Summary: The word apostasy , literally means to withhold under. Depending on your bible it may say shrink back, draw back, turn away, and the key to understanding that word is that it refers to withholding or hiding out of sight because of timidity or fear. The w
The word apostasy is for obvious reasons not a popular word in the church. On the one hand it sends shivers down your spine, on the other hand many people don’t even believe in it. Frankly, I would prefer not to preach a sermon on it especially on a long weekend, but I said I would preach through all of chapter 10 in Hebrews and there it is, so I can’t avoid it. This section of Hebrews is actually the third warning about apostasy, the others occurring in chapters 2 and 6.
I want to start by defining the word. The word used here twice in verses 38 and 39 which we have various translations of, literally means to withhold under. Depending on your bible it may say shrink back, draw back, turn away, and the key to understanding that word is that it refers to withholding or hiding out of sight because of timidity or fear.
The word apostasy never actually appears in the Bible, but our English definition of it is basically, “abandonment of your religious faith”. That is a somewhat accurate word to use here but it misses the nuance of the original Greek meaning and context. I think maybe we have misused that word at times in the church. It is not so much an outright choice to turn away from God, but it is a fearful denial or hiding of your faith once you have believed, that often turns into sinful compromise with the culture.
It is basically what Peter did when Jesus got arrested and taken away to be crucified. He denied knowing Jesus because he was afraid of what would happen to him if he were associated with Jesus. And remember what Jesus himself said, “anyone who is ashamed of me before people, I will be ashamed of before my Father”.
So looking at apostasy that way, as a fearful hiding the fact that we are Jesus followers, as opposed to an outright falling away from the faith, should make it more relevant for all of us as believers. And it can be overcome, but continued apostasy can be fatal as we’ll see.
Now this passage tells us in verses 23-25 what it looks like when we are not in apostasy.
1. We hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (v 23)
Another way to say that is that we keep professing our expectation of what is to come through Christ without yielding, literally without tipping over. This hope comes from what God has done, and what he has promised, as referred to in Heb 6:17-18.
2. We stir one another up to love and good works (v 24)
The word is literally provoke each other to love and good works. Obviously if we are teaching the New Testament it will do most of this for us. I’d rather have Jesus doing the provoking than myself, but the intention of this verse is to literally provoke in a potentially irritating manner, those who are not loving and doing good works.
3. Don’t neglect to meet together to encourage each other (v25)
This one is pretty obvious and if you recall from the book of Acts, the believers met daily, so at the very least we need to be making the commitment to attend Sunday services on a regular basis. Even better to meet more often in more intimate settings to encourage each other.
And why does it say we should do all this? “Because the day of Christ’s return is coming near”. We say, “Well they thought it was near 2000 years ago, I think we may have some time”. But the point is that they lived their lives as though it was imminent and so should we because the Bible is very clear that Jesus will come like a thief in the night when we least expect it.
Now starting in verse 26 we see what Apostasy does look like.
1. Deliberate ongoing sin
I want to make sure we understand this one. First of all this sin is voluntary, we knowingly choose to do it. Secondly it is repetitive and unrepentant. So it’s not a one time mistake, but to literally continually choose to miss the mark according to the Word of God. Now the full meaning of missing the mark, which is the most common word for sin in the New Testament, is to miss the mark as in a competition resulting in not gaining the prize.
James defines sin well as the giving in to one’s own desires as opposed to God’s. But for now in this context of “after receiving the full knowledge of the truth”, sin is to voluntarily continue to go against what God says is the truth in Scripture. So for instance would not attending church regularly when you could, constitute sin? Well, Scripture just told us that we should not neglect this, so yes it is.