17 – The Only High Priest

Because of the grandeur and finality of the sacrifice of Jesus, we can now understand why there is no forgiveness for those who would turn away from not only the person of Jesus, but also the eternal sacrifice of the cross. If the compelling arguments and statements of eternal facts that the Hebrew writer has given to this point in the book do not convince one to hold faithfully to the blood of Jesus, then there is no hope for that person. Peter’s metaphorical description of such apostates from the blood sacrifice is appropriate:

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pt 2:20-22).

Peter speaks of those of whom the Hebrew writer states, “if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins10:26 Those who turn away from the cross have made the sacrifice of the cross void in their lives because they have turned from the only hope one has for eternal salvation.   There is a condition, therefore, for enjoying the eternal blessing of the sacrifice of the Son of God. The condition is to walk faithfully in the light of the covenant conditions (1 Jn 1:7).

The Hebrew writer is specific in reference to the apostate who turns from the sacrifice of Jesus. He is emphatic in the following statement:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift … if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.6:4,6

Two things are certain that we can draw from this pronouncement of the Hebrew writer: First, one must willingly be drawn to the cross sacrifice of Jesus lest he fall away. There is no such thing as being destined by God to be drawn to the cross. Being drawn to the sacrificial offering of Jesus must be based on one’s own choice. If one is predestined to be born into this salvation, then Jesus’ use of the word “drawn” would be meaningless and without emotion. Why would He even speak of being drawn to the sacrifice of the cross if God had predestined one to do so without his own volition? Being drawn infers individual volition and emotion, not prompting by the Holy Spirit, or preprogramming by God.

Second, once one is drawn to the cross, he or she must obediently submit to being born again. But there is no guarantee that once he is saved by obedience to the gospel he will continue to be saved. Every statement of Scripture that speaks of Christians falling from the faith is a teaching against the misunderstanding that once one is saved, he cannot fall away.   The entire audience to whom the Hebrew writer was addressing his arguments of the book was on the verge of apostasy from the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus. Those who would assert that once one was saved he cannot fall from the grace of God, are not comprehending the book of Hebrews. The writer was addressing Christians. They had been Christians for many years. But now they were on the verge of forsaking the blood and present ministry of Jesus, and thus, putting Jesus to an open shame.   They were giving up the blood sacrifice, and like dogs and pigs, returning to their former religiosity of futile sacrifices.

The Hebrew writer’s statement of 10:26 is a complete refutation of those who believe that once one is saved by the blood sacrifice of Jesus, that he is continually and forever saved, and thus, cannot fall. The writer’s illustration of the truth of verse 26 goes back to the Sinai law of Moses. Under that law, “anyone who has set aside Moses’ law died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses”10:28 (See Dt 17:2-6; 19:15). If the testimony of two or three witnesses was sufficient to have one condemned to stoning under the Sinai law, then the testimony of one’s rejection of the sacrificial blood of Jesus will be revealed when one stands before Jesus Himself in final judgment (2 Co 5:10). What is awaiting those who would stand before Jesus without His blood is nothing but terrifying destruction at the time of the final coming of Jesus (2 Th 1:6-9). What is awaiting is “a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation that will devour the adversaries.”10:27

If telling the old story of Jesus from the word of God does not stir emotion, then we are cold in reference to the cross.   The Holy Spirit has revealed the knowledge of the cross in the Bible. It is our responsibility as disciples of Jesus to grow in this revealed knowledge of the truth. If we conclude that it takes a direct act of the Holy Spirit to generate any emotional response to the cross, then we are saying that the Spirit failed in revealing the knowledge of the cross through the written word of God. We make the Spirit pick and choose those in whom He would generate a response. And if no emotional response to the cross is generated, then we want to blame the Spirit.

We must keep in mind that the Holy Spirit did not blame Himself for the Hebrews’ dullness of hearing the story of the old rugged cross. Those dull of hearing could only blame themselves. It is not the work of the Spirit in our lives to keep us emotionally charged about the sacrifice of the cross. We can blame only ourselves if we fall into a state wherein it is impossible for us to be renewed to faithfulness. When our dullness embarrasses the Son of God, then it is not the Holy Spirit who is to be blamed.

The words of the Hebrew writer in this text are meant to terrify any Christian who would by chance even consider turning from the blood of the cross. In view of the profound arguments and statements of fact that he has already made in the previous chapters concerning who Jesus is and what He did on the cross, and how He now ministers on behalf of the saints, he asks his readers a question that he knows they can answer correctly:

Of how much severer punishment do you suppose will he be thought worthy who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted as a common thing the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?10:29

Those who have turned from the blood of the cross, and the existing intercession of Jesus from the right hand of God, are truly like the dogs who return to eating their own vomit. They are like pigs who were washed, but then again return to filth.   If two or three witnesses could condemn the lawbreaker of the law of Moses, then in horror will be the words of Jesus in the final day who have turned from Him: “Depart from Me you cursed into everlasting fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). Those who would turn away from the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God will suffer an eternal destruction, for they have insulted the Spirit of grace.”10:29 And for this reason, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”10:31

We must not deceive ourselves. God says, “Vengeance is Mine.”10:30   “The Lord will judge His people.”10:30 If one claims to be a child of God, then certainly with fear and trembling he or she should guard their walk in the light of His Son’s will.   The Hebrew writer reminds his readers of the words of God: “But if any man draws back, My soul will have no pleasure in him.”10:38   If any would “draw back,” then he will “draw back to destruction.”10:39   So if anyone would ask concerning the Hebrew writer and those faithful with him, he would reply, “But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”10:39

[Next lecture:  December 30]

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