“The Cure for Apostasy” part 2
by Dr. John Woodward
In a previous study we looked at Hebrews 6:1-6 under the theme, “a cure for apostasy.” The parallel passage that gives a similar, strong warning is Hebrews 10:26-31. Verse 26 has caused many believers to question their salvation: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:26). Does this mean that an intentional sin in a Christian’s life is unforgivable? Obviously not! Colossians 2:13 declares, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you ALL trespasses.”
To understand the warning in this chapter, then, we need to first look at the preceding context. In Hebrews 10:1-18 explains the perfect, complete atonement Christ made on Calvary. This is followed by exhortations to live in light of this full salvation (Heb. 10:19-24). The concluding admonition involves the importance of Christian fellowship: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24,25).
Now comes the strong warning: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26,27). The question is, What is meant by the willful sin in verse 26? To answer this we need to observe that the context is describing the superiority and finality of Christ’s New Covenant.
The prospect of “sin willfully” refers to the willful rejection the New Covenant in Christ Jesus.
Dire consequences of judgment are given to warn the wavering person to escape such a dreadful destiny. The next verses confirm this warning by comparing the sin of apostasy from Christ to that of apostasy from the Old Covenant under Moses: “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Heb. 10:28). Cases of idolatry (Deut. 17:2-7) and high-handed rejection of God’s authority (Num. 15:30,31) would deserve and require capital punishment. The next verse shows that rejecting the New Covenant in Christ is even more blameworthy: “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot …” The one who turns his back on Christ treats the Atonement with contempt. He has “counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing.” Although Christ’s payment for sin is sufficient for all (1 John 2:2), rejecting the gospel insinuates that Christ’s sacrifice was no better than of a martyr or animal. This stubborn unbelief has “insulted the Spirit of grace” (Heb 10:29), since the Spirit of God convicts people of their need and the truth of the gospel (John 16:8-11; 1 Cor. 12:3).
The danger of a professing Christian forsaking Christ brings this additional warning: “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:30,31; Deut. 32:35,36). This “hell fire and brimstone” language may seem harsh, but God’s love is perfectly balanced by His justice (Rom. 3:26).
The following verses would reassure the persecuted Jewish believers in the early church: “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the [fulfillment of the] promise” (Heb. 10:32-36). To North American ears, it is difficult to comprehend this kind of suffering for Christ, yet even today, thousands of believers are experiencing persecution around the world.
The biblical author concludes this section with a quote from Habakkuk. This Old Testament prophet had addressed the importance of being part of the faithful remnant in the days of foreign oppression: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb. 10:37,38; Hab. 2:3,4). As the believers in the days of Habakkuk anticipated God delivering them from Babylon, so New Covenant believers anticipate Christ’s return (Cf. Titus 2:13,14). The mention of “drawing back” warns the professing Christian to not turn away from Christ in resolute unbelief. However, the passage ends with a word of assurance: “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39).
So, this study has concluded that: 1) True believers will continue to believe in Christ (Heb. 3:7); 2) The “willful sin” is not an act of disobedience or a condition of temporary backsliding . The willful sin is an unrepentant turning away from Christ’s New Covenant.
In Hebrews, chapter 6, the cure for apostasy is to learn and believe the meat of the Word–the New Testament truth of Christ’s superior, high priestly ministry. The cure for apostasy in chapter 10 is to continue in the privileges of New Covenant faith and fellowship.
Ultimately our confidence is in the One who saves completely: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). You can count on your Redeemer’s faithfulness! “… For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
 “Sin” here is a present active particle in Greek, indicating a condition. “Sin” here means, … apostatize (Heb 3:12) to Judaism or infidelity, is not a sin of ignorance, or error … [or] of infirmity, but a deliberate sinning against the Spirit (Heb 10:29 Heb 5:2) … a sinning presumptuously and perseveringly against Christ’s redemption for us, and the Spirit of grace in us.” -Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown.
 The idea here is, that to fall into the hands of the Lord [2 Sam 24], after having despised his mercy and rejected his salvation, would be [terrifying]; and the fear of this should deter from the commission of the dreadful crime. The phrase “living God” is used in the Scripture in opposition to idols. God always lives; his power is Capable of being always exerted. -Albert Barnes
 For example, see Voice of the Martyrs: www.Persecution.org
 “But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” is based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) commonly used in the first century.
 God can and will discipline and restore his erring children: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:5,6).
 Whether one believes that a born again Christian cannot lose His salvation or that he can intentionally forfeit it, God’s Word warns everyone in the strongest possible terms that there is no other way of redemption, forgiveness, and salvation except through faith in Jesus the Messiah.
“The Cure for Apostasy” part 1 is posted at GraceNotebook.com
Grace Notes: November 12, 2004. Copyright 2004 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.