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. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Our author gets off to a very candid start in this paragraph, coming right to the point of his warning. You will recall no doubt, that this letter was written to Jewish Christians in Rome during the persecution of Nero for the purpose of encouraging them to hold firmly their faith through a time of severe trial, and this is not the first such warning in this letter. (see Hebrews 8:1 ff.)
I would call your attention to the word “we” in verse 26; “If we deliberately keep on sinning…” Surely the word “we” does not mean the same thing as the word “they.” Thus, in a context of a letter written to encourage Christians, “we” is not referring to those who are not in Christ, and to suggest otherwise requires the suspension of the rules of context, grammar and vocabulary. If we would go further and suggest that “after we have received the knowledge of the truth” would refer to an unbeliever, saying that to receive the knowledge of the truth is not to have accepted it and been born again, because they knew but didn’t believe, would also seem to be a contention in utter disregard of the rules of context, grammar and vocabulary; a parsing of words worthy of a politician. Must I really comment on the words “enemies of God”?
How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? Can you think of any context in the New Testament that asserts that an unbeliever is sanctified by the blood of the Covenant? Take a look at the next verse, v. 30, and consider what it means to know God; hey didn’t Jesus have something to say about that in John 8:55? Notice here that “we” are they who “know” him who said… Who is this “we” again- unbelievers? Hardly.
Look, I know I’m laying it on more thickly than I normally do here, and I’m doing so for a reason: If we want to merrily go on down the road with the idea that these warnings are for “them” and not “us” then how can we learn from them? What is the point of giving these warnings to Christians, if they apply only to non-Christians? What would be the purpose of these warnings, if we have nothing that we can lose- the whole letter would be almost meaningless to the people it was written to.
Are these warnings uncomfortable? Yes they are, and yes they should be. Would I rather not think about them? Yes, but how could I learn and grow if I only did what I want and only thought about the fun stuff? Can you see why I keep saying that Hebrews is often quoted and seldom taught? It gets messy!