Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
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.
Trodden under foot the Son of God.I. THE APOSTATE TREADS UNDER FOOT THE SON OF GOD. The expression is metaphorical, and presupposeth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and affirmeth that He, though the Son of God, is trodden under foot. To tread a thing under foot is —
1. To undervalue it, if it be of any worth.
2. To vilify it.
3. To vilify it very much.
4. To express this contempt by casting it upon the ground and trampling upon it, which is the greatest debasement, and is sometimes an expression of utter detestation.Thus Jezebel was thrown down upon the earth, and trampled upon by Jehu's horses. To vilify and debase things that are base is no fault; and to despise unworthy men is tolerable; but the apostate undervalues the Son of God; and the greater His dignity, the greater the indignity. He is not mere man, though man, yet as man the best of men; for He is the Son of God, and that not any kind of son, but the only begotten and beloved Son of God, the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His person; and so the Son of God, that He is God. Thus neither the Person and Deity of Christ, nor His natures, nor the personal union of them, nor His transcendent gifts, nor His heavenly wisdom, nor His glorious works, nor His rare virtues, nor His great work of expiation, nor His glory and power; which He enjoys at the right hand of God, could anyways move him; but he debaseth Him that was higher than the heavens, as low as the dust under his feet; yet this debasement was only an act of his base mind, but could not in the least degree obscure the excellency of Christ, This is the first aggravation of apostasy.
II. HE COUNTETH THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT, WHEREBY HE WAS SANCTIFIED, AN UNHOLY THING.
1. By the blood understand the sacrifice of Christ, so much magnified in the former chapter; for it is that blood by which Christ, entering the holy place of heaven, obtained eternal redemption; that blood which purgeth the conscience from dead works to serve the living God; that blood which confirmed the everlasting covenant, in which respect it is called the blood of the covenant. This covenant is called the covenant of grace, wherein God promiseth remission of sins, and the eternal inheritance of glory, upon condition of repentance and faith in Christ. And it is called the blood of this covenant because upon it the covenant was grounded, and by virtue of it all the promises thereof are made effectual.
2. This was the blood by which this apostate, upon his receiving the knowledge of the truth, was sanctified. For —(1) This blood, as offered and accepted of God, made his sin remissible.(2) Upon the profession of his faith his sin was, at least conditionally, pardoned and purged.(3) So long as he continued in his profession, and so far as he proceeded according to certain degrees in faith and the profession of it, so far he might be said to be in a state of justification, and not only to justification, but sanctification.
3. Yet this sanctifying blood the apostate counts unholy or common. To be common blood may be understood —(1) Such as hath no expiating and purging power.(2) Such as is no better than the blood of bulls and goats sacrificed.(3) Such as differs not from the blood of other men.(4) Such as is the blood of a malefactor, guilty and vicious person, and that is impure and unholy blood. So that the apostate, though he had received some kind and measure of sanctification from it, yet ascribed no more virtue and excellency to it than to common blood; denied the sanctifying power of it, nay, did account it unholy. Yet you must note, that though it be so vile in his conceit, yet it is really in itself the only sanctifying blood to all such as do sincerely believe. This is the second aggravatior,.
III. THE APOSTATE DOTH DESPITE UNTO THE SPIRIT OF GRACE.
1. This Spirit is not the spirit of man, neither is it any angel, nor any created person of substance; but it is an uncreated Spirit, the Spirit of God, so as that it is God; therefore the perfections and operations of God are predicated of it.
2. This Spirit is said to be the Spirit of grace. Thus He may be called in opposition to the spirit of bondage and fear, which is the spirit proper to the law. For the Spirit by the law, which had no expiation for sin, no promise of power to keep it, nor of pardon if transgressed, could work nothing but fear, which was a continued slavery. The Spirit of the gospel, which is the Spirit of Christ, promised and given in the gospel, is a Spirit of comfort and confidence.
3. They do despite unto this Spirit. In this despite there are injury, reproach, contempt; and the greater the person to whom the despite is done, the more heinous it is. This here meant is not done to man, but God; because done to that Spirit which is so the Spirit of God, that He is God. This is committed —(1) By resisting the sanctifying power of God.(2) By undoing all that God, by His Spirit, had done in him for his salvation.(3) By accounting the gifts, notions, motions of this Spirit, the works, delusions, and impulses of the devil; and that not only in himself, but in others sanctified by this Spirit, and endued with His gifts. This is a sin against God the Father, who loved us, and sent Christ to redeem us; against God the Son, who had shed His precious blood for the expiation of our sins; against God the Holy Ghost, who had begun the work of sanctification and consolation in us.
(B. K. Noel.)
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