Willful Sin

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:
~ Leviticus 4:2

And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.
~ Deuteronomy 17:12

Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
~ John 9:41

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
~ 1 John 5:16

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
~ Isaiah 33:14

And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.
~ Numbers 16:35

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
~ Jeremiah 4:4

For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;
~ Ezekiel 38:19

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
~ Nahum 1:2

The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
~ Hosea 10:8

The Threat To Our Delighting In God’s Presence, by A.Z. Tozer.

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

Hebrews 10:26 has widely been misunderstood and generally misinterpreted. It appears to be out of accord with the rest of the Scripture, although it is not. When you find a verse of Scripture that seems to contradict another verse of Scripture, always remember that it does not. The contradiction is in your mind because you do not have sufficient light. If you had sufficient light you would know there is no contradiction there.

This passage has been used as a club by irresponsible preachers to frighten some of the Lord’s people. And some of the Lord’s sensitive and badly frightened people have used it against themselves. Not only has this passage been misused by people against others, and against themselves, but Satan, the devil, uses this passage to malign God and create the impression that God is a short-tempered tyrant who rules according to His own unreasonable and unpredictable whims.

The devil also uses it to trap the consciences of people. There is hardly a passage anywhere in the Bible that more people inquire about than this one. These are usually very serious-minded, honest people whose consciences have been trapped. A free conscience may lead to repentance, but a trapped conscience can only lead to despair. Satan uses Scripture as a trap to ensnare the people of God. Some would say, “If it’s Scripture, how can it be used as a trap?” Remember what Peter said:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:15-16).

When he says “the unlearned,” he does not mean people who have not gone to college, but people who are not deeply learned in the Scriptures. The result is that their consciences get in trouble and they turn against themselves and use this passage of Scripture to beat themselves down. I know who is doing this; it is the devil.

This situation prevents many a prodigal from coming home. If someone had gone to the prodigal son (his story is told in Luke 15) and told him there was a passage of Scripture that said if you left your father’s house and went into the far country there remains no more sacrifice for sin, he would never have come back. He would have misunderstood it and, if not an honest man at least a sensitive man, as the passage shows, he would never have come back to the father’s house.

Another thing this passage does, it tends to draw away tension from major truth to minor truth and to create argument and bitter feelings. It is astonishing how the whole Sermon on the Mount can be passed over and people argue over this one verse of Scripture. It has been misunderstood, misinterpreted and misused both by the devil and by people against the people of God.

What this Passage Does Not Mean

I am always on the side of the people of God. I sound sometimes as if I am not, because I am severe with them. I am severe with them as a father is severe with a little family of children that he loves to death and of which he is very proud. I am very proud of God’s people and very happy to be with them and recognize them as being the Father’s children. But I am not going to let them get away with a lot of bad manners and bad habits when they should not. For that reason, I am severe, but I am severe with a smile. I never preach except with a smile in my heart and with the joy that I am part of the Church.

Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we sin willfully 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.” First, let’s look at what it does not mean. If we can determine what it does not mean, we are in a better position to find out what it does mean. Well, it does not mean that only sins done before hearing the gospel can be forgiven. It does not mean that if after you hear the gospel and are enlightened, and you sin willfully, there is no more chance for you ever to be saved. It does not mean that we had one chance to hear the gospel; and we heard the gospel and were not converted but went on in sin, so there is no more sacrifice for sins remaining. Now that is what it does not mean, because that interpretation would violate all the Scriptures and destroy the longsuffering and patience of God.

How many Christians were converted to Christ the first time they heard the gospel? How many were converted the second time, the third time, or the tenth time they heard the gospel? Some taught in Sunday School before conversion, and some were giving money to foreign missions and sending out the gospel that they did not understand themselves before they surrendered to God and gave their heart to the Lord Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior.

If this passage meant that you are done when you have once heard and understood, for that is what the word “enlightened” means, and after that you sin, everyone would be ruled out for salvation. I do not think anybody is converted the first time they hear the gospel. Some people wait a long time. I wished they did not.

And it does not mean that only sins done before hearing the gospel can be forgiven; if it meant that, then God would be requiring us to do what He would not Himself do. Because He told us that we are to forgive other people 70 times 7 times. And if we are to do that, and He demands it of us, then I would assume He would do it Himself; so this rules out any such definition or interpretation as the one I have suggested. And it does not mean that if a Christian sins, there is no hope after that, because that would be to contradict the Scriptures again.

Now what is the ideal? The ideal is that the Lord’s people should not sin at all. Jesus Christ came that He might destroy the works of the devil. And so, “My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). That is written to Christians, and you cannot dispensationalize that out.

If it were true that if a Christian sins willfully after he is converted—after he has heard the knowledge of the truth—it doesn’t say converted, that he has heard the knowledge of the truth or been enlightened, then why do we have 1 John 2:1-2?

Peter certainly did not accidentally curse, swear and deny his Lord. There was no accident there. Peter was sneaky and wanted to get out of difficulties; so when the people with him in the courtyard said, “Are not you one of his disciples?” Peter saw that the Lord was in trouble and he did not exactly want to be in trouble too, so he just lied his way out of it. He sneaked out the easy way. It was a bad thing to do; he repented afterwards in bitter tears and the Lord forgave him. In fact, he was the first one the Lord hunted up after He rose from the dead. Peter, the one who needed Him the most.

If it were true, as some would say, that if after you have heard the knowledge of the truth and been enlightened, and you sin, there remains no more hope for you, then what about Peter? And what about the universal experience of religious people? I do not advocate a person backsliding, and I never want to drop one lonely word that would encourage any child of God to leave home. I do not want to encourage anybody in any measure to do wrong. Rather, I want to encourage them to do right and always to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh. However, the simple fact is that some of the Lord’s people do backslide.

Compare All Scripture to Get at the Truth

Keep in mind that one passage of Scripture is never enough to establish a doctrine. It takes more than one Scripture to establish a doctrine. Here is the rule: If this verse says it and this verse confirms it, then you are likely to be right in your doctrine, but you don’t have the truth. But if you go over here and you find it, and you go over there and you find it, and you go back there and you find it, and you go on forward and find it, and the verses all say the same thing, then you know you have the truth.

Take for example the love of God. John 3:16 is not enough to establish the doctrine of the love of God. But go back to the book of Deuteronomy and hear God say, “And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt” (Deut. 4:37).

Go on into the book of Psalms and the book of Isaiah and hear the Holy Spirit talk about the love of God. Go on into the Prophets and hear Isaiah talk about it. Then go into the New Testament and hear Christ and the apostles talk about it, and on through Revelation. When you see the same message in all those places, you know you have a doctrine you can trust; you know you have doctrine you can live on and die on world without end. But never reach into the Bible and get one verse to make that verse either hope or despair, because it is not enough. Every Bible school, every seminary knows that dogmatic theology is built upon the harmony of more than one verse of Scripture.

When the devil took Jesus up onto the pinnacle of the temple and said, “Jump off of here, because it is written, ‘he shall give his angels charge concerning thee,’ ” our Lord’s response was, “Again it is written, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (see Matt. 4:5-7). Truth lies not in “angels shall keep thee.” It lies in, “the angels shall keep thee, but don’t tempt God.”

When God promises to hear your prayers, it does not mean He makes an unconditional promise to answer them the way you want them answered. Other passages of Scripture tell you He will answer your prayer if you will meet the terms and pray in His will. So we get the truth not by riding one passage, but by taking all the Scriptures and putting them together.

That is why the passage in Hebrews 10:26 does not mean what it does not mean. Now what does it mean?

Look at two words here: “sin” and “sacrifice.” The sin held up here is the sin of unbelief. In the book of Hebrews, you will find that the sin being referred to here is the sin of unbelief in the Word of God. This is a sulky stubborn refusal to go on.

Israel in the Old Testament took a vote of no confidence against God. The writer to the Hebrews warns not to do as they did. “To whom was he grieved these forty years.” Even those that sinned in the desert, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness and to whom He swore they should not enter into His rest but to them that believed not. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Basic unbelief was the trouble of the Jew, and so the writer to the Hebrews says, “You are Hebrews and have in you the streak your forefathers had when they voted no confidence in the olden days even though they had sacrifice there.” They had the sacrifice made by the priests.

In Jesus Christ there had been a fulfillment of all those sacrifices. The Old Testament Jews used to offer their sacrifice and be forgiven for their sins, and if they sinned again, they offered another lamb and another lamb; but now, says the man of God, there is no more Old Testament sacrifice. Do not go and look to our old sacrifices, for they are out, they have no meaning because they have been fulfilled in Christ. “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect . . . but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for the sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:1,12). Therefore, there is no other sacrifice. And if you insist on going back and are always full of unbelief and stubbornly rebel, if you turn away now from this last final sacrifice and go back to your altars, your altars do not count, for there is no more sacrifice for sin.

Either it is Jesus Christ, or there is no sacrifice. There is no place to go if you go on in your sin; do not imagine you can go back and start over and offer another lamb and go back to an altar. You cannot do it, says the Holy Ghost here through the writer of Hebrews. But if you are looking for a judgment for all of us, it is this: either Christ or eternal loss. If we draw back from Him and still sin and go on willfully and refuse to go on with Him, there is no place else, there remaineth no sacrifice for sin. The old sacrifices of the Hebrews were out, so it is Jesus Christ our Lord or else eternal loss or a fearful looking forward to a judgment that shall devour the adversaries.

There is no place to hide. As for the counterfeit hiding places people create for themselves, it is impossible to hide from the judgment of God. If you refuse the blood of Jesus Christ and look around for a hope somewhere else, as these people in the book of Hebrews were tempted to do, you are looking for another sacrifice, which has been done away with and ruled out.

The book of Hebrews is a book of complete repudiation of all the Old Testament sacrifices, establishing Jesus Christ the Lord as the one and only sacrifice. And no matter how many willful sinners there might be, the blood of Jesus Christ still cleanses us from all sin. What other kind of sin would there be except willful sinning?

When a man loses his temper, does he do it willfully? I suppose not. But if he loses his temper and beats his neighbor up, at just what point does it cease to be spontaneous and become willful? I do not think God makes an awful lot of difference between a sin that is a spontaneous burst of anger or lust and any other kind of sin. If a man wills to do and continues to sin and turns back to old Israel and to the altars, unto the old sacrifices, the man of God said, “Don’t do it, they don’t exist anymore; there remains no sacrifice. Go on to perfection, seek Jesus Christ who is your Lord and who offered a sacrifice for sin forever.”

No Place to Hide but in the Blood of the Lamb

When people say, “God is too loving to damn,” I enjoy torpedoing that, for that is a phony hiding place. They say, “I don’t believe there is a hell.” I would like to torpedo that one as well, for that is also a phony hiding place. There is no place to hide. So hide in the blood of the Lamb. Outside of that there is no place to hide and no sacrifice to sin, no penitence, no righteousness, no doing good, no offering up of a lamb, no slaying of a pigeon or red heifer. It is all over now; there is no hiding place.

If you are nervous and sensitive, when you feel you have failed God or even whether you have or not, the temptation is to take it all to heart and begin to blame yourself. If you let that crystallize into a state of morbidity, you can hate yourself, condemn yourself, refuse to forgive yourself and refuse to believe that God forgives you to a point where you are a mental wreck.

Religion did not make you like that. You were like that and would not let religion straighten you out. But there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven, and that is the sin of attributing the works of the Holy Ghost to the devil—that is the unpardonable sin. That is the only one that cannot be pardoned. All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men except the one that is the unpardonable sin, and that is not what we are speaking of here.

Always remember this: The worried Christian has not committed the unpardonable sin. For it is part of the psychological state of the man who has committed the unpardonable sin that he does not know he has done it. And when you hear anyone grieving for fear they have committed the unpardonable sin, you can always be sure they have not. In the Bible, the ones that did were arrogantly sure that they were righteous and would laugh aloud if you told them they had committed the unpardonable sin. And the poor, grieved, sin-bruised people who wept at the feet of Jesus, thinking they might have committed the unpardonable sin, they had not.

So, if you should be among those who are so sensitive and so nervously distraught that you feel hurt and self-condemned and maybe wonder if you have committed the unpardonable sin, and you are pondering the meaning of “there is no more sacrifice for sin,” the two do not mean the same. A troubled mind can always make them the same. But remember the rule of thumb: If you are worried, you have not committed the unpardonable sin. If you have committed the unpardonable sin, you are not worried that you have.

The degree of our delighting in God’s presence rests upon our knowing our standing before God. It is no secret that the devil hates our joy in the Lord and will strive with all his power to rob us of this holy delight. Nothing bothers the devil more than a Christian delighting in God’s presence.

I hope this truth will encourage God’s poor troubled sheep; but I also hope it will not encourage them to be careless, for we do not want to be careless Christians. We want to walk circumspectly, for the time of that final day is drawing nigh. We want to be cheerfully hopeful because of the goodness of God and because of the infinite efficacy of the blood of the Lamb. We need no other sacrifice for sin.