Of the issues that we run across in speaking about apostasy is to define exactly what apostasy is. The writer of Hebrews does that for us. It is not the sinning that might happen as we grow in Christ, or the sinning that happens with the flesh comes alive, but it is the deliberate sin whereby we knowingly defy Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Apostasy is the falling away from Christ Himself. Where as chapter 6 defines who can commit apostasy, chapter 10 defines what it is.
Hebrews 10:1-39 from the Commentary in Translation Version
(1) For the Law, which was a rude outline of the good things to come and not the very reality of the matter, cannot with the same sacrifices which they offer yearly make the approachers perfect.
(2) Otherwise, they would cease being offered because the ministering ones if they had once for all been cleansed should have had no more consciousness of sins, would they not?
(3) But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance of sins every year,
(4) For it is impossible that the bloods of bulls and goats should take away sins.
(5) For this reason, coming into the world, he says: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you did prepare for me;
(6) In burnt offerings and sacrifices made for sin, you took no pleasure.
(7) Then I said: Look, for I have come to do your will, O God (In the beginning of the book it stands written concerning me.)
(8) Earlier, when he said: Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offerings for sin, you desired none, neither did you take pleasure in them (which are offered according to the Law).
(9) Then he said: Look, for I have come to do your will, O God. He abolishes the first that he may establish the second.
(10) By God’s will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time!
(11) And indeed, every priest had stood daily to minister and to repeatedly offer the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
(12) But he himself, having offered one sacrifice forever for sins, has sat down on the right hand of God,
(13) And from that time onward, waiting until his enemies are made his footstool.
(14) For by one offering he has perfected for all times the ones being sanctified.
(15) Moreover, the holy spirit also testifies to us,
(16) For after having said: This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD, putting my laws on their hearts and upon their minds I will inscribe them.
(17) Then he adds: And I shall by no means remember their sins and their iniquities any longer.
(18) Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer an offering for sin.
(19) Therefore, brethren, we have a confident assurance for the entrance to the holy of holies in the blood of Jesus,
(20) By a way newly slain but living, which he has inaugurated for us through the veil, which is say, his flesh,
(21) And having an high priest over the house of God,
(22) Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled free from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water,
(23) Let us keep holding fast to the profession of our hope that it waver not, for God is faithful that promised.
(24) Let us continuously take care one for another to spur to love and to good works,
(25) Not abandoning the assembling of ourselves together, as the habit of some is; instead encouraging one another, and so much more so as you see the Day approaching.
The Danger of Apostasy
(26) For if we, yes we, sin deliberately after the receiving of the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
‘Deliberately’ excludes sins of infirmity and weakness of will; ‘knowledge’ excludes ‘sins of ignorance’. Once you reject the Gospel there will be no more that will supplant or supplement it as it did with Judaism.
(27) But only a terrifying expectation of judgment and wrath of fire that is ready to devour the adversaries.
(28) If anyone rejecting the Law of Moses dies without mercies under two of three witnesses,
What then is this Law of Moses? Remember, this entire book as drawn together the Old and New into one seamless Testament of God.
“If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. (Deuteronomy 17:2-6 NKJV)
“If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. (Deuteronomy 13:6-9 NKJV)
The worship of God has moved from the physical of Judaism to the spiritual of Christianity, so the physical death that is demanded by the Law is the spiritual death wrought under Grace. If you were to serve even another ‘Jesus’ than the true one once you have the knowledge of the truth, then what standing do you think you have? Would you presume to debate doctrine with God?
(29) How much worse the punishment do you think that he will be deemed to merit who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, counting the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and having outraged the spirit of Grace.
The idea here is some public dishonour – such as publicly denouncing the doctrine of the Church or even accepting the doctrine of another equal with the Church. It is also dismissing the doctrine as false. The RV has ‘common’ thing, referring to the blood. The idea is the same: when you fail to make the distinction between the blood bought, the separate, and the world, then you have denied Christ.
(30) For we know him that said: Vengeance belongs unto me; I will repay, says the LORD. And again: The LORD will judge his people.
(31) Terrifying is the fall into the hands of the living God.
This deliberate sin is the same sin that is found in Numbers,
“And if a person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the LORD, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them.
“But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the LORD, and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.”‘ (Numbers 15:27-31 NKJV)
1st John has the same theme,
If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. (1 John 5:16-17 NKJV)
The idea is the same in Hebrews. There are two types of sin – the one that is unintentional owing itself to human frailty and eyes that are growing dim; there is a sin though that has always brought death, it is the sin that brings a reproach upon the Lord. The Law of Moses and the Grace of Christ allows for the sins of the former type, but neither gives room for the latter sin.
The writer of Hebrews warns again of apostasy – the intentional sin whereby a person counts the blood of the covenant void. Take the example of Joel Hemphill, who recently denied the deity of Christ in favor of the ancient heresy of Arianism. He willingly did this and thus the songs that he wrote and sang, the years that he preached, the many times that he would have called Jesus Christ God is made a reproach to him. What if you denied the doctrine of the Church? The baptism? The very name of God? The very Church of God?
Note the emphatic ‘we’ of the author – he puts himself in the same place as those that hear him. If he too sins deliberately, with a high hand, he too will find nothing more than the expectation of judgment. Paul said the same,
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:27 KJVA)
This is a sin that eternally separates a person from God.
Continue to Persevere
(32) Call to remembrance your former days, in which after you were enlightened, you endure a great fight of afflictions.
(33) Sometimes, while you were made a public example both by insults and afflictions and on other occasions you companioned with those that were treated this way.
(34) For indeed you sympathized with me in my chains, and you accepted the seizure of your property with joy, knowing that you have a better and lasting possession in the heavens.
(35) Therefore, throw not away your confident assurance, which has a great reward,
(36) For you have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God, you might receive his promise.
(37) For in a very little while, he that shall come will come and will not delay.
(38) Now the just will live by faith, and if he draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him,
(39) But we, yes we!, are not of them that draws back unto destruction, but we, yes we, are they that believe in the securing of the soul.
Again, the writer turns to the illumination of the Saint – being made aware of who Jesus Christ is. He encourages them to hold to that revelation, to stand upon it, and if persecution comes, knowing that Christ Himself is still on the way.
In verse 38-39, the writer makes a clear distinction concerning those that are moving forward and those that have shrunk back. He did not say, as some would suppose, that those that withdrew themselves from Christ where never really saved; instead, he says that they were once righteous and living by faith but because they turned their back on Christ. Thus, he could not fellowship with them; however, he was going forward.