THE NECESSITY OF PURSUING PEACE AND HOLINESS (vs. 14)
This necessity is underscored here in our text. However, it is also a repeated theme in the Scriptures. Scripture teaches us rather explicitly what it means “to see the Lord” and also why this certainty of seeing the Lord is connected with a life of holiness which expresses itself in the pursuit of peace.
To “see the Lord” means that we have the Visio Dei in the face of Jesus Christ, the glorified Lord of the church and over all things (John 17:24). No one will ever see God as He is in the exalted and immense depths of His own essence. Then He is the inapproachable light; He dwells in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see, to whom be honor and power everlasting, Amen. (I Timothy 6:16). In our text reference is to the glorified Lord, who has passed through the heavens as our Ring-Priest, and who will come a second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:28) As the Great High Priest Jesus prayed that it was His priestly will that we might one day be where He is, in heavenly glory of the perfected tabernacle of God with men. He desires that every one who will believe on His Name through the preaching of the apostles will behold His Messianic glory in His heavenly kingdom. When we see this glory, we shall see God as He is in all His glorious virtues; all the fulness of God in the church. (Ephesians 3:19)
To “see” the Lord is the highest manner of enjoyment. Sight is a more intimate manner of fellowship and communication than hearing. At Sinai, Israel, might hear the voice of the words of the Law, but they really could not behold the glory. They were terrified; even Moses said, “I do exceedingly and quake.” (Hebrews 12:21) This seeing of God is, therefore, really reserved for the future when we shall stand before the throne of God and of the Lamb. (Rev. 22:4, 5) It is for the coming of that great ushering in of the new heaven and the new earth, wherein Christ shall be revealed in all His glory, that the Church and the Bride pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. Amen.” (Rev. 22:17, 21) The saints are not satisfied in the deepest longings of their hearts until that Vision of God in Christ is their portion.
Now to share in that glory of Christ, in His Parousia (everlasting presence), it is requisite that we pursue peace and holiness. Shall we see the Lord, then we must be “like Him”. (I John 3:2, 3) Only the holy ones can see the Holy One, the Lord of glory. Only like can see like. Only those who are created unto the image of God can stand in His presence. (Psalm 15:1) Only those portrayed to us in Psalm 34:14 shall see the Lord. These have the spiritual qualifications. And that is what the writer to the Hebrews brings so forcibly to the attention of the Hebrew Christians. We must seek peace and pursue it like in a chase, as if we are afraid that we shall fail. It must be with holy fear and trembling.
It is in view of this that we read the warnings uttered in the threefold warnings which begin with “lest.” The term “lest” is a conjunction used to denote some fear and apprehension on the part of the writer. In the Greek the term is a combination (mee tis) of a negative particle and an indefinite pronoun: not any. It is here used in three different negative purpose clauses. Lest there be any, (1) Who fails of the grace of God (Vs. 15) (2) There be a bitter root of bitter fruit springing up in the church (3) There be a profane person or fornicator like Esau in the church.
THE GREAT NEED OF VIGILANCE AND OVERSIGHT (Hebrews 12:15-17)
The text connects this need of oversight grammatically with the pursuing of the peace of the Cross in the hope of seeing God in the face of Jesus Christ. It makes this having oversight over the church as being a present vigilance, which must be performed without let-up. Besides, the matter is one which is an integral part of pursuing peace with all, that is, with the entire church. Only where there is such vigilant oversight will the saints be kept safe against the wolves which would rise within the church.
It should be noticed that the “falling short of the grace of God” is not merely a mere lack of grace, not having a full measure, but would be, that, Jewish unbelief which denies the atoning blood of the Son of God, Jesus, would affect men to unbelief. This is the same as the “heart of unbelief” and the “falling away from the living God” through unbelief in Hebrews 3:10-13!! This is falling away from the pure teaching of the Cross and back to the Old Testament types and shadows as if Christ had not come, to fulfill the promises. This means that there be true preaching of the Word and that all heresies repugnant to it be rejected. Truly, this is a timely warning, then and now! And this requires vigilant oversight, much good teaching and warning, both on the part of the office of all believers, as well as from those who have the official oversight over the flock, as caring for the souls and as being such who must give, account to the Chief-Shepherd of the flock. For Satan comes not only with fire and sword, but he also comes as an angel of light. And the false prophets in our day are legion. And those having itching ears will multiply teachers to themselves because they cannot endure sound doctrine. (II Tim. 4:1-4) May God destroy all those who oppose His Word with the breath of His mouth. (Romans 16:20)
Furthermore, this also sheds light on the implication of what is meant with this prevention, on the phrase “a root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” The springing up of a root of bitterness is spoken of by Moses in Deut. 29:18. There it refers to “a man or woman, family or tribe, whose heart turneth away from . . . the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of .these nations!” Surely, such a root of bitterness refers to a radical and determinative breaking away from Jehovah God to serve idol gods, the things which are an abomination to the Lord. This is radical covenant-breaking. It is the refusal to be under the blood of sprinkling on the door-posts of Israel. It means to be destroyed with Egypt because such count the blood of the Covenant a common thing. It is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God, and such shall die without mercy. (Hebrews 10:28, 29) This is called a “root of bitterness” springing up because it is such a basic departure, so radical and irretrievable. Besides, such departure if unchecked will “defile man”. This defilement makes them unholy, and fit to be cast out of the holy place of God’s church. The case here is very serious. It is either-or, Christ or Belial, God or idols, under the blood or eternal damnation.
An example of this we have in the case of Esau, the natural first-born son of Isaac and Rebecca. (Gen. 25:33) Elsewhere we read of God’s hatred for Esau in distinction from His love for Jacob. (Mal. 1:2, 3) Paul refers to this in Rom. 9:13. In this passage, too, the matter is the question who is the true Israel. It is not a question of littleness of faith, nor of a walking in a particular sin. It is the sin of outright unbelief and unbelievers upon whom the wrath of God abides. (John 3:36b.) These shall never see life, much less shall they ever see the Lord in all His glory. Now this sin of unbelief and of being a spiritual fornicator, a covenant-breaker, we see clearly and unmistakably portrayed to us as a case-study in the life and conduct of Esau, Jacob’s twin-brother. He had the natural preeminence as the first-born son of Rebecca. He was the elder son. He had the right to the double portion. Thus he was thoroughly instructed by his parents, even, quite likely, by the aged patriarch Abraham in Sarah’s tent. But the young man did not love God. His basic attitude was that of love for this world. He loved the land of Canaan, not because it was the land of promise, a picture of a better and heavenly country, but because he could hunt in it. He did not live by the Word that proceeded from the mouth of the Lord, but he had his sinful, worldly philosophy and ethics, in which sin and grace, the blood and forgiveness had no place. He could not and did not see the kingdom of heaven. He was not a pilgrim and a stranger. He desired to have his inheritance here and now. His philosophy was: Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die! He was like the Epicurean worldly church-goer, like many a so-called Christian today. When they must choose, and choose they must, they will choose this world. The “birthright” which gives us a place in the new birth of regeneration they “despise” with utter hatred.
The text says of Esau two things. He was, first of all, a “fornicator.” He was this not only spiritually toward the living God. That he was first of all. But he was this also most literally. The wives which he chose were not women professing godliness. They were of the people of Canaan, whom God will destroy to give the land to His people. Small wonder that they were a grief of soul to Isaac and Rebecca. They were women, who when you married them, you put on a strange yoke with unbelievers. They would lead you to hell. And Esau was led willingly. He loved women, and not godly wives. He had three: Judith, Bashemath, and a later wife Mahalath. He becomes a great nation, but it is a nation upon whom God has indignation forever. Such was the fruit of his fornication. Secondly, he was also a “profane person”. He violated all that which was sacred. He had no regard to God nor for sacred and divine things. He never honored the difference between what was of God and what was of the world of Satan’s dominion. He did not want that distinction. He was religious as all the godless are, but he was not godly and reverent.
This is held up as an example for us to flee and not have a root of bitterness in the church. This calls for eternal vigilance. The evil must be put out of the city of God with good preaching, sound administration of the sacraments and with Christian discipline. There must be good strong key-power of the Kingdom of heaven. The Esau’s and all those who would create men and women to become like Esau must be put out of the church.
There is no hope for such Esau’s. They never find a place for repentance. It is final when they turn away from the living God.