Sanctifying Grace: Hebrews 8-10: Part 8
Hebrews Chapters 8-10: “We Have Been Sanctified” Through the Better Sacrifice, Part 8
Summary: We discuss Hebrews 10:10-18 here in Part 8. Essentially all of these verses are of key importance on the topic of holiness and victory over sin. For one thing, it is of crucial significance that we understand Heb. 10:18, which we discuss in some detail. We briefly discuss Romans 7 and 1 John 1:8, which are the two passages most often used to try to prove that Christians cannot stop sinning this side of glory.
We continue with the discussion under Heb. 10:10 here in Part 8.
I am sharing very good news! We need to make it a top priority to walk in the full salvation to which we have been called. Yes, we can be forgiven if we repent, but we need to be aiming, with a top priority, to walk (by faith) on a continuous basis in the Word of God and by the Spirit of God, with the victory over all sin. I’M SPEAKING OF OUR WALKING WITH THE VICTORY OVER EVERYTHING THAT GOD WOULD CONSIDER TO BE SIN FOR US. I’m not speaking of a state of holiness that excludes having wrong thoughts or wrong desires (being tempted). Those things are not sin if we resist them by the grace of God in Christ. When we are tempted we need to look to God in faith, based on His Word (see Heb. 4:14-16, for example). And I’m not speaking of our ever arriving at a state where we don’t need to keep on growing as long as we live in this world.
Nor am I speaking of a state where our motives, attitudes, love, priorities, etc. are always perfect, where there is no difference between the Lord Jesus and us. God is not quick to call imperfections sin, but we must make it a top priority to avoid anything, and everything, that God would consider to be sin for us. If we are making it a top priority to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin, by grace through faith, I believe He will let us know if we are in sin but unaware of it. Sin is a big deal to God.
God hates sin! And He paid an infinite price to give us the victory over all sin. Again, this is good news! This is what every true Christian wants! And again, I am not saying (and the New Testament does not teach) that the victory over sin is automatic or always easy. The world, the flesh (the old man who wants to continue in sin) and the devil and his hosts are against us, but THE GRACE OF GOD IS GREATER! We will never walk with the victory over all sin (by grace through faith) until we see that this is what God’s Word calls us to NOW. Nobody is going to make it a top priority to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God with the victory over all sin if they don’t believe that God has called, enabled, and required them to do it. Also, it is a very serious problem when we say that we cannot do what God has called us to do. Numbers chapters 13 and 14 provide a powerful illustration, where the people of Israel said they could not take the promised land and suffered disastrous results. God wasn’t telling them to take the promised land by their strength any more than He brought them out of Egypt by their strength.
Many Christians (about half of evangelicals) are telling us that Romans 7 proves that we cannot have the victory over sin in this present life, but that doesn’t make it so. (It would be difficult to overstate how much damage to the Body of Christ interpretations like that have caused, no matter how sincerely they are held.) There is a reason that essentially no Christians the first few hundred years believed that Romans 7 says anything about Christians continuing to sin. (I don’t know of any Christians until after AD 400.) I discuss this super-important topic in my paperback book, “Holiness and Victory Over Sin,” and my recently published e-book, “Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin,” and I have a paper on my internet site that deals with the interpretation of Romans 7.
I also deal with 1 John 1:8 in some detail in both books. Romans 7 and 1 John 1:8 are the two passages that are the most often used to argue for the viewpoint that we cannot stop sinning while we live in this world. I am quite sure that 1 John 1:8 (like Romans 7) does not teach that we cannot have the victory over sin, and, in fact, that epistle is one of the strongest in the New Testament that teaches victory over all sin (even as Romans chapter 6 is one of the most important chapters, if not the most important chapter, that teaches victory over all sin, and Rom. 8:1-14 is strong on victory over sin; Romans chapter 6 and Rom. 8:1-14 are discussed in both of my books):
In 1 JOHN 3:3, for example, it says, “And everyone who has this hope [the hope of the glory of heaven, including being able to see God as He is (1 John 3:2)], PURIFIES HIMSELF [by the saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ through faith], JUST AS HE [the Lord Jesus] IS PURE [my emphasis].” 1 JOHN 3:7 says, “Little children, make sure no one deceives you, the one who practices [better, “THE ONE WHO IS DOING”] RIGHTEOUSNESS IS RIGHTEOUS, JUST AS HE [the Lord Jesus] IS RIGHTEOUS [my emphasis].” One more, “the one who says he abides in Him [the Lord Jesus] OUGHT TO WALK IN THE SAME MANNER AS HE [the Lord Jesus] WALKED [my emphasis].” In spite of verses like these and very widespread agreement that the apostle John wrote this epistle against an early form of the heresy of Gnosticism (for one thing, the Gnostics denied that sin is the problem and the reality of the atoning death and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ), the majority of Christians (something like 80 to 90 percent) believe that 1 John 1:8 proves that Christians cannot live with the victory over sin in this world. Some even say that all of our thoughts and actions are tainted with sin. I’m thankful that the New Testament doesn’t back up the idea that God thinks in terms of all of our thoughts and actions being tainted with sin.
Number 3 on the lists of verses that are used to try to prove that we cannot walk in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over all sin while we live in this world is Gal. 5:17. I’m sure that they are misinterpreting that verse too. Galatians 5:17 is discussed in its context on pages 195-200 of my book, “Holiness and Victory Over Sin.” Those verses are also discussed in my e-book, “Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin.”]] (11) And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; (12) but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, (13) waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. [[The old-covenant sacrifices were effective to a point, but they could “never take away sins.” (Heb. 10:11; see under Heb. 9:26 and 10:4 in this paper.) For one thing, they could not atone for (bring forgiveness for, or, better, bring release from) the willful and defiant sins of the people of Israel. Hebrews 9:7, for example, speaks of the high priest making atonement “for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” on the Day of Atonement. And it is extremely significant that the old-covenant sacrifices could not take away the transgression of Adam with the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin. As the apostle Paul showed in Romans chapter 5, for example, bondage to sin came when spiritual death came.
The old-covenant sacrifices could not take away spiritual death and bondage to sin, so they certainly could not solve the sin problem and sanctify God’s people. They could “never take away sins” (10:11) from God’s people in the full, required sense that they stop sinning. The sin problem was not solved; sin remained in the hearts and lives of God’s people; sin(s) were not taken away. The writer of Hebrews makes the point in 10:3, 4 that the fact that the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement (and all the other sacrifices) needed to be repeated year after year demonstrated that those sacrifices could not solve the sin problem and sanctify the hearts and lives of God’s people.
By contrast, the “one sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:12) of the Lord Jesus Christ does have the authority and power to “take away sin(s)” and sanctify the hearts and lives of God’s people. HEBREWS 9:26, for example, says, “He has been manifested TO PUT AWAY SIN [my capitalization for emphasis] by the sacrifice of Himself.” He took away our past sins with the guilt and with the penalties back to Adam (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin) through His atoning death; He dethroned spiritual death and sin; and, significantly, HE TOOK AWAY SIN(S) IN THAT HE GAVE US SPIRITUAL LIFE AND ENABLES US TO LIVE IN THE VERY RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS OF GOD, WITH THE VICTORY OVER ALL SIN. In the ideal case there won’t be any more sinning after we become Christians. That sounds good doesn’t it? WE MUST AIM AT THAT TARGET! And it is very clear that we will not be sinning after we are glorified through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Unlike the old-covenant high priest and priests, our Great High Priest was able to sit down because (in one very real sense) His work was finished (He sat down at the right hand of God the Father [see 10:12]). He is waiting for the Father’s time for Him to return (to fully save His people, including the resurrection, glorification, and rapture) and subdue His enemies in His end-time judgment of the world. He will make His enemies (and the enemies of His people) a footstool for His feet (see Psalm 110, especially verse 1: this Psalm is discussed verse-by-verse in chapter 19 of my book, “The Mid-Week Rapture”; 1 Cor. 15:20-27: these verses are discussed in the paper on 1 Corinthians chapter 15 on my internet site).
The Lord Jesus is actively working at the present time, doing all that He is required to do, including doing all that is involved with functioning as our Great High Priest.]] (14) For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. [[The old-covenant sacrifices could not perfect the worshippers, because, as we have seen, they could not atone for the defiant, with a high hand sins of the people of Israel, dethrone sin, impart spiritual life, sanctify the hearts and lives of the believers (see Heb. 7:11, 19; 9:9; and 10:1), or give them access to God beyond the veil. I’ll quote HEBREWS 10:1 again, “For the Law [the Mosaic Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant], since it has only a shadow of the good things to come [referring to new-covenant salvation, which is based on the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ] and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, MAKE PERFECT [my emphasis] those who draw near.”
“By one offering” (Heb. 10:14), however, the Lord Jesus Christ has provided “perfection” (for this age it is a relative, not an absolute, perfection) for believers that includes the facts that they have been forgiven, and He has dethroned sin and spiritual death, imparted spiritual life, sanctified believers, and removed the veil at the entrance to the heavenly holy of holies, thereby opening the way into the presence of God. As we discussed under Heb. 10:10 regarding the words “we have been sanctified,” the words “He has perfected for all time,” are written from a positive, ideal point of view showing what God has provided for all Christians and requires of all Christians. If our lives don’t match God’s definition, we are going to have to change with a top priority (and God knows our hearts, including our priorities). This is good news, because this is what all true believers want. For Christians to be sinning against God is not OK! No true Christian wants to ever sin against God.
On the words “He has perfected,” see Heb. 11:39, 40. I have an endnote in my book, “Holiness and Victory Over Sin,” that discusses these verses. Since these verses (Heb. 11:39, 40) are quite important, and since their meaning is not especially obvious, it will be helpful to discuss them. I’ll quote that endnote:
I’ll read HEBREWS 11:39, 40, “And all these [the believers from Old Testament days, who are spoken of throughout Hebrews chapter 11], having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, (40) because God had provided something better for us [for us new covenant believers], so that apart from us they would not BE MADE PERFECT [my emphasis].” The believers from the days of the Old Testament could “not receive what was promised” until it became available through the atoning death (and resurrection) of the Lord Jesus Christ and new-covenant salvation. “What was promised” includes the being “made perfect” spoken of in Heb. 11:40 (and in Heb. 10:14 and other verses). Hebrews 11:40 says that “apart from us they could not be made perfect.” They had to wait for the Lord Jesus Christ to overthrow spiritual death and sin by His atoning death and to open the way into the presence of God. Now that this salvation has become available, these believers “HAVE BEEN MADE PERFECT” along with us, the new-covenant believers.
Although this PERFECTION has been provided for new-covenant believers, many (most) Christians have not been walking in the fullness of this perfection. Many (most) Christians do not even believe that this relative perfection is available. For one thing, THIS PERFECTION INCLUDES BEING SANCTIFIED AND LIVING IN AN ABIDING STATE OF HOLINESS. True Christians can sin, but to the extent we sin, we are not living in a state of holiness, or walking in the perfection spoken of here. But as long as we are living in the center of God’s will, by His saving grace, by faith, it can be said that we have been perfected (with a relative perfection), even though it is understood that we still have the potential to walk in the flesh and to sin; even though it is understood that we still have a need to grow in the things of God; and even though it is understood that we have not been glorified yet. We always have to cooperate with God’s grace through faith, a faith that is based on God and what His Word actually says.
Let’s briefly discuss what it meant for those Old Testament believers to be perfected through the Lord Jesus Christ and new-covenant salvation. Hebrews 12:23 speaks of those believers with the words, “the spirits of righteous men made perfect,” and it shows that they are now in heaven. They are called “spirits” because they died physically and have not yet received their resurrection bodies. They are called “righteous” because they were believers and were accepted by God; and as Hebrews chapter 11 and many other passages show, those believers lived (relatively) righteous lives (by grace) through faith (see Heb. 11:4, 7, 33; and Gen. 6:9, for example). I’ll read part of Gen. 6:9, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.”
Although those believers lived relatively righteous lives (by faith), they are saved by grace through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they need the righteousness and holiness of God provided as a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about. (I’m sure that all the believers in the Old Testament who were called “righteous” will testify that they are in heaven because of the Righteousness of God which is imputed and imparted to them through new-covenant salvation.) Before He had dethroned sin and death (both spiritual death and physical death) and MADE them PERFECT, those believers were in spiritual death, like all the descendants of Adam. At death they went to Sheol/Hades (the abode of the dead), but not in the sense that it was a place of punishment for them (see, for example, Gen. 37:35; Psalm 16:10; Isa. 38:10; Luke 16:22-31; 23:43; and Acts 2:27-32). (“Sheol” is a Hebrew word; “Hades” is a Greek word.) The names “Paradise” and “Abraham’s bosom” were sometimes used for the believer’s compartment in Sheol/Hades. (These things are discussed in more detail in my verse-by-verse discussion of Ephesians chapter 4 on my internet site: Google to Karl Kemp Teaching. See under Eph. 4:8 and the relevant section that starts on page 41 of that paper.) Now that the sin problem has been solved and spiritual death has been overthrown through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, those believers have been taken to heaven. Being taken to heaven certainly includes having access to God, and they aren’t spiritually dead; they have been set-apart for God in a full sense and they are righteous and holy in their hearts and lives – they aren’t sinning. This is a big part of what it meant for the Old Testament believers to be “MADE PERFECT.”
Those believers are still waiting for their resurrection bodies (with the exception of the select group mentioned in Matt. 27:52, 53), even as new-covenant believers are waiting. The glory reserved for us in the future, including reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ, will come to us (all believers) through His all-important atoning death. (I recommend the commentary by F. F. Bruce on Heb. 11:39, 40 (“Epistle to the Hebrews” [Eerdmans, 1964) and the commentary by F. Delitzsch (“Epistle to the Hebrews,” [1978 reprint by Klock and Klock]). That completes the endnote, now I’ll turn back to our discussion of Heb. 10:14.
I’ll quote HEBREWS 10:14 again, “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” This “one offering” solved the sin problem for all believers “for all time,” including the believers from Old Testament days (see Heb. 11:39, 40). Every person who enters God’s new Jerusalem will enter because of this one offering (see Rev. 21:27, for example). And if a Christian should slip into sin, restoration is provided when they sincerely repent through this same “one offering” (see 1 John 2:1, 2, for example).
I’ll comment briefly on the words “those who are sanctified” of Heb. 10:14: “Those who are sanctified” are the one who “have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” of Heb. 10:10. They have been set apart by God for God, set apart from everything unholy and sinful. The present tense in the Greek could be translated “those who are being sanctified” or “those who are being made holy” with the NIV, but in Heb. 10:10 the writer has already shown us he is speaking of an abiding state of holiness. The present tense in the Greek here in 10:14 communicates the idea of a continuous abiding state, as does the translation of the NASB (“those who are sanctified”). The KJV has “those that are sanctified.” The writer isn’t speaking only of a legal, positional holiness, and he isn’t speaking of a process of sanctification where we keep sinning to some extent as long as we live in this world. I trust you can see it makes a gigantic difference how we understand verses like these.]] (15) And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us [[The writer of Hebrews means that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truthfulness of what has been said in the preceding verses about the sin problem (which was not solved by the old covenant) being solved now through new-covenant salvation. The idea is that the Holy Spirit bears witness in that He was the One who spoke through Jeremiah the prophet, who is loosely quoted in the two verses that follow, verses 16, 17.]]; for after saying, (16) ‘THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM.’ He then says, ‘AND THEIR SINS AND LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.’ [[This loose quotation from Jer. 31:31-34, which was quoted in fuller form in Heb. 8:8-12 (verses that are quoted and discussed under chapter 8), confirms that the sin problem has been fully solved by the new covenant. In Heb. 10:16, 17 the writer just loosely quotes that part of Jer. 31:31-34 that directly deals with salvation from sin. Especially relevant is his loose quotation with the words, “I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM” in verse 16. This “quotation” effectively shows that a dominant feature of new-covenant salvation is the inner transformation (sanctification) of believers. Total forgiveness for our past sins is a key part of new-covenant salvation, but I believe we should put about ninety percent of the emphasis on the fact that we have been set free from the authority and power of sin and enabled to live in the righteousness and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin. God puts His righteous laws upon the hearts and minds of Christians, and as we walk by the Holy Spirit (by faith, in accordance with the gospel, which we are required and privileged to do), we fulfill the requirement of God’s moral Law (see Rom. 8:4; 2:26, 27; and Ezek. 36:26, 27), which excludes sinning. That part of Jer. 31:31-34 that is quoted in Heb. 10:17 speaks of complete forgiveness as God remembers our (former, pre-Christian) sins and lawless deeds no more. It is also true that we can be forgiven for sins we commit after we become Christians when we repent, but we must aim at the target of not sinning, with a high priority.
At the end of verse 16, the NASB has the words “He then says” in italics. The KJV has nothing to correspond with these added words, and my United Bible Societies’ “Greek New Testament” (fourth revised edition) does not include these words. The manuscript evidence for these added words is extremely weak. I believe it is very important that we do not include these added words. If we add these words, we set the stage to misunderstand verse 18 (which is very often done as we will discuss), which is a very important summarizing verse. The super-important words “I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM” of verse 16 are wrongly isolated from verse 18, which is a very important summarizing verse, by these added words.
It is true that we expect some words like “He then says” because verse 15 ends with the words “for after saying,” and we expect the counterpart for these words. However, if we were to add words like “He then says,” we should add them in the middle of verse 16, just before the words, “I will put my laws upon their heart.” That way the added words would not lead to a misinterpretation of verse 18. As quite a few commentators have pointed out, apparently the writer of Hebrews used the words that were translated “says the Lord” – which could be translated “the Lord says” – in the middle of verse 16 to serve as the counterpart for the words at the end of verse 15.]] (18) Now where there is forgiveness [Greek “aphesis”] of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. [[I’m not at all satisfied with this translation of verse 18. Rightly understood, this verse well summarizes the fact that the sin problem has been fully solved in the One Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, very much including the inner transformation (sanctification) spoken of with the words, “I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM.” Those are weighty words! (They are weighty like the words, “WE HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED [my emphasis] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” of Heb. 10:10, for example.)
“Forgiveness” is not an adequate translation for the Greek noun “aphesis” here in verse 18, at least not if we think of forgiveness in the widely accepted narrow sense of the forgiveness of the guilt of sin. “Aphesis” is sometimes used in a much fuller sense in the New Testament. I devoted a chapter in my book (pages 141-167), “Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ,” to “A Study on the Meaning of the Greek Noun ‘Aphesis.’ ” Much of that important information is also included in my recently published e-book, “Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin.” Both books are available at amazon.com. I also recommend the article “Ephesians 1:3, 4, 7; Holy and Blameless; Redemption and ‘Aphesis’ ” that is on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching).
I believe an expanded translation like the following conveys the intended meaning: “Now where there is RELEASE from these things [that is, release from being under our sins with the guilt and the penalties (back to Adam), including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin – WITH THE EMPHASIS ON GOD’S LAW BEING WRITTEN ON OUR HEARTS AND MINDS in 10:16, with the strong emphasis on our having been sanctified in verse 10:10 and perfected in 10:14, for example, but very much including our being forgiven the guilt of our sins] – there is no longer any offering for sin.” Since His one Sacrifice fully solved the sin problem, there is no longer a need for further sacrificial offerings. Isn’t that a beautiful picture?
The two uses of “aphesis” in Luke 4:18 demonstrate that this noun should sometimes be translated “release,” or the equivalent. And the meaning of aphesis as it is used in the Septuagint is significant. I’ll quote the three sentences (supplemented a little) that I have under the heading, “The Meaning of ‘Aphesis’ as it is Used in the Septuagint,” from my book, “Holiness and Victory Over Sin.” “The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was done by Jewish scholars. The Septuagint was widely used by the Christians across the Roman world who knew some Greek, but not Hebrew. Most people knew some Greek then, like most people around the world know some English in our day. It is quite significant that the Septuagint prepared many Greek words to communicate the Christian gospel across the Roman world in the Greek language. The New Testament was written in Greek.
Aphesis is used approximately forty-five times in the Septuagint, but I didn’t find one clear example where it is used of forgiveness. It is used about twenty-five times of THE RELEASE of Jubilee. (Some fifteen of these uses are found in Leviticus chapter 25.) Approximately ten uses deal with the seventh-year RELEASE, which is different than the RELEASE of Jubilee (cf. Deut. 15:1-18). Other uses are ‘fountains’ of water (Joel 1:20; 3:18) and the ‘torrents’ of water coming forth from the eyes of Jeremiah (Lam. 3:48).
I am not suggesting that aphesis should never be translated forgiveness in the New Testament, but a translation like RELEASE is often required.”
Actually, if all we had was the forgiveness of the guilt of sin, we would still need a Savior to set us free from bondage to sin, spiritual death, and Satan. We would still be spiritually dead sinners in rebellion against God and His laws. However, since the One Sacrifice was fully effective and met every need, as the writer of Hebrews (and the other writers of the New Testament) says again and again, there is no need for any further sacrifice. This includes the fact that if a Christian should slip into sin, forgiveness and restoration are provided through the One Sacrifice (see 1 John 2:1, 2, for example).
We will continue with this discussion under Heb. 10:18 in Part 9 of this paper on Hebrews chapters 8-10.
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
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The last few years I have done a lot of writing. I have written four books ("Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ"; an e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin," which serves as a good introduction for the paperback book; "The Mid-Week Rapture: A Verse-by-Verse Study of Key Prophetic Passages"; and "Introduction to The Mid-Week Rapture." The e-books are easier to read and should be read first, but the paperback books contain a lot of information not contained in the e-books. All the books are available at amazon.com.
I have written a large number of papers, most of them dealing with foundational Christian issues. Most of them are available at karlkempteachingministries.com. I also have been doing some radio broadcasts the past 5 years.