For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 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? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine,” says the LORD. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (NKJV)
We have written that the warnings of Hebrews are connected and cumulative and that to ignore them is to invite certain destruction. We’ve pointed out that these warnings focus on an attitude with reference to the truths of Scripture. This attitude begins with a casual attitude toward the things of God and ends with a forsaking of them altogether. But the “things of God” impinge on eternity and we ought to be interested in the fact that we’re all hurrying toward eternity as fast as we can, notwithstanding the fact that sometimes it seems like a snail’s pace.
I’m 75 years old as I write this. Now I don’t feel old until I begin to realize how long ago some things happened. And how quickly it seems I’ve gotten from there to here. And one of these days, folks will gather around at a “memorial service” and, I hope, have some good things to say. But the thing is, I won’t be there. I’ll have gone from the place where time is measured in ticks of a clock to a place where it’s measured in the passing of ages. What I’ve done here will have an effect of what happens there. And, one day, that will be true for you, as well. (If you’ve recently experienced the passing of a loved one, I’m truly sorry. I don’t mean to add to that.)
So you see, it’s important to pay attention as we travel through this life. That’s what the writer to the Hebrews wanted them, and wants us, to remember. That’s why there is so much warning in the book, like the one before us.
1. Statement of the warning, v. 26a
At least from v. 25 goes with this warning, and perhaps from v. 19. This warning tells us that there’s more to it than just “going to church.” It includes faithfulness and perseverance in “holding fast the confession of our faith.” It includes what we are and do on Monday as well as what we do on Sunday. It’s not just about which day of the week we “worship,” but rather that we “worship” every day of the week.
By “worship,” I don’t mean that we’re go to church every day, or that we have the right kind of “worship music,” with guitars and loud drums. No, no. The word “worship” comes from an older word: “worthship.” It was used as a title, “your worthship,” a title of respect and honor, whether those addressed were “worthy” of it or not. So, when we say that we “worship God,” it’s not talking about routine or ritual or raucous music. It’s talking about an attitude of respect and honor for God. And if this respect isn’t shown by the general attitude and actions of our lives every day of the week, then it doesn’t mean anything on one day of the week.
2. Seriousness of the warning, vs. 26b-31.
There are three parts to this warning.
1. the absence of a “sacrifice for sin” if the truth is rejected, v. 26.
2. the avowal of judgment on “adversaries,” vs. 27-29.
3. the assurance of God’s vengeance, vs. 30-31.
1. the absence of a “sacrifice for sin” if the truth is rejected, v. 26. This verse tells us that more than “church attendance” is involved. “The knowledge of the truth” is involved, and “willful sin,” we believe in regard to the things mentioned in vs. 26-31. The way of access to God is involved, vs. 19-21. The life we are to lead with regard to faith and obedience is involved, vs. 22, 23. Our interest in and concern for other members of “the assembly” is involved, vs. 24, 25.
Many professing Christians, to say nothing of those of the world, reject all these ideas. They say, “You’re too narrow and old-fashioned, too exclusive in what you teach about the approach to God. All roads lead to heaven. Every religion worships God in their own way.” They say, “we will decide how to live our lives. We’re under grace; no legalist can make rules for us!” They say, “We’re not supposed to judge or be judgmental. We wouldn’t dream of imposing our personal views on others.” And so, through the traditions and unbelief of men, the Word of God is made of no effect.
But if you reject God ‘s way, there is no other way! There is no sacrifice for sin, no forgiveness. To reject God’s way is still to be in our sins. If we live without God, we will die without God. Oh! Be warned! There is no other “sacrifice for sins,” but God’s sacrifice, Jesus Christ! There is no other way but God’s way – except the way that leads to hell!
2. the avowal of certain judgment on “adversaries,” vs. 27-29. Contrary to the belief of many, there is no such thing as “neutrality” in spiritual matters, Matthew 12:30. Many who believe they have merely rejected some “fundamentalist Bible-thumper” may one day discover that they have really rejected God. Call them what you will – “backslidden,” “carnal Christian,” whatever – God says that those who turn away from “the knowledge of the truth” are His adversaries and will be dealt with as such.
The thing in particular which infuriates God is the rejection of the sacrifice of His Son, which He calls “trampling” Him “underfoot. This rejection includes “insulting” the Holy Spirit, Who enabled Him to go through with the Crucifixion, Hebrews 9:14, and carefully supervised all those things leading up to the Crucifixion to insure that God’s purpose in the Crucifixion would be carried out.
Is not this a great warning to our culture? We live in a time of great “toleration,” where it seems that everything except the truth is to be accepted. In the US, there is no “established church,” for which we thank God and our forefathers, but this has meant that a tremendous variety of religious viewpoints has developed. Because we have no such religious “central authority” to tell us what to believe, this is taken to mean that we can believe what we like, or not believe anything at all.
With reference to salvation, some have rejected “the blood” altogether, and so come under condemnation, but what about those who might teach “salvation through blood,” but also believe that you can lose that salvation? Some of these are always talking about “the Spirit,” the “gifts of the Spirit,” “the ministry of the Spirit,” being “filled with the Spirit.” Is it possible that they actually “insult” the Spirit because they deny the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the Spirit’s work to save believers?
And what of those who teach that Jesus died for all men without exception, and that men can resist the utmost efforts of the Spirit to bring them to salvation? Isn’t this also “trampling under foot the Son of God,” and insulting the Spirit of grace?
You see, “the knowledge of the truth” is more involved than we might at first think. Most of those who hold the above views believe that they do so with the warrant of Scripture. But the question isn’t, “can we point to one or two ‘proof-texts’, but rather “do we know the truth”?
3. the assurance of God’s vengeance, vs. 30-32. The reason all this is important is that there is a day of judgment coming. All roads do not lead to heaven. I’m afraid the God of Scripture is as unknown today as He was to the Athenians when Paul preached to them, Acts 17:23. These verses in Hebrews are solemn indeed for a generation of church people who apparently are almost totally ignorant of or in opposition to the God of heaven.