“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” (Heb 10:26)
Have you ever sinned willfully? Ever done something wrong knowing full well it was wrong? I have. I’m sure everyone has – many times. Does committing a willful sin mean we are eternally lost? That would make it seem like God is trying His best to keep people out of heaven and I really don’t think that is the case. Let’s take a careful look at this verse and its context. Here are the preceding verses:
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:23-25)
It mentions believers who are wavering in their faith, telling them to “hold fast” and to not forsake assembling together to receive needed exhortation and encouragement. The advice was given because (or “for” – verse 26) if they were to continue in their sinful attitude (in the Greek, the form of the verb indicates not a single act of sin but an ongoing attitude) they were in danger of ultimately being lost.
It is not talking of a single act of sin as any act of sin can be forgiven. God is “ever merciful” (Psa 37:26). Rather, this is talking about a persistent, defiant attitude of sin. The passage goes on to further describe what will happen to such people:
“Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb 10:29)
There remains no more sacrifice for sins for the people who have done what?
- “trodden under foot the Son of God”
- “counted the blood of the covenant … an unholy thing”
- “done despite unto the Spirit of grace”
- continued willfully in that sinful attitude
The most obvious way to do despite to (or insult) the spirit of grace would be to not accept the freely-offered mercy and forgiveness. “No more sacrifice for sins” refers to the sacrifice being ineffectual for them because of their rejection of it – they disregarded even that the Son of God would shed His blood on their behalf. It was offered but never received due to their rejection.
This corresponds to the truth about forgiveness, that it is a two-part transaction – it is both given and received and there are even separate words for each used in the original Greek. See my booklet Biblical Forgiveness.
Of course, after Jesus died (to Whose death all the sacrifices pointed) people could look to His death, His sacrifice and that had power to draw them (John 12:32) in repentance to God. But to people who would reject that there was no saving benefit to them from His sacrifice – effectively “no more sacrifice for sins.”
Many versions of Hebrews 10:26 reflect the original meaning of not a single willful sin but continued sin, such as:
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” (Heb 10:26, English Standard Version)
So a person could have a change of attitude, discontinue the willful sin and rebellious attitude and still receive forgiveness in which case, for them, the sacrifice would then be of benefit. Certainly a person engaged in willful sin still has a will which they can change to separate from the willful sin, gain victory over it (through God’s grace) and receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice for them.