Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 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; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
In the text before us we see an exhortation to guard against a damaging and prevalent condition in the church as a whole today. We are exhorted to live a peaceable life and a holy life. If you will notice the punctuation in the end of verse 14 you will see that the verse is only part of a sentence. Verses 14, 15 and 16 are all one sentence. Read them as such and you will be better able to get the context of what we are being told here.
In looking at the context we should also note that even though the letter is written too many and for many, about many, this is an appeal to the individual and made on the individual level.
Most of us should remember elementary English. In reading this sentence, there is no specific individual named as the recipient of this statement, so it is understood that a “You” is at the beginning of the sentence. Knowing this, let’s look at the verse again with the understanding that it is written for each of us individually. We should read it as if it is just for us.
As an individual, I must follow peace with all men, I must live holy, and the reason we see that we each are to do this is in the next part of the sentence. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.” This tells us plainly that the grace of God is the only way that we can live peaceably with all men. This verse is not saying that you can lose your salvation, but that you can come to the place that you cease to walk in that grace that enables you to live peaceably with all men. Remember who this letter is written too, Christians! Now notice again verse 15, there are 3 major portions to this verse.
“Looking diligently” means to be on constant guard – to beware!
A. Beware lest any man fail of the grace of God. (keep in mind that it is man and not God that is subject to fail).
B. Beware lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you
C. Beware because thereby many be defiled
We see a progression in these three things, each one leads to the next.
In our day there is a failure of men to operate within the limits of the grace of God. That is why there is such a departure from the word of God. That is why there is such a great forsaking of the house of God. And that is why there is the great abandoning of the family of God. One thing leads to another.
One of the best indicators of a Christian’s walk with God is their attendance to the worship services. What we see is often a good way to know what we can not see. But look again with me if you would at verses 14 through 16. We have seen that these three verses make up one sentence, or one complete thought. Guess what is right dead in the center of that verse or that thought. BITTERNESS! Bitterness is the direct result of the first part of this sentence, and the cause of the last part of this sentence. Bitterness is the result of failing of the grace of God and it results in the defilement of many.
In this study I want us to keep in mind that this is written to the Hebrews. They identified all poisons as bitters. Whether they be the type to simply cause discomfort or more extremely those that may cause death, all poisons are described by these people as bitters. The fact is simply that bitterness is a poison. We should recognize it as such and deal with it as such.
We also must note a fact that is often overlooked and/or denied. It is a falsehood to preach that this verse is warning us not to plant a seed of bitterness. I study the Hebrew and Greek words myself, and one thing that is a rule to be kept foremost is that we believe that the Bible is the complete inerrant word of God. I believe that the King James Bible is free of any error, contradiction, or fallacy. This means that if my study of the Hebrew and Greek languages in any way contradicts or changes the rendering that I have in my English bible, then my study is flawed, because the KJV is perfect.
I. The presence of this root is assumed…
With this thought in mind, look again at exactly what we are warned of. We are warned of any root of bitterness springing up. We are not warned not to plant a seed that will grow into a root. The presence of this root is assumed. It is already there. This potential exists in our sin nature and but for the grace of God would run our entire lives, our families, and the church. We inherited this root from our grandfather Adam and we all have it within us, and with it the potential of it becoming a poison that can and will affect and ruin everything that we touch in life.
People become bitter over many things. Some may become bitter over parental failures. We may become bitter because we see our children in trouble in their lives and we wonder why God would let this happen to them after we may have tried to raise them for His hounour and glory. People who have had children that are afflicted with some type of disability may be bitter at God, or parents that have had to suffer the nightmare of burying a precious baby or child.
There are some that may become bitter over positional failures. Maybe work just hasn’t gone as well as we would like. Maybe due to circumstances beyond our control we have been forced to watch a badly desired promotion go to another. Perhaps we have seen a business deal fall through that we had put great effort into. Or maybe we have lost our finances in a foolish venture. Even in the church, it may be that we see God using some one else in an area that we would love to serve, we may be jealous of another’s success in the ministry. It does happen and it is deadly.
When the root of bitterness that we carry in our old Adamic nature begins to spring up we will notice that we begin to feel extreme enmity toward someone who may not have done anything at all to us personally. Bitterness will cause us to hold a grudge to become hateful, overly emotional and angry at nothing. Some other signs of bitterness are a sharp temper, reproachful and sarcastic speech, even sorrow, affliction, distress of mind.
And any one of us is in danger if we do not keep ourselves in line and operating within the realm of the grace of God.
II. The power of this root is proclaimed…
It will trouble you. When a person is suffering from springing up of this root of bitterness it will damage any and every relationship that we are involved in. It can destroy the lives of those it infects.
Several years ago my family and I were on our way home from a service that I had preached in another church. It was a long way from our home and we were coming through town late. Our children had behaved wonderfully all day and I wanted to reward them for being so good at church that day and on the drive. We pulled into a restaurant for a snack and we all had a snack and drove the rest of the way home. The next day, all of us were deathly sick, we were all in terrible pain, we were vomiting, aching, miserable. None of us were able to eat, could barely move for three days. All of us had gotten food poisoning. When at the doctor’s office I commented on the pain that we were experiencing and the doctor explained to me that we were poisoned. Poison gets into the blood. The blood goes to every part of your body, and therefore it poisons the entire body and causes the entire body to hurt.
That is exactly what bitterness will do. We as the church are a body. If any one of us allows ourselves to become bitter, it will affect the entire body eventually. That is true in all your relationships. Bitterness will destroy a friendship, a marriage, a home, a church.
III. The proper treatment for this “root”…
Most people will just nurse their bitterness and let it grow. As a matter of fact, most will treat it like a shrub, trim it now and again, prune it and keep it healthy so that it can keep growing strong. And then it will bear it’s bitter fruit.
What can we do about it?
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
The words “be put away” here are from a Greek word “ah’eero” that denotes a forceful and deliberate act. It is not something that God does for you, but something that you must do for yourself. He will give you the grace to do it for yourself, but you must first have the desire.
Only when bitterness is properly dealt with can we live that precious joy pictured in Epesians 4:32
You know one way to get rid of a plant that you really hate and want to get out of your garden? Dig it up, lay it’s root bare before the power of the sun and the sun itself will kill it. We must do the same thing with matters of the heart. Open our hearts and lay them bare before the Precious Son, and by His power any root of bitterness can be destroyed.
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