26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26–27, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tip (#1770) we examined David’s prayer for God’s protection from presumptuous sins. Today’s passage explains to Christians the eternal ramifications of willfully sinning against the Lord. Please note the context, that this passage is addressing Christians who have gained bold access to the presence of God through the blood of Jesus, who ought to stir up one another to love and good works, and who ought not to forsake the assembling of themselves together (Heb. 10:19-25). When Christians know the truth and intentionally violate it, punishment remains. By such willful violation of the will of God they trample upon the Son of God, profane the blood of the covenant, and insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29). Before someone says, “It doesn’t matter what I do, I’m a Christian, so I’ll go to heaven anyway,” they had better listen to the sobering words of today’s Scripture. You cannot expect to go to heaven by choosing to sin willfully. What you can expect is a fearful judgment and fiery indignation, reserved for the adversaries of Christ. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7). One who does not abandon willful sin can expect to be eternally devoured by the fire that is never quenched (Mk. 9:43-48).
12 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. 13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:12–13, NKJV)
It is vital we understand our transgressions so we can repent, be forgiven, and guard against continuing to practice them. God’s word identifies our sins, converts the soul, enlightens our eyes, warns us against iniquity, and assures reward to those who keep His commands (Psa. 19:7-11). God’s word helps us avoid “secret faults.” By learning His truth we are helped to perceive sins otherwise hidden from our consciousness. Furthermore, we are warned not to try to hide our sins, because secret sins are not secret to God (Psa. 90:8). “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). Understanding our errors through God’s word also protects us from “presumptuous sins.” Willful, high-handed sin is tantamount to rebellion against God (Deut. 1:43). David did not want sin to rule him, either by hiding it or by arrogantly committing it. His desire was to be blameless (upright) and innocent, cleansed by God of his transgressions. Similarly, Christians must not be ruled by sin (Rom. 6:12-15). We died to sin when we were baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3-4). If Christians continue to practice sin, whether by hiding it or by arrogantly rebelling against God’s will, the result will be eternal death (Rom. 6:1-2, 21-23).
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15, NKJV)
God strictly commanded Israel not to make carved images to bow down before and serve (Exo. 20:4-5). Through Moses, God explained He did not show them any form or image when He spoke from Mt. Sinai, lest they make carved images and worship them (Deut. 4:15-18). Humans have frequently changed God’s incorruptible glory “into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). God gave us an image of Himself when He sent His Son to the world. Just as a coin bore Caesar’s image (whom most had never personally seen, Mk. 12:16), Jesus is the image of the invisible God (whom none of us have seen). Jesus is the image of the character and will of God. He is not the image of the Father’s physical features and fleshly appearance (like face, hair, eyes, etc.), since God is Spirit (Jno. 4:24). Jesus is the image (likeness) of the Father in moral character, attitudes, motives, thoughts, words, and actions. This is why Jesus could say, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen men has seen the Father. So how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’” (Jno. 14:7-9). To know God, we must learn about and know Jesus. To go to God, we must follow Jesus (Jno. 14:6).
21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:21–22, NKJV)
Jesus spoke these words to His twelve apostles before sending them out to preach “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6-7). After His resurrection, He would send them into all the world to preach His gospel (Mk. 16:15). Jesus was preparing them for the resistance they would face because of their faith in Him and their work for Him. The gospel produced harsh reactions from faithless family and friends as well as strangers in the first century. (It still does.) Their lives would be endangered and embroiled in controversy. Jesus exhorted them to endure the hatred and persecutions “to the end” to be saved. This helps us understand what Jesus went on to say, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34, 35-36). Many react to the truth of the gospel with hostility, including family members. Just as He called the apostles to endure, He calls us to love Him more, follow His truth first, deny ourselves, and always fear God rather than people (Matt. 10:37-39, 28). When we choose family (or ourselves) over the truth of the gospel we are no longer worthy of Christ. We will lose our life, not save it (Matt. 10:37-39).
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14, NKJV)
Protecting the innocent lives of children has not always been the norm in this cruel world. About the time Jesus lived, an Egyptian named Hilarion wrote a letter from Alexandria to his wife, Alis. He wrote of his trip and of his possible delay returning home. He promised to send money as soon as he was paid. Then he wrote, “If you happen to be pregnant again, if it is a boy, leave it; if it is a girl, throw it out” (sententiaeantiquae.com). We recoil in horror at the thought of killing a newborn child, yet, there are modern parallels. When China imposed its “one child” policy from 1979 to 2015 (now, the Chinese government allows two children), untold numbers of babies were aborted (often, forcibly). Firstborn girls were often abandoned as liabilities – People wanted sons. Legalized abortion in America and around the world killed over 41 million children in 2018 (worldmeters.info). Shocking! Then there are the crimes of child pornography and child trafficking that bring untold misery and suffering upon children and on all those affected by these terrible sins. Jesus valued and protected children. Parents must value and protect their children. Governments must value and protect children. The gospel of Christ has greatly improved the lives of children through the ages. There is still much to do for the children. Each one of us can do our part to bring the children to Jesus. The question is, are we? (Jas. 1:27)
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, NKJV)
In the Roman Catholic Church, an imprimatur is “a license granted by a bishop certifying the Church’s approval of a book to be published” (thefreedictionary.com). The word is more generally used to denote “a mark of approval or distinction” (merriam-webster.com). No such ecclesiastical certification is issued by the church of Christ in the New Testament. Today’s verse affirms our conduct must imitate the apostles of Christ to the extent they also imitate (mimic) Christ. Some scoff at binding apostolic approved examples today. “Where is your apostle badge?” is sarcastically asked when an appeal is made to apostolic examples to authorize practices. The apostles not only left us their inspired words, they also left us examples to follow. Jesus said, “He who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). Their examples help us pattern our conduct after the will of Christ. By following their examples we are assured of the Lord’s favor (Phil. 3:17). How can one possibly think the Lord is pleased by refusing to follow the apostles’ examples (that imitate Christ)? “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). The “imprimatur” of heaven is the apostolic doctrine, taught by their words and their examples. We ought to follow their examples because they have heaven’s approval (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:4, 9).
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:24, NKJV)
A newly published survey finds that one-in-five Americans know Protestantism (not Catholicism) traditionally teaches “that salvation comes through faith alone” (“What Americans Know About Religion,” Pew Research Center, July 23, 2019). We take that as an encouraging piece of news, since the doctrine “that salvation comes through faith alone” is indeed Protestant doctrine. It is not Bible doctrine. As today’s verse clearly says, justification is “not by faith only.” In fact, the Bible says we are saved by a number of things when, “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Scripture teaches we are saved by the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17). It says we are justified by grace, by faith, and by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:1; Rom. 5:9). The Bibles says baptism saves us (1 Pet. 3:21). It is an action of faith that appeals to God for a clearing of the conscience and a cleansing from sin (Acts 22:16). Yes, we are saved by faith that diligently seeks God (Heb. 11:6). The Bible teaches saving faith is an obedient faith (Heb. 5:8-9). The Bible does not teach we are saved by “faith alone.” We can avoid such errors by accepting everything the Scriptures say about what saves us.
My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. (Psalm 119:25, NKJV)
The Bible addresses the problem of being overwhelmed by grief, sorrow, and depression. Psalm 119:25-32 is a passage that helps when our heart is “in the dust,” and when it “melts from heaviness” (Psa. 119:28). When grief seems unbearable, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, when anxieties immobilize us, God can revive (renew) our souls through His word. How is this possible? First, God’s word helps us trust in God’s way instead of in ourselves (Psa. 119:26). It produces faith and reveals priorities and goals upon which to focus, that help us maneuver life’s moments of doubt (Matt. 6:33-34). Second, as we mediate on it, God’s word helps us perceive His ways for our lives (Psa. 119:27). It teaches us what to concentrate our thinking upon so we can clear our minds of worldly clutter and concentrate on eternal things (Phil. 4:8). Third, rely on the strength of God’s word (Psa. 119:28). It is true, regardless of what others tell you. Its redemptive power can raise you out of sin’s despair to heavenly places (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:4-7). Fourth, instead of continuing to “cling to the dust,” deliberately choose “the way of truth” and cling to God’s testimonies (Psa. 119:30-31). Finally, stay the course (Psa. 119:32). Continue following God’s commands by faith, and your heart will be enlarged with His gracious blessings of salvation, hope, and eternal life (Psa. 119:32).
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31–34, NKJV)
Peter had faith in Jesus, but overconfidence in himself led to compromise and sin. As Jesus said, Peter’s repetitive denial of Jesus left him weeping bitterly (Lk. 22:54-62). But, that was not the end of the story. Peter did not remain in the depth of despair. Jesus’ prayer for Peter was answered. He returned to the Lord, strengthened his brethren, and powerfully preaching the gospel. Peter continues to be an important example for Christians. Like him, we are tempted to be overconfident in ourselves instead of humbly trusting Christ to guide our decisions and actions through His word. Loudly proclaiming we would never forsake the Lord can set us up for failure. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” continues to warn us (1 Cor. 10:12). By submitting to Christ’s word and humbling ourselves in His sight, we are prompted to mourn our sins, cleanse our conduct, and purify our hearts. By doing so, we trust the Lord will lift us up (Jas. 4:7-10). Then, with His help, we can humbly resist the temptation to lift up ourselves in our own eyes.
6 Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord. (Psalm 25:6–7, NKJV)
David pledged his trust in the Lord, confident Jehovah would receive him as he lived by faith (Psa. 25:1-3). He was eager to learn and live in God’s “ways,” “paths,”, and “truth” (Psa. 25:4-5). David knew the Lord was the God of his salvation, so he patiently followed the Lord with full assurance of His acceptance (Psa. 25:5). Eager for God’s favor, David urged the Lord to remember His past expressions of mercy and grace. Even as God had shown mercy and grace “from of old,” so now David would seek God’s forgiveness. Like David, we can trust God’s continual mercy and grace to forgive and strengthen us in our time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). God is ready, willing, and able to forgive our sins when we call on Him in faith: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psa. 86:5). Those who trust in the Lord will walk in His ways, paths, and truth, patiently waiting on the Lord to bless, and fully assured that “as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:11-12). Thank God and praise Him for the unending mercy, boundless grace, and abiding peace we have in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 John 3).