Friday, 15 February 2019
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:29
The translation of these words makes it sound like the words, “Of how much,” qualify the word, “worse.” But rather, they qualify the whole first clause –
Of how much, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy of worse punishment…?
The verse here contrasts the previous verse which said, “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” The point being made is that if temporal punishment, including death, was the response to disobedience under the Law of Moses, then how much worse punishment is the person worthy when he rejects the New Covenant which came through the blood of Christ? This is not speaking of saved believers at all. Paul says as much in 1 Timothy 1:8, 9 –
“But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers.”
Rather, the words of the author now are speaking of the one “who has trampled the Son of God underfoot.” The idea of trampling something underfoot is to show contempt for that thing. When the blood of the Passover was applied to the doorways of the houses in Egypt, the people were instructed to apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel. However, nothing was said to be applied to the base of the doorway. That would have been a mark of contempt for the blood. The idea carries through to the true Passover, Christ.
To treat the blood of Christ with contempt is to have “counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing.” Scholars generally attribute these words as speaking of a saved believer who has apostatized. Such is not the case, and it would be contrary to countless other verses in Scripture which show – very clearly – that a person who is saved by Christ is eternally secure.
Rather, this is not saying that a particular person had been saved and then rejected the word. Instead, it is speaking of those in the corporate body of Israel who Christ had died for, but who rejected what He had done. It is no different than speaking of amnesty for an illegal alien. It may be offered, but he never shows up at the office to collect his citizenship. In this case, the sanctification was available to those who heard and yet was never claimed; it was rejected.
Another example would be a rebel soldier of the civil war. When the war ended, the rebels, through a succession of amnesties and pardons, were granted the right to once again become a part of the union. For some, the condition was to accept the pardon and swear allegiance to the union. However, a true rebel (we will call him Mr. Wales) might refuse to swear allegiance, and he would thus trample underfoot the pardon he had been offered. He would have counted the ink of the offer of cessation of war, and pardon from rebellion, a common thing. He would remain apart from the union and one worthy of being hunted down and destroyed. If they can catch Mr. Wales, he will be terminated.
One must look at the original recipients to understand the context. The letter was written to first century Jews who had accepted Christ, but here they were being instructed as if they (or some Jews) hadn’t. The Son of God had come, He was crucified, and He rose again to life. This was testified to the people at the feast of Pentecost after the resurrection. All men were required to attend this feast as is indicated in Exodus 23:14-17 and so all had heard the word concerning the Messiah.
If someone rejected it, he treated Christ Jesus and His precious sacrifice as “a common thing” and had “insulted the Spirit of grace.” Of this, John Chrysostom says, “He who does not accept the benefit, insults Him who confers it. He hath made thee a son: wilt thou become a slave? He has come to take up His abode with thee; but thou art introducing evil into thyself.” Chrysostom is correct with the exception of saying –
1) “[W]ilt thou become a slave.” Jesus was clear that all are slaves to sin (John 8:34), because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).
2) “[T]hou art introducing evil into thyself.” The evil was already present. Such a person was choosing the evil rather than being cleansed of it.
The one who rejects Christ remains a slave to sin and remains under God’s wrath. He has rejected the sanctification he was offered, and he has insulted the Spirit of grace. The Holy Spirit will not take up residence in such an abode. The individual will not be sealed for the day of redemption, and only the darkness of condemnation awaits such a soul.
Life application: As has been seen several times in the book of Hebrews, verses which – on the surface – seem to point to a loss of individual salvation actually speak of something entirely different. Scripture will never contradict itself. As God has shown that individual salvation is eternal, then any verse which seems to contradict this must be thoughtfully considered. In that careful consideration, there is always a reasonable explanation which is waiting to be drawn out. Remember, context is king. Keep things in context, and difficult passages will become clear.
Thank You, O God, for the precious blood of Jesus which has the potential to sanctify all men, and which actually sanctifies any and all who come to You through faith in Him. Help us to be faithful witnesses of this glorious covenant by which men might be saved – all to Your honor and Your glory alone! Amen.