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What significance is there to sinning willfully (Hebrews 10:26)?

sinning willfully

Hebrews 10:26 is in one of the warning passages found within the book of Hebrews and specifically deals with the issue of sinning willfully. Hebrews is often outlined based on the five warning passages it contains (Hebrews 2:1–4; 4:12–13; 6:4–8; 10:26–31; 12:25–29). Each of these warning passages speaks about one who apostatizes or turns from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many believe Hebrews 10:26 is speaking of a continuation of sin, and it would seem, in the context of Hebrews, the author has in mind a specific sin; namely, turning away from Jesus in apostasy.

The warning is this: “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” (Hebrew 10:26–27).

Just before Hebrews 10:26, the author is admonishing the audience in a positive light. He is giving them commands of encouraging one another, holding fast to the Christian hope, and stimulating each other to good deeds. Hebrews 10:26–31 seems to be an interjected warning, as the author picks back up with positive assertions in verse 32.

Within this interjection, the author warns that willful sinning will result in terrifying judgment. Those who sin in this way are “enemies of God.” Some have made the argument that this passage warns against a loss of salvation. This cannot be the proper interpretation, because other passages in the Bible straightforwardly show the inability for one to lose salvation (Romans 8:31–39; 1 Peter 1:3–5; John 6:47). Others have argued that this passage is meant to warn a false convert. This is the more viable interpretation.

The apostate intentionally defects from Christ. They had moved toward Christ, claiming to have faith; they had heard and understood the gospel, but then they rejected what they had learned and turned away. Their profession of faith was false. This is the “willfully sinning” that Hebrew 10:26 refers to—consciously and deliberately rejecting Christ. It’s not a sin of ignorance or weakness; it’s a deliberate turning of one’s back on the truth, with full knowledge choosing sin over Christ. John also warned that willful, continual sin is a sign of unbelief: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God” (1 John 3:9).

Those who have “received the knowledge of the truth” and then willfully sin by turning away from it are faced with a dire fate: “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire” (Hebrews 10:26, ESV). God will not forgive sin without a sacrifice, and, since the apostate has rejected the only sacrifice available to him—Jesus Christ—he is left without any way to obtain forgiveness. Going back to the Old Testament system of sacrifice is of no avail, and Jesus will not die again (Hebrews 7:27; 1 Peter 3:18), so “there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins” (Hebrews 10:26, NLT).

The author of Hebrews issues a stern warning against playing games with God and making false professions of faith. To know the truth and yet reject the truth is to suffer eternal consequences. Hebrews 10:31 shows the significance of such willful sinning: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” How important it is to heed Peter’s admonition, “My brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10)!

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What significance is there to sinning willfully (Hebrews 10:26)?
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This page last updated: December 12, 2023