Hebrews 10:26-31, Truth or Consequences

[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.  [28]Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  [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?  [30]For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine,” 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.  (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.

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Hebrews 10:15-26, Life, Liberty and Pursuit

[15]But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,
[16]This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”   [17]Then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  [18]Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
[19]Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20]by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,  [21]and having a High Priest over the house of God [22]let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23]Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  [24]And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (NKJV)

In our last posts, we have seen that the First Covenant was a two-fold preparation for the New Covenant.

1. with reference to the people – to show them that sinful men and women cannot come into the presence of a holy God on the basis of their own merit or works.  The OT sacrifices were designed to teach the truth of salvation by substitution and sacrifice.  The animal substitute took the place of the Israelite sinner.  The animal was physically perfect, the Israelite spiritually blemished and imperfect.  The animal died, the Israelite lived.

2. with reference to God – the OT period was a time in which God prepared the effectual sacrifice to which all the OT sacrifices pointed – the physical body of the Lord Jesus.  His is the only sacrifice which could – and did – take away sins.
As we look at the text for this post, we see three things:

1.  the liberty we have to approach God, vs. 15-21.
2.  the life we are to lead before God, vs. 22-25.
3.  the lesson we must pay attention to about God, v. 26.

1. Liberty, 10:15-21.

Since we’ve already dealt with these at length, we’ll only mention a couple of things.
God’s covenant, vs. 15-18.  This is God’s promise to do a work in His people, v. 16, as well as for them, vs. 17, 18.
Jesus’ person and work, v. 19-21.  This with particular reference to His sacrifice for sin, vs. 19, 20, and His priesthood “over the house of God,” v. 21.  Only by the grace of God and never by human initiative, merit or effort do we ever have an audience with or blessing from God, vs. 19, 20.

2. Life, 10:22-25.

Let us draw near,” v. 22.  Let us use and enjoy that inestimable privilege of coming into God’s presence, a privilege not given to any other people under heaven.  There are, however, certain requirements which come with the exercise of this privilege:
1. “a true heart” – a heart in which God has worked, v. 16.  A heart God has cleansed.  A heart in which God’s word is preeminent.  A heart (and mind) in which God has written His word, according to the promises of the New Covenant.  A heart not taken with the things of this world, but living with eternity in view.
It’s often charged that the view espoused by this blog and those who agree with it, that we are guilty of “antinomianism,” that is, we teach that one can live like they want to, without regard for what God says.  Unfortunately, there are those who live like that as a result of what they call “salvation by grace.”  However, this isn’t what is meant at all.  As we’ve mentioned before, the OT Law was an external code, though it did deal with such things as envy and covetousness, and our relationships with others.  And if you want to include the entire code as expressed in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and not just a few verses in Exodus – may I just say that there is a great deal more “justice” – how we’re to deal with and treat others – in those pages that in most of what passes for it today in our legal system.  But that’s probably another series of posts.
The New Covenant deals with what we are.  The Old Covenant dealt mostly with what Israel did. As we’ve seen, the Old Covenant had no provision of “assistance” in obeying it, Deuteronomy 29:4.  The New Covenant says that believers are God’s workmanship, Ephesians 2:10, and we are given the Holy Spirit to make sure there’s some evidence of that.
2. “full assurance of faith.”  This is not the same thing as “assurance of salvation,” the current way of putting things.  The Puritans understood this, as well, that if a person has faith, he is saved.  They were concerned with the “assurance of faith.”  Faith is the means of salvation.  Too often, we think of “being saved” as something else.
For example, a couple from a local church visited us.  The lady in particular was interested in witnessing to us.  My side of the conversation echoed what I post on this blog, that the focus of our being saved isn’t about what we do, but about what the Lord Jesus did for sinners on the Cross.  I appreciate her concern and her effort, but I might as well have been talking to the chair she sat on.  Before they left, she was very concerned about whether or not I had “prayed the prayer.”  Her entire focus was on what I had done, not on the Lord Jesus.  But I suppose that’s to be expected in a culture in which it’s believed that “God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

According to the writer, what exactly is “full assurance of faith”?  He lists a couple of things:
1.  our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.  During various OT rituals, “the water of purification” was sprinkled over people and things.  This cleansed them ceremonially, but really did nothing about their sins or their sinfulness.  But the OT also prophesies of a time when God will cleanse Israel of her filthiness and her idols and put a new heart and spirit within her, Ezekiel 36:25, 26.  This will be as a result of the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.  Believers enter into this by grace, knowing that our sins were once and forever taken care of on the Cross, and that we ourselves have been “born again.”
2.  our bodies washed with pure water.  In other words, obedience in baptism.  And apparently more is required than just a drop or two of water on an unknowing infant’s forehead: bodies washed with pure water.  The Lord commanded believer’s baptism in Matthew 28:18-20.  The apostles and disciples baptized only believers.  Even in “household” baptisms, it’s evident that the word was first preached and then those who believed were baptized.  There’s a lot of assumption that in some of these households, there must have been infants – and the assumption is that these were baptized along with the rest of the household.  I’ve dealt with all this before in my series on infant baptism – if you’re interested, you can go there:  https://nightlightblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/infant-baptism-a-study-in-three-parts-the-great-commission-and-apostolic-practice/ (This will take you to the first of the three studies.)
We grant that historically, and even in many places today, to be baptized was and is an invitation to persecution and even death.  But our Lord has something to say about those who don’t love their life even to the extent of being willing to die, Mark 8:35; Revelation 12:11.  Hebrews was written to a people for whom the ordinance of baptism was a clear break with everything in their past.
Baptism was never meant simply to be the subject of debate.  It was meant to be the first step of obedience in a believer’s life.  It was the first step in a changed life.

Let us hold fast“, v. 23.  Wait a minute!  Doesn’t this verse contradict v. 22?  How can we have “full assurance” if we have to “hold fast”?  After all, aren’t we just supposed to “let go and let God”?
Not at all.  That heart and life in which God has worked, v. 16, will hold onto God, cf. John 6:66-68.  See also 1 Timothy 6:12.  V. 23 draws our attention to the faithfulness of God.  Our “assurance” is not that we’ll be saved if we’re “faithful to the end.”  Our assurance, based on vs. 16-18, is that if God has worked in our hearts and lives to bring us to Jesus Christ and has made His word real and precious to us – our assurance in such a case is that we will be saved because God is faithful.  We couldn’t keep ourselves saved for five minutes!  Hold fast our profession of faith in God, not in ourselves!

Let us consider one another“, vs. 24.  The problem with having to “hold on faithful to the end” is that we’re always thinking about ourselves.  Have we been “good enough”?  Have we “done” enough?  But this verse shows us that we’re not to be “self-centered,” but “saint-centered”.
Vs. 24, 25 give a good description of Christian love.  It’s not a “hands-off, pat-you-on-the back” regardless of how you live or what you believe.  True love cares enough to confront those things which are not in line with Scripture.  In the culture in which we live, this has become vitally important.  Today it’s all about “inter-faith” dialogue and cooperation.  This is simply the fruition of the “ecumenical movement” begun decades ago.  Paul addressed this situation in a church which prided itself on its “tolerance:” Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship [interests-in-common] has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.  How can those who say they believe in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus “cooperate” with those which deny Him or teach that the Cross is a “monstrous falsehood”?

3. Pursuit, v. 26.

 Without wishing to lapse into the heresy that salvation can be lost, let us at the same time strongly emphasize the Biblical teaching that grave responsibilities are entered into by those who profess the name of the Lord Jesus.  We are dealing with eternal issues in Christianity, issues which will save or damn men’s souls.  It is never just a matter of opinion: “That’s what you believe,” or “It doesn’t matter what you believe.”  Nor is it simply a matter of opportunity:  “Well, yes, I believe in Jesus, but there are too many other things I have to take care of.”  Christianity is a matter of “orthodoxy,” which is not what the church or scholars or theologians say it is, but what God says it is.  It’s not about this or that “church” or this or that denomination.

And “orthodoxy” contains serious warnings.  There is one in v. 26.

Verse 26 follows v. 25 and shows that “forsaking the assembly” isn’t about an occasional absence from church.  It refers to a habitual and deliberate turning away from the church.  However, this is more than just about church “attendance.”  The warnings in Hebrews are connected and cumulative.  The first warning deals with “drifting” with regard to the Word of God.  Hebrews warns against a casual and complacent attitude toward the truths of Scripture, something which even “churches” are capable of, and guilty of.  Too many are concerned more with personalities or programs than they are with the proclamation of the truths of God Word.  The danger of such “drifting” is that it leads to damnation, as we see here.  We’re not talking about the loss of salvation.  The person or church which develops a “take-it-or-leave-it ” attitude with reference to the teachings of God’s Word gives evidence that they were never His to begin with.

Hebrews 2:1-4, …Listen Up!

[1]Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest we drift away.  [2]For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, [3]how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, [4]God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (NKJV)

In chapter 1, the writer began by asserting that God has spoken, first by prophets and then by His own Son.  This post begins by linking 1:1 with 2:1, “God has spoken,…listen up!”

In this country, we live in a time of unprecedented rebellion against Christianity.  The unbeliever says that Christianity is foolish, not worthy of serious pursuit, and is a waste of time or worse.  It is for losers, for the ignorant and uninformed.  Indeed, it is even being labeled as “hate,”  and as such is to be rejected.  Even our President, in connection with the recent sociological flurry, has said that people need to “adjust their religious views” to take into account, and to agree with, the tremendous changes that have taken place recently, thanks to the Supreme Court.

Though perhaps to a lesser degree, even Christians are guilty of some of this.  Leaving aside those who more or less might agree with the above paragraph,  a great many believe that Christianity is simply to belong to a certain denomination, or maybe to disregard any “denomination” at all.  It is to be baptized, either as an adult or an infant, or to take communion.  It is to speak with tongues or to have some other type of “spiritual experience.”  It is, as one lady said, “a warm feeling in my heart.”  It is a particular dogma or set of beliefs.  It is to walk an aisle and/or pray a prayer.  It is to do our best – live by the Ten Commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule.

In answer to all these, some of which do have their place, we say that Christianity is what God says it is, not man.  It is not, and never has been, about what society thinks. Indeed, it is more likely to contradict what society says.  God say that Christianity is life, found in a Person, the Lord Jesus, and revealed in particular in the New Testament.

As we come to our text, we see two thoughts.  In this post, we’ll look at the first one.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.
2.  A Three-fold Witness to the Word, 2:2-4.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.

a.  We are to heed the Word, to give more earnest heed to it.

This means to pay attention.  Perhaps James can help us here when he says that we are to be doers of the Word, James 1:22.  The Word isn’t given to us simply as information or so that we can argue about its interpretation.  While it does tell us things we need to know, it also tells us things we need to do.  And, in Hebrews, this “attention” is to be “abundant.”  One of the words translated “more earnest” means “superabundant.”  Not casual.  Not fleeting.  Not if we have the time.  Abundant.  Lots of it.  I believe there is coming a time in this country, and soon, when the Bible will be illegal.  It already is as far as government and education are concerned, but I believe this will be a complete prohibition and Bibles will be confiscated and destroyed – and likely, those who hold to it with them.  So we need to pay attention to it while we can.

Our Lord had something to say about this.  In Matthew 13, He spoke of a man going out to sow seed in his field, and of the growth which came from it.  He then likened that to those who hear the Word.  There were four results of the sowing – and there are four results of the hearing of the Word.  We’ll not go into it a lot, but only one of the four brought forth abundant fruit.  In one case, the devil came right away and took the word away.  I think most of the time he just draws our attention to something else.  I wonder if a preacher standing in the door as the people leave and tell him what a wonderful sermon it was – I wonder if he were to ask them what it was about, how many of them could tell him.  In another case, there was an initial reception, but some form of persecution took it away.  You know, persecution doesn’t have to mean death, it can simply mean derision.  This world has never thought a lot of the Word, even less so now, but there have always been those who have been opposed to those who believe and live the Bible. Or it could simply be that the old life is too strong.  The desires of our human nature are very strong and, if we’re not careful, can become our masters.  The third case failed because the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches entangle the Word like weeds and choke its influence out.  Oh, there’s so much we could say about that one!

b.  We are to hear the Word, the things which we have heard. 

But make no mistake.  We are to hear the Word.  While the previous paragraph was against just hearing it, we do need to hear it.  We are to be students of it.  My wife worked with a gentleman who had been a church member all his life, and he was amazed that she had read the Bible through several times.  But he is not alone.

c.  We are to hold on to the Word, lest we drift away. 

There are two meanings to the word translated, “drift’:

1.  to drift.  “To go with the flow,” as it were.  One day, the pastor of the church in Florida where I was on staff, took us and his family to the beach.  I got onto an air mattress in the water and just floated there, enjoying the beautiful day.  After a few minutes, I looked up and, wow, I had drifted a long way away from where I started.  It’s a good thing the tide wasn’t going out, or I might still be out there!

The point is, if we don’t pay attention, if we just “float,” we are likely to wind up a long ways away from where we started.  We don’t mean to do it, we just do it.  The church has done that.  Things the world scorned in my youth are now accepted and promoted in the church.

2.  to leak.  This refers to a leaky vessel.  Aren’t we often like that?  How little of the Word we retain!

God has spoken…listen up!

The Stranger

[This was e-mailed to me by a long-time friend, who received it from someone else via email.  My friend mentions seeing something like this about 30 years ago.  Some of the things as it must have been originally written have changed.  I’ve edited it a little because of that.  Nevertheless, it’s still true.]

A few years after I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small town.  From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family.  The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family.  In my young mind, he had a special niche.

My parents were complementary instructors:  Mom taught me good from evil and Dad taught me to obey.  But the stranger…he was our story teller.  He would keep us spellbound for hours with adventure, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present, and seemed to be able to predict the future!  He took my family to the first major league baseball game.  He made me laugh and he made me cry.

The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.  Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other so we could hear what he was saying, and she would go into the kitchen for peace and quiet.  (I wonder if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad had certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them.  Profanity, for example, wasn’t allowed in our home, not from us, not from our friends, not from visitors.  The stranger, however, got away with four-letter words that made my ears burn, made my dad squirm and my mother blush.

He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex.  His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.  I know now that my early concepts about relationships were strongly influenced by the stranger.

Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked, …and NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family.  Though he has gotten much worse, he continues to blend right in, though he’s not nearly as fascinating as he was at first.  Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would find him in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?  Well, I don’t remember a name.  It seems we just call him…uh, er, well, “TV”.

(NOTE [part of my friend’s email]:  This should be required reading for every household!)

He has a wife now…we call her “Computer” [with her friend, “Internet” – my addition].
Their first child is “Cell Phone”
Second child: “I Pod”.
And just born: a grandchild: “I Pad”.

MY NOTE:  I, too, remember the first TVs.  About 1950: “Death Valley Days,” hosted by Ronald Reagan and sponsored by 20 Mule Team Boraxo.  A little black and white TV with a screen not much bigger than some of today’s electronics, to say nothing of the gigantic HDTVs now available, and a terrible picture.  My, how things have changed!  Things which were generally scorned even by general society in my youth are now accepted and promoted by many “churches”.

If you don’t think TV has changed (for the worse), just check out the “old programs” and see how different they are in content.