Grace For The Journey
The text for our study this morning is a text that underscores the need to get the Gospel out to folks who are lost. There are lost people in every setting, even in a church setting. I have a three-part prayer that I pray every day with the goal of sharing Jesus Christ at least once a day. I encouraged you to use it as well. I encourage you to incorporate it in your daily prayers.
1. Lord, give me an opportunity to share my faith today.
2. Lord, enable me to recognize this opportunity when it comes.
3. Lord, when it happens, give me the courage to proceed.
One of the encouraging things I have discovered as I avail myself to this prayer is that the task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.
The writer of Hebrews acknowledges as much as he has provided in his letter five warning passages, warnings about not rejecting Jesus Christ. We have studied three of these already back in chapters 2-6. Today we find ourselves studying the fourth warning passage. It begins in verse 26 because. Verse 25 concluded with a reference to the coming judgment. The writer says let us exhort one another “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Judgment Day. It would seem the mention in verse 25 about “the Day” approaching, the Day of Judgment, leads the writer to think more upon that subject and to warn folks who may not be prepared for that day. I wonder if you are? If you are, then you are encouraged about that day.
The author does not seek to unsettle those who are true believers. For true followers of Christ, the “Day approaching,” the return of Christ is a great encouragement. That specific encouragement begins at verse 32 which we will address tomorrow, Lord willing. It is good for us today, however, to stop short of that encouragement and spend time talking about the danger of rejecting Christ and the judgment to come to those who “draw back” (38-39) and turn away from Jesus.
Sometime back I was listening to a sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the godly pastor of a previous generation at the Westminster Chapel in London England. He was preaching one evening about the true Gospel and what it means to be a true Christian. And he made this statement, “There are many people in the world tonight who are not Christians very largely because they think they are Christians.” That is one of those statements that causes you to stop and sit up a bit. What does that mean?
Among other things, it certainly means that one may think he or she is a Christian simply by virtue of being exposed to the external things of Christianity – worship attendance, small group Sunday school attendance, feeling good when in the presence of Christians, help from biblical teaching, a feeling of love and goodness through musical worship, a concern for fellow neighbors and society, good works to improve the state of others and the state of the community – but these are not themselves the Gospel. These are things that accompany the Gospel, but they are not the Gospel itself. They are not the things that make one a Christian.
Becoming a Christian is about
Receiving, surrendering to,
Following, and expressing our
Love for Jesus in how we live.
True believers are they who have acknowledged their sin, confessed it, repented of it, and turned to Christ, believing Him, who died a substitutionary death in our place, rising from the dead, to be their only Savior, and living a surrendered life which will allow to grow in knowing and experiencing the resurrection power so that Christ is praised and honored. True believers go on believing to the very end, they persevere in their faith. True believers will not reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They will go on believing Him.
The writer, in verses 26-31, is addressing those who are not true believers. He is addressing those who have turned their backs on Jesus and have rejected Christ. Now the writer does not know who those people are. But he knows they are in the congregation there because there had been some already who had walked away from the church for fear of persecution. They turned away from Jesus and went back to their old ways of thinking and living. The writer is writing about what happens to those who forsake Christ.
In our present context, I do not know who the true believers are and neither do you. We all listen to the warning considering ourselves, considering our friends, and considering our loved ones.
What is the danger of rejecting Christ . . .
1) The Calamity Of It – Verses 26-27.
This is the utter peril of what it means to turn away from Jesus Christ. Verse 26 says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” The first time I read verse 26 I was alarmed because I said to myself, “Well, I am a sinner. I have sinned willfully. I have sinned with my eyes wide open. I mean as a Christian who knows better, I have sinned willfully so what does this mean that there is no sacrifice for sins?” Remembering the writer’s main concern is helpful to us. He is addressing those who have rejected Christ and gone back to their old way of living. He is not suggesting that Christians never sin. He is addressing a state of mind and a state of living that leads to total abandonment of Christ and the Gospel. If you turn from Christ and refuse to repent, refuse to turn back to Him, then you have rejected Him, and you will remain separated from Him forever.
The writer is not talking here about Christians who “slip up” from time to time; battling the sin that remains, giving in to it at times when we know it is wrong, but then immediately confessing it, and getting back into the race. No, he is not talking about that here. The tense of the verb is present continuous action “sin willfully,” which means “to go on sinning deliberately,” to go on turning away from Jesus Christ, to go on rejecting Him.
The writer addresses those who have rejected Christ as Savior. Thus, they were never true believers. They had “received the knowledge of the truth” but did not trust Christ savingly. They abandoned Christ as evidence that they were never true believers. This is very similar to what the Apostle John writes about those who did not continue in the faith in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” True believers do not go on sinning, deliberately, willfully. True believers are different. God has changed our want to. We do sin but when we do it bothers us and the Holy Spirit, who has “written God’s law in our hearts and minds, will not let us go on in it but will convict our hearts. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live as those who delight in Christ.
Some hearers had only “received the knowledge of the truth.” They did not accept the truth and thus “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” That is, there is no sacrifice other than the “once-for-all” perfect sacrifice of the One they have rejected.
Rejecting Christ means there
Is nowhere else to go.
There no longer remains
A sacrifice for sins.
Sins are not atoned for
In any way other than
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
I can preach the Gospel today to you who are reading my blog; I can preach the truth, and everyone reading my blog can “receive the knowledge of the truth” inasmuch as they can understand it and even intellectual assent to its teaching. But that does not mean every single person hearing the truth accepts the truth. Receiving the knowledge of the truth does not mean that every single person actually believes the truth savingly, receiving Christ as Lord and Savior.
You will recall from Hebrews 6 that there were some who merely “tasted” the good Word of God (Hebrews 6:5), tasting it but not digesting it. As James teaches in his letter, it is one thing to “hear” the Word and another thing altogether to “do” the Word. The message of the writer is, if you hear His voice do not harden your heart. Do not allow your heart to be as the hard soil in the parables of Jesus. The Word tries to get down into that soil and bear fruit, but it never really takes. Allow your heart to be the soft, fertile soil that receives the Word gladly and bears fruit, and goes on bearing fruit.
What calamity awaits those who reject Christ? Verse 27 tells us, “But a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Verse 27 reminds us of verse 27 in chapter 9 that says, “… It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” There is a judgment day that awaits every man and woman, every boy and girl, every person of every race, tribe, tongue, and nation. It is appointed unto man to die and after this the judgment.
The writer says that if we reject Christ, the day of judgment is bound up with “a certain fearful expectation” and “fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries,” devour those who reject Christ. That is pretty plain, isn’t it? The Bible can often be alarming to us. This is God’s Word for our good. It is good to read the Scriptures and pause and allow the teachings to get down inside us. This is God’s Word.
The reading of the Scripture is not like the reading of the minutes in business meetings. Unlike the reading of the minutes, “there are no corrections or additions; the Bible stands approved as read!” This is God’s Word.
Those who reject Christ have only “a certain fearful expectation of judgment.” That phrase intimates that those who refuse Christ have an inner sense of a judgment to come. A person may suppress the truth of that judgment, trying to bury it down deeply within, cover it up, ignore it, or drowning out the sense of judgment with the noise of music, entertainment, drink, and drugs. But it is there.
The sense of judgment
Is a grace of God.
He gives it to us
To awaken us, alarm us, and
Alert us to repent and trust Christ.
When we do not, when we reject Christ willfully after we have received the truth, all we have is “a certain fearful expectation of judgment,” – and – “and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries,” which will devour those who reject Christ. The calamity of it.
The second danger of rejecting Christ . . .
2. The Severity Of It – Verses 28-29.
In verses 28 and 29 the writer argues from the lesser to the greater. It is one of those statements that goes like this: “If this is bad, then how much worse is this?!” If this is bad – verse 28 – —then how much worse is verse 29? He argues: “If rejecting Moses’ law is bad (verse 28), then how much worse is it to reject Christ (verse 29)?!” Verse 28 says, “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Under the old Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, if an Israelite turned his back upon the One true and living God, he was to be killed by stoning. The writer of Hebrews is referring to Deuteronomy 17:2-6, “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” That’s bad, isn’t it? Aren’t you glad you are not under the old Covenant? I am reminded of the preacher who was preaching from Acts 5 where Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying. The preacher said, “What if God did that today, struck people dead for lying? If He did, where would I be?!” And the congregation kind of snickered. Then, the preacher said, “I’ll tell you where I’d be – I’d be preaching to an empty sanctuary!” The severity of judgment under the old Covenant is great – however! – the severity of judgment under the new covenant is even greater.
Verse 29 says, “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?” Remember, the point is: “If rejecting Moses’ law is bad (verse 28), then how much worse is it to reject Christ (verse 29)?!” The thinking is similar to what the writer wrote back in Hebrews 2:3, “… how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”
Rejection of Christ is illustrated in three actions there in verse 29: 1) trampling the Son of God underfoot, 2) counting the blood of the covenant a common thing, and 3) insulting the Spirit of grace.
1) “Trampling the Son of God underfoot” is a vivid image of stepping on Christ as though He were nothing. The same word “trample” is used by our Lord in Matthew 7 where He warns that we ought not cast our pearls before swine lest they trample them under their feet. Treating something pure, lovely, worthy, and infinitely valuable as a common thing to be trampled on. It means to scorn Him; to besmirch His good name; to spit upon Him by refusing to be identified with Him through Christian faith and Christian baptism.
2) “Counting the blood of the Covenant a common thing” is to treat Christ’s blood and Christ’s sacrifice as no big deal, just a common, ordinary, even mundane thing. The phrase is literally: “counted the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified a common thing …”
The word “sanctified” is not theologically as we usually understand the term – “sanctified” with reference to salvation, but “sanctified” in the broadest sense of the word: being “set apart.” These are people who had identified externally with those who were followers of Jesus. They were numbered among them, visibly “set apart” in that sense. But not true believers.
3) “Insulting the Spirit of grace, insulting the Holy Spirit!” Incidentally, this is the only time in all the Bible that the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of grace.” That is a good term. I encourage you to use that in your prayers. Talk to God from time to time calling Him, “the Spirit of grace.”
If rejecting the law of Moses meant punishment, how much more severe is the judgment and punishment of the one who has rejected Christ, trampling His good sacrifice underfoot?
It is Christ alone who saves!
Apart from Christ we can never be saved!
We are sinners. And since our sin is against a holy and infinite God, no amount of human works and good deeds will ever be enough to pay the penalty of our sin – because a holy infinite God requires a holy and infinite number of works of righteousness. Only Christ can save us! Christ who is holy and infinite and perfect and pure.
The third danger of rejecting Christ . . .
3. The Finality Of It – Verses 30-31.
Verse 30 says, “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’” These statements are from Deuteronomy 32. Moses spoke these words just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. It was a warning to them that God was watching and God would judge them. And the Lord watches you and me and He will judge us.
The solemn conclusion of the thought in verse 31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” It is a fearful thing for those who are lost. There is a finality to it. God will treat us justly, just as our sins deserve. If we have spurned the good name and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it will indeed be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
It was this truth that Jonathan Edwards preached in his famous message nearly 300 years ago. I encourage you to Google it later: Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It ought to cause us to think about what Jesus taught in Luke 12:4-5, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”
If you are saved, a true believer, then it is a good thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 2 Samuel 24 tells the story of David. This passage tells us of his sin when he counted the fighting men, taking that census? He was punished for that sin and was given the choice of punishments. And he made the precious statement in verse 14, “Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great.”
Are you a true believer? Have you received Christ? There are just two categories of people in the world – Those who have received Him and those who have rejected Him. If you are among those who have received Him savingly, then you will go on receiving Him, living for Him, and loving Him. True believers persevere in their faith, go on living for Him. The writer will press that truth in the following verses. True believers will endure suffering and hardship and will go on living by faith. They will not “draw back.”
But if you are not a believer, then hear and heed the warnings in this, the Word of God. Turn to Jesus today and be saved.
Whether you are a believer, not a believer, or unsure, the answer is the same: turn your eyes upon Jesus. His word shall not fail you. “Believe Him and all will be well. Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell.”
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”