Standing In Opposition To God? - Hebrews 10:26–31

May 30, 2021 Preacher: Series: Hebrews

Scripture: Hebrews 10:26–31

English minister Rico Tice tells a story of a trip to Australia on which he visited the beach with a friend. As he was taking off his shirt to go for a swim, his friend stopped him and pointed to a sign that said, “Danger - Sharks!” Tice says that he made a comment and then shrugged it off, but his friend insisted, replying, “200 Australians have died in shark attacks. You’ve got to decide whether those shark signs are there to save you or to ruin your fun.” Tice decided not to swim.

He took the warning seriously. Our focal passage this morning is a serious warning. Last Sunday, Hebrews 10 urged us to draw near to God, to hold onto our hope in His promises, and to stick together as God’s people in the local church. We learned that we should keep gathering

for worship on the Lord’s Day and spur each other on to love and good works. We should do this more and more, because Judgment is inevitable. The day when Jesus Christ will return is drawing near.

And what follows those imperatives, those commands from God, is this message of caution. This part of Hebrews 10 is a reminder that we should consider the sincerity of our faith in Jesus Christ, looking for the evidence that we truly trust in Him and His righteousness alone, for evidence that we are truly saved.

But are not all the members saved? They’ve talked to the elders, professed faith, been baptized. Aren’t they covered by grace no matter what? Seems unnecessary to warn them. Well, yes, grace does cover all the sins of those who are born again. They don’t have to fear that God’s grace is not enough.

But these verses today are further proof of the continuity from the old covenant community in the OT to the new covenant community in the NT. Just because a person is an accepted participant in the new covenant doesn’t mean they are a true believer.

Church members have met some outward requirements and they do experience great blessings, so it is natural to assume that all are saved. But fulfilling certain requirements and experiencing many great blessings and benefits does not guarantee that a person’s faith is genuine. No one can absolutely know the heart of a person except God and that person, and sometimes, a person does not immediately recognize their true spiritual state.

So warnings like this are appropriate and needed. No member or pastor is above asking, “Do I stand in opposition to God?” The apostle Paul verbalized this when he wrote to the church in Corinth, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

You may wonder, “What is the test?” I will tell you, but first, “What is the warning?” It is summarized for you by these three statements listed on page 6 in the WG.

1. Those who willfully reject Christ and His church stand in opposition to God. (vv.26-27)

2. There will be no mercy for those who stand in opposition to God. (v.28)

3. There is nothing worse than standing in opposition to God. (v.29-31)

The first thing we notice is this reference to “sinning deliberately.” Of course, we are all sinners, and even those who are born again continue to battle sin throughout the course of our lives. We have wins and losses in our fight against sin. We have besetting or persistent sins that continually afflict us. The apostle John told the churches, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In Romans 7, Paul describes his war and frustration with sin. And without a doubt, you’ve said and done things knowing full-well it was wrong.

But the deliberate sin in view here is something more than that. This describes the willful rejection of Jesus and His covenant community. That is the clear context of this statement. If you hear the gospel of Christ but you turn to something else; if you learn that Jesus is the only true and lasting priest and you receive the knowledge that his atonement is the only sufficient sacrifice for your sins but you trust in other things, then you remain in your sins, you remain guilty, because Jesus is the one who can remove our guilt.

For the former Jews who first heard this letter that we call the book of Hebrews needed to understand that Judaism no longer held any hope of dealing with the guilt of sin. All that remained in the old system would be “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” or opponents of God.

And we should keep in mind what we saw last week in verses 24-25 about the covenant community and the public assembly of worship. Third-century bishop Cyprian famously stated, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the church as Mother.” John Calvin later reiterated this along with Mark 10, adding, “What God has thus joined, let not man put asunder.”

You absolutely cannot take or leave the family of God. Christ has established His covenant community in the world. He loves and leads His church; He is joined to His church much like a husband and wife are joined to one another. I worry about professing Christians who shrug their shoulders at the church. If someone disregards the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, do they really understand His gospel? Do they really know Him at all? Often, abandoning the congregation is a step along the way to abandoning Christ. Certainly Satan wants to lead each of us down that path.

Have you entrusted yourself fully to Jesus? Then you should take shelter among His church. Do you seek the face of Jesus? Then you must find your place among the members of His body, of which He is the head. In Romans 12, Paul tells the church, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Body parts remained connected to each other and to their head. Those who continue to separate themselves may indeed find themselves in opposition to God.

This argument is supported by verse 28, “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” At first glance you may wonder what that has to do with this. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 17 in the OT and the circumstances in which someone might reject the God of Israel to worship idols, to serve false gods.

To do so would be forsaking God’s covenant, rejecting what He had established. We’ve been reading through the OT book of Joshua in worship since 2021 began. It is clear that God led Israel to great lengths in removing any and all false gods among them and those who worshipped them.

Deut. 17 describes how idolatry would be handled. If there were multiple witnesses, the guilty person or persons would be put to death. Or if the witnesses were found to be lying, their punishment would be the same. Israel was a theocracy, and the worship of idols was treason. Yahweh, the one true God, was the supreme ruling authority. Idolatry struck at the heart of God’s sovereign rule over the people He redeemed, and others could be dragged into it.

And for those standing in opposition to God in this way, there would be no mercy, no do-over, no second chance. But isn’t God loving and forgiving? How could He run things this way? Actually, throughout history some have wrongly argued that the God of the OT and the God of the NT are two different deities, one tough and one gentle. But God can be and is both.

Many years ago I went on a safari in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. The park is roughly 7500 square miles. Various wild animals roam free. The safari guides drive trucks with a covered platform on the truck bed to seat about 9 people. They communicate by CB radio, and if one guide sees wild game in a certain area, he or she will let the others know and the trucks will speed over if it’s not too far.

The guides are adamant that you do not, at any time, get out of the truck. In fact, I read that just over a month ago, a man was trampled there by a herd of elephants.

The guides are armed to protect you if necessary. Our leader got a tip on a pack of lions, so we raced in their direction, and when we got to them, they had already taken down a zebra and they were mostly done with their feasting. The lions just lay there, and they would look up at us, blood running down their chins, and then look back to their kill. They were not aggressive, but they were not to be tested.

You know, Revelation 5 describes Jesus as the Lion of Judah. He is merciful, but He is also fierce. C.S. Lewis tried to illustrate this with the lion named Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia. When the children hear that Aslan is a lion, one child asks if he is safe? Good question! Another character replies that he is not safe, but he is good.

Jesus is our loving Savior, our merciful priest, our gentle Shepherd, but He is also a righteous judge, extending mercy only to those who repent and believe. There will be no mercy for those who stand in opposition to God. God shows His grace again and again in the OT. He shows His judgment again and again in the NT. OT, NT, same God.

If you and I don’t heed this warning; if we go on to the end of our lives on this present earth, whether to our natural death or to the return of Jesus Christ, whichever comes first, and we do not repent and trust in Jesus Christ, there will be no second chance. There will be no forgiveness at that time.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God has done everything to make a way for His people to know Him, but He does draw lines. He does issue ultimatums. God’s delay of final judgment is merciful. He is patient. But He will not be patient forever. He is not to be played with or taken lightly. And without Jesus, your future will be worse than what idolaters received in ancient Israel.

Look at verse 29, if, under the law of Moses, rejecting God and his covenant community resulted in death, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one

who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” “Profaned” literally means to “treat as common,” as if the precious blood of Jesus was like any other man’s blood.

By the blood of Jesus we are “sanctified” or set apart. That doesn’t mean the person who rejects Jesus was born again. There is a sanctifying effect to being part of the local church, even if you are not saved, and it is the blood of Jesus on which the church is established.

The one who rejects these things puts God the test, and if you think that God cannot be provoked, the writer of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 32. Verse [30] For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” These quotes are from the OT Song of Moses and the Psalms. The people of Israel sang these words in their worship services. Singing is one way that we learn and one way that we proclaim what we believe. “It is a fearful thing,” it is horrifying, it is terrible, “to fall into the hands of the living God,” to be in opposition to Him in any way. There is nothing worse than to be in the hands of God without mercy.

But if we repent, God’s hands are a good place to be. 2 Samuel 24 in the OT describes a time when King David brought God’s judgment upon himself and the people because of a census.

David had his men count all the people of the nation. Scholars believe that this was offensive to God because it likely had a military angle, demonstrating that David wanted to take more territory than what the Lord had allotted to him.

What God had provided was not enough. The Word says, [10] But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” [11] And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, [12] “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” [13] So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” [14] Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”

David knew the mercy of the covenant of God. David knew that he was a sinner and he could only rely on God’s forgiveness. He knew a Savior was coming, God’s eternal King. And David knew that salvation was entirely a work of God, a work of undeserved favor, of grace.

I’ve heard it asked, “How long can someone abuse God’s grace and take it for granted?” It’s hard to say, because we all do it. And so we must examine ourselves. Have you cried out to Jesus in trust? Will you determine to offer obedience to God? Are you growing in holiness, even if the growth is slow? Do you love Jesus? Do you love His church? Can you admit your sins? We confessed things generally as a congregation earlier in worship. Can you identify those things specifically in your own life?

For those who know God through Jesus Christ, His mercy is great. His hands are gentle. They offer protection. Either way, we must surrender to the sovereign power of God. Surrender now, and find mercy.

Bow with me in prayer.