Hebrews 12:12-17

Verse 15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

It is certainly true that if a Christian fails of the grace of God, it will turn not only to bitterness within but also without. In other words, our bitterness will affect others.

Hebrews chapter twelve is one of the most practical chapters in the Bible because it gives Christians many applications for their daily walk with God.

  • In verses 1-3, we recognize the determination of life; we are in a race for God.
  • In verses 4-11, we realize the discipline in life; God will correct those whom He loves.
  • In verses 12-17, we are reminded of the driving force in life; we must not fail of the grace of God.
  • In verses 18-29, we are reinforced with the duties in life.

I see four major lessons to be learned by every Christian:

I. HAVE COURAGE

Verse twelve teaches us to move forward with courage and stay on the right course laying aside the weights of life bearing us down. For the Christian, there is nothing worse than being bogged down with things of the world because sooner or later, it will affect the heart.

Isaiah 35:3-4, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.”

Isaiah encourages the Jews to encourage one another because they have God’s promises for the future. After judgment in chapter thirty-four, God gives them some of the greatest chapters on the millennial kingdom in chapter thirty-five. God promises physical healing in verses 5-6, an abundant supply of water and vegetation in verse 7, safety in travel in verses 8-9, and spiritual joy and gladness in verse 10.

We, too, should encourage the discouraged by holding them up in the grace of God. Those that are down should also encourage themselves with the knowledge that the grace of God will hold them up if they respond to it. They should not walk around with hands which hang down as if there were no hope.

Hands which hang down implies not only physical weakness but also the need for renewal of effort and courage. The hands were looked upon as symbols of strength but may hang down due to physical or spiritual exhaustion.

The feeble knees refer to those who are paralyzed in their knees because of fatigue or other physical and spiritual trials. The hope of physical and spiritual strength will renew the knees. God is saying that they should make every effort to hold up under trials because the hope of overcoming will help in future trials. We, too, might be weakened by daily trials, but we will always find strength and courage if we do not fail of the grace of God.

II. STAY ON THE RIGHT PATH

In verse thirteen, the simple command is to stay on the right path so that others will have an example to follow. Isn’t that what discipleship is all about? We are commanded to follow Christ, learn to be disciplined, and then help others to do likewise.

Notice also that God says to make straight paths or stay on the path without going into the rocky place where there is no protection from harm. In other words, work on walking in the path God has prepared for you, not only for your own sake but also for the sake of those who follow you. The spiritual application is that we keep ourselves under the grace of God and do not get off the path of holy living.  Failing to follow the path of holy living is to fall for every kind of sin.

III. BE AT PEACE WITH GOD AND MAN

Verse 14, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

  • Avoid things that take you off the course of cultivating your spiritual life.
  • Learn to understand and develop good communication with those that may disagree with you. In this case, follow peace between Jew and Gentile. Bear in mind that not everyone will be at peace with you; this is the time to practice your peace with God.

Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

IV. DO NOT FAIL OF THE GRACE OF GOD

Verse 15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.” 

Watch your direction by looking unto Jesus (12:2) and be constantly on guard by paying close attention to any kind of false doctrine and backsliding that would cause you to fail of the grace of God.  Having been given eternal life by His grace, we should not be found living lives inconsistent with the grace of God.

  • First, remember that all the world’s temptations are still knocking at the doors of our hearts, and Satan is always ready to lend a helping hand. This is not speaking of falling from the work of God, but taking heed not to fail of the grace of God by backsliding, causing us to fall back in our walk with God. Millions of Christians are on the wrong pathway by following those who teach a social gospel. These false teachers always have and always will  corrupt biblical doctrine. Every one of us is in danger of falling, and it is our personal duty to stay on the right path.
  • Second, remember that God is not speaking of falling from grace, as some would suppose, but that we might be found lacking in God’s grace. What a blessing for the Christian to know that God is rich in grace and that He wants us to enjoy it and benefit from it! 
  • Third, remember that Jesus died for our right to His grace. His grace is freely given, but we must apply it personally. “Lest any root of bitterness springing up,” refers to a poisonous plant and is used metaphorically for spiritual fornication and for someone who is planted to spread evil in the church.  “Trouble you” speaks of the effects of poison on the body; and thereby many be defiled: contaminated, or many are led away and corrupted.

The reference is to those who would produce bad fruit and its effect on the church. One bad Christian can affect an entire church, as one bad fruit can ruin an entire barrel of good fruit. The warning was given as early as Deuteronomy 29:18, “Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood.” 2 Peter 1:10, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”

When Esau sold his birthright, he committed a spiritual sin. He really did not care about the things of God, nor did he want anything to do with Him. This is the reason he despised his birthright or placed little value on it.

I wonder how many Christians today have sold out to the world, the flesh, and the devil. The lesson is that clean or unclean living either moves us forward or backward in our relationship with Christ.

Romans 6:19, “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.”

1 Thessalonians 4:7, “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”


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Hans Nikoley, GSBC Staff

Bro. Nikoley emigrated from Germany to the United States with his family at age 13. He served full time in the Nevada Air National Guard for six years. At age 32, He was saved, and in 1977, he graduated from Bible College. He pastored for over 31 years, 27 of them at Pomerado Road Baptist Church in Poway, California. Bro. Nikoley has served at Golden State Baptist College in the Bible Department and also as the Student Employment Director since 2007. He and his wife Mary have two children and have been married for 58 years.