The effect of a Christian's unbelief
Just because Christians are in the “Holy” family doesn’t mean that we always behave like we are set apart for God. This fact was also once recognized by a father of an epileptic boy when he told Jesus, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).
The Greek work for unbelief refers to a lack of faith or a wavering amount of trust in someone. The father believed that Jesus could help his son, but he was wavering on if Jesus would help and how much help He would give. Unbelief isn’t referring to losing one’s eternal salvation (which does not happen); instead, this unbelief is our difficulty to fully trust what our Heavenly Father says He can and will do. The author of Hebrews similarly used the same word:
Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God.
The author is telling his readers that for them to not trust God with what He says about Jesus’ coming kingdom is sinful; however, we are also given encouraging direction on how to combat our unbelief:
But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the confidence that we had at the start.
Our initial confidence in Christ came because we trusted Him with our eternal destiny when we believed Him – that He would take the punishment for our sins and reconcile us with God the Father. If we apply that same type of confidence in His message (that our choices in this life have future, eternal impact), we will not only avoid a sinful, unbelieving heart but we will also become companions [Metochoi] with Christ and the administration of His future kingdom.
As an example, the author sites what happened after God rescued 2 million Israelites from Egypt:
As it is said:
Today, if you hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts
as in the rebellion.
For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it really all who came out of Egypt under Moses? And with whom was He “provoked for 40 years”? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did He “swear that they would not enter His rest,” if not those who disobeyed? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
Same Greek word here for unbelief – after being rescued from the slavery of Egypt, those Israelites didn’t trust God with His plan for the coming kingdom. The author then uses Israel’s unwillingness to act on what they knew of God as a warning for us:
Therefore, while the promise to enter His rest remains, let us beware that none of you be found to have fallen short. For we also have received the good news just as they did. But the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith.
The generation that died in the desert was disqualified from participating in the future country of Israel established by Joshua because they did not trust the messenger God had sent. They did not faithfully act on the message they had received from Moses.
We likewise have an opportunity to partner with the Greater Messenger – become His Metochoi – if we are willing to faithfully act on His message that we have received.