Vol. 1 - No. 6
"They Could Not Enter In"
by R. L. McDonald
For more than 250 years, Israel had been kept in bondage in Egypt. Under the leadership of Moses, the people of God were carried out of that land of slavery to Mount Sinai where the Law was given. God blesses Israel. He loved this people. There has never been a nation to receive such material blessings from God as did Israel. The showering of such material care from God was the envy of every other people on the earth.
When Israel was informed of the strength of the cities in the promised land, she feared to possess that land. Of course, God had told Israel to take the land as a gift. But Israel would not. Because of unbelief in God, they could not enter in. (Hebrews 3:19)
There is no reason to suppose the people of Israel did not believe in the existence of God. Surely, they had seen the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day overshadowing the great body of people. Everyone knew this was the manifestation of the presence of God. Further, God had provided food and drink for millions of people plus their cattle while in the wilderness. Surely, they understood that God is! Their problem was whether or not they should place their trust and confidence in God. Evidently they relied upon their own wisdom in preference to God's.
We are made to wonder what are the influences to cause one to lose his faith in God? Why does one give up the life in Christ which is far superior to the life of sin? Why will one sever fellowship with God and Christians so as to sink into the depths of a world of depravity? There is no doubt but this was the thrust of the writer of the Hebrew letter. There are three influences which I believe play a tremendous role in the destruction of one's faith.
WORLDLY PHILOSOPHY. Philosophy is defined, "love (and pursuit) of wisdom", (Thayer, page 655). Among the Jewish philosophers, there were the speculative inquiries into the nature and classes of angels, the rituals of the Law of Moses and the traditions of a practical life. This undoubtedly is what Jesus had reference to when he said, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." (Matthew 15:3,6)
The Greek philosophers had a tremendous effect by exacting a way of man in a pure and austere mode of life. They focused attention on the great problems of their being, adopting the oriental motif of the transmigration of souls as handed down by the mysteries of Orpheus. In common with the ancient philosophers, their wisdom and knowledge served to free man from superstitious fear of pagan gods and their punishment and to humanize deity. The aim was to make man morally good without acknowledging the true and living God.
There are certain characteristics of the philosophers of the world. These are as true today as when Paul stood on Mars Hill in Athens. They have little or no faith in the Bible as the Word of God. Their faith is in ancient philosophy which has, through the ages, proved vain in leading man in a proper course of life. "For since the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom did not know God, it pleased God by the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." (1 Corinthians 1:21,26, (NKJ) For this reason the apostle warned, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Colossians 2:8) When Christians become infatuated with these philosophies, foolishly thinking he has arrived at the ultimate in wisdom, he will invariably lose his faith in God.
FALSE DOCTRINE is designed to lead a person away from faith in God. This was the scheme of Satan and it holds true with every false teacher who has ever lived. These are not concerned with truth, for they deliberately pervert it. (Galatians 1:6-7) They are evil men advancing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13) The apostle Peter expressed it this way, "Who privily shall bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways: by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you ...." (2 Peter 2:1-2)
To emphasize the truth that the false teachers will one day be severely punished, Peter cites (2 Peter 2:4-6) three examples. First, the angels that sinned were not spared, but cast down to hell and delivered into the chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment. Second, God did not spare the old world, but destroyed it by bringing the flood upon the world of the ungodly. Third, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were turned into ashes, making them as ensamples unto those who lived ungodly.
WILLFUL SINNING. Every Bible student is aware that all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) When one is guilty of sin, he is expected to repent. Repentance is not only a change of the mind, but a change leading to a reformation of life. If there is no repentance, sin cannot be forgiven. (Luke 13:3) When one sins, if he has the proper attitude toward God, he will as soon as he is aware of his wrong seek God's forgiveness.
There is no doubt to this writer but all of us, when we sin, try to find some justification (at the first) for our actions. Sometime we want to blame others for not understanding the situation which led to the sin itself. It's easy to soothe a conscience by turning attention away from the real problem. Let one who really loves the sinner by seeking to help them through their troubles and many times the guilty party will turn on them with the aim to destroy. Remember Jezebel of Thyatira (Revelation 2) who taught and seduced disciples of Christ to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed unto idols, but she would not repent? This ungodly woman, whose name has been derision through the centuries, had willfully sinned and would not repent. It is evident from what we know of her that she, and those who listened, had their faith destroyed.
To willfully sin is to know the deed is wrong and walk headlong into the evil. One may not weigh the consequences of his action, but is cognizant of the wrong so he may satisfy his evil desire. And as he partakes of these dainties of Satan, he enjoys and soon loves them to the point he will again and again yield to temptation. This is undoubtedly what was under consideration when the inspired writer penned, "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." (Hebrews 10:26) This person has persisted in sin and will eventually sear the conscience as with a hot iron. The time will then come when the person has become an apostate beyond the extent of the gospel to save.
When the writer of the Hebrew letter told the disciples to "take heed" (Hebrews 3:12), his warning was with the fear that some would lose their faith and miss heaven. As he spoke of the history of Israel and the many who failed to enter into the promised land because of their deliberate sins, he impressed his readers with the fact that disciples, today, may lose their faith and miss heaven. Listen to him, "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." (Hebrews 4:1)
Reader friend, faith in God must be cultivated. One doesn't believe without effort. One doesn't maintain faith without working at it. Over and again in the Word of God we are exhorted to add to our faith, study the Word of God, bring our lives into subjection to the gospel and remain faithful to our Lord. If we hope to enter into that eternal home of the soul, it will be because of our unwavering faith in God to a devoted life in His service.