Religion of Thursday, 29 August 2013
Source: Hans-Peter Nkansah
Ever since I wanted to start writing on some biblical truths God had been teaching me over the last few years, this is one of those subjects I really couldn’t wait to write on. A former boss who believed he had been called into ministry thought he had received some divine revelations when suddenly all that drove his ‘relationship’ with God; was the ‘visions’ of people who claim to have experienced “third heaven encounters”. One of the scriptures he would usually quote to put people in bondage and fear is a verse that many have also been very confused about and has thus necessitated questioning their eternal destination. Now let me say this, people (especially religious folks) have a way of enveloping people into denominational factions and Christological labeling when they disagree with them on stands they have taken and held on to for so many years; so let me put this disclaimer out before I continue. Now, addressing some of these misrepresented scriptures doesn’t in any way pitch me with any religious affiliation much as addressing ‘salvation’ in this respect makes me a five point Calvinist or a ten point Arminian. I simply show what the BOOK says. With this disclaimer out of the way; let’s get into this text I believe its misinterpretation has put many under bondage and fear of their eternal security.
Hebrews 10:26-27 26 “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries”
Now, in order to delineate and with precision espouse the word of truth, it is expedient we consider a few things that may help push along the way.
The first thing you need to look at in an attempt to interpret this passage is to never at all try it until you have read the entire chapter or for what I would usually recommend, the entire book of Hebrews to have an overview understanding of who the author is, audience, dates/timing and the over arching theme of the book. I write extensively on this in my second letter to a friend called the “Dear Justin” series.
In other words, I charge my readers to examine the historical background, context, ask questions, look at the language and theme of a book before they can take leaps to interpret or explain accurately what a particular text may be positing- and guess what, once you commit to eschew all forms of slack and a lackadaisical approach to the study of you r word, the Holy Spirit will take you to heights of insights and understanding that will break all known conventions. Friends, it works!!!
Robin A. Brace puts it this way;” Christians really need to understand that the Bible contains different genres of writing and that discretion needs to be used when assessing correct interpretation”. Now let’s apply this found knowledge and see how it works in the text mentioned above.
The book of Hebrews though authorship disputed (but I opine is a Pauline epistle) is dated between 64-65AD just before the final pastoral epistles of Titus, I & II Timothy. This book possesses a great deal of apostolic and apologetic writings and addressed primarily to Jewish Christians. These believers certainly had a background in Old Covenant observances and Paul writes to them explaining how Christ now ‘super-ceded’ all the old regulations which they were accustomed to and quite familiar with. These Hebrew believers are tempted to disown their faith and are beginning to doubt the authenticity of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ; of whom they were promised an earthly Kingdom yet they now have to share in the reproach of a suffering and crucified Messiah. To the best of their knowledge, most of their Jewish countrymen had rejected this Messiah so what’s the point continuing in this new Faith offered them in place of Judaism. A.M Stibbs puts it this way;
“...Continued attachment to it (belief in the Gospel) seemed only to involve them in sharing the offensive reproach of a suffering and crucified Messiah and in having to face the increasing prospect of violent anti-Christian persecution. It may well be, therefore, that they were being seriously tempted to disown Jesus as the Messiah and to go back to re-embrace the visible and preferable good which Judaism still seemed to offer to them. That it was Judaism (or even a syncretistic neo-Judaism) which thus attracted them afresh as preferable to Christianity seems confirmed by the obvious way in which the writer sets himself from the first to demonstrate the superiority of the new covenant over the old, and to set forth particularly the outstanding excellence of Jesus, the Son of God, as compared with the prophets and angels, leaders and High Priests, who functioned in the old economy. So he shows that, while the old order was imperfect and provisional, Christianity brings perfection (7:19), and perfection which is eternal (5:9. 9:12, 15. 13:20).” Fast forward to Vs 10, Paul begins to build his argument and reveals some exciting truths about Jesus’ sacrifice (It was once and for all vs. 10) and contrasts it, with what was of old ministered by priests which could never take away sins nor guilt (vs. 11). Paul continues to build his argument and inserts in vs. 16-17 about how God through the new covenant will not remember sins any longer and that where remission of these (of what? I always encourage readers to ask questions as they read. Twill help you find answers more quickly) ans: vs. 17 (sins and iniquities). So where there is remission of sins and iniquities, there is no more offering of sin. Remember in Chapter 9:22; Paul unequivocally outlines that “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sins”. Thank God, His blood that was shed was enough sacrifice and because of that we must have confidence to enter into the Holiest. Having considered the revelations about the one true sacrifice offered once and for all, the apostle then makes his point in vs. 23-25 of which he had been building us to all this while and says;
23Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised ; 24And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: …
Now that Paul has made those remarkable statements of commands, let’s do a little word study of the word ‘profession’ which would be crucial to our understanding of vs. 26 at the end. Even though the NIV renders it confession which is where we will come to anyway, I choose to use the “Textus Receptus” (Received Text) from which the KJV was written because it puts the texts we are considering into better perspective. So the Greek word ????????? (homologian) translated in the KJV as “profession” in Strong’s concordance is from the cognate verb, homologé?, which means "to say the same thing about." The noun ‘homologia’ used in this passage means to speak to a conclusion, lay to rest" or can refer to a collective agreement and the courage to proclaim it.
So in other words Paul is saying friends, let us hold real tight unto the collective agreement or what we have already spoken to conclusion and laid to rest of our faith not inclining, being firm, unyielding, unbent (as in a steel) unmoved (as in a mountain).
Paul, being a skillful writer shortly after exhorting them begins to caution them against remissness. He understands as a Jew himself, how comfortable and familiar the Jews of his day were with Judaism and the observance of its practices. After all, that was the battle; his urgency to persuade them from abandoning their faith and going back to the practices of the Law. So he begins to caution them against slacking in confession of their faith towards one another and in their duties of faith towards each other. This exhibition of carelessness had begun telling on the congregation as some had started neglecting meeting in assemblies together. Meeting together included exhorting each other, worship, reading, communion, etc which were good signs of a growing group in their faith. But like the problem of the day, many had started falling away from group meetings obviously due to the persecutions from their fellow Jewish compatriots who still held Jesus was not the Messiah. So in vs. 26, he goes on to elaborate on the consequences for them who do not hold fast the profession of their Faith, slack and begin to fall away as some had started doing and alludes to it as ‘willful sinning’.
Vs. 26 for if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins,
Now remember Paul had been building an argument from the beginning of the chapter that is why I would always stress context, context, context because now in lieu of all that he’s been saying over the last 25 verses, we put vs. 26; but if you want the full insight, you don’t just stop there, continue reading. This is what is termed “exegesis”. Allowing the text and context to bring out the meaning in the passage. Exegesis simply means “out of” (I write more on this subject in my 2nd letter in the “Dear Justin” series). In that case, we would have to allow, the writer’s thoughts to end before we can draw the conclusion on what he actually meant.
So again, remember Paul starts in vs. 26 with the word ‘For’. Now 99.5% times, this word would be a ‘preposition’ in our daily use of grammar but it also has one use as a ‘conjunction’ word which is very much employed by Paul in his writings. This is one of those times the word ‘FOR’ is used as a conjunction to follow a thought process. Again, remember, the manuscripts didn’t come with verses and chapters but was thought necessary in the canonization of the scriptures for easy reading.
So Paul does not actually begin vs. 26 as an independent sentence but a continuation of his thought process from the previous verses where he is cautioning his Jewish readers to hold on fast to the confession of their faith and keep charge of each other not neglecting the meeting of themselves because some had done so in remissness. Alluding to his caution, he continues and says ‘for’…another word you can use in place of ‘for’ is ‘because’. So penultimately, he is saying…’because if you don’t adhere to the above exhortation I have given you having received the knowledge of truth (the gospel of Jesus and his grace; how that he died for your sins, was buried and raised back to life-1cor 15:1-5), and you deliberately (at will) reject/renounce/go back on the faith, there remains no more sacrifice of sins for you. (How do we know this is what Paul was alluding to)…continue reading.
28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
You see, now he is going to give reasons for the above assertion in vs. 26 and why the kind of consequence he has just mentioned. So he starts by rehearsing the parallel from the old covenant which he knew his audience were familiar with. And what was it? The law concerning apostasy; Deut 13:6-10; 6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Question is why would Paul draw a parallel of Moses’ Law on Apostasy and Consequence and not the violation of any other single act of omission or commission of the law? Because that is not the focus or better still, they were forgivable once the necessary sacrifices were made. But if you deliberately or willfully despised or turned your back on the Law, it was unforgivable and thus punishable by death. With that in mind, he minces no words when he rehearses that in vs. 28 because its equivalent in the new covenant is what he wants to arrive at;
28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
And in vs. 29, he rubs it in and draws the conclusion from the parallel in vs. 26 and 29 and says;
29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot 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?
Oh yes, the Apostle of Grace puts the cap on what he meant by ‘willful sin’ right here and puts it to his readers saying; Oh after hearing and believing the word of truth and salvation by the grace of God which was made possible through the shed blood (without which there is no remission for sins) of Jesus, the Christ and you do not hold fast to this saving faith but rather exhibit carelessness and fall away from the faith (apostatize or renounce the faith), then there is no more remission of sins for you, because that same saving blood is what you have rejected and if you have trodden underfoot the Son of God and counted his precious blood which sanctified and justified you freely(emphasis mine) as unholy, then what remains of you in terms of eternal life but;
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. Matthew Henry’s commentary does a beautiful summary this way;
”The sin here mentioned is a total and final falling away, when men, with a full and fixed will and resolution, despise and reject Christ, the only Savior; despise and resist the Spirit, the only Sanctifier; and despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life”.
As a master author, the Apostle Paul brings it all home and summarizes the theme of the whole chapter: “Apostasy”, in these final five verses; 35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man drawback, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul... What an exciting revelation the apostle Paul lays bare. Even in admonition, he tries to leave the thought on a great positive note; we are of them that BELIEVE to the saving of the soul.
The theme of apostasy is made even clearer when you visit Paul’s earlier statements on the subject four chapters back in Chapter 6 verse 4 to 6 of Hebrews; watch what he says here;
4”For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame”.
The next time any religious fanatic tries to steal your joy and promise in Christ by quoting the verse that there is no remission of sin for you because you committed an act of sin, remind them that “You are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but YOU are of them that BELIEVE to the saving of the soul…