The Book of Hebrews #43 chapter 10:26-39
The Book of Hebrews
Responding to the New Covenant (pt. 4)
Hebrews 10:26-39
 
Our lesson tonight comes from the tenth chapter of Hebrews, beginning at verse 26.  We’ve spent the last three weeks looking at three different aspects of a positive response to Jesus.  They are found in verses 19-25 and they are faith, hope and love. 
 
Tonight we begin our look at a negative response to Jesus.  What happens if you say “no” to Jesus as Savior?  Now, early on in our study of the book fo Hebrews, I think I mentioned to you that interspersed in the comments the author makes, there are five warnings that are given to those who are maybe, intellectually convinced that Jesus is Who He claimed to be, but they’ve never committed themselves to Him. 
 
Of those five warnings, the one here in chapter 10 is, by far, the most terrifying and the most serious. In fact, it may be the most serious warning in all of the Scriptures and it deals with the subject of apostasy.
 
So just have that contrast in mind.  ON the positive side, there is faith, hope and love.  On the negative side there is apostasy and apostasy is the sin for which there is no forgiveness.
 
Now, apostasy is not a new problem and just to give a simple definition, at its root, it is rejecting God.  It might replace God with a false God, it may reject the existence of God.  But at its core, that’s what it is:  rejecting God. 
 
And that’s what was happening here with the Hebrews.  They know about Jesus, many of them have embraced the faith so there is a living, viable witness to the truth.  Now the writer of Hebrews has given them an in-depth expose of the contrasts between Jesus and Judaism.  Many of them have come all the way up to the edge, know the truth, believes it to be the truth, but have not accepted it personally, and there is the danger of turning away from the truth to falsehood.
 
By the way, that was the testimony of the nation of Israel down through the centuries.  These Hebrews should have had no trouble understanding what the author was talking about. 
 
They should have also understood God’s attitude regarding apostasy.  They knew the warnings He gave to their forefathers about turning away from Him.  To turn away from God’s truth is to invite His wrath into your life. God hates apostasy.
 
So at the writing of the book of Hebrews, apostasy is nothing new. Nor is God's attitude anything new. God has always hated that the sin of a man who knows the truth, knows it completely, and identifies himself with the people of the truth, then, after a given time, turns his back and walks away. That is the most serious sin in all of Scripture.
 
Now, here in our text, we find an example of apostasy and this time it is the rejection of the New Covenant in Christ.  So remember, it's taken ten chapters for the writer of Hebrews to present the superiority of Christ, to preach the sermon, and now, finally, beginning in verse 19, it’s invitation time. 
The first response He asks for is positive. He asks for three things. Verse 22, "Let us draw near." Verse 23, "Let us hold fast." Verse 24, "Let us consider one another."
 
There are three parts that are demanded of a man who would come to God. Faith, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith. Hope, "Let us hold fast the profession of our hope. And love, "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love.  He is saying, "Be for real. Come on to Christ. Exercise your faith. Hold on. And stay in the fellowship. Don't go.  Continue." That's the positive response.
 
Then from 26 to 39 He takes the negative side. And there, he emphasizes three things as well. 
 
First he gives them the nature of apostasy.  Then he shares the results of apostasy.  And finally, he offers them the deterrents to apostasy.  We’ll try to cover them one at a time over the next two weeks.  Tonight,
 
1. The Nature of Apostasy
 
Verse 26
 
Now in the first phrase of the verse, "For if we sin willfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth", you find a definition of apostasy. It is one who has received the truth and then rejects it.  And by the way, it’s not “receive” in the sense of embracing it.  It’s “received’ in the sense of “having been given or offered”.
 
Now some of you have already noticed that the word "apostasy" doesn't appear in this text.  In fact, it appears only twice in the New Testament and I My personal conviction is in one of those, it is mistranslated in many versions of the Bible. It’s basic definition is “a falling away or withdrawal or defection”.
 
The word is used in Acts 21:21 when Paul was falsely accused of teaching the Jews apostasy from Moses. It is used again in II Thessalonians 2:2, when it talks about the appearing of the anti-Christ we are told there will be a great apostasy.  There I think it is better translated as “a going away” and it’s speaking of the rapture.  But its primary meaning is to fall away.
 
Jesus predicted that it would happen in Matthew 24, and no doubt, there is coming, and maybe we are already beginning to experience it, a day when the love of many will grow cold.  There will be a falling away from the faith and the church.  The same passage tells us the ones who endure to thje end are the saved. 
 
There it is in a nutshell.  The saved endure to the end; apostates fall away.  That is one of the facts of salvation.  We are studying about it right now on Sunday evenings from John 15.  Saved branches, possessing branches bear fruit.  Lost branches, professing branches are cut off and burned in the fire. 
 
One of the facts of salvation is that the truly saved one continues. The apostate joins up, but somewhere along the line turns his back and walks away.
Everyone of us can look around this building tonight and remember people who used to be here and ask ourselves the question, “What about so-and-so? They used to come to church but now they’re gone.”
 
Now to be fair, they may be a carnal believer who's having a brief period of time away from the fellowship of the Lord. That's very possible. Not everybody who doesn't come to church for a few months is an apostate.  They may just need some encouragement from you and me. 
 
But there are many who came and are no longer and they have fallen away from the truth. And Scripture is full of examples, beginning with Lucifer and the fallen angels.  They knew God; they knew the truth of God. But they turned their backs on God and got booted out of heaven. There are apostate angels.
 
If time permitted we could talk about Demas.  Demas spent time with Paul.  He worked alongside Paul.  He was commended by Paul, but when Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, his heart was broken because Demas had turned his back on the truth and forsaken Paul.  And Paul said he did it because he loved the world more than God.
 
His testimony is heard in three verses of Scripture.  “Demas,, my fellow-laborer.  The next reference simply gives his name, and then the last one, “Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world.”  Isn't that sad?  Demas was an apostate.
 
The classic apostate of all time is Judas Iscariot. If it was one thing to company with Paul and walk away, imagine what it must've been to company with Jesus for three years, turn your back and walk away.
And then when you've done that, sell Him for what amounts to about $17 then betray Him with a kiss!  That is apostasy. Judas is a classic. And the Bible says in the last days it will become more and more prevalent.
 
"Well, what causes people to do that? If they know the truth, and the beauty of the gospel, and what real wisdom it is, and they've seen it unfold in their lives, and watched God work and they've been a part of what's going on, what in the world would cause someone to walk away and say, “Never mind!”?
 
Sometimes it is persecution. Some people are apostates because they can't handle persecution.  And either they want out of the fire or they become disillusioned because God doesn’t deliver them out of the fire and so they turn away.  
 
Sometimes they listen to false teachers and get confused.  Now it is my conviction, false teaching only works if the hearer has the wrong attitude.  It’s the old itching ear syndrome.  The best reason to accept what a false teacher is peddling is dissatisfaction with the truth.
 
Sometimes it’s temptation or worldliness. Sometimes people can't handle temptation and they turn from Christ to what the world or Satan offers.  That was the case with Demas.
 
One of the saddest reasons of all is neglect.  Can you imagine that anyone would be so foolish as to spend his eternity in hell just because he neglected to do something? And yet we’ve already seen that in Hebrews 2:3. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation."
And unfortunately, if you neglect it long enough, it
Hardens into unbelief.  We saw that in chapter 3, verse 12 and 13.
 
And as was in the case of the Hebrews, some people become apostate because of religion.  It may be a false religion, it may be an insufficient religion. It might even be the right religion.  But it either gets substituted for a relationship with Christ or they never hear the truth and once they are confronted with the truth they reject it because of tradition and family heritage or pride, even when they know it’s wrong. 
 
And then as we just say in verse 24 of chapter 10, some just drift away
 
Some people hear the truth and know the truth, and they begin to drift. And the first thing they start to do when they drift is to avoid meeting together with Christians.  And they begin to drift away and drift away and drift away and over the course of time, they're apostates. 
 
Now, before we close tonight, I want to come back to a phrase found there in verse 26 and spend the remainder of our time on it. 
 
The first thing we are told about an apostate is, he has received the knowledge of the truth. Now there is a distinction made by that phrase.  If a person has never heard the full presentation of the gospel, he's not an apostate. He’s lost, no doubt, but not apostate.  Apostasy relates only to the one who has received the knowledge of the truth.
 
There are two words in the Greek language for knowledge. Actually, there's more than that, but two basic ones that we're dealing with here.  One of them is the word “gnosis” and it means simple knowledge or general knowledge.  Then there is “epignosis” and it means deep knowledge or deep understanding.  We might think of them in terms of information and perception. 
 
It’s one thing to have information; it’s another to have perception.  I can know Jesus was a Jewish man who was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth by a couple named Mary and Joseph and that he worked in a carpenter shop, then spent three years as an evangelist until the Roman government, spurred on by the Jewish leadership of the day had Him killed. 
 
I can even know that many of his friends attested to the fact that He rose from the dead and that the Bible teaches He’s coming back to earth some day. 
 
I can know all of that and never perceive the personal repercussions of the knowledge.  There is a great difference between information and perception.
 
The author is not just saying, "This is the guy who has heard the gospel." This is the man who, not in a shallow, historical sense, but a living kind of spiritual perception has been confronted with the claims of Christ and completely understood it. An apostate has all the information. He lacks nothing. He has epignosis, deep heart understanding and knowledge and perception in its fullness.
 
 
There are a lot of people in the world who have information about Jesus and the gospel, and yet they do not believe, but that is not the same as apostasy.
 
Apostasy is a reserved sin for the one who knows the truth. For example, in chapter 6, verse 4, an apostate is described as one who was enlightened, he tasted the heavenly gift, he was a partaker of the Holy Spirit, he tasted the good Word of God and of the powers of the age to come.  He's even experienced the ministry of the Spirit of God within the church as he stood around and watched things happen. He has heard the truth. His mind is enlightened. He knows what it is. He understands it completely. He has knowledge. 
 
But when he turns around and totally walks away and rejects that truth, that is apostasy. There is a critical distinction that is made in our verse.  He received the knowledge of the truth, but never received the truth. In fact, he rejected the truth, and that is the second characteristic of apostasy. 
 
They received the truth, but they rejected the truth, and we’ll look at that next week. 
 
Let’s pray.  
 
 
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