For if we sin wilfully - If we deliberately, for fear of persecution or from any other motive, renounce the profession of the Gospel and the Author of that Gospel, after having received the knowledge of the truth so as to be convinced that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and that he had sprinkled our hearts from an evil conscience; for such there remaineth no sacrifice for sins; for as the Jewish sacrifices are abolished, as appears by the declaration of God himself in the fortieth Psalm, and Jesus being now the only sacrifice which God will accept, those who reject him have none other; therefore their case must be utterly without remedy. This is the meaning of the apostle, and the case is that of a deliberate apostate - one who has utterly rejected Jesus Christ and his atonement, and renounced the whole Gospel system. It has nothing to do with backsliders in our common use of that term. A man may be overtaken in a fault, or he may deliberately go into sin, and yet neither renounce the Gospel, nor deny the Lord that bought him. His case is dreary and dangerous, but it is not hopeless; no case is hopeless but that of the deliberate apostate, who rejects the whole Gospel system, after having been saved by grace, or convinced of the truth of the Gospel. To him there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin; for there was but the One, Jesus, and this he has utterly rejected.
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth - If after we are converted and become true Christians we should apostatize, it would be impossible to be recovered again, for there would be no other sacrifice for sin; no way by which we could be saved. This passage, however, like Hebrews 6:4-6, has given rise to much difference of opinion. But that the above is the correct interpretation, seems evident to me from the following considerations:
(1) It is the natural and obvious interpretation, such as would occur probably to ninety-nine readers in a hundred, if there were no theory to support, and no fear that it would conflict with some other doctrine.
(2) it accords with the scope of the Epistle, which is, to keep those whom the apostle addressed from returning again to the Jewish religion, under the trials to which they were subjected.
(3) it is in accordance with the fair meaning of the language - the words “after that we have received the knowledge of the truth,” referring more naturally to true conversion than to any other state of mind.
(4) the sentiment would not be correct if it referred to any but real Christians. It would not be true that one who had been somewhat enlightened, and who then sinned “wilfully,” must look on fearfully to the judgment without a possibility of being saved. There are multitudes of cases where such persons are saved. They “wilfully” resist the Holy Spirit; they strive against him; they for a long time refuse to yield, but they are brought again to reflection, and are led to give their hearts to God.
(5) it is true, and always will be true, that if a sincere Christian should apostatize he could never be converted again; see the notes on Hebrews 6:4-6. The reasons are obvious. He would have tried the only plan of salvation, and it would have failed. He would have embraced the Saviour, and there would not have been efficacy enough in his blood to keep him, and there would be no more powerful Saviour and no more efficacious blood of atonement. He would have renounced the Holy Spirit, and would have shown that his influences were not effectual to keep him, and there would be no other agent of greater power to renew and save him after he had apostatized. For these reasons it seems clear to me that this passage refers to true Christians, and that the doctrine here taught is, that if such an one should apostatize, he must look forward only to the terrors of the judgment, and to final condemnation.
Whether this in fact ever occurs, is quite another question. In regard to that inquiry, see the notes on Hebrews 6:4-6. If this view be correct, we may add, that the passage should not be regarded as applying to what is commonly known as the “sin against the Holy Spirit,” or “the unpardonable sin.” The word rendered “wilfully” - ἑκουσίως hekousiōs- occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in 1 Peter 5:2, where it is rendered “willingly” - “taking the oversight thereof (of the church) not by constraint, but willingly.” It properly means, “willingly, voluntarily, of our own accord,” and applies to cases where no constraint is used. It is not to be construed here strictly, or metaphysically, for all sin is voluntary, or is committed willingly, but must refer to a deliberate act, where a man means to abandon his religion, and to turn away from God. If it were to be taken with metaphysical exactness, it would demonstrate that every Christian who ever does anything wrong, no matter how small, would be lost.
But this cannot, from the nature of the case, be the meaning. The apostle well knew that Christians do commit such sins (see the notes on Leviticus 4:2, Leviticus 4:13, Leviticus 4:22, Leviticus 4:27; Leviticus 5:15; Numbers 15:24, Numbers 15:27-29; compare Acts 3:17; Acts 17:30), and sins of presumption; sins that are deliberately and intentionally committed; see Exodus 21:14; Numbers 15:30; Deuteronomy 17:12; Psalm 19:13. The apostle here has reference, evidently, to such a distinction, and means to speak of a decided and deliberate purpose to break away from the restraints and obligations of the Christian religion.
There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins - Should a man do this, there is no sacrifice for sins which could save him. He would have rejected deliberately the only atonement made for sin, and there will be no other made. It is as if a man should reject the only medicine that could heal him, or push away the only boat that could save him when shipwrecked; see notes, Hebrews 6:6. The sacrifice made for sin by the Redeemer is never to be repeated, and if that is deliberately rejected, the soul must be lost.
Now the question is, Are you gaining in the knowledge of the truth? Have you a living connection with Jesus Christ? You see Abraham had, and he talked with angels, and he could ask a favor of them. You see that Moses had a living connection with God, and his earnest petition was that he might see the glory of God. “Show me Thy glory,” was his petition. Well now, the Lord did not rebuke him for making that request; he was not presumptuous in trying to know more of God and His glory. But we see that that mighty man of faith was hid in a cleft of the rock, and the hand of God was placed over the rock, and then He revealed to him His glory. TDG 95.3Read in context »
The word of life is that by which the Christian is to live. From this word we are to receive a continually increasing knowledge of truth. From it we are to gain light, purity, goodness, and a faith which works by love and purifies the soul. It is given us that we may be redeemed and presented faultless before the throne of divine glory. Wondrous victory, gained by Christ in man's behalf!—Letter 60, April 21, 1900, to a young man seeking Ellen White's counsel. TDG 120.5Read in context »
One man, when the church in Scotland was making some resolutions to compromise the faith, to concede their staunch principles, was determined never to yield a jot or tittle. He went upon his knees before God and thus pleaded, “Give me Scotland or I die.” His importunate prayer was heard. Oh, that the earnest prayer of faith may arise everywhere, Give me souls buried now in the rubbish of error, or I die! Bring them to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. TDG 171.5Read in context »
Let your prayers, my children [Edson and Emma], go up to heaven in our behalf, that God would bring souls who are in the darkness of error to the knowledge of the truth. Light, precious light is shining on every page of the Word of God. It is the man of our counsel. When we study its pages with a heartfelt desire to learn our duty, angels are close beside us to impress the mind and strengthen the imagination to discern the sacred things revealed in the Word of God. TDG 174.3Read in context »