What is Willful Sin in Hebrews 10?

A Premeditated Sin

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:26).

The critical term in the above passage is “sin willfully” and is similar to the rebellion against God that is described in the Old Testament as sinning “with a high hand” or “presumptuously” (Numbers 15:30-31). This sin is a sin of premeditation committed only by those who have had the advantage of great light. In the rejecting of Christ’s’ sacrifice, they discover that there is no other acceptable sacrifice for sin. (The Criswell Study Bible, p. 1438.)

This passage expresses the nature of this particular sin as “willful sin.” The passage goes on to describe a two-fold nature of the warning: 1) they set forth the negative condition that there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 2) the positive prospect of a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation (v. 27). Thus, the one who would commit such willful sin (not of ignorance nor of weakness) would be guilty of apostasy–nothing less. The one who would commit this sin of apostasy can no more sacrifice for his sin.

Does This Mean We Can Lose Our Salvation?

Is the author of Hebrews implying that one can lose his salvation? Several facts disallow that supposition. The author of Hebrews does not say believers have apostatized, nor does he say they would. The author includes himself in the warning–“For if we sin willfully.” Surely the author was not on the road to apostasy when he wrote this epistle. He makes that clear in verse 39: “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the world.” He describes his readers as saved. Even his description of the apostate concerns one who has a genuine knowledge of Christ. The author clearly does not say that anyone has committed this sin. He clearly describes what would happen, not what has happened. He is therefore describing a hypothetical situation. The severe admonition of this warning, and all others in Scripture, is God’s means to ensure our perseverance. (Liberty Home Bible Commentary, pp. 701-702.)

The true believer in Christ is secure because he is sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). The very moment a person manifests a saving faith, he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9). The believer is eternally secure, because upon believing, he was promised eternal life.

“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).

As believers we are promised by the Lord Jesus that if we come to Him, He will in no wise cast us out… and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37b). Will the Son of God keep His Word? Is God an Indian giver? Therefore, to speak of losing one’s eternal life is a direct contradiction that no honest person would dare to say!

The Scriptures give clear assurance to the believer that it is not he that keeps himself saved but it is the power of God through faith unto salvation, that is God, who does the keeping. Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (I Peter 1:5). “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24). Therefore we who are in Christ can truly praise the Lord! He … forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever… (Psalms 37:28).

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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