Hebrews 10:10. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:14. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
There’s a huge difference between the gospel of grace found in Jesus Christ and religion. The very word religion means to “re-bind.” To be chained up over and over again. This is what the Old Covenant was – a religious system. A system for dealing with sin and guilt that repeated the same steps over and over without bringing true pardon. Bring another lamb. Make another sacrifice. Say another prayer. Set free another scapegoat. Wash and dress. Wash and dress. Wash and dress.
But the gospel of Jesus Christ is about a single offering that achieved our pardon once-for-all. A single offering of Christ’s own body (life) that has sanctified (set apart, made holy) all that are found in him. His sacrifice has perfected us for all time. And now it is through Christ alone that we are being sanctified.
But how many of us, like the Hebrew Christians, having struggled for years to achieve our own righteousness by religious works and good deeds, finally gave up and received by faith the finished work of Christ for justification. But then when the conversation turned to our sanctification, we returned straight away to the “dead works” of religion? To the repeated steps “necessary” for dealing with our guilt? Or the repeated “disciplines” or “best practices” for producing spiritual growth? Or the repeated over and over consecrating of the self to God in an attempt to be more holy. As the words of the old hymn say – “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee.” Keep singing it until you mean it.
Why is this sort of return to religion so common? Probably because we have failed to understand what Hebrews 10 (and the rest of the Bible) says about sanctification. We’ve made sanctification solely ongoing, when first it must be finished. We’ve made it partial, when first it must be complete. We’ve made it our condition, when first it must be our position. Look again at how Hebrews 10 puts it:
We have been sanctified.
He has perfected for all time.
Hebrews is reminding us that our sanctification is a finished work in Christ. Just as his work is finished and his sacrifice is complete, so too our holiness in him. The New Covenant blessing is that, by union with Christ’s resurrected life, we have been given a new heart that loves God and loves his love. Now we are bound to God at the heart level. We are perfected, or made whole for worship as living sacrifices. This is not about being made sinless or morally clean. Remember, Hebrews has said that even Jesus was “made perfect” through suffering. He wasn’t made pure or sinless. He never sinned. But he was made complete for the task of giving up his life in self-sacrificial worship.
Us too in Christ!
Even Hebrews 10:14, where we are told that we are being sanctified, does not mean that we are making moral progress or that we are being made more and more holy. What it does mean is that we are more and more experiencing the blessing of our fullness in Christ resulting in increased self-sacrificial worship. Day by day we are being set apart for self-sacrifice. For worship, love, and praise.
So here is our dual reality in Christ: We HAVE BEEN fully sanctified once for all, and we are BEING sanctified (set apart) for worship day by day. Our “have been sanctified” is a gift of grace. Our “being sanctified” is an act of faith in that grace.
The result is no more need to return to religion. No more repeated steps to holiness. No more cleansing by consecration. Yes, there is still a need for consecration and dedication to Christ, but probably not in the way that most Christians are trying to do it. Let me explain.
Failing to see their sanctification as already accomplished and complete, many sincere Christians are trying to consecrate their old self, the dead Adamic nature, to God rather than the new self, their new Christ nature. They don’t present themselves to God “as those who are alive to God” (Rom. 6:13). To put it more simply – many well-meaning Christians are trying to be consecrated to God through self-effort. More dedication, more self-discipline, more and more obedience – “we aren’t sinless, but we should be sinning less.”
Take for example “peace with God,” or “fellowship with God.” How many Christians are trying to maintain peace and fellowship with God by what they do each day (or don’t do), rather than consecrating themselves BY FAITH in an already accomplished peace with God, and fellowship with God, that comes simply through union with Christ.
“To live is Christ” is to live from our full and free sanctification in Jesus, by Jesus, and for Jesus. Because we have been sanctified, we are being sanctified. Our consecration is now our response to our sanctification in Christ. Never the other way around.
How are you trying to be sanctified? Consecrated?
You in Christ
Do you consider yourself already fully sanctified?
Christ in you
Where might Christ in you allow you to be sanctified as a living sacrifice today?