For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
(New American Standard Version, 1995)
What do you think it mean to “trample underfoot the Son of God”? What do you think it means to “regard as unclean the blood of the covenant”? What do you think it means to “insult the Spirit of grace”?
The Hebrew writer tell us that if we “go on sinning willfully,” as translated in the New American Standard Version, we are in danger of doing these things. The New International Version puts it this way “If we deliberately keep on sinning…” The Greek word for “sinning,” as used in this passage is: ἁμαρτανόντων (hamartanontōn)—the present active participle genitive plural masculine form of the verb ἁμαρτάνω (hamartanō) to sin, to err, or to miss the mark. Both the NASV and the NIV capture the persistent, ongoing, unrepentant nuance of word. The writer is speaking with reference to the continual practice of sin—as a way of life. The Apostle John addressed this same issue when he said, “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (I John 3:7-8).
The Hebrew writer, then, is warning us against adopting a casual attitude toward sin and ungodliness in which people sometimes use the grace of God as their excuse, or justification, for continuing in willful sin. Jude also warned us against “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (verse 4). Such people use God’s grace as a license to sin; saying to themselves, and sometimes even to others, “oh well, God’s grace has me covered so I don’t need to repent of my sin,” and they continue to persist in a sinful walk of life. What an insult to the Spirit of grace!
The writer of the book of Hebrews associates this kind of arrogant and nonchalant attitude toward sin with those who, back in Old Testament days “died without mercy” because they “set aside the Law of Moses.” We know he’s talking about Christians here—people who once were saved—because he says this kind of person has “profaned” or has “regarded as unclean [common, unnoteworthy, unfit, dishonorable] the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified” or “made holy” (verse 29). So here are people who, having once been sanctified, made holy, by the blood of Christ, now have allow their hearts to become so hardened by sin that they no longer give much thought to the incredible sacrifice Jesus made for them and, in fact, even use it as justification to continue with their sinful lifestyle. But according to the Hebrew writer, it’s not grace that they can expect to receive because for them, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (verses 26-27).
When I consider these dire warnings, my heart aches for people I know and love who had once accepted God’s sacrificial gift of love, who once called themselves Christians, and who once were even engaged in advancing the cause of Christ; but who have now, sadly, decided that they prefer a more worldly lifestyle. If they fellowship with the body of Christ at all, it is only out of some sense of duty or obligation to satisfy the expectations of others. Some give up the charade all together and openly admit that they no longer want or need Jesus. The Apostle Peter says of them: “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’” (2 Peter 2:21-22). And from the book of Revelation comes this warning: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4-5).
The good news is that God gives people opportunity to repent if they just will, as the passage from the Revelation specifically states. In fact, the Apostle Peter also says, the Lord “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Of course, the Hebrew writer has already told us in a previous chapter that for some who have “fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Hebrews 6:6). But it is not God’s will that anyone allows their heart to be hardened to such an extent. Rather, He wants me, you, and everyone to repent, if they will, so that we can all be saved.
I need to remember that this world is still, and always will be, a battlefield. There are those wonderful days, a few anyway, when I feel like I’ve been able to stand tall and be the valiant warrior. I love those days when manage, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to “not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). But then there are those days, or moments within the day, when I am knocked down hard by one of those “flaming missiles of the evil one” that the Apostle Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:16. There are days when I come away from the battlefield feeling wounded, broken, bloody, with a tattered heart and my faith seemingly in shreds—the days in which I am all too aware that I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 6:23).
But God will not punish me for my wounds, or for my mistakes, or for my weaknesses and sins. God wants me to stand in there and “fight the good fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12). He wants to see me become mighty and prevail. It brings Him glory and honor when I do so. But do you know what else brings Him glory and honor? When I go down hard, but come back up fighting. When I crumble under temptation, but refuse just lay there and grovel in it and be overcome by it. When I sin and fall short of His glory, but then run to Him in repentance, confessing my sin and shortcomings, and asking for forgiveness while refusing to give up, refusing to ever quit. And so, I know that these dire warnings that I read about here in Hebrews Chapter 10 are not written about me.
These warnings are written for those who are being tempted to give up, those who just might throw in the towel and abandon the battlefield, those who are ready to give in and go on over to the enemy’s side. And those who do so repudiate all that God has done for them through the gift of His Son; thus they “trample underfoot the Son of God.” Those who do so are making the claim, by their actions if not by their words, that they no longer want or need the blood of Jesus Christ to wash them or cleanse them of sin and unrighteousness; thus they “regard as unclean the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified.” Furthermore, those who do so “insult the Spirit of grace” because, even though God has been gracious toward them, even though He has made ample provision to forgive them of all their sin, even though He remains willing to take them back like the loving father who longed for his prodigal son, unlike the prodigal son, they have no plans of ever returning to their Heavenly Father. They refuse to repent. They’ve given up the fight. They simply don’t care anymore. So they thumb their nose at God, and godly people, and act like they don’t even know Him.
Some may do it because they prefer to be well thought of and well-spoken of by others and this whole “Jesus thing,” well, it just doesn’t lend itself to winning anybody’s popularity contest in today’s world. They much prefer to fit in and be thought of a chic, cool, and with it. They seek to avoid being persecuted, castigated, cancelled, ghosted, or relegated to some sort of second-class citizenship in the eyes of others. Some do it because they choose money, possessions, and all the material blessings of this world and living “sacrificially,” like Jesus did, just doesn’t tend to produce the carnal prosperity they’re looking for. Some do it because they’ve fallen prey to drugs, alcohol, pornography, and other addictions that now control their lives and, unless and until their continuing to seek Him. And then, sadly, some are just so beaten up by their own failure, they’ve lumbered for so long under the heavy burden of their own unworthiness and guilt over things they’ve done, or didn’t do, and the shame that other people have relentlessly heaped upon them, that they finally reach a breaking point where they say to themselves, “I’m, I’m no good, I’m unworthy, and I just can’t do this anymore!” And Satan rejoices because it is at that moment, that he wins!
Be, beloved, we can’t let Satan win. He’s already lost the war. He’s been defeated at the cross and is bound for that “eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). He knows he can’t win the war, but he thinks he might just be able to win the battle for your heart and mine and take us with him. We must find our courage in God’s love, in God’s promises, in all that God has accomplished for you through the cross and what Jesus had done for you there. We must find our strength in the power of the Holy Spirit who is at work in our hearts and lives. We must never give up! We must simply refuse to ever give up! We must not quit! Never quit! No matter how many times we may fall, no matter how egregious our sin, no matter how unspeakable our failure, we must never give up our faith in Christ and in what He has accomplished for us. And by all means, especially in light of the Hebrew writer’s warnings, we must resolve never turn our back on Jesus simply to placate this crazy world of wickedness, or to escape the stigma and unpopularity of being known by others as a Christian, or to temporarily avoid the daily stresses and strains of the spiritual battle to which we’ve been called.
Lord God, my Heavenly Father, I come before You now confessing my unworthiness to even speak and be heard by You. Yet, I know in my heart that You do hear me because You love me. And so I dare, once again, to invoke this precious gift of prayer in the name of my Lord Jesus, Your only begotten Son, my High Priest, My Advocate, My Mediator, imploring Your mercy and forgiveness and lifting my heart up to You in praise and adoration. I thank You, Lord God, that You do not wish for me, or for anybody, to perish. You want me saved. You want me with You in eternity. You are patient and longsuffering with me. You have given me, and continue to give me, opportunity after opportunity to repent of my sin: my sins of commission—the evil things I do that I know are wrong—and my sins of omission—the good things that I should and could do, but that I neglect or refuse to do—and even the sin that I commit in ignorance, as I thoughtlessly stumble along unaware of the many ways in which I fall short of Your glory. And, Lord, I do repent. Like the prodigal son who returned to his father, I return to You, Oh God, day after day after day. And I have no intention of continuing in my ignorance or in willful sin. I seek wisdom and understanding, asking that You enlighten the eyes of my heart so that I know how to live in a manner that pleases You. I seek courage and strength, through Your Holy Spirit, to resist temptation, to turn away from evil, to speak the truth in love, and to bring You glory by the decisions I make and the way I choose to live each day. Thank You, Oh Lord, for calling me to repentance and for giving me opportunity to repent and draw close to You. And now, may You find pleasure in my desire to continually pursue the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.
Copyright © 2023 Philip R. Stroud
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