Drift: Do not turn from forgiveness
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Ok let’s get caught up:
A sermon written to newer followers of Christ, first century church probably at the height of Christian persecution. Nero persecution of 60s and close to the destruction of the temple around 70 AD…all of this the background for this kind of writing.
So the author to us, but really the preacher of Hebrews is bringing a message meant to be preached, written for homiletics. His main message is keep your eyes on the prize. Look to Jesus, he is enough to sustain you, he has accomplished all that is required for the victory.
The preacher does this through some different important themes, one being a comparison of Jesus to parts of their history, theology, and beliefs. Jesus compared to the angels as great messenger, Jesus compared to Moses and the Torah, the law, Jesus compared to the high priest and the sacrificial lamb. Woven into these comparisons are warnings or ethical exhortations about how their life should be different because of these truths....
Today is one of the strongest and heavy handed warnings in the sermon…the warning against apostasy. Or turning away from the faith.
Immediate background, this warning comes out of the comparison to the ultimate sacrifice, and relatedly the high priest:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
So through the body of Jesus the curtain of the temple as been torn, you have a way to God. Jesus, the sacrificial lamb has died to take away the sins of the world. Jesus the great high priest is presiding. Though your flesh, your humanity, is weak and prone to wonder…having our hearts sprinkled and washed pure we have been set free from the power of sin.
In the face of Nero, or any persecution he is telling them there is no cost big enough to walk away from this eternal truth.
So I can never sin again?
In response to all of this the warning is to stop sinning? Ok bro, easier said than done right?! We see this response in verse 26:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,
Now a couple of things to notice here:
Notice the preacher uses the we pronoun including himself in this. The reasons for this is everyone that has heard the truth of Jesus is included in this....It is also I think a rehtorical affect of the preacher. If I tell you…hey you need to stop this and that, there is a difference in we have to stop.
The NIV correctly translates this “If we deliberately keep on sinning.” Distinguishing between sin. Now distinguishing between sins is a dangerous game, right. That sin is worst than that sin, etc. However in the Jewish faith and playing into this text is not a differentiation of sin but a differentiation of the motivation or awareness or faculties of the sinner acting in sin.
Judaism had long distinguished intentional and unintentional sin (; cf., e.g., , ); one who knew better would be punished more strictly than one who was ignorant. Sacrifices atoned for sins of ignorance, but Judaism taught that no sacrifice availed for the person who knowingly rejected the authority of God’s law. (For such persons, many Jewish teachers insisted that repentance, the Day of Atonement and death were all necessary. Jewish teachers also observed that those who sinned presuming that they would be automatically forgiven were not genuinely repentant and hence were not forgiven.) In the Dead Sea Scrolls, slight transgressions required temporary penance, but deliberate rebellion against God’s law demanded expulsion from the community. The sin in this context is unrepentant, thorough apostasy (10:29).
1 Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
What is in mind here is not the person that accidentally commits sin or even the person that is struggling against sin, it is the one who is unrepentant in their sin in the face of the sacrifice of Jesus. It is the one who will finally reject faith when pushed too far.
Let me just pause for a second and say a couple of things: Today and really any day is not about me separating the goats from the sheep meaning I will never stand up her and make sweeping statements about who is not in the family of God but what I and other pastors will do is point to boundaries and warnings and keep pointing you to what we know…Jesus crucified. If you find yourself asking questions in your own head while we lift these things up then please deal with them.
Next: taking this from someone else but it holds true; “If you believe in some parts of the Bible and reject other parts, it’s not really the Bible you believe in....it’s yourself.” The same thing holds true about Jesus,
“If you believe in some aspects of Jesus and reject other parts, it’s not really Jesus you believe in....it’s yourself.”
I don’t think I can give you a black and white definition of apostasy or “deliberate sinning” but if you are continually doing something or living in a certain way or cheating and lying and stealing, if you know in your heart there is something there then you are walking past the crucified Jesus as if he was just another man that died:
How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
The double edge sword for the Hebrews preacher is that Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice it final. 1)He has fully atoned for all your sins. All of the brokenness, all of the selfishness, all of the deceit, all of it once and for all. 2) The other side of that is there will be no more sacrifices for forgiveness. This was the final one. There will be no more reconciling opportunities. Whatever is empty in your life if you try to fill it with relationships, work, success, whatever it is…you will not find what you’re looking for.
The other piece I want to talk about is the overtones of judgement in this passage. I am sure you have noticed it. Look at these verses again:
How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
We see this and think geez, here goes that part of God we don’t really like. We white wash Jesus when we paint him up in our ideologies of what love is and grace.
We see this and think geez, here goes that part of God we don’t really like. We white wash Jesus when we paint him up in our ideologies of what love if and grace. Church, Jesus came to this earth to bring God’s wrath against death. He began healing sickness, casting out demons, and resurrected people defeating death itself. God’s judgement is upon sin and death.
Church, Jesus came to this earth to bring God’s wrath against death. He began healing sickness, casting out demons, and resurrected people defeating death itself. God’s judgement is upon sin and death.
The other piece of this we read and think geez, here goes that part of God we don’t really like. We white wash Jesus when we paint him up in our ideologies of what love if and grace. Church, Jesus came to this earth to bring God’s wrath against death. He began healing sickness, casting out demons, and resurrected people defeating death itself. God’s judgement is upon sin and death.
I want you to think about this for a second. Early church father, Irenaeus said “The Glory of God is humanity fully alive” and what God judges are all those forces that destroy human life and tear at the fabric of creation. God judges death. Those that walk away from life are choosing death. It is in this idea that the author says, what a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
My closing thoughts this morning: Modern day apostasy, a question, and leave with some encouragement.
Modern Day Apostasy
The bible describes a few different reasons for apostasy.
a drift away. This is what the author of Hebrews is talking about in many situations
As I was preparing to speak today about this text, I wondered how to talk to people in church about apostasy, aka, complete rejection of the faith. I wonder if our rejection or apostasy looks different or more subtle? We do not have to deal with Nero threatening to set us on fire if we do not swear against our faith, so what if it is more masked. Given no death threat no one will ever know. Masked in religion. Slow-cooked apostasy, giving ourself more to extra curricular activities than formative faith communities. Giving of ourselves more to the pursuit of wealth than the caring for the poor.
The main purpose for the preacher with any of these warnings is to keep the audience focused on the main prize, Jesus.
Recently there has been a reoccurring theme in my life or at least from my perspective. The last few years I continue to learn of pastors, mentors, or people I respect having these serious ethical and moral lapse in judgement. It breaks my heart. If your eyes are on Jesus, He will not let you lie, cheat, steal, run away, without the Spirit telling you it’s wrong.
How often do you confess sin?
Is it difficult to apologize to your spouse? Think about it for a second. How often do you apologize to those that are closest to you? Or do you never make mistakes? Have you ever been with someone or worked with someone who cannot admit in wrong doings....like you are just begging for them to say I am sorry even if you dont mean it. It is so hard to have a healthy relationship when there is no room for you because of their ego and pride.
Is there room for God to be God in your life....or do you have it all together? Instead of two people, it is us with an inexhaustible resource of life, who desires freedom, love, and joy for you. Confessing sin is about allowing God give you something better.
This strong warning is sandwiched with something really important for the audience of Hebrews and for us....He gives them practical advice for perseverance in this life:
First, he says never stop meeting together:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Then after the warning he tells them to remember their past:
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.
When it comes to perseverance and keeping your eye on Christ the advice is never stop meeting together. Help each other to progress in love and good deeds. Small groups and band groups
Earlier when I was talking about pastors and leaders making bad decisions. All of them were outside of accountability and community.
And remember the faithfulness of God and your endurance through that difficulty. Remember your resolve when you trusted in Him!