The Book of Hebrews #64 chapter 12:12-17 pt. 2
The Book of Hebrews
Falling Short of the Grace of God, Pt. 2
Hebrews 12:12-17
 
We began our study of Hebrews 12:12-17 last week by looking at the first of three things the author is encouraging his hearers to keep in mind regarding running the race.  He’s given them all this information regarding the superiority of Jesus, called them to make a commitment to Christ, and now he is encouraging them to go all the way with the Lord and not turn back to Judaism.
 
Verses 12-17
 
He begins with
 
1. Continuance
 
Verses 12-13
 
Don’t get tired; just keep running and stay in your own lane. Draw up all the strength you have and just keep going.  And don’t get distracted by what’s going on around you.  Just run straight and keep running so those who are watching you will be convinced of the validity of Christianity.
 
So the first exhortation is continuance.  Strengthen the parts that are weak and run straight so those who are watching can be healed.
 
Then notice the second thing, not only continuance, but
 
 
2. Diligence
 
verse 14
 
Now this verse has caused a lot of confusion and apprehension for people because if you don’t understand it correctly, you might be led to believe it means you earn your salvation by pursuing peace.  You’ve got to work hard and be sure you’re at peace with everyone and then maybe you can earn eternal life.
 
But that's not what it says and even if it did say that, it would be an impossible pursuit.  If you're unsaved, you couldn't pursue peace and catch it if you wanted to. There's no peace to the wicked. Not only that, you couldn't pursue holiness, either. All you'd wind up with was your own righteousness, which is the equivalent of filthy rags.
 
So he's not presenting a method for salvation. He's not saying, "Come on, get saved by running after peace and running after holiness."
 
The words “follow” or “pursue” mean “to continue to pursue”. To continue to pursue or to run swiftly in order to catch something is literally what it says.  The idea is that of swiftly running in order to get something or gain something such as winning a prize.  The gist is that of continual pursuit.
 
And that can't refer to salvation because salvation is not some kind of a race where we run and run until we’re panting and out of breath.  If you're a Christian, you already have peace with God because we have been justified.  It’s a past tense transaction.
We have already been given the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that positionally we are perfect in the sight of God.  Therefore, there is no need for us to pursue what we already possess in order to be saved.  So that’s not what the verse is talking about.
 
So what's he saying? I think he's talking about practical things. He's saying to these believers, "Since you are at peace with God, be a peacemaker.  Make sure your practice matches your position. Since you are declared righteous, then act and live like it.” Why? People are watching, and if your practice doesn't match your position, then you give the lost world the opportunity to say, “You hypocrite!  Why don't you practice what you preach?"
 
Verse 14 is just saying in a different way the same things that are said in verses 12-13.  If Christianity is valid, we should be able to prove it by how we live. And he is simply speaking to the area of practical testimony of our beliefs.
 
According to verse 14, there are two things that give evidence to the validity of our faith.  The first one is “peace with all men” and the second one is “holiness”. And together they are simply a reminder that we are to live our life loving God and loving others.
 
If you love men, you'll be at peace with them. If you love God, you'll be holy." If I really love God, I will do the things that please Him.  “If any man loves Me”, Jesus said, “he will keep my commandments.”  That's holiness.
 
If I really love men, I’ll do whatever it takes to get along with them.  That's what peace is all about.
Now why in the world would I want to do that?  For what reason should I do this? If I am secure positionally and it doesn’t determine my salvation and I already have peace with God and the imputed righteousness of Christ, then why should I worry about being all that concerned with the pursuit of peace and holiness?
 
Notice the next phrase:  "Without which no man shall see the Lord."...
 
So what does that phrase mean?  It sounds like it’s talking about salvation and heaven.  So if it’s not saying I determine my salvation by my pursuit of peace and holiness, then what’s it saying
 
This is a very difficult verse to interpret, but here’s what I think its saying.
 
Notice what is on either side of the verse.  On either side we find the writer talking about our responsibility to accurately represent Christ and Christianity.  In verse 13, we are to do all we can to make sure that which is halt and lame can be healed rather than dislocated.
 
In verse, we are to make sure we don’t develop a root of bitterness that causes defilement.  The text on both sides of this verse is speaking of our responsibility as a professing Christian to make sure those who are around us are encouraged in the faith and not discourage.
 
 
 
 
And in between, he says pursue holiness and righteousness or those who are watching will not see the Lord.  He’s not talking about the one who is pursuing seeing the Lord; rather he’s talking about those who are watching seeing or not seeing the Lord.  Notice, it doesn't say, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which you shall not see the Lord." No, he says "without which no man will see the Lord."
 
You and I must reveal Christ.  And his point is if we don't practically exhibit peace, that's the love of men, and holiness, that's the love of God, no one else will see Christ in us. We are supposed to radiate Christ to the world. There is only one way that anybody in this world is ever going to see Christ, and that's when they see in our lives those things which exhibit Him, in this case, love for men and love for God.
 
That is the consistent message of the New Testament.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  Don’t hide your light or lose your saltiness.  Instead, let your light shine so people can see your good works and glorify God.”
 
Paul said to the Philippians, “You dwell in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.  Let you light shine.”  John said, “Men will know you belong to God because his disciples love one another.”
 
In John 17, Jesus prays that His followers will demonstrate the same kind of relationship that He enjoys with His Heavenly Father so the world can see it and desire it.  They will never recognize that we represent Christ unless there's something in us that is visible and tangible.
The world deserves more than bumper stickers and t-shirts. People who see the Lord in us, see Him because He's living through us.  If men in this world are ever to see Christ, they’re going to have to see Him in us and without peace, without holiness, no man can see the Lord in you.
 
We are the only Jesus Christ that some people will ever see.  And more important than how many people are in Sunday School and more important than if you are entertained and satisfied and happy is the fact that Christ is evident and seen in us as we pursue peace and righteousness.
 
Think about that the next time you’re telling off the waitress who messed up your order or mad as everything at the driver that cut you off.  We are called to be peacemakers. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." You want the world to call you a child of God? Live a holy life and be a peacemaker.  They're watching.
 
So what's he say? Continuance? Diligence. Then thirdly,
 
3. Vigilance
 
verse 15
 
First of all, look at those first two words, "looking carefully." The word “carefully” or “diligently” is an interesting word.  It comes from the word “episkapao”  which is the word from which we get our word bishop or elder and it means to have oversight or to be an overseer.
The idea is that as a believer, you are not only responsible for your own life, but you're responsible to take note of what is going on around you.  Look around and look diligently or carefully.
 
There are two reasons we are to do that.  The first one is to make sure no one “falls short of the grace of God.”  Again it’s the same thought.  We want to do all we can to see that people are saved.
 
The phrase “fall short” means to come too late. Here's a guy who comes to the church, sees Christianity, watches what is going on , kind of gets involved and then falls away.
 
The encouragement here is to get involved.  Take the oversight.  Don't let that happen. Don't let people just fall away.  I hear people say, “Well, I don't want to say anything.”  That's the stupidest, most unloving remark you could ever make.  “I don’t want to offend anyone”.  Go ahead and offend!  Get involved!  I promise you they will be more offended when they go to hell and you and I did nothing to prevent it!
 
People need to know grace is available. That’s what he’s saying.  Grace is available, but they're going to miss it!  "You take the oversight, and you watch, and don't let it happen to him."
 
There's some folks right here in our church that are falling short of the grace of God.  Wouldn't it be a great ministry for those of us who really know Jesus Christ to pursue peace and righteousness and strengthen the hands and knees so that no one is dislocate?
 
Look around and be diligent so no one falls short of the grace of God.
 
The second thing he says is look around diligently so a root of bitterness doesn’t spring up, causing trouble and defilement.
 
What's a root of bitterness?  It’s described in Deuteronomy 29.  Once again the author is going back into Jewish history to draw his illustration.
 
Deuteronomy 29:18
 
In Jewish terms, a root of bitterness describes the person who identified with the religion of Israel in Deuteronomy, but turns away to paganism.  That’s what he’s talking about here in Hebrews.  He is describing the person superficially identifies with Christianity, but he turns away from it.
 
verses 19-21
 
The strongest words in the Bible are for the person
that comes to the truth, knows the truth and then turns around and walks away from the truth. That man is called, in Deuteronomy chapter 28, a root of bitterness and that's what he's talking about here.
 
And he is saying to the church, “Diligently and carefully watch what is going on around you so that no any root of bitterness rise up among you and fall short of the grace of God.  Again, it is the same illustration under different terms.
 
And the accompanying danger of that happening is described in verse 15.
 
“By it many become defiled." One apostate has the ability to corrupt a lot of other people. A root of bitterness doesn't exist unto itself. It has a corrupting influence.
 
To illustrate what he’s talking about, he calls their attention to Esau.
 
Verses 16-17
 
Esau was a person who had a birthright, but he sold it, turned his back on God, and then, when he wanted it back, he couldn't get it. That's sad.
 
His story is told to us beginning in Genesis 25.  He was a twin to Jacob.  They were fighting in their mother’s womb. The first one out was Esau. Next, our came Jacob holding on to his brother’s heel.
 
Esau means “hairy” and Jacob means “heel”.  So here they are, Hairy and Heely.
 
Now Esau was the oldest of the two and because of that he was entitled to the birthright, the father’s blessing.  But Esau is described as a “profane” man.
 
The birthright belonged to Esau, but Esau was profane. That word simply means he was a secular –minded man.  He had no regard for the things of God.
 
And to prove it, one day he came home hungry and he sold his right to the blessing of God for a bowl of soup.  He was an apostate.
 
 
He had everything. He had all the promises that his father could give. The covenant he knew well. All the information had been passed on to him and he sacrificed his entire future of the altar of the immediate. 
 
And the writer of Hebrews is using Esau to remind us that all around us are those who are on the verge of, maybe already involved in sacrificing the eternal blessing of God on the altar of the immediate.  And he says, "Take a careful look around.  There just may be somebody who is on the edge of making the same mistake as Esau.  Don't let it happen.  Get your second wind. Continue!  Be diligent! And be vigilant because somebody's watching. Be the example that brings them to Christ, not the stumbling block that turns them away.
 
Let's pray.

 

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