Remarks on Hebrews 10:26-29.
By request of brother Hugh Johnson,
Middlesex Co., Ontario.
“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
The great theme of the inspired writer of this epistle is to show, by comparing and contrasting the two covenants, the superiority of the latter, or gospel, over the former, or legal. The former, with its law of carnal commandments, its worldly sanctuary, and divine service, could make nothing perfect, was weak through the flesh; its ample variety of types, though strikingly analogous, were not the perfect images of the things to which they pointed. The priesthood of Aaron, his service at the altar, and the perpetual offerings of the people through him, failed to purge their conscience from dead works, or to qualify them to worship the true God. Moses, their leader, and minister of the law, though faithful in all his house, as a servant, did not, and could not occupy it in the relation, dignity, nor inheritance of a son. The law which that covenant imposed on the tribes of Jacob, though holy, just and good, was a ministration of death, and could give them no life, because they were carnal, sold under sin. If it could by any possibility have given life, then verily righteousness should have been by the law. All who were, and as many as now are of the works of the law, are under the curse.
The blood of the victims which flowed continually from the altars, though ceremonially cleansing the transgressors, and showing that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins, was but a ceremonial purging; for in them all, there was a remembrance again made of sins every year; for it is not possible that the blood of bulls, and of goats, should take away sins. “The Holy Ghost, thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all [the gospel] was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle [or legal covenant] was yet standing; which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and diverse washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come, a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.” That is, not of the Jewish, ceremonial, typical, ineffectual covenant. “And for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions which were under the first testament [or covenant] they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”
The inspired writer, having thus clearly discriminated between the two covenants, and their respective priesthoods, offerings and dispensations, finds occasion to admonish those Hebrews, whom he distinguished from the carnal Israelites, as “Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,” and whom he exhorts to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. Under the priesthood and apostleship of Christ Jesus, they were redeemed and delivered from the law of carnal commandments, washed, cleansed and justified freely through the redemption that was in him; “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified,” or set apart, as the word sanctified here signifies; yet though redeemed from the law, and dead to it by the body of Christ, they are not without law, for they are under law to Christ; and his law is put in their hearts, and written in their minds. They are not therefore left to sin with impunity, for although the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made them free from the law of sin and death, the law, which God has written in their hearts, requires obedience to all the precepts of Christ; so that if his children forsake his law, and walk not in his judgments, if they break his statutes and keep not his commandments, then will he visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Instead, therefore, of indulging their carnal propensities in any departure from the divine rule in the New Testament, they are told that, “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation,” or deliverance? The word of life under which the saints are born into the kingdom and come under the laws and ordinances of the gospel church, is the word which began to be spoken unto us by our Lord Jesus Christ, and was confirmed unto us by his apostles, who received their instruction and inspiration immediately from him. And inasmuch as Christ is evidently greater than Moses, or the angels, his words are to be observed with more sacred reverence. Not because our eternal salvation from death and hell depends on our obedience; for that is not the case, as is shown by the covenant and oath under which the saints are gathered. “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”
“For by one offering he [Christ] hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us; for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them, after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” Upon this assurance, the saints are faithfully admonished to approach the throne, and enter into the holiest of all by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. Not by sacrifices and offerings, as under the former covenant, but through Christ, as our High Priest, over the house of God. “Let us draw nigh with a pure heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much more as ye see the day approaching.”
“For if we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth.” The pronoun we in this text includes the inspired writer with all his holy brethren, who are partakers of the heavenly calling, embracing all who have received the knowledge of the truth. They who know the truth are born and taught of God; for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them. If we know the truth, we have received that knowledge; and if we have received it, it is by revelation; for flesh and blood cannot reveal it. The knowledge of the truth here spoken of is the knowledge of the truth of which the inspired writer is speaking, the truth of a deliverance from the law of sin and death, and a knowledge of the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus our Lord. A spotless perfection before God, by the one offering of our great High Priest, received in a true heart, in which the law of Christ is written by the finger of God. If this be admitted, the question may arise, Can those who have thus received the knowledge of the truth, who are forever perfected, who are called holy brethren, and partakers of the heavenly calling, for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, and in whose hearts the Holy Ghost has written the law of holiness, can they sin willfully after having received all this? With their mind, and with all these spiritual gifts, they invariably serve the law of God. With these they cannot commit sin, neither willfully, nor in any other way; for his [God’s] seed remaineth in them, and they cannot sin, because they are born of God; but they who have received this seed, and this knowledge of the truth, if Paul was one of them, do find another law in their members, warring against the law of their mind, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin which is in their members. With their mind they truly serve the law of God; but with their flesh the law of sin. And now we ask for the man among all who have received the truth, either in ancient or in modern times, who has not sinned willfully after having received this experimental knowledge. The man who can lay his hand upon his heart, and in the presence of God who searches all hearts, say that he has never sinned willfully since he professed a hope in Christ, is a poor blind Pharisee, and does not have to go to the throne of grace with the petition, forgive my sins. But it is objected, Paul said, “If I do that which I allow not, it is no more I that do it; but sin that dwelleth in me.” Very true, the spirit indeed is willing to serve God, and would never willingly, nor willfully, nor in any other way, sin, or offend against his God; but, as we have shown, while with the mind of Christ which every saint has, they invariably do serve the law of God, and delight in the spirit of holiness; still with their flesh they serve, and willfully serve the law of sin. In their flesh there dwells no good thing, and in that spirit in them which is born of God, there dwells no evil thing. Every sinful act is necessarily willful, for an involuntary act is not regarded as a sin. Should a man much stronger than yourself take your hand in his and with it smite your friend or neighbor, in opposition to your will, in that case the act would be his and not yours. In every transgression of the children of God, they feel a consciousness that they have done it with the consent of their will, and that they have had the consent of their will in forsaking the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is, is what burdens them with contrition and grief. The saint whose constant desire is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, but is hindered by providential circumstances over which he has no control, though deprived of a coveted privilege, is not conscious of guilt in having been detained. As the forsaking the assembling of ourselves together is named in the immediate context, we take that particular sin as an example of sinning willfully. The Christian who absents himself from the assembling of the church, either does it willfully, or against his will; if it be against his will and inclination, it is not sin; instead of reproof, he needs our sympathy; but if he absents himself from choice, having the ability and not the disposition, he sins willfully; and if he be a child of God, it is after he has received a knowledge of the truth. If there be any among our readers who have never, since they knew the truth, neglected this privilege willfully, or fully willing to do so, we will only exhort such not to be weary in well doing, for they shall, in due time, reap, if they faint not. But this one fault which the context tells us some are addicted to, is by no means the only fault wherein they sin willfully who have received the knowledge of the truth.
As under the old covenant, every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, so under the new covenant, a just recompense of reward for every transgression and disobedience of the saints is inevitable. But the justness of the recompense must be determined by the provisions of the law under which the transgression was committed. The Christian is not punished according to the merciless law of Moses; nor was the disciple of Moses punished according to the provisions of the law of Christ. Although the law of Moses inflicted the penalty of death upon the transgressor, yet it provided substitutional offerings, and sacrifices. The offender might bring his sin offering to the priest, and the priest would make for him an offering, or atonement; yet there was a remembrance again made of sins every year. But the transgressor of the law of Christ can make no atonement. The last, and only, offering for the people of God has already been made, and can never be repeated; therefore to the willful sinner in the new covenant there remains no more sacrifice for sins. If it were possible for the child of grace to fall away, or lose his interest in the one offering by which Christ has perfected forever them that are sanctified, it would be impossible to renew him again to repentance; for to do so, Christ would require to be crucified again, and put to an open shame; as that is declared to be impossible, the conclusion is unavoidable, that for the Christian there remains no more sacrifice for sins. No more than what? In this same chapter in which we have our text, the record from the Psalms is copied, and put into the mouth of our High Priest, who when he cometh into the world, saith, “Sacrifices and offerings, thou wouldest not; but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt offerings, and sacrifices for sin, thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo I come, [in the volume of the book it is written of me] to do thy will, O God.” “By the which will we are sanctified [or set apart] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.” That is never to be repeated, or offered a second time. Under the law, “every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man [Christ] after he had made one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God; henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” Sanctified, or set apart, by the same will which prepared for Christ a body, and which will Christ came to do. There is therefore no more sacrifice for sins, nor is it possible that any more sacrifice for sins shall ever be required, seeing that all the sins of all his people, past, present or to come, were laid on him, and he bare them in his own body on the tree, and put them away by the sacrifice of himself, and has obtained eternal redemption for them all.
Well, if the Christian then can make no expiation by any offering for his willful transgression, because there remaineth no more offering for sin, what does remain for him? Not a burning hell, nor a separation from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, nor can he possibly lose his interest in the atoning blood once offered for him by our great High Priest. These he cannot possibly lose; for Christ has said of all his sheep for whom he laid down his life, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all; and none shall be able to pluck them out of my Father’s hands. I, and my Father are one.” But still there is something that remains for the willful transgressor, who is made manifest as an heir of immortality by receiving the knowledge of the truth. There remains for him “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” He who has received a knowledge of the truth, knows his God too well to believe that his willful transgressions will go unchastised. He knows full well that God will judge his people; and those who have felt his rod, will scarcely fail to understand the fitness of the descriptive language of our text in regard to the nature and manner of the stripes. Who of all the saints have traveled far in their spiritual pilgrimage without ever having experienced this peculiar exercise, called, “a certain fearful looking for of judgment?” Do any who have received the knowledge of the truth doubt that the Lord will visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes? Do they doubt that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son that he receives? Are any of them satisfied that they have never deserved that rod, and those stripes? If conscious then that we have been stubborn, willful, unruly, have not these convictions been followed with a deep sense of guiltiness, and fearful apprehensions of sore chastisement from the hand of the Lord? A certain, indescribable fearful looking for of judgment. The gracious smiles of the Lord are withdrawn; fearful clouds and darkness have gathered around and have fallen heavily upon us; even the hope that we have passed from death unto life recedes and is lost sight of. The tempter with all his cruel darts makes our troubles his sport. Not merely the faithful rod held in the hand of a heavenly parent and applied in the most tender parental love, are looked for; but such fiery indignation as God has prepared for the adversaries, or enemies of his government. They may be well satisfied that no fiery judgments brought with destruction can be in store for any of God’s dear children; but that is the trying point. Am I a child of God, an heir of glory? Alas! The evidence is too far removed now to be available, and the disobedient, willful child is for the present cut asunder, and has his sad portion now with the hypocrites and unbelievers, where there is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
We know there can be no fiery indignation for any of God’s children; for God has sworn with an oath that he will not be wroth with them, nor rebuke them in wrath; nor does our text imply even a possibility that they shall ever be subjected to that fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries; but they shall feel that they deserve it; and in the hidings of the gracious countenance of the Lord, and in the total absence of the evidence of their acceptance with God, they shall experience a certain fearful looking for it. The qualifying words a certain, express the idea that it is peculiar to the children of God, when under his chastening hand they feel the dreadful buffeting of Satan. It is a certain; for it is unlike the remorse and terror of devils and ungodly men, and so peculiar that none but the chastened saints can know anything about it. But O how sore the punishment to a child of grace to be left under these fearful apprehensions.
“What, to be banished from my God,
And yet forbid to die!”
“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.” That is, they were put to death, by being stoned, or executed in some other way. But Moses was only a servant, faithful in all his house. Christ is a Son over his own house; if we consider the superior dignity of Christ above that of a servant, and admit the justice of the punishment inflicted on him, or them who despised his law, we are called to suppose how much sorer punishment they deserve, who despise, disobey, lightly regard or trifle with the authority of him who reigns enthroned in eternal glory. Now let this matter be tried at the bar of the conscience of the saints, and when every point has been duly weighed and maturely considered, what will be the judgment of our own conscience. Shall we not conclude the indignity, if offered to Christ, is infinitely greater than if it were only offered to Moses? And if we speak of punishment proportioned to the magnitude of the offence, will we not suppose the offence being so much greater, the punishment deserved by the offender would be as much sorer? Surely we will say, if God should deal with us according to our deserts, he would crush us beneath his fiery wrath forever. But God does not deal with his children according to their deserts; for we are told in this same chapter, “their sins and their iniquities he will remember no more.” He has engaged in covenant to “be merciful to their unrighteousness. And the saints are told in the conclusion of this same chapter, that “we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, [or utter ruin] but of them who believe to the saving of the soul.” And lest the saints should be overwhelmed by the searching scrutiny of this admonition, and in view of their short-comings, yield to despair, they are told to call to “remembrance the former days, in which they were illuminated, [or had received the knowledge of the truth] ye endured a great fight of affliction, partly while ye were made a gazing stock, both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.” Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.
Trifling with the laws of Christ, and lightly regarding his authority in his church, is in our text, by the pen of holy inspiration, described as treading under foot the Son of God, as counting the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and doing despite unto the spirit of grace. This is truly very strong language; but let us see if the enormity of the offence referred to are too highly colored.
Can we disregard the authority of his precepts, and the authority which he has invested his church with authority to enforce, without trampling under our feet his authority? If we forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, how does such neglect comport with his commands, and with our professed allegiance to him, as the Head over all things to his church? Our disregard of this or any other command is practically saying, He shall not reign over us; we will not be subject to his orders; we will trample his commandments under our feet, by allowing our carnal lusts to be gratified at the expense of his laws. This is called treading the Son of God under our feet. How dreadful the thought, how fragrant the indignity and insult to him.
Well might this same inspired writer give the solemn charge to all the saints, “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we refuse him that speaketh from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.”
In what other way is it possible for the subjects of his government to tread him under foot, than by despising, under-rating, repudiating, and disobeying his commands? Refusing him that speaketh from heaven. “We know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.” And again, “The Lord shall judge his people.” While stores of vengeance are held in reserve for all the ungodly, judgment is provided for the people of God; God will judge and chastise his children, according to his word. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” He knows the thoughts and intents of every heart; from his all seeing eye nothing can be concealed, either of action or motive. His foundation standeth sure, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.”
“And have counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing.” Aaron and his sons were sanctified, or set apart, for the priesthood by solemn consecration, but could not enter the holy place within the veil, without blood, on pain of instant death. Jesus Christ the High Priest, has by his own blood, according to the new covenant, entered within the veil for us, and is consecrated by his own blood, a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. With his own precious blood he has redeemed his chosen generation; as a holy priesthood unto God, and by virtue of that blood he has received his coronation as our King. We who are the subjects of his government cannot dispense with his yoke, and despise or transgress his authority, without practically calling that blood of consecration in the New Testament which was shed for many, an unholy thing. If we claim to be our own, we deny that we are bought with a price. If we glorify not God in our body and spirit which are his, we virtually say that blood is an unholy thing; we deny its power to cleanse, purify and consecrate us to God. And as such a rebellious course on the part of his redeemed is always resisted by the spirit of grace which God has given as in our heavenly birth, to disobey Christ is to do despite to that spirit of grace. All our fleshly powers lust and war against that spirit, and that spirit wars against our flesh and against all the corruptions of our flesh, and these corruptions can never predominate over the spirit of grace in us, by and in harmony with its dictates, but always in despite to it, and hence the willfulness of our sinning.
We are aware that some have contended that the words of our text were not designed to apply to the children of God; that they were used to describe the ungodly in distinction from the saints. Why then does the inspired writer include himself with those to whom he applies the admonition? When have the ungodly ever received the knowledge of the truth? How can they to whom the Son of God has given no law trample his authority under their feet, by neglecting to assemble themselves together as the manner of some is? Who of all the ungodly have ever felt or known that certain fearful looking for of judgment, seeing it is distinctly declared in the Scriptures, “There is no fear of God before their eyes?” Others there are who have admitted that the language applies to the children of God; who are born of the Spirit, but contend that the text involves the doctrine of falling from grace. But this doctrine cannot be intended, seeing that in the same chapter it is declared, that Christ has by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified, and the Eternal God has declared concerning them, in this same connection, “I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
While in the Lord they have righteousness and strength; in themselves, that is in their earthly nature, they are vile and polluted. The Lord is their righteousness, and he hath clothed them with his salvation, and they are made acceptable unto God, in the Beloved. They are both black and comely, black as the tents of Kedar in themselves, but in their Redeemer they are as white and pure as the curtains of Solomon. Christians wrong their own souls who try to shuffle off the force of these solemn admonitions on to some other class of beings. But whatever others may think or say, let those who have received the knowledge of the truth, regard it as the paramount business of their life to confess, obey, and follow the Lamb wherever he leads, through evil as well as through good report.
May we listen with profound reverence to the admonition of our subject, and hearken to, and not oppose or do despite to the spirit of grace. “For the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, [all classes of men, Jews and Gentiles, bond and free] teaching us, that denying ourselves of all ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.”
May 1, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 406 – 416