The Remedy for Sin’s Deceitfulness
“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.”- Hebrews 3:12–13
Psalm 95 looks back at the rebellion of the exodus generation. God punished them by keeping them out of the promised land in order to exhort the psalmist’s Israelite contemporaries to remain faithful to the Lord. Hebrews 3 does the same thing in warning its original audience, tempted as they were to rebel against Jesus by abandoning Him, to not reject Christ and go back to the old covenant system. And, like the psalmist, the author of Hebrews stresses the importance of this point by emphasizing that the commitment to stay with Jesus must be made today.
We see this in Hebrews 3:12–13, wherein the author highlights the word “today” in the psalmist’s admonition that professing believers not harden their hearts against the Lord (see Ps. 95:7). The point is that the opportunity to trust in Christ will not last forever. If we delay our forsaking of sin and turning to Jesus, we may well never have an opportunity to do so again. We will die once and then face judgment (Heb. 9:27), and none of us knows the day or hour of our deaths. If we find ourselves stuck in ongoing sin or in persistent, impenitent rebellion against Jesus and we do not turn from it to Christ the moment we hear His call to return to Him, we may find His patience running out. John Calvin comments: “As, then, we know not whether God will extend his calling to tomorrow, let us not delay. Today he calls us; let us immediately respond to him, for there is no faith except where there is such a readiness to obey.”
Thus, the warning in Hebrews 3:12–13 cannot be brushed aside lightly. We do not want to be those who harden their hearts against the Lord and thus forfeit the possibility of salvation. Of course, the elect of God will not finally do that. All those who have been predestined for salvation are justified by faith alone and will finally be glorified (Rom. 8:29–30). But our only knowledge of whether we are elect is that we continually believe the gospel, turning daily from sin to the grace we have in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Thess. 1:4–5).
What will keep us from hardening our hearts? Only the work of God to soften our hearts, of course (Ezek. 36:26). But one of the ways the Lord keeps our hearts soft is through believers’ encouraging one another to persevere, to remain committed disciples of Jesus, to never forget their need of His grace. So, Hebrews 3:12–13 calls us to encourage each other and to do so today. God will use our words of exhortation to preserve His elect.
Salvation is the work of God, but we have the high honor and privilege of being tools through which He works to keep His people in salvation. Our encouragement to doubting and sinning people who profess Christ may well be what the Lord uses to prevent them from falling out of His grace. Who do you need to encourage to remain faithful to Christ this day?
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 36:15–16