The wondrous nature of God’s Revelation is not only in its information but in His method of disseminating that information. God is able to communicate with His creation so clearly and concisely that there is really no excuse for not knowing Him (John 8:32; Romans 1:20). One such example is found in the Hebrew letter, where the author uses synonymous terms in order to clarify a concept.
The context is discussing those who were God’s children but negative examples of what God desires in His followers. The children of Israel had been led out of Egypt and afforded complete guidance (in detail). They, nevertheless, rejected God’s instruction; they did so by their actions. The series of terms used to describe this hopeless affliction are found in chapter four, verses sixteen through nineteen. These are not identical terms but so close in meaning and essence that they are divinely sufficient to be connected enough in meaning to describe the same condition.
“For who, having heard, REBELLED? (v. 16) … who SINNED (v. 17) … who DID NOT OBEY (v. 18) …because of UNBELIEF (v. 19).” What amazing clarity these parallels reveal. Rebelling against God is defined as the sin of disobedience, indicating a void of faith in God.
We often hear religious people claim to “believe” God or “have faith in” God. Yet, they refuse to obey God, even in the simplest doctrines (i.e., baptism for the forgiveness of sins); this disobedience is sin, which separates us from God and is tantamount to rebelling against God. Translation: this type of person does not REALLY believe, all their lip-service notwithstanding.
My friends, merely saying “I believe” is not a functional faith (James 2:18, 24). However, the Hebrew writer goes a step further. When one says, “I believe” but will not obey and, as a result, sins, the sin is identified as rebellion from God’s perspective. Oh, how quickly an asserted faith becomes a rank rebellion!
The example in Hebrews 3:15 is preceded with this plea: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” and followed later on with “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Sobering, to say the least. Can you believe it?