Don’t Negate Christ’s Sacrifice
26Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The LORD will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.Hebrews 10:26-31
One of the significant features of the letter to the Hebrew Christians is the series of warnings found in the letter. We are aware the other feature is the fact that the writer compares Jesus with many key elements of the old covenantal system and shows us how much better Jesus is than each feature. It is like these two features go together. Just as he ramps up the comparisons he also ramps up the warnings.
- Don’t drift (2:1-4)
- Don’t harden your hearts (4:6-11)
- Don’t be Spiritually Dull (5:11-6:6)
Now we come to the fourth warning:- Don’t deliberately sin; Don’t give it all away. After showing us the depth of all that Jesus has done for us, we ought to be getting the idea of the UNIQUENESS of Jesus Christ. Once we really know just Who Jesus is, and have tasted of the good things of heaven as we have talked about before, then it ought to be clear we should do all we can to cling on to Him. The strength and focus of the first verse in this section is found in the first word of the sentence.[ἑκουσίως] (hekousiōs) – deliberately, wilfully, willingly, intentionally, to sin with an intent of the will rather than sins committed inconsiderately, without planning or intent; from ignorance or from weakness.
This word begins the sentence in the verse in the Greek text. Greek words are marked with connection or agreement with the other words which go with them. That then frees the writer or speaker to use the first and last positions in the phrase, clause or sentence for emphasis. The word needing emphasis can then be placed in first or last position to give it emphasis. In the first sentence of this section Deliberately or wilfully sinning is given the prime place to emphasize it. Thus we can conclude deliberately sinning after having received or gaining a full knowledge of the truth is a serious thing.
The word for knowledge is not just [γνωσις] (gnōsis) but [ἐπίγνωσις] (epignōsis). The significance of the preposition [epi] is important. In normal use of [epi] when used as a proposition just means “on”, “over” “above” “on top”. I have talked of the meaning of gnōsis “knowledge” before and compared it with the idea of agnosis / agnostic – “to be without knowledge”. The subtlety in the contrast of [gnōsis] and [epignōsis] is also significant. The latter term contains the idea of knowledge over and above, full and perfect knowledge. Many commentators suggest it refers to knowledge which is added from experience rather than that which is gained by cerebral processes. Experiential understanding or confirmation which comes from practically applying afore-gained knowledge. There we have it. Do you see how that connects into the things we talked about related to the author’s teaching us about the good things of heaven? (See Gems 2103 and 2121)
I hope you are beginning to see the way the writer of Hebrews was telling the Jewish Christians of his day and now us is all coming together. He has taken four chapters to explain the deep significance of what it means for Christ to be our Great High Priest. He has told us before of the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness for over 40 years despite seeing the LORD’s miracles done on their behalf over and over. If those who rebelled in Moses day were put to death, imagine how much worse it will be for those who came to a full understanding of the deep things of God and then turned their backs. Not those who were stuck in their spiritual dullness and indolence, but those who had experienced the good things of heaven.
- Those who were once enlightened
- Those who have experienced the good things of heaven
- Those who have shared in the Holy Spirit
- Those who have tasted the goodness of the word of God
- Those who have tasted the power of the age to come
These are the ones he is talking about now. Now he adds another little list of characteristics of the ones to whom he refers.
- those who have trampled on the Son of God
- those who have treated the blood of the covenant as if it were common and unholy
- those who have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit
How will these ones not suffer a worse punishment than those of old who didn’t fully understand yet rebelled? It is in this context that the writer adds “The LORD will judge his own people.” (Deut 32:35, Rom 12:19)
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?1 Peter 4:17
Normally God judges for his people against the ones who are opposed to them or doing harm. That was the expectation of the prophets. But if His people don’t or won’t heed the warnings, then God’s judgment will be on His people.
The spiritual wilfulness or the deliberate sinning is not focused on acts of sin; rather such people are trapped in a state of sin and unable to get out of it. If we are not careful or mindful of the way sin gets a hold of us and increases or ramps up then we can come to the stage where we habitually sin to the degree we can’t stop. It has become a habit or a way of life. We sin and keeping on sinning or more to the point rebel against God with apparent impunity. Be careful it will come back to bite you.
I remember watching a programme of Seven Sharp where Hillary Barry made a pronouncement regarding the fact that the Bible puts lying and sexual aberration in the same category in the verse quoted by Israel Folau. Hillary Barry’s comment was related to how ridiculous it was to list lying and ‘homosexuality’ in the same list. She said, something to the effect, “We have all lied. Has anyone here (on the panel) not lied? Well there you are we are all bound for hell.” Barry doesn’t understand the sense that it has nothing to do with whether we lied or not. Of course all have sinned, the Bible is clear about that. There is no one who hasn’t fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23). There is likely no one who has not told a lie. That is not the issue. The key to understanding is that if we are not careful it becomes a habit that leads us to become perpetual liars for example. At issue is choosing to remain in the state of sinning. When you live an untruth then you can’t see that you need to change and become trapped in the lie you are living to the point where you don’t want to stop and ultimately can’t.
It is that very process which entraps the one who has tasted all the good things which result from life with Christ and yet still tosses it aside. Despite knowing the truth of all God has done, knowing the power of a changed life, experiencing Jesus personally, has seen the power of life in the Spirit and decides to walk away. That is dangerous ground to be on. It is one thing for Hillary Barry to say that in her ignorance; it is another level of spurning God’s Word altogether to turn your back on it all when you have known the Truth of it. That is the level of what the Bible calls apostasy. Don’t do it. If you do you negate all that Jesus has done and effectively trample on it, in which case “there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins” let alone remove them from you. You will always and forever bear the guilt of your waywardness in opposition to the principles of God. What then happens is that you sear your conscience in order to deny you have done anything wrong and will no longer be able to repent. Now that is a scary position to be in.
The writer of Hebrews has more to say about this in the next section in which he was talking to the Jewish Christians of the 1st Century AD concerning the things they experienced when they embraced Christ and lived as Christians. We can also learn from those comments.
There is more love in God’s heart than there is sin in yours. Always.Max Lucado
The death of God’s Son is a greater testimony to God’s abhorrence of sin than if all humans had been damned forever.John Piper
The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.D L Moody
Prayer and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin or sin will choke prayer.J C Ryle