Hebrews 10:26-39: Don’t Throw Away Your Confidence

Read: Hebrews 10:26-39

Hebrews 10:26 is among one of the more controversial texts in Hebrews along with Hebrews 6:4. The center of the controversy here, as with the text in chapter six, has to do with a doctrine called “perseverance of the saints” or “eternal security”. Basically there are two camps: there those that think that one can lose their salvation after they have been saved and there are those who think that once a person is saved, there is nothing that person can do to lose his or her salvation. Scripture does teach that those who believe belong to God and cannot be taken away. John describes this relationship using a shepherd and his sheep as a metaphor—the sheep know the shepherds voice and cannot be taken away. These are the ones who have eternal life, and it cannot be taken away (John 10:27-29).  Paul makes a beautiful doxology in Romans 8:33-39, where he is convinced that nothing can separate those who believe from Christ. The role of the Holy Spirit in salvation is that the Holy Spirit as a “seal” for salvation. The idea is that once the decree of redemption is given, it is sealed as a king seals a royal document by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

To fully understand Hebrews 10:26, one has to look at the context of the verse.  Hebrews 10:26 is a transitional verse between the practical pointers that the author of Hebrews had just given and a warning passage concerning willful sin, particularly those who were apparently forsaking their gatherings.  This text, however, is different from Hebrews 6 on two counts. First, Hebrews 6 is talking about doctrine and spiritual maturity, and apparently some had fallen prey to deceptive teachings that had caused them to believe something other than the true gospel of Jesus. Hebrews 10, however, is talking about practical theology. Second, the Hebrews 10 text uses the first person pronoun “we” when talking about those who fall into apostasy rather than a third person as in Hebrews 6. He is including the believers to whom he is writing and himself in the group he is talking about here. These distinctions are necessary, because these two text, although similar, are not talking about the same thing.

The “we” that continue sinning after “receive knowledge of the truth” no longer have “sacrifice for sin”. This text continues, citing from the Old Testament about the judgment of God. He cites from Deuteronomy 16:35 where God consumes Korah and his company because they rebelled against Moses and makes a general warning about those who break the Law of Moses. He builds on this saying how much more so the offense is when one tramples on God and his grace. He then quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35-26, talking about how judgment belongs to God and how God will judge his people, then makes a weighty proclamation about how terrifying it is to fall into the hands of a the living God. The author of Hebrews then turns their attention to the days when they were under persecution for doing good and reminds them of the joy that their salvation brought them, and encourages them not to throw it away because of this.

This first-person, inclusive warning suggests that in some instances, when Christians are obstinate, God will give them over to the world and let the world deal with them rather than protect him with his divine grace (that is, his sacrifice for sin) and his “rest” (Hebrews 3:7-19). When Jesus forgives a person of his or her sin, the forgiveness is applied when God passes his final judgment, but it does not necessarily spare believers from the consequences of sin while on earth. And sometimes, God will let the consequences of one’s sin consume them. Life itself is hard enough, but life while dealing with the consequences of sin is probably as wretched as it comes in this life. The author of Hebrews then quotes from Habakkuk 2:3-4, reminding them what the prophet said – God is coming, but wait for him in faith, because faith has great value even in the here and now. These last few verses set up the next chapter that has been called the “Hall of Fame of Faith” when talking about faithful men and women throughout history. Rather than shrink back, they held to the promises of God rather than go back to lives of unrighteousness and sin.

So the warning goes out even now – deliberate, willful sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth may put a believer in a place he does not want to be: outside the will of God all the while reaping the consequences for sin. Rather than do this, believers should remain faithful, and even when the bad times come there will be joy because of the hope of salvation. A wise man will not so quickly throw away his confidence, because it has great value!

Lord, I’m safest when I trust you! Help me to do this instead of sin against you!