Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
The necessity of taking heed to the gospel, of embracing Christ, and adhering to Him in the exercise of genuine faith, appears —
1. From the impossibility of escape to final unbelievers.
2. From the severity of the punishment awaiting unbelievers.
3. The dignity of Christ's prophetical character. The chapter in which our text lies begins with this argument: "Wherefore... consider the Apostle... of our profession, Christ Jesus." How are we to consider Him? We are so to devote our minds to the contemplation of all His excellencies as fully to satisfy ourselves that He is every way worthy to be the object of our faith. We must consider Him as "the Apostle of our profession"; for He is that great Prophet whom God hath sent, after having promised Him so often and so long.
4. The honour put on those who steadfastly adhere to Christ. They are His house! He occupies their hearts, their whole persons, as His constant dwelling; for He hath said, "I will dwell in them." They are "builded up for an habitation of God through the Spirit." If so, we ought surely to be extremely vigilant, lest, by an evil heart of unbelief, we exclude this blessed inhabitant.
5. The authority of the Holy Ghost. This argument is proposed (vers. 7, 8). Unbelief, when described as a tempting of God, is held up to view as committed against each Person of the adorable Godhead. It is spoken of as a tempting of the Father (Psalm 95:7). It is viewed as committed against Christ (1 Corinthians 10:9). And here it is considered as directed against the Spirit. Unbelief is thus described, because it is a rejection of that salvation in which each Person of the Trinity hath a peculiar and distinct operation. It is especially a tempting of the Holy Ghost, because it is more immediately opposed to His work ill applying this salvation to the hearts of men. By unbelief He is peculiarly resisted, as He, according to the order of subsistence, is the Finisher of all the external works of God. Therefore unbelievers are not said to resist the Father, or the Son, but the Spirit. Two things are mentioned in the passage, in which the authority of the Holy Spirit is interposed. First, He enjoins on us the exercise of faith in hearing the voice of God, the present exercise of faith, without admitting of any delay. "To-day, if ye will hear." Then He warns us against unbelief and activity in hardening ourselves and tempting Him, like the ancient Jews. It is, therefore, necessary that we take heed, lest we be found chargeable with resisting the Holy Spirit of promise by a rejection of that which is the great subject of His testimony and ground of His operation in the Church, the salvation purchased by the blood of Christ.
6. The danger of being unexpectedly deprived of our day of grace. This argument is urged by the apostle, from the example of God's procedure with the Israelites (ver. 11). The day of grace is never extended beyond the day of life. But the latter sometimes continues after the former is gone.
7. The unspeakable blessedness necessarily connected with genuine faith. "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" (ver. 14). The great privilege which the apostle seems especially to have in his eye is union to Christ. He, in His incarnation, was made a partaker of us: "Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise took part of the same." Now, this participation is mutual; for being joined to the Lord, we are one spirit with Him. The apostle seems especially to describe faith as the evidence of our real participation of Christ. He exhibits it under one character, which is a certain proof of its sincerity. It is of a permanent nature. It is not a transient notion in the head, or affection in the heart, which we have to-day, and lose tomorrow, but a fixed principle, making us to abide in Christ to the end of our course.
8. The danger of exclusion from God's rest This argument is urged by the apostle in the last verse of this chapter, connected with the first of the following: "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." This argument is intimately connected with one already considered, arising from the danger of our day of grace coming to an end.
9. The all-penetrating nature of the Word of God. This argument is adduced (Hebrews 4:12, 13). From the foregoing observations we infer —
(1) That God deals with us in the gospel as rational creatures. He proposes innumerable motives, which have a natural tendency to affect the will. He works on the affections by the most pressing entreaties, tender expostulations, and exceeding great and precious promises. As man is naturally swayed by hopes of honour, pleasure or interest, He shows that all these in their true value and perfect essence are engaged solely on His side. Thus He "draws with the cords of a man" (Hosea 11:4).
(2) The necessity of having the heart right with God. Did the priests under the law examine the sacrifices, not only outwardly, but inwardly, to discover if there was any blemish So doth our great High Priest. He looks not only to the conduct, but to the heart, to see if there be any such blemish there, as would render the sacrifice a corrupt thing. For all things are naked and opened to Him.
(3) One mark by which the voice of Christ may be known. It is of a heart-penetrating nature. "The sheep," saith the Great Shepherd, speaking of " Himself, "hear His voice:... for they know it. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." Many flee from a searching ministry. But surely this is the greatest folly, and a certain evidence that the heart is bad. For " he that is of the truth, cometh to the light." What is this but. as far as possible, to flee from the presence of the Lord, to flee from the Word of God, who, by the means of His own appointment, is quick and powerful?
(4) Christians may learn the danger of grieving the Holy Ghost. You do so by not improving His gracious motions within you when stirring you up to duty, and by committing sin.
(5) Those Who are habitually careless may be warned from this branch of the subject not to tempt and resist the Holy Spirit.
(John Jamieson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.