The Holy Spirit, in penning Hebrews 10, seems to present the scenario that believer’s in Christ can make a decision to willfully sin, and the result of that decision will be their shrinking away from God to the destruction of their souls. To understand this passage, it would be helpful to lay aside any denominational/doctrinal presuppositions of being “elect” or “once saved, always saved” or “perseverance of the saints” or even that your salvation is dependant upon your behavior. To understand Hebrews 10:26-39, it will be helpful to look at two other passages that carry the same message, and then look at the foundation of Salvation which Jesus laid in the parable of the soils.
Hebrews 10:26-39 is the “reflective pause” that Christians face when they are about to embark on a journey of faith that grows and powers ahead into the unknown. Such reflection is good for the heart and soul. God wanted His people to reflect upon their position and relationship with Him so much so that He declared a special time of doing so during the Feast of Tabernacles. We all need times of reflection so that we may renew our commitment and continue to step out in faith in following this awesome God! Understanding this pause is essential before leaping into the Faith Chapter!
First, let us consider the bullet points of three ‘difficult’ passages…
Heb 10:26 – “If we willfully continue to sin…”
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27
If we deliberately continue to sin, the Holy Spirit says:
- There is no more sacrifice (forgiveness)
- We will face judgment
- You are an adversary to be consumed by fire. (cf James 4:4 – You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”)
Does this apply to professed Christians?…They had “received the knowledge of the truth” Received is the word “lambano.” It means to take hold of, to grab. Here is an example of its use with the water of life:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17
Conclusion: This passage does indeed describe people who profess to be believer’s and even followers of Jesus Christ. For some reason, they have deliberately decided to turn away from Him and follow their own will, becoming an adversary of God. The implication of this implies they have made such a selfish and willful decision because of their love of the world. The result of their action is the revelation of 1 John-the Love of the Father is not in them, and they have turned toward their true lover-the world. Such love will result in their shrinking away from God and lead to the destruction of their souls.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
Were these people Christians that merely backslid, or did they really lose their salvation? Or were they merely pretenders who were never truly born again?
Our next passage is…
2 Peter 2:20-22 “For if… they are again entangled in them and overcome…”
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:20-22
These verses indicate the following about these folks:
- They are now entangled and overcome by defilements of the world
- Their condition is worse than before
- They had a deliberate turning away from the holy commandments
- They are compared to how a dog and a pig reveal their true nature, they return to their vomit or wallow in the mire.
Were they Christians? They had at one time “escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” Knowledge is “epígnōsis”
“It is more intensive than gnósis, knowledge, because it expresses a more thorough participation in the acquiring of knowledge on the part of the learner. In the NT, it often refers to knowledge which very powerfully influences the form of religious life, a knowledge laying claim to personal involvement”.
This is the same word used in Ephesians 1:17, and refers to a deep and intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ that we should all seek. So the passage seems to indicate that they at least made a profession of belief in Christ after receiving knowledge of who He was and what He had done for them. However, like those in Hebrews 10, they could not resist turning back to their true love, the world. They too, were entangled by the world and overcome, to the destruction of their souls.
Hebrews 6:4-8 “then (they) have fallen away…”
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:4-8
The people in Hebrews 6 are described as:
- Even though enlightened and sharing in the Holy Spirit, they have fallen away
- Their falling away is evidenced by the fruit of their life – filled with thorns and thistles.
- Their end is destruction by fire.
Were they Christians? They experienced all these: Enlightened, tasted, shared the Holy Spirit, tasted the Word and power…Cetainly sounds like they were professing to be Christians with all the characteristics of being a Christian.
Fallen is parapíptō:
“denoting a falling away, an abandonment. Some have suggested that this word indicates an error of weakness, fault or accident and does not represent deliberate, blameworthy or willful sin…However, the usus loquendi of the word yields no such meaning but in this case signifies deliberate acts of sin.”
Once again, here are people who made professions of faith in Jesus Christ because of some perceived knowledge of Him and what He had done for them, but in the course of their life made a deliberate and conscious decision to turn away from the Word of Jesus Christ. In this case, the proof of their decision shows up in the fruit of their life.
Before we look at the teaching of Jesus Christ in the Parable of the Soils, we must ask, “Does our Salvation come with responsiblity on our part?” Is our salvation in Christ a one time decision that is good for all of our life without any effort on our part? Or does the “New Birth” result in something which, like the wind, you cannot see, but like the wind, you can tell it is there?
What is the Evidence of our New Heart and being a New Creation?
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
“Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” Hebrews 3:6
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
The words “hold fast” are the translation of which means literally “to hold down.” It speaks here of a firm hold which masters that which is held. It implies that you have taken possession of your belief, and you hold it fast because you value it more than anything else. You never let it out of your sight!
Paul reveals the need to “hold fast” to the word which he preached, and says that if you do not, you believed in vain! Your belief was a selfish belief, and once it no longer worked in your favor, you let go and reached for something else! So Paul states we have a responsibility to “hold fast, ” a responsibility that grows from our conviction that this truth about Jesus Christ is more valuable than anything the world could ever offer!
Does this mean we must work to ‘keep’ our Salvation?
Only if you believe commitment is work. Hopefully your work and “holding fast” comes from the conviction that Jesus Christ is worth it, that you owe Him everything, because He sacrificed everything for you. Consider your marriage. Because you value your spouse and your life-long commitment to her, you “hold fast” that commitment and honor it by your fidelity. If you no longer value your spouse or your commitment, you will turn away, let go and be unfaithful. You marriage was “in vain”, which means it was fine as long as it suited your needs. You dishonor the marriage when you want to meet your needs elsewhere.
So, will giving your life to Jesus Christ result in a salvation that is secure, eternal and impossible to take away? Jesus said, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:25-30
Parable of the Four Soils
What else did Jesus say about His sheep, and what insights can we gain about how we can know we are always in the Father’s hand and will never be snatched away? To better understand who is really “my sheep” we must look at the Parable of the Soils (or Sower):
“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23
I believe the best way to understand the 4 soils is to see them as our heart. Being ‘born again’ involves receiving a new nature, becoming a new creation, and Hebrews indicates that involves a new heart, one in which God puts His Word, and the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” Hebrews 10:15-16.
Jesus says that some hearts hear the Word, but their hardness and self-will prevent the Word from changing them. It is stolen away and has no effect. Another heart hears the Word and gets all excited. This is something they need at the time. However, their heart was selfishly motivated, and the proof is revealed in adversity or harsh circumstances. The next heart hears the Word, receives it, allows it to work in their life, but that heart is divided, and gradually or suddenly turns to the world, because what they really love has choked out any effect the Word has upon them. The thorns and thistles grow and appear in the midst of any fruit they may produce.
The lesson that Jesus wants us to see is that there will be many who profess belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. However, many will be mere professors. They never really take possession (as in ‘hold fast’) of the Word of Truth for their lives. THey may look and act like Christians, but the proof of their conversion is revealed in their endurance and fruit!
This is not works based salvation, but simple gardening!
What about God’s patience and understanding with our humanity? Does He not have patience with our growth? Indeed He does, however, there is a limit to His patience, and that runs about 4 years, as evidenced in this passage:
And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ” Luke 13:6-9
The new birth will result in a salvation that bears fruit, not thorns or barrenness! If you are truly born again, one of Jesus sheep, but are backslidden or turning away, expect God to put some manure in your life! Things may get a little stinky until you humble yourself and re-commit to following His Word! If the manure doesn’t work, you are proven to be a pretender, and you were never given a new heart that is responsive to His Word!
Jesus showed His contempt for pretenders in this exchange near His crucifixion:
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. Mark 11:12-14 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God”. Mark 11:20-22
I often wondered at this curing of Jesus on a fig tree that by Mark’s account should not have had fruit. After all, it was early spring and it was 6 to 8 weeks away from bearing fruit. Then I read this from F.F. Bruce:
When the fig leaves appear about the end of March, they are accompanied by a crop of small knobs, called taqsh by the Arabs, a sort of fore-runner of the real figs. These taqsh are eaten by peasants and others when hungry. They drop off before the real fig is formed. But if the leaves appear unaccompanied by taqsh, there will be no figs that year. So it was evident to our Lord, when He turned aside to see if there were any of these taqsh on the fig-tree to assuage His hunger for the time being, that the absence of the taqsh meant that there would be no figs when the time of figs came. For all its fair foliage, it was a fruitless and a hopeless tree.” 
This was confirmed by Keener:
“At Passover season in late March or early April, fig trees are often in leaf on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. At this time of year, such fig trees contained only green early figs (Arabs call them taqsh), which ripen around June but often drop off before that time, leaving only green leaves on the tree. A leafy tree lacking such early figs, however, would bear no figs at all that year,” 
Jesus was looking at a pretender, all leafy and full of itself, but there was not going to be any fruit! The fig tree was all about itself, and cared little for those around it, and its’ lack of taqsh revealed it would never bear any fruit for the benefit of others.
The message of our difficult passages and especially Hebrews 10:26-39 is simply this: Your actions reveal your true character. If you have been born again through the Holy Spirit, you have a new nature, a new heart that is responsive to the Word of God. You hold it fast. The Word of God will always bear fruit for God, because the Word of God is Jesus Christ! If there is no fruit, if there is no continued “holding fast to the Word,” then your heart is revealed as a pretender, vain in your true desires, in love with the world (or yourself), and an enemy of God!
Hebrews 3:12-14 reveals the truth of the importance of our heart and having a genuine repentance and coming to Christ with no reserves, no expectations, no fleshly considerations.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. Heb 3:12-14
Is it possible to be born again and then develop an unbelieving heart? No. For if we are born again, we have a new heart, and God writes His Word upon it through the Holy Spirit. God then is responsible for our growth, and will use plenty of manure at times. If our heart turns out to be unbelieving or worldly or divided, then it is time to repent as Christ warned the Laodiceans.
“ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” Revelation 3:15-22
This is why Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper, so that we would regularly check our heart to see if Christ is Lord. This is why Paul warns us to:
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5
If one fails the test it means he is “adokimos” which means he is a pretender, one whose heart has failed the test of purity toward God! Only through our absolute trust in Jesus Christ and the total application of His blood can we be found “dokimos,” which means “approved!”
So our encouragement from Hebrews 8-10 is that because of what Christ has done, and because of His continued ministry and mediation and intercession on our behalf, there is NO WAY we can shrink away from Him and suffer destruction. Because of His ministry we have faith and therefore our souls rest safely in Him!
So what is the impact of this passage? What must we take into our hearts, our minds and work with our hands?
1. The “What” is for our Heart
- This is what we take into our Heart
- This reveals God’s Steadfast Love
- This shows us the “Way” of Christ
- What in this passage demonstrates God’s steadfast love, and grabs at your emotions?
- God is faithful to Judge us according to His Word – Hebrews 10:27-31
- He will keep His Word with all those who come to Him through Jesus Christ.
- He will judge all those who reject His Son!
2. The “So What” is for our Head
- We must take into our thinking – Head
- We must follow the justice of God’s Word
- We must believe in the “Truth” of Jesus Christ
What in this passage should we accept, receive and allow to transform our thinking so as to build the design of God into our lives?
- I must examine my heart and soul to see if I am engaged in willful sin…
- I must decide to turn away and then commit my whole being to being transformed by the renewing of my mind
- I must examine myself by asking the following:
- Am regarding Jesus as my Lord or as something “profane or common or powerless?”
- Do I value the Blood of Christ as much as God?
- Am I sensitive to the Leadership of the Holy Spirit?
- How is my Confidence in the Word of the Lord?
- How is my Endurance? Am I growing in patience?
- How is my faith in God’s ability to do as He promised?
3. The “Now What” is for our Hands. What must we do to really learn this?
- The hands work the Righteousness of God
- The hands demonstrate that we have the “Life” of Jesus Christ
- What must I do this week to bring this passage to bear in my Life and grow in righteousness?
- Daily confess confidence in the Lordship of Jesus!
- Rejoice in any struggles or sufferings you are going through.
- Find someone in prison (literal or figurative) this week, and show compassion to them.
- Give something to someone in need to demonstrate your trust in eternal possessions to come.
Heb 10:33-34 “you became companions of them that were so used (person suffering wrongly, or in affliction). For you had compassion of me in my bonds (shackles, a person with a disability) and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods…
Take time this week to so glory in the presence of God that you are able to roll on the floor in laughter (or cry with tears of joy) over some loss that up until today caused you bitterness or great sorrow. Discover His goodness and love once again!
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 624.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: ” parapíptō.”
 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies – Volume 2: Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 181.
 F.F. Bruce, Are The New Testament Documents Reliable? (Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove, Ill, fifth revised edition 1992), pp. 73-74.
 Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, July 1999), p. 504