Teachings of Hebrews on the thorny issue of Apostasy

30 08 2021

When we looked at the last section verses 19-25 Apollos was speaking positively to those who believe.  In verses 26-31 Apollos is speaking to those who hold the confession but have decided to wilfully keep on sinning.

As a bonus we are also going to touch on the authorship of Hebrews and some indicators why only Apollos from all of the candidates of the New Testament could have written this magnificent book.

Christ or Judgment

26 For if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Hebrews 10:26-39

When we turn to action (ethics)we need to remember that this was a Christian community.  Before we look at this section it is good just to reflect on what Apollos has taught us along the way.  The important theme is faith.  As believers in Christ, we are called to live ‘in Him’.  The writer has already spoken of the two ways when the people of God under Moses walked through the Wilderness and so often, they chose the way of unbelief.  Only Joshua and Caleb out of that whole generation made it into the promised land with their descendants of course.  The special ingredient was faith.  We are warned not to continue turning our backs on Christ wilfully and continue living as though Christ’s work on the cross meant nothing.   Apollos is correct to remind us that we shouldn’t take our Lord’s sacrifice for granted. Be careful my friends.   If you’re not a believer yet, this does not concern you because from the theological stance you haven’t come into a covenant relationship with Christ although the invitation is always open and there is no force.  Christ knocks at the door of your heart, and he invites you to dine with him into eternity.

Verse 26

26 For if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

Obviously, all Christians sin but this is aimed at the apostates.  Those who completely turn their backs on Christ.  It is also a rejection of the death of Christ on the cross.  Apostates have only themselves to blame.

Verse 27-31

27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Apollos begins quoting from the great Isaiah.  Then he is reminding his readers of the legal aspects of judgement under the law of Moses.  It only took two or three witnesses to condemn a fellow Israelite to death. Apollos seems to be quoting from Isaiah:

11 O LORD, Your hand is lifted up, yet they do not see it.

They see Your zeal for the people and are put to shame;

Indeed, fire will devour Your enemies. Isaiah 26:11

Apollos gets very graphic about the role the apostates play with the atoning work of Christ. Trampling the sacrifice of Christ is a sin that will never be forgiven as it is a sin against the Holy Spirit. 

Notes

The Holy Spirit is very active in the Book of Hebrews.  In the majority of places in Hebrews, the Holy Spirit is referred to as ‘Holy Spirit’.  In two places however he is referred to as the ‘Eternal Spirit’ (9.14) and the Spirit of Grace (10.29).  Apollos definitely had a strong belief in the work of the Holy Spirit.  In the Acts of the Apostles, we find Apollos with other disciples being taught about the Holy Spirit (Acts 18:24 – 19:10).  In the passage below we see Apollos and other disciples being taught about the Holy Spirit.  As in many churches around the world today there are ecstatic experiences going on linked to the person of the Holy Spirit.  You might come to a different conclusion to me but at least have a read of the passage below:

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Paul at Ephesus

1 It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus and found some disciples. 2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7 There were in all about twelve men.

8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 18:24 – 19:10 NASB

The notes give us some incredible information about Apollos.  In fact, after the problems were sorted out in Corinth, there is a tradition that he returned and became a leader there.   

Verse 30-31

We see Pauline influence on Apollos as well with the quote ‘vengeance is mine’:

35 ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,

In due time their foot will slip;

For the day of their calamity is near,

And the impending things are hastening upon them.’ Deuteronomy 32:35

It is also quoted by Saint Paul:

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 NASB

God will judge the Apostate, we are called to show love to everyone:

31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

Reflection

God created us and he sent his only Son into the world to make it possible for us to find peace with God.  Unfortunately, there are those who pretend to be Christians but actually do it for other ulterior motives.  Apollos shows us that the person who tramples the works of Christ into the ground have sinned against the Holy Spirit… Could this be the unforgivable sin?  Apollos did not mince words here. 

Indicators of Authorship

For me, reading about Apollos and what he learned about the Holy Spirit from other believers including Saint Paul; If Apollos was the author of the book of Hebrews I would expect to see a strong pneumatology withing Hebrews.  There is a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit in the book of Hebrews.  It can at times seems veiled for examples:

  1. ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ Hebrews 2.4
  2. ‘The Holy Spirit says’ Hebrews 3.7
  3. ‘Partakers of the Holy Spirit’ Hebrews 6.4
  4. 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will Hebrews 2:4
  5. ‘the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying’ Hebrews 10:15

The Holy Spirit is ‘personal’ in the book of Hebrews.  This is a high theology of God.  A person gives gifts; a person speaks; persons share with others; language and signs belong to personal communication.  There are those who say that Hebrews was influenced by Philo but this is nonsense.  Obviously, Apollos may have used philonic language but Apollos says the opposite.  The Puritans proved that Hebrews is a complete refutation of Philo’s teachings!

https://www.apuritansmind.com/apologetics/the-author-of-hebrews-philo-and-the-doctrine-of-the-logos-by-dr-c-matthew-mcmahon/

Remember that Philo was working from Alexandria the greatest learning centre of the ancient world and he died in the ad 40’s! Certainly, Apollos being a ‘learned man’ would have learned about this branch of Judaism.  What we have learned about Apollos and why he is an excellent candidate for the writer of Hebrews.

  1. The writer to the Hebrews had a strong pneumatology so did Apollos
  2. The writer to the Hebrews was eloquent in Alexandrian Greek so was Apollos.
  3. The book of Hebrews is a refutation of Philo’s teachings, only Apollos from the New Testament could have done this because he was a learned man from ‘Alexandria’.
  4. The opening verses in the book of Hebrews is some of the best Greek, ancient or modern, only a person with the calibre of Apollos could have written it. Paul although educated does not match the standard (sorry but it is true).

These then are some reasons why I am convinced that Apollos wrote it.   I’m sure there are a lot more. 

Next time we will look at verses 32-39.  We move away from the Apostates, and we begin the run up to one of the greatest chapters in the Bible on the topic of faith.  These Christians were suffering persecution, but Apollos will bring the believers out of the valley and to the mountain top of Faith where we can see over the horizon into heaven itself. 

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