Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
Up to this point, from our previous studies, the Apostle has been establishing the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant over the Old Covenant and its priesthood. He posed several strong arguments:
• That Christ is a better High Priest (after the order of Melchizedek) than that of Aaron and the many who made up the Levitical priesthood. (Heb. 7:17)
• That through Christ, there is a better place of worship (in the heavens, at the right hand of the Father) than that which was possible in the tabernacle. (Heb. 10:12)
• That through Christ, we have a better covenant (the New Covenant, inaugurated by Christ’s sacrificial death) with better promises than the Old Covenant. (Heb. 8:6)
• And finally, that through Christ, we have an infinitely better sacrifice, the oncefor- all sacrifice of a man (God-man) who was without sin, rather than the continual offering of animal sacrifices. (Heb. 10:12)
• The result of this superior work of the Messiah is that our sins can be forgiven once for all. As a part of this cleansing from sin, the believer is also granted a cleansed conscience, so that he or she may boldly approach God without fear (the fear of judgment which comes from guilt) or hesitation. (Heb. 9:14)
The warnings in Hebrews Chapter 6 and today’s verses of chapter 10 are for believers and not unbelievers; and can be interpreted as very harsh judgment. That is why the Apostle Paul exhorted us to purposefully draw near, hold fast, and consider how to encourage others in their Christian walk. (Heb. 10:25)
Today’s study is divided into two main parts. The first being sobering words of warning while the second, words of encouragement and exhortation.
I. SOBERING WORDS OF WARNING
Verses 26 and 27
26 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.
The warnings in verse 26 are closely related to the exhortations of the verses which precede them. If the work of Christ is full and final, so that “there is no longer any [other] offering for sin” (10:18), then to reject the supreme and ultimate sacrifice of Christ is to leave oneself with no other means of forgiveness.
The Apostle warns of a specific kind of sin, rather than of sin in some more general sense. This specific sin is described for us in verse 26 as that which is conscious, deliberate, and persistent. This sin is committed in spite of the fact that the sinner had received the knowledge of the truth. Not only is this sin wilful, it is also persistent and ongoing; deliberately rejecting Christ. Such a person has become an apostate and not a believer anymore! Such a person does not sin because of ignorance, nor is he or she carried away by momentary temptations he or she is too weak to resist. The wilful sinner sins because of an established way of thinking and acting which he or she has no desire to give up.
Having turned their backs on the truth, and with full knowledge choosing to wilfully and continually sin, the apostate is then beyond salvation because they have rejected the one true sacrifice for sins: the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christ’s sacrifice is rejected, then all hope of salvation is gone. To turn away wilfully from this sacrifice leaves no sacrifice; it leaves only sin, the penalty for which is eternal death.
This passage is not speaking of a believer who falls away, but rather someone who may claim to be a believer, but truly is not. Anyone who apostatizes is proving he never had genuine faith to begin with (1 John 2:19). “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”
“Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
The violation of the Mosaic law was a desecration, it is a much greater defilement to despise the New Covenant. Both have their respective discipline. The argument of this verse refers to the practice in the Old Testament whereby people were put to death for idolatry and murder. (Numbers 15:27–31)
By analogy, the New Covenant believer who violates the doctrine of the sacrificial death of Christ subjects himself to severe discipline from God. Premature death of the believer may be an option (Acts 5:1–11; 1 Cor. 11:28–31; 1 John 5:16). It could also mean that the believer will lose his rewards in heaven. But for the apostate, he or she is subject to eternal death. This verse provides us three more characteristics of this particular sin also referred to in verse 26:
•It expresses contempt for the Son of God
•It profanes the blood of the covenant, the very blood that sanctified him or her
•It insults the Spirit of grace
“For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
“To fall” into God’s living hands is to come under His absolute authority. David would rather be judged by God than man (2 Sam 24:14). In David’s case, God sent pestilence that caused 70 thousand Israelites to die. Falling into the hands of God here is chastisement, not eternal damnation. This is a warning to believers, not unbelievers. God takes upon Himself the responsibility for dealing with believers who distort doctrine.
II. WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND EXHORTATION
In this section the Apostle Paul gives us five points for endurance.
1. Remember Your Past (Verses 32-34a)
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
The first point of encouragement is to remember your past. Here, Paul reminds these Christians of all they had endured for the cause of Christ up to this point. They “endured a hard struggle with sufferings.” Sometimes they were exposed to public insults. Some experienced persecution. Some were put in prison and some endured the confiscation of their property. Some of these Christians showed love and courage by standing side by side with those who were treated this way. Why is the writer reminding them of what they went through in the past and how they handled it? The point is that you have endured in the past and you can continue to endure now. You showed love and compassion during those difficult times. They had a joyful response to what they experience. You did not give up when it was hard to be a Christian. You did not quit when the pressure was significant. Not only did you not give up, but you even rose to the challenge in how you handled the trials and how you helped others through the trial. We can endure when we remember how we have endured in the past.
2. You Have Something Better! Hold on and You will be Rewarded! (Verses 34b – 35)
“because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”
The second point of encouragement Paul shares is why they were so successful at that moment of trial they experienced in the past. It was because of the confidence they had; that they possessed something better; a lasting possession in heaven. He now admonishes them not to throw that this confidence away because in the end they will be richly rewarded.
3. You Need To Endure/Persevere (Verse 36)
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
The third point of encouragement is simply a call to endure. Endurance is the call of life. Nothing about walking with God is ever pictured as easy or simplistic; but the
reassurance is that at the end we will receive what God promised us. Suffering is not an excuse for not doing the will of God. We need to endure and continue to do the will of God so that we can receive our great reward.
4.Jesus Is Coming (Verse 37)
“For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”
The fourth point for endurance is knowing that Jesus is coming and He will not delay. God does not stop evil from ever happening, but He does judge it. The context of this quotation comes from Habakkuk 2. “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).
5.The Righteous Live By Faith (Verse 38)
“And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
The final point for endurance is to understand that the righteous live by faith. Endurance is persistence in this life of faith despite hardships and persecution. What other way do we show faith? What other way do we show our trust in God except when life is hard, continuing to be faithful in our righteous living to God? When you go through hardships and you remain faithful and continue to show the love of Christ in all you do, God takes pleasure in you. There is not a better thought to encourage our continued endurance.
Apostle Paul concludes his encouragement with verse 39.
“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
The destruction mentioned here is not the eternal destruction of the soul. Although it can refer to either eternal destruction in hell, the meaning in this context is “ruin.” To draw back will ruin the believer who does this in his present life. The believer cannot draw back to eternal ruin. However, the Christian can ruin their testimony of walking by faith and keeping the clarity of their message if they minimize the finished work of Christ. An apostate on the other hand leaves himself/herself no other option than the penalty of eternal death.
Parts of this study was culled from:
https://bible.org/seriespage/24-should-there-be-second-class-saints-hebrews-1026-39 https://westpalmbeachchurchofchrist.com/new-testament/hebrews/hebrews_10_26- 39.html