Hebrews 10 tells us that we are made perfect by Jesus’ death for us, and that God is making us holy as we follow him. What an awesome promise!
Isaiah, chapters 15-18; Hebrews, chapter 10
Hebrews 10:1-14 (NLT):
The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.
But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God – as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”
Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
“The Old System”
In verse 1, the writer says that the old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow. Why? Because the sacrifices…were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. That statement points toward his main point – that Jesus’ death forms the basis of the “new system.” In verse 3 he adds that those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. The point is not that they needed to be reminded; it is that “the old system” offered forgiveness, but not transformation.
But there is a deeper truth here: the “new system” is able to transform us! As verse 2 says, if the sacrifices under the “old system” could provide perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. Two facts stand out from this passage. First, God’s plan and desire was to transform us and purify us; second, Jesus’ death enables that transforming, purifying work.
As I noted, the “old system” was never able to provide perfect cleansing. That means that those sacrifices could not achieve God’s ultimate purpose for us:
- They could not provide perfect cleansing (verse 1)
- They actually reminded people of their sins (verse 3)
- Those sacrifices can never take away sins (verse 11)
The inability of those sacrifices to purify and transform us meant that they needed to be replaced. God’s purpose is to provide that cleansing. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time (verse 10). This passage concludes with the powerful statement that by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy (verse 14).
“Being Made Holy”
There is another important point from this passage that further explains God’s purpose for us. As we just noted, verse 14 says, For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. It’s important to remember that the word “perfect” as normally used in the New Testament means something more akin to “complete” than to our modern conception of “flawless.” Those who are in Christ have been made perfect. No other sacrifice to be needed. Our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time (verse 12).
But even though we have been made perfect, we are being made holy (verse 14). “Being made” implies that God’s process of making us holy is continuous. Each day, we surrender to God’s sovereignty. As we do, he leads us – through his word. The Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth (John 14:17), guides us. As God leads us, we obey and follow; that’s how we participate in being made holy.
Made Perfect, Being Made Holy
It’s important for us to remember that we are being made holy – that God’s work continues in us. Our “tribe” believes that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit purifies us continually, so long as we continue to walk in obedience. That does not mean that we become “perfect” in the modern understanding of the word! We are still human. We make mistakes. Our emotions sometimes get the best of us. We need to acknowledge and address these shortcomings as we go along. Otherwise, they may turn into willful rebellion against God.
Later in chapter 10, the writer of Hebrews makes this clear: “Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins” (10:26). Willful disobedience of God’s commands is inconsistent with a profession of God’s sovereignty.
The good news is that we do not have to succumb to willful disobedience! God’s desire is tomake us holy, and he is able to do it! But he will not force himself upon us. That’s why our part is to intentionally submit to God’s authority, and to walk in obedience each day. As we do, we will find that the one who has made us perfect is also making us holy. In Hebrews 12:14, we hear this call clearly: “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.”
Father, thank you for reminding us that Jesus’ completed work means that we have been made perfect. We are complete in you; we have everything that we need to walk in your way. You have given us everything we need for living a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). But you also remind us that we are being made holy – an ongoing work that will continue until we see you in your Kingdom.
Help us today to know your will, and to do your will, that you may be glorified in us. May we reflect your holiness and your love, that others may come to know you. Amen.