In our study of Hebrews chapter ten, we look at the meaning and consequences of "willful sin".
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
In chapter 9, we saw that the blood of Jesus was a sacrifice that was sufficient to remove sin once and for all. Here, we see Paul contrast that to the animal sacrifices that were offered at the temple. Jesus went to the cross once and paid for all sin while these animal sacrifices could not. When we accept Jesus Christ as the payment for our sins, then, there is no more guilt as the sin debt is paid in full. The animal sacrifices did not remove the sin or the guilt and so had to be continually offered. Are you a Christian that is walking around feeling all guilty about your past sins? Stop it! There is no condemnation or shame for those who are in Christ.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, "Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, O God."'
In this psalm, David was looking back at what God had done in his life as well as looking forward to the coming of Christ. Jesus was the fulfillment and we are the body that it speaks of.
First he said, 'Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them' (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, 'Here I am, I have come to do your will.' He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
God did not design us to live under the law. The law was given to point us to the need for a Savior. Jesus came and fulfilled all of the requirements of the law and replaced it with grace.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Unlike the other priests, Jesus offered himself once and for all and then He went and sat down at the right hand of God. In the temple, there were no chairs as the priests were constantly offering sacrifices. What does "his enemies" mean? An enemy of Christ and of God is one who denies the sufficiency of His sacrifice. Those who accept His sacrifice have been made perfect in the sight of God. Every sin that we have or will commit was paid for when Jesus went to the cross on our behalf. As Christians, we may not look perfect to those around us but, in the sight of God, we are and we are being made holy (set apart for His use).
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: '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.' Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.' And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
As Christians, we do not need a religious leader to tell us what is right and wrong. As we see here, the laws of God are written on our hearts and mind by Him. We also see that our sins have been forgiven and we must remember that, when God forgives, it is like the sin never even happened. As people, we like to forgive but keep the memory of the wrong in the back of our minds but, when God forgives, then it is also forgotten. Do you have someone in your life that always tries to bring up your past sins? If so, you can tell them that, in God's eyes, it is like they never even happened. Then, ask them if they think they are above God.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Since we have this new covenant in the blood of Jesus, we are made righteous and we can enter the very presence of God. In fact, God now lives in us through the Holy Spirit. We are still people who mess up and so we have Jesus as our high priest who intervenes on our behalf with the Father. The old high priests and sacrifices could not cleanse the conscience but Christ has cleansed us completely and so we can walk in complete assurance of our relationship with God.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Because Jesus has cleansed us, we have the hope of eternal life with Him. We can be confident of this because of the fact that He cannot lie. We are to hold on to His work that was performed on our behalf and not try to add the works of man. We are to share this hope with others bringing them to salvation and teaching them to be disciples of Him. Paul also reminds us that we are a part of the body of believers and so we need to be connected to the rest of the "church" especially as we get closer to the day of His return. There are many leaders who use this verse to call people to all kinds of "church functions" and make them feel guilty for not attending but that is not what Paul is saying. He is not saying that we need to join a "church" or denomination but instead we are to just get together regularly with fellow believers so that we can support and build each other up in the faith. The early church did this every day! Do you have daily fellowship with other believers?
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Now, Paul gets to the heart of his message to the Jewish believers. He describes deliberate (willful) sin and that has been misunderstood and used to beat down Christians for way too long. We remember that Paul was speaking to Jewish Christians that were being told that they had to submit to the Law of Moses in addition to accepting the sacrifice of Jesus. The "willful sin" that he was speaking of is the act of allowing others to convince us to fall back under the law. While this may sound like the "religious" thing to do, by doing so we would be saying that Jesus' sacrifice was not sufficient. If that was true, then there would be no hope but only the dread of the coming judgment of God. That judgment is reserved for the "enemies of God" so, who are they? They are those that reject the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ and trust in their own works. That, my friends, is why so many Christians walk around like slaves instead of the royalty that we are.
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' and again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Paul quotes from the Law and reminds the people that it is God who will judge those who reject His ways. Jesus is The Way and those who reject His mercy and grace can only expect to be judged by Him. If you want to be judged by the Law of Moses, God will grant you your wish. The same situation is happening even more today as each denomination hangs onto a different part of the law and try to add it to the grace of God. In so doing, many are led into the willful sin that Paul was warning the Jewish believers about.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
Here, Paul reminds the Jewish believers of the joy of grace. When they had first came to faith in Jesus Christ, they had realized that it was only a gift from God and the joy followed because they knew freedom for the first time in their lives. This joy and freedom gave them the courage to stand in the face of opposition as they looked forward with certainty to their rewards from God.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Is Paul talking about losing your salvation? Absolutely not! The throwing away of the confidence speaks of looking back to the law to somehow add to our assurance of salvation. He urges the Jewish believers to hold onto the grace that has been given to them and to resist the temptation of works. Those that "shrink back" never really had the confidence of salvation and so were never really saved. Are you confident in the sufficiency of Christ?