“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26–27, KJV 1900)
I came into this world in 1951 when there was a deadly and debilitating disease called polio affecting millions all over the world. It was a fearful time, but people seemed to accept the situation and live as normally as possible. Yet, parents did fear that their children might succumb to the disease.
A doctor named Jonas Salk developed a vaccine in 1952 to protect people from the dreaded disease. While he was not the first but the second to develop one, he gained much notoriety for this development. I remember being given the vaccine in elementary school. The vaccine resulted in the near total elimination of the disease with only 33 cases reported world-wide in 2018. Yet, consider what would have occurred if men with the knowledge to make the vaccine but failed to do so. Then the disease would have afflicted millions more.
I use this as an illustration to explain the type of person the author of Hebrews is speaking of in this section of Scripture, Hebrews 10:26-31. In fact, this is the key to understanding this portion of Scripture that is contested by many people. (More about that as we proceed on subsequent posts.)
Some key phrases here are, “sin willfully,” “knowledge of the truth,” and “remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” First, the person mentioned has the “knowledge of the truth.” The word for knowledge here is epignosis. There are a couple words used in the Greek to refer to knowledge. Gnosis refers to a general knowledge. Here, the word epignosis, refers to a precise and correct knowledge. It comes from the verb epiginosko, which means that the person has come to thoroughly understand the truth.
However, this person, while thoroughly knowing the truth, still persists in “willful” disobedience to the truth received. As it relates to the gospel, he remains deliberately disobedient (Rom 10:16; 2 Thess 1:8; 1 Pet 4:17). This person is most often in an evangelical community like the Jews to whom the author wrote. Their outward appearances might be good. They may even have made a verbal profession of faith in Christ, but have not experienced the Spirit’s work of regeneration and the transformed life.
The author states that for this person, who has heard and understood the gospel truth and has yet refused to believe, has no hope. He states there is no other sacrifice for sin. The repeated sacrifices of Judaism under the law were insufficient. The only sacrifice that dealt with the problem of sin once and for all was that of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. By rejecting the gospel, one rejects the only sacrifice that can deal with sin. Thus, there remains for this person no more sacrifice for sin, but only a dreaded judgment.
Yet, for this person, there is still hope, but only if he or she would come to faith in Christ. That is why we must never give up on those who reject our message. The average believer is confronted with the gospel message numerous times before coming to faith. Thus, we must continue to present the epignosis, the precise and correct knowledge, of the truth to those on the outside of the evangelical community as well as those within. For there are those on the edge of true faith in both places. The ones on the outside are the easiest to identify. Yet there are many on the inside that participate every week in the evangelical community that have yet to come to true faith in Christ alone.