This post will summarize Hebrews 10:26-31 and provide basic application. Readers interested in a detailed defense of these statements are encouraged to consult “An Exegesis of Hebrews 10:26-31.”
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the 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. (Heb. 10:26-27, NIV)
The author of Hebrews delivers a stern warning in the first two verses of this passage. Three questions are raised. 1) To whom is the warning issued; 2) what is being warned against; and 3) what is the consequence of disobeying the warning?
In answer to the first question, the author is clearly speaking to Christians as evidenced by the fact that he includes himself (“we”) in the warning. Second, the phrase “keep on sinning” should be translated “deliberately sin” (cf. KJV); the particular sin being warned against is apparently apostasy given the immediate context (v. 23) and the immediately following application (v. 35). Some object to the idea that Christians can fall way from their faith, but we must not allow our own theology to decide what a passage means. Finally, the consequence for falling away is divine discipline. Though some see Hell in view, there is simply no basis for making such a claim, as fire is very often a picture of judgment in both the NT and OT.
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, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (10:28-29)
To prove his case, the author points back to Num. 15:17-36. Those who sinned deliberately were put to death. Since to reject one’s faith is to knowingly reject Jesus’ sacrifice and thus consider it worthless, the penalty must be more severe than death. While this penalty is not expressly defined, our own experience teaches us there are many things worse than death. Divine discipline in this life as well as a loss of rewards in the next are only two quick examples.
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. (10:30-31)
The author concludes with a Scriptural basis for his warning. He sees apostasy as a sin against God Himself which He must avenge. Further, God judges His own people, as He did Israel for so long. God is not a dead God who cannot respond to our sin.
This passage is a very stern warning for every believer. It provides a negative motivation—fear of judgment—for walking the Christian life. Though apostasy is the sin in view, it seems that the principle may well extend to sin generally. To sin against God knowingly because we know we have been forgiven is to invite harsh judgment. Though believers in Christ may be eternally secure, their security is the very thing which calls them to a higher standard. Those who are in Christ must live as He lived.