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Hebrews 10:26-27 NASB

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” ‭‭

How do we understand “sinning willfully” and what would that look like practically?

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A willing sin is the opposite of an unintentional sin. This type of sin is dealt with several times in the Law of Moses, especially Lev. 4, which defines it as "When a person inadvertently does wrong by violating any one of the Lord’s prohibitions." (4:2) The chapter goes on to discuss four types of inadvertent sins.

  • By a priest when he represents the community thereby making the people also guilty: "he shall offer to the Lord an unblemished bull of the herd as a purification offering for the wrong he committed." (4:3)

  • When the community itself sins without knowing it: "When the wrong that was committed becomes known, the community shall offer a bull of the herd as a purification offering. (4:13-14)

  • When a tribal leader inadvertently sins: "He shall bring as his offering an unblemished male goat. (4:23)

  • General membership: "Upon learning of the wrong committed, that person shall bring an unblemished she-goat as the offering for the wrong committed... Thus the priest shall make atonement on the person’s behalf for the wrong committed, that the individual may be forgiven." (4:27-35)

Examples might include a priest making a mistake in offering a sacrifice, such as failing to follow proper procedures in butchery, or an individual accidentally violating purity or dietary rules without knowing it.

A warning against intentional sins

The point made by the author of Hebrews as that unintentional sins are bad enough. Intentional ones are even more serious, especially since he has told us that sacrifices are no longer efficacious. Christians must not intentionally sin after baptism. His warning is especially directed toward Christians who fall away from the faith and return to Judaism without Christ:

Anyone who rejects the law of Moses is put to death without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Do you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace? (4:28-29)

But sticking to the question posed in the OP, a "willful sin" is an intentional one as opposed to an accidental one. For the author of Hebrews the worst of these is, having once accepted the Gospel, to willfully reject Jesus as God's son and consider his sacrifice "unclean."

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Every sin is a willful sin in that we made the decision to commit the sin. Sins of ignorance are still willful sins. The issue is not whether the sin was done in ignorance or with premeditated intent. The issue is the continuation in sin.

Every sin is ultimately a sin against God.

”13 Then David exclaimed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” Nathan replied to David, “Yes, and the Lord has forgiven[y] your sin. 14 Nonetheless, because you have treated the Lord with such contempt...” (2 Sam. 12:13, NET)

” “Saul, Saul,[j] why are you persecuting me?”….” (Acts 9:4, NET)

Every sin required a death sentence, or an animal sacrifice for a substitute.

”The Lord God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21, NET)

As God used the skins to clothe Adam and Eve, that meant the animal had to have been killed first. We can conclude that this killing was the first blood sacrifice of an animal to atone for the sin against God, and presumably was done according to God’s instructions to Adam and Eve. God’s instructions for blood sacrifice of animal substitutes were laid out in Leviticus for atonement for their sins.

”4 He must lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.  5 Then the one presenting the offering must slaughter the bull before the Lord, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, must present the blood and splash the blood against the sides of the altar, which is at the entrance of the Meeting Tent. 6 Next, the one presenting the offering must skin the burnt offering and cut it into parts,...” (Lev. 1:4. NET)

The one who committed the sin had to kill the animal, skin it, and cut it into parts. The animal offering was then made to the Lord for atonement.

”11 for the life of every living thing is in the blood. So I myself have assigned it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life.” (Lev. 17:11, NET)

So, the shedding of the blood was the shedding of life, thus a death sentence. The animals took the place of the people who sinned so that the people could live. That was the method until Christ became the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). The book of Hebrews explains that the animal sacrifices could never take away the sins.

”...and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 So it was necessary for the sketches of the things in heaven to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves required better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands—the representation of the true sanctuary—but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. 25 And he did not enter to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that is not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice.” (Heb. 9:22-26, NET)

There is now no more sacrifice for sins than that of Christ Jesus. There is now no other sacrifice which can be made to atone for sins, only Christ Jesus. Under the Law the sinners laid their hands upon the animal to be sacrificed to transfer the sin. How are we today to come in contact with Christ’s blood sacrifice?

”3 Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death:…” (Rom. 6:3-4, ASV)

”For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27, ASV)

If we have been immersed (baptized) into Christ we have come in contact symbolically with His blood, and are symbolically buried under the water into His death, and resurrection, and have thus died to sin. His blood sacrifice now takes the place of the animal sacrifice under the Law, and He has fulfilled / completed the sin offerings of the Law. Thus no more sin offerings are required (Dan. 9:24).

The meaning at Heb. 10:26 is the continuation in sin.

”For if we deliberately continue to sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth,..” (CJB)

”If we decide to continue sinning after we have learned the truth, then there is no other sacrifice that will take away sins…."(ERV)

”For if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received …” (EHV)

”For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge…” (ESV)

”For if we choose to go on sinning after we have learned the full truth…” (ISV)

”For if we keep on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth,…” (LEB)

”For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth,…” (NET)

If we keep on sinning against God, then we have not repented of those sins, and have rejected Christ just as the adversaries have rejected Christ, and His sacrifice is no longer effective. It avails us nothing to be baptized into Christ if we do not repent and we keep on committing the same sins over and over.

If, however, we repent, if we are faithful to confess our sins, and we truly change and turn back to Him and we stop doing that sin, then He is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

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The Scriptures make a clear distinction between unintentional sins and intentional sins. Here is a small sample:

Unintentional Sins = Sins of ignorance

  • Eze 45:20 - You must do the same thing on the seventh day of the month for anyone who strays unintentionally or in ignorance. In this way you will make atonement for the temple.
  • Lev 4:27 - And if one of the common people sins unintentionally and does what is prohibited by any of the LORD’s commandments, he incurs guilt.
  • Lev 5:18 - He is to bring to the priest an unblemished ram of proper value from the flock as a guilt offering. Then the priest will make atonement on his behalf for the wrong he has committed in ignorance, and he will be forgiven.
  • Lev 15:24 - and if it was done unintentionally without the knowledge of the congregation, then the whole congregation is to prepare one young bull as a burnt offering, a pleasing aroma to the LORD, with its grain offering and drink offering according to the regulation, and one male goat as a sin offering.
  • Lev 15:27 - Also, if one person sins unintentionally, he is to present a year-old female goat as a sin offering.
  • Acts 17:30 - So indeed God, having overlooked the times of ignorance, now commands all men everywhere to repent,

Willful, Deliberate or Intentional Sin

  • Prov 7:10, 11 - Then a woman came out to meet him, with the attire of a harlot and cunning of heart. She is loud and defiant; her feet do not remain at home.
  • 2 Peter 3:5 - But they deliberately overlook the fact that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water,
  • Heb 6:4-6 - It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age— and then have fallen away—to be restored to repentance, because they themselves are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to open shame.
  • Heb 10:26 - If we deliberately go on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins remains,

It is the nature of the sinful heart, that sinners cannot even realize the full extent of their sinfulness. All sinners commit sin in ignorance (some of which are discovered later or much later) but it remains an integral part of the sinful human nature that we do not realize many of the sins we commit. These are unintentional sins, but remain sins.

By contrast, many sins are intentional and planned and become more serious after the sinner is converted and has known God, as the above texts clearly state. The passage in Heb 10 even gives good advice in avoiding deliberate sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Placed by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way opened for us through the curtain of His body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold resolutely to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. 25 Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately go on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins remains, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume all adversaries. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think one deserves to be punished who has trampled on the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

Note the sound advice of the author of Hebrews in this passage for avoiding intentional sin:

  • draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
  • hold resolutely to the hope we profess
  • spur one another on to love and good deeds
  • not neglect meeting together
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Specifically in that verse the word is via Strong’s “ekousiōs” from transliteration “hekousiós” which means “voluntarily”, that is to say by a free will (decision or choice). So no one constrains you to decide. You “choose” to sin.

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