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Hebrews Chapters 8-10: "We Have Been Sanctified" Through the Better Sacrifice, Part 7

by Karl Kemp  
1/31/2015 / Bible Studies

We continue this ten part verse-by-verse study of Hebrews chapters 8-10 here in Part 7, starting with Hebrews chapter 10, which is a very important chapter, especially on the topic of righteousness, holiness, and victory over all sin.


"For the Law [the Mosaic Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant], since it has only a shadow [Heb. 8:5] of the good things to come [referring to new-covenant salvation] and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near [[See under Heb. 9:9 above. To "make perfect" here includes total forgiveness, the new birth, being sanctified (which includes our being enabled to live in an abiding state of holiness; especially see Heb. 10:10, 14 below), and our having access to God in heaven, all by the saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ, through faith. None of these things were provided under the old covenant. Essentially all evangelical Christians would agree with what I said here, except for the fact most evangelicals deny that we are called and enabled to live in an abiding state of holiness in this life. (Also, many evangelicals believe that the believers under the old covenant were born again.) Most evangelicals believe that we are called to a sanctifying process (where we will progress in holiness and have less sin as time goes on, but that we cannot stop sinning this side of glory; I believe we are called to live in a state of holiness, with the victory over all sin - this is the ideal - and to keep on growing, which is a process), or they speak of a positional holiness (which doesn't deal with how the Christians will live). They don't believe the New Testament gives us the basis to have faith for the victory over all sin now. (We certainly won't have the victory over all sin if we don't have faith for that victory.) We will speak more of these super-important things as we continue, and we have discussed these things under Hebrews chapters 8 and 9.]]. (2) Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? [[The worshippers under the old covenant understood in their hearts and consciences that the sin problem had not been solved; sin had not yet been dethroned. The fact that the sacrifices had to be offered day by day, and year by year (on the Day of Atonement, Passover, etc.), in itself, demonstrated that the sin problem had not been solved, and would not be solved, under that covenant. They clearly could not stop offering the sacrifices for sin while the people continued to sin, and they understood that they would keep sinning day after day, and year after year.

As Jeremiah had prophesied, it would take the new covenant, which includes, for one thing, the Law being written on the hearts of the worshippers, which will enable them to fully keep God's moral law. I'll also list some other verses from the Old Testament that prophesied of God's ultimately solving the sin problem and making His people righteous and holy through new-covenant salvation: Isa. 32:15-18; 45:8; 46:12, 13; 52:13-53:12; 56:1; 60:21; 61:1-3, 10, 11; and Ezek. 11:19, 20; 36:25-27. These prophecies include the Messiah, His atoning death, and the outpoured Holy Spirit that come with the new covenant.

I'll quote two sentences from what Gareth Lee Cockerill (see under Heb. 9:14) says here (on his page 430): "The cleansing in question is the true inner cleansing of the person effected by Christ according to 9:14. ... The perfect tense of the participle [translated "having been cleansed"] suggests a definitive cleansing that determines the subsequent lives of the cleansed." See what I quoted from Cockerill under Heb. 9:14. I bought this commentary and a few others for this study. Based on what he says on chapters 8-10 I highly rate this commentary, which is the replacement edition for the Epistle to the Hebrews in the scholarly, well respected, "New International Commentary on the New Testament" series by the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.]] (3) But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. [[No matter how much the believers in Israel would rejoice on the Day of Atonement, for a prime example, they knew in their hearts that those sacrifices were scheduled to be repeated the next year, and the year after that, etc., because the people were going to continue to sin - God did not give the old covenant to solve the sin/spiritual death/Satan problem. They also had sin offerings on a daily basis under the old covenant.]] (4) For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. [["It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins," but "He [the Lamb of God] has been manifested to PUT AWAY SIN BY THE SACRIFICE OF HIMSELF [my emphasis]" of Heb. 9:26, which we discussed in some detail above. And as I mentioned there, less than ten percent of the commentaries on Hebrews that I looked at (more than fifty commentaries) understand the primary point that the writer of Hebrew meant by "to take away sins" in Heb. 9:26. The same thing is true here in Heb. 10:4 and in 10:11. (The Greek verb for "to take away" in 10:4 is "aphaireo"; for 10:11 it is "periaireo"; these verbs have essentially the same meaning in these verses.)

As we discussed under Heb. 9:26, the writer was speaking of the glory of new-covenant salvation that is built on the foundation of the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ that once for all solves the sin/spiritual death problem, very much including the super-important fact that new-covenant believers are called, enabled, and required 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. The taking away of sin(s) includes stopping the sinning. (In the Christian ideal there won't be any more sinning by believers, and it is clear that there won't be any more sinning after we are glorified through new-covenant salvation.) God hates sin! Sin destroys divine order and works to destroy everything it touches.

The writer's emphasis throughout chapters 8-10 is on the fact that God has dethroned sin and spiritual death through the Sacrifice of His Son and that Christians are called, enabled, required, and greatly privileged to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin. (As I have mentioned, total forgiveness, the new birth, and access to God beyond the veil are included in new-covenant salvation.) This is the Christian ideal, and it is very important for us to be aiming at this target by faith. This is what God has called us to do and provided the grace for us to do it, by faith (faith that is based on God, on what His Word says, and on His ability to back up His Word). These things constitute a very real, but incomplete form of perfection, a relative perfection. (For one thing, now we have to contend with the old man who wants to continue to sin, but the Holy Spirit enables us to keep the old man from manifesting itself in sin, as we walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis, by faith [cf. Gal. 5:16].) When we are glorified we will begin to experience perfection in a much fuller form, an absolute perfection, but apparently even after we are glorified there will be room for growth.

I believe that Hebrews 10:10 and 14, by themselves, should suffice to make the point that Christians are called and enabled to live in an abiding state of holiness, with the victory over all sin. This is a really big deal! It is very good news! Yes, we can sin (and we will sin if we don't fully cooperate with God's grace by faith), and forgiveness is provided if we should sin when we sincerely repent (cf. 1 John 2:1, 2), but like the apostle John said in 1 John 2:1, he was writing these things to his readers so that they would not sin, not sin at all, not even commit an act of sin. (See my discussion of 1 John 1:5-2:6 and 2:28-3:12 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

I'll quote one sentence from what Cockerill (see under verse 2) says under verse 4 (on his page 432): "Those sacrifices could not 'take away' sin and thus remove its pollution and dominion from human life." He has a long footnote here, which I won't quote.

The writer goes on to speak of the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ in verses 5-14, 18-22, 29; also see 9:12-17, 23-28.]] (5) Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says [The quotation in verses 5-7, which is a prophecy of the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, was taken from Psalm 40:6-8 (Psalm 39:6-8 in the Greek (Septuagint).], 'SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME [[Compare Heb. 2:14; 5:7; 1 Pet. 2:24. The Septuagint has the words, "But a body you have prepared for Me." The Hebrew has, "My ears You have opened," which apparently refers to His having ears to hear the Father, with the full intention of doing the Father's will at all times, and especially with reference to the extremely difficult assignment of His atoning death (cf. Isa. 50:4-10).]]; (6) IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. [[God required the sacrificial offerings under the old covenant as a temporary measure, but He always planned to send His Son to solve the sin, spiritual death, Satan problem through the Lord Jesus Christ and His all-important atoning death (cf., e.g. Gen. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:19, 20). So too, God was offended with (and He rejected) sin offerings when His people had given themselves over to sin, without real repentance (cf., e.g., Isaiah Chapter 1, especially verses 11-15; 1 Sam. 15:22). Nothing can work right while we are violating the first commandment of the ten commandments, which requires God's people to love Him and make Him and His will (righteousness) top priority from the heart.

All the sacrificial offerings under the old covenant pointed to (prefigured) the One Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and we can probably say that the old-covenant sacrifices were effective, to the point that they were effective, because of the One Sacrifice yet to come that had been ordained by God.]] (7) THEN I SAID, "BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD." ' [[The Lord Jesus Christ always made it top priority to do the Father's will, very much including His incarnation (His becoming the God-man) through the virgin birth, His sinless life, and then His atoning death, which was an extremely difficult assignment (cf., e.g., John 4:34; 6:38; Phil. 2:5-8; Matt. 26:38, 39; Luke 22:41-44; and all the passages that speak of His trials that culminated with His vicarious death on the cross, bearing our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin, and a whole lot more).]] (8) After saying above [see Heb. 10:5-7], 'SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them' (which are offered according to the Law), (9) then He said, 'BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.' He takes away the first in order to establish the second. [[He takes away the first covenant (the old covenant, with the animal sacrifices) to establish the second covenant (the new covenant in the blood of Christ, the Son of God). This is a dominant theme in the Epistle to the Hebrews.]] (10) [This verse and verse 14 are very important verses to learn the primary meaning of the words we have been sanctified, sanctification, make holy, holiness, holy, and saint (holy person) in the New Testament.] By this will [referring to the "will" of God just spoken of in verse 9] WE HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED [[(my capitalization for emphasis) These words are in the perfect tense in the Greek: They convey the idea that we are living (we are called and enabled to be living; we are supposed to be living; in the Christian ideal, and it is not presented in the New Testament as an unrealistic ideal, we will be living) in an abiding state of holiness, having been sanctified/made holy through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the powerful saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ. Writing from this ideal, positive, what-God-has-called-us-to viewpoint ("we have been sanctified"; which is a big part of what it means to be a Christian by God's definition), while realizing that some of the recipients of this epistle were not living in an abiding state of holiness, is comparable with what the apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 1:2 ("to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling [better, "called to be saints"]") and 1 Cor. 6:8-11 ("but you were sanctified") for example. 1 Corinthians shows that there was a lot of sin taking place among some Christians at Corinth, but Paul repeatedly made it clear that this was unacceptable, and they needed to repent and appropriate and cooperate with the sufficient, sanctifying grace of God in Christ. They are called, enabled, and required to be sanctified/saints, to be what Christians are supposed to be. (It isn't safe to live outside of the will of God.) The gospel isn't going to change! I Cor. 1:1, 2 and 6:8-11 are discussed on pages 172-174 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ."

I'll cite a few more examples where the New Testament speaks in an ideal, positive point of view, while realizing that the lives of some, or many, of the recipients of that epistle didn't fully match what was being said. This is very common. (We must make it a top priority to live in line with God's will, which isn't going to change.) In Rom. 6:2 the apostle Paul said, "How shall we who have died to sin still live in it?" and in 6:6 he said, "knowing this, that our old self [(our old) man; Greek "anthropos"] was crucified with Him...." But Rom. 6:11 (and a large number of verses in the New Testament) makes it clear that these things don't take place automatically and it isn't always easy; we must appropriate these things by faith, and continue in these things by faith, or we will not be dead to sin and the old man will be manifesting itself in sin. In Rom. 8:2 the apostle told the Christians at Rome that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set [them] free from the law of sin and of death," while knowing (as his readers understood) that some, or many, of them were not fully walking in this reality. He was giving them God's definition of what is supposed to be the reality, and anywhere their lives don't match God's definition they are going to have to change with a high priority. We must make it a top priority to learn what God has made available to us and what He requires of us and then walk in these things on a continuous basis by grace through faith.

I'll give one last example, 2 Cor. 5:17. This verse is very important for us to discuss because many Christians, very much including many ministers, misunderstand and misuse what the apostle Paul said in this verse, and it causes considerable confusion. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature ["creation" NIV, NKJV]; the old things have passed away; behold new things have come." Paul didn't write these words so that all the Christian recipients of this epistle would feel good about themselves and boast in the fact that they were new creatures (creations). Quite the contrary! In that context he was exhorting all his readers who needed to repent to repent and become what they are supposed to be, by God's definition, and "not receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 6:1), for example. This problem is all the more serious where Christians who are living in sin have been taught that they are saved and there is no way they could lose their salvation. Many teach "Once Saved, Always Saved" in a way that makes it impossible to take the many warnings in the New Testament seriously, warnings like repent or lose your salvation. See my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?"

Hebrews 10:8-18 are discussed on pages 156-163 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," and there are extensive endnotes. And all of the last chapter of that book (pages 169-220), is totally relevant to this topic: It deals in large part with the meanings of the Greek words translated holiness, holy, make holy, saint, sanctify, sanctification, etc. My recently published e-book includes some of this information, but not as much as the paperback book. The e-book is intended as an introduction to the paperback book; it is easier to read and typically should be read first. (Both books are available at]] THROUGH THE OFFERING OF THE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST ONCE FOR ALL [my capitalization for emphasis]. [[See Heb. 2:11; 9:13, 14; 10:14, 29; and 13:12. Full salvation - (which includes relative perfection for this present age: see Heb. 7:19; 9:9; 10:1, 14; 11:40) includes being forgiven for all of our past sins when we become Christians, being set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin, being born again and made righteous and holy (having been sanctified), and having access to God beyond the veil as His born-again children - comes to us through the all-important atoning death (and resurrection) of the Lord Jesus Christ, along with forgiveness for any sins we should commit after we become Christians when we repent.

Expressions like "we have been sanctified" or relative "perfection" fit the positive, ideal, what-God-has-called-us-to point of view and exclude all sin. Doesn't that sound good? Isn't that what you want in your heart? As I mentioned, the writer of Hebrews understood that some Christians, including some of the original recipients of this epistle, were not living in the state of holiness that had been provided for them, and to which they had been called, but he was powerfully reminding them of what God had provided for them and required of them. Where any readers whose hearts and lives didn't line up with God's call, those readers were being called to repent, with a top priority. God isn't going to change His gospel call.

Much of the material that follows through Heb. 10:18 was borrowed from the verse-by-verse discussion of Heb. 10:8-18 in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ." This will result in some repetition, but I believe this topic is so important that we need some repetition, especially in light of the fact that so many Christians (even the majority) don't believe we have been called to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over all sin. As I mentioned, I looked at more than fifty commentaries on Hebrews chapters 8-10 for this study. Most of them write from the viewpoint that the words "we have been sanctified" should be understood to speak of positional holiness/consecration (which doesn't deal with how Christians live) or of a lifelong sanctifying process (where we never gain the full victory over sin as long as we live in this world - where we don't have faith for victory over all sin, and we don't think we are supposed to have faith for victory over all sin, but at least we make some progress while we keep on sinning). Sin, if it really is sin, is a serious word; it is rebellion against God and His divine order. We should have zero tolerance for sin.

A Discussion on the Meaning of the Words, "We Have Been Sanctified" of Hebrews 10:10. THESE WORDS, "WE HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED," SPEAK OF THE SANCTIFIED STATE IN WHICH ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED (AND ARE ENABLED) TO DWELL. To say the same thing using different words, WE HAVE BEEN MADE HOLY; WE ARE SAINTS; WE HAVE BEEN SET APART FROM SIN BY GOD FOR GOD; WE LIVE IN AN ABIDING STATE OF HOLINESS WITH THE VICTORY OVER ALL SIN. The NIV translates, "we have been made holy." The New Testament very often uses the words, sanctify, sanctification, holiness; holy; saint, etc. in the ideal (but not unrealistic) sense I have briefly summarized in this paragraph. See pages 156-163 and pages 169-220 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin."

Christians are called to live in an abiding state of holiness, but Christians are not automatically sanctified, and sanctified Christians do not automatically maintain a state of holiness. ((See, for example, Heb. 2:18; 3:16-19; 4:1-16; 5:11-14; 6:1-12; 10:19-39; 12:1-29; 13:1-25. Hebrews 12:5-13 speak of God's chastening/disciplining His children (as required) that they may share His holiness (see Heb. 12:10); that they may be righteous (see Heb. 12:11). The Bible makes it clear that God's people do not always respond with repentance when they experience His chastening/disciplining. Hebrews 12:14 (NIV) says, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; WITHOUT HOLINESS NO ONE WILL SEE THE LORD [my capitalization]." To be holy (to live in an abiding state of holiness) must be a top priority for Christians.

It should be pointed out, and emphasized, that the holiness of Christians comes from God by grace through faith, based on the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the triune God must receive all the glory. We certainly don't want to say that chastening/disciplining is the basis for our holiness, but it can help motivate us to repent if such motivation is required, etc.))

We must walk by faith (based on what the New Testament teaches), and we must walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis; otherwise, we will not live in an abiding state of holiness. The world, the flesh (the old man who wants to continue in sin), and the devil and his multitudinous hosts of evil angels and demons are waging warfare against us, sometimes intense warfare. Satan and his hosts work to keep us from the truth of God and His righteousness and holiness, or to get us out of His truth and righteousness and holiness. One major problem we have in our day is that most Christians (at least the Christians in our part of the world) don't have much insight in dealing with, and resisting, demons, or the gifts of the Spirit that we need to be effective in dealing with demons. Living righteous, holy, and fruitful lives in the truth involves spiritual warfare whether we want that warfare, or not. Many Christians wrongly believe that we are automatically protected from the influence and workings of demons. We need all the help that God makes available to us, including through other Christians, especially ministers.

The ideal presented in the New Testament is for Christians to be sanctified from the time of conversion. Then throughout the Christian life there will be growth as we are changed from glory to glory (see 2 Cor. 3:18). This need for growth is not sin, and in general, the New Testament does not use the verb "sanctify" (or the closely related words) to speak of this growth. In the ideal case we will live in an abiding state of holiness and we will be growing. That sounds good, doesn't it?

I'll briefly comment on what H. Orton Wiley says under Heb. 10:10-14 ("Epistle to the Hebrews" [Beacon Hill Press (Nazarene), 1959, 1984], pages 286-293). I appreciate the fact that Wiley believes that Christians are called to walk with the victory over all sin, but I believe he confuses the issue somewhat with his viewpoint, a second work of grace viewpoint. The sanctification that he teaches (they often refer to it as entire sanctification, which typically is received as a second, crisis experience) includes the removal of the sinful nature. I don't believe the writer of Hebrews (or the other writers of the New Testament) included the idea of our being able to eliminate the influence of the old man/the sinful nature while we are still living in this world, or that he included any idea of being sanctified as a second experience. He was speaking of the state of holiness that is provided for all true Christians as a big part of what it means to be a Christian. The New Testament includes holiness in the basic full-salvation package, and we shouldn't think in terms of entering that state in the future (it is available now, not that it is automatic or always easy, far from it); but I'm very thankful for all the Christians who enter that state as a second experience. Those who teach that viewpoint, like Wiley, are some of the only Christians who understand and teach that God has called us to live in an abiding state of holiness, with the victory over all sin.

I'll quote part of what Richard S. Taylor says under Heb. 10:10 ("Beacon Bible Commentary," Vol. 10 [Beacon Hill Press (Nazarene), 1967], page 119): "We are not merely consecrated by the death of Christ, in the sense that His death brings us into a new and sacred relationship with God. This would be positional holiness only, and that was available before. [Yes, but in a lesser sense.] ... The [Greek participle] verb form "hegiasmenoi," is perfect tense, which means that we, the worshippers, are, through Christ, in a state of sanctification [holiness], resulting from a past sanctifying. [Taylor, like Wiley above, is thinking of "entire sanctification," which, from their point of view, typically takes place as a second, crisis experience and includes the removal of the sinful nature.] But with most of these Hebrew Christians this was not yet subjectively a fact of experience. [We know, at least, that some of the recipients of this epistle were being tempted to compromise the gospel of the new covenant by turning back toward the old covenant.]. We may call this therefore a 'perfect of prophecy,' having a futuristic force. [I believe calling this a " 'perfect of prophecy,' having a futuristic force," misses the intent of the author/Author. The author/Author was speaking of what all Christians are called to now. The fact that many Christians in the ancient world and in our day were not living in an abiding state of holiness did not change the gospel. We are called and enabled to walk in an abiding state of holiness.] 'Through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ' we are provisionally sanctified, and may be personally and inwardly sanctified." We are called to be "inwardly sanctified," and we should not put it in the future, God has provided this for us now. I believe that Wiley and Taylor would agree that this inward sanctification is available to us now by grace through faith.

We will continue the lengthy discussion under Heb. 10:10 in Part 8 of this paper. This verse is extremely important!

Copyright by Karl Kemp 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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