Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hebrews 10:26-31 A Dreadful Thing

I have to admit I’ve been having a hard time getting to this next section of Hebrews 10! Tucked away in this letter are the following verses, which describe what happens when we ignore the mercy and grace of God and the provision of salvation in Jesus Christ. These are verses which are hard to read if you believe that God is just love:

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)

So, I turned to my trusty Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament for some help. He said this section is often as jarring as it would be to read the following sign posted near a convent:

- Sisters of Mercy 

Courson reminds the reader about the purpose of the letter in order to make sense of this stern warning from the author of Hebrews, because context is everything! Remember that the author is trying to persuade the Hebrew believers to remain in the freedom they have with Christ, to rely solely on what He he accomplished on the cross, and to refrain from returning to ritual and self-effort to add to Christ’s work of salvation.

So, in these verses he is saying that, if they returned to reliance on sacrifices and offerings to win God’s approval and secure their eternal lives, then they would have trampled on the grace of God. They would have denied that what Christ did was sufficient to save.

Courson points out that this passage has been misused by Satan throughout the centuries to confuse those who love Christ. Just as he whispered to Eve in the garden, “Did God really say...?” and even as he misquoted scripture to Jesus during his temptation in the desert, Satan will use this verse to cause some to worry about their salvation.

Courson writes the following:

Therefore, the warning is this: If you return to the temple to offer sacrifices for your sins, you are missing the point totally because the price was paid completely when Jesus died in your place. There are no more sacrifices that can be, need be, or should be offered. The Way is open. The Work is complete. Going to confession, getting rebaptized, making a promise, or signing a pledge will not make you right with God. 

None of these sacrifices will do any more than the sacrifice of bulls, rams, or goats. You can’t add to what Jesus did on the Cross by promise keeping, confessing, working, or giving. Don’t fall into that mind-set, for if you do, you tread on what the Lord has already done. 

Thus, contrary to many well-intentioned sermons, the warning in Hebrews 10 is not so much in reference to backsliding as it is to back-turning - turning one’s back on what Jesus did on our behalf. . . Jesus died not only for our sins - but for the sins of the whole world. How dare we, then, say what He did on the Cross is insufficient or inadequate? How dare we trample the body of Christ. If you want to see the anger of the Father, say that what Jesus did at Calvary is inadequate without your additional efforts. (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 1492)

This is such a strong reminder that God’s love for us is CONSTANT! It does not change on a whim, nor is it moved by our behaviors. God doesn’t love me more on days when I sit at His feet or write a devotional. Nor does He love me less on days when I skip out on a Bible study or speak sharply to my husband. His love is eternal. He proved it in sending His Son to die in my place on the Cross while I was still a sinner! That act is what saved me. And nothing I can do can either add to or subtract from that amazing act of love.

The Hebrew believers were in danger of denying Christ’s work by going back to their own works to secure their place with God. They needed to understand that a reliance on our own works is a denial of Christ’s.

LORD, some of us love our rituals. And while they can actually be lovely memorials to what Christ has done, let us remember that they do not save us, and keeping them does not give us greater standing with You. We can have no greater standing before You than what Christ has already provided!