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Aug 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 9, 2020


Intro: The passage we are looking into this morning, Is as terrible as last week’s passage was wonderful

I have found last Sunday’s reminder to be very helpful this week
– I’ve survived and thrived on moments of “drawing near”
– but now we come to this:

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-31

• last night, I read this passage to Barbara
• when I finished she threw up her hands, and said,
“We’re all going to hell!”
◦ that was not what the writer intended,
◦ but it is an understandable reaction

From the beginning of our study in Hebrews, we observed its structure
– the writer provides instruction that he follows with a warning
instruction-warning, instruction-warning, etc.
• the first warning was in chapter 2, the second in chapter 3, then chapter 6
• it seems that the warnings are getting progressively scarier
– if you’ve read any of the medical reports on COVID-19,
• you know that if the symptoms manifest, they are painful and disorienting
◦ if it runs its course, the patient dies in misery (apart from hospice intervention)
◦ patients who recover may suffer permanent tissue damage to their organs
• why do some websites make a point of publishing these dire facts?
◦ to motivate people to take the virus seriously and act accordingly
– that is precisely the point of our passage
• the writer wants us to take leaving God seriously and act accordingly
• the threat is real and the consequences are tragic

This block of verses is wrapped together by one word: fearful

At the beginning fearful expectation (v. 17) and the end fearful thing (v. 31)
– this way of enveloping a text is a writer’s technique (literary device)
• placing the text within brackets makes the theme obvious
• in this case, the writer does not want us to simply know about fear,
◦ he wants us to feel it
◦ so he uses vivid images and analogy to evoke this reaction

What has the writer so worried?
– that his readers may go on sinning deliberately
• I think most of us will confess that we go on sinning
◦ we’re guilty, IF we take only the surface meaning of the phrase
◦ God has made provision for continued screw-ups
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 Jn. 2:1)
• so we have to look deeper than the surface meaning to understand the writer is getting at
– his warning is basically the same as in chapter 6
• it has to do with someone who has had an experiential knowledge of God
◦ but now they’ve turned their back on God
• “deliberately” is the key word
◦ do you remember the sacrificial offerings in Leviticus
. . . the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done . . ., sacrifices were provided so that the people could be forgiven (Lev. 4:1-2)
◦ but what the writer of Hebrews refers to is intentional (deliberate)
[God, to Jeroboam, the king of the northern empire of Israel] . . . you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back (1 Ki. 14:9)
◦ tossing God behind your back is not something a person does accidentally

There is no way to get to God from there
– a person cannot reject Jesus and once again have the same access to God
• there’s not another sacrifice for the one who has walked away from Christ
• what there is, instead, is
a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries
– we need to appreciate the writer’s use of metaphors
• biblical scholars have recognized “literary devices” in Hebrews
◦ these are used for clarification and to make the text interesting
◦ metaphor is a grammatical device often used in scripture
• generally, it is used for effect
– what author describes is a firestorm
• you cannot outrun it, and it destroys everything
• destructive forces meant for God’s enemies will be released
◦ if you’ve gone over to other side, you’re on wrong team

All along, writer has been comparing Old Testament religion to Jesus
– frequently his logic has been “from lesser to greater”
• “how much more”
• here the comparison is with punishment under the Mosaic law,
◦ and the greater punishment one deserves for turning from Jesus
◦ the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility (Lk. 12:48)
– what we’ve received in Jesus is infinitely great

Please bear with me – I want to go off on a brief tangent
– I do not believe that God faults people who reject Jesus,
• if the Jesus they reject is a misrepresentation
• today’s media (Christian and non-Christian) have produced many twisted caricatures of Jesus that are not Jesus
◦ I also reject those versions of Jesus that misrepresent him (cf. Gal. 1:6-9)
– but now, back to the passage

The writer emphasizes the seriousness of deliberately rejecting Jesus
– whether they know it or not, the person who walks away from God has done three things:
1. trampled underfoot the Son of God
◦ as a metaphor, trample means to show contempt, to disdain
2. profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified
◦ verse 19 showed us that Jesus’ blood is our means of access to God
◦ to treat it as if not special or not “holy” is to render it useless
3. outraged the Spirit of grace – outraged is better translated “insulted”
◦ the writer puts together two key terms: Spirit and grace
◦ both have to do with God making the Christian life possible (cf. 4:16 and 9:14)
◦ through both, God works directly in our lives
Grace: God’s disposition that explains his generosity to people who don’t deserve it
The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6)
Spirit: God sharing his divine life and power that enables Christians
◦ to be witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8)
◦ to minister to each other with spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7)
◦ to glorify God in worship and our lives (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
– to insult the Spirit is to cut off our lifeline

God’s people have a long history of not seeing sin from his perspective
• for us, sin is merely “fooling around,” and “not hurting anyone else”
• for God, sin is “adultery” — it is personal

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God
– “fearful” because as Luke T. Johnson says,
“. . . the worship of the living God is quite unlike the worship of an idol, whose existence depends on human service.”
– this is the really sad part of this passage
• what the person who walks from the Lord is doing is exactly the reverse of conversion to Jesus Christ, where as Paul says, we
turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Th. 1:9)

To help them stay the course, gives them a reminder
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised Hebrews 10:32-36

Forgetting can be the first stage of turning away
– Psalm 106 recounts Israel’s history of repeated failures
• frequently, the first step they took in the wrong direction was forgetting
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love (v. 7)
they soon forgot his works (v. 13)
they forgot God, their Savior (v. 21
• remember in a way that you re-experience the feelings you had about God

The writer also reminds them of everything they had suffered
– and all the good they did for each other
William Barclay, “In effect he says: ‘Be what you once were at your best.’ If only we were always what we can be at our best, life would be very different.”
• if they remember these things, they will not throw away their confidence
– what all of this boils down to: You need endurance
Barclay refers to endurance it as “one of the great unromantic virtues.”

The key to endurance: faith
Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Hebrews 10:37-39

Habakkuk, one the prophets quoted here,
– lived in one of most distressing periods of Israel’s history
• God did not have a pleasant message for him
◦ but the important revelation he received to carry him through was
[God’s] righteous one shall live by faith
◦ that is how God’s people maintain their relationship with him through difficult times
– receiving this message, Habakkuk was able to end his prophecy with a song:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor the fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places
(Hab. 3:17-19)
• he is saying that nothing has to change, and he will still rejoice in God

This stern warning ends in reassurance
But we are not of those who shrink back
– in other words, we are not like those he has been describing
• so if you are reading this letter, he is not talking about you
• you’re safe

Conclusion: Evangelists have told us we need to
“make a decision for Christ”

That is somewhat misleading
We are constantly faced with decisions and choices
When many of Jesus’ followers abandoned him, he asked his disciples
Do you want to go away as well? (Jn. 6:66-67)
The door is always open
And the decision to follow Jesus must be made again and again

Keep choosing God – keep remembering
his love for you,
the beauty and goodness he has shown you,
remember how he has always been faithful in caring for you
Whenever you need to catch your breath, do it
Take a break,
we cannot keep going at full speed all the time
Run to the throne of grace when necessary,
refresh and renew your soul
But once you are up and going again
push yourself,
test your endurance
The payoff is when we experience in truth what we read in James
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (Jas. 4:8)

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