Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom, I’ve been reading through the Book of Hebrews, and I’m struggling. Now I know you can’t cover the whole book in just a few minutes, but could you help me out with chapter 10, verses 26 through 31? These verses are unnerving to me as a believer, should they be?”
Tom: Dave, I can see where this person who wrote—you know—might be anxious. This sounds scary.
Dave: (chuckling) I think we ought to screen our questions a little better than that—try to keep the tough ones out. Well, the first thing here….
Tom: He’s kidding, folks. We love the tough ones. This is the Word of God, right, Dave? And we’re going to wrestle through it.
Dave: Well, we better be able to take all of it. The first thing we notice here, Tom, verse 29: “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot 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?” That’s a good one for Calvinists. Sounds like somebody is going to be lost, and yet he was sanctified by the blood. How can that be?
Tom: I hope you’ve got the answer, Dave.
Dave: Well, the Calvinist would deny that Christ died for all. I believe Christ did die for all. You have a similar statement in 2 Peter, chapter 2: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” So here we’ve got people who were “bought by the blood of Christ” in Peter, and here, “sanctified by the blood of Christ,” who end up in hell. Well, I believe the Bible teaches that: “God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son, whosoever believeth in him….” So Christ paid the penalty: “Behold, the Lamb of God who bears away the sin of the world.” So I think we have to start with that understanding of this verse. “If we sin willfully after we…”
Tom: Who’s this ”we”? Aren’t these people eternally secure?
Dave: I think that it is an editorial “we”—the same one that you have back here in Hebrews 6. It doesn’t use “we” there, but listen to what it says: “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened,”—now, that’s similar language that we have over here in Hebrews:10:26: “Who have received the knowledge of the truth.” So these people were similarly enlightened. “Those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” So, if you really are a believer, and you fall away, there is no salvation.
But it says here in Hebrews:6:9: “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” So if he is talking about true believers—this doesn’t happen to a true believer. Sin willfully? Well, that’s—Tom, yes, I guess if you sin, you sin willfully. In other words, it’s not through ignorance, but there is a conflict within a person’s heart when he sins. First John, chapter 2: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” A person would confess his sins, but notice what it says: “He that despised Moses’ law dies without mercy under two or three witnesses.” Now we’ve got an extreme case. We’ve got someone who despises the commandments of the Lord, and then it says, “He has trodden underfoot the Son of God and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing”— I think this would be similar to 2 Corinthians 13, where Paul says, “Examine yourselves whether you are really in the faith.” How would I examine myself? If I sin, I’m not doing this willfully; I am repentant. You could say, “Well, I knew what I was doing, and I did it.” Yeah, but my gracious, I am so sorry that I did it, and I repent, and I’m not trampling underfoot the Son of God, the blood of the Son of God. And I’m not despising…. If that is your attitude, you were never saved. You are lost, and the judgment of God will come upon you for pretending to be a believer even.
Tom: Dave, just a little bit of historical background, just briefly. Whoever wrote the Book of Hebrews—I know you believe it was Paul, but you know, we’re still not quite sure, but the time of it we know. This was around the time of Nero, and there was persecution that came upon the church. And the early church—they were mostly Jews. And their conversion—were they just going along with something until the persecution came? And then, whether they were true believers or not, they split, they separated—they were leaving or turning back to the very things, the Jewish laws, the rituals, and so on and so forth. So I think Paul is asking, just as you said, “Test yourself, see if you’re in the faith here. This is what you’re doing, and if you don’t have conviction of this, you were never saved to begin with.”
Dave: That’s right. If you do this you are lost. This passage, in other words, is not teaching falling away—if you commit such an evil sin, then you have fallen away. No, it’s teaching that if you do that you never were saved.