“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” is the best any of us can do really, but thank God it is enough. —Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat
Two men are chatting, and one said to the other, “Did you watch the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight?”
“Oh yeah, I did!” And they rehash the fight.
Minutes later, a third man joins them. The conversation comes full circle when the first man says, “You know, the fight didn’t live up to the hype.”
Now, you know what fight he’s talking about because I named it earlier, but the third gentleman has no idea. Why? He missed the antecedent; he didn’t know the subject of the sentence that came before.
This concept of finding the antecedent is part of hermeneutics—discovering the original meaning of the biblical text and applying it to today. As we look at our frightening passage from Hebrews 10:26-27, we need to find an important antecedent:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (emphasis added)
What is the sin? The Greek word is hamartia, and it means “to fall short.” The early church defined it as sexual sin, but it could just as easily be pride or gluttony or lust. But rather than speculate, we use hermeneutics.
Hamartia appears in only one other place in Hebrews, and it’s antecedent—or prior—to this text.
In Hebrews 3:16-17, we are told Israel heard and rebelled: Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? (emphasis added). Hamartia. As a result they wandered, not able to enter [God’s rest], because of their unbelief (3:19).
What was the sin of Israel in Hebrews 3:16-19? Unbelief.
Just as the Israelites in Hebrews 3 missed God’s rest, some listeners of Hebrews 10 were risking the same. They, too, were risking death and judgment as a result. The sin of Hebrews 10:26 is the same as Hebrews 3:19—unbelief. Those of us who hear the Gospel but don’t respond—toe dippers—are in great danger.
Lord, if doubt plagues me and keeps me on the edge, free me into faith. Amen.