Tramping Under Foot The Son Of God
Message given at The Moody Church by Rev. William A. Dean, Pastor of Aldan Union Church, Aldan, Pennsylvania.
“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”—Hebrews 10:26-29
A covenant is an agreement. Through the Old Testament and the New Testament we have records of various covenants—covenants set up between men and God. There are many different ways of sealing, certifying and binding covenants. Perhaps, the simplest of all covenants was the water covenant. The giving or receiving of a cup of water was to the easterner and the ancient a testimony of a covenant, a pledge of temporary friendship.
When Abraham sent his servant to get a bride for Isaac, he said to God, “When the maiden comes that thou hast chosen for Isaac, my master’s son, and I ask her for a drink of water, let her not only give me the water as a sign of friendship, but let her say, ‘Drink, sir, and I’ll water thy camels also.’” And sure enough it happened just exactly as he prayed, and when Rebecca came she designated not only an offer of friendship to him, but to water his camels also. It was the same way that Jacob met his future bride at a well of water and he offered to water her sheep for her. She accepted the offer. It was a pledge of friendship. Moses met his future bride at a well of water when he watered her sheep for her. And so, when Jesus sat one day at a well curb at Sychar and said to a woman of Samaria, “Give me to drink,” she was amazed and said, “How is it that thou being a Jew asketh drink of me a woman of Samaria?” And John adds, “For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” It was more than just asking her to slake His thirst, it was the symbol of a temporary friendship that He was asking from that woman.
More binding than the water covenant, more solemn was the bread covenant. If you ate a man’s bread you pledged yourself to be his friend as long as you lived. We still indicate friendship by sitting at a man’s table and eating of his bread. That’s the pledge of friendship even in these days. But to the easterner in olden days that was a very, very solemn thing to do. You remember when Joshua led the people of Israel into the promised land and they were camping in Gilgal, and one day there came into their camp a group of men with old water skins that were rent and dried and cracked open, with moldy bread in their knapsacks, and with their feet all bound up in old rags and clouts, and Joshua asked them from whence they had come and they said, “We have come on a very long journey. These water skins were new when we left home and look at them now. This bread was fresh from our ovens when we left home and look at it now; all dry, hard and moldy. These shoes were new when we left home and look at them now; all worn out by reason of the long journey that we have taken to come and make peace with you because we heard that your God is a great God.” And Joshua sat down and ate bread with those men and made a covenant of friendship with them, and then discovered the next day that they lived just ten miles away across the mountains. And the people of Israel were incensed and they said to Joshua, “Let’s march on their city and destroy it. Let’s put them to the sword for deceiving us that way” and Joshua said, “We dare not do that. We ate bread with them. We promised to be their friends for as long as we live. That was a very solemn thing we did and though they betrayed us and deceived us, we must not go back on our pledge for we have eaten of their bread.”
To give or receive salt as a pledge of a covenant meant that you pledged the covenant forever. David, when his family seemed to be going all to pieces, and he looked over that group of sons that sat around his table and considered the standards that God had laid down for the king and then remembered that God had promised to put one of his sons on the throne and David said, “I don’t see how God can do it. There is not one of my sons measures up to that standard. I don’t see how God can possibly fulfill that promise and yet He’s made a covenant of salt with me, an everlasting covenant and I believe God will keep His Word.” To give or receive salt was a covenant that should last from generation to generation.
But most binding of all was the blood covenant. When a covenant was sealed by the shedding of blood or sometimes by blood transfusion or the drinking of one another’s blood, that was the most solemn covenant of all—a blood covenant, and we are talking in these verses about a blood covenant that God has offered unto man.
All the way through the 9th and 10th chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews there is sounded a note of absolute finality. All the way through chapter 9 we read the constant repetition of the word once, once, once, once. Once the Son of God has come down from heaven. Once He’s offered Himself a sacrifice that never needs to be repeated. Once by virtue of His own precious blood He is entered into the presence of God in heaven in our behalf. Once—once, an action that never needs to be repeated. For over against the ceaseless, endless, unsatisfying offerings of the Old Testament is this one sacrifice of the Son of God. And then, as we move over into chapter 10 we keep reading the word no more, no more, no more, no more—the absolute finality of the work of Jesus Christ. In the beginning of chapter 10 we read these words. “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.” No more conscience of sins.
All the way through the epistle to the Hebrews the word perfect refers to a relationship to God. A relationship to God that never was possible under the old covenant based upon the blood of bulls and goats, of lambs and doves, a relationship to God that not the priest or greatest saint under the old covenant could ever attain, but a relationship to God that is the present blessed experience of every believer in Jesus Christ. Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace nor wash away the stains, but Christ the Heavenly Lamb takes all our sins away, a sacrifice of richer name and greater blood than they. The law had a shadow of good things to come, but it could never, with those sacrifices which they offered year by year, continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. If they could have made a man perfect, if they could have given him a perfect relationship to God, would they not have ceased to be offered because the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sin?
Now, mark it, He doesn’t say that once purged you would have no more conscience of being a sinner. The man or woman the farthest from God in this house tonight is that one who is unconscious he is a sinner. The nearer you get to God the more sensitive you become about sin. The more intimately you walk with God the more your eyes are open to understand that things in your life are sinful in the eyes of a holy God. But, He says once purged the worshipper has no more conscience of sins. That is, he has no more burden of guilt upon his conscience. Once the conscience is completely purged there is no more load of guilt upon that conscience. He doesn’t fear to meet God face to face. But that perfect conscience was never possible under the old covenant, for we read in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
Back in the 16th chapter in the Book of Leviticus in the description of the great day of atonement—Yom Kipper—we read that when the priest as the representative of the nation of Israel laid his hands upon the goat that was to be sacrificed and later upon the other goat that was to be led out in the wilderness, he confessed all the sins of the people of Israel, not just the sins committed in the last year, but all their sins. For this verse says there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. Suppose I were a Hebrew back there under that old covenant and I sold some sheep to a neighbor and when I sold those sheep I knew they were sick. I lied to that man, I deceived him and cheated him when I sold him those sheep. My conscience begins to trouble me. I can’t talk to God, I can’t pray. The joy has gone out of living and at last I say to my family, “I must go down to the tabernacle of God. I must confess my sin and get this thing made right with God.” And I go down and there in the presence of the priest before the altar of God I lay my hands upon the substitute that I am to offer as a sacrifice and I confess to God that I have been a liar, a cheat, a thief, and I ask God to forgive my sins and to accept this lamb that I am bringing Him as a sin offering, and I slay the lamb. The priest takes the blood into the tabernacle and he comes out and upon the authority of the promise of God given in the law he says to me, “Your sins are forgiven.” I came down to confess to God that I was a liar and a cheat, a thief, and God says my sins are forgiven. But how many lambs will it take to equal the value of a human soul? The law of God says the soul that sins shall die and I have confessed to God that I am a guilty sinner. How can a righteous God forgive me when all that died was a lamb? And so, when the day of atonement comes around and all Israel are gathered together and the priest, a representative, lays his hand upon the head of the goat and calls out to that great multitude and says, “Confess your sins.” I cry out, “Oh, God, forgive me for being a liar and a cheat and a thief six months ago.” And the priest slays the goat and he takes the blood this time all the way into the inner sanctuary, into the holy of holies and sprinkles it there upon the mercy seat and he comes out and upon the authority of the law of God he says to this people, “Your sins are forgiven,” and I go home rejoicing. But conscience says to me, “How can God forgive your sins?” The law of God says the soul that sins shall die, and you confessed to God that you were a sinner and all that died was a goat. How can a righteous God forgive your sins?
Next year I am down there again on the day of atonement and I cry out, “Oh, God, forgive me for eighteen months ago I was a liar and a cheat and a thief,” and there is a remembrance again made of sin every year, so that you find David crying out to God in a psalm like the 25th Psalm, an old man, and saying, “Oh, Lord, remember not the sins of my youth.” He has confessed them again and again. He has asked God again and again for pardon, sacrifice upon sacrifice has been offered, and yet he has no perfect conscience for all that died were lambs and goats, and doves, and how many of them will it take to equal the value of a human soul and how can God forgive the sinner? And he doesn’t understand. Those sacrifices could never make the comer thereunto perfect, for then would they not have ceased to be offered because the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sin. But, in those sacrifices there was a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus came into the world He said, “Sacrifices and offerings thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.” Then said I, “Lo, I come, in the volume of the Book it is written of me to do thy will, oh God, by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, for by that one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified.” And when you by faith in the precious blood of the Son of God whom God provided to be the Lamb to take away the sin of the world, have been set apart to God, your relationship to God is perfect and all the burden of guilt is lifted from the conscience. There is no more conscience of sin.
In the 17th verse of this 10th chapter we meet the word no more a second time, and there God says, “Under the terms of the new covenant that I make with you through the blood of Jesus Christ, I have said their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” I don’t know of any more wonderful statement than that in all of the Word of God, that God who can write history before it comes to pass, that God can foretell the future and look down across the ages and predict to its nicest detail what shall happen, could ever forget anything, but God says, “Your sins and your iniquities, I will in no wise remember them any more.” On that same day of atonement, looking forward to what God was going to do by the blood of Christ, they confessed their sins over the head of a live goat and the goat was lead out into the wilderness and lost. But in the specific directions that were given in the service on that day of atonement you read that they should turn that live goat over into the hands of a fit man, who should lead him down into the wilderness and lose him there. A fit man. That must be no novice, that must be no careless fellow who would take that goat a few miles out of town and stone him and let him go. This must be a man who would take that goat so far down into the wilderness that he would never return again, for that was looking forward to that which God was to do through the precious blood of the Son of God when in forgiving our sins He should wipe out the remembrance of them forevermore and God says to those who have entered into this new covenant, made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Then, in the light of those two verses we would expect to read what we read in the 18th verse that “there is no more offering for sin.” If I have no more load of guilt upon my conscience and if God has no more record of my sin in the courts of Heaven, there is no more need for me to offer a sacrifice to God. There is no more offering for sin. My conscience doesn’t require it. My conscience tells me that the account is settled and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth from all sin and God doesn’t require it, for in the Books of Heaven God says, “I have blotted out your sins, and your sins and your iniquities I will remember them no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these there is no more offering for sin; no more guilty conscience on my part; no more remembrance on God’s part; no more need of offering anything to God to clear up the sin question.
But, the 26th verse says, “If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Now, all through the epistle to the Hebrews there is one sin that is being considered. It is the root sin, the fundamental sin of unbelief. God is not concerned here with any other sin than that. It is unbelief and if we will not believe after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no more sacrifice for sin. God has no other provision; God has no other way. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” If that word sin means anything else than unbelief there is no hope for any of you, for every one of us has sinned since we heard about the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not one of us who has lived a sinless life, without sin in word, or act or thought. But He says here if we just will not believe—and to believe means to deposit one’s soul with Christ—if we just will not believe after we have received the knowledge of the truth there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin. God has no other provision to make. All that remains is a sure, fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. I don’t know of anything that was more of a stumbling block to me in my early Christian experience than the statement of that verse. That there was a sure, fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation upon those who just would not believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My friends were all godless friends. I traveled with a godless crowd, but they were more generous, they were more cheerful, they were more sincere than multitudes of people that I knew in the church. They were a lot nicer, they were a lot easier to get along with, they weren’t nearly so cantankerous and full of backbiting and nastiness and meanness as a lot of people in the church, and for God to say that these refined, cultured, generous, big-hearted, cheerful friends of mine were all condemned to judgment and fiery indignation simply because they didn’t believe in Jesus, I resented it. But the verses that follow justify God in that condemnation. He says, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.” There was every hope in the world for the man that broke Moses’ law, there was every provision to pardon the man who had failed to live up to God’s requirements. He might bring his sacrifices, he might confess his sin, he might receive pardon, but the man that despised Moses’ law, the man who refused to accept it, the man who refused to put himself under it, the man who resented God’s right of sovereignty over him, he died without mercy under two or three witnesses and they all agreed that that was just.
God cannot permit spiritual anarchy. God must judge rebellion against God’s lordship, then, “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”