What does Hebrews 12:15 mean?
ESV: 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;
NIV: See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
NASB: See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
CSB: Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and defiling many.
NLT: Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
KJV: 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;
Verse Commentary:
This verse continues to give practical steps Christians ought to take in response to persecution and hardship. Earlier, the writer encouraged believers to "hold fast" (Hebrews 3:6; 10:23) in the face of struggles. Most of the suffering we endure as Christians is not as heavy as it could be (Hebrews 12:4). And, God intends those experiences for our good—to "train" us into a more mature faith (Hebrews 12:11). While we grow individually, we also need to be careful of how we interact with other believers. The prior verse mentioned the need to live in peace, as well as the importance of pursuing holiness.

The reference to those who "[fail] to obtain the grace of God" could mean those who are false believers. That would harmonize with other New Testament warnings about those who claim to be godly, but are not (Matthew 7:15, Jude 1:12). Upcoming verses tie into the example of Esau, who was careless towards his own birthright, also seen as a sign of one without real faith in God. While that's possible, the context seems mostly to focus on something else: a command regarding those within the church who are defiant towards God and His holiness.

Prior verses mentioned the importance of holiness (Hebrews 12:14), and other New Testament verses mention the importance of not tolerating brazen sin among those who claim the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 5:11). Earlier, a warning in this same letter was given to those who believe, but who fail to obey and are judged accordingly (Hebrews 10:26–31). The "root of bitterness" mentioned here re-establishes a metaphor used in Deuteronomy 29:18–19. There, the people of Israel were warned about those who assumed they'd be blessed and protected by God, despite their willful rebellion.

It seems, then, that the writer's point is about those who are disobedient towards God. Old Testament Hebrew uses the word "bitter" as a reference to poison. Here, the "bitter roots" are said to cause trouble and defilement. Whether those persons are outright false Christians, or merely rebellious believers, their influence is the same. They cause controversy and lead others into sin. Such persons cannot be allowed to remain in the body of believers (1 Corinthians 5:13).

The following verse will continue addressing the need for vigilance against certain spiritual errors, using the infamous example of Esau.
Verse Context:
Hebrews 12:3–17 builds from a description of heroes of the faith, culminating in Jesus Christ. Those who came before were loved by God and honored by God, and yet they suffered hardships in this world. In this passage, the writer makes it clear that suffering is often God's way of building us up and training us, not necessarily a sign of His displeasure. Christians who respond to trials by seeking God, in faith, can avoid the fate of less-faithful men, like Esau.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 11 explained the victories of some of the Old Testament's greatest heroes. It also explained their sufferings and persecution. This chapter uses those examples as a ''cloud of witnesses'' to prove that God does not abandon us when we suffer. In many cases, He uses those experiences to ''train'' us, as if we were athletes, to make us stronger. In other cases, it's the same kind of discipline that a child receives from a loving father. Unlike the old covenant, which rightly inspired fear and dread, the new covenant offers us peace. As with any other matter of truth or falsehood, we should cling to what's true, so that we can be part of ''a kingdom that cannot be shaken.''
Chapter Context:
Hebrews chapter 12 builds on the example of the heroes of the faith mentioned in chapter 11. The main point of this lesson is that these figures endured suffering and hardship, yet held to their faith in God, which allowed them to achieve victory. Chapter 12, in particular, points out that earthly hardship is not a sign of God's displeasure, or abandonment. Rather, it's part of living in a fallen, godless world. And, in many cases, it's a form of ''training'' the Lord uses to mold us into more powerful instruments. This, as with other passages in Hebrews, leads into another explanation of why we should take these ideas seriously, and sets up a few final practical lessons in chapter 13.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
Accessed 4/22/2024 3:42:45 PM
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