Heb. 10:26-27 “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. " (NKJV)
These verses have probably caused Christians about as much anguish as any you will find in the pages of the New Testament. Make no mistake about it the verses are directed at Christians as is the whole book of Hebrews. Each one of us knows we are guilty of having committed willful sin and this passage troubles us. When we read the verses in the larger context of verses 24 through 31 it is very easy to become fearful and feel it is hopeless, we are lost and undone without remedy. We are sorry about our sins but we feel it is too late.
However, there are a number of things we ought to consider before reaching that kind of conclusion. When we take a look at verse 26 in the New American Standard version we readily see that the verse is not talking about a single act of willful sin. It reads as follows, “For if we go on sinning willfully", thus the sin of verse 26 is a way of life rather than individual acts of sin.
Then there are other things we need to consider. All sin other than sins of ignorance is willful sin. One may struggle mightily before committing the sin that has enticed him but nevertheless it was his decision to take the leap and commit it. If a willful sin necessarily led to condemnation without hope then who could be saved? Would it be Peter?
Peter, according to Paul, stood condemned (Gal. 2:11). Why? Because “he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision" (Gal. 2:12 NAS) refusing to eat with the Gentile Christians. Barnabas did the same thing. Do you think this was a sin of ignorance? Paul gives the cause, not ignorance but fear of the circumcision party. It was a willful sin in the sense that Peter knew what he was doing.
How about the man in 1 Cor. 5:1, “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. " (NAS) Did this man who was doing this not know it was sin? You know he did. Yet, in 2 Cor. 2:7 Paul urges the Corinthians to forgive the man as he had repented. I remind the reader Paul wrote and spoke by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
2 Cor. 12:21 clinches the meaning of Heb. 10:26 for me. It reads as follows, “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. " (NAS) What do we have here? Christians practicing sin. That implies certainly that we are not talking of one time acts. Are they lost?
Yes, if they do not repent but please note that is the very thing Paul is saying they can do. Why is Paul fearful that he may end up mourning? Because they have not repented but that implies they could if they would and thus would be saved. We also understand they knew what they were doing. The word translated “immorality" in this verse in the NAS is translated in the NKJV and others as “fornication". It is the Greek word “porneia. " Do you really believe these people did not know fornication was sinful? They were committing willful sin and yet we see they could be forgiven if they would but repent.
What then is the meaning of Heb. 10:26-27? Any sin you are knowingly committing and continuing in is a willful sin as long as you continue in it and fail (refuse) to repent. While involved in that there is no sacrifice for that sin that can save you as a willful practicing sinner. When you repent that is another matter.
I believe verse 27 bears the truth of this interpretation out. It says of such a person (a Christian involved in a sin on a continual basis willfully) that there is “a certain fearful expectation of judgment. " (NKJV) Why would you fear judgment if you were a complete apostate who no longer believed? What you are is a man who believes but willing persists in sin. Such a man fears judgment.
I hope this post has been helpful to you and encouraging. Do not despair because you knowingly did that which was wrong even if you engaged in such a sin over a period of time. Do not despair but rather repent and turn back to God.
Would you like to hear preaching like it used to be? If so listen to the preaching of Waymon Swain There are over 100 audio sermons online recorded directly from the pulpit. Highly recommended by your author.