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.

Hebrews 10:26-31

Our author gets off to a very candid start in this paragraph, coming right to the point of his warning.  You will recall no doubt, that this letter was written to Jewish Christians in Rome during the persecution of Nero for the purpose of encouraging them to hold firmly their faith through a time of severe trial, and this is not the first such warning in this letter. (see Hebrews 8:1 ff.)

I would call your attention to the word “we” in verse 26; “If we deliberately keep on sinning…”  Surely the word “we” does not mean the same thing as the word “they.”  Thus, in a context of a letter written to encourage Christians, “we” is not referring to those who are not in Christ, and to suggest otherwise requires the suspension of the rules of context, grammar and vocabulary.  If we would go further and suggest that “after we have received the knowledge of the truth” would refer to an unbeliever, saying that to receive the knowledge of the truth is not to have accepted it and been born again, because they knew but didn’t believe, would also seem to be a contention in utter disregard of the rules of context, grammar and vocabulary; a parsing of words worthy of a politician. Must I really comment on the words “enemies of God”?

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? Can you think of any context in the New Testament that asserts that an unbeliever is sanctified by the blood of the Covenant?  Take a look at the next verse, v. 30, and consider what it means to know God; hey didn’t Jesus have something to say about that in John 8:55? Notice here that “we” are they who “know” him who said…  Who is this “we” again unbelievers? Hardly.

Look, I know I’m laying it on more thickly than I normally do here, and I’m doing so for a reason. If we want to merrily go on down the road with the idea that these warnings are for “them” and not “us” then how can we learn from them? What is the point of giving these warnings to Christians, if they apply only to non-Christians? What would be the purpose of these warnings, if we have nothing that we can lose the whole letter would be almost meaningless to the people it was written to.

Are these warnings uncomfortable? Yes they are, and yes they should be. Would I rather not think about them? Yes, but how could I learn and grow if I only did what I want and only thought about the fun stuff?  Can you see why I keep saying that Hebrews is often quoted and seldom taught?  It gets messy!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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19 Responses to Warnings

  1. Dan Ledwith says:

    Great job with this hard text. Hard to take but not difficult to understand right? I appreciate how you just let the text speak for itself.

  2. Tom says:

    I love the way you said all of this. Great point on he is speaking to believers and their sins, not the sins of the world of non-believers.

  3. Hi Don. I agree this is a warning to JEWISH Christians of the day who due to persecution, struggled with renouncing faith in the finished work at the cross for returning to the sacrifice of bulls and goats. A dreadful mistake considering Christ IS the final sacrifice for sin.

  4. Maine Atheist says:

    I don’t know why this site was recommended to our group by WordPress. We are a secular group that relies on fact and scientific evidence to know what is true.

  5. We need to think about this passage carefully. Paul, in Galatians 1, said, ‘If we, or an angel from heaven should present to you a gospel other than the one which we presented, let him be accursed.’ I read this Hebrew passage in the same way. The ‘sinning’ is the rejecting of the Gospel of Christ — his life death and resurrection as the only means by which we must be saved. If we reject this, there is no other way to be saved, no other sacrifice sufficient, all that is left is the sure prospect of judgement — if we go on sinfully rejecting Christ and trampled upon mercy that comes only by him. By this stage in the letter, the author has presented accurate information (epignosis) regarding the truth of the gospel to these Hebrew church people. Some of these church people are Christians under pressure, others are religious people but not Christians. The message to both groups is that to abandon Christ is death. Don’t do it. This message will strengthen the pressured Christians, and might (under the work of the Spirit) convert the non-Christians. This is not a passage that says Christians can lose their salvation by cheating on their income tax, or their partner (as bad as such things are). In Romans 7 Paul admits to continually sinning, but his hope is Jesus’ saving work and his motivation to fight his sin is Jesus’ saving work. All the best.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I very much agree that this passage is not about cheating on taxes or one’s partner, for it is quite clearly about turning one’s back on Christ and walking away from Him. Thank you for your comments!

  6. Mel Wild says:

    Thanks for tackling a sticky subject and a difficult book in general.

    What I think it also interesting here is how the author contrasts this to what he already said about God already forgiving our sins through Christ’s sacrifice, once and for all, and that this New Covenant cannot be broken by us (because we didn’t make it). We can only believe it by faith. While our sins are forgiven and forgotten, if we reject His grace by not having faith in this finished fact (Eph. 2:8 in the negative), then we do so to our own peril. Definitely speaking to current believers to keep the faith.

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