A Fearful Thing

Posted by on Nov 18, 2007

By Pastor Mike Withem

First Baptist Church of Ranson, WV

November 18, 2007

Sunday Morning

“A Fearful Thing”

Scripture Text: Hebrews 10:26-39

Introduction:

 

A.   When we began our study of Hebrews several months ago, I told you then that there were at least five “warning passages” in this book.

1. This morning, we come to the fourth of these five warning passages.

2. While some may disagree, in my humble opinion, this is the sternest of all the warnings given in Hebrews.

3. Notice again how this warning begins in Vrs. 26-27 of our text, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,…But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

 

B.   Now let me begin by making something very clear.

1. This warning given in the latter part of Hebrews 10, is clearly a warning given to believers, not unbelievers.

2. As I read several commentaries last week dealing with this passage, I was amazed at how many of them took the position that this warning is for unbelievers.

3. Why am I so convinced that they are wrong?

4. Several reasons.

5. First of all, because of the context in which this warning is found.

6. Notice a few of the verses that come just before the warning, beginning with Heb. 10:19-20, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,…By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”

7. Almost every Bible student agrees that these words are addressed to born-again believers in Christ.

8. They are called “brethren” who have access “into the holiest by” faith in “the blood of Jesus.”

9. Now notice Heb. 10:23-25, “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.”

10.   Again, who can deny that these words of admonition were given to believers, not unbelievers.

11.   You wouldn’t admonish unbelievers to “hold fast the profession of” their “faith.”

12.   You wouldn’t admonish unbelievers to “provoke” one another “unto love and to good works.”

13.   You wouldn’t admonish unbelievers to “not” forsake “the assembling of” themselves “together.”

14.   But you would admonish believers to do these things!

15.   And so, first of all, I am convinced that the warning given here in the latter part of Hebrews 10 is given to believers because of the context in which it is found.

 

C.   There are also several clues found within the warning itself.

1. For example, notice that the writer of Hebrews (who surely was a believer) includes himself in the warning.

2. Notice again the first part of Vrs. 26, “For if we sin wilfully…”

3. Did you notice the word “we”?

4. If the writer of Hebrews was addressing unbelievers, would he not have used the word “you” rather than “we”? (I think so!)

5. Another clue is found in Vrs. 30, “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.”

6. He said, “The Lord shall judge his people.”

7. This is clearly a reference to the chastening hand of God that is reserved for those who are “his people” (in the spiritual sense).

8. Yet another clue is found in Vrs. 34, “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.”

9. Would this be true of unbelievers? (I think not!)

10.   Unbelievers do not “have in heaven a better and enduring substance.”

11.   The final and most convincing clue is found in the very last verse of this chapter, Vrs. 39, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

12.   And so, clearly the warning given here in the latter part of Hebrews 10 is a warning meant for believers, not unbelievers.”

 

D.   Now this raises a question.

1. About what exactly are we, as believers, being warned?

2. The short answer is this, we are being warned about a sin, not just any sin, but a very specific sin.

3. With this is mind, I want us to notice, first of all, the…

 

I.       Definition Of This Sin.

 

A.   In other words, what is the nature of this sin about which we are being warned?

1. Notice again the first part of Vrs. 26 of our text, “For if we sin wifully.”

2. Did you notice the word “wilfully”?

3. It means “willingly, deliberately, or intentionally.”

4. There’s something that we need to understand here about sin, and that is there are at least two types of sins.

5. First of all, there are those sins that come looking for us.

6. Listen to what the Bible says in Gal. 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

7. Did you notice the word “overtaken”?

8. Paul said, “…if a man be overtaken in a fault.”

9. Let’s face it, some sins come looking for us and oftentimes take us by surprise.

10.   However, there are also those sins after which we go looking.

11.   These are willing sins.

12.   These are deliberate sins.

13.   These are intentional sins.

14.   These are not sins that overtake us or take us by surprise, but these are sins that are of a “premeditated” nature.

 

B.   (Illus.- Let me illustrate like this. Two men murder their wives. One man comes home, finds his wife in bed with another man, and in a fit of rage kills them both. The second man decides that he no longer wants to be married to his wife, yet he doesn’t want to divorce her, so he kills her, making her death look like an accident. Both men are caught, tried and convicted of murder, however, they most likely will not receive the same sentence. Most likely, the man who killed his wife in a fit of rage will receive a lighter sentence. Why? Because he didn’t go looking to murder his wife, but rather murder came looking for him. The second man, however, sinned wilfully. His crime was deliberate, intentional, and pre-meditated. There is a difference.)

 

C.   Now please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.

1. All sin is sin, any way you look at it, and no sin is acceptable in the sight of God.

2. However, as we are going to see this morning, God does deal with willing, deliberate, intentional sins more harshly than He does with other sins, especially in the lives of His children.

 

D.   Now why is this true?

1. It is true because these sins, more so than those sins that come looking for us, are an insult to God and take advantage of His goodness and grace.

2. Notice again Vrs. 29 of our text, “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?”

3. In Rom. 6:1, Paul asked a very important question.

4. He had just finished telling us how sufficient God’s grace is to cover all of our sins.

5. For example, in Rom. 5:20 he wrote, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:”

6. But then two verses later, in Rom. 6:1, Paul asked the following question, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”

7. The answer, of course, to this question is, “No!”

8. Why not?

9. Because to deliberately sin against God with the forethought that God’s grace is sufficient to cover all of our sins is to insult God and take advantage of His goodness and grace.

10.   That’s why God deals more harshly with these kind of sins in the lives of His children.

 

E.   Secondly, this morning, I want us to notice the…

 

II.      Danger Of This Sin.

 

A.   There’s no doubt about it, wilful sin is an extremely dangerous sin.

1. Why?

2. Because it will surely bring the heavy hand of God’s chastening upon our lives.

3. Notice again the first six verses of our text (Vrs. 26-31), “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,…But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries…He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:…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?…For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people….It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

4. Now those who reject the Biblical teaching of eternal security would have us to believe that these verses are warning us about the possibility of losing our salvation.

5. These are strong words, yes.

6. These are fearful words, yes.

7. These are sobering words, yes.

8. However, they are in no way warning us about the possibility of losing our salvation.

9. What they are warning us about is the certainty that God will severely chasten us if we persist in willingly, deliberately, and intentionally sinning against Him!

 

B.   Since we are already in Hebrews, let’s jump ahead to Heb. 12:5-6, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:…For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

1. Now sometimes God’s chastening is not that severe.

2. (Illus.- In our Bible study last Wednesday evening, we were studying about Ahab, kind of Israel. We were discussing how even though God is longsuffering, there comes a time when He reaches the limit of His patience and He is forced to chasten us. I pointed out, however, that chastening comes in varying degrees. In other words, God has little sticks and He has big sticks.)

3. And so, sometimes God’s chastening is not that severe.

4. However, when it comes to wilful sin, God’s chastening is usually severe (He brings out the big stick).

 

C.   How severe can God’s chastening be?

1. The most severe form of chastening is death.

2. The Bible calls this the “sin unto death.” (1 John 5:16)

3. There are many examples of this in the Bible.

4. Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, are two examples.

5. Not only was their sin a wilful sin, but they actually conspired together beforehand to deceive the apostles. (Acts 5:2)

6. What happened to them?

7. God killed them both! (Acts 5:5, 10)

8. The church at Corinth is another example.

9. This church had made light of the Lord’s supper and actually turned it into a drunken feast.

10.   What happened to these believers?

11.   Listen as I read 1 Cor. 11:30, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”

12.   In other words, many of them had died because of their sin.

 

D.   Now I know what some of you may be thinking.

1. You may be thinking, “I am guilty of wilful sin, and God hasn’t judged me yet. Perhaps He is going to overlook it in my case.”

2. That is a very wrong assumption to make.

3. It’s wrong to assume that just because God hasn’t chastened you yet, that He is going to overlook your sin!

4. Do you know why that is a wrong assumption?

5. Because God is longsuffering and patient with us.

6. He gives us ample opportunity to repent of our wilful sin and avoid His chastening.

7. However, if we don’t repent, if we persist in our wilful sin, His chastening will come.

8. It may not be today.

9. It may not even be tomorrow.

10.   But it will come, and when it does, it will likely be severe.

11.   This is why the writer of Hebrews used expressions like the one found in Vrs. 24 to describe God’s chastening.

12.   Notice that verse again, “But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

13.   And then later in Vrs. 31, where he said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

14.   God’s chastening is not to be taken lightly!

 

E.   And so. wilful sin is dangerous because eventually it will bring the heavy hand of God’s chastening upon us.

 

F.    Notice, finally, the…

 

III.    Deterrent To This Sin.

 

A.   But someone says, “We’ve already seen the deterrent to this sin. Just realizing that it can lead to severe chastening from God should deter any believer from avoiding wilful sin.”

1. That’s true, but we see yet another deterrent in our text.

2. Notice again Vrs. 32-35, “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;…Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used….For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance….Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.”

3. In other words, he said, “Remember your past service to the Lord. Remember the afflictions that you endured, the compassion that you demonstrated, and the sacrifices that you made for the Lord.”

4. Now why would the writer of Hebrews admonish his readers to remember their former service to the Lord?

5. Simply because the rewards that they had earned serving the Lord were now in jeopardy.

6. Because they were on the verge of committing the willful sin of abandoning Christ and returning to their old system of worship, they were also on the verge of losing everything that they had worked for (spiritually) up to that point.

7. Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying here.

8. They were not on the verge of losing their salvation.

9. They were, however, about to lose their rewards.

10.   This is why the writer of Hebrews wrote in Vrs. 35, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.”

 

B.   But someone says, “Pastor, you can’t lose rewards that you’ve already earned, can you?”

1. You most certainly can.

2. Listen to what the Bible says in 2 John 1:8, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”

 

C.   Now when you combine this fact with the fact that wilful sin will eventually bring the heavy hand of God’s chastening upon us, this should be all the deterrent we need to avoid committing this sin!

 

D. There is one more thing that we should remind ourselves if we are considering committing a wilful sin, and that is the fact that one day, Jesus will return, and when He does, we will have to stand before Him. (Vrs. 37)

Conclusion:

 

A.   What have we noticed this morning from our text?

1. The definition of this sin about which we are being warned (wilful sin, deliberate sin, intentional sin – not the sin that comes looking for us, but rather the sin after which we go looking).

2. The danger of this sin (those who sin wilfully are in danger of God’s chastening).

3. The deterrent to this sin (realizing that not only will God chasten us, but we could also lose our heavenly rewards).

 

B.   May I ask you a personal question?

1. Are you currently engaging in some wilful sin?

2. If so, do you realize that not only are you in danger of being severely chastened of God, but you are also in danger of losing your heavenly rewards?

3. Does your sin mean so much to you that you are willing to pay this price?

 

C.   (Prayer & Invitation)