These are the notes for a sermon I preached last month at my church, Cornerstone Baptist Church, in Erskine Park, Sydney.
The audio can be downloaded at the following link from our church website: http://cornerstonebaptist.com.au/sermons/?sermon_id=240
“but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” – Hebrews 3:13
- Context of the passage
chapter 1: Christ is God, “the brightness of [God’s glory] and the express image of His person” (v.3), and “[upholds] all things by the word of His power” (v.3); Christ is our Saviour, He “by Himself purged our sins” (v.3); He is approved by God as Messiah and Saviour, “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (v.3); Christ is better than the angels, “having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (v.4)
chapter 2: the word of God in the Old Testament was binding and rendered men peculiarly culpable (v.2). The word now fulfilled through Christ is binding and renders men peculiarly culpable, and even more so than the Old, if possible, because the revelation is complete: if the less clear revelation was binding and rendered men culpable, how much more the complete revelation? (v.3) Christ took on human flesh so that He could bear the punishment due to our sins in our place. (v.14)
Chapter 3: an example of the sin and consequent punishment of those who possessed God’s revelation in Old Testament times; and a declaration that the same applies in the present day. – we must not depart from God, or else we shall not enter the rest of God. (see also chapter 4:2, 3, 6-11)
Division of text, explanation of terms, etc.
- Commandent: “exhort one another daily.”
1.1. Meaning of the word, “exhort.” to beg, urge, advise, or caution earnestly, reprove, admonish urgently. – from Vine’s Expository Dictionary or Old and New Testament Words.
1.2. Persons concerned: “one another” – not merely preachers – not merely in the gathered assembly – not merely private study – but, rather, everywhere and at all times, at church, and everywhere else besides where believers meet.
- Timing: “exhort one another daily.”
2.1. Every day – not only on Sundays.
A repetition of what came earlier in the chapter – a Scripture quote – to further convey the continual need for this practice, of exhorting one another, to be maintained, or kept up: “daily”, and. “while it is called “Today.” ”
2.1. There are many things which we ought to always consider urgently as Christians. We are also very forgetful without reminders.
- Reason for the commandment: “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
3.1. We may be hardened – we who have good hope in Christ and an assurance of our salvation.
- What does, “being hardened”, mean? Some examples:
– Coming to have a less intense view of the gravity and seriousness of the wickedness of sin.
– Coming to have an exceessively grave view of other things (like natural afflictions, poverty, etc.), to the diminishing of our view of the seriousness of sin.
– A skewed view of Scripture as a whole, and of Scripture doctrines. – Insensitiveness to the concerns of others.
– Insensitiveness to the danger in which unconverted people continually are.
– Insensitiveness to our duty.
3.2. We, who have good hope in Christ and an assurance of our salvation, may be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
How is sin deceitful?
– We naturally incline towards sin since the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve.
– Sin, by nature, distorts reality, and makes God to appear to be of less power and authority than He is.
– how can the deceitfulness of sin be a means to our being hardened, or have a power to harden us?
3.3. We ought not to desire to be hardened, but rather to fear it.
3.4. The deceitfulness of sin is always present, and so the danger of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin is also always present; and so the need of exhorting one another is always present as a means to prevent our being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
- Doctrine of the text, with further explanations and reasons.
The Holy Spirit commands us to exhort one another daily; and the very flow of the text, pivoting on the word, “lest” (as in, “lest you be hardened”, etc.), makes it plain that daily urgent exhortation is an effective means to the prevention of our being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
2.1. further explanations
- If we exhort one another daily, we may rightly expect to be less likely to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. – because we believe this verse to be the word of the Holy Spirit, who cannot lie.
- If we neglect to exhort one another daily, we may fairly expect to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. – because we believe this verse to be the word of the Holy Spirit, who cannot lie.
Emphasize: if we understand things rightly, we do not want to be hardened; we ought to fear being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. And, again (repeat):
- If we exhort one another daily, we may rightly expect to be less likely to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
- If we neglect to exhort one another daily, we may fairly expect to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
There are other passages in God’s word which tell us to fear certain things:
Hebrews 2:1-2, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…?”
Hebrews 3:7-11, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.'””
Hebrews 4:1, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” (continue reading, also, to the end of verse 3.)
Other implicitly fearful passages: Hebrews 4:11-13
Other places in Scripture also tell us to fear, but also with hope and comfort:
1 Peter 1:17, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear“.
This passage in 1 Peter is not contrary to assurance of salvation, since it continues, in verse 18:
“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you“.
And, in case there was any fear that Peter was not talking exclusively to believers here, but of a more general idea of Christ’s sacrifice, the Holy Spirit continues, in verse 19:
“who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
So, we who believe, and are assured of our salvation, are to “conduct [ourselves] throughout the time of [our] stay here in fear.” – fear sinning against Christ, because He died for us who believe in Him, and “to we who believe in Him, He is precious.” (1 Peter 2:7) – So we are to fear sinning against Him because He is precious to us, and because we sense sinful tendencies in us – though we love Him, and often depart from Him in some sense, in going to sin.
The Holy Spirit also says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” – Psalm 111:10
See also Titus 2:2-3,5-6, 11-15.
What are we to exhort one another about?
- The content of the exhortation – found throughout the first 2 chapters of Hebrews – summarized: the gospel and its implications for our conduct. see also 1 Corinthians 2:2 – Christ’s cross as central to all true Scriptural doctrine – exhortation useless without it.
We cannot have a right understanding of culture, or arts, or science, or logic, or philosophy, or family life, or nutrition, or finances, or social skills, or medicine, or music, or literature, or photography, or movies, or ethics, or history, or politics, or theology, if the dying love of the God-Man Jesus Christ, for the redemption of wicked sinners who deserved to suffer in all misery for all eternity; His love, which makes them heirs of eternal life, making them sons of God, reconciled, forgiven, at peace with Him – if this gospel is not central, and if a direct connection between this gospel, this joy we have in Him, and these things like arts, daily life, science, politics, arts, etc. then we do not understand these things according to the truth.
When we tell people what they ought to do, we ought to do urge it “by the mercies of God.” The cross, the “grace of God”, teaches us to “live soberly and righteously in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-14) At any rate, I am sure that it is a far greater persuasion with me personally, to do any good thing, when I think that Christ has died for me and has saved me, and that I have peace with God and eternal life forever; and I know that without this constantly in my mind, doing anything at all can be burdensome. It ought to be to us all that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) We have tasted that the Lord is gracious, so that we no longer see purpose in life in anything else but Christ.
Galatians 3:1-3, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you are crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
We cannot have a right understanding of other people’s sinfulness without an understanding of the gospel. Is there someone who causes us much pain and trouble? Whatever we think, we do not know their sin as much and as well as God does, nor do we know how much it offends God – and certainly, our view of their sin is wrong if we forget that God may punish them for it eternally in Hell if they do not believe in Christ – and again, we must understand, that if it is not the unpardonable sin, then Christ may bring them to Himself; but also, nothing but Christ’s blood can atone for their sins – pray for their salvation.
- Christ, in the gospel of His salvation, is all we need, whether we presently think so or not.
i.ii. We have no guarantee of anything else. – that is, of earthly circumstances.
We often are concerned about achieving things which can only come Tomorrow, or next week, or month, year, decade, etc. and are discontented until we obtain them – when we have the duty now of delighting in Christ, and of obeying Him in all the circumstances which now surround us. We only have the present and eternity – we do not have what is not now – we have what God promises us as certainties; nothing else.
- Whether we take all possible opportunities or not, by education, hard work, honesty, prudence and care, there is absolutely no certainty that we will obtain the things we seek by these means.
- There is absolutely no certainty whatsoever that, if we obtain these things, that we will possess them for any considerable period of time. – Consider Job. The house you live in may burn down.
- Christians in jail, or about to be burnt or crucified, have nothing but Christ, and they are no worse off than we are for having nothing else.
- Christians who are presently being tortured as we speak, need nothing but Christ to encourage them, and nothing else but the love of Christ and being with Him where He is can encourage them.
Whatever our present circumstances are, we do not ensure anything by neglecting to delight ourselves in Christ.
- There is no certainty that neglecting Christ will actually result in us obtaining what we intend to obtain by doing so. – once again: no certainty.
- Even if we were so sick as to be bedridden, we are not in a more trying circumstance than those who have been crucified or burnt to death or drowned for Christ’s sake. Christ is sufficient for either situation.
It is our duty to stop and think, ponder Christ, ponder His word, ponder the meanings of words and verses in the Bible which we find hard to understand, in order to grow in our understanding of God’s word. Patient pondering of the Scriptures – the only way, by God’s Holy Spirit, to clear our of our minds the insinuations which Satan busily tries to implant in our minds – delusions – these delusions are also helped by our own corrupt sinful human nature – “the deceitfulness of sin.
i.iii. Ultimately – No one else can help you – no one else can understand you fully – no one else knows you completely – not even those closest to you – not even your spouse, or best friend, or relatives, or parents or siblings.
– Your very best friend, or friends, may die tomorrow, or your parents.
– That person you want to marry, may die tomorrow.
– That person who helps you so much, and seem to understand you so well, may die tomorrow.
– Your “best counselors” may die tomorrow.
– All people you love may be murdered all at once.
– And you yourself may die tomorrow.
– Christ knows you fully, loves you perfectly and infinitely, and knows everything, and is able and willing to fully help you by His Spirit.
– Whatever we may think, neither do we understand anyone else fully, and all other people need Christ more than they need us. – we often misjudge the nature of other people’s problems as well as their strengths.
- Tell people the thing they need the most – the only thing certain – Jesus Christ in the gospel.
Remember, for either you or those people you love so much, “it is appointed for a man [or woman] to die once, and then the judgment.” What do they most need, then? And since we all know what they most need – Christ, and so to hear the gospel – should we not shape our conduct towards them in a way that most allows us all to spend time considering Christ, rejoicing in Him, etc.?
i.iv. We do not know what state we find our brothers and sisters in Christ in when we meet them.
- Perhaps Satan has, as it were, taken them to a high place, to view all the kingdoms of the earth, and said, “If you worship me, you can have all.” and perhaps they have particular weakness in the area of covetousness. They may need to hear of Christ from us, as Christ needed the angels to minister to Him after His temptations.
- Perhaps Satan has brought all kinds of filthy practices to their minds to tempt them, and perhaps they have weakness in that area, and need us to point them to Christ in their temptation.
- Perhaps Satan has tempted them with fears of the persecutions that have and do still come upon believers in Christ because they profess Him – and they need us to point them to Him – “their reward is in heaven.” – and perhaps they are naturally fearful people.
- Or perhaps they are tempted to doubt some gospel doctrine and are greatly fearful that they will doubt to damning unbelief – perhaps this is a natural tendency of theirs – they need us to point them to Christ.
- The manner of the exhortation.
2.1.Though the passage says to “exhort one another daily“, yet we must also allow this alongside other passages of Scripture; such as James 1:19-20, “Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
– we are not to be endlessly talking.
– we need to be taught and exhorted.
– we are not individually the founts of all knowledge. 1 Corinthians 8:2, “And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.”
2.2. Though there is much urgency in the passage, yet this is not ever to make void the passages in which the Holy Spirit commands us to speak “with all humility”, to “honour all people”, to “have fervent love for one another”, and all those thoughts and actions connected to love in 1 Corinthians 13 – read the chapter from the beginning.
2.3. Not only warning. We are to express rejoicing. But we should also account unbelief in God’s promises, and complaining against God, to be a sin, and so consider it fearful, and understand that rebellion and complaint against God must be met with rebuke if it is persisted in.
We can also exhort by our example in praising God and recounting His works – the Psalms (e.g.) often recount events and express praise to God for them, and seem to say, “Join me in praising God; join me in considering these things; join me in wondering at them; join me in weeping + rejoicing at the grace of God.” – as in, “The humble shall hear and be glad. – Also Ephesians 1— and 4:1, “I therefore, beseech you, by the mercies of God…”
2.2. further reasons
Further reasons why we ought to exhort one another
- It is very much our nature to be speaking about the things which interest us, and which we enjoy.
– May we not then rightly expect people who claim to have been saved by Christ, who claim that Christ died for them, though He owed them nothing, who claim to love Christ – may we not expect to find Christians speaking of these things to one another and rejoicing in them?
– Since Christians know their own sinfulness, and know that thinking of Christ is all that can break the power of sin in them, and since they hate sin, would we not expect to find them spending more time speaking about Christ than about other things?
- Christ is our unity – nothing and no one else is.
2.1. Our unity is not in people – not in Calvin, Luther, the Puritans, Spurgeon, John Macarthur, or anyone else. see 1 Corinthians 1:10-15.
2.2.Our unity is not in culture – be is Australian, Romanian, Scottish, Irish, Chinese, African, German, Australian Aboriginal, Japanese, Papua New Guinean, or whatever else. see Galatians 3:28-29.
2.3. If we neglect to make Christ central in our conversation, it is very likely that we will be divided by secondary people and things, such as culture, etc. If this has happened, this is probably why, at least in part.
See 1 Corinthians 4:6, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.”
2.4. Our respect of persons can make us neglect to exhort them, and we may see them sin in many ways because we have an excessive respect for them which makes us neglect to exhort them as we ought. – No man is above God’s word and law and gospel.
- It is a reality – not a mere empty and meaningless and dead thought – that there is no way to judge of when we will die. It may well be in the very next minute, or hour, day, week, month, year, decade, century, etc. We do not know.
– We do not know when we ourselves will die.
– We do not know when anyone else will die.
What, therefore, would you want to be found doing the moment before you yourself die?
What would you want to be found doing with someone else the moment before they die?
- Do you want to be found consciously sinning and pursuing sin, and hardening your conscience, the moment before you die?
- Do you want to be found consciously causing someone else to sin and pursue sin, and causing them to harden their conscience, the moment before they die? Would you want to attend their funeral after having done such a thing?
And remember again, that it is a reality – not a mere empty and meaningless and dead thought – that there is no way to judge of when we will die. It may well be in the very next minute, or hour, day, week, month, year, decade, century, etc. We do not know.
- Many people have been discouraged from seeking Christ, because of the lack of seriousness exhibited by Christians after they have appeared very serious about Christ, having heard His word preached.
- The more orthodoxy we claim to possess, the more we ought to be conformed to God’s commandments, including the commandment taught in our text. – such conforms not only to reason, but to the example of all holy people in the Old and New Testaments – consider the apostles, and Christ’s love for us.
- We ought to have hope, that all believers will benefit from exhortation in Christ, by the Holy Spirit’s grace. – We must have faith in the Holy Spirit, that He can change people, churches, nations, etc. for the better, instead of complaining about people, churches, nations, etc. all the time.
It is to un-God God to be faithless in this regard; it is Satanic.
I see no reason whatsoever, in Scripture or church history, to suppose that God will now no longer work as He has in the past in such great ways, or that the Holy Spirit is less omnipotent today than then.
– regardless of age – whether young or old, or anything in between
– regardless of cultural background
– regardless of ethnicity
– regardless of skin colour
– regardless of their upbringing
2.3. Reasons relevant to this congregation:
- Our congregation particularly have reason to be zealous.
1.1. We regularly hear him preach zealously – reason for us to be zealous as we are regularly reminded, by his example, to be zealous. (see Acts 20:17-35, as proof that a minister’s example of zeal is a good reason why those who have been witnesses to his zeal should also be zealous.)
1.2. We do not have a perfect minister – this goes without saying, even if we could not detect it from our experience, because the Scriptures tell us that all people are sinful.
– our minister cannot perform his labours by himself.
– there is work which we must do.
– every believer, including the minister, needs to be exhorted.
– we must labour too. – our text commands us to exhort one another.
- Methods of Satan to make us reject exhortation:
- superficialize the exhortation given
- superficialize the person giving exhortation
– If we complain that others are poor counsellors to us, we ought to consider this: that we do not counsel others perfectly. Only Christ is our perfect Counselor.
-We also ought to remember that we ourselves are not the only ones who need help: we often expect help from others who need it from us, and we may be desiring help from them at the very time that they need it from us.
iii. superficialize the promises of God
- superficialize God
- superficialize the earthly work of Christ
- superficialize the ministry of the Holy Spirit
vii. superficialize the word of God.
Questions for self-examination:
- Has the attitude of my heart been, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”?
- Has the attitude of my heart been, “I have learnt in whatever state I am to be content”?
- Has the attitude of my heart been obedient to that commandment to “be content with such things as you have, for Christ Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you“, so that we may boldly say, “The LORD is my helper. I will not fear what may can do to me”?
Regardless of whether we feel that these things suit our situation, are they not true? The only reason we can think they are not sufficient, is that we do not understand the meanings of the words we hear. Therefore, we should never hate anyone for bringing these promises to our attention.
- Example of my “List of Remembrances” – read out portions. – exhortation must start with us exhorting ourselves – then others. (You can also keep a notebook of words you don’t understand, with their meanings, and with thoughts that have blessed you, so you can read and remember them and be blessed.)
– Things that make me feel guilty when I read them. – while I feel regret and sadness and shame upon these remembrances, I should not despair. – I should cry to the Holy Spirit for power to keep them – I should cry to God in Christ for forgiveness.
– If I believe these things are needful for me, + and are needful for all saints, then I should seek to remind them of them.
Examples of Church Covenants – all people who make the covenant agree that we are always obligated to keep the commandments of God.
(Gave an example from Jonathan Edwards on Revival, p. 154-158)
- A thought on conversation:
– “How was your week?” may not be the most important question for us to ask each other when we first see each other. At least, the way we ask the question ought to imply that we mean it thus: “How has God dealt with your soul this week?” Or, if the question is asked to us, even if it does not seem, to be asked with that intention, we ought to answer it as though it were, and offer praise to God for is infinite goodness and blessings to our soul in Christ Jesus; or else ask people to tell us about Jesus again.
- Exhort one another by our own example: express our own delight in what Christ has done for us. – doing so, we do indeed instruct others, that anyone for whom Christ has done such things ought to be so glad at the thought of it.
- Speak much of Christ – doing so, we do indeed instruct and exhort others, that such things are worthy to be spoken of.
Satan hates the peace and joy and mutual love of the saints, and wishes to sow discord amongst us. Let us therefore praise God and exhort one another daily, while it is called, “Today”, lest any of us be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.