Why (as the Holy Ghost said, To day if you will hear his voice,…
As Christ and Moses occupied similar positions as leaders of the household of God, and Israel was faithless under the leadership of Moses, and came to ruin as the result, so it is possible that, under the leadership of Christ, there may be the same infidelity and the same bitter end.
I. THE FEAR OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST. This solemn exhortation is written to professing Christians; and such professors (see Hebrews 10:32-34)! Their piety was of such a nature that onlookers could not doubt it; yet, says the apostle, even these may apostatize. Members of the Church, this speaks to you. "Take heed." This possibility is enforced:
1. By Scripture warnings against the repetition of the wilderness-sin. For what means the quotation here from Psalm 95., and the four-times repeated "today"? Not that the day of grace is short and may speedily terminate, but rather that it was possible for the men of the writer's time to repeat the sin of their fathers in the wilderness. That sin was not confined to those who came out of Egypt; for, five hundred years afterwards, David said to Israel, "Today it may be true of you." So the writer here says, "Learn from your Scriptures that the guilt of your forefathers, the awful effects of which you know so well, may be repeated by other generations. Beware, therefore, lest it be repeated in you." We have the same reason for godly fear. What mean the parables of wheat and tares, and wise and foolish virgins; the declaration, "Many will say unto me in that day," etc.; the assurance that at the judgment many will be surprised to find themselves on the left hand of the Judge; and such passages as in this Epistle (Hebrews 6:14), but that the wilderness-sin may be true of today's Church?
2. By the subtlety of the sin of unbelief. "Take heed lest," etc.; "Lest any of you be hardened by the," etc.; as though this sin could grow upon the soul that is unaware of it. It is easy to mistake the nature of faith and the fruits of faith, and to have a spirit of unbelief, the one deadly sin, without knowing it.
3. By the fact that continuance is the test of true faith. "We are partakers of Christ if we hold our begun confidence," etc. Where vital faith exists it endures, the continued mediation of Christ for his people being the ground of this. But it is not uncommon for professors to think themselves to be Christians because of what they were. As long as there are members of the Church whose hope is of this character, the Church will have those in it who apostatize from the living God. "Lord, is it I?"
II. THE EVIL OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST.
1. To apostatize from Christ is to depart from the living God. (Ver. 12.) We cannot leave Jesus without losing God. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." To relinquish Christ is to be rejected of God. "He that believeth not the Son, the wrath of God abideth on him."
2. To apostatize from Christ reveals an extraordinary degree of inward evil. "An evil heart of unbelief." Is unbelief, then, so very evil? It is the relinquishing the Son of God; it is the making God a liar; it is (in the case of an apostate) the breaking away from Christ, not held fast even by the glory of the fuller vision.
3. To apostatize from Christ is to fail of the rest to which he leads. "For to whom sware he," etc. Rejection from Christ is the one deadly sin. "This is the condemnation;" "He that believeth not is," etc.; "And this is the condemnation, that light," etc. How much more so in the case of the apostate! "I saw," said Bunyan, "that from the very gate of heaven there was a path down to hell."
III. THE PREVENTION OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST. There is only one means - cleave to Christ. Apostasy springs from unbelief; its antidote is faith. How can a persistent faith be maintained?
1. Faith depends greatly on the condition of the heart. "They do err in their heart;" the passage is full of that. Men do not, for the most part, leave Christ because of conscious hostility to him, or a desire to depart; it is rather because the lust of other things entering in blinds them to his beauty, and insensibly draws them from his service.
2. Faith must be shielded from outside influences which tend to weaken it. "Take heed." There are enemies to faith outside as well as in - pleasures, companionships, literature.
3. Faith must be supplied with its natural food. "Exhort one another," etc. That is, present the truth. The food of faith is truth, and in order to produce or maintain faith we must present truth to the mind. Let Scripture be unstudied, and faith will die. - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,