Study of Hebrews
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Hebrews 10:23-29 – The Peril of Unbelief

In this study we will cover the last half of Hebrews chapter ten. The first half which we covered in our last study dealt with the sacrifice of Christ being a perfect, complete, full payment for all our sins. The second half deals with the danger of the peril of rejecting Christ after we have known the truth.

In the first half of Hebrews ten Paul is saying:

  1. In Christ’s humanity, which was our corporate humanity, which God prepared for Him by preparing a body for Christ, God has fully and completely redeemed mankind by Christ’s doing and dying. By performing the will of God He redeemed us.

  2. This redemption was realized and completed at the cross by one sacrifice. Verse fourteen says:

    He perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

    So everything essential for our salvation was fulfilled on the cross.

  3. This perfect redemption qualified Christ to be our High Priest. Not only a High Priest but to be a faithful High Priest. It qualified Him.

  4. The Holy Spirit confirms this truth in our hearts and in the heart of every believer.

  5. Because of all this wonderful truth we can come boldly, we can approach God boldly, with full assurance through Jesus Christ. That’s what we covered last time.

I want you to keep one verse in mind because it is a verse that has caused much problem in the minds of many Christians. That is verse twenty-six. As I said before, I say again, do not take a text out of context. Before we look at verse twenty-six we want to look at verse twenty-three up to verse twenty-five. Please remember the background. The Jewish Christians to whom Paul was writing were in danger of giving up their faith in Christ. This is the context of the book of Hebrews. It is not a theological book. It is a pastoral book from a person who is concerned about his members who are giving up their faith.

So after explaining the wonderful sacrifice of Christ which makes it possible for us to come boldly unto the throne of grace Paul says in verse twenty-three:

Let us hold fast. [Don’t give up your hold in Christ.] Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.

In other words, let us never doubt the love of God and let us never doubt our salvation in Christ. This is the battle that you will have all your life. Satan is always trying to produce doubt and guilt in our lives. Never doubt your salvation in Christ for if you give up your faith as we shall see at the end of this chapter, and I’m going to use a good German word, you are “kaput,” finished.

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.

And then he puts in brackets, “Not our faithfulness but God’s.” God is faithful regarding His promise. God has promised that He will never let go of us. God has promised our salvation in Christ. Now of course God’s promise cannot be understood outside the context of His love. Where there is love there can be no compulsion so He will never force His promise upon you. Keep that in mind. He will never force. As long as you keep your confidence in God your salvation is guaranteed. Paul will repeat this in verse thirty-five onward. In view of this, because some of the members of the Jewish Christian Church were giving up their faith,

Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.

In other words, not only should we hold firm to this truth which we have heard but we must also encourage our fellow-believers not to give up their faith.

One day I was visiting a lady and she had just lost her son in a terrible car accident. She said to me, “I have been faithful to God. I’ve paid my tithe, I have supported the church, I have done everything and now He takes away my son.” She was about ready to stop coming to church.

Then I said, “Sister, you are depending on your faithfulness. Supposing God allowed your son to live to survive this accident and He, knowing the beginning from the end, knew that ten years down the road your son would give up his faith in Christ and be lost forever. Which would you prefer, for him to die now and be saved in Christ’s kingdom and be part of the resurrection or to allow him to live and let him be lost eternally? Which one would you prefer if you knew the end from the beginning?”

She said “I see your point.”

Thank God she did not stop coming to church. She was almost ready to give up her faith because she felt that God did not love her, He did not appreciate her faithfulness. Please remember that our salvation is based on God’s faithfulness. If He allows anything to happen in your life that is negative remember that He knows the end from the beginning. Paul tells us in Rom. 8:28:

All things work together for good for those who love God.

We may not see it at the time. We may not understand and we may ask the question, “Why?” One day He will explain it to us. “Now we see through a glass darkly” but then we shall see, everything will be exposed and we will say, “God, if I knew what you knew I would agree with everything you allowed.”

Look at Ephesians chapter one and this is to support what Paul is saying here, “Never give up your confidence in Christ.” See verse six:

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Not “we will be accepted” but “we are already accepted” in Christ. What did God say about Jesus? “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” Why was He pleased with Christ? Because Jesus fulfilled what God sent Him to do. God prepared a body for Him and Jesus said, “I have come to do Thy will, O God.” And He did His will and God was pleased. In that will which Christ performed you have been accepted.

Here is a text I often use for autographs for it is a promise: 1 Thess.5:24. This is dealing with what Paul puts in brackets in Heb.10:23: “for He is faithful that promised.” 1 Thess.5:24:

Faithful is He that called you, who also will do it.

God has promised to do something for you and He is faithful. Back to Hebrews ten. Let us help those who are weak, folks. If you see any member that is wavering, please come and tell your pastor. Many members are scared if their pastor visits them. You go to them yourself and tell them, “Look, don’t give up your faith. Even if your pastor is terrible, never mind him.” Hold on to your faith for that is all that counts. Heb. 10:24,25:

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works.

One way to keep up your faith is to be busily occupied serving Him in good works. We must do it out of good judgment. Verse twenty-five:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.

This is something we need. How many people in this town are no longer attending church on Sabbath? If we could only bring them back, we would be doing much more than all the evangelism that we can do. They have forsaken the assembling of ourselves. And the excuses are very flimsy sometimes: “I don’t like the preaching”; “Nobody talks to me.” So what if nobody talks to you? It’s not right; we should be talking to each other. But is that a valid reason to stay away from the house of God?

There are certain steps that the devil will take to get you out of Christ. One of the first steps is to stop you coming to church. The second step is decreasing your prayer life. The third step is decreasing your Bible reading. It is gradual and you may not notice it. When we were in the mission field and would come back every three to five years we noticed that things were getting worse and worse in the church.

We must not forsake the assembling of the brethren, “as the manner of some is.” Some may say, “I don’t need to go to church to receive a blessing, I can get it at home. I can turn my TV on and listen to Fagle or to Joe Crews on the radio or to It Is Written. Please remember that good as these are, we need the fellowship with the believers. Why? Because in this fellowship,

...We need to exhort, help one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.

What day is he talking of? The coming of Christ. Remember that if we are to be fitted for the time of trouble, we need to help each other. Now comes the text in this context. Paul says in verse twenty-six:

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth,

What is the knowledge of the truth? Is he discussing the law here at all? No. Is he discussing the Sabbath here? No. What is he discussing? Jesus Christ our Saviour and High Priest. After you have received the knowledge of Christ and you deliberately reject Him, willfully, what happens? If you give up your faith,

...after you have known the truth there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.

There is no other sacrifice that can remove your sins. There is only one sacrifice and that is the blood of Jesus Christ. If you go back to Judaism — give up Christ and go back to Judaism and offer up animals once again — can the blood of bulls remove the sins? No. If you go from the church and go to Marxism as some of our young people did in Ethiopia, can Marxism save you?

When I was discussing this with one of the Russian communists, I said to him, “You people have made wonderful promises.” The promise they make is this, “We will liberate you from economic and social injustices.” I said, “Fine, you may succeed there but can you liberate me from death?”

And he said, “Give us time. Science will one day find an answer to that problem.”

I said, “I don’t need the time.”

And he said “Why not?”

“Because,” I said, “I have already been delivered from death by Jesus Christ.” Well, I will not tell you what he said; it wasn’t very good, but one day, if he does not accept Christ, he will have to weep at the feet of Jesus.

The first thing I want you to look at in verse twenty-six is the verb, “If we sin willfully.” The verb is in the present continuous tense. So Paul is not saying, “If you reject Christ after hearing the gospel once,” but if we keep on deliberately saying no to Christ. This is not a one-time thing: if we deliberately, willfully, persistently, continually say “No” to the gospel after we have known the truth.

So remember that God is very patient. When you have preached the gospel and they refuse don’t say, “I told you now, hell fire for you.” No, folks, you may have told them but God hasn’t given them up. He will come again and He will come again, again, and again. He will come through every avenue. When He comes after the judgment, He will say “I did everything to save you. Everything! Not only did I give you my Son, but I brought this message to you through books, through radio, through singing, through witnessing of certain members, through the preaching of the Word, and every time the Holy Spirit convinced you of the gospel, you said ‘No.’ I cannot save you because you have deliberately, willfully resisted.” So please remember that this is in the present continuous tense.

The “sin” spoken of in Heb.10:26 is not transgression of the law as we know it in first John, but as Christ explained it in John sixteen. Please turn to John sixteen. You see the Bible puts sin into two categories: One is that sin is the transgression of the law. If you break one of the ten commandments you come under condemnation. I tell you that in Christ you have forgiveness for all ten. But there is one sin that God cannot forgive. Jesus describes that in John 16:8:

And when He [the Holy Spirit] is come, He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

Look at verse nine:

Of sin, because they believe not on me.

Just like faith is a willful accepting of Jesus Christ in heart obedience to the gospel, unbelief is a willful rejection of Christ. So there cannot be a sin of unbelief in the true sense of the word unless you first receive the knowledge of the truth. A person who has never heard the gospel cannot truly commit the sin of unbelief. Unbelief is a deliberate act of the will. Jesus is saying that, if you persistently refuse the gospel, the gift of God, the sacrifice of Christ which has perfected the human race forever, then there is no way I can save you. Back to Heb. 10:26:

After you have received the knowledge of the truth.

The word “truth” here is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the truth, the way, and the life.” After you have received the knowledge of Him and you are convinced by the Holy Spirit and you refuse, after you know this and you refuse you cannot be saved because Jesus did not die on the cross for unbelief. If He did then you would have to say that the heresy of universalism is true. It is not a heresy. Universalism says that because Christ died for all men all men will be saved. But there is one sin that Christ did not die for: the sin of unbelief. For every other sin, breaking the commandments, there is forgiveness but against the sin of unbelief there is no forgiveness. I repeat: unbelief is a willful rejection of Jesus Christ that is done persistently. Not once or twice but continually. You remember the words of Jesus:

How often I brought you Jews under my wings like a hen does her chickens, but you would not.

I have not seen it here but in Africa we have a bird called a Kyte. If you keep those chickens out for one day you will lose all of them. They swoop down, grab a chicken and go off. I had a crow I was teaching to fly and one day he landed on a branch and one of those Kytes came swooping down and took him by the head. The crow would not give up his grasp of the branch so the neck broke and he took the head off. So every time a mother hen would see one of those Kytes she would make a clucking noise and all the chickens would run under her wings. Christ is saying, “How many times when you were in danger I put you under my wings and protected you and now even after I have given my Son you refuse. You refuse my protection. You refuse my salvation. I leave you alone.” That is what verse twenty-seven is saying: “If you willfully reject Christ, there is nothing left but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.”

What does the word “adversary” mean? An enemy of the gospel. You see, there are only two things you can do with Christ crucified. You can either be crucified with Him, which happens when you accept the gospel, or you can crucify Him. If you willfully reject the gospel, which is the sacrifice for your sins, there is no way God can save you. Then the wages of sin will be placed upon you because you have rejected the wages of sin that Christ took for you.

Remember that he is talking to the Jews, so he gives them an illustration from the Old Testament system when Israel was a theocracy. The word theocracy means that God not only was the spiritual leader but also the political leader of the nation. As a political identity, God gave certain rules and one of the rules is this: if a person deliberately, willfully breaks the law of Moses and is found guilty by two or three witnesses, God said he must be put to death.

When I was in the prison ministry, one of the prisoners came up to me and asked me, “Do you believe in capital punishment?” He did not believe in it. He was in the penitentiary. I don’t know what he had done.

I said, “I believe what the Bible teaches.” I gave him a few texts. I did not give him this one but I gave him some from the Old Testament. God gave clear instructions that if a person willfully, deliberately despises the moral law of Moses that the wages of sin is death.

Also, in a civil court case, if man breaks the law of Moses and has to die, if the shadow requires death, how much more do you deserve punishment, verse twenty-nine:

...Suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God....

In other words, if you suffered death because you rejected the shadow, how much worse is it is if you reject the reality? He is contrasting the type with the antitype. If you are punished by death for rejecting the shadow, how much more you deserve punishment for rejecting the reality.

How much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot 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?

Now what Paul is saying here is not dealing with your failures in your Christian living. There are some Adventists who read verse twenty-six and they say if you sin willfully after you have received a knowledge of the truth, [you’re lost]. To them the truth is the Ten Commandments. Then, when they have fallen, they say, “Boy, there is no hope for me.” Paul is not dealing here with the struggles of the Christian life. He is dealing here with your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you deliberately reject Him, willfully, there is no escape. In the judgment you will have to face the wages of sin. Not from men but from God, verse thirty:

For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me.

Men won’t punish you for rejecting the gospel. In fact, man may give you a pat on the back sometimes, but God...

I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

In other words, Paul is saying here, “Please don’t treat the gift of God lightly.” The gift of God was given to us at tremendous expense to God. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God gave up everything to save us. If we deliberately reject that gift and say, “I don’t want Christ,” then you have no one to blame but yourself in the judgment. Look at verse thirty-one:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Yes, God is love but God is also a just God. God can’t excuse your rejection of Christ. He can’t say, “Well, I know that you rejected my Son, but I love you in any case.” You see, men can forgive by excusing sin. God cannot forgive by excusing. God is a Holy God. He is a just God and if you reject the free gift of salvation then the justice of God cannot save you. That is what Paul is saying here. Verse thirty-two says:

But call to remembrance the former days [he reminds them of their conversion], in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly while you were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, while you became companions of them that were so used.

In other words, it was not easy to become a Christian in Paul’s day. Especially for the Jews. You see, if you became a Christian, as a Gentile you were persecuted by the world, but if you became a Christian, as a Jew you were persecuted by both sides. Both the Gentiles and the Jews persecuted you.

Let me give you a contemporary example. For a Jew to become a Christian in Israel today, he loses his citizenship. He no longer has citizenship rights. He becomes an outcast. So it is not easy even today for a Jew to become a Christian. Paul is saying, “When you became a Christian you endured hardship and you joined the group that was under persecution. You endured.” Verse thirty-four:

You had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

In other words, when you became a Christian, you lost your property. You lost your belongings. You lost everything. You had compassion on me as a prisoner of Christ and you held on. Now, please don’t become discouraged.

When they first became Christians, they were told, “Hold on. Christ is coming soon.” But you know, as the years passed by, they began asking the question that many Adventists are asking today: “How soon is soon?” You know what Jesus said in Matthew twenty-four?

Because iniquity abounds the love of many will wax cold.

The trouble is that human beings do not know how to endure for a long time. It is one thing to be willing to die as a martyr now, but to constantly come under pressure for year after year, you will say, “How long will I wait?”

We have the same problem. Adventists are getting impatient. Our young people are saying, “We have heard this before: ‘Christ is coming soon.’ You were taught it when you were a kid and you are now ninety years old and He hasn’t come. How soon is soon?” That’s the question. We have preached the Second Coming of Christ — that He is coming soon — since 1844. That is a long time for our young people. That to them is ancient history. So please listen to what Paul is saying in verse thirty-five:

Cast not away, therefore, your confidence.

I want you to remember the words that are found in Peter:

Please do not count God to be slack in keeping His promise, like human beings.

I thought this was an African problem but I have discovered that even here it is a problem. You take something to be fixed and they tell you it will be fixed on a certain date and you go to pick it up at that time and they say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t have time. Can you come tomorrow?” So we, too, have this “mańana” problem. We can wait and wait and wait. This is common in the Middle East. This is common in the Third World. They do not like to tell you “No.” So when you ask, “Can you fix it soon?” They will say “Yes.” But your idea of soon and their idea of soon is not the same thing. Please remember not to judge God by human standards.

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which has great recompense of reward.

In other words, if you give up your faith, you are giving up your reward.

The just shall live by faith.

That is in verse thirty-eight. But look at verse thirty-six:

For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise. For yet a little while and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.

Paul is saying the same thing. He was an Adventist. “In a little while, He will come.” When was that written? Nineteen hundred years ago. And He still hasn’t come. Paul is writing this from God’s point of view, not men’s point of view. And to God a thousand years is like a day. We must put ourselves in God’s shoes.

Peter tells us why He has delayed His coming is because He wants none to perish. He wants everybody to be given the gospel. That is why there can be no judgment unless this gospel has been preached for a witness to all the world. When the gospel is preached, there is no excuse for men to be lost.

At camp meeting, Wallenkampf made a statement. I intended to see him afterwards. He objected to the truth which says, “It is easy to be saved and it is hard to be lost.” Well, he is right in the way he approached it. If you don’t know the gospel, it is hard to be saved and easy to be lost. When you know the gospel, it is easy to be saved and hard to be lost. I’ll tell you why. When you hear the gospel, the choice is between life and death. Which is harder to choose, life or death? Death is harder to choose than life. When you hear the gospel, life is offered you as a gift and to reject that you would have to have your head examined. It is easy to be saved and hard to be lost when you have heard the true gospel.

The way he approached it, he was right in what he said, “We are born sinners. It is impossible for us to save ourselves by our own good works.” It is not hard, but impossible! In that sense, he is right. It is easy to be saved in the context of the gospel. When the gospel comes to you, it is easy to be saved. That is why we need to preach the gospel because, without the gospel, you ask anybody who has not understood the gospel, they will say it is hard to be saved. Why? Because they think you have to be good to be saved and it is hard to be good, even for us old people. I still have difficulty being good. It’s a struggle. Salvation is easy. Christian living is the struggle. We should not confuse Christian living with salvation.

Paul is saying: “Don’t give up your confidence. We need patience so that after we have done the will of God we might receive the reward. Just a little while and He will come.” Verse thirty-eight:

Now the just shall live by faith. [The only way you can receive this reward is by faith.] If any may draw back [if any man says “goodbye” to faith]..., my soul [I] will have no pleasure in him. [I cannot save you if you say “goodbye” to faith.] But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition....

This text is a wonderful text for those who teach “Once saved always saved.” Is it possible for a believer to lose his salvation? Yes. How? By turning his back to Christ, God’s gift.

We are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

Jesus said in Matthew ten:

He that endures unto the end shall be saved.

The most valuable thing that you possess today is not your bank account, not your plastic card that buys anything in America, it is not your property, it is not your houses, it is not social security for that can collapse, it is not welfare, it is your faith. Nobody can see it because it is not tangible. Only two people know about it — you and God. When you give up your faith, God knows that. So the most valuable thing you possess is your faith. Don’t you ever give it up. That faith gives you the guarantee of salvation. If you say “goodbye” to faith you are saying “goodbye” to the righteousness of Christ which qualifies you for heaven. You say “goodbye” to that sacrifice which cancels all your sins. Therefore, hold unto your faith. It is the most valuable thing you possess.

Okay that’s what Hebrews 10 is all about. With this as your background, I want you to read Hebrews 11. In this chapter, which we will cover next time, Paul gives examples of individuals in the past who held on to Christ even though the heavens fell. They endured persecution, they endured fire, they endured every kind of thing, but they never gave up their faith. So Paul is giving us an historical account of men and woman, young and old, who never gave up their faith, who died for Christ, but who will one day receive the promise. He’s giving us these examples that we may follow the same. Hold on to your faith!

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