Don’t Cast it Off!

Posted: July 27, 2009 in Hebrews

Hebrews 10:26-39, “Don’t Cast it Off!”

Introduction:
The 1st time many people read the end of Hebrews 10, they end up quaking in their boots! All the time, people read it with terror & start wondering if they’ve reached the “point of no return” in their walk with Christ & spend many sleepless nights in worry. There’s a big problem in all of this: that reaction is exactly the opposite of what this passage is meant to teach. There is indeed a major warning here (and having some healthy fear about it is good!) – but moreover, there is much assurance! The writer is not wagging his finger at the 1st Century Jewish Christians & accusing them of having already denied Christ & fallen into complete apostasy. Instead, he’s warning them of some very real danger for some among them, but rejoicing over the very real faith that they’ve already demonstrated.

3 major sections here: The warning (vs. 26-31) – The assurance (vs. 32-34) – The exhortation (vs. 35-39).

Hebrews 10:26-39 (NKJV)
– The warning…
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

A. This is a pretty fierce warning! There are some pretty severe consequences being listed out here – thus it’s important to look at this statement very carefully. It’d be easy to take it out of context & be left with something pretty awful (and very incorrect)… As with any passage (especially the difficult ones!), we want to be diligent in our Bible interpretation. After all, we want to be an approved student, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). It’d be easy to take a verse out of context & make up a powerful teaching surrounding it – but we would be rightly dividing the word… So let’s walk through our Bible study method: Observation – Interpretation – Application…
__a. Always (ALWAYS) in context! Verse, paragraph, chapter, book, testament…
__b. Why take the time to walk through this together? Because YOU need to know how do to this; not just hear it from a pastor up front… (Bereans – Acts 17)

B. Observation: This is a conditional statement (if – then). The result (the “then”) is pretty straightforward: (1) there’s a loss of sin sacrifice, (2) there’s an expectation of judgment. Considering everything the author of Hebrews has been looking at in regards to the sin sacrifice in Jesus & the satisfaction of God’s righteous wrath (thus fulfilling His judgment), it’s easy to understand what the author is referring to from context… What all the results hinge upon is the actual condition:
__a. What? “if we sin willfully” (action)
__b. When? “after we have received the knowledge of the truth” (1st action is based upon this previous action)
__c. What does that all mean? Move to interpretation…

C. Interpretation: 1st let’s look at the meaning behind our “what” & “when”:
__a. What? “if we sin willfully”: What makes this interesting is that the Greek makes it plain this is present, ongoing action. Obviously the person’s will is involved (indicating a conscious, purposeful act) & that purposeful act is to go on engaging in sin. IOW, this is a reference to someone who’s deliberately engaged in wanton sin.
__b. When? “after we have received the knowledge of the truth”: “received” = “to grasp/seize/take” What is it we are to have taken hold of? “the knowledge of the truth.” “knowledge” is that precise & correct knowledge we’ve seen before. Not a vague idea; but something specific & correct. “truth” is simply “truth.” That makes “truth” fairly important here. This what has to be rejected before the sacrifice for sin is lost.
____i. Do you see how we’re narrowing it down? We have a difficult passage, so we’re looking for the crucial parts to help us in our interpretation, in order to avoid jumping to conclusions. 1st we saw the whole sentence – we took it down to the conditional phrase – defined the terms – and now see it hinging on what this “truth” refers to.
__c. So what does “truth” mean here? This is the only time the word is used in the whole epistle, so we need to look at our overall context…and to do so, we’ve got to go back to the very beginning of the book, where the author laid out his entire theme for the letter. [BIBLE: Hebrews 1:1-4] That’s the truth that the author has been stating throughout the book thus far! God did speak through the ancient angels, prophets, and priests, but now God has spoken to us through His Son, Who is indeed God Himself, and provided the perfect all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins, offering us true forgiveness & life.

D. Application: So put it together… If someone had a precise & correct understanding of Jesus being the Son of God who died for our sins & offered us new life – If that person received that truth at one time, but then ignored that truth to go on sinning willfully & spitefully in the sight of God. Then that person would no longer have a sacrifice for their sins. They would have rejected outright the message of the gospel, but yet they have no other options for salvation. Thus they are left with a fearful expectation of the righteous judgment of God to come.
__a. Does this mean this can happen to someone who is truly born again? Great question. There are some who truly seemed to be saved prior to rejecting Christ & then never turned back to Him again (Charles Templeton). Were they truly saved to begin with? Doubtful; but only God knows. Others seemed to be saved, walked in a period of flagrant disobedience & then truly repented and are walking with Jesus to this day. Had they ultimately & finally rejected Jesus as Savior? Obviously not. In the end – I’m not sure we’re supposed to be able to put this warning in such a nice little box. When we do, we end up taking the ‘teeth’ out of it (we get self-confident & trust in our own abilities rather than the grace of God). It was given as a warning not to reject Christ, so let’s leave it at that & take it to heart: don’t reject Jesus Christ!
__b. Also – what is it NOT saying? It’s NOT saying that the 1st moment we commit a sin after receiving Christ that we lose our salvation. … It’s NOT saying that Christians can bounce in & out of their salvation depending on their works (that’s actually the opposite of what’s being said here). Question: can we be sure? Because the NT says the opposite so very clearly! This is where context in the whole of the NT comes into play. Paul mourns over his ongoing sin in Romans 7 & then thanks God there is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus in Romans 8. John declares that if a Christian says he has no sin, he’s a liar – but then affirms that if we confess our sins, God is faithful & just to forgive us our sins & cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). And the list could go on. There’s no other option for the author here other than referring to continual, ongoing, apostasizing sin where the person actively rejects Jesus as Lord & Savior.
____i. Interpret difficult passages in light of plainer ones!
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28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

A. As seen in the OT law’s dealing with apostasy (Deut 17:2-7)… This is what the mock trial with Jesus had a hard time with – they couldn’t get 2 witnesses to agree (Mark 14:56)…
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29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

A. Sobering question. If breaking the covenant of Moses meant dying without mercy, then what would it mean to treat the Son of God as garbage? How much worse?! Those who apostasize from Christ commit a far greater offense. They:
__a. “trampled the Son of God underfoot”: The greatest gift ever given to mankind, they have treated with utter disgust and disdain. The One Whom God exalted to the highest place & gave the name above every name (Phil 2:9), the apostate treats as the lowest of the low – and ultimately claims to be that much better than Christ Jesus.
__b. “counted the blood of the covenant…a common thing”: This is the blood by which we are sanctified! We have NO covenant with God outside the covenant of Jesus’ blood. As Gentiles, that’s obvious. As a 1st century Jew, this would have been pretty eye-opening. He had a covenant with God through Abraham & Moses, but neither promised salvation & being made holy in the sight of God. That only comes through Messiah Jesus. To commit apostasy away from Christ & go back to temple sacrifice was to call the blood of the Son of God worthless.
__c. “insulted the Spirit of grace”: Two of the primary reasons God sent the Holy Spirit after the Resurrection of Jesus was to testify of the Son (John 15:26) – to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). To deny the Holy Spirit’s testimony (esp. to walk away from it!) is to insult the Holy Spirit of grace.
____i. It’s possible this is part of Jesus meant when He referred to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. [Jesus had just cast out a demon; Pharisees blamed it on Satan] Matthew 12:31-32 (31) “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. (32) Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. [] It’s one thing to have been confused about Jesus’ identity & miracles; it’s another thing to be convinced of His Deity through the witness of the Holy Spirit & to deliberately cast it aside.

B. The point? There is no more serious offence against Almighty God. To reject His marvelous (undeserved) offer of grace – especially after hearing it – is to spit in the face of God & tell Him, “I know You sacrificed Your only begotten Son for me, but I don’t care. Let Him die.” … All vengeance God would pour out at that point would be utterly deserved!
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30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

A. This is a side of the Lord we don’t often want to consider. Is God loving? Yes. Is God merciful? Yes. Does God desire that all men repent & that He can bring them salvation? Absolutely! But, God is GOD. He is just – mighty – all-powerful – jealous for righteousness – and there is none more powerful that ought to be feared…

B. Ought we fear the Lord? Yes! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Pro 1:7); the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Pro 9:10)… There’s no wiser thing than for us to be reconciled to God. We are His creation – we were born of His will – we breathe His air – we were made to give Him glory; but instead we lived in rebellion & sin against Him. We were His enemies & were servants of His enemy, the Devil. You bet we ought to fear the Lord! Our present lives & eternities rest in His hand…

C. What about those who belong to Jesus? Ought we still fear the Lord? Yes! But our fear is based in reverent awe of Who God is & what He’s done for us… … Hence the warning to keep the faith & keep walking with Christ Jesus. See vs. 32…
.

– The assurance…
32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.

A. What assurance! The writer of Hebrews was convinced that his readers had NOT fallen away from the faith…he was sure that they were believers walking with Christ. At some point they had been “illuminated” – enlightened (i.e. they received the light of Christ & were born again). Even though they had their doubts, they had proven their faith through their persecution for the Lord Jesus & their care for others…
__a. Brings up the question: are doubts sinful? [] Scripture never indicates that doubting is helpful, but neither does it condemn it as directly sinful either. The problem we have with doubt is when we are content to dwell in it. Instead of going to Scripture & finding the answer to our doubt – instead of trusting the word of God & His promises, we’ll just dwell in doubt & allow it to infect our entire walk with Christ. That’s not what Jesus would have us do! He would have us walk in abundant life with Him!

B. Note that the abundant life isn’t always an easy-going prosperous life. The Hebrew Christians had their assurance of faith proven through their persecution. What had they endured?
__a. “a great struggle with sufferings”: We’re not talking about 1 or 2 bad days here; they had an ongoing struggle. Like an ongoing wrestling match, the 1st Century Jewish Christians knew what it was like to struggle everyday among their own people who viewed them as heretics & cultists. And they suffered for it.
__b. They had been “made a spectacle”: Gk θεατρίζω (~ “theater”) They were drug out into the open & scorned. KJV “gazingstock” is very descriptive!
__c. They shared in the sufferings of others when they had “compassion” on them. Even if only some of them within the church had been jailed and/or ridiculed, the rest of the congregation publicly associated themselves with them (taking them food in jail, etc.) & opened themselves up to persecution.
__d. They “joyfully accepted…plundering”: Even their possessions were stripped from them; for no other reason than they were believers in Jesus Christ.

C. The point? Apostates wouldn’t do this sort of thing! They wouldn’t put up with it – what would be the point? Why sacrifice your health, livelihood & families for something you don’t believe? But these Jewish Christians obviously DID believe, because they were willing to endure. Their persecution showed that they did indeed belong to Christ. John 15:19-20 (19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (20) Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. []
__a. ‘What if I’m not being persecuted?’ If you belong to Christ Jesus, you ARE hated by much of the world; you just don’t know it. The United States is the exception to the rule in most of the world, where believers are persecuted daily for their faith. Even though we may not directly experience it here (yet), we can still stand with those & support those who do.
.

– The exhortation…
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

A. Therefore? Keep the faith! Don’t throw it away! There’s nothing more valuable… Like the pearl of great price, it’s worth more than the value of everything we have. No matter what is being offered that may seem “more attractive” than walking with Christ (and a LOT is offered that way!), nothing is worth it. What profit is it to even gain the entire world, yet lose our soul? (Mark 8:36) Nothing compares to salvation in Christ Jesus!

B. What’s needed to keep the faith? Endurance…to stand fast/persevere in the face of opposition. Will there be doubts along the way? Sure…that’s why faith is so necessary (as we’ll see in Ch 11). We must be willing to endure in that faith. Specifically here, they needed endurance to do the will of God. What’s the will of God? It could be to walk in the midst of persecution (per vs.32-34 ). But considering the “promise” & “reward” mentioned here, it seems more likely we’re looking at the much broader context of the warning: not casting away the faith & turning to apostasy. Thus the will of God would be to persevere & keep walking with Christ! To believe that Jesus really is the Son of God who died for our sins, shed His own blood for our sacrifice, rose again in victory & lives today at the right hand of God.

C. To those who do that will (believe on Jesus & are saved), they receive the promise. What’s the promise? See vs. 37-38…
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37 “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

A. LXX version of Habakkuk 2:3-4. Originally, the Lord was speaking to the prophet about a prophecy concerning the Chaldeans (Babylonians) who were going to come & take Judah into captivity because of their sin against God. Here, the writer of Hebrews changes the thing that’s “coming” (Hab = the prophecy) to God – a reference to Jesus’ coming for His Church.

B. The point? If we endure & abide in Christ, we can be assured that Jesus will be faithful to His word. He won’t tarry; He’ll come back again for us. This is a direct promise He gave the disciples! John 14:1-3 (1) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. []

C. In the meantime, we need to walk by faith…
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39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

A. The conclusion? Those who continue in Christ have not been the ones who apostasized away from Him… We can be sure of our salvation!

Conclusion:
Three things today:
A. The warning: Don’t be one of those who cast Jesus aside! Outside of Christ, there is NO hope for salvation, and the alternative to eternal life with God the Father through God the Son is unthinkable. God is just & righteous & He will by no means spare those who have rejected His grace.
B. The assurance: Praise God that those reading were not of the apostasy! They had shared in the sufferings of Christ & comforted those who were afflicted. Their faith had fruit; it had been seen in action.
C. The exhortation: Don’t cast your faith aside! Walk in faith with Christ trusting His grace & in His return…

If you’ve doubted your salvation – if you’ve even doubted the gospel – the Scripture here does not condemn you. But it does exhort you to keep walking with Jesus. [Billy Graham’s crisis of faith in 1949. Accepted God’s Word “by faith!”] If you prayed a “sinner’s prayer” at one point, but from then on have been walking in rejection of Christ Jesus – the fact that you’re still breathing means God has given you one more opportunity to repent. Don’t waste it. If you reject His offer of forgiveness, all you’ve done is proven there’s no further sacrifice for sin. If you receive it, you’ve shown you hadn’t finally rejected Christ in the 1st place.

To the rest of us: keep walking with Jesus! Take the warning for what it is: a sober look at what it would mean to reject Christ – and then let it further your resolve to walk in faith. Not trusting upon our own works or abilities, but simply throwing ourselves upon the grace & mercy of our Lord & Savior.

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