Unbelief – the greatest sin

Taken from a commentary by Henry Mahan on Hebrews.

Hebrews 3:7-19

Heb_3:7-11. This is a direct quotation from Psa_95:7-11. These Israelites were professing to be God’s people; but at the same time they were rebellious, murmurers, and unbelievers.

1. They would not hear the voice of God as he spoke to them by Moses. God speaks to us by his Son. ‘This is my Son, hear ye him.’ (Heb_1:1-2.)

2. They hardened their hearts. There is a natural hardness of heart with which we are all born; but there is an acquired, voluntary hardness of heart that comes through rejection of truth, light, and warnings and through continuance in sin (Mat_11:20-24; Pro_29:1).

3. They tried God’s patience and long suffering through their complaints, murmurings, and rebellion even though they had seen his goodness, provisions, protection, and miracles for forty years.

4. God was grieved with them. This speaks after the manner of men and denotes that God was weary of them, displeased with them, and angry with them. He firmly declares that they shall not enter into the land of Canaan (called God’s ‘rest’ because he promised it and gave it to Israel).

Heb_3:12. ‘Take heed brethren.’ This warning is written to us (founded upon this Old Testament example) as a caution lest we follow the same path and miss the ‘rest’ of Christ. Unbelief was the first sin of man and is the mother-sin. 

1. Unbelief renders the word unprofitable (1Jn_5:10-13). 

2. Unbelief shuts us out from the mercies of Christ (Mar_16:16). 

3. Unbelief causes us to finally depart from dependence upon and confidence in Christ. 

4. Unbelief closes the door of prayer (Heb_11:6; Jas_1:6). 

5. Unbelief sets up other gods such as reason, human wisdom, and human philosophy.

Heb_3:13. Encourage one another, exhort one another, instruct and teach one another while the time of life lasts and while the grace of God is available. How can we do this? It is to be done daily: 

1. By worshipping, praying, and praising God together (Heb_10:24-25). 

2. By teaching, preaching, and studying the Scriptures (1Pe_2:1; 2Ti_3:14-17). 

3. By talking together about divine things and less about foolish things. 

4. By warning one another when we see signs of indifference and worldliness.

Heb_3:14. We only participate in the blessings and benefits of Christ by a genuine, persevering faith. No man is in Christ by a temporary faith or a false faith, or a second-hand faith. There are examples throughout the New Testament of faith that was not saving faith (Joh_2:23-25; Joh_6:26; Act_8:13; Act_8:18-21). Faith that saves is God-given, genuine, and continues growing in strength and confidence (Col_1:21-23; Heb_10:38-39). 

Heb_3:15. This is a repetition of Heb_3:7-8. 
The next three verses are three questions leading up to the 19th verse. These verses explain why they were shut out of the land of promise and stand as a severe warning to us in this day of mercy and grace. 

Heb_3:16. Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious and provoked the Lord God? Was it not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 

Heb_3:17. With whom was the Lord God irritated and provoked and grieved for forty years? Was it not those who sinned by murmuring and rebelling and whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? 

Heb_3:18. To whom did God swear that they should not enter into his rest but to those who listened to his word and believed not? 

What a solemn warning to us who are favored with a clearer revelation of his grace in Christ. Though they had many evidences of God’s goodness and much light and truth, they did not believe. 

Heb_3:19. So we see the summary of the whole matter. They were not able to enter into his rest because of unbelief. They were not willing to believe God, to trust God, to rely on God –so unbelief shut them out (Rom_4:20-25; Heb_2:1-3).

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