What Does It Mean To Fall Away From God?

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.
–Hebrews 3:12

To whom was the warning passage in Hebrews 6:4-6 addressed? I believe the writer was talking to Christians who are close to losing the benefits of their salvation. The key words to understand are “fall away.” What did the writer mean when he talked about people falling away from God?

The best way to know what he meant is to look at how he used those words in another passage in this letter. In Hebrews 3:12 the writer said to these Jewish Christians, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” He continued, “And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (3:17-19).

This is an allusion to the story when the Israelites had come out of Egypt, and they were headed to the Promised Land. In Numbers 13, they stood at Kadesh-Barnea, the entry point in the Promised Land. They sent spies at God’s command into the Promised Land, Canaan, to see what obstacles they would have. Ten of the spies came back and said, “The obstacles are too great–we can never possess the land,” but two of the men, Joshua and Caleb said, “Yes, the obstacles are great, but our God is greater. With His help, we can overcome those problems.” The people chose to believe the majority report, and as a result, they failed to enter the wonderful land God had planned for them.

As a result of their unbelief, God was so angry with His people that He decided that He would curse them forever and wipe them off the face of the Earth. But in Numbers 14, Moses, a forerunner of Jesus Christ, became the intercessor, the go-between, and he pleaded with God. He said, in essence, “God, You cannot do that. If You kill these people and condemn them eternally, then Your reputation will be lost among the Gentiles.” And God relented. He said, “You are right, Moses. I have made a covenant with them; they are My people. I will not eternally damn them, but this I will do: because they have not believed me their bodies will die in the wilderness. They will never enter the Promised Land I have for them.” And that is exactly what happened. Everyone over the age of 20, except Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. The Israelites did not lose their salvation, but they lost the benefit of entering into God’s rest.

That is what happens to those who refuse to grow in their faith and harden their hearts against God. We cannot lose our salvation, but we can lose some of the benefits of our salvation.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Falling Away From God” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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