TEXT:  Text: Hebrews 12:15



This sermon is predicated on the excerpt from Hebrew 12:15 which says “Looking diligently … lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (KJV)

The New International Version (NIV) reads “See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

The King James Version implies that the root of bitterness is springing up (i.e. existing) among us whereas the New International Version charges that we should guard against the growing up of any bitter root among us. Be that as it may, we are cautioned in this regard to beware of the root of bitterness.

Root of Bitterness

In the Hebrew culture, any poisonous plant was called a bitter plant. Poison destroys and the result of taking in or ingesting a poisonous plant would be bitter, indeed.

In the Bible, the root of bitterness does not refer to the literal root. It is a spiritual person or a means by which many are troubled and defied.

It is a person or doctrine in the church which encourages people to act presumptuously (go beyond what is right or proper), and treat salvation as an automatic thing that does not require a life of vigilance or diligence in the fight of faith and pursuit of holiness.

It is the source of countless spiritual and physical problems in millions of lives today.

The root of bitterness is an underlying problem that does not always manifest on the outside but dwells in the system.


Certainly, the root of bitterness refers to those who are:

Cynical       – full of doubt and questioning, pessimistic, e.g. the children of         Israel who went to spy the city of Ai. Only Joshua and Caleb    were optimistic.

Sarcastic    – mocking with irony and insincerity.

Resentful   – spiteful, showing self-righteous, anger, malice, grudge, etc.

Profane      – treating sacred things with contempt

Idolatrous  – worshiping other gods thus serving two masters

Immoral     – disregarding acceptable rules, not moral.

In the Old Testament, bitter poison refers either to the unfaithful or to their punishment (Deut. 29:18, Amos 6:12, Jer. 8:14, 9:15, 23:15).

In Deut. 29:18, Moses admonishes the Children of Israel to make sure that no root among them produces such bitterness.

In Act. 8:22-23, Peter rebukes Simon the sorcerer to repent of his wickedness and further cautions:

‘I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.’ (NIV)

Simon desired to buy the power of the Holy Spirit with intent to promote his sorcery business. Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, discerned his heart and rebuked him. If he (Simon the sorcerer) succeeded, he would certainly be a root of bitterness in the discipleship.

The bitter root in Heb. 12:15 refers to a source of evil or wickedness within the church. A root may be small and slow in its growth, but if it carries poison, it surely becomes bitter and dangerous to the Church and its members.

The sad story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira (Act. 5:1-10) is a great lesson to all that God searches the heart and can root out the root of bitterness from the Church and apportion punishment accordingly.


What the Root of Bitterness is capable of

The root of bitterness is capable of:

  • Causing trouble in the Church
  • Defiling the Church
  • Upturning and desecrating the pulpit
  • Tearing the congregation apart.

It is, however, important to note that the root of bitterness cannot thrive in the Church:

  • if no one is fanning the embers of bitterness in the Church and,
  • if no one is creating an enabling environment for it to spring up.

This is why the Bible cautions Christians to:

‘… walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise; redeeming the time because the days are evil’ (Eph. 5:15).


‘see to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.’ (Heb. 12:15; NIV)


May God open our spiritual eyes to see the root of bitterness whenever and wherever it springs up in the Church.

May God give us the grace to be diligent and circumspect about the root of bitterness springing up in the Church.

May God give us the courage and strength to rid the Church of the root of bitterness because darkness and light cannot and will never grow together.

Finally, may God guide the root of bitterness in our midst to repent of their evil ways and pray perhaps the thoughts of their hearts may be forgiven in Jesus name – Amen.

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