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Bible verses about Spiritual Apathy
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The church did not literally go to sleep, but it was asleep spiritually. Here is what "sleep" indicates metaphorically: When we are asleep, what are we paying attention to? Nothing. If we are in a sound sleep, our minds are "dead to the world." We are not aware of anything that is going on, even of the passage of time.

We may have a dream or two, but that does not count. Usually, we pay such little attention when we wake up in the morning that we fail to remember what we dreamed, unless it is especially vivid. Still, the idea is this: that sleep indicates insensitivity to responsibility. If we were awake, we would pay attention to our responsibilities. We would do our work around the house or go earn our money at the office. But if we are asleep, we are insensitive to what is happening.

That is what occurred to the church. It was not literally asleep, but it became insensitive to its relationship with Jesus Christ. It became insensitive to its spiritual responsibilities. This do not mean that church members were out freely breaking the laws of God, but the relationship was still nonetheless deteriorating because of that lack of attention.

Another aspect of this is also very important: As the pressure increases from this world, it brings stress with it. From studying people closely, psychologists know that those who face frequent, stressful hardship become apathetic. In other words, a person reaches the point where finally he just rolls over, plays dead, and says, "Who cares?"

With that in mind, it is no wonder that Jesus says in Matthew 24:13, "He that endures to the end, the same will be saved." The end time will be stressful, whether or not we are being directly affected physically. The spirit of the age, the zeitgeist, will impact upon our minds, and it will tend to make us feel tired, weary of the whole thing, wishing that God would hurry up and get it over with.

That is, of course, understandable. It also helps us to understand why the Bible says some of the things it does regarding the church at the end time. A large portion of the church will be lulled into worldliness through being more concerned with ordinary, self-centered, secular pursuits than with the spiritual work of God. Jesus' warning in Luke 21:34-36—"take heed to yourselves" and "watch . . . and pray always"—is absolutely essential.


 

Matthew 24:12

This is a warning to us—that the iniquity that is in the world will cause a loss of love in the church. If we understand the progression of events in Matthew 24, then verse 12 speaks of the time of the Tribulation. We are leading up to that, living in a period in which the stresses against the church—from the world—are increasing. As they increase, it can have the psychological effect—because we begin to get weary of dealing with it—of becoming apathetic, that is, without feeling for what we formerly loved so dearly.

So the iniquity is in the world, but resisting it is a constant stress because it exerts tremendous pressure through an appealing façade—to give in and go along with it. As we live with it and everybody else is doing it, the world's behavior gradually becomes acceptable to us, thus giving evidence that apathy is taking over.

We need to look at every aspect, even in areas we may consider "minor things." How do they dress? What kind of music do they listen to? What are the world's movies like? What are their attitudes in dealing with each other—in stores, on the street, in communities? In many places, we can hardly get anybody on the street to greet us! There are many little behaviors like this. The iniquity is in the world, but it pressures us into doing things as it does—and then it becomes our behavior.

This is just hypothetical, but what if we evaluated ourselves against the world ten years ago and judged that we were 50% more righteous than the world. Then today, we did exactly the same thing, and figured that we are at least 50% more righteous than the world. However, if the world had become more unrighteous during that same period, then, even though we may be 50% more righteous than the world now, we have actually gone backwards in those ten years—right along with the world!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Hebrews 1:1-4

The first chapter of Hebrews lays the foundation for the theme that will run through the entire book. The author begins with the truth that Christ is superior to angels. He wants his readers to focus on the message, which is important, not only because it is thrilling and of weighty content, but also because of its Source. In times past, the message came through agents or intermediaries—either angels or prophets were sent. This message, however, came right from the top—through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is greater than or superior to any angel or prophet. All of those who came before Jesus Christ are "inferiors."

Thus, when God sent His message through His Son, it was introduced by the very highest Source that it could possibly come from. The author intends us to understand that this message requires us to give it the highest priority of our lives. Nothing supersedes the message that came through the Son of God. No one can present a message anywhere near as great.

The message that Moses gave was, of course, right and true and powerful, but it cannot even be compared to the message that came through the Son of God. That is the theme! Christ and what He has to give us—be it words, His ministrations as High Priest, His efficacious death, His covenant, etc.—are far superior to everything else. Absolutely nothing in life can compare. He has given us the most awesome gifts that any human being could possibly be given.

This is how the author begins his treatise—as if firing a cannon to get our attention! How dare we be apathetic toward this message! That is what he implies. Do we not realize where the gospel came from? It came from the One for whom all things were created and by whom all things were created. He created Adam and gave him the breath of life—and He right now sustains us with His power! Yet the world and the pressures that it puts on us have a way of turning our attention toward other things, do they not? Unfortunately, we give into them so often, so easily.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Hebrews 2:1-4

These Hebrew Christians were neglecting what they were given. William Barclay's translation of the first clause of verse 1 reads, "We must, therefore, with very special intensity [the opposite of "apathy"] pay attention to what we have heard" (our emphasis). The wonderful message that these people had heard was drifting from their minds.

This word "drift" (or "slip" as translated in the King James Version) is used of a thing that is negligently, carelessly, or thoughtlessly lost: of a ring that slips from one's finger; a thought that is slipped into a conversation; or a boat that drifts away from the dock because the knot in the rope securing it slips. In Greek literature it is used of an idea that slips from one's mind. In this word picture is a major warning for us today—as we enter the most distracting, enervating, and fearful time in man's history.

There is another illustration here that is equally compelling. It is of a man on a long journey who is carrying over his shoulder a goatskin, which was used in ancient time to carry water. He intends to use the water in that bag to refresh and reenergize himself, whenever he needs it. However, the goatskin is cracked, and the water is slowly dripping out unobserved by the traveler. The water is "slipping away." When he becomes thirsty and reaches for the goatskin to take a drink to refresh himself, he finds that his bag is empty. Nothing remains.

It is reminscent of the Ten Virgins and their oil (Matthew 25:1-13). Half have none when they need it, for it has run out. They have been negligent in buying it from the sources that they could have gotten it from, whenever they had the time. But now the Bridegroom approaches, and they have no oil, a kind of oil that cannot be transferred from one person to another. So, they must go out in desperation to find some on their own—but it is too late.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Hebrews 4:1-2

The Israelites would not use their faith; they would not step out. They held back because the bottom line was that they did not really believe it.

Do we believe what we are hearing from the Word of God? If we do not believe it, we will do nothing. We only do what we believe.

Everybody in the world operates by this principle—they do what they believe! But do they believe God? No. We are in God's church because we believe, and because we believe in the right way, we obey God. In Hebrews 3, Paul equates "belief" and "obedience." It makes for an interesting study. Despite being significantly different, the effect of one should be the product of the other.

This is why one can find words like "belief" or "unbelief" in Scripture, and see in the margin that "obedience" or "disobedience" can be an alternate translation. The words can be taken either way.

We do what we believe. The real problem is becoming apparent. The reason the Hebrews were apathetic—the reason they were neglecting their spiritual priorities—was because their belief system had undergone a serious change since the time that they had first heard.

When Satan wants to divide or destroy a church, he often does so through inspiring changes in the doctrines. When the doctrines change, the belief system changes accordingly. And when the belief system changes, those who believe the same basic way will flock together, and those who believe a different way will coalesce into another group.

When a belief changes, a change in conduct must follow. This is what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness. They did not believe God, and they failed. They all died. That whole first generation died as a result of their disbelief.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Hebrews 11:35

What an important principle "not accepting deliverance" is! But how were these apathetic people—to whom this book was written—accepting deliverance from the trials of life? They ran from them. They did not rise to meet the challenge but accepted deliverance. They took the easy way out. Rather than make the sacrifice to make sure that they were faithful to the message that they had been given, they would simply back away from it, relieving the pressure on them. They accepted deliverance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Hebrews 13:5

Consider the last phrase in this verse: "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." According to Adam Clarke, this verse is peculiarly emphatic in that this short sentence contains five negatives, making a literal translation scarcely possible. However, it would run something like this: "No, I will not leave you. No, neither will I not utterly forsake you." If we had to write that into English, it says: "I will never, never, never, never, NEVER leave you." What an exhortation! What a promise from the great God! "I will NEVER leave you!"

"Get off your duff," God is telling these people, "and get to work! Throw off your apathy. Do the things that need to be done." With all the bad things going on in the church and the world, some of us may feel "punch drunk"—having to hang on, just keep on going. However, God wants us to take the time to somehow readjust our focus. This is no time to drop the ball. We have a wonderful promise that He will never leave us. Christ is alive, and He loves us. It is His will that we be in His Kingdom. He wants to make the most of us that He possibly can.

So be patient! Guard against being emotionally drawn to insignificant things. Every single one of us has a part in this drama unfolding on earth. Men come and go, but Jesus Christ is the real Leader, and He is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." He is permanent. His preeminence and leadership are forever. What is more, He is faithful in following the patterns that He has established in His Word.

Take heart! Fight the problems that arise. Do not give into the apathy that the world induces. Do not accept the easy deliverance, which the carnal mind and this world offer. God will help, as only He can. And when one's problems are over, we can say, "I didn't do it. The Lord is my Helper."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Revelation 2:2-5

Understand that these people had not "lost" their first love. They had the Spirit of God; the love was there! But they had left their first love. They were not using it. They had become weary with all of the stresses that had affected their lives and all of the pressures upon their minds. So they were leaving the love, but the Spirit of God was there, the Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7). These people needed to get turned around. They had become apathetic regarding spiritual things, becoming without feeling, because of these stresses.

The book of Hebrews amplifies, provides reasons for, and advises on how to recapture the zeal for what they had formerly loved with a great deal of emotion and enthusiasm. It does this by reminding us of the immense value of the awesome gifts that God has given us. And, of course, it instructs us in what we should do with them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Revelation 3:15-17

Sadly, this is the direction that the church is prophesied to move as the end approaches. A fairly close parallel exists between the Laodicean and Ephesian conditions. Laodiceans are essentially without a proper feeling for God and His truths, and it has reached the point where they feel as though they no longer need them.

None of this means, though, that Laodiceans are lazy people. They are rich and increased with goods, and people do not become wealthy by sitting on their duffs. Revelation 3 suggests that their strong feelings and vigor are for the wrong things, and certainly not godly things. Therefore, they are without proper convictions concerning the things of God. They are apathetic, drifting, and spiritually blind. How difficult is it for a blind person to navigate through a world loaded with obstacles of all kinds? They must step very gingerly for fear of running into things, and undoubtedly, they would run into things.

The Laodicean is not making progress toward the Kingdom of God. He has stopped and in many cases—just like the Ephesians—he is sliding backwards. He must overcome his apathy for the things of God and begin to care deeply for the things he claims to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

 




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