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. (Hebrews 12:15 KJV)
The root of bitterness in Hebrews 12:15 is presented as having three distinct qualities: it springs up within a community of believers (the Church), it troubles the believers, and finally, it defiles them. What is this root of bitterness?
The writer of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 29:18, “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 29:18 ESV). Here, Moses uses the root of bitterness to refer to a person within Israel that troubles the people and defiles them.
So the root of bitterness is used figuratively to refer to an evil or bad person in the Church, a community of believers. As a bad tree that bears bad fruit, this person causes trouble among God’s people. Moreover, as the poison spreads in a substance, so does this wrong person’s evil influence spread, causing many true believers to wander off and be defiled.
There are two types of bitter roots in Church: true Christians who are ungodly and false Christians or ministers. It is our responsibility as individual Christians or as the Church to uproot evil roots causing bitterness and spreading defilement—appropriate discipline for the true Christian or exposure and removal of the fake one.
Beware of people and relationships that are influencing your life and spreading bitterness.
Why does the Bible use the word “root” to describe such a lousy person among God’s people?
APPLY THE WORD
Until the roots of bitterness are removed from our lives or Church, we will continue to drink of the bitterness. Few things will damage any community of believers as bad influences from within the Church. So don’t be a bitter root, and do not allow bitter roots spread bitterness to you.
Ask the Spirit for the discernment and strength to remove every bitter root from your heart today.
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