Willful sin

Hebrews 10:23-31: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” NKJV

The Catholic Church puts sin in two categories: “mortal” and “venial,” with the mortal sins being the more serious of the two types. We generally emphasize that sin is sin – that there are no “big sins” or “little sins,” and that any sin, if not repented of, can condemn our souls.

At the same time, however, we need to recognize the difference between “willful sin” and “inadvertent sin” or “sins of weakness!”

What is “willful sin?” God isn’t talking about mere human weakness when He warns against “willful sinning.” He is talking about the “sin of presumption,” or sinning with a “high hand!” In other words, “deliberate sin!”

According to Hebrews 10, willful sin is committed by one who has received “the knowledge of the truth” (v. 26b).

“Willful sin” is committed by someone who knows what the Bible teaches about sin and its consequences, but chooses to ignore that teaching and sin anyway.

The English word “willful” originally meant “full of will” – that is, full of one’s own will, intent on having one’s own way. Regarding sin, it means to be full of one’s own will rather than the will of God. Instead of saying, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42), the willful sinner says, “Not Your will, but mine be done!”

“Willful sin” as described here is not a one-time offense, it is persistent sin! The Greek verb in the opening phrase is in the present tense, indicating that it refers to “continuous action.”

NASB“For if we go on sinning willfully.”

NIV“If we deliberately keep on sinning.”

“Willful sin” isn’t about a specific sin or an act of sin or an act of weakness, it is a state of sinful rebellion against the will of God – “if we go on sinning, if we continue to sin, if we persist in sin.” 

It is “intentional disobedience” to God, the kind of sin called “presumptuous” in the Old Testament:

Numbers 15:30-31: “But those who brazenly (presumptuously) violate the Lord’s will, whether native-born Israelites or foreigners, have blasphemed the Lord, and they must be cut off from the community.  Since they have treated the Lord’s word with contempt and deliberately disobeyed his command, they must be completely cut off and suffer the punishment for their guilt.” NLT

Psalm 19:13 – “Keep your servant from deliberate (presumptuous) sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.” NLT

“Presumptuous sin” is deliberate sinning, it is willful sinning, it is open rebellion against God; it is the sin of apostasy; it is sin for which no sacrifice is available, it is sin for which there is no forgiveness (unless there is repentance)!

The “sin of presumption” means we deliberately “do what we want” without fear of the consequences! It is a deliberate rejection of the truth, a conscious choice to live in the kingdom of darkness.

When someone forsakes the assembling of the church (falls away), and when someone goes on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth (you know better but you do it anyway), then that person has trampled on the Son of God like He was road kill or something, and he will receive a “worse punishment” than those who died lost under the Law of Moses.

1 John 5:16-17: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” NKJV

“Willful sin” is the “sin leading to death” – it is a lifestyle of deliberate, persistent sinning:

Galatians 5:21 – “…of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” NKJV

What makes a sin “willful” is not what is done, but why it is done. Willful sin is a reflection of a rebellious heart!

Why should we be concerned about sinning willfully? Hebrews 10 gives several dangers of willful sin!

God Is Insulted: Hebrews 10:29 – “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” NKJV

Christ’s Sacrifice Is Rejected: Hebrews 10:26-27: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” NKJV

Salvation Is Forfeited: Hebrews 10:26-27: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” NKJV

  • Conclusion

Willful sin is spiritually fatal! How does one reach the point of sinning willfully? By not taking sin, any sin, seriously! Inadvertent sin, not dealt with honestly, will produce the kind of heart (hard) that can and will commit willful sin. How does one deal honestly with willful sin? “Repentance!”

True repentance is “a change of mind or attitude about sin that results in a change of life – stop the willful, deliberate, sinning.”

The best word that sums up repentance is “total surrender” – not just in the way we think, but also in the way we live.

Isaiah 1:16-17a: “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good…” NLT

In other words, repentance means to stop doing wrong – start doing right!

To truly repent means that we give our hearts completely to God and get rid of all the filth and evil in our lives.  James 1:21 – “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” NLT

 This literally means to “put off” our old man of sin like “taking off” filthy clothes:

Ephesians 4:22 – “…throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.”  NLT

1 Peter 2:1 – “So get rid of all evil behavior…” NLT

There comes a time when we must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and say “this is wrong and I want to stop.”

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