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Hebrews Chapters 8-10: "We Have Been Sanctified" Through the Better Sacrifice, Part 1 (of 10 Parts)
by Karl Kemp
11/03/2014 / Bible Studies
All quotations were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless otherwise noted. Sometimes I make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious. I am using straight quotation marks ("), hyphens (-) instead of dashes, and a few other things like this because some of the internet sites where I post these articles require it. Cf., e.g., means "compare, for example."
INTRODUCTION. Hebrews chapters 8-10 contain some of the most powerful teaching in the New Testament that deals with the full salvation provided for Christians. There is a strong emphasis on the fact that the sin problem, which was not solved by the old covenant, has once for all been fully solved through new-covenant salvation: The law has been written on our hearts (Heb. 8:10; 10:16). "We have been sanctified" (Heb. 10:10) in the ideal (but very real) sense that we have been set apart for God from sin and everything unholy and defiling, which includes the fact that we are called, enabled, and required to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin. (As I demonstrate in the last chapter of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ," this understanding fits the typical use of the words holiness, holy, sanctification, make holy, etc. in a new-covenant context.) And our consciences are cleansed in the full sense that includes our knowing that we have been born again, that the law has been written on our hearts, and that we are enabled and committed to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin, by the saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ (Heb. 9:14; 10:22; cf. Heb. 9:9; 10:2), along with knowing that we have been forgiven for all our sins before we became Christians (Heb. 8:12; 10:17). We also know that we will be forgiven for any sins we commit after we become Christians, through the atoning blood of Christ, when we sincerely repent, but we must (we are required to) aim at the target of not sinning.
There is an equally strong emphasis in these chapters on the fact that this full salvation comes through the all-important atoning death of the Lamb of God. And the writer of Hebrews (I don't believe that the apostle Paul wrote this epistle, but there is a good probability that it was written by someone associated with Paul, someone like Apollos, for example) emphasizes the point that these things that are available under the new covenant were not available under the old covenant. This was a very important point to repeatedly make in that context, because, for one thing, the writer knew that at least some of the initial recipients of this epistle were being tempted/pressured to turn back toward the old covenant, which would be apostasy.
One primary reason that I wanted to discuss these chapters is because they contain such powerful teaching on Christians being called, enabled, and required to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin, by His sufficient, saving, sanctifying grace in Christ. After prayerfully studying this topic far more than any other topic for the past forty-five years, I am totally sure that this is the Christian ideal to which we are called, and that it is not presented as an unrealistic ideal. (We will briefly discuss Romans 7 and 1 John 1:8 in this paper, the two passages that are the most often used to try to prove that Christians cannot walk with the victory over sin in this life. I believe they are totally misunderstanding those passages.) If you hear this right, this is very good news! God wants to transform us, not condemn us! God hates sin, and He paid an infinite price in the Sacrifice of His Son, His Son who was always with Him in glory, His Son who became the God-man through His incarnation, who lived a sinless life, and who died as the Lamb of God, bearing all our sins back to Adam with the guilt (so we can be forgiven) and with the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin (so we can be born again and walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin).
Essentially all evangelicals understand that Jesus bore our sins with the guilt, so we could be forgiven, and evangelicals understand that we must be born again (though many wrongly understand the new birth in a way that doesn't have much to say about our living in the righteousness and holiness of God, with the victory over sin). However, based on my observations, it seems that very few Christians (including evangelicals) understand that the Lord Jesus died for us (in our place) so we could be set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and actually walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin as much as it includes forgiveness. Of course, the victory over sin, etc. doesn't take place automatically because we become Christians. We must cooperate with God's saving, sanctifying grace through faith on a continuous basis, and we have enemies trying to keep us in sin: the world, the flesh (the old man who wants to continue in sin), and the devil and his multitudinous hosts, but we are called to this victory and God's grace is sufficient. We must aim at this target with a high priority!
An understanding of the super-important things that I have been speaking about in this Introduction, which are at the heart of what Christianity is all about, is desperately needed by large segments of the Body of Christ in our day. Very few Christians, probably not more than ten percent, believe that we are called, enabled, required, and privileged to walk with the victory over all sin. (Many Christians mock that idea.) Another ten percent, or so, would probably agree that we need to make victory over all sin a high priority and aim at that target. It is certain that Christians are not going to hit the target very often, by faith, while they are believing and saying that they cannot do it.
My primary concern as I write this paper is with the fact that most evangelical Christians expect to sin (they have faith that they will sin). They are not making it a priority to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin. They don't believe they have been called, enabled, or required to aim at that target. God hates sin, but I don't believe He has a hard time forgiving sincere Christians if they slip into an occasional act of sin when they repent. (I'm not saying we should expect occasional acts of sin, or make room for them in our hearts. We should have zero tolerance for sin.) But I am sure that God is very concerned when He hears Christians saying that we cannot stop sinning and are not even aiming at the target of not sinning. The believers under the old covenant were doing better than that! This is a serious distortion of Christianity! I believe God has clearly informed us that He hates sin and has provided the answer to this problem at a very high cost to Himself in the Sacrifice of His Son. And the answer doesn't center in forgiveness, as important as that is. I believe many of us need to reconsider this super-important topic. Sincere Christians can misinterpret the Bible, and the devil and his hosts have been, and are, eager to help.
The only way we can walk with the victory over all sin is by faith, faith in God and in His Word. Our faith must be based on what God has called us to in the gospel. What He called us to do, He enables us to do! However, we cannot effectively appropriate or cooperate with God's sanctifying grace in Christ by faith when we don't believe that He has called us be sanctified (to live in an abiding state of holiness). It is extremely important that we rightly interpret and understand God's Word. What I am sharing in this paper is good news, very good news!
I was surprised by the very large percentage of commentators (more than 90 percent) on the Epistle to the Hebrews that I looked at for this study (more than fifty commentaries; not all of them were evangelical commentaries, and some of them were one-volume commentaries) who missed (what I'm sure is) the primary point that the writer of Hebrew was making about how new-covenant salvation differs from old-covenant salvation. (I spend a lot of space in this paper discussing the difference between old-covenant salvation and new-covenant salvation.) That "primary point" is that new-covenant believers are called, enabled, required, and privileged to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, by grace through faith, with the victory over all sin. Instead of that, most commentators emphasize the point that now we have been forgiven, are consecrated, accepted by God, and have access to Him. Some (including essentially all evangelicals) include the new birth, and you hear a lot about progressive sanctification, which is defined to mean that you will keep on sinning until you die, or the Lord Jesus returns, but you will sin less as you progress in holiness. You often hear that the believers were not forgiven under the old covenant, but they clearly were forgiven through the sacrificial offerings for all the sins that were not defiant, rebellious, with a high hand.
I don't want to minimize forgiveness. We are totally dependent on total forgiveness through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus, and the writer of Hebrews included that. However, he put all the emphasis on the fact that the moral law of God has been written on our hearts and we have been sanctified through the all-important atoning death of the Lamb of God (through His blood). The writer of Hebrews didn't mean, of course, that all true Christians are automatically sanctified, or that we couldn't sin, or that a walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God will always be easy or fun, but he was showing that God has called, enabled, and required us to live in an abiding state of holiness. He certainly expected his readers to make it a top priority to walk in the salvation to which He has called us, by His sufficient, saving, sanctifying grace in Christ.
This is the Christian ideal, and (based on the teaching of the New Testament) we must aim at this target! We need to think in terms of what we can do by God's sufficient grace, instead of leaving the door open for expected sin. (If we think God has told us to expect to sin, we will sin.) This is a door we must keep shut. (Some doors must be kept shut. If you open them a little you will be overwhelmed with the results.) God hates sin, and He paid an infinite price to set us free from sin. Yes, we must run to God with repentance if we should sin, but we shouldn't be saying that we know we will continue to sin. Something is seriously wrong here, no matter how we got to this place. (Many very committed, totally sincere, Bible centered Christians have gotten to this place.) Some say that we all sin daily in thought, in word, and in deed. (If we do, something is seriously wrong.) And we sometimes hear that all of our works are tainted with sin. (I don't believe the New Testament teaches this, not for those who are walking by faith and by the Spirit on a continuous basis, as we are called, enabled, and required to do.) I'm not speaking of super-saints. I'm speaking of those who have humbled their hearts before God, have made God the Father, His Son, His Spirit, and His gospel top priority, and who walk by faith and by the Spirit on a continuous basis.
The very widespread inadequate translation and misinterpretation of Heb. 10:18, which is a very important summarizing verse (which we will discuss in this paper), is a significant part of the reason why so many Christians miss the primary point that the writer of Hebrews makes in Hebrews chapters 8-10. The typical translation and interpretation of Heb. 10:18 leaves the very wrong impression that the writer of Hebrews was saying that now that we are forgiven, the issue is settled; the one sacrifice solved the sin problem. I'm confident that the writer would not agree with that understanding at all. Like I said, throughout chapters 8-10 (but not at all limited to chapters 8-10), he puts most of the emphasis on the fact that now that we have been set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin (with an emphasis on the fact that God's moral law has been written on our hearts) through the blood of Christ and that we are called, enabled, and required to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God as born-again Christians. From this point of view the sin problem really is solved through the blood of Christ: I trust my readers will agree that there is a gigantic difference between being forgiven the guilt of sin and walking with the victory over sin (even all sin). And all the more so when we remember that God hates sin.
Now we will begin a verse-by-verse study of Hebrews chapters 8-10, starting with Heb. 8:1.
"Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest [[referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, having been resurrected and been "taken up to heaven" after "forty days" and "exalted to the right hand of God" (see Acts 1:2, 3, 9-11; 2:33); the book of Hebrews often refers to Him as "High Priest," "high priest," or "great high priest" (Heb. 2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15; 5:5, 10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1, 3, 4; 9:11; 10:21); or "priest" (Heb. 5:6; 7:15, 21)]], who has taken His seat at the right hand [on being seated at the right hand of God the Father, which is the place of authority, cf. Psalm 110:1; God the Father is called Yahweh in Psalm 110:1] of the throne of the Majesty [Greek "megalosune"; also used in Heb. 1:3 of God the Father] in the heavens, (2) a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. [[The "the true tabernacle" in heaven here is contrasted with the tabernacle that Moses had built on the earth at God's instructions. God's presence was there in the second compartment of that tabernacle (in the Holy of Holies), and the temple that replaced that tabernacle, but it was a temporary earthly "copy and shadow" (8:5; cf. 9:11, 25) of the heavenly reality. Now, under the new covenant, through the shed blood of the Lamb of God and His high priestly ministry, we (as born-again children of God) have direct access to God and the heavenly reality. After we are glorified we will fully participate in the glory of heaven, even reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ.]] (3) For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices [under the old covenant]; so it is necessary that this high priest [the Lord Jesus Christ] also have something to offer. (4) Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law [[As the writer of Hebrews shows (Heb. 7:11-28), the Lord Jesus is a high priest of a different order (not of the Levitical order; for one thing, He was of the tribe of Judah, not Levi), of the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4 [Psalm 110 is discussed in chapter 19 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"]; see Heb. 7:1-10 on Melchizedek).]]; (5) who serve a copy [cf. Heb. 9:23] and shadow [cf. Heb. 10:1; Col. 2:17] of the heavenly things [see under verse 2], just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, 'See,' He says, 'that you make all things [the tabernacle and all of the things associated with worship at the tabernacle] according to the pattern which was shown to you on the mountain [quoting EX. 25:40].' (6) But now He [our great high priest] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator [Gal. 3:20; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:15; 12:24] of a better covenant [Heb. 7:22; cf. Heb. 9:15; 12:24 ], which has been enacted on better promises. [The new covenant has been enacted on better promises (much better promises) than the old covenant of Mt. Sinai.] (7) For if that first covenant [referring to the covenant enacted at Mt. Sinai] had been faultless [cf., e.g., Heb. 7:11; 10:1, 10, 14], there would have been no occasion sought for a second [referring to the new covenant].
DISCUSSION ON THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE OLD COVENANT AND THE NEW COVENANT (including some prophecies of the new covenant in the Old Testament and some discussion on the foundational basics of new-covenant salvation):
God gave the old covenant through Moses, but (in accordance with His plans that were not fully revealed in the Old Testament) that covenant was only temporary. The old covenant was not designed to solve the sin/spiritual death/Satan problem. God had already planned before the foundation of our world (1 Pet. 1:20; cf. Gen. 3:15) to send His Son to become the Lamb of God and fully solve the sin/spiritual death/Satan problem forever through the new covenant established on the atoning death (and resurrection) of the Lamb of God.
The old covenant could not solve the sin problem because those under the old covenant were still spiritually dead; they were still under the spiritual death that came with the rebellion and fall of Adam and Eve. As Jeremiah prophesied (quoted in Heb. 8:8-12), Israel did not continue in the old covenant. In other words, they were often rebelling against the covenant and sinning against God. God had given the Law to those under the old covenant and told them to take the Law into their hearts and live by it, but all too often they rebelled (often in very serious ways) against God and His Law.
One gigantic difference between the old covenant and the new covenant is that believers are born again (which overthrows spiritual death) through the Spirit who is poured out/given under the new covenant, starting on the Day of Pentecost. The Spirit (the indwelling, Righteous, Holy Spirit of life) brings the new birth and spiritual/eternal life and enables believers to live in the righteousness and holiness of God, all in accordance with the promises God made under the old covenant, very much including the promises quoted in Heb. 8:8-11. Also see, for example, ISAIAH 32:15-17; 44:3-5; EZEKIEL 36:25-27 (I'll quote verse 37, "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances."); EZEKIEL 37:14 ("I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life...."); MATTHEW 3:11; JOHN 1:12, 13; 3:3, 5-8; 6:63;
JOHN 7:37-39 (("Now on the last day, the great day of the feast [the Feast of Tabernacles], Jesus stood up and cried out, saying, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. (38) He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, "From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water." ' (39) But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." The Spirit was given, starting on the Day of Pentecost. (See the next listings from the book of Acts.) ));
ACTS 1:4, 5, 8 ((I'll quote ACTS 1:4, 5: "Gathering them together, He [Jesus] commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised [(literally) 'wait for the promise of the Father'; the Father had promised the new-covenant coming of the Spirit in the Old Testament], 'Which,' He said, 'you heard from Me; (5) for John baptized with [in] water, but you will be baptized with [better, "in"] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.' [I would translate "[baptized] in" here and in Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 11:16; and 1 Cor. 12:13 ("in one Spirit we were all baptized"). Baptism in the Spirit includes the new birth in Acts 1:5 and the other six verses I just listed; Jesus couldn't give/pour out the promised Spirit until after He had been glorified (see John 7:39, which is quoted above, and Acts 2:33, which is quoted next; on the meaning of John 20:22, John 20:21-23 are discussed as we continue, under Titus 3:5-7).));
ACTS 2:33 (("Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God [after forty days (Acts 1:3)], and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear [[referring to things that took place on the Day of Pentecost; the outpouring of the Spirit, which started on the Day of Pentecost, included the new birth (no believers were born again before the Day of Pentecost), the promised power/enablement to be righteous and holy with the righteousness and holiness of God (cf., e.g., ISAIAH 32:16, 17; 45:8; 46:13; 53:11; 56:1; 60:21; 61:1-4 with LUKE 4:16-21; ISAIAH 61:10, 11; JEREMIAH 31:33; EZEKIEL 36:27); and the widespread distribution of the charismatic gifts]])); ACTS 2:38 ("[Receiving] the gift of the Holy Spirit" here (and other places) is the equivalent of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.); ROMANS 2:29; 5:5;
ROMANS 7:4-6 ((I'll quote ROMANS 7:5, 6: "For while we were in the flesh [The apostle Paul is speaking of the time when he and his Jewish Christian readers were still spiritually dead, before they had become born-again Christians who had received the Spirit], the sinful passions, which were aroused by the [Mosaic] Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. (6) But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound [the Mosaic Law and the old covenant], so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter [the letter of the Mosaic Law]."));
ROMANS 8:1-17 ((Essentially all of these verses are totally relevant to an understanding of the new covenant, and the major difference between the new covenant and the old covenant. See the verse-by-verse discussion of these verses in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ" and my recently published e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin." Both books are available at amazon.com. I'll quote several verses from this passage that are super-relevant: "(2) For the law [or, governing principle] of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [all true Christians have the life of God dwelling in them through the Holy Spirit of life dwelling in them (cf. Rom. 8:9)] has set you free from the law [or, governing principle] of sin and of death. [We used to be under the governing principle of sin and of death; that is, we were spiritually dead and in bondage to sin.] (3) For what the Law [the Mosaic Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant] could not do [It could not give us the new birth or set us free from bondage to sin.], weak as it was through the flesh [Man in the flesh (man without the indwelling Spirit of God) does not have the power to overcome bondage to sin and demons.], 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 and dethroned the sin and spiritual death that had reigned over us through new-covenant salvation.], (4) 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. [[That is, we fulfill the moral requirements of God's Law, which gives His definition of what is right and wrong, as we walk by the Righteous, Holy Spirit on a continuous basis by faith (cf., e.g., Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:27; Rom. 2:26, 29; and 1 Cor. 7:19), which we are required (and privileged) to do as Christians (cf. Gal. 5:16).]] ... (9) However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit [as born-again Christians], if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [referring to the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 16:7; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19; and 1 Pet. 1:11)], he does not belong to Him. ... (12) So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh ["to live according to the flesh" includes doing the works of the flesh of Gal. 5:19-21, to live in sin] - (13) for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die [[In other words, if born-again Christians, who have life by the indwelling Spirit of life, turn from their faith commitment to God, His Son, and the new covenant and begin to live in sin instead of living for God, they will forfeit eternal life and "[they] must die [spiritually]."]]; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body [["The deeds [works] of the body" here is the equivalent of "the deeds [works] of the flesh" of Gal. 5:19-21, and "the works of the flesh" is the equivalent of the works of the old man, who wants to continue in sin. In Gal. 5:24 the apostle Paul speaks of our having crucified "the flesh" with its passions and desires; in Rom. 6:6 he speaks of our "old man" having been crucified with Christ. "Putting to death the deeds [works] of the body" "by the Spirit" here in verse 13 means to keep from doing sinful works, by the enablement of the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit, by grace through faith.]], you will live [you will continue to abide in the eternal life of God and will inherit the fullness of eternal life at the end of this age]. (14) For all who are being led by the Spirit of God [[In this context the apostle is speaking of being led by the Spirit to "[put] to death the deeds [works] of the body" (Rom. 8:13); or, to put it in different words: they are to be dead to sin and to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God.]], these are the sons of God." The thought is included that those who continue to live in sin, whether they had become born-again Christians, or not, are not "sons of God." The New Testament makes it clear, of course, that if Christians sin they will be forgiven when they sincerely repent, but we must be aiming at the target of not sinning; that is the heartbeat of the new covenant.)); ROMANS 15:16;
We will continue this listing (and discussion) of some key passages that demonstrate the heartbeat of the new covenant and the gigantic difference between the old covenant and the new covenant in Part 2 of this paper.
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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