Meditations in Hebrews 10: 45. Devastating Warning No.3
Heb 10:26,17 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Variety of Warnings: We have noted in this book previously, two major warnings. The first in 2:1-3 was a warning not to ignore the wonderful salvation that is presented to us. The second in 3:7-12 was to not let a sinful unbelieving heart develop so you fall away. There were also a number of secondary or implied warnings that we noted as we went along, e.g. “since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” (4:1) In chapter 6 we encountered a chiding of those who couldn’t take in more mature teaching and that came with a not-so-subtle warning that it was impossible to bring back to repentance someone who has tasted all the goodness of God but then fallen away (6:4-8)
What we are now confronted, what in chapter 10 is an extension of that last warning and it comes over even more strongly. In what follows, that we will see in the next study, is that it is clear that the church in the middle of that first century had been going through harsh and difficult times and that maybe the reason why so many times in this book the writer brings these warning to hold on to the faith and not fall away. So let’s consider the detail of what he now says.
The warning: 1. Purposeful intent: “If we deliberately keep on sinning.” (v.26a) Note the word ‘deliberately’. This isn’t spoken to someone who accidentally, stumbles or falls to a temptation but it is someone who purposefully decides they are going to turn away from God. Now note that the writer doesn’t go into particular reasons why someone might do this. Jesus’ parable of the Sower shows different sorts of ground, and the second ground showed people who fall away when trouble or persecution comes, and the third ground speaks of the person where the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth stop faith growing. In the light of the advent of the writing of the crusading atheists of the early part of the 21st century, I would also suggest that the faith of some people was too shallow and so shallow opposition from these writers has indeed uprooted some.
The warning: 2. Knowing the truth: “after we have received the knowledge of the truth” (v.26b) This is the second element of this warning and it counters the argument that some put forward that, “Well, these backsliders probably weren’t real Christians to start with.” Well, yes they were. The had received the knowledge of the truth. They knew what it was but they decided (for whatever reason) to reject it. If you have never realised the fickleness of the human heart, don’t be surprised by this. We CAN fully know the truth about God but still turn away. It happens!
The warning: 3. No sacrifice left: “no sacrifice for sins is left.” If you reject God’s salvation then obviously there is nothing left for you to rely on when it comes to the matter of facing the guilt of your sins. There is NO other means of salvation; reject this one and you reject any possibility of being saved.
The warning: 4. Only judgment left: “but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (v.27) Look, part of the gospel is that there is something to be saved from – judgment on sins. The whole of the Bible points to the truth that God holds people accountable for their lives and if they refuse the goodness that He offers through the salvation that comes through Christ, then they are left, standing naked before the God who sees all and holds us accountable.
Moses example: He reminds these Jewish Christians what the Law stated, that for certain sins the penalty on the unrepentant was death: “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (v.28) So he parallels this with this modern apostate: “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
Three elements of apostasy: Note those things: First, “who has trampled the Son of God under foot.” What a horrible way of describing their rejection of Christ’s work on the Cross, but it is true. It’s like they just walk over the truth counting it for nothing. So, second, “who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him.” i.e. they have said there is no value in the work on the Cross, it is meaningless, Then, third, “who has insulted the Spirit of grace.” The Holy Spirit had worked to draw them into the kingdom of God and had then taught them, but ultimately they turned their back on him and rejected all He said and had done.
Additional Warnings: And then, as if to drum this home he reminds them of the God with whom they have to deal, citing various references from the Old Testament: “For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” (v.30a citing Deut. 32:35) and “again, “The Lord will judge his people.” (v.30b citing Deut. 32:36; Psalm 135:14) and concludes, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (v.31) What is he saying? God holds sinners accountable for their sins. He has provided a means of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, but if you reject that salvation you are still accountable and there is only one option left for you.
If we think these warnings are unduly harsh, it means a) we have failed to see the seriousness of sin and b) we have failed to observe the alternative that God constantly holds out to sinners and c) we forget that these warning of the unpleasant consequences come to people who deliberately choose that path. The fault is entirely theirs. The optional paths are made very clear in Scripture. The wonder of the path of salvation is made ultra clear, but then so is the awfulness of eternal judgment. Be clear about both.