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A Warning Against Turning Away

Hebrews 10:26-27
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. (NIVUK)

This verse seems shocking. But it comes immediately after, "[Let us] … not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25). Its context is the wilful sinner who rejects the Lord and His people. In the Old Testament, the sacrifices were only for unintentional sin – there was no remedy for deliberate wrongdoing (Numbers 15:27-31). To reject God's people was the same as rejecting the Lord.

And so the writer of this letter warned those believers who wanted to copy the bad example of those who had drifted from the community of the church. If they moved themselves from the community of saints - who met to encourage one another in the faith by hearing the apostles' teaching, worshipping and praying together – there was nowhere else to go. It was the same for Peter when Jesus asked the disciples if they would leave Him: Peter said, "'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'" (John 6:68)

If someone who once trusted Jesus, engages in wilful apostasy, spurning God's grace, and refuses to meet with God's people, the Bible does not offer any comfort. When mercy and grace are rejected, there is a terrible natural consequence: the unmitigated wrath of God. We cannot pretend to be His friends when we demonstrate that we are His enemies (Philippians 3:18-19).

The writer will say more about the dangers of apostasy in the subsequent verses; but the challenge is already clear. It is a call to turn back to the Lord and to His people. The warning is not to condemn (John 3:17) but to lead wayward believers to repentance so that they can return to the Lord and His people (Romans 2:4). If you have been tempted to despise God's grace or His people, think again. We know that the church will not be perfect until we meet the Lord in glory. So until then, remember that we are not designed to be spiritually independent; the dangers are too great. Stop, think again and go back to God's people because you have come back to God.

Father God. Thank You for warning me that if I turn away from you, there is nowhere good to go. I repent of the times I have despised Your grace or Your church. Help me to love You for all You have done for me, and to love Your people who You have sent to encourage me and for me to encourage them. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams