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Hebrews 12:15

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

Christians run the race of faith, pursuing Jesus all the days of their lives until they pass into glory (Heb. 12:1–11). For those who have been united to Christ by faith alone, the outcome of this race is never in doubt. God glorifies everyone whom He justifies (Rom. 8:29–30). Since no one can snatch the people of God from His hand, no one who actually starts the race of faith will fail to complete it (John 10:27–30). This does not mean running the race is optional. No one enters into glory by sitting down after the race begins even if it is ultimately God who makes us finish well and not our own effort. Everyone whom the Lord saves will run the race, sometimes quickly and sometimes hesitatingly, and only those who have been saved will run the race to the end. The operation of God’s grace in our lives is demonstrated as we heed the admonitions of the author of Hebrews and the other biblical writers. As John Calvin comments on today’s passage, “When the Lord stimulates us by warning and exhortation, he at the same time moves and stirs up our hearts, that his exhortations may not be in vain, or pass away without effect.”

Having exhorted us to pursue holiness and peace while running a disciplined race (Heb. 12:12–14), the author of Hebrews in today’s passage calls us not to fail “to obtain the grace of God” (v. 15). The elect, of course, cannot fail to obtain this grace, cannot fail to continue in the path of faith. They cannot fully and finally fall away. But Christian pastors cannot see who is elect and who is not. All they can do is offer a general call to all believers, knowing that the Holy Spirit will make their warnings effectual to keep the elect in the faith. We cannot infer from a command not to fail to obtain God’s grace that it is a real possibility for those whom the Lord has redeemed to fall out of grace. At the same time, the warnings for professing believers not to fall away are real warnings that all of us must take seriously. If we fail to take them seriously, it may be that we have not come to know Jesus in truth.

The author of Hebrews warns us also in today’s passage not to allow the “root of bitterness” to spring up (v. 15). It is possible for us to become bitter toward the Lord when we do not receive what we think we deserve. A bitter heart will not continue looking to Christ, and thus it will fail to obtain the grace of God.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Sometimes we ask the Lord for something good and He does not give it to us. At such times, we can be tempted to grow bitter toward the Lord, thinking that He has not treated us as He should. We must guard against this attitude, lest we become grounded in bitterness and fail to obtain the grace of God. It can help us avoid bitterness to remember that God knows what is best for us and has good reasons for not giving us what we ask.


For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 29:18–19
  • Ephesians 4:31

Our Need of Peace and Holiness

The Quiet Work of the Gospel

Keep Reading Christian Discourse

From the August 2020 Issue
Aug 2020 Issue