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Hebrews Chapters 8-10: "We Have Been Sanctified" Through the Better Sacrifice, Part 10
by Karl Kemp
2/27/2015 / Bible Studies
We will finish this verse-by-verse study of Hebrews chapters 8-10 here in Part 10, starting with Heb. 10:24.
(24) and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love [cf. Heb. 13:1] and good deeds [or "good works"; cf. Titus 3:8], (25) not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some [[It is dangerous to separate ourselves from the Body of Christ. We are God's/Christ's house (cf. Heb. 3:3-6). We need one another, for one thing. God designed the Body of Christ in a way that we need one another, including the fact that we all have our assigned contributions to make to the proper functioning of the Body. See 1 Corinthians chapter 12. All true Christians have been given the grace to make our necessary contributions to the proper functioning of the Body. And it is super-important that those who have begun to waver in faith and faithfulness to God do not separate themselves from the Body of Christ.]], but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day [["the day" of judgment. We must get ready, and always stay ready, to stand before God with a top priority, and all the more so when that day is "drawing near." It seems that we are living very near the time for the Lord Jesus to return, but even if we aren't, we must make sure we are ready for His return at all times.]] drawing near. (26) For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth [The writer is speaking of those who have received "the truth" of God's Word, especially referring to the gospel of new-covenant salvation, into their hearts and live by faith.], there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins [[There is widespread agreement that the writer of Hebrews was dealing with the sin of apostasy when he wrote this epistle, which includes denying foundational doctrines of Christianity and/or giving oneself over to serve sin. He was speaking of rebellion against the new covenant by those who had become true Christians; they had been born again and established in the things of Christ. They were not babes in Christ, but babes in Christ need to be warned too. As verse 29 shows he was speaking of those who were being seriously tempted to sin against God and the new covenant in a way that would amount to trampling under foot the Son of God, regarding as unclean the blood of the covenant by which they had been sanctified, and insulting the Holy Spirit of grace, who dwelled within them as born again Christians.
The warning that "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" if they become guilty of "sinning willfully" is quite strong; it was certainly designed to put the fear of God in the recipients of this epistle who were in danger of going off into apostasy. It should put a healthy fear of God in all Christians. We need to walk humbly before God, making Him, His truth, salvation, righteousness and holiness top priority. We all have to contend with the world, the flesh (the old man who wants to continue is sin and is not afraid of apostasy), and the devil and his hosts.
Many of the verses that follow in this chapter (10:27-31, 38b) powerfully amplify the message that his readers need to fear God and repent NOW, where repentance is required. He emphasizes the point in this epistle that born-again Christians can get to a place where "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" for them; in other words they can get to a place where there is no way back to salvation. These are awesome words, aren't they? If you turn from the new covenant established on the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, there is no other "sacrifice for sins." The NIV translates, "no sacrifice for sins is left." As I mentioned, words like these were certainly designed to put the fear of God in Christians. See Heb. 3:5-4:3; 6:4-8; 10:26-39; and 12:14-17. These passages are all discussed in my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?"
Hebrews 6:4-8 is a very important cross-reference in that it also includes an awesome warning comparable to the words "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." I'll quote HEBREWS 6:4-6 and make a few comments: "For in the case of those who have been enlightened [At a minimum, they have come to understand the basic truths of the gospel in their hearts. In Heb. 10:32 the writer uses the words "after being enlightened" of his readers having become Christians.] and have tasted of the heavenly gift [They have tasted of (which included experiencing) new-covenant salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.] and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit [[These words include the fact that they had received the Spirit of life as born-again Christians, who came, for one super-important thing, to enable them to live in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God. The words of verse 5, "tasted...the powers of the age to come," confirm that they had also entered into the charismatic dimension of the work of the Spirit (including the gifts of the Spirit [cf., e.g., 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14]).]], (5) and have tasted the good word of God [They had learned the good word of God and experienced the reality of their salvation to a significant extent; they were not babes in Christ; this made their sin all the more serious.] and the powers of the age to come [This at least includes tasting (experiencing) the charismatic dimension of the work of the Holy Spirit. We, as born-again children of God, already live (in a preliminary, but very real sense) in the age to come. We still live in this world, but we have also been caught up into the age to come (cf., e.g., John 5:24; Rom. 6:1-11; Eph. 1:14, 19-23; 2:5-7; Col. 3:1-3).], [[Many Christians deny that the writer is speaking to/of those who had become born-again Christians, but these verses, by themselves, along with the overall content of this epistle, confirm that they had become true Christians. The only reason that I know of for Christians to deny that these Christians had become true, born-again Christians is the felt need to defend the doctrine that true Christians cannot lose their salvation. As I mention in my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?," that doctrine follows quite naturally if you limit yourself to the verses in the Bible (especially in the New Testament) that emphasize God's role in our salvation (which, taken by themselves, fit the idea that we don't really have a role in our salvation; it is all God; God gives us faith; He makes sure we stay saved; etc.), but we cannot limit ourselves to those verses. We desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches, and a very large number of passages demonstrate that our sovereign God has left a very definite role for us. A very large number of passages show that we must cooperate with God's grace on a continuous basis through faith. See my "A Paper on Faith."]] (6) and then 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." The words "it is impossible to renew them to repentance" (along with the words, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins") need to be taken quite seriously; however, THE NEW TESTAMENT CONSISTENTLY CALLS CHRISTIANS IN SIN TO REPENT, EVEN AS THE WRITER OF HEBREWS CALLS HIS READERS TO REPENT WHERE REPENTANCE IS REQUIRED.
I wouldn't tell backslidden Christians that they have crossed a line where repentance is impossible. In general we should encourage backslidden Christians to repent, no matter how far they have fallen. I have heard many stories of those who have repented after what seemed to be total abandonment of God and the gospel for lengthy periods of time; however, we need to take very seriously the warning that you can get to a place where there is no way back. It happens! If people have a desire to repent, it is a sign that God hasn't abandoned them and will accept them when they repent. It is significant that the writer of Hebrews includes some encouraging words throughout this epistle, including in Heb. 6:9-12 and 10:32-36, especially 32-34 (words that are in the same context with the powerful warnings), which confirms that he doesn't consider his initial recipients of this epistle to have gotten to a place where they could not repent.
The Old Testament and the New Testament make it clear that God's people need to fear Him, which includes the need for us to be afraid to sin against Him (cf., e.g., Ex. 20:20; Deut. 6:2, 13, 24; 10:12; Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5; 2 Cor. 5:11; 7:1; and 1 Pet. 1:17); this is a necessary and healthy fear. There is a definite shortage of the fear of God among many Christians in our day. Many even tell us that we are not supposed to fear God. We had better be (or get) afraid to sin against Him! The world today doesn't have much room, if any room, for the idea of sin, and many Christians have been influenced to a significant extent by this totally wrong viewpoint.
All sin is a serious matter! (I'm speaking of things that God considers to be sin for that person; a young Christian might get by doing some things that God doesn't consider to be sin for them; I'm speaking of things that aren't clearly spelled out to be sin in the Bible.) Anything that God considers to be sin is a serious matter, but some sins are much more serious than others, depending, for one very important factor, on the willfulness, defiance, rebelliousness involved. God knows our hearts! Most sins don't fall in the category of the rebellion that the writer of Hebrews is speaking of in Heb. 10:26-39, or Heb. 6:4-8; 12:14-17. But again, all sin is a serious matter, and we are called, enabled, and required to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin. Doesn't that sound like good news! Isn't that what you want in your heart? We must aim at the target of zero sin.
I believe God will forgive any Christians who are sincerely repenting in their hearts (1 John 2:1, 2). One reason this is important is that the evil one and his hosts have convinced many Christians that they have committed a/the unpardonable sin, when they haven't. And they often accuse Christians of sinning when they haven't; if we listen to demons, it causes considerable confusion and despair. Anyway, it is very dangerous to leave any room for sin; for one thing sin hardens hearts, and dampens faith, and when you start down that path you are playing with fire. Believers can become unbelievers!
I'll quote two sentences from what Andrew Murray says under 10:26 ("The Holiest of All" [Revell reprint, originally published in 1894 (in the public domain)], page 403): "He who would know what willful sin is, with the thought that he is safe, as long as he keeps from that extreme, deceives himself. THE ONLY SURE WAY OF KEEPING FROM WILLFUL SIN IS TO KEEP FAR FROM ALL SIN [my emphasis]." We are called to have zero tolerance for sin. It is totally unacceptable to leave room for some sins because we are confident that those sins will not keep us out of heaven. God hates sin, and He paid an infinite price to keep us from all sin. If God considers something to be sin, it is SERIOUS; it is rebellion against God and His truth. He paid an infinite price to give us the victory over sin! But this does not mean that the victory is always easy, and it certainly is not automatic. We need to make living in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin, a top priority. HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR US TO KNOW AND TO DO HIS WILL!]] (27) but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES [Compare Isa. 26:11; 2 Thess. 1:7-10. We dare not become "adversaries" of God.]. (28) Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses [cf. Deut. 17:2-7; 19:15; Matt. 18:15-18; and Heb. 2:2, 3]. (29) How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God [[Those Christians who (from God's point of view) abandon new-covenant salvation are in a very real sense trampling under foot the Son of God who died for them and saved them. The writer makes his point with words designed to picture apostasy in the worst possible (but true) light, and he is going to continue with words of equal intensity as he continues with this verse.]], and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified [The fact that these Christians had been "sanctified" "by the blood of the covenant" totally confirms that they had become true, born-again Christians.], and has insulted the Spirit of grace? [To turn from new-covenant salvation obviously insults the "Spirit of grace" who is so directly involved with that salvation.] (30) For we know Him who said, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY [cf. Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19].' And again, 'THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE [cf. Deut. 32:36].' (31) It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God [cf. 2 Cor. 5:11]. [[As I mentioned, the encouraging words of the verses that follow, 32-36, especially 32-34, along with most of the words of this epistle, show that the writer of Hebrews did not believe that any (at least not many) of the recipients of this epistle had crossed the line where there was no room left to repent.]] (32) But remember the former days [Hebrews 5:12 shows that the original recipients of this epistle had been Christians for long time.], when, after being enlightened [cf. Heb. 6:6], you endured a great conflict of sufferings [Such sufferings were common in the early church, and throughout much of the history of the Christian church.], (33) partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations [cf. 1 Cor. 4:9; 1 Thess. 2:14], and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated [["Sharers" is "koinonoi" in the Greek. I'll quote a sentence from what Paul Ellingworth says regarding the meaning of "koinonoi" here in Heb. 10:33 ("Epistle to the Hebrews" [Eerdmans, 1993], page 539): "The word implies active support and solidarity as well as sympathy (4:15; 10:34); typically, visiting Christian prisoners to bring them food not supplied by the authorities [and he listed some references]." He mentions "Christian fellowship in sufferings." "Koinonoi" could also be translated "partners."]] (34) For you showed sympathy to the prisoners [cf. Heb. 13:3] and accepted joyfully [cf. Matt. 5:12] the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession [better hope (Heb. 7:15); better covenant (7:22; 8:6); better promises (8:6); better sacrifice(s) (9:23; 11:4); and better country (11:16)] and a lasting one [referring to eternal glory forever in heaven, centered in new Jerusalem (cf., e.g., Heb. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:4, 5; Rev. 21:1, 2; 22:1-5)]. (35) Therefore, do not throw away your confidence [cf. 10:19], which has a great reward [["The great reward" is the equivalent of "what was promised" in the next verse. They must not throw away their confidence (their confidence in God and His gospel of new-covenant salvation), but, as the next verse says, they must press on (persevere, endure) to the end in faith, which includes doing "the will of God," by continuing to believe the truth and live in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, by grace through faith.]]. (36) For you have need of endurance [cf. Matt. 24:13; Luke 21:19; Heb. 12:1; we must continue to run the race by faith until the end], so that when you have done the will of God [Compare Mark 3:35. See under verse 35.], you may receive what was promised. [[Compare Heb. 9:15. What "was promised" is to be glorified when the Lord Jesus returns and to inherit the fullness of eternal life, which includes reigning with Christ.]] (37) FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE [cf. Heb. 10:25; Rev. 22:20], HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. [Taken from the Greek (Septuagint) version of Hab. 2:3b. The Lord Jesus is coming to save and to judge.] (38) BUT [AND (Greek "de")] MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH [[See Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11. The "RIGHTEOUS ONE" of God is the one who becomes righteous and continues to live a righteous life by the grace of God in Christ BY FAITH. This is how the apostle Paul uses the quotation from Hab. 2:4 in Rom. 1:17 and Gal. 3:11: That is, the one who becomes righteous by faith shall live, which follows the order of the Greek words. (The Greek has the words BY FAITH before the words SHALL LIVE. I should also mention that Paul did not include the Greek pronoun translated MY by the writer of Hebrews.)
The writer of Hebrews doesn't use BY FAITH to explain how the RIGHTEOUS ONE became righteous (like Paul did), but he would agree that we become righteous by faith. He used BY FAITH to explain why the believers SHALL LIVE: We SHALL LIVE and inherit the fullness of eternal life BY (because we have) FAITH, instead of "[shrinking] back to destruction" (see the next verse) and losing our souls to the second death, eternal death (cf. Rev. 20:14, 15). (There is widespread agreement that the words "will [or, shall] live" in the context of Hab. 2:4 prophesy of living before God instead of being removed by judgment.") "Those who have faith" (see the next verse) preserve/save their souls instead of losing them to eternal death. (The apostle Paul included the idea "shall live" in Rom. 1:17 and Gal. 3:11: the ones who are righteous by faith "shall live.") True Christians already have spiritual, eternal life that starts with being born again, but we have to wait for the fullness of eternal life, when we will be glorified and born into the fullness of eternal life (cf., e.g., 1 Tim. 6:12, 19; Titus 3:5; and Rev. 12:5 [This verse, and other verses, speaks of our being born into the fullness of eternal life; see on Rev. 12:5 in my book "The Mid-Week Rapture" and my recently published e-book, "Introduction to the Mid-Week Rapture," which should be read first (both books are available at amazon.com).]).
On saving or losing your soul, cf., e.g., MATTHEW 16:24-27. I'll quote these verses and make a few comments: "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself [Christians must live for Christ (and God the Father who sent Him) from the heart; God's will must be done by Christians; when we become Christians we sign a contract, so to speak, that includes a commitment to always live in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, doing His will (by His grace through faith), not our will whenever our will isn't in agreement with His will.], and take up his cross [on which we die (by God's saving grace in Christ, by faith) to the old man and to sin (cf., e.g., Rom. 6:1-7, 11; Gal. 2:20; 5:24)] and follow Me. (25) For whoever wishes to save his life [to save his life in this world, instead of living for God; to fully appreciate this verse you must know that the Greek noun ("psuche") that is translated "life" here (and later in this verse) is the noun translated "soul" twice in verse 26.] will lose it; but whoever loses his life [his life in this world] for My sake will find it. [He will find God's eternal life; he will save his soul] (26) For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits ["and lose" (KJV); "and loses" (NKJV)] his soul? [His soul will still exist, but an existence in the second death (eternal death; the lake of fire) isn't a tolerable existence. He will have missed what man was created for in the kingdom of eternal, spiritual life.] Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (27) For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS [cf., e.g., Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Rom. 2:6; 1 Cor. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:23; and 22:12]." What we do shows what is in our hearts. Our works must demonstrate that our faith was/is real when we stand before God. We are saved by faith, not works, but a life of righteousness (works of righteousness) by grace through faith is required. (Now we'll finish Heb. 10:38.)]]; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK [which is the opposite of pressing on (enduring) in faith], MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM [This is a way of saying that God will reject him; he will not have a place in His eternal kingdom (heaven).]. (39) But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul [See under verse 38. To preserve your soul is to not lose your soul to eternal death. As I mentioned, these positive words in Heb. 10:38a and 39 show that the writer of Hebrews didn't believe that the recipients of this epistle had gotten to a place where they were beyond repenting. He warned them and exhorted them to repent throughout this epistle. As I also mentioned, I believe we should always assume that backslidden Christians can repent (unless God clearly shows us otherwise) and pray for them, share with them, exhort them, warn them, etc.]."
May the will of God be fully accomplished through this paper! May the name of God the Father, the name of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit be glorified and the people of God be edified!
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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