Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 29, 1970
NUMBER 25, PAGE 6b-8a

Dangers Facing God's People

William C. Sexton

"Root Of Bitterness."

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 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; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." (Heb. 12:14-16).

The book of Hebrews was written to: 1. Inform Hebrew Christians (a) Of the greatness of the covenant they had made with God. A word often selected to describe the contents of this book is "Better." (b) Of the dangers that lie before them; many and various were they. Yet the consequences were the same — separation from God and His blessings. (c) Of their duty — that which was expected of them. 2. Exhort these persecuted and disheartened Christians to: (a) Be watchful for things that would hinder them. (b) To be active in the performances God had appointed for them. (c) To patiently endure the hardship fronting them due to their relationship with God and His Son.

In order to survive and overcome the temptations and persecutions, they needed to: 1. Eliminate obstructions in their path of spiritual progress. They, of course, were required to remove only those things that they were capable of moving. 2. Cultivate good and helpful qualities. In order to do this, a third element must be brought in — recognition. It was necessary for them, and consequently for us, to recognize things that do hinder. As we have said, they are many! Here we wish to notice only one of the many hindrances that confront the child of God. Understanding that these must be identified one at a time, and each worked on singularly, yet all of them totally and combined.

Previously, we pointed out that there are certain things "out there" — that is things external — that each child of God must watch for and deal with effectively. Now, perhaps we should observe that there are things "inwardly" — or internal things — that hinder and are harmful. He must deal with them too. The "root of bitterness," I conceive to be of this nature. Let us notice:

1. "Root" is used metaphorically as the "cause, source, origin." Thinking in regard to the vegetable kingdom, the tree or plant, the root is that part that contains the germ of life. The root is that portion unseen, beneath the surface, yet vital to the life and growth of the plant. To destroy a plant you must get to the root. The Greek word rhiza, is used also of "persons, ancestors, Rom. 11:16, 17, 18" Vine, Page 304.

2. "Bitterness" — a root whose essences is such. This, I suggest, is a "frame of mind." This calls into play the sense of taste. It means disagreeable; it is that which bites. Emotions, feelings, attitudes are involved. It might be considered a "Condition of Heart."

One may become bitter from various causes. Many, because they have been the object of others' hatred, develop the attitude of bitterness. Experience in life — disappointment — is perhaps the most prevalent cause. Examples could perhaps be drawn up in the minds of most, remembering persons whom we have known, searching back in their lives we could arrive at a point where they developed the attitude of "Bitterness."

We might think of the experience of these Hebrews. Some of them may have been converted to Christ shortly after the day of Pentecost. Vision if you will, what they may have had to suffer in the land of the Jews and/or elsewhere. After all these years, seemingly everything has gone against them. Looking forward from their point of view — knowing what we do was about to happen, the destruction of Jerusalem — can we not see how they might very well become bitter? At the same time, we need to see that it is very possible for us to become bitter today. Therefore, it constitutes a danger for us, and de- 3. "Springing up." This is bitterness in progress. Think, if you will, of the bitter persons' view of things. They see things differently. Their appreciation of things and persons is not what it should be. They do not evaluate properly the actions of men. They react improperly toward men and things. Man should see in the world manifestations of God's goodness, wisdom, and power. Because He made "the world and all things therein, . ." (Acts 17:24). Man, the world and all things therein should be perceived as part of God's creation; thus one should see beauty in the landscape, order in the universe, the image of God in his fellow-man. Man cannot properly use his tongue to "Bless" God and then "Curse" man who is made in the "similitude of God." (Jas. 3:9).

The bitter person feels no guilt in his hostility toward man and his surroundings; he feels completely justified in his bitterness. The fault, as far as he is concerned, lies wholly in the object of his bitterness.

Progress suggests growth. The person who is bitter, does not remain the same; the intensity of his sentiments grow. It develops. It produces a harvest of fruits "after its kind."

4. Damage: "trouble you and may thereby be defiled." A bitter person is himself in trouble — he is miserable — and he will affect many more. The child of God is to have "peace with God..." (Rom. 5:1). Being "in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." (11 Cor. 5:17-18). He has a different outlook on life, than the one he had before conversion. "all things are" now, "of God, . ." This was not necessarily the case before — they may have been, just things; just objects out there — now he sees them as the "work of God." The bitter person does not see things in this light.

The bitter person cannot find the "...peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." This which Paul says "is" the "kingdom of God." (Rom. 14:17).

This alienated person, instead of making his contribution, makes trouble. He is troubled, and he transmits the same to others. God's people are to meet and carry out their work together. In doing this they must show an appreciation for one another, in harmony participate in lifting up their voices in praise of God, join hands in working to accomplish the goals of the cause of Christ.

When there is biting and devouring, the result is destruction. Rather than building and growing, they will decrease in number and weaken in strength. (Cf. Gal. 5:15; Jas. 3:14-16). Sin results; many are lost. Experience shows that where bitterness is, not only the bitter are damaged; they will discourage many others many will give up and stop serving the Lord.

5. Remedy — "Looking diligently." One must keep his eyes open for that little root of bitterness; be able to recognize it, then act to stamp it out. The obvious place to look first is in self. But perhaps usually this is the last place we look, or completely overlook. Paul instructs Timothy to check himself and his doctrine, (I Tim. 4:16). Others are to be observed closely, with the aim of assisting. (Heb. 3:12-13).

Looking and finding is necessary but inadequate. Rooting up and stamping out early, before it has developed, is essential. Paul says: "Let all bitterness, put away from you, ...and be ye kind one to another. . ." (Eph. 4:31-32).

We as Christians need to be firmly convinced of the destructive nature of bitterness. Only when we are completely informed and convicted that it will destroy, will we be willing to make the required effort to remedy the situation. For example, if one knows that he shall suffer some loss as the result of inactivity, he may do something that doesn't require much effort. But if the loss is a matter of life and death, then he'll go all out to keep from suffering that loss. This bitterness is certainly destructive.

Practically and specifically: When one finds this attitude in the process of development, he must repent and pray God. This involves recognition, admission, sorrow, and action to erase. The instruction given by Peter to Simon, (Acts 8:22-23) is very applicable. It is as important that the erring child of God does this, as it is for a person to hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized in order to become a Christian.

In conclusion may we be impressed with the destructive force contained in this state of mind. Be aware of the forces at work to establish this bitter "root" in our hearts. Always remember that the New Covenant concerns the soul. Understanding what is required of us, may we ever be performing our duty faithfully. Watching for the traps set by our enemy, avoid them. Patiently endure knowing that shortly we must put off "this tabernacle" and meet our Lord. If we "be accepted of Him." then all shall be well eternally. (Heb. 10:35-39).

— 2718 Renick, St. Joseph, Missouri