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Hebrews Chapters 8-10: "We Have Been Sanctified" Through the Better Sacrifice, Part 9

by Karl Kemp  
2/13/2015 / Bible Studies

We continue with the discussion under Heb. 10:18 here in Part 9.

I'll quote part of what Gareth Lee Cockerill ("Epistle to the Hebrews" [Eerdmans, 2013], page 459) says under verse 18: " 'Where there is release from these' refers to Christ's sacrifice that provides freedom from the 'sins' and 'lawless deeds' mentioned in v. 17. 'Where' also has causal significance: since 'release' from disobedience has been effected by Christ's offering, 'there is no longer' any other 'sacrifice for sins.' English versions normally render the term ["aphesis"] we have translated 'release' by 'forgiveness' throughout the New Testament. The LXX [Septuagint] regularly uses this term in the broader sense of 'release.' [I say quite a bit more regarding the use of aphesis in the Septuagint (in the chapter on aphesis in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin") than what I said in the three paragraphs quoted above.] In the present context we cannot restrict 'release' to a mere forensic or legal 'forgiveness.' The [writer] is not dealing with a verdict given in court but with cleansing provided in a sanctuary. By His sacrifice Christ 'cleanses the conscience' of his people 'from dead works to serve the living God' (Heb. 9:14). Christ's own obedience has produced a covenant in which he has written his law's on his people's hearts so they can now live in obedience (10:16). ... The cessation of sacrifice implies purification (cf. 1:3) as well as forgiveness." Amen!

The way we understand Heb. 10:18 will typically very significantly affect the way we understand much of Hebrews chapters 8-10, very much including Heb. 10:10 and 14. If we wrongly believe that the writer of Hebrews limited what he said in Heb. 10:15-18, which is strongly connected to Heb. 10:1-14, to forgiveness it tends to have the power to very wrongly put the emphasis of Heb. 10:1-14 on forgiveness. That is undoubtedly a significant part of the reason why so many Christians misunderstand 10:1-14, which are some of the most important verses in the Bible that show that the heartbeat of Christianity is being transformed (by the saving, sanctifying grace of God, through faith), so we can walk in the truth, righteousness and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin. I suppose though that the greater part of the reason why so many misunderstand Heb. 10:1-14 is that they have already determined that the New Testament teaches that we can never have the victory over all sin in this life. Large numbers of Christians have decided that we should put the emphasis on being forgiven and having a right, legal, positional righteousness and holiness along with progressive sanctification, with an understanding that we will continue to sin (even though many agree that sin is a very serious matter). Numbers 32:23 ends with the words, "your sin will find you out" and Heb. 12:14 (NKJV) says, "Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." And the writer didn't mean positional holiness or progressive sanctification (holiness) in Heb. 12:14. However, he would agree that we do need to keep growing in the good things of God. We always need to keep pressing on by grace through faith; we never get to a place where we can coast. We certainly have not arrived; we have not been perfected in an absolute sense.

Expansion On The Study Of The Greek Noun "Aphesis." This is very important, so I'm going to supplement the chapter that deals with the meaning of aphesis that is in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." I decided (actually I believe I was led) to do a somewhat brief study to find out if the ante-Nicene Fathers (who wrote before the Nicene Council of AD 325) sometimes used "aphesis" in a full sense that goes far beyond the forgiveness of the guilt of sin. I was able to find five examples (there could be quite a few more examples), which I'll present here. (I'm quoting the passages from "The Ante-Nicene Fathers" (ANF) translated by A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, 10 volumes [originally published in 1865-1887; I have the Eerdmans edition].):

Justin Martyr (about AD110-165), "Dialogue with Trypho," who was a Jew, Vol. 1 of ANF, chapter 44, page 217. "... But there is no other [way] than this [for people to be saved and have "a hope of inheriting the promised good things"], - to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission [aphesis] of sins [In this context I would translate "for the release from sins (with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)," or the equivalent.]; AND FOR THE REST, TO LIVE SINLESS LIVES [my emphasis]."

Note that after this "remission of sins" ["release from sins with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)"] when we become Christians, WE ARE TO LIVE SINLESS LIVES. This seems to clearly show that Justin was using aphesis to mean a lot more than the remission (or forgiveness) of the guilt of sins here, but that is included. However, Justin wasn't writing from the naive point of view that all Christians were living sinless lives, but that we are called, enabled, and required to live sinless lives. This is the Christian ideal. God's grace is sufficient. We must be aiming at this target. Justin, like all of the early true Christian writers, exhorted his readers to resist temptation and walk in the righteousness of God with a high priority, and he warned of the consequences of continuing to live in sin.

Justin Martyr, "Dialogue with Trypho," Vol. 1 of ANF, chapter 111, page 254. "... ...the blood of Christ, by which those who were at one time harlots and unrighteous persons out of all nations are saved, receiving remission [aphesis] of sins [release from sins with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)], AND CONTINUING NO LONGER IN SIN [my emphasis]."

Note that after this "remission of sins" ["release from sins with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)"] Christians are to CONTINUE IN SIN NO LONGER. The "harlots and unrighteous persons" are born again and become righteous persons. Therefore aphesis means a lot more than the remission (or forgiveness) of the guilt of sins here, but that is included.

"Epistle of Barnabus" (possibly written before AD 100), Vol. 1 of ANF, chapter 5, section 1, page 139. "For to this end the Lord endured to deliver up His flesh to corruption, THAT WE MIGHT BE SANCTIFIED [my emphasis] through the remission [aphesis] of sins ["through the release from sin with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)], which is effected by His blood of sprinkling."

The fact that we are enabled (and required) to be a SANCTIFIED (holy) people through the aphesis of sins shows that the writer is including a lot more than the remission (or forgiveness) of the guilt of sins, but that is included. In the preceding chapter (and other places in this epistle), the writer exhorted his readers with the requirement for God's people to fear Him and keep His commandments, and he warned, "Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are called [of God], we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord." It is clear that Barnabus understood that Christians are not automatically sanctified and that sanctified Christians do not automatically maintain a state of being sanctified or holiness or of having salvation.

"Epistle of Barnabus," Vol. 1 of ANF, chapter 6, page 140. "Since, therefore, HAVING RENEWED US [my emphasis] by the remission of our [the word "our" is not included in the Greek text that I have] sins ["by the release from our sins with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)] He hath made us after another pattern, [it is His purpose] that we should possess the soul of children, inasmuch as HE CREATED US ANEW BY HIS SPIRIT [my emphasis]."

The fact that we HAVE BEEN RENEWED and HE CREATED US ANEW BY HIS SPIRIT and BEEN MADE AFTER ANOTHER PATTERN through aphesis of/from sins demonstrates that aphesis means a lot more than the remission (or forgiveness) of sins here, but that is included. Being released from our sins with the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin that came upon mankind through the transgression of Adam and Eve) was also required.

"The Pastor [Shepherd] of Hermas," Vol. 2 of ANF, Book 2, chapter 3, page 22. "... For he who has received remission [aphesis] of his sins ["release from his sins with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)] OUGHT NOT TO SIN ANY MORE, BUT TO LIVE IN PURITY [my emphasis]. ...."

The fact that Christians are called, enabled, and required to NOT SIN ANY MORE, BUT TO LIVE IN PURITY demonstrates that aphesis means a lot more than remission (or forgiveness) of the guilt of sin here, but that is included.

BEFORE WE CONTINUE THIS VERSE-BY-VERSE STUDY OF HEBREWS CHAPTERS 8-10 WITH HEB. 10:19, I'LL QUOTE A LITTLE FROM THE LAST CHAPTER OF MY BOOK, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," THAT DEALS FOR THE MOST PART WITH THE MEANING OF THE GREEK WORDS THAT ARE TRANSLATED HOLINESS, HOLY, SAINT, SANCTIFY, SANCTIFICATION, ETC. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. Most of this lengthy chapter (pages 169-220) is devoted to studying key passages that use these Greek words. (The most important way to study the meaning of Greek words used in the New Testament is to study the words in the contexts in which they are used in the New Testament.) Three pages of that chapter are devoted to the topic "What is Sin?" We need God's definition. Anything that He considers to be sin, we must consider to be sin, but it seriously confuses the issue when we call things sin that God doesn't, and this happens a lot.

This chapter in my book originated with the study of the meaning of the words "we have been sanctified" of Hebrews 10:10. The Greek verb behind the words "we have been sanctified" is "hagiazo." This Greek verb, which is used twenty-eight times in the New Testament, is normally translated "sanctify" (in some form) by the NASB and the KJV. The NIV translates it "sanctify" (in some form) thirteen times. The NIV also translates "hagiazo" as consecrated, hallowed, made holy, make(s) holy, makes sacred, and set apart.

"Hagiazo" was derived from the adjective "hagios," which is used over two hundred times in the New Testament and is normally translated Holy/holy or saint(s) by the NASB, KJV, and the NIV. The Greek noun "hagiasmos," which was derived from the verb "hagiazo," is used ten times in the New Testament and is normally translated holiness or sanctification by the NASB and KJV. The NIV has holiness four times. It also has be sanctified, holy, holy life, and sanctifying. The Greek noun "hagiosune," which was derived from the adjective "hagios," is used three times in the New Testament and is translated holiness by the NASB and KJV. The NIV has holiness two times and holy one time.

It is beyond the scope of this study to discuss the range of meaning of hagiazo, hagios, hagiasmos, and hagiosune. This study will be limited to one often used, very important, but not well understood, New Testament use of these words. These Greek words are frequently used to communicate the idea that Christians are actually to be SET APART from sin and to live for God in an abiding state of holiness (basically) from the time of conversion. This is the ideal, and the New Testament does not present it as an unrealistic or unattainable ideal. Not at all!

I have observed over the years that many Christians do not have an adequate understanding of the meaning of words like holiness, holy, saint, and sanctify. There are at least two ways in which these words are often misunderstood:

1. 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, ceremonial sense, but this usage is far from the typical New Testament use of these words.

2. Others agree that holiness means that Christians are actually to be set apart from sin for God, 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 (have faith for) is to be in a process (a sanctifying process) in which the amount of sin is decreasing as the years go by. I agree that Christians must be growing (see 2 Cor. 3:18, which speaks of our being transformed from glory to glory), but the New Testament doesn't normally use the words sanctify, holiness, etc. to speak of (or to include) this growth. And, significantly, THE NEW TESTAMENT MAKES IT VERY CLEAR THAT CHRISTIANS ARE ACTUALLY TO BE SET APART FROM SIN - TO BE DEAD TO SIN AND TO BE SET APART FOR GOD. In the ideal case, WE WILL BE LIVING IN AN ABIDING STATE OF HOLINESS, AND WE WILL BE GROWING. This is good news!

Our faith must be based on what the Bible actually says. If we believe that the Bible says that we cannot have the victory over sin now, we certainly will not have the victory over sin now. The world, the flesh (the old man who wants to continue in sin), and the devil are very real opponents, and we cannot walk in victory over them apart from the sufficient grace of God in Christ, which is appropriated by faith. I'm not talking about the power of positive thinking; I'm talking about trusting God and being sanctified by His saving power and for His glory. It is necessary for us to understand the Word of God, but we will never understand it (to a satisfactory extent) if we wrongly define key words like sanctify and holiness. (Now Heb. 10:19.)]] (19) Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place [referring to the heavenly counterpart to the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, as in Heb. 9:12; the NIV translates "the Most Holy Place" in Heb. 9:12 and here] by the blood of Jesus [We have access to the presence of God through the atoning blood of the new covenant.], (20) by a new and living way [[Compare Heb. 9:8. The "way" is "living" through the life of God made available through NEW-covenant salvation. For one thing, the Spirit of life dwells in all born-again Christians (cf., e.g., Rom. 8:2, 9). "Jesus said to him, 'I am the WAY and the truth and the LIFE; no one comes to the Father but through Me' " (John 14:6; cf. Eph. 2:18).]] which He inaugurated [cf. Heb. 9:18] for us [[The "new and living way which He inaugurated for us" is new-covenant salvation, which has opened the way for us into the presence of God in heaven. We (all true Christians) have this access now, and we will have it in a much fuller sense after we are glorified and enter heaven in a much fuller sense and even begin to reign with the Lord Jesus.]] through [I prefer, "by means of"] the veil, that is, His flesh [[These words are difficult and the interpretations differ substantially. We have already been informed that we have access to the presence of God in heaven (see 10:19 for example); however, it seems that the writer chose to use the words "the veil" in the special sense that he describes for us here; that is, "the veil" is "His flesh" (the flesh of the Lord Jesus). We have access to God "by means of the veil, that is His flesh," which includes His incarnation, sinless life, all-important atoning death, resurrection, and His entering heaven to be seated at the Father's right hand as our great high priest. Assuming this is the right idea, the point that the writer makes here is extremely important and amplifies the point that he made in verse 19, that our access into the presence of God has come for us "by the blood of Jesus." I'll comment further on this interpretation in the following paragraph.

The words, "that is, His flesh," go with the fact that the means God used to save us (which includes giving us access to His presence) included the all-important incarnation of His Son, where the Son took upon flesh (cf. John 1:14) and became the God-man. He became a veil (or a door, or a bridge) between God and His people (the believers) THAT WOULD BE OPENED WHEN HE DIED FOR US and was resurrected and ascended to the right hand of God the Father. His sinless life, and His all-important atoning death, resurrection, and His entrance into heaven as our great high priest could not have been accomplished if He had not become a man (but much more than just a man; He was deity, and He wasn't spiritually dead).

It is very significant that "the veil of the temple [in Jerusalem] was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matt. 26:51; Mark 15:38; cf. Luke 23:45) when Jesus died. Formerly there was a "veil" (or a closed door) between us and God in heaven, separating us from Him.]], (21) and since we have a great priest over the house of God [The Lord Jesus is our great high priest (cf. Heb. 2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15; 5:5, 19; 6:20; 7:26, 28; 8:1, 3; and 9:11), and we are "His house" (Heb. 3:6; cf. 3:1-5) and the house of God (Heb. 3:4).], (22) let us draw near [cf. Heb. 7:19] [[I'll quote HEBREWS 4:14-16, "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. [To "hold fast our confession" includes continuing to believe the truth (of the Word of God, especially the gospel) in our hearts and to walk in the "righteousness and holiness of the truth" (cf. Eph. 4:24). This is the primary theme of this epistle. The writer was TEACHING, ENCOURAGING, EXHORTING, and WARNING his readers throughout this epistle.] (15) For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (16) Therefore, LET US DRAW NEAR WITH CONFIDENCE [my emphasis] to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." The writer was encouraging and exhorting his readers to come before God the Father and our great high priest to repent anywhere repentance was required and to receive the saving, strengthening, sanctifying grace of God in Christ (which also gives us direction, wisdom, correction, etc.) that will enable us to come into and to stay in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God. For one super-important thing, we are to draw near to God and our great high priest with confidence (a sincere heart in full assurance of faith) when we are tempted, so that by His sufficient grace we won't sin.]] with a sincere heart in full assurance [cf. Heb. 6:11] of faith [[The words of this verse and the verses that follow to the end of the chapter are apparently intended first and foremost for the Christians who had begun to waver in their faith and faithfulness. Faith is of the heart. For one thing, having faith in our hearts is the opposite of doubting/wavering in our hearts (cf. Matt. 14:31; 21:20-22; Mark 11:22-24; and James 1:6-8). Faith is the most important word used in the New Testament (not to minimize repentance) that shows our role in God's plan of salvation (cf., e.g., Heb. 11:6).

We do not earn salvation by faith, not at all; but we receive salvation by faith, and we work out our salvation by grace through faith. Faith includes making God, His Son, and His Word top priority and submitting to and cooperating with His grace. We couldn't have faith if He didn't take the initiative in our salvation, including sacrificing His Son to save us; sending the gospel to us one way or another; drawing, convicting, revealing, transforming, etc., and restraining the evil one, but it goes too far and misses the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches to say that God gives us saving faith (but many teach that God gives us saving faith). We submit to, and cooperate with, His saving, sanctifying grace by faith. See my "A Paper on Faith."

The fact that we have to cooperate with God's saving, sanctifying grace doesn't detract from the fact that we are saved 100 percent by grace. The apostle Paul, in Rom. 4:16, said, "For this reason [since we couldn't be saved by the Law], it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace...." Everything we receive by faith comes by God's grace.]], having our hearts sprinkled [[cf. Ezek. 36:25 ((Ezekiel 36:25-27 put all the emphasis on God's sanctifying His people through new-covenant salvation, with the result that they will live for Him in His righteousness and holiness, with the victory over all sin. I'll quote EZEKIEL 36:25-27, "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 [Then they won't be filthy any more, which includes the fact that they won't be worshipping idols or committing other sins.] (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." The New Testament makes it very clear that God doesn't force us to submit to new-covenant salvation with faith, or to continue in faith to the end, or force us to "walk in His statutes," but He sets us free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and Satan and enables us to "walk in His statutes.")); Heb. 9:19; 12:24; and 1 Pet. 1:2.]] clean from an evil conscience [[We discussed what it means to be cleansed from an evil conscience through the blood of Christ (through new-covenant salvation that comes through the atoning death of Christ, His resurrection, and His ascension to the right hand of God the Father) under Heb. 9:14. As we discussed there, this means a whole lot more than knowing that we are forgiven, as important as that is.

I'll quote a sentence from what Chrysostom (AD 347-407) says under the words, "having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience" ("Epistle to the Hebrews," Homily XIX, "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers" [Eerdmans, 1975 reprint], page 455): "He shows that not faith only, but a virtuous life also is required [We live in the righteousness and holiness of God by grace through FAITH.], and the consciousness to ourselves of nothing evil."]] and our bodies washed with pure water [[These words refer to water baptism ((cf., e.g., Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5 [Titus 3:5-7 are quoted and discussed in some detail under Heb. 8:7 in this paper. Titus 3:3-8 are discussed on pages 125-128 (plus the endnotes) of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." Water baptism is discussed there. Also see under verse 29 in my paper on 1 Corinthians chapter 15, and under John 3:5 in my paper on John 1:19-4:54; both papers are on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching); and 1 Pet. 3:21)).]]. (23) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering [[I'll quote HEBREWS 3:1 and 6: "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling [We have been called to inherit heaven at the end of our life on earth. Our hope is to inherit heaven with all of its glory and the fullness of eternal life (cf., e.g., Col. 1:5, 27; 3:7; Heb. 3:6; 6:11, 18, 19). "Hope" does not infer that there is any doubt (like we typically use the word "hope" in English) whether we will inherit the glory of God, but it is understood that we must continue to be faithful (by grace) to the new covenant; we have to continue to be believers (by God's definition of believers).], consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession." (And Heb. 3:6) "but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house - whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end." Hebrews 3:6-4:6 and many other parts of this epistle contain powerful exhortations and warnings to the original recipients of this epistle (and to all Christians) that they must repent as required and stay faithful (by God's enabling grace) to the new-covenant lest they miss heaven. It is clear, for one thing, that some of them were entertaining the thought of turning back toward the old covenant. Like the writer of Hebrews shows in Heb. 10:28, for example, there was the danger that some of those Christians would do what this verse warns against: "has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant [the blood of Christ of the new covenant] by which he was sanctified."

The writer is speaking of those who had been saved and sanctified through new-covenant salvation in the blood of Christ, but who were being tempted/pressured to be unfaithful to that covenant in a very serious way (apostasy) that would result in the loss of salvation. The epistle to the Hebrews contains several clear passages that powerfully warn Christians that they can lose their salvation (see Heb. 3:5-4:3; 6:4-12; 10:26-39; and 12:14-17). These passages are all discussed, and many other passages, in my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?" I suggest you read that paper whether you agree that true Christians can lose their salvation, or not. I attempted to give the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches in that paper. We desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. It isn't good enough for us to have a few proof texts that supposedly "prove" our point of view, while other texts "disprove" our point of view.]], for He who promised is faithful [[Since God is faithful we can, and we must, have a full assurance of faith that the gospel is the truth and that we are standing on the only solid foundation, namely God and salvation in His Son, Christ Jesus. His faithfulness ensures, for one thing, that He will always provide a way for us to resist temptation and stay faithful to Him (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). God is not trying to get rid of any of His born-again children, quite the opposite, but the New Testament makes it quite clear, I believe, that true Christians can turn from God and become (by His definition) unbelievers. Rather than trying to explain away the large number of powerful warnings in the New Testament that we can lose our salvation, we must take His warnings seriously. It is dangerous to assume that the warnings need not be taken seriously based on the extremely shaky doctrine that believers cannot lose their salvation. ((I have a quotation from a Calvinistic scholar that states that "this doctrine was first explicitly taught by Augustine" (AD 354-430) in my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?" That new doctrine came along with Augustine's new (but out of the biblical balance) viewpoint that mankind has fallen to such an extent that we have no capacity to cooperate with God's grace or to have faith, so God must give faith to His elect. From that point of view, since everything depends on God, He also makes sure that His elect will come to faith and stay in faith. Augustine also taught that if we had to cooperate with God's grace and submit to His saving grace with faith, it would go against the fact that we are saved by grace. As we discussed above under Heb. 10:22, the fact that the New Testament teaches that we must cooperate with God's saving grace by faith doesn't detract from the fact that we are saved 100 percent by grace (our salvation doesn't cease being a gift because we must begin to cooperate with God's saving grace and receive it), and I quoted some key words from Rom. 4:16. I highly recommend you read "Once Saved, Always Saved?")) The Bible makes it very clear that God will not, and cannot, tolerate His people being unfaithful to Him in very serious ways that amount to abandoning His covenant.]]; (24)

We will finish this verse-by-verse study of Hebrews chapters 8-10 in Part 10, starting with Heb. 10:24.

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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