Looking carefully lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled (Heb. 12:15).
We have studied quite a bit lately about the grace of God and the fact that no one can merit salvation. We can only be saved because God loved us and through his grace provided a way for our justification. We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9); we stand in grace (Rom. 5:2); we have our daily forgiveness through going to his throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16). When we get to heaven, we can truly sing, "Amazing Grace" and "Wonderful Grace of Jesus." How precious is that grace which God has so richly "lavished upon us" (Eph. 1:7-8).
But the Hebrew writer gives to each of us a very solemn warning: "Be careful lest you fall short of the grace of God." Therefore, it is possible for us to "miss out on" God's grace. The writer said that it is! Paul also said that it is possible for us to "nullify the grace of God" (Gal. 2:21) and that we can "fall from grace" (Gal. 5:4). Let us never feel that since God loves us and that his grace has forgiven us of our every sin, gross as they may have been, it is still possible for us to "fall short of that grace." How could we do so?
In the passage under consideration we see some possible ways of our falling short.
(1) We could be defiled by a "root of bitterness." This is a metaphor borrowed from plants where roots are essential. Moses referred to such in Deuteronomy 29:18 – "a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood." Here, then, are people whose words and life are bitter before God and corrupting to people. The pagan and Judaistic influences of their day tended to draw people away from the grace of God. Today, there is worldliness, humanism, and all kinds of false doctrines that are poisonous to the souls of God's people. Let us be especially careful.
(2) We could fall short of God's grace by fornication (v. 16). God's grace can forgive fornication as is seen in the lives of some of the Corinthians – "such were some of you" (1 Cor. 6:9-11). But his grace is not a free ticket to practice immorality. We cannot pre-suppose the grace of God or be guilty of the sin of presumption. Some have reasoned that since God's grace will forgive that it does not matter if we go ahead and commit sin. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Some people in the early church were "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness" (Jude 4). There are many today who look upon sexual misconduct whether before or after marriage as of little consequence. Paul tells us that those who practice such cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:19-21). John says that such will have their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). If you are involved in sexual sin, repent right now and live a life of moral purity lest you fall short of God's grace.
(3) The writer speaks of "any profane person" such as Esau (v. 16). The word used here is bebelos and means unhallowed. It is used for profane in opposition to consecrated. "Bebelos is used for the person who is uninitiated and uninterested in contradistinction to the man who is devout" (Barclay). A profane life is one lived without thought of or interest in God. All of its goals and plans are only earthly. If we like that, we fall short of the grace of God which is designed to help us have a "heavenly calling." All that Esau was concerned about was to satisfy his hunger with the pottage that Jacob was cooking. "Who cares about the future? I am concerned with right now, and I want this!" Oh, how often this becomes our attitude and it leads to our downfall and to our "missing out on the grace of God." A person's character is just as strong as the weakest link in it. If, in weak moments, we are concerned only with the present physical appetite, we become a "profane person like Esau." How bitter were the consequences in his life and in ours when we lose sight of God's goodness to us. This is why it is so important for us to stay out of situations where we can be tempted, for when the fires of appetite burst out of the furnace of our mind and the flames start to burn, we lose sight of the holy and become "profane like Esau."
(4) Really, the way we fall short of God's grace is by "refusing to hear Jesus" (v. 25). Those who refused to hear Moses did not escape. "Much less shall we escape who turn away from him who warns from heaven" (v. 25; see Heb. 10:26-29). If we reject Jesus, we are rejecting God's grace – "insulting the spirit of grace" for he came and died as the means of establishing the grace of God. Being a Christian is doing whatever Jesus requires of us. If I reject him, I have spurned that matchless grace.
No, don't think for one moment that God's grace automatically takes care of all our sins and rejections of his will. "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? May it never be" (Rom. 6: 1). Let us have full faith in the God of grace and accept his grace that will forgive and save us and take us to heaven. But let us never take it for granted and "fall short of the grace of God."