For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
God gave the early church a serious warning here, a warning all who would profess to follow Christ would do well to heed today. It is a warning often overlooked by many in the religious world, especially those of the Calvinist persuasion. After all, if the Hebrew writer’s cautioning words to his fellow Christians that “if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment” is true – and it is because all of God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) – then the concept of “once saved, always saved,” also known as Calvin’s Perseverance of the Saints, the notion that a saved Christian could sin unrepentantly and not be in danger of losing his salvation, is proven false.
Therefore, all declared disciples of Jesus today would do well to pay heed to what God is saying in Hebrews now, just as the early church also needed to harken to it. The warning as described in verses 26-27 is basically this: Christians who have come to know the truth of God’s Word and yet decide to willfully, purposefully, habitually, and unrepentantly sin anyway can expect to be treated by God as if Jesus had never gone to the cross on their behalf (“there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”) Thus, they can expect Judgment Day to be a fearful day instead of a great day, a day in which they will hear “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-27) as they are then ushered into the fires of hell (“a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”) The notion that Jesus’ sacrifice would not benefit me at all is a fearful one, and thus a powerful motivator for me to strive to follow my Lord with a penitent heart.
The Hebrew author then expounds on this theme by citing Old Testament precedent as a comparison: “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged 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 fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (vs. 28-31).
There’s a popular notion that the God of the Old Testament is the vengeful, punishing God, while the God of the New Testament is the God of love and grace. This view ignores not only the fact that the Old Testament cites God’s love and mercy repeatedly (i.e., the Psalms, Jonah 4, etc.), but also that the New Testament frequently refers to the wrath and vengeance of God (cf. Acts 5:1-11; Romans 2:4-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11; et al). God is both love and wrath, mercy and vengeance, forbearance and justice. Our study of Hebrews has already shown numerous examples of his love and mercy for all of mankind. Here, the New Testament Hebrew writer cites Old Testament passages like Deuteronomy 17:2-6, Deuteronomy 32:35-36, and Psalm 135:14 to remind us that one does not want to slap away the hand God extends to them out of his love and grace.
Yet that is precisely what we do when we “go on sinning deliberately.” We “spurn the Son of God” (v. 29a), which in the literal Greek means that we pretty much kick and stomp all over Jesus. We also “profane the blood of the covenant by which (we were) sanctified” (v. 29b), meaning that we look at the agony Jesus went through on that cross and say, “Eh, it’s not as important as what I want to do here.” We also “outrage (literally, insult) the Spirit of grace” (v. 29c), which is not a good thing to do if we want the grace of God to save us.
Thus, having a humble, penitent heart which motivates us to continually and faithfully obey God is a necessity, friends. Contact me in the comments to learn more.