Warnings and Remedies: A Summary from Hebrews

Last week I returned to an old friend, one with whom I have had much acquaintance over the last few years. It’s the kind of friend that you sit down with and pick up right where you left off, as though no time or distance had ever been lost through separation. This friend of which I’m speaking is the book of Hebrews. Turning again to it’s pages, I was struck afresh by an apparent pattern of the warnings (most affirm 5 total) and the sprinkling in of ‘remedies’ against what is being warned against, which are often introduced with the word therefore. Most notably in these remedies were verses indicating (indicatives) the person and work of Christ upon which the exhortations and imperatives are based.

Warning #1 – Hebrews 2:1-4: Neglect

The first warning, occurring in Hebrews 2:1-4, is chiefly concerned with neglect, “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”. How does neglect gain entrance into the heart? Chiefly, neglect comes by means of distraction, i.e. the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matthew 13:22), through entertaining lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), or through sheer laziness (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8). Embedded within this warning section the noted remedies are:
  • Diligence (Hebrews 2:1)
  • Consideration (that is – fix your eyes/mind upon) Jesus (Hebrews 3:1)
  • Holding Fast confidence, boasting in our hope (Hebrews 3:6)
  • The humility and exaltation of Christ (Hebrews 2:5-13)
  • Incarnational help in temptation (Hebrews 2:14-18)
  • Christ the High Priest – merciful, faithful, propitious, helpful (Hebrews 2:14-18)
  • Greater than Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6)

Warning #2 – Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13: Unbelief/Disobedience

The second warning begins in Hebrews 3:7 and continues generally through Hebrews 4:13, though there is a contextual flow into chapter 5 which makes it difficult to cut off this section. The primary warning here is the dual danger of unbelief and disobedience. First, we note that an evil and unbelieving heart is cautioned against, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Then we note the hardening of the heart by the deceitfulness of sin, “that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). A relationship with the previous warning, neglect, is perhaps obvious as neglecting a garden allows for the overgrowth of weeds and the depletion of nutrients from the soil. So too in this case, however unbelief works in tandem with sin to harden the heart. If the first warning involved a duty, this warning clearly involves the heart. Embedded within this warning section the noted remedies are:
  • Care/Discernment (Hebrews 3:12)
  • Daily brotherly exhortation (Hebrews 3:13)
  • Hold fast confidence (Hebrews 3:14; 4:14)
  • Fear for others (Hebrews 4:1)
  • Strive to enter God’s rest (Hebrews 4:11)
  • Draw near confidently to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16)
  • Union with Christ (Hebrews 3:14)
  • Promise of Rest (Hebrews 4:9-10)
  • Discerning Word of God (Hebrews 4:11-13)
  • Judgment of God (Hebrews 4:13)
  • Christ the High Priest – sympathetic, tempted, holy, reverent (Hebrews 4:14 – 5:10)

Warning #3 – Hebrews 5:11 – 6:20: Dull of Hearing

The third warning picks up immediately after the ever-expanding discussion on Christ’s priesthood, which reaches it’s apex after this warning unfolds. Here the charge is against becoming dull of hearing the message on Christ’s priesthood, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing (Hebrews 5:11). This warning is notably different than the previous two. In those, we saw how they were legitimate warnings against a particular condition: neglect and unbelief/disobedience. Here, however, there isn’t so much a warning as there is a declaration of a condition – dull of hearing, “you have become dull of hearing.” Again, it isn’t a warning against becoming dull of hearing; rather it is a statement that they have already become dull of hearing (whoever they might be). As the warning unfolds, we see what might best be summarized as a failure to progress in knowledge and understanding of Christ, particularly His priesthood, by continuing to focus on secondary issues. In accordance with the understanding that this warning is different – declaring a condition – Hebrews 6:9 shifts the authorial address to the beloved, as he feels sure of better things concerning them, things related to salvation. Despite those who are already in the condition of dullness, there are noted remedies – 2 for those who have become dull and the rest for those who have better things associated with them:
  • ReTaught the basics (Hebrews 5:12)
  • Progress (Hebrews 5:12-6:3)
  • ****Shift here****
  • Imitation over sluggishness
  • Holding fast to the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:18b)
  • Promises of God (Hebrews 6:13-18a)
  • Christ the Anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19)
  • Christ the Forerunner (Hebrews 6:20)
  • Christ the High Priest (Hebrews 6:20; 7:1 – 10:18)

Warning #4 – Hebrews 10:19 – 39: Deliberate Sin
Warning #5 – Hebrews 12:4-29: Rejecting Christ

With the last two warnings, #4 & #5, a clear line of distinction between them is not quite as obvious as those that came prior. As one might expect, the warnings become more severe as do the consequences involved. Additionally, as with birth pains increasing in severity and proximity to one another, so too do the warnings in Hebrews.

In warning #4, which occurs in Hebrews 10:19-39, the pattern is again slightly different than those that have come before it. Here, several of the remedies are mentioned in preparation for the warning that follows (10:26). When we arrive there, we see that this warning concerns the presence of deliberate sin; an ongoing pattern of deliberately sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins….” After stating the primary issue, we have perhaps the strongest consequences mentioned thus far, namely that if this warning is not heeded, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, rather a fearful expectation of judgment. In other words, Christ’s atoning sacrifice is limited and it does not include those who go on sinning. Now, we ought to point out the truths of the perseverance and preservation of the “saints” or perhaps better the elect. This passage is not saying that a person can lose their salvation, rather it is saying that deliberately sinning in the face of the knowledge of the truth is evidence of disingenuous salvation, one that does not have the covering atonement of Christ’s shed blood. As with those before, there are remedies. Those rooted in the gospel, specifically as a result of the blood of Jesus and his High Priestly mediation, are mentioned first, before the warning. We’ll summarize those below.

Warning #5, as mentioned, does not have a clear line marking where the previous warning ended and where this one begins. Some have started it at Hebrews 12:4, but it’s difficult to separate that from verse 3, and then that from verse 12:1-2. As noted earlier, the therefores are important, specifically as structural markers, but between warning’s #4 & #5 there are 7, 5 of them used as an adverb connecting to an action. Therefore (see that), it seems better to consider the final two warnings together as a unit. If we were to separate out the fifth and final warning, perhaps Hebrews 12:18 would be a reasonable beginning. As to the content of these warnings, specifically their remedies, the summary is below
  • Draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith (hearts sprinkled clean; bodies washed with pure water; Hebrews 10:22)
  • Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (for He who promised is Faithful; Hebrews 10:23)
  • Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works; regular, daily encouragement (Hebrews 10:24)
  • ***Warning #4***
  • Recall the former days of your enlightenment; the testimony of your experience and compassion for those who suffer (Hebrews 10:32)
  • Do Not throw away your confidence (Hebrews 10:35)
  • Endure (Hebrews 10:36)
  • A Promised Reward (Hebrews 10:35, 36)
  • Do Not Shrink Back (Hebrews 10:39)
  • Faith and Perseverance (Hebrews 10:39; Chapter 11 is evidence and witness of those who have been faithful and persevered unto death)
  • Lay aside every weight and sin (Hebrews 12:1)
  • Run with endurance (Hebrews 12:1)
  • Look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)
  • The finished work of Christ (Hebrews 12:2)
  • Consider Him
  • Do not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:3)
  • Endure discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11)
  • Lift drooping hands, strengthen weak knees, make straight paths for your feet (Hebrews 12:12-13)
  • Strive for peace and holiness
  • Care for others: no one fails to obtain the grace of God, no root of bitterness, no one is sexually immoral
  • ***Warning #5***
  • God’s Covenant (OC vs. NC) Inauguration
  • Mediatorial work of Christ
  • The shed blood of Christ
  • Be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken
  • Offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe
  • Ethical and relational instructions follow in Chapter 13
The book of Hebrews remains one of my favorites, having taught through it verse by verse three times, turned to it for my first sermons, and been challenged by it on numerous occasions. Though much debate surrounds the meaning and application of the warning passages, with often as many as 7 or 8 distinct views, what perhaps gets lost in the woods are the many verses that are supplied as remedies to condition described by the warnings. More than these, in arguably the book with the most serious warnings we have the clearest, most extensive descriptions of the ministry of Christ, both His personhood and priesthood. Hebrews is entirely Christ-centered (Christocentric) from beginning to end. More profound and impactful than the imperative remedies that we noted above are the indicatives, which ground the imperatives and teach us that THE remedy to spiritual neglect and motivation unto perseverance is Christ alone. He is the fountain for our soul out of which all blessings flow. Solus Christus!

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Christian saved by grace through faith.

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