Friday, July 2, 2010

A Considerate Sequel to Hebrews, Part 3

Hebrews 10:26-28
[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 that will devour the adversaries.
[28] Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

The next section begins with an ardent warning about living in a state of willful sin after receiving the truth. Verse 19 informs us that through the blood of Christ we have boldness to enter the Holiest. The concept is one of a close-knit fellowship with God; you are dwelling with Him in the Holiest. Verse 26 warns that it is only by this same blood that one is cleansed from willful sin. Since sin separates, a believer who indulges in willful sin is without the Holiest; they retain salvation but must come to Christ for cleansing, so they may walk with Him in renewed fellowship, 1st John 1:7. The writer includes himself in this passage by saying “we,” intending to convey the idea that what he is about to relate could even come upon him through habitual sin. A willful sin would be to continue living in the lifestyle (or to practice the vice) that Christ died to set us free from after receiving salvation by faith.

Christ's blood was the ransom price for our redemption, but living a life entrenched in the flesh must be accounted for before God when we come before the judgment seat. There is no more sacrifice for sin; Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes, Romans 10:4. John explains in his epistle that confession of sin is mandatory for continued fellowship and cleansing from the filth of our sin, 1st John 1:9. Jesus referred to it as foot-washing in John's gospel, John 13:8-10. John also states that confession of sin imparts immediate reconciliation with God; our spiritual life is hindered in every facet while we continue on in willful sin. The Holy Spirit is grieved by such conduct, Ephesians 4:30. The writer goes on further to warn of God's fiery indignation for the contemptible treatment of the One we claim is our Lord and Savior. Loss of reward is certain, and perhaps even loss of physical life so we no longer pervert the gospel and give outsiders reason to blaspheme God, 1st Corinthians 3:15; 11:30. Confession of sin implies repentance; repentance of sin begets obedience, wrought from love and thankfulness toward God for His salvation and forgiveness. Jesus Christ will not have fellowship with a defiled saint.

In the Old Testament the sin of idolatry was proven on the testimony of two or three witnesses, Deuteronomy 17:2-7. The willful sin the writer may ultimately be describing then is apostasy from the confession of our faith in Christ as preeminent Lord and Savior. This hearkens back to Hebrews 6:6, which states that renewal to repentance was impossible so long as the person described pursued a course of righteousness that was incongruent with the revelation of God’s Son. Idolaters were stoned to death; saints guilty of this heinous sin are in jeopardy of suffering destruction: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are,” 1st Corinthians 3:16-17. Verse 28 informs us that anyone rejecting Moses’ law died; it is implied then that the willful sin in a more than general sense is a departure from Jesus Christ. Such have cast away their confidence (verse 35) and lost their reward. Should they persist in drawing back destruction awaits them (verse 39) should loss of reward be an insufficient chastening to correct their warped, sinful and blasphemous conduct.

It is a cardinal mistake when someone teaches that physical death in the Old or New Testaments was reserved only for the ungodly; it is equally erroneous to teach that physical death always meant spiritual death as well. God's errant children suffered under this punishment numerous times.

• Aaron died for disobedience to God, Numbers 20:28-29.
• Moses also died for the same act of disobedience, Deuteronomy 34:4-6.
• Samson died a blinded slave due to his carnal lifestyle, Judges 16:30.
• Eli died for choosing his sons over God's honor and name, 1st Samuel 4:18.
• King Saul was killed for flagrant disobedience and consulting with a witch, 1st Samuel 31:4-6.
• Though David committed sin worthy of death God spared him, 2nd Samuel 12:13.
• A prophet was killed for failing to listen to God's warning, 1st Kings 13:24.
• Joash was killed for idolatry and slaying a prophet, 2nd Chronicles 24:23-25.
• King Josiah did not listen and died against Pharaoh Neco, 2nd Chronicles 35:21-22.
• Disobedient Jonah cried out from Sheol; he may have drown in the sea, Jonah 2:2-7
• Ananias and Saphira lied to the Holy Spirit and died, Acts 5:1-11.
• Certain Christians abused the Lord's Supper and died, 1st Corinthians 11:27-30.

The comparison is then drawn between the regulations of the Old Covenant and the New. If Moses' law brought about death—physical death by willful disobedience—then how much worse is such a deliberate act under the New? Again, one would be na├»ve to think that everyone who died by stoning during the Old Testament era will be in Hell; the short list already provided gives ample evidence that it is not so. Nevertheless, it is unwise to provoke or offend the living God by His professing children. Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you,” John 15:14. Surely, being adopted as a child of God would create in us a desire to be a friend of God! Yet this obedience must not be performance-based; it is not about rewards or “looking good,” which is entirely carnal. It is about understanding our own sinful nature, and the depths which Christ went to in order to redeem us, and bring us back into a relationship with the Father. Act in obedience that stems from love toward God, and allow that love to be demonstrated toward our fellow man: first to the family of faith, and then to all men. By this our God is honored.

Saints who stray are in danger of chastening, and those who are spiritual ought to restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, Galatians 6:1. Even saints may wander (brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth…), as it were; like the chief Shepherd, we must strive to turn them back from their error, lest their chastening end in death, James 5:19-20.
To be Continued.

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