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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Assurance and the Fire of Judgment
Text:Hebrews 10:26-31 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness of Sins

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

That Man Is Blest

All Who with Heart Confiding    

In the Hour of Trial

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Assurance, and the Fire of Judgment”
Hebrews 10:26-31
The passage before us is similar to the passage that we read in Hebrews 6:4-6 about those who fall away from the truth and renounce it. Both passages have caused sincere Christian people to doubt their salvation. After all, in this passage we are told that “if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.” And we all know, if we are honest with ourselves, that at many times we have sinned willfully; we have sinned with full knowledge that we are sinning against the truths of God’s Word.
We know what God says in his Word, whether in the Ten Commandments or the rest of his Word, which teaches us how to live. And yet at times in my life – and I have no doubt in your life too – we have sinned with a hard heart and with full knowledge that we are going against the will and the Word of God.
Sin has many consequences. Even sin that is graciously forgiven by God still carries earthly consequences. And one of the many consequences of sin in the life of the believer is that it will often make a child of God doubt that their heavenly Father would still love them, knowing of their sin.
And that doubt concerning our salvation intensifies when we consider that God’s judgment consumes his enemies. Verse 27 describes how those who deliberately keep on sinning have “only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
When we sin, especially with repetitive sin, the evil one is quick to accuse us. He not only gives us the lie that God would never love us because of the sins we have committed, but he goes further to portray us as God's enemies. He is quick to take verses on reconciliation and turn those passages against us, even passages that beautifully assure us that we are reconciled to God, even though at one time we were considered his enemies. Passages which beautifully describe our reconciliation – such as Ephesians 2:1-10, and other passages like it – can be turned against us by the evil one. Little wonder that among his many names is the name “Accuser.”
The devil knows the Scripture. He used it against Jesus when he tempted him in the desert. And he uses it against all those who follow the Lord Jesus, pointing to our sin and saying, “God not only withholds his love from you because of your detestable sin, but in reality, you are still his enemy. You have sinned repeatedly and willfully. Your future holds “only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
The evil one will also use Scripture to remind us that we will be judged according to the degree of light – according to the degree of knowledge – that we have of the Lord through his Word. Because we live in this New Testament era where we have the complete revelation of God – all 66 books of the Bible – we will be held to a higher standard than those who sinned against the law of Moses. Verses 28 and 29 make that clear: “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
Our accuser, the devil loves to use God’s Word against us, to shake our faith and diminish our assurance of salvation. Furthermore, verse 30 teaches that God will judge not only unbelievers, but he will also judge his people. In his commentary on Hebrews, John Calvin sees this judgment as being judgment on those who say they are his people, but who aren’t. He writes, “It is this sense that God is said to judge his people, that is, when he separates the truly godly from hypocrites…” (Vol. XXII, pg. 250)
The separation of the godly from hypocrites on the last day will reveal the difference between the visible and invisible church. In every church there are both true believers and there are those who only profess to believe. In the words of Romans 9:6, “…Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”  
Not all the people whom we see in the pews will be seen in heaven. A mere profession on the lips, without true saving faith in the heart, won't hold up on the Day of Judgment. The same is true for those who trust only in their baptism or use of the Lord's Supper. The sacraments, precious as they are, are signs pointing us to Christ, but there is no saving grace in their use. Likewise, young people, you cannot enter heaven on the coattails of your parents or grandparents. The faith that you see in their lives must also be – by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s power – a reality in your life.
The truth that God will judge his people is followed by the verse which the Holy Spirit used so effectively in initiating a great spiritual revival in the United States in the mid 1700's. The Holy Spirit worked through the word preached by John Edwards in his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.” Although the text was from Deuteronomy 32:35, the sermon brought out the truth of Hebrews 10:31 that it is indeed “a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
This passage has caused many sincere Christians to doubt their salvation, just as the text in Hebrews 6:4-6 has caused many to waver in their assurance. The passage should bring fear into the hearts and lives of many people, just as it did when the Holy Spirit used Jonathan Edwards so effectively in 1741. But there is also assurance for the true believer. There are several keys to understanding this passage properly.
First, the repetitive sin that this verse warns us about is apostasy. Apostasy includes the deliberate rejection and renunciation of the gospel by someone who once professed saving faith. The continual sin refers to a continual refusal to believe in Jesus, even after hearing about him and being part of the covenant community – part of a Bible-believing church.
Consider that the native who lives in a distant part of the world where the gospel has not yet been proclaimed cannot be saved from their sin. The person who has never heard the gospel is still subject to judgment because the requirements of God’s law are written on all human hearts, and our conscience bears witness to sinful conduct. (Rom. 2:14-16) But their judgment will be light compared to the judgment of someone who knows the Word of God and renounces it.
Jesus explained it this way in Luke 12:47-48: “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Unfortunately, in our culture, we increasingly hear about people who once professed to have saving faith, “deconstructing” their faith. Unless they are convicted by the Holy Spirit, those who deconstruct their faith grow increasingly hostile to the gospel which they have rejected. They often describe how they grew up hearing the truths of the Bible, but now they have grown past those truths. And they no longer call them truths; they are myths, legends, and errors that only ignorant, uneducated people would believe in. Often the attacks are saturated with sarcasm and ridicule. They are directed against the Word of God, against the Holy Spirit who inspired that Word, against Christ, and against his people. That is the deliberate sin which comes after someone has received the knowledge of the truth and renounces it.
When they renounce the truth of God’s Word, there is, as verse 26 teaches, “no sacrifice for sins …left…” There is no other way for that person to be saved. They have rejected the very truth that could save them. And unless they repent there is no other way to be saved for “There is no other name – that is, of Jesus – given under heaven by which man can be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
When someone apostatizes, there is a three-step process described in verse 29: First there is a trampling of the Son of God underfoot. When someone apostatizes and renounces their faith, they don't usually do it quietly; instead, they make it a public trampling of the Son of God through their ridicule and criticism.
Verse 29 also describes how those who commit apostasy treat as “an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them.” The verse is not teaching that the person who apostatizes lost their salvation. They were never saved in the first place. They may have conformed outwardly to the standard of sanctification, living outwardly according to the law of God. But everything they did was for appearance; they never had an inner change of heart. Instead of rejoicing in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, they made light of it, treating it as an unholy thing.
The third description of the person who deliberately keeps on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth is that they insult the Spirit of grace. It is the Holy Spirit who gives new life from above. By the Holy Spirit's power we are given the gift of saving faith in Jesus. When someone purposely turns from the truths of God's Word, it is an insult to the Holy Spirit who inspired that Word to be written.
Continual Sin in the Life of a Christian
A second key to understanding this passage is to realize that even the strongest Christians sin until they die, but their sin grieves them if they are truly God's children. One of the clearest examples, among many within the biblical record, is found in Romans 7. There the apostle Paul expresses deep sorrow and grief for the sins that he continued to commit. He describes how just hearing of God’s law stirred a desire within him to sin against that law. He wrote, “I would not have known what coveting was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.” (Rom 7:7, 8)
The apostle goes on to describe how “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (Rom. 7:22, 23)
And that is true for every sincere Christian. Unfortunately, we still sin – and will sin – until the day we die. When we think about the death of a believing loved one, we often think only in terms of them being with the Lord in the glory of his presence. That is a blessing beyond our ability to comprehend. But hand-in-hand with that blessing is the blessing that physical death is the end of sinning for the true believer. But until that moment, sin lingers in the heart of even the godliest of people. Both Christians and non-Christians sin, but the difference is that the true believer will always be deeply grieved by their sin whereas the unbeliever will not be.
As an example, two professing Christians both struggled with repetitive sin. One was deeply bothered by it and the other was nonchalant, not even admitting that the sin was a problem in his life. The repetitive sin for each of them regarded an exceptionally sharp and cruel tongue that would cut other people to shreds. People would leave church with tears streaming down their face. When asked what was causing the flow of tears, they would invariably say, “Oh, I was talking to so and so,” and they would give one of these two people’s names.
In the conversation hurtful things were said that cut like a knife. And those sins of the tongue reveal the heart, “for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Unfortunately, those sins were repetitive. This wasn't something that happened one Sunday, or two or three or four. Unfortunately, it was quite a common occurrence in that particular church.
The woman with a sharp tongue was deeply grieved that she hurt so many people. She asked me on numerous occasions whether she could be saved. I'm thankful that I don't make that call, nor do I need to. But in her case, I assured her of the Lord's forgiving grace as well as challenging her to restrain her tongue. As she repented, she expressed that same sorrow for sin that the apostle Paul voiced in Romans 7. Just as he was grieved by his sin, so was she. Just as the apostle looked in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ, so did she. She had what 2 Corinthians 7:10 describes as godly sorrow.
But the older man was another story. On more than one occasion he was confronted by the elders and pastor about the sharp tongue that caused so much pain in the lives of others. His reply was based on Proverbs 27:17 that iron sharpens iron”. In his view he had simply sharpened someone for their own good. But his tongue was forked. He turned the truth around and spoke maliciously. But he never owned up to the sorrows that he caused by the way he talked to others.
He was a gifted teacher. His adult Sunday school classes were well attended and well presented. He had a wonderful grasp of theology and could express it clearly. But there was a tragic disconnect between the theology in his head and the words that sprang from his heart. Unlike the woman in the church who was agonized that she had such a biting tongue, this man never repented – at least to our knowledge – of the repetitive sin that marked his life.

Turning from Sin

When a Christian is confronted with repetitive sin in their life, whether sins of the tongue, sins of the flesh, sins of omission or commission – they must repent of them. To repent means to turn from sin. In Acts 26:20 we are told to prove our repentance by our deeds. As soon as you and I are convicted of sin we must repent, turning from sin, praying for forgiveness, and earnestly striving to live according to the truths of God's Word.
As you truly repent – with godly sorrow and not worldly grief – you will find great blessing. With David you will be able to exclaim:
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
(Psa. 32:1, 2)
Those who repent of their sin with true saving faith in Christ need not fear falling into God’s hands. It is, as verse 31 says, “a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” for the unbeliever. For anyone who has refused to repent, for the one who has renounced the truth that they have been taught, who has trampled the Son of God underfoot and treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant, it is indeed a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But for those who acknowledge their sin, repent of it, seek to turn from it, and strive to live by God's Word, there is no fear of falling into the hands of the living God. Jesus Christ bore the proper and righteous wrath of our triune God against your sin and my sin. He took the full measure of judgment on the cross that you and I deserve.
If our faith is truly in him, and if we are grieved by our sins and repent of them by turning from sin to the best of our ability, God enabling us, then we can be fully assured that we are held in the hands of our God. We are held in the hands of God not as objects of wrath for judgment, but as his children redeemed by grace through saving faith in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
In fact, in John 10:27-30, Jesus assures us that if we truly believe in him, we are held both in his hand and in the hand of his heavenly Father in such a way that no one can snatch us away. He promises, “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.”
Is your faith focused on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation this evening? Does your faith lead to a sincere desire for obedience, as Romans 1:5 describes? Do you seek to prove your repentance with your deeds, in the words of Acts 26:20? If so, you need not fear the judgment but can take great comfort that you are held in the Almighty hands of both God the Father and God the Son, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
But by the same token, you and I cannot gloss over the serious nature of the warning in this passage. It applies to all of us. In verse 26 the author includes himself when he writes “if we deliberately keep on sinning…” We must guard ourselves from the slippery slope of sin. Sin makes an ever-larger hole in one's heart. Sin brings every sinner into greater bondage.
The bondage which holds the sinner in their sin is like a cable made of many strands. You have probably seen the inside of a metal cable, how a large number of strands are woven together to make a solid cable that cannot be easily broken.
Repetitive sin is like that cable. Every time you commit that same sin you are binding yourself deeper into bondage, making an ever-stronger cable that will separate you from the joy of living as you ought.
Scripture warns us not to be like a dog returning to its vomit or a sow wallowing repeatedly in the mud.  Instead, may you and I look to Jesus, turning from sin, persevering obediently and joyfully in our faith in him! Amen.
sermon outline:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. – Hebrews 10:26-27
“Assurance and the Fire of Judgment”
Hebrews 10:26-31
I. This passage has caused many to doubt their salvation as it describes:
    1) Continual, repetitive sin (26) against Biblical knowledge (29)
    2) God’s judgment which consumes His enemies (27) and requires greater accountability now
         than in Old Testament times (28-29)
    3) God will judge His people (30) and “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living
         God” (31)
II. The key to understanding the passage is to know that:
     1) The continual sin refers to a refusal to believe in Jesus, even after hearing about Him and
          being part of the covenant community (29)
     2) Even the strongest Christians sin until they die (Romans 7:7-25), but their sin grieves them
          with “a godly sorrow” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
     3) Those who truly believe in Jesus with saving faith need not fear falling into God’s hands,
          but instead have great comfort knowing they are held in the grip of His hands (31; John



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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