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Have we not all been guilty of sinning wilfully (Heb 10.26)? Why does the writer state that in such a case "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins"?

It is sadly true that a believer can sin wilfully. The remedy for this is to confess it and repent to God with the assurance that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn 1.9). Sin in the life of a believer, whether wilful or otherwise, is grieving to God, but the statement "There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" in Hebrews 10.25 cannot apply to a true believer. The writer in vv.26-29 is not referring to believers, but rather to an apostate, who, after being enlightened and initiated in Christian truth, has turned his back on it and rejected it.

In the context then the sin is that of apostasy; for such there is indeed "no more sacrifice for sins". Under the law there was no provision for presumptuous sins. Some Jews, it would appear, had previously left the Jewish sacrifices, but later turned their back on the sacrifice of Christ and returned to the Jewish system. It is one thing to receive the knowledge of the truth; it is another to receive Christ (v.26). No true believer could be described as an adversary (v.27). Can a true believer treat with utter contempt the blood of the covenant (v.29)?

The word "sanctified" in v.29 is different from the use of the same word in v.10 of the chapter. There it is positional and permanent sanctification through the sacrifice of Christ, but in v.29 it is applied to the apostate Jew who has been set apart in the privileged position of hearing the gospel and yet, although he may have gone so far, he turns against it. The use of the word in this sense may be illustrated in 1 Corinthians 7.14 where Paul speaks of the unbelieving husband or the unbelieving wife as being "sanctified", not in any vital sense, for they are unbelievers, but by association with their believing partners they are in a sphere of privilege and advantage in knowing about the gospel. This is also true of unsaved children linked to believing parents. Thus the use of the word "sanctified" in Hebrews 10.29 and 1 Corinthians 7.14 does not prove that those referred to are true believers. From v.32 the Hebrew writer turns to address true believers.

John J Stubbs

Are all believers "overcomers" in the letters to the seven churches (Rev 2 and 3)?

Paul acknowledges that believers may be spiritual or carnal: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ" (1 Cor 3.1). The fact that even the carnal (those governed by the flesh) are said to be "in Christ" indicates that they were true believers. However, there is no suggestion in other New Testament Scriptures of a separation of Christians into an "overcoming class" and a "non-overcoming class".

In these letters to the seven churches we repeatedly read the expressions "To him that overcometh" (e.g. Rev 2.7), or "he that overcometh" (e.g. Rev 2.26). Indeed the use of the Greek word nikao, meaning to overcome is characteristic of John; of the 28 occasions when this verb is used in the New Testament, 24 are found in his writings (once in his Gospel, 6 times in his First Epistle and 17 times in Revelation, where twice it is rendered "conquer", once "prevail", and once "get the victory").

It would seem that "overcoming" in John's vocabulary is synonymous with "believing" in Paul's vocabulary. Thus in these seven messages, the overcomers are not a spiritual elite but, rather, genuine believers. It is a mistake to assume that everyone associated with a local assembly is real. John says, "This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith" (1 Jn 5.4, RV), or "The victory that overcame the world is this"  a victory won once-for-all, as the aorist tense shows, taking us back to that moment when each Christian was born of God, by faith believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 Jn 5.5). "He that overcometh the world" (here) is not Christ, as the victorious One, "who giveth (hath given) us the victory" (1 Cor 15.57), but the believer in Christ.

It should be observed that the promises to the overcomers in these seven churches offer only what is the common heritage of all believers.

David E West


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