If we deliberately go on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins remains,
I. A SIN OF THE GREATEST ENORMITY. TO obtain a correct view of the dark sin which is here depicted, let us notice:
1. The spiritual experience which preceded the sin. Two clauses of our text set forth a personal experience of genuine religion. "After that we have received the knowledge of the truth." The word which is translated "knowledge" - ἐπίγνωσις - as Delitzsch points out, cannot mean an unreal or false knowledge, but a genuine and intelligent apprehension of the truth. "The sacred writer, therefore, clearly intimates by the very choice of the word that it is not a mere outward and historical knowledge of which he is here speaking, but an inward, quickening, believing apprehension of revealed truth (Hebrews 6:4-8)." "The blood... wherewith he was sanctified." In the case supposed the man "had advanced so far in the reality of the spiritual life, that this blood had been really applied to his heart by faith, and its hallowing and purifying, effects were visible in his life (Alford).
2. The character of the sin itself. The sin is apostasy from Christianity, after having personally experienced its power and preciousness. But see how it is here sketched.
(1) Contemptuous rejection of the Divine Redeemer. "Hath trodden underfoot the Son of God." The expression does not simply mean to cast a thing away as useless, which is afterwards carelessly trampled on by men (Matthew 5:13); but a deliberate, scornful, bitter treading down of a thing. So terribly wicked is the rejection of the Son of God which our text sets forth.
(2) Profanation of the sacrificial blood of the Savior. "Hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing." The blood of sacrifices offered under the Law was regarded as sacred, and as having cleansing power (Leviticus 16:19). How much more really and more intensely holy must the blood of Christ be (Hebrews 9:13, 14)! To regard this blood as common, or as the blood of an ordinary man, was not only a degradation of the most sacred thing, but also an admission that Jesus was deservedly put to death; for if his was the common blood of a mere man, he was a blasphemer, and according to the Jewish Law deserved death.
(3) Insultation of the Holy Spirit. "And hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace;" or, "insulted the Spirit of grace." The expression designates the Holy Spirit as the Source of grace, and leads us to think of him as a living and loving Person. "To contemn or do despite to this Holy Spirit is to blaspheme the whole work of grace of which one has once been the subject, and to exhibit it as a deception and a lie. It is profanely to contradict the very truth of God, and draw down a vengeance which cannot fail" (Delitzsch).
3. The aggravations of the sire. The preceding experience of the blessings of Christianity sorely aggravates so bitter an apostasy from it. But the sin is further aggravated by the willfulness, deliberateness, and continuousness with which it is committed. "The sin here spoken of is not a momentary or short-lived aberration, from which the infirm but sincere believer is speedily recalled by the convictions of the Spirit, but one willfully persisted in." "If we sin willfully." Moreover, it is not an act or acts of willful sin committed once, or more than once, and then repented of, which is here set forth; but a continuous condition of sin. The use of the present participle - ἁμαρτανόντων - "indicates perseverance and continuance in apostasy." It is not a case of ordinary religious backsliding or declension from Christ; for then there would be some hope of repentance and encouragement to repent (Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 14:4). It is a case of willful, deliberate, contemptuous, persistent rejection of Christ and of Christianity, after having known his truth and experienced his grace.
II. A PUNISHMENT OF THE MOST TERRIBLE SEVERITY.
1. The utter loss of the hope of spiritual reformation. "There remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins." The sacrifices of Judaism to which, in the case supposed, the apostate returns have no power to take away sins. The efficacy of the sacrifice of the Savior has not been exhausted by him, but he has deliberately and scornfully rejected it, so that for him it has no longer any atoning or saving power. And no other exists for him, or will be provided for him. When a man willfully, contemptuously, and persistently rejects the only sacrifice through which salvation may be attained, what hope can there be for him of forgiveness and spiritual renewal?
2. The dreadful anticipation of an awful judgment. "There remaineth a certain fearful expectation of judgment." The apostate looks forward with dismay, and even with terror at times, to the approaching judgment and the righteous retributions which will follow. His punishment is already begun in his alarming anticipations of the dread penalties awaiting him hereafter.
3. The infliction of a punishment worse than death. "A fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. A man that hath set at naught Moses' Law dieth without compassion," etc. If an Israelite apostatized from Jehovah to idolatry, when "two witnesses or three witnesses" testified against him, he was to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 17:2-7). If one sought to seduce another to idolatry, the person so tempted was to take the lead in stoning the tempter to death, even though the tempter was the nearest and dearest relative, or a friend beloved as his own soul (Deuteronomy 13:1-11). But for the apostate from Christ there is a "much sorer punishment" than the death of the body by stoning. The severity of the punishment will be in proportion to the clearness of the light and the richness of the grace and the preciousness of the privileges rejected by the apostate. "The wrath of God burns as hotly as his love, and strikes no less surely than justly." Yet it seems to us that nothing in the punishment of the apostate can be darker or more terrible than this, that for him "there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins." "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." - W.J.
If we sin wilfully.
Essex Remembrancer.I. THE PREVIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES ESSENTIAL TO THE COMMISSION OF APOSTASY.
1. An accurate and extended acquaintance with the disclosures of the gospel.
2. A decided conviction of the truth and authority of the gospel.
3. A partial experience of the power and excellence of the gospel.
4. A distinct and open profession of the gospel.
II. THE PECULIAR FEELING INVOLVED IN THE COMMISSION OF APOSTASY. It must be done wilfully.
1. From sin committed through want of due information and conviction.
2. From sin committed through hasty inconsideration.
3. From sin committed through powerful and unexpected temptation.
4. From the occasional falls of the true believer, which are subsequently followed by deep, and perhaps speedy repentance. Apostasy is not one act of sin, but a continued state of mind and conduct. It is a falling away, persevered in to the close of life, and issuing in a state of hopeless wretchedness.
III. THE AWFUL CONSEQUENCES RESULTING FROM THE COMMISSION OF APOSTASY.
1. It occasions a necessary exclusion from the attainment of mercy.
2. It induces a terrifying apprehension of coming wrath.
(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)1. The apostle is net here speaking of the common infirmities which may attend the godly, but of wilful transgressions; or, as David calls them, "presumptuous sins," from which he prayed to be delivered (Psalm 19:13).
2. Neither are sins of ignorance intended, but such as are against light and strong conviction. To sin against knowledge is one of the greatest aggravations, and that which leads on to perdition.
3. The text speaks not of sins in general, though knowingly or presumptuously committed, but of some sin in particular, and such as excludes from the hope of salvation. Now this appears to be no other than an absolute and entire rejection of the truth which had been professedly received. Those who cast the Son of God from His throne must expect that He will cast them into hell. They divest Him of His glory, and He will cover them with disgrace.
I. THE DEATH OF CHRIST WAS A REAL AND PROPER SACRIFICE FOR SIN. The sacrifices under the law were figurative: this was real and effectual. They were shadows: this was the substance.
II. THE DEATH OF CHRIST IS THE ONLY SACRIFICE FOR SIN.
III. THOSE WHO REJECT THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST ARE LEFT WITHOUT HOPE.
1. If Christ became a sacrifice, this will account for the treatment He met with both from the hands of God and man.
2. If the death of Christ be the only sacrifice for sins, let us not only hold fast this doctrine, but actually build upon it as the foundation of all our hopes and comfort.
3. As the passage which we have now considered speaks terror to these who either never embraced the doctrine of Christ's atoning sacrifice, or who have shamefully apostatised from it, so it speaks terror to them only. Such indeed are running a dreadful risk of unpardoned guilt and Divine displeasure, and it behoves them to take warning. But let those who put their trust in Christ crucified, and who know no other hope, rejoice and be exceeding glad; for He is able to keep that which they commit unto Him until that day.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
The knowledge of the truth.1. By the truth is meant the true, pure and most certain doctrine of the gospel concerning Christ already come, faith and salvation. This is called truth because it is true, and most eminently and infallibly true, which is noways in anything false and erroneous, as being at first immediately revealed from God, the God of truth. It is called also the truth by way of eminency, as the most excellent truth revealed for man's eternal happiness.
2. Truth may be truth, and yet not known to any man or angel, and the truth was first known only unto God; yet it pleased Him, out of His great mercy, to reveal His mind to man, and in particular this truth of the gospel by Christ and His apostles, who made it known unto others, who by that means came to know it. This knowledge was not mathematical, physical, political, or metaphysical, as some use to speak, but theological and Divine, and a light above the light of nature. The word may signify not only knowledge, but acknowledgment of this truth, by a full assent upon conviction. And this might be caused, not only by outward revelation, information, and miracles, but also by the illumination o! the Spirit, and supernatural gifts" for God goes far with man, and doth much to save him: He many times penetrates his inward parts, and by His Divine light and power enters into his very heart, and all this to convert him.
3. They received this knowledge. God did not only offer it, but give it, which He might be properly said to do when they received it. They had it not by nature; for it is far above the natural man. They acquired it, but not by their own power and industry; neither did they merit it. Yet in this receiving they were not merely passive, yet passive because they could be active. God must do something without man, before he can actively receive, He must prevent him by revelation and information without, and by illumination and operation within, and this done, man may be active. For, to receive it is certainly an act not only of the understanding which assents, but of the will which approves. So that he both wittingly and willingly receives, and that with some delight, and proceeds to profession, and continues for a while to believe, approve, profess. Though this receiving of knowledge may seem only to be acknowledgment, yet it is something more. Truth is opposed to error, knowledge to ignorance, acknowledgment to dissent, approbation to rejection of this truth.
Fearful looking for of judgment.I. The word judgment may inform us that this justice is not legislative, but judicial; and, as judicial, not remunerative, but vindictive, which presupposeth crime and guilt in the party to be judged. This judgment is the decree of condemnation which determines the penalty: and to signify how dreadful it is, it is said, metaphorically, to be fiery indignation. The words may be translated, the heat, or boiling, or burning of fire; that is fiery heat. By these terms the Spirit informs us of God's high displeasure against apostasy, and the severity of His justice, whereby He is resolved most fearfully to punish that sin, which is not barely a disobedience of some particular law, but a plain revolt.
II. The parties that must suffer are adversaries: adversaries are apostates, who are not merely disobedient subjects, but revolters.
III. There remains a certain fearful looking for of this judgment.
1. Though they never fear it, nor think of it, yet they are obnoxious to it.
2. This will certainly be their doom; and as they are obnoxious by law, they shall certainly suffer that which they have deserved.
3. If they ever seriously reflect upon themselves, and remember what they have done; as conscience will now and then lash them, and mind them of their crime, they must needs expect it, and their fear will be very great. For as they apprehend the peril, so will their fear be; and they cannot apprehend the judgment, but as very grievous, pressing hard upon them, and unavoidable, and so it will torment them before the time of execution.
(R. W. Hamilton.)
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