Part 2 continues where Part 1 ended.
What does it mean for Christians to be PERFECTED (or, we could translate "He has completed") here in Heb. 10:14? It does not mean to be perfected in some limited positional sense, where we are considered to be perfect because we are in Christ and have been forgiven, even though we may be walking mostly in the flesh and living in sin, for whatever reason. And to be perfected here does not speak of some way-out absolute perfection, where there is no need for growth, or where we cannot be tempted, or cannot sin. To be perfected, or completed, here (with a RELATIVE perfection) includes three basic items: We have been totally forgiven in Christ; we have been sanctified (made holy) in Christ; and we have access to God, beyond the veil, as His born-again children, on the basis of Christ's atoning death and our union with Him, and by the Holy Spirit.
Christians are perfect (or complete), in the sense the word is used here, if we are living in this reality, which we are enabled, and required, to do. Let's not say that God's grace isn't sufficient for us to do His will, and let's begin to fully cooperate with, and appropriate, this sufficient grace, even though it is understood that we still have much room to grow. We will continue to grow throughout our lives on the earth (see 2 Cor. 3:18), and probably also in the age to come. Let's discuss the first two items that I listed in the preceding paragraph further:
Number one. We are totally forgiven through new-covenant salvation. Forgiveness was provided through sacrificial offerings under the old covenant, but there were very definite limits to that forgiveness. There were no sacrifices to take away the sin of Adam (and Eve) with the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin that were passed on to all their descendants, or to take away the willful and defiant sins of the people of Israel. Note, for example, that Heb. 9:7 speaks of "the sins being committed in ignorance" being atoned for (and taken away) on the Day of Atonement. A person under the old covenant might seek God for forgiveness and be forgiven after very serious sins, as David was after his two very serious sins involving Bathsheba and her husband, but he did not offer any sacrifices, and there were consequences that resulted from those sins. Sin is a serious matter! If it really is sin in the eyes of God, it is a serious matter!
The new-covenant sacrifice of the Lord Jesus had no such limitations. Total forgiveness (and a whole lot more) is provided in the new covenant, including the fact that we can be forgiven for any sins we should commit after we become Christians, when we repent (see 1 John 2:1, 2, for example).
Joseph says that he disagrees with the idea that we should preach on repentance and with the idea that we must confess our sins to be forgiven: On page 232 (in chapter 18) Joseph says, "nevertheless, there are still people who insist that we have to preach on repentance [to exhort Christians in sin to repent]. Well, I disagree. I think we should do it God's way - preach the goodness of God and allow the goodness of God to lead people to repentance. ...." Joseph makes some valid points in that chapter, but he certainly overstates the case and misses the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches about repentance here. God (and His spokesmen) frequently calls Christians to repent throughout the New Testament. In Revelation chapters 2, 3, for example, the Lord Jesus powerfully called for the majority of the Christians in several of the seven cities to repent, or lose their salvation. And Jesus made it quite clear that He still considered them to be part of His church when He called them to repent, or else. He told the Christians at Ephesus, for example, that He would remove their lampstand if they didn't repent. The fact that they still had their lampstand showed that they were part of His church (see Rev. 1:20).
Joseph makes some valid points in his chapter 9, "The Waterfall of Forgiveness." But he certainly misses the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches when he says on page 104 that "we don't have to confess our sins in order to be forgiven. We confess our sins because we are already forgiven." This fits perfectly with Joseph's teaching that we are already perfect, righteous, and holy, but I believe I effectively demonstrate in this paper that the New Testament does not teach that we are automatically perfect, righteous, and holy just because we are Christians, and it does not teach that we are forgiven before we ask for forgiveness, and significantly, repentance is required too, which includes the necessity to make things right to the extent we are able to, and the commitment to do everything we can do to avoid sinning again. If it really is sin it is a serious matter, and we should not just consider ourselves forgiven before we repent and confess our sins.
I'll quote a little more of what Joseph says here, "When I was growing up as a young believer, I was taught that unless I confessed all my sins, I would not be forgiven. ... Such teachings made the forgiveness of sins man's responsibility, instead of something that was dependent on what Jesus' blood had already accomplished. [The fact that we are responsible to confess our sins does not at all detract from the fact that our forgiveness and full restoration is 100 percent based on the shed blood of the Lamb of God. The fact that we must appropriate God's grace in many areas does not lessen the fact that these things come 100 percent by the saving grace of God in Christ. We certainly don't earn forgiveness by asking for it.] My friend, such teachings are based on man's traditions and not the Scriptures. [I don't agree with that.] Such teachings put me in severe bondage when I was a teenager. ... I was really sincere and wanted to always be 'right with God' and not have any sin that was not forgiven. I did not want fellowship with God to be broken. So everywhere I went, I would confess my sins, and I mean EVERYWHERE!" (pages 104, 105). On page 107 he says, "If you really believe that you need to confess all your sins to be forgiven, do you know what you would be doing? You would be confessing your sins ALL THE TIME! ...." I can't imagine Christians sinning all that much. Statements like this one certainly don't promote the idea that Christians can walk with the victory over sin by God's grace.
Number two. And this is a lot more important than number one, though total forgiveness is a totally necessary and a very important part of the gospel. I believe forgiveness represents about ten percent of the gospel and being born-again, transformed, and sanctified represents about ninety percent of the gospel. God hates sin and He paid an infinite price to set us free from sin and make us holy. (To be holy; to live in a state of holiness; and to be sanctified mean the same thing.) The sin problem certainly isn't solved to the extent we are still living in sin.
Hebrews 10:10 says that "WE HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all." This was something that the old covenant was powerless to do. Mankind had been under the penalty of Adam's sin since the fall, and that penalty included spiritual death and bondage to sin. The old-covenant sacrifices couldn't begin to take away spiritual death and bondage to sin and make us righteous and holy with the very righteousness and holiness of God. But that is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about (see Romans chapter 5, for example), and that is what the writer of Hebrews is speaking about here. (I had a footnote, Romans chapter 5 is discussed verse-by-verse in my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." And these super-important things are discussed in substantial detail in my book and in my papers that deal with this topic. Most of my papers are located on my internet site.)
The atoning death of the Lamb of God has dethroned spiritual death and sin for all who submit (who really submit) to God's plan of salvation by faith. We have been born again, and we have been sanctified. We have been called, enabled, and required to live in a state of holiness by God's sufficient grace. In the ideal case (and the New Testament doesn't present this ideal as being unrealistic or unattainable), all true Christians would be living in a state of righteousness and holiness. It is dangerous to live outside the will of God, and the New Testament is full of warnings (very serious warnings) regarding this matter.
The New Testament makes it clear that to the extent we are not living in God's will in a state of holiness, we need to make it a top priority to change by the grace of God in Christ. God knows our hearts. My book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," deals extensively with the meaning of the words, holy, saint, sanctify, and holiness ((I had a footnote, One important detail that you would not expect based on these English words is that in the Greek the words, holy, saint, holiness, and sanctify all have the same root. The Greek adjective behind the words holy and saint is "hagios." The Greek nouns often translated holiness are "hagiasmos" and "hagiosune"; sometimes "hagiasmos" is translated sanctification. And the Greek verb often translated sanctify in some form is "hagiazo." It can also be translated make holy. These Greek words are closely related: the verb was derived from the adjective; "hagiasmos" was derived from the verb; and the noun "hagiosune" was derived from the adjective.) The last chapter of my book deals almost entirely with this topic, and many key verses from the book of Hebrews are discussed in the book, including Heb. 10:8-18 [on pages 156-163].)) For an introduction to the topic of holiness and victory over sin, I recommend my 28 half-hour broadcast audio series titled, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." The written text behind those audio recordings is included on my internet site. You could also order the audio series there. Also, some of the articles are available here on this site under Bible Studies.
One of the primary points I make in the last chapter of my book is that there are at least two ways in which the words saint, holy, holiness, and sanctify are often misunderstood: Some reduce holiness to the mere positional or ceremonial. From this point of view, Christians are automatically holy, even if they are living in sin. I'm not saying that these words are never used in a positional or ceremonial sense in the New Testament, but this is not the typical new covenant use of these words. Others agree that holiness means that Christians are actually to be set apart from sin, but they deny that Christians can be holy now, during this present life. According to this widespread viewpoint, the best a Christian can hope for (can have faith for) is to be in a process (a sanctifying process) where the amount of sin is decreasing as the years go by. I agree that Christians must be growing (2 Cor. 3:18, for example), but in the ideal case Christians won't be growing out of sin, because they will be living in a state of holiness with the full victory over all sin. The New Testament repeatedly speaks of Christians actually being set apart from sin. This is good news, very good news! This is what all true Christians want.
I should comment on Heb. 10:14 because some translations (needlessly) confuse the issue by translating, as does the NKJV used by Joseph here, "For by one offering He has perfected forever those WHO ARE BEING SANCTIFIED." That is one way the Greek present participle could be translated, but I believe it is clear that the NASB gives the intended translation with the words, "THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED." The KJV is similar, with the words, "those that are sanctified." One reason I'm totally confident that the intended meaning is "those who are sanctified" (in other words, "those who are living in an abiding state of holiness") is because of the words, "WE HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" in Heb. 10:10. Although the Greek present participle that is used in verse 14 is ambiguous and could be translated either way, the Greek perfect tense verb that is used in verse 10 demonstrates that the writer of Hebrews is speaking of an abiding state of holiness. As I demonstrate in my book, this is a very common use of the words saint, holy, holiness, and sanctify/sanctification in the New Testament. It is very important that we get this right! This is at the heart of Christianity! And, like I said, this is very good news!
To be sanctified means to be SET APART for God from sin and everything that is unholy and defiling. This is accomplished 100 percent by the saving grace of God in Christ, but it is not accomplished in us to the extent we don't know the truth, or are not walking in the truth and in the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis by faith. The fact that we must receive and walk in God's grace by faith does not at all detract from the fact that our salvation is 100 percent by grace, and God must receive all the glory for our holiness (and every other aspect of our salvation).
It isn't surprising that so many Christians do not have a solid faith for holiness and victory over all sin. Our faith must be based on the Word of God, and more often than not, they haven't been taught that they have been called to such a walk, and that God's sufficient grace has been provided. We can't cooperate with God's grace that we don't know about (clearly know about), and even if we accurately understand God's sanctifying grace, we still have to resist the world, the flesh (the old man who wants to live in sin), and the devil and his hosts, including the temptation to doubt these glorious truths. We must work out our salvation on a continuous basis by grace through faith. In our day a large number of Christians will consider you a fanatic (or a heretic) if you talk about having the victory over all sin. The devil has won a major victory here. The real question we need to consider is whether God has called us to such a walk and whether His grace is sufficient for us to do His will. The New Testament repeatedly says that He did and it is.
I certainly am not saying that we should attack Christians who are having problems with sin. Quite the opposite! All of us have to face temptations, and it is rather easy to sin. The world, the flesh (the old man that still wants to sin), and the devil and his hosts (which includes a very large number of very committed demons who hate us and want to get us into sin and keep us in sin) are formidable opponents. (I had a footnote, It won't work to try to hide and hope these enemies will go away. We must face these enemies in the name of Jesus, in faith and by the Holy Spirit. There is no other reasonable alternative.) However, we cannot change the gospel. We need to rightly divide God's Word and make it top priority to do everything we need to do to help one another come into divine order, with the victory over all sin by God's sufficient grace (through faith), which includes all the work of the infinite Spirit of God, who is well able to give us the victory in every battle against our (and God's) opponents (see Rom. 8:12-14; Gal. 5:16, 17, for example). Also - thanks be to God! - forgiveness is provided for Christians who fall into sin through the blood of Christ when we confess our sins and repent.
I believe it is clear that the writer of the book of Hebrews was speaking of Christians actually being set apart from all sin and living in a state of holiness. He certainly wasn't thinking of his readers only living in a state of positional righteousness and holiness. In Heb. 8:10 and 10:16, for example, the writer of Hebrews quoted from the words of Jer. 31:33 about God's writing the Law on the hearts of His people through new covenant salvation. What God was saying through Jeremiah was that He was going to change their hearts through the new covenant (which was mentioned in Jer. 31:31) and that they would then live according to His moral Law from their hearts in His righteousness by His saving grace in Christ.
The writer of the book of Hebrews strongly and repeatedly warned his Jewish Christian readers that they must resist the temptation to turn from the gospel. (We are required to believe the truth of the gospel, and to keep on believing the truth of the gospel, and to live the truth of the gospel that was delivered to us.) They were being tempted to turn back toward the old covenant. That might relieve them from some temporary trials, but as the writer of Hebrews says in Heb. 10:29, they would have to trample underfoot the Son of God and regard as unclean the blood of Christ that had sanctified them if they turned from the gospel. (Note that the blood of Christ HAD SANCTIFIED THEM. The writer of Hebrews wasn't speaking of a sanctifying process, where the amount of sin decreases as time goes by.) The book of Hebrews is packed with strong warnings of the need to stay faithful to God, by His grace, and to live in His truth and righteousness (see Heb. 3:7-4:16; 6:1-8; and 10:26-39, for example).
I'll quote Heb. 10:26, 27, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth [of new covenant salvation], there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES." (I had a footnote, The Bible [including these verses in the book of Hebrews; also see Heb. 6:1-8; 1 John 5:16] warns that Christians can get to a place where there is no more room for repentance. However, in our day the devil has convinced many Christians that they have committed the/an unpardonable sin when they haven't. I would always encourage Christians who have a desire to repent that I don't believe they have committed the/an unpardonable sin.) We must not leave any room for sin! You open some doors a crack, and you just might get overwhelmed with what forces its way into your life. We must not leave any room for sin!
I'll make a few more comments about the words "He has perfected" of Heb. 10:14 before finishing this discussion. The writer isn't speaking of some way-out absolute perfection (where Christians cannot be tempted, or cannot sin, or don't have a need to keep on growing, or to be glorified), but he is speaking of a relative perfection that includes living in an abiding state of holiness (a state where Christians have been sanctified) that includes the victory over all sin. The book of Hebrews, along with the rest of the New Testament, also makes it clear that Christians will be forgiven and restored if they should fall into sin when they repent. The book of Hebrews includes repeated exhortations for his readers to repent
Hebrews 11:39, 40 and 12:23 are important verses to see how the writer of Hebrews uses the words made perfect and perfect. I won't discuss these important verses here, but they are discussed in my book.
Now I'll quote part of what Joseph says in chapter 2, "The Law Has Been Fulfilled." "When you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are made holy and righteous by His blood once for all" (page 12). Joseph is using the words "holy and righteous" in a positional sense here, like he used the word perfected in Heb. 10:14. He does not mean that we are (necessarily) living righteous and holy lives. It isn't that we are (necessarily) fulfilling the righteous requirements of God's law; rather, the basis for our being "holy and righteous" (according to Joseph) is that Jesus washes away the guilt of our sins through His atoning blood and He "came to fulfill all the requirements of the law on our behalf...." (page 13). "God sees you as righteous as Jesus himself" (page 18). "Right now [God] is well pleased with you because you are in Christ" (page 295).
You hear teaching like this a lot, but it is wrong, seriously wrong. It's true, of course, that we couldn't become righteous by trying to keep God's law in our own strength. But the very heart of what new-covenant salvation is all about is that God solved the sin problem through the sacrifice of His Son and His promised outpoured Holy Spirit, which enables His people to live in His righteousness and holiness, keeping His moral law (but not the ceremonial law of the old covenant). That was a big part of what the prophecy in Jer. 31:31-34 about the new covenant was all about. As I mentioned, a key part of those glorious prophetic words dealt with the fact that God puts His laws into our hearts (by His saving grace in Christ), thereby enabling us to fulfill them. That prophecy also included forgiveness.
And then there was the glorious prophecy of Ezek. 36:25-27. I'll quote these verses, "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. [This is a whole lot more than forgiving them for the sin of idolatry. This includes cleansing them from committing idolatry, and all other sin. Otherwise the sin problem would not be solved. God hates sin! The next two verses confirm that the heart of new-covenant salvation is to change His people in their hearts and to cleanse them from sinning and enable them to keep His commandments and live in His righteousness.] (26) Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (27) I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU AND CAUSE YOU TO WALK IN MY STATUTES, AND YOU WILL BE CAREFUL TO OBSERVE MY ORDINANCES." Verse 27 loudly confirms that the heartbeat of Christianity is that His people live in line with His will for them from their hearts (by His saving, sanctifying grace in Christ), truly loving Him and walking in line with His righteous statutes and ordinances (commandments).
I'll also mention three passages in the New Testament (Rom. 8:1-4; Rom. 2:26-29; and 1 Cor. 7:19) that speak of Christians keeping the requirements of God's moral law in their daily lives. I'll quote Rom. 8:1-4 and discuss these super-important verses. In Rom. 8:1, 2 Paul said, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law [or, governing principle] of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law [or, governing principle] of sin and of death." We know what the apostle meant by being set free from the governing principle of sin and of death, because he discussed these things in some detail earlier in Romans. In Rom. 5:21, for example, Paul spoke of SIN REIGNING IN DEATH. In context he was speaking of sin reigning (where sin reigns, people are serving sin by sinning) over those who were in spiritual death, which all the descendants of Adam were, as Paul demonstrated earlier in Romans chapter 5. However, we Christians have been set free from the governing principle of sin and of death by the Spirit of life we received in, and through, the Lord Jesus and His atoning death.
Like Paul said in Rom. 8:9, for example, the Spirit of God dwells in every true Christian. Instead of being under the governing principle of sin and death, the "Spirit of LIFE" enables us to be born again (canceling spiritual death) and He, the RIGHTEOUS, HOLY Spirit, enables us to live in the very imparted RIGHTEOUSNESS and HOLINESS of God. As we walk by the Spirit (which we are enabled, and required, to do), we walk with the victory over all sin (see Gal. 5:16 for example.) I trust that it is obvious that this is something very far beyond positional righteousness and holiness.
In Rom. 8:3 Paul said, "For what the Law could not do [What the Mosaic Law (which was the foundation for the old covenant) could not do was set believers free from being in spiritual death and in bondage to sin.], weak as it was through the flesh [They were in "the flesh"; the Spirit had not yet been given. He couldn't be given until after Jesus had been crucified and glorified (see John 7:39, for example). And people in the flesh (without the new-covenant gift of the Spirit) do not have the power to fully keep God's Law], God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh [God condemned sin (and spiritual death) through the incarnation, sinless life, and the sacrificial atoning death of His beloved Son. Paul goes on in verse 4 to show that Christians are privileged, enabled, and required to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law in their daily lives, having been set free from sin and spiritual death in Christ and by the indwelling Holy Spirit.], SO THAT THE REQUIREMENT OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN US, WHO DO NOT WALK ACCORDING TO THE FLESH BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT." The only way we can avoid walking according to the flesh is to be born again and then walk by the Holy Spirit. It is necessary to understand, however, that a walk by the Holy Spirit is far from being automatic, and it isn't always easy. There is opposition from the world, the flesh (the old man who wants to live in sin), and the devil and his hosts. That's why the apostle exhorted his Christian readers to always walk by the Spirit (we are obligated to always walk by the Spirit, but this is a great blessing), so that they would not fulfill the sinful desire of the flesh in Gal. 5:16. The desire of the flesh is to sin, to do the sinful works of the flesh, some of which are listed in Gal. 5:19-21. (I had a footnote, Galatians 5:16-25 are discussed on pages 195-200 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin.")
Paul makes it very clear in Gal. 5:17 that it involves warfare to always walk by the Spirit and not fulfill the sinful desire of the flesh. The world, the flesh (the old man that still wants to manifest itself in sin), and the devil and his hosts are against us, but God's grace is sufficient for us to always walk by the Spirit and do His will. And the apostle made it clear in Gal. 5:16-25, for example, that we are required to walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis; this isn't an optional matter. In Gal. 5:24 he said, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh (the old man) with its passions and desires." When we become Christians, we sign a contract (so to speak), agreeing, for one thing, to always walk by the Holy Spirit by faith. Paul said (in Gal. 5:19-21 and other places, including Rom. 8:12-14 [I had a footnote, These super-important verses (Rom. 8:12-14) are discussed in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin."]) that those who continue to walk by the flesh and do the sinful works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It's true that the Law cannot save us, and we need to emphasize that point (as Joseph does), but we are privileged, enabled, and required to fulfill the requirements of God's moral law in our daily lives by His saving grace in Christ. And that certainly doesn't happen automatically. Christians must understand (based on God's Word) that they are enabled, and required, to walk by the Holy Spirit and fulfill the requirements of God's moral law, which equals walking in His righteousness. His moral law cannot change; it derives from His nature, and He hates sin. That's one reason He paid an infinite price to sanctify His people. There is a gigantic difference between positional righteousness and our actually walking in the imparted righteousness of God by His grace. In some ways, putting all the emphasis on positional righteousness makes me think of a smoke and mirror religion. We need reality! We need truth! And the truth includes God's righteousness and holiness (see Eph. 4:24).
We will continue this important discussion in Part 3.
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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