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Insulting The Spirit Of Grace


"How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:29 NIV).  What does it mean to insult the Spirit of grace?       


The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were entertaining the idea of reverting back to an Old Testament Jewish legalism laced with humanistic rabbinical traditions.  The intent of this letter was to encourage its readers to persevere in their faith in Jesus despite the hardships imposed on them by a government that recognized Judaism as a legal religion but failed to do the same with Christianity.  Reverting back to Judaism might have freed these people from persecution but in the process they would have rejected the grace of God that was demonstrated in the shed blood of Jesus.  It would have been an insult to the Spirit of grace.   


The immediate context of this insult goes back to verses 26 and 27.  "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God."  The phrase "keeps on sinning" is a present active Greek participle.  This verbal phrase emphasizes a lifestyle of sin, not any one particular sin that a believer might commit.  It speaks to those who have received the knowledge of the truth but live as if they haven't received it.  The specific knowledge referenced here is that Jesus has replaced, or to be more precise, fulfilled the legalities of the Law of Moses.       


In verse 27 the Greek word "lambano" is translated as "received," as in "received the knowledge of the truth."  In context, the meaning of this Greek word implies that those who have received the knowledge of the truth have not necessarily allowed it to produce its desired effects, and thus the reason for their thoughts of backsliding into legalism.  If they did backslide into legalism, they would forfeit the only sacrifice God made for sin.  The Levitical sacrifices they were considering would be useless.  They would be eternally lost in the fire of God's judgment.   


I was raised in a Christian environment that emphasized obedience to church rules that were considered Biblical but were in fact both legalistic and humanistic in nature.  When I set many  of these rules aside in my early 20's I was considered a backslider by some people.  According to this passage, one who chooses to obey humanistic legalism for the purpose of maintaining his salvation is the backslider, not me. 


This passage should be a warning to all Christians.  Any attempt to replace God's grace with any kind of humanistic legalism, Evangelical Christian legalism included, is insulting the Spirit of grace.  Any attempt to take advantage of God's grace and turn it into a license to sin, insults the Spirit of grace.  God's grace as seen in the shed blood of Jesus must not be tampered with or trampled upon, and if it is, it is an insult to the Spirit of grace. 


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