Part 5 - Resting by Faith
The Blood of the Covenant: Uniquely Efficacious
As certain verses in Hebrews chapter six cause great anxiety and unrest among young believers when taken out of context (see previous page), so too with these verses from chapter ten: "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. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:26-29). This section of Scripture, taken out of context, has caused many to doubt their salvation and to have a lack of peace and rest in Jesus Christ.
Faith is disrupted whenever a believer takes his eyes off of the object of faith, Jesus Christ, and focuses them on himself. If one's assurance of salvation is based upon his own actions and work, then one's assurance is on very shaky ground and will be sure to collapse. "The just shall live by faith" is the guiding principle of the Christian walk. When this is heeded to then one can find peace and rest because of the sure promise of God that is fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption. This is the new covenant promise of God based upon the shed blood of Christ.
The new covenant context
Through the previous chapters of Hebrews and into chapter ten, the writer establishes that Jesus Christ is the Mediator and High Priest of the new covenant. He is to be the object of faith. There is a rest to be entered into by faith. The writer establishes the full efficacy of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. In light of this context, consider now what these verses in chapter ten are not saying. Afterward we will examine what they are saying.
Verse ten states, "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." First, this Scripture is not saying that there is no longer any forgiveness for sins. It is speaking about sacrifice, not forgiveness. Second, it is not speaking about a sacrifice that remains for unintentional sin versus no sacrifice remaining for willful sin. The writer had just established that no sacrifice remains, period. One could equally say, in truth, that if we sin unintentionally after we have received the knowledge of the truth that there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.
The new covenant remission of sins
These two points were just covered by the writer. He just wrote, "But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,' then He adds, 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin" (Heb. 10:15-18).
Here forgiveness of sins is spoken of. This is part of the new covenant. This forgiveness is toward "their sins and their lawless deeds." This might also be translated "sins and iniquities" or "sins and transgressions." The word "sins" is the general term for falling short of God's requirements, and includes unintentional sin. But "iniquities" or "transgressions" are willful sins. The new covenant forgiveness of sins covers all sin, unintentional and willful.
Regarding these Yahweh says, "I will remember no more." Here the writer makes a very important point: "Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." There is no longer an offering for sin not because it is unforgivable, but because it is remitted! The word "remission" is forgiveness and removal. Where there is remission, there is no longer an offering for sin. There no longer needs to be an offering for sin. In the new covenant, sin is dealt with once and for all. This forgiveness is based on one thing: the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This is the "blood of the covenant." It is fully efficacious to atone for sin.
One sacrifice for sins forever
This brings us to the second point of that which the writer is not speaking of. He is not implying that a sacrifice remains for unintentional sin, whereas there no longer remains a sacrifice for willful sin. This is what he has established regarding both types of sin: "Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." Because both have been dealt with, there is no longer an offering for sin.
One of the arguments of the book of Hebrews is that the first covenant could not take away sin. Therefore sacrifices under that covenant had to be ongoing. Sins committed after the previous sacrifice required a new sacrifice. Contrasted to this is the sacrifice of Christ: "And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:11-14).
Because that one sacrifice has "perfected forever" the believer, there no longer remains a sacrifice. Where there is remission, there is no longer an offering for sin.
(Note: The child of God who engages in sin willfully presents a discipline issue, not a salvation issue. See Hebrews 12:5-10 on the Father's chastisement.)
The unpardonable sin
That there no longer remains a sacrifice for any sin is the basis for what the writer is speaking of. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was the last sacrifice acceptable to God for the remission of sin. There will be no other. Sin was dealt with fully and now eternal life is available for all who repent and turn to God through Christ. With this path in place, there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven. The Apostle John wrote, "If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that" (1 John 5:16). This one sin is called the unpardonable sin.
Jesus spoke of this sin: "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt. 12:31-32). The context of this statement was a remark by the Jews that Jesus was casting out demons by "Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." They rejected Christ and the work He was doing. Jesus calls that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is because the work of the Spirit is to testify of Christ. To reject Christ is to reject the testimony of the Spirit. Therefore it is the willful rejection of Jesus Christ that is the one sin that cannot and will not be forgiven, "either in this age or in the age to come."
Some of the Hebrew believers were in danger of turning from faith in Christ, so the writer to the Hebrews warned them: "but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion' " (Heb. 3:6-8). Here the Holy Spirit is testifying about hearing Christ. The Hebrews were to hear the voice of their Messiah and not harden their hearts to Him. To refuse the Spirit's testimony and harden their hearts so as to turn from and reject Christ would be to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. This would result in the one course of action that is unforgivable. To reject Christ is to reject the only sacrifice for sin and the only path to life.
Rejecting the new covenant
In the historical context of this book, the Jewish temple was standing and the first covenant sacrifices were still being performed. The early believers were mostly Jewish. To embrace the Messiah Jesus and faith in Him as the fulfillment of prophecy, and as the substance to which the old testament shadows were pointing to, was culturally traumatic. It meant no longer counting upon the animal sacrifices but counting upon Christ. It meant staking one's eternal future upon the new covenant and not counting upon the temple sacrifices that were practiced, biblically, for centuries. To do this was a testimony to unbelievers that good works and other sacrifices are insufficient to gain God's favor. This would have brought scorn and persecution upon those turning to Christ. This was causing some of the Hebrews to consider turning from Christ back to the old covenant way of life.
But these Hebrew believers had received the truth of the gospel. They knew the way. To turn from the substance to the shadow would be to reject what that shadow was pointing to. There was no going back. To this the writer warned, "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 willful sin is the willful rejection of Jesus Christ. This is the unpardonable sin. The blood of Jesus Christ is uniquely efficacious in atoning for sin. To reject Him leaves no alternative but only "a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."
There is a threefold rejection involved in rejecting Christ. The Scripture says, "Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb.10:28-29). The rejection of Christ involves rejecting His person, rejecting His work, and rejecting God's grace. This rejection takes the form of three actions: trampling, counting, and insulting.
Trampling the Son of God
To reject Christ is to "trample the Son of God underfoot." An unrelated parable by Jesus illustrates such trampling: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men" (Matt. 5:13). To trample is to count a thing for naught, to distain it and walk over it. Such is the rejection of Christ. It is the rejection of His person such that one discounts Him for who He is and walks on.
The magnitude of this trampling becomes apparent when one considers God the Father's elevation of His Son. The book of Hebrews begins, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds" (Heb. 1:1-2). The prophets were greatly venerated by the Hebrews, for God sent them and spoke through them. How much more were they to take heed to the Son of God through whom God is now speaking. The Son is the "heir of all things" and the Creator. To this the writer adds, in showing that Jesus is greater than Moses, the prophets, and the angels, "But to which of the angels has He ever said: 'Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool'?" (Heb. 1:13). Here is the contrast: those who would trample Christ, putting Him underfoot, are designated by God the Father to be the footstool of Christ.
The trampling of Christ shows the rebellion of mankind against God. Hebrews 2:8 states of the Father's elevation of the Son, "You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him." The Apostle Paul wrote of this: "Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For 'He has put all things under His feet.' But when He says 'all things are put under Him,' it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
To rebel against God the Son is to rebel against God the Father, for Jesus Christ is the Father's path of submission to the Father. There is no alternative in coming to Yahweh. God has decreed "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11). To reject Jesus Christ as Lord is to remain in the rebellion of the Fall of mankind. It is to reject God's way of reconciliation. Therefore the only thing left for the enemies of Christ is a "fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."
Counting the blood a common thing
The second aspect of rejecting Christ is the rejection of His work. The writer to the Hebrews says of the one who rejects Christ that he will have "counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing." Counting the "blood of the covenant" a common thing is the action taken in rejecting the redemptive work of Christ. The word "common," by usage, can mean unclean or unholy, but it mainly means just that, something not special that has no more importance than other things. This is to count the blood of the covenant as sharing in importance or being of equal value with any other method of being set apart to God.
In rejecting Christ and returning to Judaism, the Hebrews were perhaps considering that the animal sacrifices would still be acceptable as an atonement for sin. The writer says of those rejecting Christ that "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." The shed blood of Christ is not common. It is not one of several means of reconciliation to God. The "blood of the covenant" is God's unique path of removing sin, justifying a person, and setting him apart into God's kingdom. Christ's shed blood is unique, not common.
Counting the blood of the covenant a common thing can take several forms. The temple sacrifices came to an end so they are no longer a consideration. However when one makes Christ's blood one of many options, or even one of many requirements to reach God, then His blood is counted as common. To say that there are many paths to God is counting the blood of the covenant a common thing. To say that one reaches God through the sacrifice of Christ plus one's own good works is also counting the blood a common thing. Legalism makes good works to share in importance with the blood of Christ. This is making it common.
Biblical faith is to count upon Christ and His redemptive work. This is illustrated by the writer regarding the full and unique efficacy of the blood of the covenant to deal with sin: "Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:18-22). The full assurance of faith is full assurance in the "blood of Jesus." One can count upon it to enter with boldness the "Holiest." One can draw near to God through the risen and living Christ. He alone is sufficient to enable one to do so. Yet it is a terrifying thing to attempt to approach a Holy God and to come into His presence without sin being completely dealt with. If one is depending on anything other than the blood of Christ then there only remains "a certain fearful expectation of judgment."
Insulting the Spirit of Grace
The third aspect of rejecting Christ is rejecting God's grace. The action taken in doing so is to "insult the Spirit of Grace." Because eternal life is a gift to be received through Christ, something not earned, it is an insult to God to reject this gift. Galatians 2:8-9 states, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Again, the Scripture shows eternal life is a gift: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).
Pride is a cause for refusing to receive a gift. Or it is a cause to give something back in return so that no indebtedness remains. By pride Lucifer fell from Heaven and by pride Adam and Eve fell from their relationship with God. Both Satan and mankind attempted to lift themselves up to a higher state. God's answer to this in the reconciliation of mankind is Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. To come to God through Christ is to humble oneself and acknowledge the vanity, or emptiness, of pride. To acknowledge that one must receive salvation only as a gift, to acknowledge that salvation cannot be earned, is a humbling act. To come to Christ and receive the gift of life through the acknowledgment of one's need for Christ is the remedy for the root cause of mankind's separation from God, pride.
The proud will glory in themselves, but God's people are to glory only in Him. All aspects of reconciliation to God are worked out by God Himself so that He alone is worthy of the glory. The Apostle Paul states, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:1-2). The redeemed stand in grace and they glory in God. They enter into this place only by the humbling act of placing faith in Christ.
Again Paul writes about God's will for reconciliation through Christ: "to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:6-7). To reject Christ is to "insult the Spirit of grace." The Jews, not as individuals but as a nation, stumbled on this stumbling stone. Concerning this Paul writes, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame' " (Rom. 9:30-33). The "rock of offense" is the offense to the pride of man that Jesus Christ represents. Righteousness is obtained by grace through faith. It is offensive to a person to be told that they cannot become self-righteous.
Those who reject Christ "insult the Spirit of grace." Grace is not passive as mercy is. Grace is God's favorable and active intervention into a person's life. This is in the form of God Himself who comes into the believer's life to dwell with Him. It is the Spirit of God who indwells the believer. God's presence is the gift of life and the means of grace. This is enabled by the redemptive work of Christ. To reject Christ is to insult God and reject grace. Again, to do so leaves only "a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."
Casting away confidence
The writer is speaking to Hebrew believers, pleading with them not to reject Christ and turn from faith in Him. He says, "But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings ... Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward" (Heb. 10:32, 35). To "cast away your confidence" is to no longer depend upon Jesus Christ. This is not just passive neglect, but an active casting away. Confidence in Christ and a patient continuance to the end are characteristics of a saving faith. To "cast away" confidence in Christ would be a willful ending of a relationship with Him.
The writer continues, "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: '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.' But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul" (Heb. 10:36-39). The contrast here is living by faith in Christ versus casting away confidence in Christ, or living by faith in Christ versus drawing "back to perdition."
This brings us to the subject of apostasy. The Greek word for apostasy is apostasia. This is closely related to apostasion, meaning divorcement. Apostasy is the willful turning away and separation from a relationship to Christ. It is rejecting Christ, and faith in Christ. To "cast away your confidence" and to "draw back to perdition" would be apostasy. This in effect would be a divorce from Jesus Christ.
The Bible uses marriage to illustrate the relationship of the church with Jesus Christ. The church is called the bride of Christ. This marriage will be sealed at the completion of the church. The time until then is an espousal period. God's call to be joined to Jesus Christ is to all, for God is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." It is to the comfort of the believer that "the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce" (Mal. 2:16). Regarding divorce Jesus says, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt. 19:4-6). But to this Jesus added in answering the Pharisees, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (verse 8).
Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, shows how the marriage relationship is a type of Christ and His church: "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:30-32). Jesus said "from the beginning it was not so" in regards to the permissibility of divorce because God intended for it to illustrate the permanence of the oneness of the church with Christ. For God's part, He does not want an ending to a relationship with a person. But God gives mankind a free will and a free choice in that relationship. Therefore Jesus says the law of Moses, "because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce."
Departing through hardened hearts
It is this hardness of heart toward a relationship with Jesus Christ that the writer to the Hebrews is warning them about: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:12-13) (emphasis added).
To guard against departing from Christ through hardened hearts, the writer had said to "exhort one another daily." This is the operation of the body of Christ for the purpose of edification. This is repeated in chapter ten: "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). The purpose of exhortation is to "stir up love and good works." God's primary call is to love. The fruit of good works is that love in action. It is love for God and the Redeemer that results in good works.
The sanctifying work of Christ sets a person apart from sin and death unto God's purpose: love for God and love for one's fellow neighbor. The oneness of the body of Christ - those called out to worship and serve God - and the oneness of the church with Christ is the calling of God. This is a relationship of love and one that is modeled by the marriage relationship.
Rejecting the marriage relationship
Marriage as a type of God's calling into a relationship with Him carries with it the portrayal of those who reject this relationship. A society that rejects God and His purposes is written of by Paul: "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (Rom. 1:24-28).
Those who reject the call of God to be one with Jesus Christ in a relationship modeled by marriage are given over by God to physical relationships that reflect their spiritual condition. The rebellion of the fall of mankind is only remedied by submission to God through a relationship of submission to Christ. To this end the Scripture says, "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor. 11:3). A rejection of a right relationship to Christ is reflected in the distortion or perversion of marriage.
Consider these other relationships that God gives the unbelieving over unto in light of the spiritual condition of those who reject a right relationship to Christ:
- fornication - This is pleasure without commitment. This relationship seeks benefits without responsibility. Spiritually, a right relationship to Christ is one where a commitment is made. Jesus is to be Lord and Head. One cannot receive the benefits of eternal life and Heaven without a permanent commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior.
- adultery - This is unfaithfulness in the marriage commitment. This reflects the spiritual condition of those who would be joined to Christ and yet partake of the world. "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
- "men with men" - This physical relationship is akin to a spiritual relationship to God where there are several heads. A right relationship to God is one where Christ alone is Head and Lord. To be one with Christ without submission to Him as Lord is to remain in the rebellion of the Fall. The model of marriage as a type of a right relationship to Christ is shown by the Scripture: "the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man." God's purpose in His designated path of submission to Him is that He would be "all in all." To be an equal to Christ or to relate to God from a parallel position with Christ is rebellion against God.
- women with women - This physical relationship reflects a society that on a spiritual level totally rejects God and seeks to build itself up apart from God. This reflects humanism and atheism. It seeks to remove God completely and join together on its own without Christ as Head.
As the Scripture says, "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions" (Rom. 1:24-26). God gives a society up to do on a physical level what it is doing on a spiritual level, rejecting a right relationship to Him. Regarding marriage Paul said, "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."
The exclusive way to God
Now there is no sin that cannot be forgiven except for one, the rejection of the Spirit's testimony of the need for Christ. Jesus said that "every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men" except for the unpardonable sin. To reject the Spirit's witness of the need for Christ is to reject Jesus Christ. Jesus made Himself to be the exclusive way to God in that He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
"For thus says the Lord,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I have not spoken in secret,
In a dark place of the earth;
I did not say to the seed of Jacob,
'Seek Me in vain';
I, the Lord, speak righteousness,
I declare things that are right.
Assemble yourselves and come;
Draw near together,
You who have escaped from the nations.
They have no knowledge,
Who carry the wood of their carved image,
And pray to a god that cannot save.
Tell and bring forth your case;
Yes, let them take counsel together.
Who has declared this from ancient time?
Who has told it from that time?
Have not I, the Lord?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A just God and a Savior;
There is none besides Me.
Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other."
(Dear reader: If you desire to answer God's call, please see
Appendix: Receiving Christ as Lord and Savior.
You will receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life with God, and God's
very presence in your life.)