From Gospel Translations
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:26).
- Hebrews 10:26–27
All Christians know that Christ paid a high price to redeem us from the power of sin. Nothing less than His death and suffering under the wrath of God could have secured our eternal salvation.
This death, which perfects the people of God (Heb. 10:14), necessitates a life of obedience lived out of gratitude for our salvation. Christ’s death necessitates a life that, while not perfect, is characterized by a heart that is inclined toward the things of God and not the things of evil. Where the heart is bent toward evil there is no sacrifice for sin; that is, Christ has not made sacrifice for such a person. For, if He had, that person would be governed not by sin but by love for Christ.
This is what the author of Hebrews tells us in today’s passage. Again we come to a solemn warning for the covenant community about the need for perseverance. If members of this community do not move away from sin, they will fall away and have an expectation of judgment and not the promises of God (vv. 26–27).
What exactly is in view here? John Calvin and John Owen both agree that the sin the author has in mind primarily is the complete and final renunciation of the faith after being enlightened to it. This is not to say that the elect can lose their salvation. As we saw when we studied Hebrews 6, it is possible to come to a knowledge of Christ apart from faith. Those who commit a final denial of Christ are of the group that had never really placed their faith in Him to begin with.
The emphasis on deliberate, or final, denial is important because, as the life of the disciple Peter demonstrates, true believers may temporarily deny Christ and still be restored. Owen points out that final denial is done “obstinately, maliciously, from choice, without compulsion or fear … and not when taken by surprise or falling through a sudden temptation, as when Peter denied Christ.” Final apostasy is not a sudden event but results from unrepentant indulgence in sin.
Again we note that the author of Hebrews, like every other believer, can only be sure of his own salvation. Therefore he must cast this warning in general terms. True believers will take it to heart and repent, turning from persistent sins that would otherwise lead them into final apostasy. But those without true faith will persist in unrepentant sin to their own condemnation.
Do you find yourself struggling with a particular sin that you just cannot overcome? Is there some violation of the law of God that you feel compelled to commit even though you believe in Christ? If so, repent, and find a pastor, friend, or counselor who can help you overcome your sin so that it will not lead you away from Christ.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 3:4–10