Hebrews 10: The Sanctification Process
Today, as we celebrate Palm Sunday, we have come to the place in our study of Hebrews where we will reach the climax of the offering of our Lord Jesus as the superior sacrifice once for all. This is why the Lord Jesus was able to say from the cross-“It is finished.”
The Old Covenant was established in blood. The New Covenant is also established in blood. For without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. In Hebrews 9: 11-14 we read of the finished work our Great High Priest Jesus accomplished. He was a superior High Priest who initiated a superior covenant, a New Covenant. He entered into the superior sanctuary, the one in heaven of which the earthly tabernacle was a copy. He did not enter with the blood of goats and bulls, but with His own blood, the superior sacrifice and with this He obtained eternal redemption, once for all.
In legal language one is sometimes called to ‘appear in court’. We are told in I John 2: “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” He is our advocate, our attorney. “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one, He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. “(Hebrews 9:24) He appeared for us in the court of heaven. We are told because His sacrifice was superior (for the blood of goats and bulls cannot take away our sins) He died once for all.
The keeping of the law was impossible, the law revealed our sinfulness and the need for a savior. (It was almost as if the 10 Commandments said here are 10 ways you can sin.) Jesus did not say, you shall know the laws and be bound by them. Jesus said, “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And Jesus said, the Son shall set you free and you will be free indeed. This is the finished work He accomplished. And when the Accuser, Satan, comes to accuse you, we have two ways of dealing with it, the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
The 10th chapter of Hebrews emphasizes the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ in contrast with the imperfect sacrifices offered under the old covenant. We are currently in the midst of a presidential election year. Politicians and those running for the highest office in the land attempt to persuade us, the people, they know what are the greatest problems facing us and how they can fix those problems. However, not one of them has discovered or told the people of American what our greatest problem is. Sin is the mankind’s greatest problem. God’s anger at sinners and sin is the biggest problem in everyone’s life whether they know it or not. When Peter in Luke 5:8 turned his eyes upon the power and grace of Jesus when they caught the great catch of fish, he said: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O, Lord!” When one sees Jesus clearly it immediately makes us conscious of our sinfulness and unworthiness. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We have sinful natures. We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Sin is our greatest problem and no one running for President has even identified it much less told the people what must be done to deal with this problem.
Here the author of Hebrews tells us, ‘The law (the Old Covenant) was a shadow of the good things that are coming- not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.”(Hebrews 10:1) (In fact we could say the same things about those we elect to office- they keep doing the same things over and over and over, endlessly without ever solving the problems.)
The sacrificial system was a type or picture of the work our Lord would accomplish on the cross. This old system of the old covenant was temporary and therefore could not accomplish that which was permanent. It was incomplete and temporary, rather than complete and permanent. This is why each year on the Day of Atonement, year after year, the High Priest went behind the curtain with the blood of a bull to offer as a sacrifice for the atonement of the sins. If the sacrifice removed the guilt, why did they have to do it every 12 months? This only reminded them of their guilt and was evidence that last year’s sacrifice had not done the job. Their sins were covered, but they were not cleansed. There was a desperate need for a better sacrifice because the blood of bulls and goats could not take away their sins. “What can take away my sins- NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD OF JESUS.
The Key Verse
The key verse in today’s lesson is found in Hebrews 10:14: “For by one offering He has perfected for ever those who are being sanctified. (made holy) “
To be oblivious to God’s anger against sin and sinners is incredibly dangerous. We recently came home to find our heat pump had quit working. Our heat exchanger was corroded and the danger to us was carbon dioxide was entering our home and we had been unaware of it. This is why, like Peter, we need to continually keep our eyes upon Jesus for only then will we realize the danger of our sinfulness.
Now this key verse uses the word ‘offering’. The word refers to the death of Jesus Christ once for all. Notice earlier the verse which tells us the priest ‘stands daily’ and performs his duties again and again. Now notice what Jesus, Our Great High Priest did: offered for all one time one sacrifice and sat down at the right hand of God. (Psalm 110)
This work has perfected us forever. (past tense- accomplished, finished). From that point begins the sanctification process described in the present ongoing tense: “who are being sanctified (KJV) who are being made holy (NIV)”
God the Father was satisfied with the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son, in Whom He is well pleased. This is why Our Savior is seated at the right hand of God. Christ and His Father are sovereign rulers over all the universe and over all His enemies. The enemies will be defeated and made a footstool for His feet. Nothing can prevent or hinder His work.
We are perfect in the eyes of God and in our position. However our practice does not match our position does it?
The question is: are you moving away from your present imperfection toward more and more holiness by faith in His grace? Remember His grace is always sufficient. The question is you pursuing holiness? More people today are concerned over the things of this world than sin. And most of us are as oblivious to God’s anger against sinners as we were unaware of a deadly gas which was seeping into our home. Yet all Peter had to do was look at the work of Jesus with this record catch of fish and realize how sinful he was. You often hear me quote my mother who in her last letter to us, said she prayed daily to have a conscious awareness of God at all times. Most of us think of God’s goodness, but do not like to think of His anger at sin. But if we do, then it will cause us to take steps to find a remedy for our sin and escape God’s anger.
So this Palm Sunday, in the days before we observe the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us consider what the sanctification process is all about. Something happened to me on September 16, 1977. I went down on my knees a sot, an alcoholic, one who could not stay sober to save my life, literally. And in a moment, a twinkling of an eye, something happened. Jesus came into my life and I into His, and I became a ‘saint.’ I went down on my knees a sot, I rose up a saint. A saint is one who has been sanctified. To sanctify something or someone is to set it apart for special use. To sanctify a person is to make them holy. In Christian theology, sanctification is a state of separation unto God; all believers enter this state when they are born of God. “You are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (I Cor. 1:30)
We are positional holy, set free and forgiven of all our sin, past, present and future. We know we still sin. Our sanctification is then being worked out as God works in us the desire and will to do His good purpose. God has started a work to make us like Jesus, and we are confident He will continue this work. We refer to this sanctification process as ‘growing in the Lord,’ or spiritual maturity. But notice our definition says we are set apart for special use. This is what Paul realized and stated in Galatians 1 when he said God had set him apart to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Just as the Lord Jesus was sent into the world for the purpose of becoming the offering, we are sent into the world for a purpose for which God has ordained we should walk in. Do you know why God has set you apart to and for?
At salvation we became new creatures. The Holy Spirit, the presence of the Lord indwells us now. He writes the law in our hearts and minds. And He has put His Spirit in us and moves us to follow the decrees. “For it is God who works in you both to will and desire His good purpose.” (Phil 2) We always think of heaven as being up there in the third heaven in space. But heaven is where God is and the Lord in the person of the Holy Spirit has come to indwell us. Like the song says, ‘heaven has come down and glory has filled my soul’. I can now keep from sinning because of the One who lives within me providing the power to obey His law. I can say no to temptation. I can stop sinning in the name of the One who loves me and gave Himself for me. (I can stop in the name of Love, for God’s name is Love. The Love of God can stop one from sin, for we do not want to break His heart and grieve His Spirit.) Jesus, the God- Man lived his life as a man and tells us: “The things that I do, I do not do myself, but the Father who dwells in me, He does them. The words that I speak are not my words, it is the Father speaking through me, and He is saying them to you.” (John 14: 10) Jesus is showing us this is the will which continually chooses to rely upon the Father to guide Him every step of the way – all the way to Calvary. This is how he faced the temptation of the devil with the Words of His Father: “it is written; it is written…… (Matthew 4) The next section reveals doing the will of the Father was always His primary goal.
These next verses quote God the Son before He begins His journey from heaven to descend to earth to begin the mission which was designed before the foundation of the earth. Listen to the following quote from Christ before exiting heaven to come into the world. “Therefore, when Christ came into the world He said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body You prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, “Here I am- it is written about me in the scroll- I have come to do your will, O God. “ Where did this scripture appear in the scrolls? In Psalm 40, we read: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come- it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O God; your law is within my heart.”
A word of explanation about the piercing of the ear and what it meant. A slave who did not want to be set free, but remain in the service of his master for the rest of his life signified this by piercing one of his ears. A nail was driven through the lobe and this hole represented this decision. The idea here is the Lord Jesus, God the Son, was like a willing servant who had his ears bored. But notice ‘ears’ is plural, meaning both ears were pierced. Both ears signified, He had his ears opened to hear and do the will of God. He was completely devoted to doing the will of His Master. Often when Jesus taught he would often preface a statement or a message and end a message with the phrase- ‘he who has ears let him hear’.
Now in order to establish the New Covenant, he had to deal with and set aside the Old Covenant. Jesus told us from the very beginning of His ministry on earth, He did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17, 18) And Jesus in this same passage says, one’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and one must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.
So Jesus was the only one who in all of the world in all of time, who was able to keep the law, every jot and tittle and never broke one single law. This made Him the only Sacrifice who was sufficient to pay for all the sins of all the world for all time. In God’s system, by one man sin entered the world and by one man, the God-Man, who lived a perfect life, tempted as we were but without sin, could be the ultimate, superior sacrifice. When He cried it was finished- it was. Everything had been done that needed to be done. He ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. This means His Blood was the only blood sacrifice which could take away the sin and sins of the world. He appeared in the court of heaven to present this sacrifice and in doing so all of us who place our faith in this sacrifice, the precious blood of the Lamb, we have been saved, saved, saved. Because the Lord Jesus, the Son of God is holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.
Jesus came to do the will of His Father. This will is the new covenant that has replaced the old covenant. The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has replaced the Law of Sin and Death.
What all of this means is you can know you stand perfect in the eyes of your Heavenly Father. Is that not good news?!
But then the question arises and the challenge: are you moving away from your present imperfection and the sin which so easily besets you toward more and more holiness by faith in His Grace?
Do you see the wonderful truth here? This verse ( Hebrews 10:14) means you can have assurance you stand perfected and completed in the eyes of your Heavenly Father not because you are already perfect now, but because your being sanctified, you are being made holy by faith in God’s promises. Paul said he did not consider himself as one who had already obtained, but this was what he focused on and pressed toward the goal.
There are three phrases to sanctification:
- Justification- separated from the penalty of sin. You now have a Perfect Relationship because of your eternal union with the Infinitely Perfect Christ. Never leave you or forsake you.
- Spiritual maturity- we grow spiritually as we continue to trust Christ and learn more about Him. This is a work in progress- but the Holy Spirit is making sure we are making perfect progress. Growth comes at different rate at different times.
- Complete perfection- Glorification when we meet Christ face-to-face and are completely perfect.
“It is because of Him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God that is righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” (I Cor. 1: 30)
Peter tells us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. “ (2 Peter 1)
Now let’s look at two well known passages to see the significance of the sanctification process which should be our main goal.
Romans 8: 28-30: “For we know all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (called simply means invited) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined those He also called; these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Justification was the first step in the sanctification process made possible by the offering of the Lord Jesus. God’s purpose and ultimate goal is to make us (conform us) to be like His Son. The how-to process is sanctification , the present tense being made holy, the on- going progressive work as we get into the Word and The Spirit of God uses the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God to make us like the Son of God.
The next passage is from Philippians 3: 8-14. Paul tells us his goal is to know Him and the power of His Resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death. (His goal is conformation to the image of Jesus Christ.) Paul then reveals: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those which are ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
I like Paul’s word picture of Christ taking hold of me. I think of one is who is drowning, deep in sin, from the distant shore, when the Lord Jesus reaches out and takes hold of us and pulls to safety and saves us. This is the initial purpose for which He took hold of us- to save us from our sins. To forgive us, remove our sins, justify us and make us acceptable to God. We call this conversion. We have changed direction and turned around and we are now facing the direction in which we have turned. The first phase of the sanctification process has begun. The passage in Hebrews 10: 14 tells us we are perfect in our eternal relationship with God and the sanctification process begins.
Paul assures us he does not consider himself as having already attained this perfection. But he presses on that he may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus had laid hold of him. Christ took hold of me, just as He took hold of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. This means He grasped Paul, just as He grasped me and kept me from falling from that 10th floor balcony. Now Paul says he desires to take hold of that which Christ took hold of him for. What is this “that”?
The Lord Jesus did not take hold of us just to save us from our sins and take us to heaven ONLY>
The Lord Jesus did not take hold of us just to be witnesses and spread the Gospel ONLY> Jesus did do these things and does desire we spread the Gospel and tell our story.
The Lord Jesus took hold of us so that we might come to know Him personally. And in doing so be conformed to His image- become more like Him. For this is what Our Heavenly Father desires.
The “That” which I must take hold of is: becoming more like. I must take hold of Him, reach out by faith and place my hand around His, gripping Him tight with my fingers. Knowing Him, reading about His Life on earth and what He cherished, I am to cherish- His purpose is my Purpose. His desires, my desires. And He has shown us His desire was to do His Fathers’ Will. And the Father’s will is for us to be conformed to the image of His Son. So I come to know Him as I spend time with Him. Peter said you must add to the gift of faith: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Loving Him, Experiencing life with Him, day-by-day, year-by-year. Like a marriage, two lives sharing the same life and through daily walks and talks coming to know each other. He is not just my Lord and Savior, He is my hero and I want to be just like Him.
Paul said also we are to forget what is past. This means not only our sins, but also our successes. We often tend to look back and in the grip of nostalgia long for yesterday and what we view as the ‘good old days’.
For me the following verses have special meaning, but it should for all of us who are His: “Now to Him who is able to keep us from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen. (Jude 24, 25)
How does He keep me from falling? He has taken hold of me and nothing can take me from his hand.
The key to the sanctification process is taking hold of that for which Christ took hold of me- to be conformed to His Image.
Jesus showed us how we accomplish this: “The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” (John 14:10 NKJV) Jesus lived his life on earth as a man completely dependent on His Heavenly Father to supply Him with the words to speak and the work to be done.
“May God Himself, the God of Peace sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” (I Thess. 5: 23, 24)