Hebrews 10:26 has struck fear in many a heart over the years. Some say it proves Jesus’s sacrifice only covers sins committed before we convert. After that, salvation depends on us not sinning. Ironically, this leads us back into a system where our consciences can never be clean because sin remains uncovered. Such thinking is held despite the fact the writer just told us Jesus’s one offering has cleansed our consciences and removed sin forever (Heb. 10:14, 18-22).
First, it is important to understand the word “sin” in context. We need to go back to chapter 3 where we read about Israel failing to enter the land. The writer asks who didn’t enter the promised land, and tells us it was those “who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness” (Heb. 3:17). He ends the chapter by saying, “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19). He begins chapter four by urging us to believe the gospel so that we can enter God’s rest in Christ. Sin, in context, is not believing the gospel, and failing to enter into the promised rest of Christ.
Second, we need to remember why there is no sacrifice for sins left. It is not because Jesus’s sacrifice only covers sins up to the point of conversion. The writer has just told us, “Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin” (Heb. 10:18).
Jesus offered one sacrifice for all time. He brought an end to the repeated sacrifices of the law. Complete forgiveness is available to us. If we sin by not believing the gospel, by rejecting Christ’s one offering, there is no other offering.
Consider that this letter was written to Jewish converts who were under enormous social pressure to return to Judaism. They might’ve had their own doubts to overcome as well. It would’ve been tempting (and easier, socially) to forget this whole Jesus thing and go back to the old covenant. Every year, the high priest sacrificed an animal to take care of sin. Why would you need Jesus?
This is why the writer of Hebrews points out that repeated sacrifices don’t remove sin or cleanse the conscience because they actually remind of sin and keep the conscience defiled. Only Christ’s one, perfect offering can meet our need.
If a person rejects this one, perfect offering and returns to the law, he tramples the Son of God; he agrees Jesus was a false prophet and should’ve been executed. He also treats the blood of the new covenant (which actually sanctified him) as common, like the repeated sacrifices of the old covenant (which could never sanctify) (Heb. 10:29). This is an insult to the Spirit of grace, to a Father who didn’t even spare His Son but gave Him up for us (Rom. 8:32). Rejecting Jesus’s sacrifice is rejecting the only offering there is, along with forgiveness. The sacrifices of the law having ended, the only alternative is “a terrifying expectation of judgment” (Heb. 10:27).
Hebrews 10:26 should not cause us to be anxious or afraid. In the strongest terms possible, it is assuring us that Jesus’s sacrifice is all we will ever need. We do not need another sacrifice or some repeated way to cleanse from sin. As first John says, “My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins….” (1 John 2:1-2).