What does it mean “there is no more sacrifice for sins?”

The Bible says in Hebrews 10:26 that if we sin willfully after coming to the knowledge of the truth, then there is no more sacrifice for sin. Does this mean that those who knowingly commit sin cannot be saved? Does this mean that those who live in sin will lose their salvation? What sacrifice is it talking about? What does this verse mean?

The book of Hebrews was written at a time when Christian Jews were being persecuted for their confession of Jesus. As a result of the persecution, some of them were leaving Christianity to return to Judaism. They were leaving the church to go back to the sacrifices and temple worship. The recipients of Hebrews had known the truth of the gospel, seen God’s working in the church and professed to be Christians. When Hebrews 10 says, “If we sin willfully,” it is addressing the particular sin the entire book of Hebrews was written to address. The willful sin is that of turning back on Christ. The willful sin is that of abandoning Jesus, the church and Christianity to return to false religion, self-righteousness or unbelief. For those who knowingly refused Jesus there was no more sacrifice that could be made for their sin.

Those who left Christianity to return to Judaism were returning to make sacrifices and offerings in accord with the Old Testament. However, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.” (Hebrews 10:14) What sacrifice could an observant Jew offer for sin if they refused the sacrifice made by Jesus? If the great sacrifice provided by God is rejected, He is not going to accept a lesser sacrifice made by those who rejected His Son. Only the blood of Jesus “cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) To reject Jesus is to reject the only means of forgiveness. If Jesus is refused as Savior, no other hope of salvation can be found. No other sacrifice for sin can be made.

The warning of Hebrews applies to American Christians today just as fully as it did to Jewish Christians in the first century. The willful sin of Hebrews 10 is the sin of apostasy and is the unpardonable sin. The sin of apostasy is unpardonable because the one who turn from Christ refuses the only means of pardon God provides. If any knows the truths of salvation and refuses to receive Christ or if any walks away from the Christianity they once professed, then no more sacrifice can be found for their sin. No one can give enough money, be authentic enough, change the world enough or do enough good works to make payment for their own sin. If Christ is rejected, nothing else can be done to take away their sin.

Profession of Christ and participation in Christianity are not proof a person is truly saved. A person may attend church, may profess to be a Christian, may appear to be a Christian, but not be a Christian. A person may know the truth of the Gospel and live for a time as a Christian without accepting Christ as Savior. Every year professed Christians, some famous and many unknown, abandon the faith. Those who do so turn away from the only sacrifice for their sin to something which offers no salvation, no forgiveness, no reconciliation to God and no eternal life.

Hebrews warns that those who knowingly reject Jesus as Savior have no sacrifice that can be offered for their sin. No goats, lambs or bulls can be offered to take away your sin. No hope for forgiveness is found except through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. No salvation is available except through faith in Jesus. Any who turn to Jesus and trust Him will be pardoned of all their sin.

What is the gospel?

Name three words that are heard at church, but rarely heard anywhere else. Words like redeem, partake, communion, eucharist or disciple are rarely used by any one who is not a faithful churchgoer. One of the most important words in Christianity is also a word little used outside of Christianity. Despite it’s foundational nature, “gospel” is a term that is unfamiliar to many

Ask a group of Christians to give a simple definition of the gospel and each Christian will give a slightly different answer. The essential truths will be the same but how they communicate those truths is as individual as the Christian. Some define the gospel with the words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Others define the gospel based on First Corinthians 15:3-4: Jesus died for our sins, He was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.

The gospel is the good news of God’s promise to save. The gospel is the message from God to men of how they can be forgiven and have eternal life. The gospel can be defined with wonderful simplicity and yet it cannot be fully understood because of it’s great complexity. The gospel message contains four key facts. The sinfulness of people. The Deity of Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus for sin. The only way to be forgiven is through faith in Jesus.

Every person is a sinner and guilty before God. God is holy- free from all sin. He created all things perfect, including mankind. The first two people, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. Their sin brought a curse on themselves and the entire world. Because Adam and Eve are the parents of all people, they passed their sinfulness to their children. As a result, all descendants of Adam and Eve are sinners under the curse of death. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

Man is sinful, but God is gracious. On the same day man rebelled against God, He promised to send a Savior who would deliver men from the punishment of sin. The promised Savior was Jesus. Jesus is far more than a great teacher, a holy man, a beautiful example or an incredible sacrifice. Jesus is God. He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Jesus is fully equal with God the Father. God in His grace gave His Son to be the Rescuer of man. “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Jesus became humanity’s Savior through His death on the cross. Because the punishment of sin is death, the only way sinners could be saved is for someone else to pay the punishment in their place. Jesus is the substitute provided and accepted by God. Jesus’ death on the cross was a death in place of sinners. He fully suffered the entire penalty of man’s sin. After His death Jesus was buried. The third day after Jesus’ death God raised Him to life again. Jesus rose from the dead in the same physical body that He had before His death. His resurrection is God’s testimony that Jesus is God and that His payment for sin was accepted by the Father. “Jesus our Lord . . . was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25)

Jesus is the only way man can be forgiven. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “Jesus said unto him, I am the way tthe truth and the lfie, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) No one can do anything to bring salvation to themselves. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) Salvation is entirely a gift of God, never a payment or reward. The only way to receive salvation is through faith in Jesus. Those will be saved who acknowledge they are sinners, believe Jesus is God who died for their sin and call out to Him for salvation. Those who attempt to gain salvation by their works are not saved and will not be saved until they repent of their works and rely on Jesus alone. Any attempt to work for salvation is a rejection of Jesus. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of yoru are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

The gospel is the good news that God gave His Son to save you from your sin. The gospel is the good news that salvation is offered freely to all people. The gospel is the good news that whoever believes and trusts Jesus will be saved. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Why is the resurrection so important?

Christianity stands unique among all the religions of the world. Only Christianity claims that it’s God became human, died and then returned to life. The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is one celebrated and remembered every Sunday of the year by Christian churches all across the world. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in all human history. The resurrection of Jesus is the seminal moment in Christianity. That event changed everything.

The New Testament is filled with declarations that Jesus died and then rose again. The resurrection is explained in all four gospels and the book of Acts. Jesus’ resurrection is expressly taught in many of the epistles and in the book of Revelation. The resurrection of Jesus is a crucial truth on which Biblical Christianity is built. Without the resurrection there is no Biblical Christianity. Without the resurrection there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the resurrection there is no salvation. Without the resurrection there is no eternal life. Without the resurrection, God is a liar, Jesus is a fraud and every gospel preacher is a charlatan.

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the gospel is a lie. “And if Christ be not dead, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian life is pointless and worthless. “What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian has no hope of eternal life. “And if Christ be not raised, then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18)

The resurrection is important because it is the ultimate display of the power of God that is now at work in the believer. “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” (Ephesians 1:19-20)

The resurrection is important because it is the evidence that Jesus is the Savior He claimed to be and that the Bible declares Him to be. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:18-22)

The resurrection is important because it is the powerful declaration that Jesus is God. “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead:” (Romans 1:3-4)

The resurrection is important because if it is untrue, God’s Word is a lie. “We are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” (1 Corinthians 15:15)

The resurrection is the lynchpin on which all the gospel hangs, the certification that all the gospel promises are true and the certainty that God is true. Rejoice every Sunday because Jesus the Savior has risen.

What does it mean to “backslide”?

“Israel slides back like a backsliding heifer.” (Hosea 4:16)

Preachers often warn Christians and churches about backsliding. The term is familiar to some people, but others find it is confusing. Backsliding is used to describe a Christian who was once obedient to the Lord, growing in the Lord and serving Him faithfully. The once obedient Christian backslides by turning back to sin. The term comes from the Old Testament where God frequently rebukes Israel for its backsliding. The image is of a cow that plants its feet and pulls hard against the leading of its master. Israel was resisting the leading of God by turning away from Him to pursue idolatry and practice all manner of evil. A backsliding Christian is one who resists the leading of the Holy Spirit to pursue his own sinful way. Like the Israelites, the backsliding Christian turns his back on what he knows to be right to practice all forms of idolatry and wickedness.

The backslidden Christian lives in sin and does not grow in Christ. The backslider may maintain an outward appearance of religion while also pursuing sinful habits. He slides back spiritually, abandoning the progress he has made in obedience, ignoring the spiritual disciplines and forsaking the imitation of Jesus. The backslidden Christian takes off the Christlikeness he had once put on.

A serious warning needs to be given to the backslider. Backsliding is a serious problem because it is indistinguishable from false Christianity. The backslider may actually be an unsaved person who has deceived himself and others into thinking he is saved. The Christian who is in sin will not have assurance of salvation because their own heart will condemn them. (1 John 3:20) The backslider dare not attempt to comfort himself with the knowledge that because he is a Christian he can contiue in willful sin and still go to heaven. Willingness to live in sin is not a characteristic of a Christian, but of an unsaved person. “Whoever abides in Christ does not live in sin. Who ever lives in sin has not seen Him nor known Him.” (1 John 3:6) Those who refuse to repent give the lie to their profession of faith. A genuine Christian will eventually repent of sin, fall under the chastening of God (Hebrews 12:6) or die an untimely death (1 John 5:16).

The proper response to backsliding is repentance. Hosea 14 teaches backsliders to confess their sin to God and ask for His forgiveness. Backsliders must turn away from the sin they once loved to turn back to God. God promises the repentant He will hear and heal them. God promises the backslider that if he will confess his sin then God will not fail to cleanse him from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

What is the essence of Christianity?

What makes a Christian truly a Christian? What makes a Christian church genuinely Christian? In this age of self-identification there is value in considering if a person is a Christian by identifying as one or is something more required to truly be a Christian? If so, what is it? Is there a single doctrine, creed or statement that comprises the core elements of Christianity? The World Council of Churches once declared the way to distinguish false Christianity from possibly true Christianity is through the affirmation of the statement, “Jesus Christ is God is Savior.” Does this simple statement encompass all that is essential to true Christianity? Are all those Christians who affirm the Deity and salvation of Jesus?

Surveying the scope of Christendom today does not provide an easy answer to these question. Not all churches which call themselves Christians would affirm this statement. Many Christian churches would not consider an affirmation of that basic statement evidence of Christianity. However, the question is not what churches today believe, or what churches in history have believed. The question is what does the Bible teach is the essence of Christianity.

The book of Acts shows what the apostles taught as the essence of salvation and the essence of Christianity. Acts 11 introduces the term Christian when it says that believers were first called Christians in Antioch. Those called Christians in Acts 11:26 are referred to as “the disciples.” Who were these disciples? What was required to be a disciple? Disciples in Acts are those who followed the footstesp of the twelve disciples by following the teachings of Jesus.

Acts 11:26 also indicates that the disciples assembled as a church. In Acts 2 the church is introduced and we learn what was necessary to be a part of the church. In short, those who were saved became part of the church. (Acts 2:47) These ones added to the church were also added to the number of disciples (Acts 2:41; 6:1) The substance of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 defines what is essential to be a disciple of Christ and to be a Christian.

Peter says that what is necessary for a person to be a Christian is to believe Jesus was a man sent from God and is the God of David (Acts 2:22, 25), to believe Jesus was crucified and died (Acts 2:23) and to believe Jesus was restored to life again. (Acts 2:32) To be saved a person must cease rejecting Jesus and receive Him for forgiveness of sin. (Acts 2:39, 41, 44) These same essentials of Christianity are found in Paul’s first recorded sermon in Acts 13 and are the same essentials found in the definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4.

The essence of Christianity is belief that Jesus is God who became a man, died on the cross and was restored to life again. This belief turns in faith to Jesus and trusts Him to forgive sin. Other things can be added to give a proper definition of saving faith, such as, saving faith does not attempt to earn any portion of salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 5:4) Additions are necessary for clarifying the Biblical truths of salvation, but the basic essence of Christianity- those things which must be believed to be a disciple of Christ- is the gospel message of faith in Jesus who is God and man that died and rose to life again to give forgiveness of sin.

Is the Gospel about Social Change?

The Great Commission commands the Christian to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15) To fulfill the Great Commission the believer must understand the gospel. Unfortunately, this is not as straightforward as it might seem. The political and social turmoil of recent years has given renewed urgency to certain ones who teach that the gospel is about social change. Tony Evans said, “There’s the content of the gospel that takes you to Heaven, but there’s also the scope of the gospel, which brings Heaven to earth.” His perspective is widely held by Evangelicals. But it is not held by all evangelicals. John MacArthur spearheaded a group that issued a lengthy statement opposing making social reformation a part of the gospel.

The social gospel is a version of the gospel that makes the reformation of society, the promotion of social justice, provision for the poor and the advancement of equity in societal systems to be integral to the gospel message. According to this view a gospel that does not include the call to renovate culture is an abbreviated gospel. Does the gospel message include the renovation of culture?

The discussion of the social gospel is not a question of whether the gospel produces change in a society. Few would deny the profound impact salvation has upon the individual and, as a result, on society. The issue is whether the gospel message demands a call to bring about cultural change. When Tony Evans said the scope of the gospel brings heaven to earth, he is saying the gospel is designed to transform the world to be more like the kingdom of God. In many minds, a gospel without a call for social renovation is not the gospel.

The Bible gives a very clear definition of the gospel. Scriptures presents the gospel in many places and teaches the gospel in a variety of ways, but only one place in the Bible specifically sets out to define the substance of the gospel. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) This passage must be the final authority when creating a definition of the gospel because it is the only place in the whole Bible which intends to define the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15 lists several key facts of the gospel. First, is the person of Jesus- He is Christ. Second is His death. Third is the reason for His death- our sin. Fourth, is the fulfillment of God’s promises- according to the Scripture. Last, the burial and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel message is a message of individual sin and of God the Son who died to save us from our sin. The Bible never presents societal change as a component of the gospel. The Bible does not teach that man’s chief problem is an unjust political system or income inequality. The problem of man is not external to him. The problem of man is not social. The problem of mankind is internal to each individual. The problem of man is sin that resides in every human heart. The solution of the gospel is the forgiveness of sin, which makes each one who believes a new creature.

When enough people are saved and live in obedience to God society will change. This change is not the message of the gospel, but the result of the gospel. The distinction between of cause and effect must not be ignored. To confuse the results of the gospel with the gospel itself is to risk creating a false gospel.

Do Christians have to keep the Mosaic Law?

The earliest threat to the unity of the church was teaching about the believer’s obligation to the Old Testament law. As the gospel spread out from Jerusalem, more and more Gentiles began to believe and come into the church. Some Jews taught that the believing Gentiles had to keep the law to truly be saved. The apostle Paul and others began to argue strongly against this teaching. As a result, a council was convened in Jerusalem to discuss this question.

Acts 15 summarizes the discussion. Four men spake. Paul and Barnabas then told of how they had taken the gospel to Gentiles in Asia Minor and how God had blessed their ministry. James spoke of how God had foretold the conversion of the Gentiles. The plan to save Gentiles was God’s plan all along. Peter told of how he had first taken to the gospel to the Gentiles of Cornelius’ household. Those Gentiles were saved by faith while Peter was preaching. They received the Holy Spirit without doing anything instructed in the Mosaic Law. The conclusion of the council was that the law is unnecessary for salvation and that Gentiles are under no obligation to keep the law of Moses.

The question of the believers obligation to the law did not go away. The question is addressed in the book of Galatians. The simple, clear answer given in that book is “no.” If salvation begins by faith and the Holy Spirit is received by faith without the keeping of the law, then how could keeping the law be necessary for the Christian life? Salvation and sanctification are accomplished without the keeping of the law. (Galatians 3:1-3)

The New Testament is clear that the law has been done away with by Jesus. First, the law is a unit. If a person is under obligation to keep one part of the law, then he is obligated to keep all the law. (Galatians 3:10, 12) The separating out of the law into civil and ceremonial portions is not a valid division. If one part of the law is done away with, then all the law is done away with. The book of Hebrews makes a strong argument that the priesthood formed by the law of Moses was changed by Jesus. (Hebrews 7) The sacrifice of Jesus took away the sacrifices under Moses’ law. (Hebrews 10) Since the law is a single unit, the doing away of the priesthood and the sacrifices means the entire Mosaic Law has been done away with. Second, the law has been abolished by Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:7-11) Hebrews 7 says the Mosaic law was put away because it could not save. In Hebrews 8 we are told that the Old Covenant under the law of Moses was replaced with a New Covenant in Christ. The New Testament could not be more clear. The law has been done away with by Jesus. “There is a truly a setting aside of the former commandment.” (Hebrews 7:18) The Old Testament law is abolished by Jesus. No one, not even the Jews, are now required to keep the law of Moses because it’s purposes have been fulfilled in Jesus.

Does this mean Christians are not under any law at all? Of course not. The Christian is under Christ’s law. His commandment is simple, “love one another.” (John 13:34) The command to love one another is explained in Romans 13 and James 2 as a keeping of the last six of the ten commandments. Galatians 5 and 1 John 3 describe loving one another as selfless, Spirit-filled living that ministers to those in need. The Christian is under a law. The law of Christ is not the law of Moses but it does shares some commands in common with the Mosaic law. Though there is similarity between the two laws, the Christian must not imagine he is obligated to keep the Mosaic law. The Christian is under obligation to a great law, the law to love God supremely and to love others sacrificially.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to Christians?

A question came up at church Sunday that offers helpful distinction from the often asked, “Why does God allow evil to continue in this world?” This other question is much more specific and focuses on those who are followers of Christ. A preacher once said to a group of Christians, “You are either facing a trial in your life, just coming out of one or about to go into one.” While such a statement may be overly pessimistic, it does seem to many that following Jesus is the beginning of difficulties, not the end. So why does God allow bad things to happen to Christians?

The Bible offers several reasons why Christians must endure intense trials. Contrary to much popular preaching, the Bible never promises the Christian that faith will lead to an easier life. Instead, “All that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Jesus told the disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33) and “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20) The apostle Paul told newly formed churches, “That we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Suffering should not surprise anyone, least of all the Christian.

The Christians suffering is never pointless. James says that the trying of your faith produces patience. (James 1:3) Romans says that tribulation produces patience. (Romans 5:3) Second Corinthians says, “For our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Suffering for the Christian always has a good purpose. The New Testament teaches that tribulation is permitted by God to produce Christlikeness in His children and to bring them eternal benefit.

Sometimes God brings suffering on a Christian to chasten them for sin. This chastening is Divine correction that brings punishment on His children for persistent sin. God disciplines His children in the same way loving parents discipline their children. “For who the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” (Hebrews 12:6) God does not punish in anger. God does not punish His children because they are irritating Him. God’s brings painful correction for the good of His children. “He (chastened us) for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. . . afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:10-11) The chastening of God is painful, but it is profitable because it produces righteousness in His people.

God also allows suffering in the life of Christians to make them more fruitful. This suffering is not punishment for sin, but preparation for more fruitful service. In John 15 Jesus likens His followers to branches. The fruitless branches will be cut off and the fruitful branches will be pruned so that they will be more fruitful. The fruitful branch does not escape the cutting, but it will not be entirely cut off. Instead, in God’s grace He cuts away much that is unnecessary and hindering the productiveness of the Christian.

The Christian’s suffering is never pointless. Trials in the believer’s life are never an indication that God has forgotten His child or that His love has decreased. The Christian’s suffering is always a part of the gracious working of God to purge from sin and produce greater Christlikeness. Suffering is never fun, but it is always a cause to rejoice.