************ Sermon on Hebrews 10:26-31 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 12, 2001
"Trampling Jesus Under Foot"
Everyone of us has heard of Jesus. We know that He is the Son of God sent into the world, the Savior Who died on the cross, the Lord Who demands our life and service. Now, there is two things that we who have heard of Jesus can do with Him: we can serve Him or, in the words of our text, we can "trample the Son of God under foot."
Topic: CommitmentThis evening I would like to challenge everyone of you to be like those Russian Christians who decided to live and die for Jesus. And, I want to warn you not to be like those who decided to forsake the Lord.
A group of believers was meeting in an Iron Curtain country when the church door burst open and two Russian soldiers with submachine guns strode in. They said they would give five minutes for anyone who wished to renounce Christ to leave, and that those who stayed would be shot.
As each person searched his heart for the courage to face death, a few got up and left. The officers then walked to the door of the church locked it, and turned to the congregation with the words, "Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are believers, too, but we did not want to worship where everyone was not completely committed to Christ and willing to die for Him. May we become part of your fellowship?"
When we visited with my family earlier this summer I was shocked to be told about cousins and aunts and uncles who have left the faith and forsaken the Lord. And, what is true for my family is true for most, if not all, families: consider what some of you told me about family members in the Netherlands. So I want to warn and challenge God's people: don't forsake the Lord but serve Him.
A Let's make sure we are absolutely clear about whom Scripture is speaking of in Hebrews 10. Hebrews speaks of those among us who "deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth" (vs 26). These are not people who "are ignorant and are going astray" (Heb 5:2); people whose sin is accidental, or done out of ignorance.
Scripture speaks here of those within the Church who intentionally, willingly, consciously, and deliberately despise the Word of the Lord and break His commandments. In mind here is the sort of person described in Proverbs:
(Prov 2:13-15) who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, (14) who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, (15) whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.These people abandon the Christian profession and the way of holiness that goes with that profession. Such a sinner turns away from what he knows to be the truth. He rebels against the covenant and rejects the covenant sign with which he has been sealed. He sins against the light (Heb 6:4), showing that he loves darkness rather than light (Jn 3:19). He turns his back on salvation.
These people, says Hebrews, sin after having "received the knowledge of the truth." They deliberately sin and forsake the Lord even though they know better. Hebrews 6 tells us that they fall away even though they at one time repented, even though they
(Heb 6:4-5) have once been enlightened ... have tasted the heavenly gift ... have shared in the Holy Spirit ... have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age ...It hardly seems possible that someone who has experienced all of this could fall away from the Lord. Yet, this is the dreadful possibility.
Let this be a warning to us congregation. Too many times we make the mistake of thinking that our children and youth are eternally safe because they are raised in Christian homes, attend Sunday School and Catechism, are enrolled in Central Valley Christian school or attend a Christian college. Yet, you know as well as I do that some of these have still fallen away from the Lord. Boys and girls, young people, I want to challenge you to love and serve Jesus. Bible reading and prayer at home means nothing, Sunday School or Catechism at church does you no good, a Christian education counts for nothing, if you do not give your heart and your life to Jesus.
B Scripture minces no words in telling us how dreadful or serious it is for someone who has known the Lord, who has been raised as a child of God, to fall away from Him. He who is guilty of this sin has "trampled the Son of God under foot" (vs 29). When we trample something under foot we show that we consider it to be worthless. In other words, Jesus is being treated with the utmost contempt – like He is garbage.
He who is guilty of this sin also "has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him" (vs 29). The blood of the covenant is the blood of Christ upon the cross, the blood by which alone God's people are cleansed, sanctified, and brought to God. Remember King Belshazzar of Babylon? He gave a feast and in his drunken stupor he ordered that the wine be served in the holy vessels his father, King Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. King Belshazzar took a holy thing and treated it as being ordinary and common. Because of this sin that very night his life was taken from him (Daniel 5). Those who fall away from the Lord treat Christ's holy and precious blood as being common, nothing special, ordinary. In falling away they reject both Christ's sacrifice and all the blessings which flow from it.
And, finally, he who is guilty of this sin "has insulted the Spirit of grace" (vs 29). He has rejected the renewing work of the Spirit within; He wants nothing to do with the Spirit's work of conversion, regeneration, or renewal.
C In the history of the church there have been some who believe Scripture is addressing itself here to a particular sin or group of sins: such as murder, adultery, theft, perjury, drunkenness, rape, sexual abuse, and other such heinous crimes. These people believe that it is those Christians who commit such sins who are trampling the Son of God underfoot, who are profaning the body and blood of the Lord, who are insulting the Spirit of grace. If this is actually the case, then we would have to say that King David trampled Jesus under foot, treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant, and insulted the Spirit of grace. Remember David's sin? He committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to cover it up. Yet, Scripture describes David as a devout believer and saint. So we know it is not a particular sin or group of sins that is in mind here.
What is in mind here is an attitude, a mind-set, that we know as "apostasy."
What is apostasy? Apostasy is a life that once professed obedience to Christ but now openly denies Him and lives contrary to His will. The apostate turns his back on the Lord and the things of the Lord. The apostate renounces God's grace and mercy. The apostate rejects the light of the Gospel in favor of the darkness of sin. An apostate is a former believer who has completely fallen away from the Gospel. To all outward appearances the apostate seems to be a true member of the believing church but one day he shows his true colors and forsakes the Lord. About them the Apostle John can say,
(1Jn 2:19) They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
Permit me a word of caution, though. Unlike God we can never look into the heart to see what is really there, to see if there is a complete falling away from the Gospel. Many are the church members throughout the ages who have fallen because of human frailty and temptation and not because of a conscious, deliberate decision against the Gospel and God's grace. The church may have judged them to be apostate but, by God's grace, these people have later come to repentance – in itself clear evidence that they are not guilty of apostasy. We have to be careful and patient, then, in our judgments. We have to pray for those who have fallen: that their fall is only for a time and that the Lord will lead them to repentance.
D The Bible gives a variety of names or terms to this sin of apostasy. It is called the "sin that leads to death" (1 Jn 5:16). Jesus calls it an "eternal sin" (Mk 3:29) and "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" (Mk 3:29). In our circles we call it the "unforgivable sin."
A The consequences of apostasy are more terrible than words can really express. It ends any sort of relationship with God and puts one outside of God's mercy, God's grace, and God's love. Listen to what our text says in verse 26:
(Heb 10:26) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left ...
There is no forgiveness for apostasy. There is forgiveness, however, for those who "are ignorant and are going astray" (Heb 5:2); whose sin is accidental, or done out of ignorance. There is forgiveness of the sin that springs from the sinful nature all men hold in common. The Old Testament tells us that sacrifice and forgiveness are available to the person who "sins unintentionally," but that the person
(Num 15:30-31) "'... who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. (31) Because he has despised the Lord's word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.'"
There is no forgiveness for apostasy because the apostate has willfully cut himself off from God – the only source of forgiveness. To reject Christ and His sacrifice is to be left with no sacrifice. To profane Christ, His blood, His Spirit, is to put oneself outside of salvation.
B For the apostate "no sacrifice for sins is left" (vs 26). Instead, there is
(Heb 10:27) only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.You see what happens when the apostate abandons God and salvation? In abandoning God and salvation he embraces judgment and hell fire!
Hebrews tells us that what happens to apostates in the New Testament is really no different than what happened to them under the law of Moses. Our text says,
(Heb 10:28) Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.The argument proceeds by the posing of a rhetorical question:
(Heb 10:29) 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?Hebrews teaches that the person who breaks the new covenant established in Christ will be punished more severely than the one who violated the old covenant established at Mt. Sinai in the days of Moses.
C Our God cannot and does not allow the sin of apostasy to go unpunished. He is a God, says Hebrews, Who said,
(Heb 10:30) "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."Both these utterances come from Moses' farewell address to the people of Israel. Moses reminds the people of God's gracious dealings with them and warns them of the dire consequences of apostasy. Moses lets the people know, even as we must know, that God punishes enemies both without and within the covenant community who rebel against His rule.
Hebrews concludes its warning against apostasy and its judgment by saying,
(Heb 10:31) It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.It is dreadful to fall into His hands because He is God, the sovereign Judge of all creation. It is dreadful to fall into His hands because He is the living God, the one and only God, who, since He lives forever, is able for all time to execute judgment on the wicked.
How foolish the action of the apostate: he abandons God as his Savior only to meet Him as his Judge.
Perhaps some here fear and tremble that they are one of the apostate. Perhaps some sensitive Christian present this evening fears he or she has committed the unforgivable sin. Let me assure you that your very fear shows that you could not have committed it.
Perhaps your mind still is not at ease. Let me ask, "do you repent of your sin?" If you do, you need not worry about the sin against the Holy Spirit being present in your life. For, repentance is also clear evidence that a person is not guilty of apostasy.
If you still are not at peace, let me ask, "Do you make diligent use of the means of grace? Do you come to church, do you hear the Word of God, do you participate in the sacraments?" These also are proofs you are not apostate.
If none of us have committed this sin of apostasy, why have a sermon on it? Why? To issue a warning to us all to persevere in the faith and to "hold unswervingly to the hope we profess" (vs 23). This becomes a call to examine your relationship with the Lord. Consider the genuineness of your faith. It is not enough to have the name of the Lord on your lips in praise and worship. Even to prophesy and to cast out demons and to do mighty works in the Lord's name does not necessarily guarantee trueness of heart (Mt 7:21-23). Jesus knew very well that it is all too possible to honor God with the lips while the heart is far from Him (Mk 7:1-8). For instance, many voices that shouted "Hosanna!" and greeted Jesus as King on Palm Sunday shouted "Crucify him! Crucify Him!" just a few days later. Genuine confession with the lips springs only from belief that is deeply rooted in the heart (Rom 10:9).
Consider with me some individual cases of apostasy. Paul had the sad experience of being deserted by his fellow worker Demas, who was lured away "because he loved the world" (2 Tim 4:10). Simon the Sorcerer, who professed belief and was baptized, was rebuked by Peter as being "full of bitterness and captive to sin" (Acts 8:9ff). No apostasy is more startling than that of Judas Iscariot: he was one of the Twelve who was blessed with the special privilege of being constantly in the Lord's presence, he enjoyed the warmth of Christ's friendship, he spent many hours listening to Jesus' teachings, he witnessed miracles and all sorts of wonderful works; yet, he sold his heart to Satan and betrayed the Master. Furthermore, the apostate condition of his heart, though known to Jesus, was not even suspected by the rest of the Twelve, to whom it was unthinkable that any of their number could be a traitor (Mk 14:18f).
The sin of apostasy, then, is always a grim possibility within the covenant community. The apostate may be baptized, as was Simon the Sorcerer. He may be occupied in Christian labors, as was Demas. He may be one of the Twelve, as was Judas. He may be a leader in the community. He may be a member of a most upstanding family. He may be a preacher. He may be endowed with charismatic gifts. He may be a healer of the sick. He may have the power to cast out demons. He may have grown up in a Christian home and had the benefit of a Christian education. Yet, his heart is far from the One he professes to serve.
It scarcely seems possible that anyone who is baptized, professes their faith, and partakes of the Lord's Supper could fall away from the Lord Jesus. Yet, this is always a dreadful possibility for us sinners.
If this is the case, then what hope and what comfort do we have? Our comfort and hope lies not in ourselves and our efforts. It never lies in ourselves and our efforts. Because, let's be honest, on our own none of us would always cling to God and Christ and the faith. On our own, all of us would too easily and too quickly fall away.
I want you to hear these gracious and encouraging words of Jesus in the Gospel of John:
(Jn 10:27-29) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.
So, I urge you, my brothers and sisters, continue to hold fast to your faith and your hope. Make sure you truly love and serve the Lord. And, pray to God, "Lead me, guide me, along the way, for if you lead me, I cannot stray ..."
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