Warnings in Hebrews

illuminated manuscript in Hebrew

The book of Hebrews was written to people who are likely second-generation Christians still struggling with the tensions between the traditions of Judaism and the teachings of Christianity. Many had, currently or at one time, relatives who would have seen Jesus as a false teacher. They would have had family and friends reject them, and the temptation would have been great to slip back into the traditions of their past. In this light, the Hebrew writer includes five warnings in his epistle to these struggling Christians.


Hebrews 2:1 encourages them and us to give earnest heed to the teachings of Jesus and His inspired apostles, confirmed by signs and wonders from God, lest we drift away in neglect. Hebrews challenges us to ask ourselves how we plan to escape judgment if we neglect and reject so great a salvation, a salvation planned from the foundations of the world.

John 20:30-31 concludes that the miracles and signs recorded in that gospel are for confirming our faith. Like those steps reviewed every time we get on a plane, have we heard God’s word so much that we filter it out? Ephesians 2:8 reminds us of the role grace plays in our salvation. While we were disobedient, God sent His Son as an unmerited gift of propitiation. God has given us a gift in salvation and eternal life in His Son, and the Hebrew writer makes sure we understand that we should not neglect so great a gift.

A Hardened Heart

In Hebrews 3, the author repeatedly quotes the 95th Psalm, saying, “Today, if you hear His voice…” He calls on us, in verse 12, to take care we do not develop an unbelieving heart, and he uses the next several verses to help us overcome unbelief – exhort each other, share in Christ, hold confidence, even fear of failure. We need to be aware that it is possible to harden our hearts and miss salvation.

We may simply choose unbelief, but I Corinthians 10:6-13 warns us to learn from the mistakes of those who came before us, lest we be overconfident in our faith and slip into disobedience. This is why the Hebrew writer warns us against becoming hardened to God’s word, for it can happen without us realizing it.


No one likes being called immature, but when we most dislike it is when we are often most guilty of it. In Hebrews 5:11-14, the author does just this. He admonishes his readers for being too spiritually immature to understand some things they should. He goes on in chapter 6 to then encourage growth, so they and we do not fall away despite having known the heavenly gift.

When we are not growing spiritually, skepticism, indifference, and apostasy may find room to creep in. An arm kept in a cast for several weeks quickly becomes smaller and weaker than the arm being used every day. Growth takes effort on our part, and it is something we should be working toward every day.

Falling Away

In Hebrews 10:26-31, the author addresses the dangers of deliberate sin, specifically quoting from Deuteronomy 32. Again, these are things his readers are familiar with from Moses’ teachings, but now it is being applied to rejecting Christ’s sacrifice, a sacrifice sealing a covenant greater than the one brought by Moses.


The author uses the illustration of Esau in Hebrews 12:16-17, who refused to acknowledge the worth of his family birthright. This is compared to our own spiritual birthright, standing before the holy mountain, and we are warned, in verse 25, to not refuse the one who speaks to us now — Jesus Christ according to chapter 1:1.


In Jeremiah 44, after God calls on His people time and again to listen to His word, the prophet makes a final appeal. In verse 16, though, the people state they will not listen. Rather than refusing the word of grace like they did, we should receive it gratefully, knowing the promises and gifts that come from our God who delivered Him.

God’s word can work in our lives if we avoid turning our back, hardening our heart, and closing our hearts to it. His word can change us from sinful creatures without hope into sanctified children with the hope of eternity. No one can force us to soften ourselves to His word, though. It has to come from within. We need to heed these warnings just as much as those second-generation Christians, holding to our faith despite anything that might try to take it from us.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Meister des Codex Aureus Epternacensis

Luke 16:19 – 31:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

“And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

Treating Others Graciously

If we take nothing else from the parable, it should be this: we should always be kind and merciful to others, even if we get nothing in return. Luke 6:35 records Jesus telling us to love others even when they will not love us in return, to be merciful as our Father is merciful. James 2:1 – 5 calls us to avoid showing partiality for any reason. If we’re only gracious to people we already like, how does that set us apart from the world? It’s in being unexpectedly generous, kind, and loving that show we are of Christ.

It’s easy to find physical things that can divide us — race, social standing, appearance, and more. II Corinthians 5:16 tells us that we should no longer look at one another according to worldly divisions. We are a new creation. Harder to guard against, but still as important, is looking past spiritual deficiencies in the kindness we show each other.

Reaping Rewards

II Corinthians 5:6 – 10 reminds us that we will be judged for our deeds one day. This is exactly what happened with the rich man who refused any grace toward Lazarus. He looked out for himself and himself only. Galatians 6:7 – 8 tells us we will sow what we reap — the flesh to corruption and the spirit to eternal life. This challenges us to rearrange our priorities, looking further and higher than our immediate needs and surroundings.

Sometimes, our reward does not come in this life. Matthew 5:11 – 12 reminds us that God’s followers have been persecuted before, and they are always under threat of oppression and persecution. In these trials, Jesus tells us to rejoice and be glad, for God sees us and is preparing a home for us. In the end, how we use our time matters more than what we have. So let’s be less concerned with the distractions of this world, let’s stay focused on the next.

Life After This Life

Finally, in the parable, we see the rich man lift up his eyes in torment while he sees Abraham comforting Lazarus. Jesus and His apostles write that our souls will all have one of two resting places. One is in God’s presence, and the other is an eternity severed from God. The rich man ended up on the wrong side of the abyss between the two. Like Jesus described in Luke 13:24 – 25, he found himself outside the door and unable to get in. That’s why now is so important.

Even when the rich man pleads Abraham to send someone back from the dead, Abraham refuses. Once we cross death, there is no coming back to fix things. We have God’s word now. We have our time and opportunities now. We have all we need to seek after God and share Him with others now in this life. It’s not always going to be easy. It’s seldom going to bring rewards in this life, but God knows our hearts and our efforts in the face of worldly challenges. So the question is, who are you living as now — the rich man or Lazarus?

Lesson by Cole Huddlestun

Baptism 101: Why


Baptism is a central part of our faith, but why? Growing up, I had often heard the word baptism used in sermons and invitations, but I never understood what it was or why it was important. So we’re going to spend a couple of lessons taking a practical look at baptism. What does baptism look like? When should you be baptized? Why should you be baptized? Understanding these basics will help us understand baptism’s role in our Christian walk.

Today we’re going to examine why we’re baptized. Why is it necessary to be baptized when Paul points out so clearly that we cannot be saved by works in Ephesians 2:8? Our salvation is a gift. Redemption is by God’s grace alone. I can do nothing to absolve myself of sin, nor can I earn salvation. So why be baptized? It’s a legitimate question, and I hope our study will help us all better understand the importance of baptism in God’s plan.

Remission of Sins

Baptism shows our faith in God’s ability to remove our sins. In Acts 2, when Peter is preaching to the assembly on Pentecost, and he calls on them to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.” Also, in Acts 22:16, Ananias says to Paul, “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins.” The earliest gospel preachers make a direct correlation between baptism and forgiveness. Even Peter in I Peter 3:21 goes as far as to say that baptism saves us from sin like the floods saved Noah and his family from the world.

It is important to understand that this is not a way to earn forgiveness. We cannot ever earn such a thing. That is God’s gift. Baptism is part of our acceptance of that great gift. As Paul puts in in Titus 3:4-5:

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…”

Putting On Christ

Not only do we put away sin when we are baptized, but we put on Christ as well. Romans 6:3 – 4 tells us that when we are baptized, we enter into Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We put Him on in newness of life. Furthermore, Galatians 3:27 says as many of us as have been baptized have put on Christ, and it identifies us as a member of His body.

Also, when we get baptized, we’re following the example our Savior set before beginning His ministry. Jesus’ ministry begins with baptism for sins He has never and will never commit, and that ministry comes full circle when He’s crucified for sins he did not have. Our life is to emulate Jesus, and baptism is one way we follow after Him. We follow His example to show His presence in our lives.

Wearing Our Faith

I Peter 3:21 calls baptism the answer of a good conscience toward God. Baptism is how we outwardly wear our inward faith. Think of a wedding ring and why we wear them. We know we love our spouses. We know we will be faithful to them, but that wedding band shows others we are promised to another. When we’re baptized, it is an outward testimony that we no longer belong to the world. Rather, we now belong to our Heavenly Father.

Returning to Galatians 3, Paul says that we clothe ourselves in Christ when we are baptized. It is a way that we wear our faith, and Paul goes on to say that our new identity covers anything we previously were. All secular identifiers — race, gender, class — are cast off when we put on Christ in faith through baptism. It’s an outward sign of an inward transformation and renewal. When we are baptized, we show that we are willing to let God’s plan change us.

Humbling Obedience

Finally, if I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, then I’m going to be obedient to Him and be baptized. We can’t get past the fact that Christ commands baptism in the great commission. Again, this is not earning salvation. Rather it’s humbling yourself and submitting to Christ’s plan for you. God makes His grace freely available to us. The avenue through which we humbly accept that gift is baptism.

I Peter 5 tells us that God gives grace to the humble. Baptism is an act of total humility. It makes no sense from a worldly perspective. It’s nothing to boast about. You can’t even get baptized by yourself. You have to rely on someone else. We are baptized from a contrite and humble heart, not because we want to earn salvation but rather because we are thankful for it. Obedience through baptism is how we say to God, “I accept your gift of grace. Thank you for your forgiveness and mercy.”

lesson by Robert Smelser