For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14
Nothing else needs to be done for our salvation! That truth is here stated in a brief and emphatic manner so that we can easily remember it; it is a precious gem of heavenly truth. It is similar to Paul’s statement that we are complete in Christ. As we look this verse, we find that almost every word is pregnant with meaning. It will do us well to unpack this little but significant verse.
Before we so, it is always best to see were this verse fits into the overall argument that the writer is making in this section. As someone has said, “Context is king” in biblical interpretation. The writer has been arguing that Christ was never again to return to this world to suffer as a sacrifice. Unlike the priests of the OT, who “standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins,” Christ, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” So there is a difference between the repeated offerings of the OT priests and our High Priest, who offered one sacrifice.
Now, we are in the position to understand the writer. The word “for” here in our verse is suggestive, normally giving us a reason. How are we to take it here? The writer is introducing to us the ground or reason for what he just said. The reason why Christ does not continually make an offering for sin is because His one sacrifice accomplished what the OT priests with their sacrifices never could. He perfected forever those who sanctified by His offering.
Having seen this in the overall argument, let us now turn our attention to the particulars.
Let us begin by considering,
THE BASIS OF OUR PERFECT STATE
Christ has said to have perfected us forever by an offering. The word “offering” speaks of something that is presented to God. The OT Priests offered up the blood of bulls and goats, but we are told that our Lord offered His body (v. 10), or Himself (9:26), to God. And it is repeatedly described in this section as “one” offering. The truth has already been stated several times (chap. (9:12, 14, 28, 10:10, 12).
Now, this idea of an “offering” is very important to underscore in the light of Church history. We should be careful to note that our passage does not state “by one sacrifice,” but “by one offering.” Romanism teaches that the Mass is a real sacrifice; they assert that the Victim is the same, the sacrifice is the same, but the manner of offering alone is different. They assert that the Mass does not repeat, but only continues our Lord’s sacrifice. But the passage says that Christ only needed to offer it once for our perfection. Upon the offering up the sacrifice, Christ sat down, having perfected forever by that one offering. And while Rome attaches the blessing of sanctification to the repeating of the offering, our passage attaches the blessing of sanctification to the ‘one offering,’ as we will see.
Now, there is a real problem here. If we look for more offering up of Christ than that one, once offered before his ascension, then we are denying the truth that by His once offering Christ has perfected forever them that are sanctified, which this passage expressly asserts.
Having taken note of the basis of our perfection, let us consider,
THE MEANING OF OUR PERFECT STATE
Now, as we consider this perfect state that this one offering has brought us into, we have to ask what the writer means by this. Does he mean that we now have reached a sinless perfection? This cannot be the meaning. We know that because of our conscience, but we also know that this is not the writer’s meaning because the writers also speaks of sanctification. Let me expand on this.
At this point, we must get a bit technical. The word “perfection” is a perfect tense. This means that it describes some work as having been completely finished by Christ, but as maintaining its efficacy to the present moment. But the word “are sanctified” is in the present tense, which indicates that we are being sanctified; it speaks of “those who are in the way of sanctification.” I point this out because something has happened to us once for all, but we are still being sanctified. That something, which is has happened to us, is here called “perfected.” Those who are perfected are being make perfect; those who are holy are being made holy.
Well, if this perfection does not speak of sinless perfection, then what does it mean? We do not have to guess about this. The following verses explain the meaning. “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Heb. 10:15-18).
Now from these words, we see that the perfection that is being spoken of is the perfection of having our sins remitted. It speaks of the complete forgiveness of sins so that they are no longer put to our account; they are remembered no more! In other words, the word “perfected” is used, not in a moral sense, but in the sacrificial sense of purging from guilt. Christ’s one offering has perfectly expiated the sins of all who may at any time be touched with His blood, and so dedicated to God.
Now, that perfection has taken place in the past. It has been accomplished by that one sacrifice. But we enjoy the implications of that even now. And it is not merely something with present force, precious though that is, but it is something that cannot and will not be altered. Our perfect standing before the Lord is forever. Let me make a few points of application from this.
Firstly, it would seem to be clear from this passage that Christ did not merely purchase the possibility of our salvation, but he has perfected us by purchasing all that they need to have, even to our full perfection. Our entire salvation rests upon this one offering.
Secondly, Christ did not merely purchase the remission of some sins, and left the satisfaction to be paid by us for other some means; but He perfected us, perfectly satisfied for our sins, and perfectly cleansed us from all our sins. It was not only our sins before conversion, but after conversion, that that Christ pardoned. It is not merely a present pardon, but it is an eternal, forever pardon.
Thirdly, Christ did not purchase of some graces for us only for a certain time, so as He will let us be taken out of His hand afterwards and perish, but He has perfected us forever. Every necessary grace, every virtue that is required, He has purchased so that we may be with Him forever. From His fullness, we have received grace upon grace. William Romaine, the great English preacher of the Great Awakening, said:
Consider your state. You are a pardoned sinner, not under the law but under grace, freely, fully saved from the guilt of all your sins. There is none to condemn, God having justified you. He sees you in His Son, washed you in His blood, clothed you in His righteousness, and He embraces Him and you, the head and the members, with the same affection.
Having considered the basis as well as the meaning of our perfect state, let us also consider,
THE EVIDENCE OF OUR PERFECT STATE
The words “them that are sanctified” are important. They describe those who are the perfected forever. The persons that are perfected by Christ are here said to be in the process of being sanctified. The primary meaning of this word “sanctified” is to set apart to a sacred use or end, but it is also used for making a thing holy. Let us consider these two possible readings for a moment in the light of this passage.
If we are to take this to mean that they are being set apart, Christ perfected such as are set apart by his Father, even those who are set apart by God’s eternal decree to be ordained to life. These are they that are given to Christ by his Father, John 6:37. Eight times Christ makes this the ground of that which he did; namely, that such and such were given unto him of God, John 17: 2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 24. Clearly is this manifested by the apostle’s golden chain, the first link whereof is predestination, Rom. 8:80. In this, this speaks of those who were and are continuing to be set aside by God; this speaks of ‘as many as were ordained to eternal life believed’ (Acts 13:48).
If this is the meaning of the word, as it is the normal meaning of the word in this book of Hebrews, then we may safely say this has two immediate implications. Firstly, this clearly exhibits the freeness of God’s grace towards them that are perfected by Christ. This continuing state of being set apart took place in eternity on the basis of pure grace: “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth” (Rom. 9:11).
Secondly, such a fact is an argument against the universality of redemption. It incites those who are perfected to give the glory to God that He has not only chosen them, but that He has sent His Son to purchase their redemption and apply that to them! It is He who has made the difference between us and others. “Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom 11:35, 36).
But, if we are to take the word ‘sanctified’ to mean, as it often does, to make morally holy, then this being sanctified means that it is the evidence of our perfection in Christ. The act of Christ in making us perfect manifests its self in our sanctification. They who are made perfect are such as are made holy. Not that sanctification, as distinguished from justification, is perfect in this world; but that it springs forth from and is ever connected with justification. Indeed, men are perfectly justified here in this world; but the perfection of their sanctification is reserved to the world to come. There, ‘spirits of just men are made perfect” (Heb. 12:28). By reason of that cleansing power that accompanies the merit of Christ’s blood (Heb. 9:14), those who are pardoned are being purified. In other words, they who are made perfect are also made holy.
Two implications arise from this. Firstly, this is a good test to see if we are partakers of the pardoning work of Christ. Or, in our being made holy, we may gain evidence of Christ’s mighty work on earth in perfecting us. To put even more direct, this means that you can know that you stand perfect in the eyes of your heavenly Father if you are moving away from your present imperfection toward more and more holiness by faith. I like how John Piper put it:
Let me say that again, because it is full of encouragement for imperfect sinners like us, and full of motivation for holiness. This verse means that you can have assurance that you stand perfected and completed in the eyes of your heavenly Father not because you are perfect now, but precisely because you are not perfect now but are “being sanctified”, “being made holy”, that, by faith in God’s promises, you are moving away from your lingering imperfection toward more and more holiness.
Secondly, this is a strong motive to labor after sanctification. If we have been predestinated in Chris to be holy, then let us pursue our destined end. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). If Christ has redeemed us, it is also that we might be holy people. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). And if He redeemed us in such a way that all gifts to make us holy are included, then let us take courage that we may truly make progress through Christ: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3).
I am trying to put this matter in an encouraging light. If we look at our meager advancements in holiness, we may be very tempted to become discouraged, but if we look to the inherent promise of this verse, that we have been perfected for all time by a single offering, we will see that we are doing it for other than legalistic reasons. We are doing it because we have already been forgiven. We do it out of gratitude; we do it out of hope, faith and love. The joy of the Lord becomes our strength. We pursue victory over sin from the victory of Christ over our sin.
Someone one might ask, “Which of these meanings shall we take?” We do not have to choose. Both are simultaneously true. The first meaning always brings with it the latter. Our position as those set apart will morally cause us to be set free from sin and progress in godliness. As Barnes states, “Wherever this divine remedy is used, it will effectually save. By one offering Christ hath forever justified such as are purged or cleansed by it. This could not be said of those sanctified or purged by the legal sacrifices.” Mr. Scott gives the sacrificial sense of the word, but combines with it the sense of sanctifying morally, in the following excellent paraphrase.
By his one oblation he hath provided effectually for the perfect justification unto eternal life, of all those who should ever receive his atonement, by faith springing from regeneration, and evidenced ‘by the sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience,’ and who were thus set apart and consecrated to the service of God.
As we come to a conclusion on this, let me point us to two important truths. Firstly, let us rest in the perfecting sacrifice of Christ. God has not appointed any offering for us to be made by any other after Christ; but Christ has made one offering, Himself, for us which satisfies forever, so as the Father desires no more offering for our sins forever. “For God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:25). That is, God makes it clear in His gospel that He is pacified in Christ towards them that believe in Christ’s blood, that believe in Him crucified. It becomes us to give proof of our accounting Christ’s sacrifice to be perfect, by resting wholly and only on it. So will Christ be the more honored, and we the more comforted.
Secondly, this passage calls us to ask a very important question. We have already noted it, but it must be underscored. Does your faith in Christ make you eager to forsake sin and make progress in holiness? Does the forever perfection procured by Christ’s offering motivate you to hate your sin with the hope that you will truly make progress in holiness? Unless we can give a positive answer to those questions, then we cannot take the first part to ourselves; we cannot say that we are completely justified forever, if we cannot also say that we are consecrated to God positionally and practically. Possibly, we can pray the words of August Toplady’s hymn:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.