Made Holy Forever by One Sacrifice (Hebrews Sermon 39 of 74)
September 04, 2011 | Andrew Davis
In Search of Perfection
Andrew M. Davis: So on to focus your mind this morning, immediately on Pivotal text in our section of scripture today, I want you to look at Hebrews 10:14. I really do mean for you to look there if you have copies of the Bible. It's just helpful to look at the text as I'm preaching because all I'm going to do is go phrase by phrase, as usual, and explain it, and you'll be able to track. And my desire is that you would take the teaching that the spirit gives you during this time and marry it or link it together with phrases or text, or words that are in the text, so that you can remember it later and you go back and as you read Hebrews 10:11-18, you'll be able to call to mind again the things that are unfolded for us today.
But I want to focus immediately on verse 14. It's just one of those sterling verses those glittering verses that you can just remember for years to come. It says, "Because or for by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." It's an Incredible verse. And it brings our mind immediately to consider the topic of perfection that we think about the issue of perfection or being perfect. What does it mean to be perfect? We use that word from time to time, maybe not every day, But we think about the topic of perfection. It's been in front of philosophers, and religionist for since time immemorial, Greek philosophers worked on the concept of perfection Aristotle said there are three elements or aspects, perhaps to perfection, something is said to be perfect, if it's complete having all of the necessary parts. He used the word perfect in that way, or something secondly, so good that it cannot be in any way, improved upon.
Or thirdly, he said something which absolutely or finely in every way attains its purpose. That's what Aristotle thought about Perfect. I think it's probably valid. Those insights do link up with the concept of perfection. We use it in various realms of experience like in mathematics. There's something called a perfect number, Something like that. In science, there are perfect... There's a perfect gas, or a perfect crystal, something like that. We use that word.
Gems, people always looking for the perfect diamond, I think that that's probably behind the pearl of great price, the parable that Jesus told of an expert in pearls, who spent his whole life looking for... We would have to just stick the word in there. The perfect pearl. He had in mind what it would look like the size of it. Its shape, its color etcetera. He knew what he was looking for, a connoisseur of pearls spent his whole life and finally found one worth more than anything he'd ever seen in his life. You have to say, "Is this the perfect pearl?" He would say "Yes, as far as I can understand a perfect pearl this is it."
In baseball there such a thing as a perfect game I'm such a purist, I just think a perfect game is 81 pitches, all of them strikes. And the batter didn't even need to bring his bat, okay? Because he's not touching the ball. That's never happened. Probably never will, but that's my idea of a perfectly pitched baseball game. Alright, but basically the pitcher gets every 27 all 27 men out, They don't succeed to get on base. That's a perfect game. There's just not many of them.
You know in everyday life, we probably hear the word, most frequently in this expression. No one's perfect. And here we come to the real issue, and that is that as we look around this world, as it says in Psalm 119:96, "To all perfection, I see a limit, But your testimonies are boundless." So, he's comparing what he sees in the physical realm around us with the pure, the perfect word of God, there Psalm 119, the testimony, the greatness of the scripture. And he says, I just see flaws everywhere when it comes to us as human beings, we know that we are not perfect, we're not physically perfect. We know that as you look in the mirror, you can see flaws. You have, in your mind, an image of what a perfect man or a perfect woman would look like, 'cause you look in the mirror and you see flaws and deficiencies just physically as you get older, as your body doesn't work as well as it used to. You can see, you're not perfect, physically, you're actually heading toward death and you know that your body systems are falling apart, to some level.
But none of that troubles us Christians anywhere near as much as the fact that we are sinners, and that we do not line up with the perfect standard of the Law of God, that we are morally imperfect that we are morally impure. That's what causes us grief and we have a sense through the Word of God that we must be morally pure, perfect to be in the presence of God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, "You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." Other verses teach it without using the word perfect. "Be holy because I am holy." Be perfectly separated and pure from sin. "God is light, and in Him, there's no darkness at all." We can't bring any contagion of sin into His presence, if we hope to be with him and live with him, we must be perfect and the glorious good news of the gospel. Look again in verse 14, if you are a Christian, this verse declares that you are perfect right now. You are already perfect, by one sacrifice Jesus has already made you perfect. It's an incredible teaching. The past tense is there by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever etcetera.
And so this is a declaration that we are perfect in some sense, and I want to unfold what that means to try to understand the nature of that perfection. And then to try to understand the yearning that we have inside us stated, I think, very plainly for in 2 Corinthians Chapter 13, "Aim for perfection." That we have within ourselves, a sense of what the perfect Christian life looks like, That we would wake up tomorrow morning and say, "I want God today the perfect Monday. I want to live in perfect obedience to your laws today. I yearn for it." And how do we put those together? That's what's in front of us in this one text Hebrews 10:14.
But let's get the context for it, as we try to understand how it fits in and try not to go astray, we want to interpret everything in context, and try to get it properly.
And so we're right in the middle of Hebrews 10:1-18, and this is the doctrinal pinnacle of the book. Really from 10:19, I think to the end of the book, more or less, all the author's doing is telling you how we should live based on the doctrines we've learned in the first 10 chapters, so we're going to get, we're turning a corner as of next week, and we're going to leave the doctrinal considerations of the atonement, and the blood, Jesus' priestly sacrifice, these things that have been occupying our minds for months now, really in Hebrews, And we're going to start asking the question, "Okay, now how shall we live?" We'll start that very thing next week.
But here we come to the culmination, the pinnacle of the doctrinal section of the Book of Hebrews, the book of Hebrews was written I believe, to Jewish people who had made a profession of faith in Christ, in the first century there. But under tremendous pressure, various pressures, they're being tempted to turn their backs on their profession and to go astray from Christ, and to go specifically back to the Old Covenant back to the Old Testament, sacrificial system back to the animals, analytical priest, all of that. So the author gives us just magnificent 10 chapters of the greatness of Jesus Christ, His glory. How much greater He is than the Old Testament prophets and the angels greater than Moses, greater than Aaron and Levi and Abraham and all the heroes of old. And then, specifically, as he zeros in on what the Old Covenant did greater as a high priest to offer a greater sacrifice that is effective for removing sin.
And praise God for the book of Hebrews. That's all I can say. I think without this what I would call a linchpin book here. We really would wonder what the Old Covenant was all about. I think without Hebrews, we just didn't have it. We had 65 books in the Bible we just didn't have Hebrews. I would personally be wondering what was all that about? Maybe there's enough in other places to try to understand it, but there's just so many insights that come to us by studying Hebrews that we wouldn't have, I think, any other way.
And so, in a magnificent way this book of Hebrews just pulls together the old covenant and the new and explains it, It explains why did God institute, the animal sacrificial system and Why do we need it no longer. The Book of Hebrew stands in the gap between the two and explains it so beautifully. And so, in this chapter, already we've had Hebrews 10:1-10, we're assured in verse 4 that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away human sin. It's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away human sin. We have pitted against the blood of bulls and goats, the Body of Christ, the physical body. "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me." And so we have the Doctrine of the Incarnation. Talked about it last week, how God the Father knit Jesus's body together, inside the womb, of His mother, Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit and so Jesus was fashioned a normal ordinary human body, He was truly man, and He also was fully and truly God. And so He came to die. And so we have these things, compared, the blood of bulls and goats ineffective with the body of Jesus, which was given for us.
And so in verse 10, we have by that will, the will of God, to establish this New Covenant, "By that will we have been made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all." So that's where we ended it last time.
I. The Superiority of Christ’s Priestly Ministry (vs. 11-12)
Now, we go on into verses 11-18. And so he immediately talks about the superiority of Christ priestly ministry look at verses 11 and 12, "Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties. Again and again, he offers the same sacrifices which can never take away sins, but when this priest had offered for all time, one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God." So here, one last time, we have declared for us very plainly the superiority of Christ's priestly ministry.
Five Points of Superiority
Final summary of this doctrinal section. And so he's going to compare Christ to the Levitical priest at five quickly, just five ways. This is really by way of repetition. We've already had these kinds of things, but just very quickly, he compares Christ with the Levitical priest in the issue of time, the issue of person, the issue of His physical posture, His sacrifice, and His effectiveness. These five things. So because it's review I can go through it quickly. We have the issue of time, day after day in verse 11, and also, again and again, do you see that. Day after day and again and again, compared with in Verse 12, one sacrifice. This priest had offered for all time, one sacrifice for sin. So the endless repetition is compared with the once for all nature. We've already seen that before, don't need belabor the point.
Secondly, the person. Day after day, every priest stands. Etcetera. So we have the sense of a plurality of priest. There were many of those priests. The author has told us. We've already been through this before again, by way of review. There were lots of those Levitical priests, many of them, all of them sinners. But again, contrast in verse 12, but when this priest had offered etcetera. So we have a clear contrast of the actual person, we have the sublime person of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, He is the radiance of God's glory, He is the Son of God, took on a human body, compared with these sinful descendants of Aaron of Levi. That's who we have.
So we have person then we have His posture. I'm going to talk more about this in a moment, but it says every day or day after day, every priest stands to perform his religious duties. "But when this priest had offered for all time, one sacrifice for sins, He sat down." So we have a contrast of the standing priests plural with the seated priest singular. Again, the author is saying that those priests had to continually offer their sacrifice their works are never done.
It's always more animal bloodshed because it's ineffective. And they were under the law, to keep doing it. There were no days off. It's like, "Hey, Israelites if we can just take one day off from sinning I'd like to take a day off from offering the blood." But there won't be any days off. And so they're continually needing to offer these sacrifices. Jesus doesn't need to do that. And so He sits down, it says. We'll talk more about that in a moment. And so we also see the sacrifice day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties again and again. He offers, what does it say, the same sacrifices. Here we go again. The same things. Bulls and lambs and sheep, goats and pigeons and doves, it's the same thing over and over, it's just animals. But when this priest had offered for all time, one sacrifice, that body which we just referred to in the first 10 verses, referred to a predicted in Psalm 40, "A body you prepared for me." That was the one perfect final sacrifice, we talked about last week.
And then the final point of comparison, the effectiveness. Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties, again and again, he offers the same sacrifices which can never take away sins, they're ineffective. They were just types, shadows, pictures, they were not the reality, they couldn't do anything. But Jesus's blood can. And we have this incredible picture of the effectiveness of Jesus, and so we come to this question of just the total ineffectiveness of human devices for making sinful people like us right in the side of God. There's nothing we can contrive to do that. Two great categories of contrivances, false religions, and human moral striving, and effort. Those are the two great things that we try to do.
I had the opportunity, earlier this summer to see first hand Tibetan Buddhism. It's remarkable to me to see the number of Westerners that were there, and we would talk to some of them from Germany or Russia, or America who came to Kathmandu, thinking that they would find spiritual enlightenment there. And what they found at the center of that Tibetan Buddhist system was this big stupa, this huge kind of round building with whitewashed steps that led nowhere. You go up to this kind of portico area, and you can just walk around the thing, that's it, it doesn't go anywhere, it doesn't do anything. You can't get inside it. There are these weird human eyes painted at the top, there are these long ropes going up to the pinnacle, there are these prayer flags fluttering in the stiff breeze and that's it, and they walk around and around thinking to reduce their karma and to be enlightened, and they spin these prayer wheels and that's it, that's a human contrivance, God didn't command these things to be done. They can't make a sinner right in the side of a holy God, they can't take away our conscience of wickedness, they can't clean a defiled conscience, it's ineffective. So also, every other human religion.
The same also with that human moral striving, the turning over a new leaf-ism. Taking care of the alcohol problem or the sexual addiction or the problem with anger, anger management, whatever it is you try to do, you may actually see some improvements in specific areas in your life. All that's going to do is stoke your pride to make you think you don't need Jesus. It's not effective for appeasing the wrath of God or making you righteous in God's sight, and it really can't cleanse your guilty conscience. It's ineffective.
Friends, if even the animal sacrificial system that came down from on high established by the Word of God is ineffective how much more these human contrivances that God never commanded nor did they enter His mind. Ineffective. But there is something praise God that is effective. For reconciling sinners like us and making us according to the verse, perfect and in God's sight. Oh, how sweet is that truth. There is one way, there is only one way, and it's Jesus. By this one sacrifice and that's what we have. Is it effective, is it enough? Is it enough?
I was thinking about that is the blood of Jesus enough for me? So I pictured in my mind. I don't know why I was picturing this a young boy, maybe not little boy, but he may be an adolescent in the colonial days and he's left by some uncle in some inn somewhere. And he's left with a little wooden box. And this is a rustic lad, he doesn't have much education and worldly wisdom or in currency or any of these sort of things. He just says that his uncle told them that everything he needs is going to be in that box. Well, he brings the box of the Innkeeper and sets it up on the platform and says, "Is this enough for my room and board for the week?" The Innkeeper, a scrupulously honest man opens up the box and finds inside dozens and dozens and dozens of gold coins. Is this enough? One of these coins would be enough for a month of room and board here. This is more than enough.
Friends, I tell you the blood of Jesus is more than enough for your sins, infinitely so. It is a treasury of merits that is infinite, in value. And I know that that word was used by medieval Catholic theologians to speak of the acts of the saints, the extra credit that they had gotten by being more righteous than God, needed in this world. How do you do that? I don't think you can, it's not possible to do more than God's will. You can certainly do less. I've done that before, so have you. But how do you do more? It's impossible. They had this idea of a box, a treasury of merits and the Pope could dispense these merits. Forget all that. I'm just taking the language. Treasury of merit. Yet the real treasury of merit is Jesus and out of the box of what He has achieved on the cross, come all the good things in your life, including full forgiveness of sins. It's more than enough it's effective.
II. Christ Seated at the Right Hand of God... and Waiting (vs. 12-13)
And so it says, When He had offered this sacrifice, He sat down at the right hand of God and He is there waiting, it says, look at verses 12-13, "When this priest had offered for all time, one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God and since that time, He waits for His enemies, to be made His foot stool." So there He is, at the right hand of God, the Scripture says that He is seated. Four times in the Book of Hebrews, that doctrine is given to us, it's there right at the beginning in Hebrews 1:3, "Son is a radiance of God's glory, the exact representation of His being, and sustaining all things by His powerful word, and after He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven."
And so that's a picture of Jesus, seated on a throne of divine glory as the Son of God. So there's a sense in aura of divine radiance, around that being seated. In Hebrews 8:1-2, it's a seed of priestly glory, it says, "We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary. The true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man." And so, the picture there is of His accomplished priestly work, which we pick up here again in Chapter 10, but also of His ongoing ministry. He's seated and He serves. So the sacrifice has been offered, once for all, but the ongoing intercessory ministry He continues to pray for us at the right hand of God.
Here we have a seed of perfect sacrificial achievement. He sits down. Because there's no more work to do, it's done. And then in chapter 12, we'll see it one more time. It says there in 12:2, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." And so there is a picture of the victor, the champion, He has run His race with endurance, He has received the victor's wreath and He sits down in triumph and glory, having achieved our salvation for us. Four times we have this image of Jesus seated at the right hand of God. It's a position of access to God. And it's a position of power over the world, I think those are the two reasons that we're told this.
He's at the right hand of God, so He can speak to his father on our behalf, and He does. He talks about you a lot. Some days you need more talking about than others, but He's interceding for you, as we've already talked about, He is interceding and praying for you, for your faith that it will not fail, no matter what Satan throws at you, no matter what your flesh is doing and how it acts up, He is praying for you that your faith will not fail, He is at the right hand of God so has access to the Father. He's praying for you. But I think that the Scripture also presents the right hand as a place of power from which He rules the universe on your behalf, isn't that marvelous?
Christ Waiting for His Enemies to be Made a Footstool
Jesus is running, He's King Jesus, and He's running the universe to benefit you and finish your salvation. It's beautiful. Get that at the end of the Ephesians at Chapter 1 and there it says that "God [the Father[ raised him [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all ruling authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come and God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church." The word for there to me means to benefit the church or on behalf of the church, He appointed Jesus sovereign King of kings to benefit you and me.
So that our salvation will be completed in this life. Beautiful, so there is Jesus seated at the right hand of God, and also the scripture presents Him as waiting, He's at the right hand of God, He's seated and He's waiting for his enemies, to be made His foot stool. So it pictures Jesus waiting. Now behind all of this is the zeal of God, the father to glorify God, the Son for what He did at the cross. What a rich theme that is. The Father says in Hebrews 1:13, "Sit at my right hand." Father is speaking to son, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a foot stool for your feet." This is the activity of the Father. And He's zealous for the glory of His son.
And because in Philippians 2 Jesus "obeyed even to the point of death, even death on a cross, God exalted Him to the highest place and He gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." That is the Father's zeal to exalt Jesus and get every knee to bow, it is to His glory, it is, His zeal to do that. Teaching on Wednesday nights, and we've talked about this in John Chapter 8, how Jesus in every chapter in John's Gospel is pictured arguing with His enemies. In every single account, there's division, and argument and conflict. At one point, Jesus's enemies get extremely disrespectful to Him. In John Chapter 8, they come and say, "Aren't we right in saying, that you're a Samaritan and demon possessed." In other words, that He is born of illegitimacy, He's a bastard son, His mother had relations with some Samaritan man. "Aren't we right in saying that, and that you're demon-possessed?" Oh, it's disgusting as you read it, it's just disgusting what this pure holy Son of God had to endure. Jesus said this, "I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor My Father and you dishonor Me. I'm not seeking glory for Myself, but there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge."
Do you realize the power of those words? He said, "I'm not going to do it, I'm just going to sit at God's right hand, the Father will do it, He'll see to it that I'm honored, He'll see to it that I'm glorified, He'll see to it." And the father is zealous, He burns like the sun to see that thing done. Psalm 2, talks about it. "Why do the nations rage and the people's plot in vain, the kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His anointed one. 'Let us break their chains, they say let us throw off their fetters.' The one and throne in Heaven, laughs, the Lord scorns of them. Then He terrifies them and rebukes them in His anger saying, 'I have installed my king on Zion, my Holy Hill.'"
The end of that Psalm, Psalm 2 he says, "You better be warned, don't fight the son. Don't oppose the son because that'll make Almighty God your enemy." It's a terrifying thing. And so Jesus in this text is pictured as seated and waiting, He's waiting for His enemies to be made His foot stool. And He is waiting with the same patience that God the Father exhibits toward those wicked people and He's very patient, it's amazing how patient God is to wicked people. You know it says in Romans chapter 9, "What if God choosing to show His wrath and make His power known bore with great patience, the objects of wrath prepared for destruction." Oh, He's patient toward wicked people who are fighting His Son, He doesn't kill them in an instant, He's patient.
Christ Waiting in Expectation
And Jesus is waiting patiently too, He's waiting. The Greek word here implies a patient waiting for the Father to do this work. So he's there at the right hand of God, He's waiting patiently for His father to subdue His enemies. He's waiting in submission and in dependence, total dependence on the father, whatever the Father wills, is fine, He's submitting to the will of the Father. And His father will make His enemies a foot stool, and so also the church has to learn to wait patiently for that too. John writes about this in Revelation 1, and verse 9, he says, "I John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours and Jesus, was on the island of Patmos, because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus," he was in exile. And you know what you get as a Christian? That's what John says. He said, "You get a kingdom, you also get patient endurance." You've got to endure patiently, because the enemies are still there and they're powerful.
In the Book of Revelation, later Chapter 6, after the fifth seal is broken. John saw vision of martyrs, people who have been beheaded, up in heaven waiting and they're crying out for vengeance, for what was done to them while they were on earth. "How long Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" And they're told the wait patiently until the full number of martyrs has come in. So we have to wait patiently. Jesus is waiting patiently, the father's waiting patiently, but be assured, Christ enemies will be a foot stool under His feet. So what is the Father waiting for? Well God's patience means salvation, some of the elect begin as enemies. I tell you, all of them did. Doesn't the same Colossians at one time we were enemies in our minds as shown by our evil behavior? We were enemies, we were in opposition.
God worked our salvation and God's patience means salvation for the elect, and we can't tell the difference between the weed and the terrorist, can we? Saul of Tarsus that morning of his conversion sure, looked like a weed to me, he sure looked like an enemy, sure, looked like a persecutor breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples, murderous threats. In one sense you could say he should have been killed God said, "No, he should be converted." We'll convert him not kill him. Thanks be to God. And so, all of Jesus' enemies are either going to be converted or condemned, that's how it is and Jesus is waiting patiently for whatever the Lord wills.
III. By One Sacrifice We Are Made Holy Forever (vs. 14)
Now we come to the verse, look at Verse 14, again, "Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Now, what's the link between verse 13 and 14? We know that there is a link because verse 14 begins with the word for or because. Well, it's really not that complex here. Jesus is seated because there's no more work to be done on the issue of sacrifice. That's the link. And so, He is seated in verse 13, because by that one, sacrifice He's made us perfect. The work is perfect.
And you know what's so magnificent about this? Jesus in John's gospel, His final words before He dies were, "It is finished." The Greek word for finished, it literally could be translated. It is perfect. There is your perfection dear friends, that is your perfection, Jesus dead on the cross, His blood shed there is your perfection. There's nothing more that can be added nothing more needs to be done. It's perfect, what an awesome thing and so it says by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever. Those who are being made holy. Now, why does this verse glitter for me so much? Well, I look on it. I don't mean in any way to be irreverent, but as your one-stop-shopping verse for the doctrine of salvation, in one verse you can get both justification and sanctification. In just one small verse you can just memorize this because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever, those who are being made holy, and you get both justification and sanctification in one Verse.
Now, what do I mean by that? First, I don't think that Hebrews was written by the Apostle Paul. And so I don't think that the author speaks about the doctrine of justification with the same type of language that Paul uses in Romans or in other places. What is the doctrine of justification? It is that by the blood of Jesus, by the sacrifice of Jesus we are forgiven of all of our sins, simply by faith if you just trust in Jesus, there is a beautiful exchange between you and God, you and Christ your wickedness and sins imputed to Him, and He dies justly under the wrath of God for them, His righteousness imputed to you and God justly receives you as righteous on the basis of that, that transfer happening only by faith. As you trust in Jesus, you are seen to be righteous. Well, the author here uses different language with the same concept, by the one sacrifice of Jesus, He has past tense, made you perfect forever.
Oh what a thought that is? You can't be any more righteous in God's sight than you are right now, you can't do any better you can't be any more positionally acceptable to God than you are, and the word forever means it's never going to change. It will survive whatever it is you do this week, whatever it is that happens between now and the day you die, you'll be seen day after day after day after day, as perfect in Jesus. Isn't that awesome? Perfectly righteous. Can't improve on it. That's what the word "perfect" means. And through Judgment Day, God on Judgment Day, when the Cortes see that the books are open, and everything is rolled out from your life. Every careless word that you've ever spoken, every intention of your heart all of it rolled out, God will declare you perfect on that day as well, perfect forever and beyond on into the new Heaven, the new Earth, into the eternal state, every day in that beautiful place. You will be morally perfect, in God's sight.
And it's past tense here because it already happened to you if you're a Christian, whenever that is, whenever that happened for me coming on 30 years ago. For 30 years, god seen me as perfect in Jesus. That's my position. That's your position. Doesn't matter what you did today, yesterday, if you're genuinely Christian, you have genuine faith in Christ, you are perfect seen to be perfect by faith alone, that's justification, beautiful.
Those Who Are Being Sanctified
Now here's the tricky part, is the rest of the verse talking about progressive sanctification. Most scholars say no. I say yes, just because I love it. It's just, it's so convenient to have it all in one place. I'll do my best to persuade you, if you're not convinced it's okay because both of the options are good ones and it all comes down to the use of this word "sanctified" or made holy trying to understand that. Okay, let's dig in and try to understand what the second half of the verse may be saying.
"For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever, those who are sanctified." Most of the translations just say those who are sanctified. The problem with that grammar is it gives you the sense that that is past as well, but that's not what the Greek grammar says. It's a present tense. The NIV gives a sense of present progressive activity, something that's going on right now that is accurate to the Greek, it's passive, something is happening to these people, by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever. Those who are presently at the present time being sanctified, that's true grammar, everybody sees that. Well, what could it mean? Well there are two options two responsible options.
One of them, which I'm not choosing this morning, but which is the majority choice, has to do it the way the word is usually used and the word usually means set apart unto God as His sacred holy possession. It's sanctified in that it's His, it belongs to Him, it's His, He puts His name on it, a stamp of ownership, and it's His holy possession, that's it. There's no progressive-ness there, there's no improvement on that you're just set apart and you are God's. That is true, that happens in Jesus at justification that happens, and so that is a once for all instantaneous sanctification. You see what I'm saying? And that is the way the word is usually used not as a gradual improvement getting better and better every day, with Jesus, that's progressive sanctification. So in John 17, Jesus prays, He says, "Father, for their sake I sanctify myself that they too may be truly sanctified." Now listen, do you think Jesus is getting better and better in every way, growing in grace in the knowledge of Christ? Friends he is not He is setting Himself apart unto God at the cross to die for us, that's what it is.
So there's no improvement there. Or again in 1 Timothy 4, he talks about the food you eat, I hope you pray before you eat. I hope you at least do that. Friends, you should do so much more than that when it comes to prayer. But it says in 1 Timothy 4, that the food as you are praying for it and receiving it thankfully, is sanctified by the Word of God and by the prayers of the saints. Look that food is not getting holier and holier, it's not improving every day. No, it needs to be eaten right now or it's going to go bad. It's set apart for God's sacred use namely to feed the saints and to make them strong. That's the way the word is usually used. So how would this work? Well, how is that once for all, thing happening a lot right now? Well, it has to do with the elect, God has chosen people, and as the Gospel spreads people are hearing the gospel and they're repenting and coming over into the kingdom, and are being sanctified, instantaneously all over the world. That's a valid interpretation.
So as by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are getting saved, all over the world. See? You understand it? Okay, let's set aside. It's not as exciting as this version, okay? This version says that by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever, those who are little by little by little getting to be more and more like Jesus. And why is that so sweet? Because we know we're not perfect, you know you're not. And what grieves you the most in your life, are your imperfections morally, the ways that you stumble over temptations and sins, and so in one verse, it's saying you're already perfect, now live perfect, and God is working that perfection in you, little by little, gradually He's working perfection in you. And frankly, if that second piece isn't going on the first piece, never happened friends.
If you're not growing in grace in the knowledge of Christ, if you're not seeing by the power of the Spirit sin put to death in your life, if you don't have, let's just go to the heart of the matter, the heart of the matter.
IV. The Holy Spirit Also Testifies to Us (vs. 15-18)
If you don't have a heart yearning after God's laws, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, that's exactly where He goes, the rest of the verse, He says (quoting Jeremiah 31) "The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 'This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.' Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.'"
Interesting order. Transformation of the heart, then you know your sins are forgiven that's the order. So as you see your changed life as you yearn for righteousness, as you yearn to be a holy man, or a holy woman, as you grieve over the sin in your life, as you feel written inside your heart, the laws of God, though you can't seem to live them like you'd like to, but yet by the spirit putting to death and misdeeds of the body, growing in grace then you know you're already positionally perfect. I think that's what the verse is giving us. Now I've got other proof we'll get to it and do time. I don't want to give it to you, I do tell you the book of Hebrews does have a vision for progressive holiness.
Chapter 12 is very, very clear, we're told in chapter 12 that we're to set our eyes on Jesus who is the author, and perfecter of our faith, our faith isn't perfected yet, so we've got to run with endurance, we need to lay aside the sin that so easily entangles and run this race with endurance, that's sanctification language. Then it goes into discipline and says, the father disciplines us that we may share in His holiness, and that the discipline helps those that are trained by it, a training in holiness is sanctification, right? Or look again at 12:14, it says, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy, without holiness no one will see the Lord." That's a holiness that comes by efforts, by striving by putting sin to death without that holiness, you will not see God. We'll get to that in due time. I say to you even to the end chapter 13, he says, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant, brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus the Great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will listen and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him." That's sanctification language. In one verse, you have the beauty of justification and sanctification. And the very next verse testifies it has to do with God writing His laws in your minds, in your hearts. That's what He's doing. This is a glorious salvation, isn't it?
To be declared right at the beginning of the Christian life. Perfect, and then to be challenged every day of your life, to be perfect, like Jesus, it's a beautiful salvation. If you are running that race right now, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, grieving, when you sin, but knowing that Jesus is enough for you, trusting leaning on the Holy Spirit running that race, you're perfect, perfect right now, you'd be perfect tomorrow, you'd perfect the rest of eternity. And He is standing over you calling you upward, to live more and more like Jesus and some day, again Hebrews 12, you'll be among it says, "the spirits of righteous men made perfect." Instantaneously at death, they are made perfect by God, glorified and in the presence of God. How beautiful is that?
Application is plain, come to Christ, believe in Jesus, trust in Him. I've already called out to you, if you were invited here today as a friend or a guest, if you don't understand what I'm talking about, ask the person who invited you, ask someone else, don't leave this room in a Christ-less state, you don't know that you'll survive the day. I'm pleading with you to believe in Jesus while you have time and just know what I'm calling you to. Look with eyes of faith to Jesus dead on the cross, say "He is my Savior. That death was my death, I deserved it, I'm a sinner, I deserved it, but Jesus died for me it is more than enough for me." And then run that race with endurance. Know that He is sanctifying you, remember at the passive for by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever, those who are listening, being made holy. It's not primarily your work though, you must work. It is God's work in you by the power of the spirit through faith. Close with me in prayer.