’s faith faltered, and he denied knowing Jesus three times, he returned to Christ (which he did, see Luke 22:32; John 21:15-19). A failing faith is not a saving faith. Yes, the sheep scattered when the Shepherd was struck, but they returned to Him after His resurrection (Matthew 26:31-32; Mark 16:9-14). Their faith grew. “Once believe, always believe” is just as dangerous and false as “once saved, always saved.” Faith unto the saving of the soul does not abandon the Lord; It endures with Him to the end (Hebrews 10:36-39).