by Matt Slick
Hebrews 10:26, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins."
The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians since it begins by referring to "the fathers and the prophets" (v. 1) and then it jumps into quoting Psalm 2. In fact, there are more than thirty Old Testament quotes in the epistle with many more allusions (Hebrews 3:16; 5:10; 8:5; 9:11-22; 12:16-18, etc.,) which included references to the Old Testament sacrificial system (Hebrews 8:3; 9:9; 10:4). Also, it appears that those to whom this epistle is addressed have been Christians for some time (Hebrews 5:12) and had suffered persecution (Hebrews 10:32-34). Therefore, we can confidently say that the book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrew-Christian community as a whole, which would consist of a mix of true believers and those still leaning on the Old Testament sacrificial system. In Hebrews, the author is demonstrating the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. This is important because it sheds light on Hebrews 10:26. Let's take a look at its immediate context.
- 10:1-4, The insufficiency of the sacrifice of animals to cleanse from sin
- 10:5, The incarnation of Christ
- 10:6-9, Old Testament offerings God has not desired and have been done away with
- 10:10-14, We are sanctified through the single sacrifice of Christ who does not need to offer many sacrifices
- 10:15-18, We have a new covenant
- 10:19-22, Entering the holy place of the blood of Jesus, beyond the veil so that we can draw near to God
- 10:23-25, Hold fast to this confession and uplift one another
- 10:26, The verse in question
- 10:27, Judgment
- 10:28, Abandoning the law of Moses
- 10:29-31, Stricter judgment for those who reject the blood of Christ by which they were sanctified
- 10:32, In former days you are persecuted
In our immediate context of Hebrews 10:26 we see that many in the Hebrew-Christian community were still looking to the Old Testament sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:1-4) with its burnt offerings (Hebrews 10:6, 8), Temple work (Hebrews 10:19, 20), priesthood (Hebrews 10:21), and the Law of Moses (Hebrews 10:28). Obviously, many in the Hebrew-Christian community were still looking back to the Old Testament system and not depending on the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice. As stated in the opening paragraph, the writer is not addressing individuals but a larger group of people with a mix of believers and non-believers. Some who had received the knowledge of the truth of the complete sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ had not yet fully trusted in it and were dabbling with returning to the Old Testament sacrificial system.
We cannot assert that Hebrews 10:26 is written only to those who are saved. After all, how could they be saved if they are looking back to the old sacrificial system? But, without knowing exactly who is and is not trusting in Christ, the writer of Hebrews would generically address everyone and give the proper warning that if you go on sinning willfully (i.e., abandon the truth found in Christ and his sacrifice), then there will be no sacrifice for sins because Jesus' sacrifice is the only one that can take away sin (Hebrews 10:4, 12-18). That is why in verse 18 it says, "Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer an the offering for sin." He is telling us that when someone is forgiven, there's no longer a need for another offering as in the Old Testament type offerings. To reject Christ's sacrifice is to go on sinning willfully by remaining in the Old Testament sacrificial system. For those who do that, there is no longer sacrifice remaining for sin because for them Christ is not a sacrifice.
Therefore, when the writer said in Hebrews 10:26, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins," he is talking about those who had received the knowledge of the truth but were rejecting it--not that they were saved and and lost their salvation. To receive the knowledge of the truth does not mean they are saved. It means they received the knowledge of the truth of who Jesus was and what he did as well as the truth that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4), and that God does not take pleasure in "whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sins" (Hebrews 10:6). The writer wants them to trust in the only sacrifice for sins, which is Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, and not return to the old sacrificial system.