In this article, I want to focus on the mercy of Jesus. There are things we are told explicitly not to do. We have to be told these things so we know the severity of sin, like blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for example. But, one of the great things about Jesus is his mercy and love towards the children of God.
Participating in the kingdom of God is an act of extreme mercy, both in the mercy he shows in changing our natures and freeing us from sin, and also in that we can approach the throne of God while we are yet sinners.
Jesus intercedes for us as a spotless lamb of sacrifice on the alter of God even now. When we approach God believing that the blood of the only begotten Son of God is sufficient to forgive our sins, allowing us to enter into the kingdom that is “at hand,” our faith is counted to us for righteousness. But, we are also given the promise of entering into his rest even now – not just because our sins are forgiven and guilt over past sins relieved, but by putting on a new nature that is not bound to the rulers of this present world.
Rather than scaring people into legalistic obedience with stark passages, the approach should be in helping followers of Christ understand both the severity of sin and the mercy of Jesus Christ. Because we love Him and we believe in His promises, we should not settle for any sin. We should push forward each day with a mindset of “today is the day of salvation.” Even the most zealous will fail at times. We will come short and we might even question whether we are among those chosen to salvation. But, fearing these things will get us no where. Instead, we should try to keep an onward and upward focus, keeping our eyes on the mercy, patience, and love of Jesus.
That being said, let’s take a look at some of the passages that often impart unproductive fear into believers.
Hebrews 6: 4-7 – For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Hebrews 10: 26-27 – For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
What does it mean to sin “willfully”?
“willfully” : ἑκουσίως, adverb (from Euripides down), voluntarily, willingly, of one’s own accord: Hebrews 10:26 (ἑκουσίως ἁμαρτάνειν (A. V. to sin willfully) is tacitly opposed to sins committed inconsiderately, and from ignorance or from weakness);
When looking at the full meaning of the usage of the word “willfully,” I think we get a different picture than some might think. In this context, I take “willful” sin to be blatant disregard for doing the will of God, rather than out of weakness or lack of understanding or “knowledge.” Continued struggle with sin that we hate is not what is being addressed here. That leads us into what it means to receive “knowledge” of the truth.
“knowledge” Cognate: 1922 epígnōsis (from 1909 /epí, “on, fitting” which intensifies 1108 /gnṓsis, “knowledge gained through first-hand relationship”) – properly, “contact-knowledge” that is appropriate (“apt, fitting”) to first-hand, experiential knowing. This is defined by the individual context. See 1921 (epignōskō).
In Jesus Christ, there is a difference between knowing something in our minds verses in our natures. In having “knowledge” of the truth written in our hearts, we have a “first-hand relationship” with the Father himself. That kind of knowledge brings actual change in nature, and to turn from that seems unlikely. Are there those who return to sin after receiving such knowledge? Maybe, but Jesus can extend his mercy even to them—and he will if they are chosen for his purposes.
One final thought. Consider this passage:
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. – Hebrews 10:31
The wrath of God is for the unbelievers, and though we do not take His awesome power for granted, we do not give into fear as one who continues in disobedience unto perdition.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. – Hebrews 10: 39
Do not allow ministers and others to cause you to stumble over passages like those mentioned in this article. If you are drawn to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing can overtake you – especially not yourself. You are HIS workmanship, and He will complete His work in you and nothing can separate you from the mercy of His love and the strength of His mighty hand!
Hey, wait! What about Hebrews 6: 4-7 !? I wanted to list this passage here because it goes along with the context of this article, but I will talk about this particular passage and others in the final section of this article series.
This article is Part 3 in series, “The Severity of Sin and the Mercy of Jesus.” Check out Part 1: The Wages of Sin is Still Death and Part 2: “They Which do Such Things…” Do Sinners Enter the Kingdom?
Part 4 (final section) to come, “Can We Lose our Salvation?”