Holding Warnings and Encouragements in Tension With Each Other – The Example of Hebrews

In the book of Hebrews, warnings and encouragements crop up all over the place. Those two things are the tools the writer uses to admonish the readers to remain faithful. As a parent that makes complete sense. Discipline itself is not just punishment. The two sides of the discipline coin are rewards and punishments. You can’t have just one or the other. If you want healthy kids you have to have both. As I am studying through Hebrews I see the writer interweaving these two pieces over and over to make a healthy call to steadfast discipleship, following Jesus even when the whole world seems to be against you. (What made it even more difficult for Jewish Christians that Hebrews seems was written to was Judiasm was more widely accepted by the Romans than the new upstart religion, Christianity. So there was a temptation to go back to Judaism, still worship God, but not face the persecutions and threats of death).

I just mentioned that as parents we can’t have just one or the other. The same is true in how we present the Gospel and also how we encourage God’s people to persevere. Encouragement without warning makes people complacent and makes Jesus our buddy. Warning without encouragement makes people afraid and makes God a fearsome monster. Teaching both helps us find the balance we need that reminds us how serious life really is and how the pioneer of our faith, Jesus Christ (Heb 12:2) has already blazed a trail for us to follow in his footsteps. So keep on fighting. Keep on walking. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Don’t look away because the alternative is serious and deadly. I honestly believe there are times each one of us needs one of those more than the other but we will always need both. So read them if you have time and maybe there is something in there you need to hear to make your walk with God closer.

Here are all the warnings and encouragements in Hebrews. What is interesting is this is almost every single verse in the whole book of Hebrews that is directed at having the reader make application.

Warnings and Encouragements in Hebrews:

“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” – Heb 2:1-3

“Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” – Heb 3:1

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
– Heb 3:12-15

“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” – Heb 4:1-2

“For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” – Heb 4:8-11

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ” – Heb 4:14-16

“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” – Heb 5:11-6:1

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,  if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, becauseto their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” – Heb 6:4-6

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.  God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” – Heb 6:17-20

“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” – Heb 8:1-2

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,

“He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back,
I will not be pleased with him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” – Heb 10:19-39

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.”The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” – Heb 12

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?” – Heb 13:4-6

“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. ” – Heb 13:9

“The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. ” – Heb 13:11-14

“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

“Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.” – Heb 13:22

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

2 Responses to Holding Warnings and Encouragements in Tension With Each Other – The Example of Hebrews

  1. Someone once asked me whether it is possible for a Christian to fall from grace. I replied, before going to specific Scripture, “If I am to be faithful to what I am charged to do, I must treat falling from grace as a definite possibility.” On the other hand, you do not want to go so far in that direction (as, I believe, some have done) that you make people believe that if they are saved, they are barely saved!

    One extreme can result in Antinomianism; the other can lead to loss of hope. One can make us anxious about our relationship with God; the other can make us flippant about it. Either of those extremes is fatal to spiritual health.

    Good post, Matt!

    • mattdabbs says:

      So true. There are some really tough verses in Hebrews (as you well know). Hebrews 12:15 tells us to not fall short of the grace of God. On one hand we are saved by grace not by works and grace is sufficient for us. Falling short of grace sounds kind of like grace isn’t grace. On the other hand, if God reaches down all the way but we don’t care to grab his hand, I am quite certain the grace has been extended but we fell short of it due to our rebellious and calloused heart.

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