Hebrews 10:26-31 Motivated by love and not by fear
The author anticipating a perverted manipulation of God’s grace taught the dangers of willful sinning. The participants of the new covenant are under severer punishment should they disregard the sacrifice of Christ and the blood of the covenant. At the same time, God will execute fair judgment by looking at each person’s heart, but not at his religious affiliation and involvement. Willful and unrepentant sinners will incur certain judgment, as there no longer remains a sacrifice for their sins. Today’s passage teaches that true believers are motivated by love and not by fear.
26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.
Here, the author referred to those who continued to live contrary to the truth after hearing the word and ratifying the covenant with God. “Receiving” can be interpreted as having fully understood the truth and taking possession of it. The author warned in such cases, the sacrifice of Christ was no longer effective in cleansing his sins: there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. Instead, there was in no uncertain terms judgment and condemnation for their sins. “Willfully” can be interpreted as intentional, premeditated and not under compulsion.
28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
The author made a comparison with the manner transgressions were dealt with during the time of the first covenant (Law of Moses) and the time of the new covenant if a person sinned willfully. The text states if anyone was proven guilty and sentenced to death under the first covenant, how much severer would the punishment be in the new covenant! What were sins that were punishable by death in the Law of Moses? According to Leviticus 20, capital punishment seems to be prescribed for offenses which are not all that serious. Modern society would not have deemed a man worthy of death for having sex with his wife during her monthly period as required in Leviticus 20:18. Society classifies crimes in relation to the harm which is done. Hence, the court applies various degree of punishment for different crimes according to their severity. God perceives sin not only in terms of the action and its consequences, but also in terms of the attitude which is evidenced. Therefore, God judges not so much the act per se, but the attitudes of the heart.
The attitude of utmost heinousness is to trample under foot of the Son of God and to regard the blood of Christ (blood of the covenant) as common and unclean. Willful sinning under the first covenant disregards the blood of animals. But willful sinning under the new covenant disregards the blood of Christ equivalent to trampling Him under foot. If willful breaking of the covenant ratified by animal’s blood was severe enough to warrant capital punishment, how much severer the punishment in the willful breaking the covenant ratified by Christ’s blood. A person who is struggling with personal weaknesses and addictions does not belong to the category of willful sinning. But if a person oppresses the poor, lives wantonly and commits murder continually despite multiple warnings, he is a willful sinner.
30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” is lifted from Deuteronomy 32:35-36. Although the Lord would let the gentile nations execute judgment on Israel, He would still hold these nations accountable for their wickedness and repay them for their evil. God judges all men according to the posture of their hearts with no regard to their religious affiliations. As He executed judgment on gentile nations for their wickedness, likewise the Lord will judge His people. God will not lighten His hand of judgment on those who sinned willfully regardless of their religion or nationality.
A true believer is motivated by love and not by fear. Some churchgoers harbor the attitude that they will only repent and settle into a godly lifestyle just before they die. Although they were baptized in water, they love the pleasures of the world and have yet to place Christ as the Lord of their lives. They want freedom from hell but refuse to conform to the truth of heaven. Hence, their worship of God is motivated by fear of punishment and not by gratitude and love. Such are not true believers and they will not hesitate to rebel against God if they can get away with it. Hence, they continue to live self-centered lives and entertain the ideology of “once saved, always saved.” They continue to test God’s patience by doing evil supposing their sins were cleansed once for all. For such, there no longer remains a sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins.
Salvation may come free, but it does not come cheap. The world attributes value to something which comes at a cost to them. Unless they pay for it, they will never cherish it. In other words, they will not cherish something that is gotten free of charge. Many churchgoers do not cherish their salvation nor express gratitude towards God by obeying His commandments. The reason is because they did not pay for their salvation, and neither did they request for Christ to die on their behalf. Thus, they take the blood of the covenant lightly and trample under foot the Son of God. The fact that salvation came at a price that even God Himself could not afford speaks volumes about God’s love for humanity. By the grace of God, the most valuable things in life come free: oxygen, water, gravity, love and the life of His Son. God gave His Son freely even when humanity did not ask for it. The fact that salvation is free should motivate us towards giving our lives freely for God’s purposes.
God judges people not according to their religious affiliation but according to their heart. Many churchgoers were convinced they would never be judged as Christ was already punished on their behalf. While they continued with their wanton lifestyle, they remained adamantly assured of their salvation. On the day of judgment, God evaluates a person’s heart, not his religious knowledge, nor his religious involvement or observance. God does not care if he possesses the gifts of the Spirit or about his prominence in the church community. In fact, God will judge churchgoers more stringently than non-churchgoers because the onus is on them to practice the truth. God said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” On the other hand, non-churchgoers are left to follow their conscience and the teachings of their own religion. However, all true seekers of God will eventually come to recognize the lordship of Christ and worship Him.
- What motivates you to do God’s will? Is it the fear of punishment or the love of God? A true believer constantly looks out for the interests of others and he is motivated to do God’s will by love and gratitude.
- How do you think God will judge you? Do you place your confidence in your religious involvement in church? Or are you assured because you are at peace with God and doing His will being motivated by love and gratitude.
Dear Lord, I thank you for suffering on my behalf and freeing me from condemnation. My life is no longer my own. Mold me and equip me for the task of building your kingdom. Keep me from willfully sinning against you and turn me back to the path of righteousness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.