Perfected, Though Still Being Sanctified: Some Thoughts on Hebrews 10:141
Hebrews 10:14 is a remarkable and extremely important passage. There we read: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Continue reading . . .
Hebrews 10:14 is a remarkable and extremely important passage. There we read: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
I want to draw your attention to something that most people ignore or fail to see. This is you, Christian. He’s talking about you. And he says that Christ “has perfected (you) for all time.” Don’t overlook the past tense. Something has happened to you through faith in Jesus that is foundational to your Christian identity and life. You “have been perfected”! It is accomplished, finished, and complete, and nothing can add to it or detract from it.
This doesn’t mean you will never again sin or make mistakes or forget where you left your car keys. It doesn’t mean you will never lose your temper when someone cuts you off on the highway or that you will never look upon someone with lust or envy those who have something you lack. Rather, the “perfection” that he has in view is the forgiveness of sins. You are “perfect” in the sense that God has forgiven all your sins and declared you righteous in his sight, and thus qualified you for acceptance in his presence. And that will never change.
So, how do we know that the “perfection” here in v. 14a is not sinless perfection, as if to suggest that when we believe in Jesus we cease forever to sin? We know it because of v. 14b. There we read that those who are “perfected” “are being sanctified.” Notice the change in tense. We have been perfected in the past. It is accomplished and complete. But we are being sanctified in the present. If we are still in need of daily sanctification we obviously are not yet free from sin.
Of course, some argue that no emphasis should be placed on the present tense of “are being sanctified.” The present tense, so they say, is timeless. This event of sanctifying those perfected refers instead to our positional or definitive sanctification. It is that act of God by which we were sovereignly set apart unto him and for his own possession. That’s possible, but I’m not convinced. The sudden shift in tense is so obvious (and jolting) that a significant contrast must be in the author’s mind.
The view that I’ve taken of this passage is more than a little shocking when you stop to think about it. Martin Luther, the great 16th century Protestant Reformer, would often describe Christians with the Latin phrase, simul iustus et peccator: “simultaneously righteous/just and a sinner.” We are those who have been “perfected” in that our sins are finally and forever forgiven at the same time that we battle with sin and are gradually and progressively being made more and more like Jesus in personal experience.
Let us praise God for both!