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The Wilful Sin Of Hebrews 10:26

Questions are frequently raised in connexion with Heb. 10:26, as, for example, "How does God deal with wilful sin today in the life of a disciple?" or, "Does 1 John 1:5-10 apply to cleanse wilful sin when that person seeks repentance and confesses?"

In approaching these questions I think we should first examine what we understand "wilful sin" to mean. Many sins may be committed with the knowledge that what is being done is wrong. The voice of conscience may be heard during or after the committal of sin, but it may also be heard before sin is committed. This means that a person may know that what he is going to do is sinful. If against that knowledge the person persists in his course of action there is an element of wilfulness in his wrongdoing. But that in itself does not mean that there can be no repentance and forgiveness. When giving instructions to His people Israel in connexion with sin and how it was to be dealt with the Lord made it very clear that there were varying degrees of gravity in relation to sin. From these instructions there emerges a very solemn truth concerning what is described as doing anything "with a high hand" or acting "presumptuously". For such sin there was no forgiveness. Such a sinner must die (see Num. 15:30; Deut. 17:12,13).

I consider that the sinning referred to in Heb. 10 would come into the category of the presumptuous sin of Num. 15 and Deut. 17. In Heb. 10:26 the word "wilfully" carries the thought of what is done designedly with deliberation, knowingly and intentionally. It is the deliberate, intentional setting of the human will against the revealed, known and already accepted will of God, and this done, I believe, in very solemn exceptional circumstances. If we examine Heb. 10:26 in the context of the epistle to the Hebrews we may think of a Jew to whom by the enlightening grace of the Holy Spirit there has come the knowledge and assurance that God has spoken in His Son. He has accepted that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, the Mediator and Surety of the New Covenant, the Sacrifice that ratifies it, securing the remission of sins for those who believe and guaranteeing the privileges of the divine service which belongs to the conditional side of that Covenant. These privileges include entrance into the heavenly Holies to worship God through Jesus who is the great Priest over the house of God.

If we think of such a man we think of one to whom has come the realization that all that was foretold and foreshadowed under the Law has found antitypical fulfilment in Christ. Then think of such a person, knowingly and with deliberate intention, repudiating all this and by word and action saying that the divine revelation which he had accepted was a myth, that Jesus was a fraud, that His blood had no more value than that of the malefactors who were on each side of Him at Golgotha. Think of him in so doing offering overbearing insult to the Spirit of grace. Think of him going back to the animal sacrifices and the priestly ritual of a temple which God had forsaken. Adding up all this I think we can see something of what is meant by "if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth".

How can God deal with such a person? We know that as one who has at some time believed on Christ, accepting Him as his Saviour, the man's sins as a sinner have been borne by Christ and atoned for. They are eternally remitted and will never be seen again. "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more", and these sins include past and future at the point in time of conversion. But in Heb. 10:26 such is the gravity of the wrong that has been committed that God can only abandon such a person to the complete forfeiture of all the conditional privileges of the New Covenant. There is no alternative method by which or basis upon which God can restore the person. He is dead while he liveth (see 1 Tim. 5:6). Present forfeiture will find future manifestation at the Judgement-seat of Christ when such a person will have the solemn realization that the activities of his life on earth have been burned up. Perhaps we are so carnal that we do not recognize what will be the intense solemnity of seeing at the Judgement-seat that there was nothing for God, nothing for Christ in our lives on earth. Can anything be more grave than this for a child of God? Certainly the physical death of the offender under the Law was not anything so serious as this.

In connexion with the matter of repentance I think it is very important to keep in mind the teaching of 2 Tim. 2:25, "If peradventure God may give them repentance". It must not be presumed that men may sin and then by their own decision find repentance. God by His sovereign knowledge knows when and when not to give repentance unto restoration. The prerogative remains with Him. This brings us to another important point. We with our limited knowledge must be careful about reaching a judgement as to when such a sin as that of Heb. 10:26 has been or has not been committed. As I have indicated above we may commit sins which seem to have in them the element of intention and deliberation but as God sees them they do not have the character of the sin referred to in Heb. 10:26. Spiritual wisdom, knowledge and discernment will be exercised in seeking to establish whether or not God has given repentance and forgiveness.

1 John 1 refers to children of God who are walking in the light of divine revelation and in fellowship with the Father and with the Son and with one another. They are aware that sin is still in them by reason of the old nature and is ever ready to express itself. But they have the assurance too that the blood of Jesus, God's Son, has an abiding cleansing power. And "He is the propitiation for our sins".

When there is awakened the consciousness of committed sin, and, in consequence, fellowship is affected we have the encouraging privilege of confessing to God who is "faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". He knows our frailties, our propensities, our provocations and our trials. In His presence is One who is an Advocate on our behalf and who renders to God full satisfaction for our sins. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins..." To the person contemplated in Heb. 10:26 no such promise or encouragement is extended. Indeed, that person has repudiated the Sacrifice of Christ.