Deliberate Sin

What sin is written about in Hebrews 10:26-27? The common transgressions that good Christians should avoid at all cost? Or something specific that warrants such stern warning? This writing proposes that the deliberate sinning addressed in this passage is not about sins in general, but about a specific sin that calls for God’s judgement, and a fury of fire, the sin that makes one an enemy of God.

(Bấm vào đây để đọc tiếng Việt)

26For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies Hebrews 10:26-27).

Synopsis

Contrary to common interpretation, the deliberate sinning here is not against the law of sin and death, but against the new law of the spirit of life. The target audience is most likely Christians who though profess Christ still deal with sins as though Christ's sacrifice is not enough, they still offer sacrifices for sins, but none is left. The arrival of Christ as a perfect sacrifice provided by God has obsoleted the previous sacrificial system. By relying on the old sacrifices of the blood of bulls and goats (Hebrews 10:4), they deliberately sinned by not placing their full trust on Christ, and in doing so they chose to live under the law, and by the law they will be judged (Galatians 3:12). In trusting in sacrifices other than Christ, they became God's enemies (Hebrews 10:29).

Background in Old Testament

From a reading of Numbers 15:22-31 we learn that “a female goat a year old for a sin offering” can be used as a remedy for someone who sinned “unwittingly,” or unintentionally. However for someone who sinned with a “high hand,” or intentionally, there is no remedy; he must be cut off from the people.

In short, unintentional breaking of God’s commandments can be forgiven through an atoning sacrifice. Intentional sin, however, cannot.

Some key ideas jump out from the verses:

  • deliberately keep on sinning
  • knowledge of the truth
  • no further sacrifice
  • judgement
  • God’s enemy

Let us view them from both Old and New Covenant lenses so we may have a clear idea of how to apply them today. It is important that we acknowledge that the Old Testament, including the Old Covenant which dictated the relationship between God and Man during that period, is written as a shadow of things to come in the New Testament. The Bible is clear in saying that the shadow is not the real thing which is expressed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We should follow the Person—the Way, Truth,and Life, and not the shadow (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1). The Bible is also clear that the New Covenant comes to replace the obsolete Old Covenant as it is written in Hebrews 8:13: “By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” The Old Covenant is still relevant in the sense that it is still needed to convict the unbelieving world until they submit to Christ, but once they express their faith in Christ, they enter a new relationship with Him based on the New Covenant. Many Christians due to their lack of understanding of the Bible attempt to live under both Covenants, hence committing spiritual adultery (Romans 7:1-4).

Deliberately keep on sinning

26For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

View from the Old Covenant

As we read in Numbers 15:22-31 we saw that there were basically two kinds of sins, one intentional and the other unintentional where only the unintentional sins could be forgiven through a sacrifice.

All sins must be based on the breaking of the Ten Commandments, but the difference is in whether they were committed intentionally or unintentionally. Here is where things can get a little complicated. According to Deuteronomy 17:6, there needs to be two or three witnesses before a transgressor can be put to death. One might raise a question about how the witnesses can see through the heart of the transgresser to know without any shadow of doubt that the sin was committed intentionally. However we don’t need to solve this problem of determining intentionality of a transgression, because under the New Covenant we will be shown a much clearer picture of sin and forgiveness.

View from the New Covenant

God must know what problem can be caused by the intentional/unintentional system of differentiation, but He wanted to let man come to the place where they exhaust all their resources, let them use their “knowledge of good and evil” to see if they can figure out how to get right with Him using their fuzzy logic.

When Christ came into the world was when God began to show mankind a better path. He showed them He’s not interested in differentiating camels and gnats, intentional or unintentional, venial or mortal, types of sins: “For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). He showed them that they all committed sins that deserve eternal damnation.

He declared to the world that there is only one sin that mankind must worry about; there is only one that its commission is defined as intentional; there is only one that there is no sacrifice for. Here is what Jesus said about the role of the Holy Spirit concerning sin:

8And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me (John 16:8-9)

The world has been wrong concerning sin? Yes, it has been obsessed with sins and their categorization. The real intentional sin lies in how one answers this question: Do you believe on the One God has sent? As a matter of fact Jesus said it here earlier in John:

28So then they said to him, “What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?” 29Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires - to believe in the one whom he sent.” (John 6:28-29)

To further emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in correcting the world’s view concerning sin, Jesus asserted in Matthew 12:31:

31For this reason I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Every sin can be forgiven except one. There is no further need to pit between camels and gnats. You can even blaspheme against God Himself and be forgiven, but you’re not allowed to change the message of the Holy Spirit: sin is the act of not believing in Christ. The original Greek word for “blasphemy” may also be translated to “slander,” to distort the ministry of the Holy Spirit (click here for further discussion on the word “blaspheme”).

The slanderer of the Holy Spirit takes peoples eyes from the main and singular objective: Christ, and moves them to the myriad camels and gnats, and the intentional or unintentional, of sins. They move them from the position of the assurance of salvation to the confusing world of chasing endlessly one sin after another.

The Hebrews 10 context

So far we have reduced the confusion of intentional vs. unintentional sins down to a single real sin: the sin of unbelief. This is a very critical paradigm shift in our relationship with God; a shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant where the one deals with sin and death and the other faith and life. The context of Hebrews 10 proves even more valuable in further affirming this paradigm shift.

Hebrews 10 starts out with comparing the old system of sacrifices to that of Christ.

1For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship. 2For otherwise would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers would have been purified once for all and so have no further consciousness of sin? 3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year. 4For the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins.

Man initiated sacrifices
  • cannot make the worshippers perfect
  • must be offered continually (like confession of sins nowadays)
  • remind the worshippers of sins
  • cannot take away sins
Christ
  • make perfect the worshippers (perfection is required so we may enter God’s presence—Matthew 5:48)
  • offered once for all and never to be repeated again
  • no further consciousness of sins
  • can take away sins

With just these four verses alone we can make a case for the transition from all manners of sin to the singular sin of unbelief, from repeated and continual offering of sacrifices for all sort of sins to the final once for all sacrifice of Christ.

There is also another important truth in these verses that not only supports the need of the paradigm shift, it makes all the difference in how we are to relate to God, our concept of sin, in giving us the key to the peace that passes understanding that has eluded Christians for two thousand years since Christ. The truth about Christ’s sacrifice allows us to have “no further consciousness of sins”. This is in contrast to the sacrifices of the blood of bulls and goats that serve as reminders of sins. Have you ever thought that in Christ you are allowed to have no further consciousness of sins? Consciousness of sins produces guilt, and religion thrives on guilt.

Therefore to deliberately keep on sinning is to continue to disobey the call to trust in Christ as the only means for salvation. While all sins can be forgiven, this sin of unbelief prevents any possibility of its forgiveness required for reconciliation with God. To tie deliberate sinning to the common transgressions that spring from man’s sinful nature is to make it impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of God, or at least to make the Christian life anything but an easy yoke and a light burden.

Knowledge of the truth

26For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

This part ties in perfectly with the conclusion that the ultimate sin is the sin of unbelief. If we place the main verses of this writing in even the larger context of the entire book of Hebrews we’d see that the knowledge of the truth in verse 26 is the knowledge that Christ’s sacrifice is an act that replaces the entire sacrificial system once for all.

The first part of verse 26 can be paraphrased as follows:

For if we deliberately refused to be forgiven of all our sins by believing in the truthful message we heard …

No further sacrifice

26For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

Under the Old Covenant, God gave His people a system of sacrifices to give them a measure of peace upon their failures to keep His commandments, but the sacrifices must be offered repeatedly because it is inevitable that they would continue to sin against Him. Christ brought this system to an end by His death on the cross.

14For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 15The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” 18And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary (Hebrews 10:14-18).

The old sacrificial system deals with sins one by one, intentional or unintentional, never ending, Christ came to deal with sin once for all, though sin is still manifested in the fallen flesh, the consciousness of sins is erased from the mind of one who fully trusts in the finished work of Christ. Therein lies the possibility of rest (Matthew 11:28).

Judgement

26For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

These verses must not be addressing Christians for the use of the word “judgment”. Romans 8:1-2 says that there is not supposed to be any judgment for Christians:

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set youa free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).

and then later in verse 34:

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

Judgment however is reserved for those who deliberately refuse to place their trust on Christ alone for their salvation, they still rely on other means, other sacrifices in place of Christ.

God’s Enemy

26For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

In the context of this Hebrews passage, it is the deliberate sinning through unbelief, through trusting in something other than Christ. Paul wrote this to the Galatians that might help us see the similarity of the sin they commit:

2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace (Galatians 5:2-4).

In the case of the Galatians, it is the reliance on circumcision that made them alienated from Christ. They fell from grace in their trying to be justified through the law. In the case of the Hebrews, their reliance on the law is through the sacrifices of blood of bulls and goats (Hebrews 10:4). Trying to be justified by the law while Christ already died to bring them the justification they needed, this made them the enemy of God as we continue reading to Hebrews 10:29:

How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)

For us modern Christians, what do we rely on to be justified before God? Our works? Our righteous deeds?

Conclusion

In the eyes of the writer of Hebrews, the sin of his target audience is definitely not of the transgression of one against another, or even against self, but againt God. However there is only one sin againt God that cannot be forgiven: the slandering, or blaspheming, or distorting of the Holy Spirit’s conviction of men concerning what sin really is: unbelief in the One God has sent.

In trusting in the sacrifices of the blood of bulls and goats, these believers committed a deliberate sin of not placing their full trust on the finished work of Christ. This is manifested at the church of Galatia in their trust in circumcision, at the church of Colosse in their trust in the observing of certain days, the washing of hands, or other methods of self deprivation.

In short, Christ is the only way God provides for us to have access to Him, nothing else can add to it—even our most righteous deeds, and nothing can cancel its efficacy—even all manner of sins except that of unbelief.

To be fully convinced of this interpretation, one needs only to expand outward to the larger context of the whole of chapter 10, and subsequently backtrack to the entire book of Hebrews.

18And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief (Hebrews 3:18-19). The disobedience is to the call to believe

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

Filed under: and

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *